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Sub-Saharan Africa ICT regulatory landscape evolves

23rd February 2022

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector’s regulatory landscape is constantly in flux as regulations are re-examined to address ever-emerging new technological and economic realities.

The IDC Market Perspective report, analysing the current ICT regulatory landscape across the region and the ongoing developments that influence digital regulations and emerging technologies, reveals a shift away from “rigid and overly complex” policies that limit ICT growth toward more collaborative approaches that attract more players into the market.

Regulations in Africa are gradually evolving to allow for improvements in growth, innovation and scale, said IDC East Africa regional consulting and research manager Francis Hook.

“The future regulatory landscape is increasingly focused on fifth-generation (5G) spectrum and establishing clear guidelines for emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics,” he explained.

Another focus is on expanding the potential growth and use cases of technologies such as television whitespace for rural connectivity, which is a critical factor in overcoming legacy challenges in infrastructure, education and communication in the region.

However, peripheral conversations, outside of mainstream ICT regulation, such as digital services tax, are becoming increasingly common and have, where they have been implemented, increased the cost of services, which are important considerations for organisations, as they need to stay ahead of how these changes will impact business and customers in the future.

“An area of concern would be how levies and taxes would invariably make an organisation’s services more expensive, and this cost would then pass on to the consumer, which would have the knock-on impact of customer attrition, market losses and the cost impact around future investments,” Hook commented.

This could result in companies having tighter budgets and limited spending power, which would impact their ability to invest in network expansion and quality.

Further, risks around service delivery, and to equipment providers, are potentially introduced when the discussions around future regulation are not resolved in a timely fashion, he added, noting that, for example, 5G rollouts could be delayed amid spectrum issues and pending type approvals.

This could cause companies operating within this space to potentially lose out on market opportunities.

To move ahead without being caught out by these obstacles, expected or unexpected, there has to be greater collaboration among service providers to gain an in-depth understanding of common issues so they can collectively engage with policymakers, he said.

“It would be also be worth investing in research-based positions that would then be able to intelligently make the case for or against certain types of market regulations or policies.”

With collaborative transparency and focused research intensity, organisations can stay ahead of the unexpected and collectively plan for a future that benefits both government and business.

“As these policies and regulations change, so do their impact on enterprise and customers, and it is essential that organisations remain engaged, and that they work with one another to find intelligent and relevant ways through the complexity that can inhabit this space,” Hook concluded.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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