Six trends in Africa's ICT for 2016
Research firm Frost & Sullivan has compiled a list of six trends in Africa's ICT landscape for 2016, and government involvement is expected to be front and centre.
1. Governments' growing influence
According to Gareth Mellon, ICT programme manager at Frost & Sullivan, African governments increasingly see connectivity as a critical means to encourage economic growth, so they will become more involved in the ICT market.
While MTN Nigeria's massive fine has naturally attracted the most attention, regulators in Kenya and Uganda have also imposed recent penalties, and the fall-out from each of these points to the potential impact that both the government and regulators have on the telecoms market, he says.
"As debates concerning the allocation of spectrum, the implementation of national broadband plans and the provision of e-services continue unabated, expect the role of public sector bodies to become even more influential," says Mellon.
2. Fixed-line market appeal
On-going investment will lead to price reductions, making fixed-line more attractive for both businesses and consumers, says Mellon.
"High capacity last-mile access is becoming more viable and FTTX services have become established in key markets such as Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa."
Over the past year industry leaders have called for consolidation among the telecoms operators to meet infrastructure costs. According to the research company, this is set to continue in 2016, as smaller telecoms players find it difficult to remain competitive.
South Africa's Cell C has made headway in claiming some portion of the market from the two dominant players, but its sustainability remains questionable.
"The provision of network infrastructure is enormously costly and all operators have been subjected to the worrying reality of increasing infrastructure costs versus declining average revenue per user. With increased pressure on operators to provide LTE services, which requires further investment in existing infrastructure," says Mellon.
4. Content is king
According to Frost & Sullivan, the battle to gain more customers will be driven by the content that operators provide to subscribers.
While operators currently occupy an enviable position in this respect, other telecoms providers, including hardware providers, device manufacturers, and OTTs, are all seeking to offer aggregation services.
"The key differentiator will be content - in particular high-demand content, whether it is local or global, live or recorded. The year 2016 will quickly reveal which services are critical to customer requirements and, ultimately, how profitable they can be."
Expect ICT providers to start positioning themselves as complete, end-to-end partners with the ability to transform their clients into digital pioneers, says Frost & Sullivan.
Digitisation is the latest fad in the enterprise market, Mellon states. Machine learning will be critical to this implementation, but watch out for other buzzing terms similar to wearables, the sharing economy, and the blockchain, he says.
6. Mobile payment explosion
Finally, Frost & Sullivan predicts that the expansion of the mobile payments ecosystem in Africa. Africa has been the birthplace of mobile payments and one cannot ignore this key feature of the ICT landscape on the continent, says Mellon.
In 2016, the research firm expects countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia to experience significant growth in mobile payments.
Areas such as merchant payments and international remittances will also show healthy adoption, expanding the broader mobile payments ecosystem.
Internet players like Google, Facebook, and Apple will leverage their communication platforms to obtain access to customers' wallets, conclude the Frost & Sullivan predictions.