The World Bank has reported a notable seven percent reduction in extreme poverty in Nigeria and Tanzania, attributing this positive trend to improved internet coverage over a span of three years. The findings were detailed in a recent brief titled “Digital transformation drives development in Africa,” which also underscored an accompanying eight percent increase in labor force participation and wage employment.
According to the World Bank, a flagship report in 2023 highlighted that the decline in extreme poverty was a direct result of three or more years of increased exposure to internet coverage in Nigeria and Tanzania. Andrew Dabalen, the World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, emphasized the significance of harnessing mobile internet usage for inclusive growth, stating, “The minimal usage of mobile internet is a lost opportunity for inclusive growth in Africa. Closing the uptake gap would increase the continent’s potential to create jobs for its growing population and boost economic recovery in a highly digitalized world.”
The brief emphasized the remarkable 115 percent surge in internet users across sub-Saharan Africa over the past five years (2016-2021). This digital transformation has played a pivotal role in fostering economic growth, driving innovation, and generating job opportunities. Despite these gains, the report highlighted that sub-Saharan Africa still lags behind in digital infrastructure coverage, access, and quality compared to other regions.
As of the end of 2021, 84 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa lived in areas with 3G service availability, and 63 percent had access to 4G mobile coverage. However, only 22 percent were utilizing mobile internet services, showcasing a significant gap between coverage and usage. Additionally, while 61 percent of people in the region had access to broadband, the actual usage remained low.
Addressing the situation, Dr. Bosun Tijani, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, acknowledged that the cost of data in Nigeria is among the world’s cheapest. However, he expressed concern that many operators are reluctant to lay fiber in areas outside major cities due to perceived unprofitability.