African governments are hampering telecoms development in the continent, Peter Lyons, a director at GSMA, charged on Monday.

Lyons said these governments did this by flopping to sell more bandwidth to mobile phone operators.

“This is a blunder that could undermine growth in the world’s poorest continent,” Lyons said. GSMA is a UK-based mobile industry body.

According to media reports, consumers in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya were using mobiles for phone calls to access the Internet.

This requires more range of radio waves set aside for cellular networks.

However, industry participants and analysts say many states in the sub Saharan Africa lack the motivation and money needed to auction more bandwidth to meet the demand, boding ill for economies.

“The governments do not know how to release it and do not see the importance of prioritising the release of spectrum,” said Lyons.

It has been reported that there is little fixed-line broadband infrastructure to carry the rising data traffic on the continent.

This means the growing demand for Internet connection can only be delivered through mobile networks. More than half of internet activity is on handsets.

Meanwhile, mobile data is expected to grow by 46 percent annually over the next four years, according to GSMA. It is also expected that Africa’s 35 million 3G connections would grow nearly five-fold to 160 million by 2016.

“Governments and regulators are not prepared for the coming growth because they have been dragging their feet in allocating spectrum to support the mobile data networks,” said Lyons.

Many African authorities lack the expertise to run auctions for spectrum licences. The few engineers and lawyers that have telecoms experience are already working for the mobile phone firms and many governments can’t afford to hire advisors from abroad.

Even when they are in a position to seek outside help, red tape can get in the way.


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