Naspers MD Koos Bekker has lamented the lack of broadband in SA, describing it as a “tragic story” created by a decade of poor regulation.
Speaking on Talk Radio 702’s The Money Show with Bruce Whitfield on Monday evening, Bekker, whose company is invested in a range of emerging market Internet and new media companies, said that in 2000, the country had 50% of all the Internet connections in Africa.
“Now, we are below 25%,” he said. “We’ve been surpassed by countries like Morocco and Nigeria.”
Bekker blamed poor political and regulatory leadership for the situation. “There was a poor regulatory environment for 10 years, from about 2000 to 2010,” he said. “Luckily, we have a better minister [Roy Padayachie] now and things are starting to move, so I think we will start catching up.”
SA lags far behind other markets in e-commerce, too, according to Bekker. He told Whitfield that in the UK, 8% of retail sales happens online through e-commerce. “In Poland, where we [Naspers] are quite active, it’s 2%. In SA, it’s 0,2%, so we are one-tenth of Poland and one-fortieth of the UK, and this is a reflection of the lack of broadband.”
Bekker said the lack of widespread broadband is a problem for SA’s economic development. “Let’s say a physicist can’t get that important bit of information from MIT because the broadband is inadequate,” he said. “Or, the geologist who can’t get a map, or an eye surgeon who can’t get [access]to a procedure that is available in the UK. A lack of broadband actually weakens the whole economy, so hopefully we can now fix it.” — Staff reporter, TechCentral
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