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World Bank: Internet Access Sparks 7% Decline in Poverty Rates in Nigeria and Tanzania!

The World Bank has unveiled the transformative influence of Internet access on poverty reduction and economic growth in Nigeria and Tanzania. 

According to a recent brief titled “Digital transformation drives development in Africa,” the World Bank estimates that over three years, improved internet coverage contributed to a remarkable 7% decline in extreme poverty in these two nations. 

But that’s not all. The advantages of internet access extend beyond poverty reduction. The report highlights an 8% increase in labour force participation and wage employment in the same period. 

Over the past five years, Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced an astonishing 115% surge in internet users, fueling economic growth, fostering innovation, and creating new job opportunities. 

Although Nigeria boasts over five million active internet subscriptions, there is still a pressing need for wider internet coverage to drive inclusive economic growth. 

Recognizing this, Dr Bosun Tijani, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, acknowledged that while data costs in Nigeria are among the most affordable globally, many operators hesitate to expand internet infrastructure outside major cities due to limited profitability. 

Reflecting on the report, Andrew Dabalen, the World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, emphasized the untapped potential of mobile internet usage, which could be a catalyst for inclusive growth on the continent.

Closing the uptake gap has the power to generate more employment opportunities for Africa’s growing population and fuel economic recovery in our increasingly digitalized world. 

Nevertheless, the journey towards digital inclusivity faces hurdles such as the affordability of mobile connectivity and the persistent digital gender gap. 

Mobile internet costs remain high, and shockingly, women are 37% less likely to use mobile internet than men. These disparities highlight the urgent need for concerted efforts to create equitable and widespread digital access. 

The briefing disclosed that Sub-Saharan Africa’s digital infrastructure coverage, access, and quality still lag behind other regions. 

While 84% of people in the region had 3G service coverage by the end of 2021, only 22% were actively using mobile internet services. The broadband gap is equally significant, with 61% of individuals residing in sub-Saharan Africa having broadband access but not utilizing it. 

Moreover, the cost of mobile connectivity, measured by the price of one gigabyte of mobile data, remains a major constraint. In 2019, the cost of one gigabyte of mobile internet as a percentage of monthly per-capita Gross National Income was 10.5%, far exceeding the United Nations Broadband Commission’s recommended target of 2%. 

Additionally, in 2021, the median cost of an entry-level internet-enabled handset represented more than 25.2% of monthly gross domestic product per capita. 

Another critical concern is the significant digital gender gap in the region. Alarmingly, women are 37% less likely than men to use mobile internet in Sub-Saharan Africa, as per 2023 GSMA data. This disparity underlines the pressing need to bridge the gender divide and ensure equal digital opportunities for all. 

Amidst these challenges, the World Bank reiterates its commitment to digital development in Africa, with substantial investments of 731.8 million across 11 Digital Development projects over six years and a total of 731.8million across11Digital Development projects over six years and a total of 2.8 billion allocated across 24 projects over the past decade. 

These investments align with the broader objective of the Digital Economy for Africa initiative, aiming to enable digital access for every individual, business, and government on the continent by 2030.

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