Anat Bar-Gera, of YooMee Africa, presented at the prestigious Stars Stein am Rhein Symposium 2014. The four-day conference featured a many leaders from across the globe focussing on topics from China’s future, through bio-entrepreneurship in India, to securing investment in uncertain times.
The Chairperson of YooMee Africa, a high-speed wireless broadband provider in sub-Saharan Africa, Bar-Gera presented on Africa and leapfrogging to the digital age. Much of sub-Saharan Africa has leapfrogged the concept of the landline phone straight to mobile phones. Innovations such as M-pesa, a mobile money solution, have been developed to meet a market looking to keep up with technology whilst getting value for money. It is no different with data services.
Bar-Gera highlighted that there is a huge digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world. With some countries such as Nigeria and South Africa ahead of the rest, most of the continent has very limited, if any, access to broadband services. It is the aim of YooMee Africa to close this digital divide.
This lack of broadband coverage, coupled with the youthful population and growing middle class, creates “huge potential for growth” explained Bar-Gera. Bar-Gera pointed out that “connectivity is improving via sub marine cables, which have provided huge capacity to the continent, and prices for devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, have declined, pushing a growing market enabling an environment to leapfrog”.
YooMee Africa fits into this puzzle by providing LTE/4G wireless internet. “LTE speeds up rich data and heavy tasks such as web browsing and video streaming on smartphones and tablets.” As well as providing high speed internet, YooMee Africa encourages the use of other value added services to drive markets forward. Their innovative website ICI.cm, an online business directory, 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.
Bar-Gera goes on to compare the African situation to that of China. She took the example of Alibaba, which is “grabbing the growing middle class market and changing their habits to shop online.” Bar-Gera continues that E-commerce is “profiting from rising internet penetration, higher internet speeds, the urbanisation of China and improvement of online payment systems.” The accelerating broadband internet penetration will substantially expand E-commerce in Africa in the next 10 years, but the hurdle of lack of trust to online payments must be overcome.
The YooMee Chairperson believes that closing the digital divide and moving to broadband “means greater education, less unemployment, a transfer of knowledge and most importantly moving the economy on the value chain, away from the reliance on mining and natural resources to value added services. “This is not only important for the young urban guy… but even the fisherman who today sells to the local trader, may tomorrow sell to a buyer in Japan for a much higher price. “
To read an exclusive interview of Anat Bar-Gera at the Stars Symposium, please click here.