March 22, 2019

Mobile Significantly Advancing Economic and Development Goals in Tanzania

A report authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of UK-based GSMA, says "Tanzania is undergoing a digital transformation, reflected by the growing number of people connected to communications and internet services. This is having a profound impact on the country's social, cultural and economic frameworks, through enhanced access to key services and improved productivity and efficiency across economic sectors."

Digital Transformation in Tanzania optimistically notes: "The mobile industry is contributing significantly to the realization of Tanzania's development goals through various activities and initiatives by mobile operators and other ecosystem players. This report highlights four important contributions the mobile industry is making to the development goals":
  • Access to key services – Mobile operators provide affordable access to life-enhancing services for people in underserved communities. Inclusive and innovative business models have emerged from the convergence of various mobile services, particularly connectivity, mobile financial services, digital identity, and M2M and IoT.
  • Productivity and efficiency – Mobile is driving productivity and efficiency gains in businesses and public institutions, especially in the agricultural sector where the technology is helping to address the knowledge and information gap for farmers and enabling efficient interactions and transactions between key players in the value chain.
  • Contribution to economic growth and social development – In 2016 the total value added generated by the mobile operators alone (taking into account direct, indirect and productivity effects) was around $2.5 billion, equivalent to 5.2% of GDP. The mobile industry also employs more than 1.5 million people directly and indirectly, equivalent to 2.6% of the population.
  • Good governance – Mobile is a key channel for Tanzania's e-government strategy, with public institutions now using mobile money, SMS and USSD platforms to deliver services, collect payments and engage with the general public.
On the topic of mobile money, "Tanzania is one of the most advanced mobile money markets in Sub-Saharan Africa," the report explains. The service has helped to:
  • Reduce transaction costs and improve safety for individuals and businesses;
  • Enhance the efficiency of the economy by reducing the need for users to travel long distances to bank branches to make transactions in person; and
  • Create employment and additional income for tens of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) acting as mobile money agents.

Lastly, the report presents the following conclusion:
Government leadership is a critical factor in establishing a conducive environment and developing the momentum for greater stakeholder collaboration. In addition to implementing key policy enablers to support the growth of the mobile industry, the government and its agencies need to become more involved in charting a holistic plan to leverage mobile technology to realize the development goals, and engage relevant stakeholders in every step of this process. Mobile operators and other key stakeholders in the digital ecosystem all have roles to play.
Mobile operators should find ways to develop economically viable rollout models to expand network coverage; use cost-optimizing technologies and geo-analysis to optimize deployment; leverage APIs, hackathons, own app stores and partners to develop language-specific, relevant content; and embrace interoperability of platforms, such as mobile money and IoT, to drive scale and sustainability. For their part, donors, development partners, private sector players and civil society organisations need to work with policymakers to develop and implement regulatory best practices and partner with governments to improve ICT infrastructure in public institutions.
Are there lessons learned from Tanzania's mobile sector that can be replicated in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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