Transforming societies: harnessing mobile connectivity across Africa

Mobile connectivity is the most effective vehicle to support a digitally inclusive world. With mobile networks spanning the globe and serving more than 5 billion people, the mobile industry’s leaders are united in their commitment to ensure formerly excluded members of society have a voice and a place in today’s world.

Our industry leaders are embedding the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the heart of corporate strategies, as they recognise that understanding and responding to social, environmental and ethical issues is good for business. Concentrating on driving a digitally inclusive and connected society accelerates progress in delivering impact across several SDGs, including:

  • SDG 4: Quality Education: Enabling access to quality educational platforms in underserved populations.
  • SDG 5: Gender Quality: Empowering women to capitalise on the entrepreneurial world of eCommerce.
  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Providing disadvantaged groups access to the digital economy through mobile money, which stimulates country-wide fiscal growth and allows families to build a better quality of life.

Mobile industry leaders are dedicated to showcasing sustainable and responsible business practices, safeguarding consumer trust and reducing inequalities through digital inclusion. Transformative initiatives have been pioneered by the GSMA to address these global issues, such as We Care.

We Care is a multi-stakeholder initiative where regional mobile operators join forces with national governments to work together to deliver local solutions with a positive impact on society.

Since its launch in 2014, local mobile operators have been actively partnering with governments, regulators and NGO’s to endorse and encourage each campaign. Each solution is designed to positively impact the societies in which they operate. Critical issues addressed include; promoting digital inclusion, bolstering child protection, reducing handset theft, supporting handicapped citizens and protecting the environment.

Explore the full scope of We Care here.

Globally, We Care is active in 19 countries, after 28 successful launches involving 64 mobile network operators. The latest country to join the We Care initiative, was announced at the recent Mobile 360 Africa Event in Kigali, welcoming the Rwandan mobile industry into the fore. Approximately one in four citizens in Rwanda currently subscribe to mobile internet services; a lack of digital skills among the population and a perceived lack of locally relevant content are among the key barriers to large-scale adoption.

Local operators Airtel and MTN have joined forces to commence a programme of activity around digital inclusion, by driving mobile internet adoption to increase digital literacy in the country. We Care Rwanda was launched in collaboration with Rwanda’s Ministry of ICT and Innovation and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), supporting government efforts to boost ICT penetration and digital services across the country.

Rwanda marks the third African country to join the We Care initiative, following successful Child Protection programmes in Kenya and a focus on Reducing Handset Theft in Cote d’Ivoire.

The African economy is excelling in nurturing digital inclusion through the growing dissemination of its blooming mobile payments market. A key leader in this region is Stephen Chege, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Safaricom, the leading mobile network operator in Kenya and pioneer of M-PESA, the world’s most widely used mobile payments system. Stephen is also part of the ‘Champions for a Better Future’ initiative; a group of mobile industry leaders committed to sustainable and responsible business practices, to safeguarding consumer trust and reducing inequalities through digital inclusion.

Mobile 360 Africa provided Stephen the platform to evangelise how implanting SDGs into the core of business infrastructure and maintaining a fundamental focus on championing digital inclusion, heightens the progress across several of these common goals.

We Care is a strong example of how our purpose driven industry is convening the region to positively impact societies through in-country activities and fostering crucial public-private partnerships. However, the industry is working on a much larger scale to drive substantial change across Africa. #CaseforChange is a campaign born out of the GSMA, dedicated to telling real-world human impact stories of how mobile operators have leveraged connectivity, to transform lives and communities.

#CaseForChange most recently travelled to South Africa to discover how mobile technology is assisting in the fight against HIV and Tuberculosis. South Africa had the biggest HIV epidemic in the world in 2017, affecting 7.1 million people. Working with the South African Department of Health and Mezzanine, mobile operator Vodacom has pioneered a solution to help mitigate the devastating effects of these viruses. The result was Stock Visibility Solution, a mobile system that allows health facilities to monitor and replenish their stocks in real time.

Mobile connectivity is the underpinning factor in driving digital inclusion and enabling critical access to life-saving access vaccinations. This #CaseforChange story explores how SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being and SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities are directly impacted through digital inclusion. Mobile connectivity in this instance, serves as the gateway to receiving quality healthcare in rural areas. This further demonstrates the power of mobile technology to connect the historically underserved and underdeveloped societies in our world.

#CaseforChange has explored a number of stories across Africa, including implementing smart water in The Gambia, establishing digital classrooms for refugees in Tanzania and bringing communities out of darkness and into the light with smart solar panels in Uganda.

To discover all of the #CaseforChange Africa stories, click here.

Mobile connectivity continues to transform the lives of billions and lay the foundations for a digitally inclusive planet. Almost 75% of the global population are now connected to mobile, making it the most far reaching technology in existence. With its unprecedented scale of networks and growing impact on daily lives, mobile is a powerful tool for achieving the UN SDGs and intelligently connecting everyone and everything to a better future.