Internet Traffic in AfricaAfrica will experience a boom in IP growth, with Internet traffic in Africa increasing six-fold by 2020, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index.

Cisco’s forecast, which covers 2015 to 2020, has predicted that Africa’s IP traffic will grow at a rate of 41 percent, the fastest annual rate in the world. Fixed broadband speed is also expected to increase more than twofold, and average mobile connection speed will reach five megabits of data per second.

The projected rise in Internet traffic is partly a result of the spread of mobile personal devices across the continent.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center in 2015, cellphone ownership has surged in sub-Saharan Africa. Cellphones in South Africa and Nigeria have become as common as they are in the United States. People rely on their mobile phones for a variety of internet services, including browsing the web, mobile online banking and accessing social networking sites and political news.

Internet use through cellphones will likely continue to rise as 77 percent of networked devices in Africa in 2020 will be mobile-connected, according to Cisco’s forecast.

Advancements in the Internet of Things, which allow everyday devices to connect to the Internet, have also helped promote traffic growth.

Cisco said that applications, such as digital health monitors and energy smart meters, and machine-to-machine services are “creating new network requirements and incremental traffic increases.” Machine-to-machine modules will account for 22 percent of all network devices in Africa by 2020.

Yet, according to Mark Walker, the International Data Corporation’s associate vice president for Africa, the Middle East and Turkey, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa lag behind in technological capability and cannot afford Internet of Things applications.

In order for Cisco’s predictions to prove correct, less developed countries must continue to address affordability issues and develop infrastructure that will allow for greater use of the Internet, Walker told ITWeb Africa.

An increase in IP traffic will put the continent a step closer to achieving the United Nations’ goal of connecting more people in underdeveloped countries to the Internet by 2020. With more Internet availability, people who live in poverty can take advantage of enormous economic and social opportunities that the web offers.

Farmers in rural areas can use the Internet to plan for unpredictable weather and determine what type of crops to grow based on the prices of goods and commodities. People can also rely on the Internet for mobile banking, to educate children and to stay informed about news.

The increase in Internet traffic in Africa will also help the continent become more technologically advanced. Several countries, including South Africa, will rely on the increased Internet connectivity to complete a digital migration journey that involves the transition from broadcasting with analogue cables to more efficient digital television signals.

Sam Turken

Photo: AKON

 Economics_PovertyContrary to popular belief, economists are not just concerned about money. In fact, much of the study of economics is concerned with how people behave and make choices. Since the days of Adam Smith, who is widely regarded as the father of this discipline, economists have adopted various views of poverty.  Exploring the link between economics and poverty is crucial if the world is to make positive progress.

What Causes Poverty?

Economics and poverty have a long history with thought camps that diverge in many directions. Nevertheless, many economists agree that some reasons for poverty are beyond the control of individuals.

According to the more classical view of economics, an individual’s social and private characteristics could lead to lower income and a lower probability of financial growth.

For example, a single parent without adequate support would find it harder to secure a full time job than someone who has no children. Meanwhile, someone born into an environment without easy access to education would find it harder to compete in the job market later on.

Poor health, discrimination and market failures are other examples of unavoidable inequalities that may contribute to poverty.

Other theories claim that since poor people are often excluded from the social circles of the rich, they are also excluded from certain opportunities.

Networking, or forming strategic relationships to gain entry to certain markets, is critical to financial success in a majority of career fields. Since the poor are unable to network with the rich, they are effectively barred from certain lucrative jobs, thus perpetuating poverty.

More modern strands of economics believe that poverty can be linked to failings of the government. If a country’s government fails to react to a significant decline in economic growth through financial or monetary policies, or if it does not adequately fund areas such as education, then the country’s population will suffer unemployment and a lack of financial mobility.

What Should We Do?

The natures of economics and poverty makes it difficult to address inefficiencies directly and successfully. For example, evidence has shown that raising minimum wages and enforcing caps on prices may actually hurt the poor. However, there are some things that governments can do to reduce poverty rates in their countries by using the relationship between economics and poverty.

One of the best things a government can do is focus on economic growth. A country’s GDP is linked to unemployment in a relationship defined by Okun’s Law, which states that an increase in a country’s output will inevitably cause unemployment to decrease. By pursuing policy that strives for growth, a government can create jobs for its citizens.

Shocks to GDP tend to have a disproportionately negative effect on the poor. For example, children from poor families in Latin America and Africa often drop out of school to help at home during economic crises. To counter this, governments can enact policies to curb inflation and promote stability.

Governments can also focus on creating opportunities for poor citizens to build their human capital through education, work training, loans and grants. These chances at building mastery in employable skills and traits allows poorer people to compete in the job market and ultimately equalize income across the population.

The availability of information, which economists largely consider a public good, is also incredibly important. Many people are unable to access programs of job opportunities simply because they are unaware.

If citizens are poorly informed, then policies targeting poverty become ineffective. Remedies to this problem include job agencies, well advertised websites and community centers in low income areas.

Unfortunately, not all governments have the means to accomplish these things and may require aid from foreign powers.

Will There Always Be Poverty?

There are two types of poverty in the world: relative and absolute.

People who are relatively poor make a certain percentage of the average per capita income and in many countries have adequate funds.

Those who are in absolute or extreme poverty live on less than $1.90 a day. These people do not have enough income to live comfortably and therefore suffer from poor health and living conditions.

In the year 2000, the members of the United Nations set a goal to halve the absolute poverty rate by 2015. By 2010, the ratio of people living in extreme poverty was reduced from 43 percent to 21 percent.

This astounding success has caused many economists to believe that it is indeed possible to erase extreme poverty completely through continued growth and creative social and economic programs.

Emiliano Perez

Photo: Flickr

Why the US Should Invest in Africa?
USAID in Africa creates many new advantages for the US beyond humanitarian aid, such as fostering strategic national security partners and increasing US economic prospects. George Ingram and Steven Rocker recommend four strategies to better utilize and direct foreign assistance to the region.

In June 2012, President Obama established his development priorities in the region with the White House’s U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on economic growth, food security, public health, women and children, humanitarian response, and climate change.

From 2002 to 2012, the total USAID money in sub-Saharan Africa nearly quadrupled, from roughly $1.94 billion to $7.08 billion. The assistance money was largely focused on global health spending, specifically the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). But even beyond global health, the U.S. is the leading donor of humanitarian aid to sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the area of emergency food aid. The Obama administration also provides assistance in agriculture development through its Feed the Future program, a global hunger and food security initiative. Overall, USAID operates 27 different regional missions in 47 African countries – the top five being Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa.

U.S. development assistance brings government agencies, American organizations and businesses into collaboration with Africans who are trying to put their own communities and countries onto a more prosperous social, political, and economic plane. There are three critical reasons why the US should invest in Africa:

1. Humanitarian interests – Through moral obligation the U.S. has historically been the leading donor of humanitarian assistance in the region. It is part of the American ethos to continue to respond compassionately to people in their most desperate times of need.

2. National security interests – There are continued terrorist concerns in Somalia and Mali, with the potential new threats in Nigeria (the U.S.’s largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa). USAID must continue to be very active in these regions particularly to prevent any terrorist strongholds from cementing and to maintain stability.

3. Economic interests – From 2001 to 2010, six of the fastest-growing economies in the world were in Africa. In 2011, foreign investment to sub-Saharan Africa amounted to more than all the development assistance funding for the whole world. Many countries are recognizing and acting on increasing commercial opportunities in Africa.

Four ways to make U.S. aid to Africa more effective:

1. Sustainable health systems – The majority of health assistance to Africa is used to finance the delivery of health services, which is not sustainable. Greater focus needs to be directed to building health practices that Africans can carry out on their own.

2. Disaster preparedness – For all the humanitarian aid delivered, very little is allocated toward disaster prevention and preparedness. By focusing more resources and expertise toward these areas, the U.S. could reduce the need for large international disaster relief, and save lives.

3. Economic growth – The U.S. should leverage its assistance to stimulate economic growth. Congress and U.S. officials should engage the Export-Import Bank, Department of Commerce, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative to ensure that a range of government policies and programs are encouraging equitable economic growth for all, and commercial opportunities for U.S. businesses.

4. Democratization and good governance – The U.S. needs to give greater attention and support toward governance policies and oversight; including improving the governmental collection of revenues, transparent budgeting, and building the capacity of civil society and legislative systems.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Brookings