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Players need to make connectivity available and affordable for SMEs, Liquid


Last week, the world marked World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, a day observed annually to mark the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and ITU’s founding in 1865.

During this year’s celebration, ITU issued a worldwide appeal calling to increase the value of pledges for digitalizing the world from the current USD 30 billion to USD 100 billion by 2026. 

The appeal by the United Nations’ specialized agency for information and communication technologies includes a focus on raising the level of resources for universal and meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the world’s least-developed countries (LDCs). 

In Africa, only 22% of the continent has access despite experiencing the most growth in regional connectivity. This presents a need for huge investments and significant regulatory reforms to ensure we bring more of the population including SMEs and startups online. 

In a Twitter space hosted by Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Ben Roberts, the company’s  Group Chief Technology and Innovation Officer noted that there is an urgent need and requirement for connectivity in the region. 

‘’There is a whole conversation going on across the content about digitising and accelerating the digital economy, especially for SMEs. Much as our job at Liquid is building digital infrastructure, we have started looking at how we can help people all along the journey. We want all the pillars of the digital economy to work, so the infrastructure we are building can be filled up’’ he said.

In Africa, small businesses are already becoming “micro-multinationals” by using digital platforms such as Facebook, and or even Jumia to connect with customers and suppliers in other countries. Ben notes to ensure this growth players not only need to make connectivity available but affordable for SMEs.  

In March this year, Liquid announced a new collaboration with Microsoft to deliver internet access to 20 million underserved people in Africa by the end of 2025. Working together through Microsoft’s Airband initiative, the new collaboration will initially target regions that include but are not limited to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia. Additionally, the partnership will allow for increased proliferation of high-speed connectivity to the farthest parts of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. This will in the end help even the smallest businesses across these countries scale as they take advantage of this connectivity.

Speaking the same Twitter Space, Moses Kemibaro, Dotsavvy Founder and CEO said many SMEs are not fully and digitally equipped to take advantage of connectivity. ‘’Many of them may still be doing things the traditional way, not taking advantage of the technologies we’re seeing right now to enhance their global visibility’’ he said. 

‘’I think it’s got to be that thing I’ve been looking at all the possibilities and SMEs saying that with this high-quality connectivity, quality bandwidth from organisations like Liquid, how can we leverage these technologies to digitally transform businesses so that we can be not only globally competitive but also globally relevant’’ he added.

SMEs make up a large part of Kenya’s economy, accounting for approximately 98 per cent of all businesses.

They are spread across all sectors of the economy as they provide about 80 per cent of total employment,  the sector also contributes up to 33.3 per cent of GDP.

Fiona Ngaruro, an E-commerce and Growth Marketing Consultant who was also a speaker at the Twitter Space noted that the interesting thing about going digital, the barrier to entry is fairly low.  ‘’If you think about selling online or on social media, really all you need is a smartphone and data. The beauty of this is that it levels the playing field and allows SMEs to get on board and start selling online’’

‘’Businesses nolonger just need to be restricted to their physical location. Connectivity and going digital allows them to open up to people across the country and the continent,‘’ she adds. 

This Twitter Space was the first in a series of spaces hosted by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and moderated by myself. 

You can listen to the entire Twitter space on Spotify below:

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to nkanali@techtrendske.co.ke.

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