In recent days I've had a slew of information about the development of information and communications technology (ICT) in Africa come across my desk, the most useful of which is Ryan Hahn's post "All Things Africa and ICT" on the PSD blog site. It appears that Africa's telecoms sector is quickly becoming the new "it" thing within the development community. While most of the mobile operators are home-grown, countries like China, India and Japan are not far behind in the scramble for contracts.
According to the most recent edition of Africa-Asia Confidential, "China is assuredly in the lead." In March 2008, a US$69 million agreement was signed between Angola's MundoStartel and China's ZTE Corporation to develop telephone networks in Angola. This past June, Tanzania's Excellentcom Ltd signed a $180 million contract with China's Huawei Technologies. Under the agreement, Huawei Technologies will start building Excellentcom's network to enable it to cover the whole country within 13 months. Similar deals have been signed between China and Kenya, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Algeria, and other countries across the continent.
It may be pure coincidence, but mobile subscriber and penetration figures have nearly quadrupled since China's entry into the continent in 2000:
With other countries fighting to enter the market - new among them Kuwait's Zain and UAE's Etisalat - the African telecoms sector will definitely be one to keep an eye on in the coming months.