Anat Bar-Gera, co-founder and Chairperson of YooMee Africa, spoke at the prestigious United Nations UNCTAD’s World Investment Forum 2014. With over 3000 participants and 300 speakers, including Prince Charles and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the event focused on the importance of investing in sustainable development.
Bar-Gera had the opportunity to contribute to the lively debate on Investment in Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs). In her presentation Bar-Gera discussed the importance of Broadband internet to the development of LLDC’s and outlined changes that could be made by governments of LLDCs to open the market to broadband providers. In the last decade mobile phone usage in sub-Saharan Africa has exploded. The demand for data services, particularly via mobile phones, is steadily increasing with a young population and growing middle class. This steady growth in demand of data services creates opportunities for businesses to reach new markets.
The serial entrepreneur told the high level meeting, with over 20 ministers from around the world, “broadband internet helps the creation and expansion of small and medium sized enterprises, which are the engine for the growth of the economy”. High speed internet enables SME’s to compete more efficiently on a local and global market, creating more jobs in many sectors. Bar-Gera described how “broadband can bypass the negative effects of logistics hurdles faced in developing countries” and explained that it enables countries to leapfrog technologies and give more chances to local innovation.
YooMee Africa, who provide high speed wireless broadband connections in Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon and is expanding to additional countries in sub-Saharan Africa, have proven that broadband can indeed be a catalyst for developing markets. YooMee Africa enabled 70,000 students at the University of Douala to connect wirelessly to broadband internet. They also built the innovative website, ICI.cm, an online business directory, which has enabled over 13,000 SMEs to promote their services online. Previously, small companies, such as restaurants, had to rely on word of mouth to attract new customers, now they are visible to a larger market. With the potential of being able to accept online payments in the future, they have been given a greater chance of success that in turn will benefit the economy.
The YooMee Chairperson believes that governments’ in LLDCs need to appreciate the benefits of high speed broadband to the economy and take steps to further facilitate its introduction. She states “ it is important to make licenses and frequencies more available and more affordable for purchase by a variety of companies, increasing competition and ensuring a higher quality of service.” She goes on to explain that the prices for acquiring licenses are so high and do not encourage “green field” players to come into the market. “Other models could be considered, such as sharing revenue, once the investor has made his investment back” adds the co-founder.
Bar-Gera offered food for thought to LLDCs, stating “If governments can’t afford to offer their citizens high speed internet, they should push for investments…its not about providing one PC per child, its about providing a speedy internet connection per child.”
For more information on the UNCTAD World Investment Forum please go to the following http://unctad-worldinvestmentforum.org