In a recent brief titled “Digital transformation drives development in Africa,” the World Bank revealed that increased access to internet coverage contributed to a seven percent reduction in extreme poverty in Nigeria and Tanzania over three years. The report also highlighted an eight percent rise in labour force participation and wage employment associated with improved internet access.
The brief emphasized the significant growth in internet users in Sub-Saharan Africa, experiencing a remarkable 115 percent increase over the past five years (2016–2021). While Nigeria boasts over five million active internet subscriptions, the report emphasized the need for broader coverage to stimulate inclusive economic growth.
Dr. Bosun Tijani, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, acknowledged the affordability of data in the country but pointed out challenges in expanding coverage beyond major cities due to profitability concerns for operators.
The World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, Andrew Dabalen, emphasized the untapped potential of mobile internet usage for inclusive growth in Africa. The report highlighted challenges such as the cost of mobile connectivity and a persistent digital gender gap.
The brief revealed that despite 84 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa having 3G service availability and 63 percent having access to 4G mobile coverage by the end of 2021, only 22 percent were using mobile internet services. Affordability, measured by the cost of one gigabyte of mobile data, remained a significant constraint, with costs exceeding the recommended UN Broadband Commission target.
The report also underscored the wide digital gender gap, with women being 37 percent less likely to use mobile internet compared to men. Additionally, around 470 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa lacked proof of ID in 2021, limiting their access to critical public and private services.
Highlighting its commitment to digital development in Africa, the World Bank has invested $731.8 million across 11 digital development projects over the past six years, contributing to a broader allocation of $2.8 billion across 24 projects over the past decade. These investments align with the Digital Economy for Africa initiative, which aims to digitally empower every individual, business, and government in Africa by 2030.