How digital enables inclusion through connectivity

AfricaCom brings together all the big names from telecoms and tech between 13 and 15 November in Cape Town, South Africa. Alongside them at this prestigious event will be Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, who will be presenting “Digital technology for socio-economic development”. Here’s an overview.

How is Africa progressing in terms of digital transformation?

Alioune Ndiaye: Africa is the continent that has the most to gain from the digital revolution. Thanks to new technologies, African countries can move away from their old industrial models and skip ahead to accelerate economic growth. For example, less than 2% of Africans had telecoms access in 2000, compared to 60% today. In comparison, Africa has achieved in 15 years what France took 85 years to accomplish! Similarly, the transition from 3G to 4G took place across the continent in around 3 years, while it took more than 10 in Europe.

In what way will digital technology help drive the continent’s development?

AN: Digital is a great tool for reducing inequality and social exclusion. It’s also a powerful lever for individual and collective transformation. That’s why at Orange we are firmly committed to ensuring everyone can access and make the most of technology.

The Orange added value is digital inclusion.
Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa

Our added value is digital inclusion. This is what brought about the creation of the Orange Money offer 10 years ago. Access to a traditional bank account was still beyond most people’s reach in Africa, while mobile phones were already becoming widespread. To be able to manage your money, send it to your family, pay your bills and receive your salary all via your mobile phone… Orange Money has enabled millions of people who were previously excluded from traditional financial services to carry out instant, secure and reliable transactions. Its success shows how digital can improve people’s daily lives. We’re developing other innovative services that meet the essential needs of the African population, in particular in education, health and agriculture.

Can you give us some examples?

AN: Digital transformation impacts all business lines and sectors. Learning new technical skills is therefore becoming essential for younger generations. This challenge is even greater when you consider one person in every two is under 20 in Africa and the Middle East. That’s why we’ve set up a project called African Digital School to meet these new training and education needs. It is also reflected by the opening of training centres for digital skills and professions such as the Sonatel Academy, the first free coding school in Senegal for 18-30 year olds.

Another example of inclusion, linked to energy this time. Today, half of all Africans have no reliable access to electricity – reaching 70% in sub-Saharan Africa. Breakdowns and blackouts are responsible for power cuts averaging 6 hours. The electrification of the continent therefore represents a huge challenge to which green energy can provide an answer. That’s why we launched our Orange Energie solar kits in 7 African countries. Once the business model for this initiative has been validated, we will continue to expand its deployment.

Orange Africa and the Middle East: focus on the Group’s leading growth market

Today, Orange is present in 20 countries across the region (versus only four a decade ago), investing one billion Euros each year. To cement this presence and adapt to the specificities of each country, our subsidiaries rely on locally recruited skills and work with local partners.
“Of our 18,000 employees, only 50 are expatriates,” highlights Alioune Ndiaye.

This strategy is working: Orange Africa and the Middle East is the Group’s primary growth market.
“For the last 10 years, we’ve seen an average annual growth of almost 4.5%, despite local and international risks. And we have reached 5% in the first nine months of 2018,” notes Alioune Ndiaye.

Finally, one in 10 Africans is now an Orange customer and one in 30 uses our banking and financial services such as Orange Money. Almost 30% of Orange Group’s 4G customers live in Africa and the Middle East.