One cannot deny the significant strides that many countries in Africa have made in terms of developing the economies and wellbeing of its people. However, we can also not deny that many other countries in Africa remain at the top of the list when it comes to the provision of human skills and opportunity development.
It is even argued that for every one step forward one country may make, two others on the continent take 5 steps backwards.
Education is the fundamental key
Human skill and opportunity development has many components, including education levels, per capita income, access to basic services, and infant mortality. It is my firm belief that education, in the broadest sense, is one of the key components to human development in Africa. Through education, most other social problems can be addressed, and it is in this regard that Africa is slowly closing the gap on the rest of the world, which I believe is as a result of the ever-increasing pervasiveness of access to the Internet in the region.
It should be stressed that access to the Internet cannot have a positive impact on educational challenges if the speeds are prohibitively slow or if the cost is prohibitively high. The rest of the world has had a considerable head start on Africa in this regard.
Access to education through the internet remains a priority objective
While most of the developed world has had lightning-quick Internet for a considerable time now, East Africa was lagging behind, with fibre-optic broadband only reaching its shores via undersea cable as recently as 2009.
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With these countries now connected, service providers at all levels of the value chain have entered these markets and healthy competition is making the Internet increasingly affordable. The final aim should be to have access in every home of every family, because that will truly level the playing field to a greater extent than ever before.
Once you have access to the Internet, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can educate yourself on. There are free online courses on virtually every subject imaginable. You do not even have to do a formal course, you can merely use search engines to gather the information you need and build up your own body of knowledge to suit your particular needs.
The potential of sub Saharan Africa is astounding, and as people start to educate themselves in a tailored approach, which I believe often has advantages over classical education, we are set to overcome many social challenges.
Driving evolution through access to information
I believe that many of the business degrees offered stifle creativity and train people to think in a certain uniform way. The Internet not only provides you to endless sources of information, but further allows you to create your own thoughts. It allows you to access a huge library of knowledge so that you can come up with your own opinion and your own way forward. This is powerful because it drives evolution.
Once people have access to the Internet, one can no longer say that education is not affordable. There is so much research material on the Internet that it is almost overwhelming.
My message is: If you want to do it, go ahead and do it. Challenge yourself and find a way to achieve your goals.
Once the population becomes more active online, and more educated as a result, the effect on the country’s economy becomes massive. It creates micro enterprises that pay tax and bring money back into the financial system.
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If you need to trade in cash, you need a bank account, which means the system becomes formalised and more people build up credit records, allowing them to become homeowners, and to be paid interest on their savings. Systems such as M-Pesa give people a bank account which they can access from their phone, where no formal infrastructure exists.
We are merely beginning to scratch the surface of the effects that the Internet could have on the wellbeing of economies across the continent. These are exciting times indeed.