Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Telecommunications, Media and Technology: A Major Growth Industry in Africa

Lauro Bueno and Christopher R. Clark
December 2012

This is an exciting time for entrepreneurship in the telecommunications, media and technology sectors in Africa. With Africa’s growing middle class many technology and media investors, as well as entrepreneurs, see the growth potential for startups in Africa as outweighing other business and legal risks. Most are aware the enforcement of intellectual property protections in Africa can be difficult at best and that such protections vary from country to country. Interestingly, this has not stopped the recent growth of these investors and entrepreneurs in Africa from moving forward with their investments and businesses. The African telecommunications, media and technology market is seen as a new market where, unlike markets in developed countries, there still exists a greater potential for the “first to market” advantage with new technology products and/or services.

Generally, the African countries with the highest Internet traffic are South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Egypt. This is in large part due to the rapid growth of mobile technology and broadband infrastructure in these countries. Africa is one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world. Highlighted in a recent publication of UK’s Guardian, over half of Africa’s population of one billion have mobile phones – in 1998 fewer than 4 million Africans had mobile phones and in 2012 over 500 million own mobile phones. A growing number of these phones have Internet access. In fact, many Africans in Kenya take advantage of online mobile banking access that is still unavailable in the United States.

As the technology infrastructure in Africa continues to grow, so do the number of startups and technology companies that want to enter the market place to license their services and/or products, and the need for these companies to protect their intellectual property and business arrangements will similarly increase. The Working Group on Telecommunications, Media and Technology of the Business in Africa Subcommittee aims to explore this intersection of law, business and technology in Africa to better understand what challenges affect these companies and startups, including the legal challenges, and in what ways legal counsel may help these companies overcome the challenges they may face.