Submarine Internet Reduces Unemployment Across Africa

Fredrick Ngugi July 25, 2017
Faster Internet has enabled young Africans to find employment. Photo credit: Apolitical

Although countries in Africa — just like many other countries across the world — are currently struggling with high levels of youth unemployment, the arrival of submarine Internet has seen a major improvement in the unemployment statistics across the continent.

According to a recent study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the arrival of submarine Internet cables, which carry faster data communications traffic, in Africa has helped to reduce inequality in unemployment by creating more job opportunities for the African population.

Underwater fiber optic cables

Underwater fiber optic cables. Photo credit: Tech Radar

“The evidence we present indicates that greater and cheaper access to information and communication due to availability of fast Internet increases employment rates in Africa, and that in at least some countries, this happens in part due to the technology’s impact on firm entry, productivity, and exports,” the report claims.

With increased job opportunities, the average household income and wealth have risen dramatically, particularly in the areas that are connected to submarine Internet.

NBER adds that data from the World Bank Enterprise Surveys indicates that exports, online communication with clients, and on-the-job training increased substantially among firms in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania, after they received access to fast Internet.

In Ethiopia, for example, fast Internet has not only increased the share of skilled jobs and average incomes, but it has also increased productivity and employment in the manufacturing industry, which is growing at an unprecedented rate.

Faster & More Reliable Internet

In the 2000s, a consortium of European private investors partnered with African governments and multilateral organizations across the continent to bring submarine Internet cables to various landing points along the African coast.

The landing points were installed just outside each country’s big coastal city that was connected to the national backbone.

These cables have brought increased speed and traffic capacities of Internet traffic to and from Europe and other continents to locations in Africa connected to the terrestrial network.

In a country such as Kenya, the submarine fiber-optic cable, which landed on the beaches of Mombasa six years ago, has resulted in a surge in the number of technology start-ups sprouting up across the country.

The Kenyan capital, Nairobi, has also become a base for global technology heavyweights, such as Google, IBM, and Intel, with the country’s average technology exports rising from $16 million to $360 million over the last six years.

Submarine Internet has also seen a major drop in bandwidth prices, removing one of the most common impediments to global competitiveness of the continent’s ICT industry.

In addition, fast Internet has made supply chain coordination easier, allowing African businesses to use technology to minimize the bureaucracies involved when sending parcels from wholesalers to traders.

Generally, sectors that are associated with high productivity in Africa, such as wholesale and retail, agribusiness, and manufacturing, are the ones generating more “good” jobs courtesy of the fast Internet, according to NBER.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: July 25, 2017


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