As of May 2019, Angola’s internet penetration was about 22 percent, with more than five million of its 31 million population having access to the internet. When you compare that to the highest penetration rate in Africa, Kenya’s 83 percent, you start to see the kind of work needed to get the former Portuguese colony literally up to speed. The Angolan government knows it and, thankfully, is ready to get it done, having just signed MoUs with Rwanda and Sweden to inject rapid, deliberate investments into this sector.
The two deals were agreed on the sidelines of ANGOTIC 2019, a global event of ICT for knowledge sharing and a networking hub for government entities, industry players and emerging mobile service providers held in Angola. ICT Minister, Josè Carvalho da Rocha, Rwanda’s ICT Minister Paula Ingabire, and Sweden’s ambassador to Angola, Lennart Killander Larsson, were joint signatories. These moves are tied to the government’s desire for more businesses to be efficient, as well as to drive e-commerce, which is impossible or pointless in a low internet penetration environment.
Angola’s agreement with Rwanda involves mapping out potential knowledge-sharing areas, through reciprocated country visits as well as sending technical teams in both directions to learn and teach. But theirs is a fresh alliance, unlike Sweden’s, with whom Angola has had a long term bilateral exchange in technology. Angola’s priority in the Swedish partnership, according to Rocha, is “improving the presence of Swedish companies in Angola.” This tallies with ambassador Larsson’s earliest words upon resumption in Angola three years ago when he said, “hopefully Swedish companies will increase their exports to Angola – and vice versa.”
As part of the agreement, the Angolan government hopes to solidify cybersecurity, as a way of guaranteeing more ICT investments and increase internet access, as well as improve electronic applications for government services, a natural consequence of greater internet penetration. There are also initial plans to create a Technological Development Center. These agreements centre much of what ANGOTIC 2019 was about: smart cities, corporate data analysis, space education, content and digital media, with some of the world’s most recognizable names in ICT like Huawei and Facebook in attendance.
Angola has recently shown a big appetite for more serious engagement in its ICT sector. The National Institute for the Advancement of Information Society (INFOSI) already made plans to connect about 160,000 Angolans to free WiFi. Unitel, Angola’s largest mobile phone company, wants to cover “100%” of the country with 3G and 4G, and are likely to incorporate 5G soon, allowing more people (and businesses) to use speedier internet connections. More recently, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technologies (MTTI) launched the domain “ao” – an electronic website and institution indicating that they are registered in Angola, and reduced the registration fee from 50 thousand kwanzas to about 8 thousand kwanzas.
With these new agreements, the country will hope to develop a stronger internet base, upon which it can attract foreign direct investments outside of the oil sector, bettering its economic prospects.
By Caleb Ajinomoh