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Powering Kenya’s digital future through connectivity and innovation

President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa

Fadi Pharaon President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa

President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa

President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa

Known as the regional hub for Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Kenya stands at the forefront of mobile broadband connectivity, mobile financial services, and a robust ICT infrastructure. With a promising GDP growth projection of 5.2% from 2023 to 2024, and the ICT sector accounting for a substantial 7% of the total GDP, Kenya's path towards digital transformation is inspiring.

The technology landscape in Kenya has evolved rapidly, leading to the term "Silicon Savannah" being coined for its vibrant tech ecosystem. The number of mobile subscribers hit 66.1 million as of 31st March 2023, and there were 17.86 million internet users in Kenya in January 2023, according to The country’s increased mobile penetration and internet connectivity are helping bridge the digital divide, allowing more Kenyans to access information, education, and services online.

Digitalization has enhanced the efficiency of governmental services through initiatives like e-Citizen Portal, which provides a centralized access to crucial services such as business registration and tax filing. This has streamlined administrative processes and introduced transparency to fight corruption. Other innovations are also helping extend quality education to deprived communities. Computer for Schools Kenya (CFSK) has, for instance, introduced solar-powered computer labs in remote schools, giving students access to digital learning tools, enabling a wider generation of digital savvy youth.

We also see momentum in the health sector, where projects such as the District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS2), utilize digital solutions to improve healthcare delivery and disease tracking, leading to more effective resource allocation and improved public health outcomes. The country has also seen the eruption of innovative mobile applications like iCow that provide vital insights on farming techniques, market trends, and weather forecasts, boosting agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods to farmers. Digital connectivity has enabled MSMEs, which collectively contribute a substantial 30% to the GDP, to reach a wider customer base through online marketplaces and social media. Access to digital payment systems, including mobile financial services, has streamlined transactions and contributed to financial inclusion of previously unbanked parts of the population.

Ericsson has a longstanding history with Kenya as a key partner in laying the telecommunications infrastructure and providing the innovative solutions driving the country’s digital transformation. In line with our commitment to harnessing the immense connectivity and technology that drive Africa’s digital transformation, we have been working with our partners to drive digitalization across the country over the years.

Extending coverage and enhancing connectivity through innovation

According to the World Bank, as of 2022, 71% of the Kenyan population still lived in rural areas without easy access to infrastructure like banking, transport, electricity, and roads. These factors make mobile broadband essential in bridging the economic divide and driving the economic inclusion of populations living in rural parts of the country. One of the main challenges involved in providing mobile broadband connectivity in rural areas is economic viability. The infrastructure deployment and maintenance costs in remote areas are significantly higher when comparing with urban areas, while the expected returns can be smaller. At Ericsson, we bring innovative solutions to improve the Return on Investment (ROI) for communication service providers and we have been working on such initiatives with some of our partners in Kenya.

As an example, we have introduced innovative radio technologies uniquely designed to support countries in Africa, including Kenya, overcome challenges to adoption. One such product is the Radio 6626, which can replace six legacy radios and brings tangible OPEX and energy benefits by minimizing power consumption by up to 50% and reducing the weight of the tower.

We can also extend network coverage and enhancing connectivity in the country by optimizing existing sites to amplify cell range coverage. This allows operators to extend the reach of their 4G signal, with the right conditions, by up to 200 km from the site, which is a remarkable achievement compared to the usual 15 km cell towers’ reach.  This type of technology leadership reduces the number of sites service providers need to deploy for wide coverage and consequently improves the ROI for operators.

Another approach which has been successfully embraced is our spectrum sharing functionality. Spectrum being a scarce resource, operators need to make the most of their assets and dedicating spectrum along with infrastructure assets towards LTE can negatively impact the ROI while LTE penetration remains low. Using our spectrum sharing functionality CSPs can reuse the existing GSM assets to expand the LTE service across large parts of the country. This not only provides for a smooth and cost-efficient broadband expansion but perhaps even more significantly, this also prepares the network for a smooth transition into LTE given that resources are dynamically allocated to either technology based on the users’ demand.

Connecting Schools to the Internet

Connectivity is a critical enabler of social and economic change, and we continue to leverage our technology for positive development on the African continent. We are partnering with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and UNICEF in the Giga Initiative, which aims to connect all schools to the Internet by 2030. As part of this initiative, we have provided data sets for mobile coverage in 34 countries, covering over 450, 000 unique locations, including school coverage mapping for Kenya and 10 other African countries. Using our artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, we analyzed and validated school network coverage information from crowdsourced data for Kenya, and mapped school coverage for approximately 35,500 locations.

Digital Skill Development for Youth

In this digital era, it is crucial to have the necessary skills, especially the youth. This is why we invest in local talent through our Graduate Program in Kenya. This initiative equips graduates with technical skills and offers exposure to Ericsson's technology, solutions, and delivery processes. We believe in cultivating skilled professionals who understand the power of connectivity and digitalization to shape a prosperous future for all.

Our role as technology leaders in powering Kenya's digitalization journey exemplifies our unwavering confidence in the power of connectivity to transform lives and drive economic growth. As Kenya advances on its digitalization journey, we remain dedicated to ensuring that every corner of society joins this transformative journey, and citizens take advantage of the exciting opportunities.

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