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Reflex Eco Group – African News

by Othman Semakula (Ugandan journalist)


Data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicates that by 1993, only 20,000 Ugandan households could access a television set and none had used a mobile phone within the country’s borders.

In perspective, this meant that only 0.07 per cent out of the 28 million Ugandans could afford to watch television, limited to a single channel [Uganda Television] then. Similarly, only 7 per cent of Ugandans by the time had access to a radio set.

However, with about a decade gone by, available data from the Uganda Communications Commission indicates a remarkable turnaround with huge increased access to electronic equipment including television sets, radio sets, and mobile phones among others.

The growth has been buttressed by a change in attitude in much of Africa that currently views technology as a life necessity and an important ingredient in the both social and economic transformation.

This according to data is also premised on the fact that Africa continues to see rapid growth in its middle class characterized by an increase in spending capacity especially on luxuries.

Currently Uganda has about five million television sets, 11 million radio sets and about 17 million mobile phone handsets, according to UCC.

This trend in growth, as indicated above is not only alien to mobile phones or television sets but spreads across a wider divide of technological transformation in Uganda’s communication, lifestyle and the entertainment scope.

But what has been the magic behind this especially at a time when much of continent had viewed technology as a luxury and a reserve for the upscale world in much of the 80s and 90s.

First forward, in the last half of the previous decade [2002-2012], much of the world has been scolded by a rough economic environment blanketing much of Europe and the Americas.

The effect has been slowed growth which has negatively impacted on consumption trends in such areas especially for luxuries.

However, as data indicates, the scenario in Africa has been different.

Thus, global companies have had to refocus growth their strategies as they seek to revitalize sales as well as exploring new markets.

According to the World Bank, Sub Saharan Africa grew by about 5.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 3.7 per cent and 4.3 per cent for Europe and the Americas respectively.

The good growth for Africa is likely to continue with an ambitious growing to about 7 per cent by 2015.

In a research conducted by Standard Chartered Bank – ‘Taking Africa’s growth seriously’, Ms Razia Khan the bank’s head of Africa researchargues that the economic out performance in much of Sub-Saharan Africa continues to stand ground, despite global uncertainties.

This growth she says: “Can be sustained in the coming years because it is a result of improving domestic fundamentals.”

The fundamentals, she say include a rapid growth in private consumption, better governance and increased financial intermediation, rather than by exports.

Africa, according to Ms Khan, stands out as the global economy searches for new growth champions.

The above brings us to one conclusion that Africa has become the new global focus for manufacturers seeking to re-energize their top line [sales] as well as exploring new markets.

While addressing journalists at the Sony Africa conference in Cape Town, South Africa recently, Mr Hiroyasu Sugiyama, the Sony Middle East and Africa managing director, emphasized the company’s focus on the continent, saying it was undoubtedly one of Sony’s most important markets.

Sony, according to the company’s blueprint, targets to have achieved $1.4 billion market share in the consumer electronics space by 2015 out of a combined consumption of over $2.5 billion electronically.

As an emphasis to Sony’s renewed focus on Africa, the blueprint seeks to increase the company’s presence across the continent that will be achieved through a multifaceted approach focusing on a four-pillared product, customer, community and operation strategy.

Apart from Sony, Africa’s growth continues to fascinate a number of suitors in the global device, equipment and manufacturing business.

Thus many have taken as a key consideration to directly engaging Africa through enhanced product research in order to produce products that are relevant to the market.

However, whereas the growth in Africa has been a key ingredient in the shift of global consumption trends, infrastructure challenges, unreliable energy and corruption among others continue to stand in the way of achieving sustainable growth in the consumption curve.

While addressing participants at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town recently, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, the Kenya President, said it was time for Africa to seize the opportunity and concretize its place – “The next big thing’ that has been chorused across the globe for almost a decade.

He said Africa should work hard to fulfill its ‘Next big thing’ tag-line that has made it a global focus for its market potential.

According to Mr Kenyatta, Africa needs to get off its lulls and take advantage of the current void through working on its infrastructure as wells as boosting energy supplies among others.

[The writer is a business Journalist with Daily Monitor, email sothmanmail@gmail.com]