Africa Leaders Emerge from IT Research

At more than 11.5 million square miles, Africa is almost four times the size of the continental United States, and its population now exceeds 1 billion people. At the Tau Institute, we’ve been able to survey 22 of the 50+ African nations, including four among the northern Arabic nations, and 18 that are generally described as Sub-Saharan. We categorize all of them under “Africa,” following a precedent set by the African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity), which counts all of Africa in its membership with the exception of Morocco.

The Top 10 in the group we’ve surveyed are Uganda, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, Mozambique, Egypt, South Africa, and Zambia.

How does Uganda emerge as the leader? Why doesn’t South Africa rate higher? And where’s Nigeria?

Our Method
As I explained in my recent article about our Middle East rankings, we seek to develop a relative, “pound-for-pound” ranking that can uncover diamonds in the rough and more important, show well a nation is doing with respect to its available resources.

We integrate several technology and social factors into our algorithms — on the one hand including average bandwidth, access to broadband, number of dataservers, on the other hand including income disparity, perception of corruption, human development, and the local cost of living.

This results in rankings that show how well the nations of the world are doing compared to what they already have, with the dynamic that the top performers will continue to outpace the laggards.

We will have another major update at Cloud Expo in Silicon Valley the week of November 4. We are also working on developing regional and city rankings, a massive undertaking for us that won’t be complete until sometime next year.

Meanwhile, to answer the above questions:
Uganda scores well primarily because of what it has achieved in the face of one of the lowest per-capita income levels in the world. It has provided access to 13% of its citizens, actually the second-highest ratio of access to income in the world (trailing only Kenya). Its income disparity level, while high, is lower than many of its neighbors. It has a relatively high average bandwidth speed, given its income. Integrate all of our factors, and Uganda emerges as the true diamond in the rough in Africa.
No one familiar with South Africa today needs to be told that the country remains unfulfilled in its potential. Income disparity that remains among the highest in the world means benefits of IT are not flowing comprehensively through the nation. The country is in the lower quartile for Internet access and broadband connectivity vs. income. Nonetheless, South Africa does still crack our Top 10 for Africa. We don’t factor the sheer size of a nation’s economy, but of course South Africa’s continues to make it an attractive venue for businesses and investors.
Less can probably be said about Nigeria, which has well-known problems accompanying (and perhaps exacerbated by) its oil wealth. In our rankings, it comes up 12th among the African nations, between Tanzania and Malawi. Its large population and size of its economy continue to make it attractive. Separately, it may serve as a model for our incipient efforts to look at specific regions (ie, Lagos State).

A major thrust of our work is to identify and explore those countries that may not come immediately to mind. To that end, our rankings can be used to start conversations about the top countries I’ve listed above. Ghana is a country that has received a lot of recent attention (including that of President Obama), and its official use of English makes it intuitively attractive to many. However, also in West Africa, French-speaking Senegal should not be overlooked.

Committed to Non-Violence
As I noted in my earlier piece, our Institute is small, headquartered on a former liberal-arts college campus in Northern Illinois, and in Metro Manila, Philippines. We have a few selected advisors in Africa.

We are also committed unequivocally to peaceful means of solving all problems. This can be a difficult point of view to adhere to, but having seen enough violence on small scales and larger scales, I for one take the view that no further human progress is possible through violent means of any type. Violence has been a great scourge to Africa and the world up to the present day. We’re committed to our research and applying it in a non-political way that (with hope springing eternal) can improve economies and lives.

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