Will the Smart Africa Alliance Help Internet Usage to Become Widespread in Rwanda?

The vast proportion of Africa is still considered to be part of the third world, and it is enduring slow progress in getting above this status. This is because it has such a huge agrarian sector, and the populations of numerous African countries are spread out in rural areas. There is a push towards getting Rwanda and other African nations reclassified as first world within 25 years, and this will be helped by projects such as the Smart Africa Alliance. Analysts believe that Rwanda is one of the countries, along with the likes of Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana, which is well placed to make the transition.

2019 Transform Africa Was Held in Kigali

The fact that the last Transform Africa event was held in Kigali shows that Rwanda is at the forefront of the push towards getting the continent into the modern age. The 2019 gathering in the Rwandan capital was the fifth edition of the event which is organised by the Smart Africa Alliance.

The theme for the event was to do with boosting Africa’s digital economy, and it was attended by 4000 people. The five Transform Africa events to date have involved representation from more than 112 countries, 180 sponsors, over 400 media representatives, and 382 speakers. Some of the best known sponsors have included Microsoft, Volkswagen, and RwandAir.

The main points of discussion at Transform Africa surround the best ways to increase internet penetration in the various countries of the continent. Once this has been achieved, there will then be a rise in eCommerce and African economies will have the opportunity to grow exponentially.

Incredible Rise Over the Last Few Years

Internet permeation in Rwanda has enjoyed an incredible surge over the last decade. While the government may have skewed some statistics in a dubious fashion, there is still a lot to be excited about. In 2012, the nation was ranked 177th in the world in terms of internet users, with only 8 percent of the population online. In 2020, though, there were 3.31 million people online, equating to 26 percent of the population. The number of internet users increased by 8.8 percent between 2019 and 2020 alone.

These figures are extremely promising, and the sharp upward curve suggests that, in another ten years, the majority of the population could be online. Rwanda is now just behind Uganda, where 23.7 percent of people have access to the internet.

There have been various stumbling blocks on the way to providing more Rwandans with internet. The fact that the population is spread out in rural areas is one issue. In the more desolate regions, people tend to rely on internet cafes to get online. However, there is high speed, 4G internet available in the major cities. The fibre optic network is growing as well, and Rwanda is one of Africa’s top three countries for internet connectivity.

Another issue is the cost of the internet for the end user. It was recently reported by The New Times that internet users in the country spend 7.1 percent of their income on mobile data. Unfortunately, this statistic puts Rwanda among the 30 countries in the world with the least affordable internet.

Digitalisation of Traditional Commerce

Social media has played a huge part in helping the spread of internet in Rwanda. The number of people using online networking sites like Facebook and Instagram rose by 103,000 between 2019 and 2020, but the number of social media users in the country still only equates to 4 per cent of the population.

The digitalisation of other forms of entertainment and commerce will help the spread of online activity across the nation. The effect the online casino industry can have on economic growth has already been seen in a number of developing markets, including other African nations like Nigeria. For example, Betway Casino is available in a number of different territories, and it offers players the chance to enjoy casino offerings like roulette and blackjack online. There are live links to real tables as well, meaning that players can enjoy the casino experience wherever they are. Rwandans typically enjoy betting and gambling, so online casinos could flourish in the country and boost the economy in the process.

Another area of the entertainment industry that is gaining traction across the continent is competitive gaming. The eSports sector is taking the world by storm, and one of the biggest competitions in the region to date was the Africa ESports Championship. This event is continuing this year and will involve professional gamers competing at FIFA 21, Tekken, and numerous other titles. Rwandan players that fancy their chances at getting involved in the booming scene in the years ahead will need to get an internet connection so that they can practice.

In addition to gaming, streaming of films and television shows will likely be a popular pastime for internet users in Rwanda. Reelgood is one of the leading sites for accessing this sort of content in the country, and users will be able to find Rwanda-specific titles like Hotel Rwanda and Africa United.

Online retail could also play a huge part in encouraging more people in Rwanda to move online. Online shopping is now one of the most popular online activities in the world, and the global eCommerce market topped $3.5 trillion in 2019. One of the best known online retailers in Rwanda is My Umbrella, which deals in a vast range of products from fashion to entertainment. Another is StriveBe, which is an online mega shop offering food and drinks among other goods and services.

The rising internet usage in Rwanda is a great sign, and it is being helped by the Smart Africa Alliance. African countries are now able to share methods and strategies to push the number of internet users up. It is reasonable to think that in another couple of decades, Rwanda may not be considered a third world country anymore.