Lions go digital: Highlights from McKinsey’s report on the internet in Africa

Following a decade of economic expansion, Africa is going digital. Internet usage is growing rapidly and could add US$300bn a year to the continent’s GDP by 2025 – while transforming key sectors like agriculture, retail and health.

Like mobile phones, greater access to the internet will connect more people across the continent.

Like mobile phones, greater access to the internet will connect more people across the continent.

This is the message from a new report by McKinsey, Lions go digital: The internet’s transformative potential in Africa.

The report examines the progress and potential of the internet in 14 economies that together make up 90% of Africa’s GDP. It projects that the continued growth of the internet could produce a leap forward in the continent’s economic and social development in the coming decade.

Below are some of the report’s main findings:

  • The internet is a catalyst for economic growth: in China, India and Brazil it has contributed more than 10% of total GDP growth over the past five years. Africa is catching up quickly.
  • Mobile voice has already had an outsized effect in Africa as it connected people who previously had little or no access to telecommunications. The internet could produce a similar, or greater, multiplier effect.
  • Only 16% of Africa’s 1bn people are currently online, but that share is rising. More than 720m Africans have mobile phones, 167m already use the internet, and 52m are on Facebook.
  • Governments have placed internet-driven growth firmly on the agenda, with several countries pursuing ambitious plans to expand high-speed internet access to most of their populations.
  • There is a growing wave of innovation as entrepreneurs and large corporations alike launch web-based ventures, from e-commerce sites to mobile health technologies.
  • Africa could generate e-commerce sales of $75bn a year by 2025 – sparking an e-tailing revolution that gives African consumers much wider choice at lower prices.
  • The internet could unlock significant productivity gains in African business, government and social services.
  • To realise the internet’s full potential, governments and the private sector will need to invest in increasing access, developing a workforce with ICT skills and improving digital literacy.

Read How we made it in Africa over the coming days for more insight from McKinsey’s report.