The kind of publicity the fair used to enjoy in the past is not the same this time around. In fact, some people were even asking whether the fair is still going on. Why were they not utilising the media – radio, newspapers and the television? Why didn’t you start the promotion well in advance of the fair? Show the diversity of the goods taking part in the fair, for example?
That could have been an opportunity. That is why smart businesses invest so much on branding, publicity and commercials to boost their sales, especially when it is commerce. We know there is one television station in the country but could they utilise it to the optimum? By reminding the population every day that the fair is on, those among the rest who are going to spend money will naturally head for the venue, instead of Serekunda and Albert markets for their daily or weekly shoppings.
I also think GCCI has a weak communication or public relations unit. Else, how do they explain this situation? A good media or PR would have advised the oganisers to do what is right and strategic under the circumstances.
Why didn’t they utilise the social media and the general online community, which was just a click of a mouse away from them? Did they know how many Gambians are on Facebook? Do they know that using the Internet can add much value to their marketing and publicity efforts more than partnering with just a radio station? How many Gambians will be listening to that radio? Did you also know that when it comes to radio, there is such diversity that Gambians are spoilt for choice? No radio station can claim to hold sway when it comes to mass audience in the country. So let’s learn from our mistakes and shortfalls and learn to do things the right way, GCCI.
Waking up to the importance of connectivity in Africa
The announcement of the formation of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) recently is the latest confirmation that the world has finally realised the crucial importance of connectivity in developing nations. The initiative, launched by public and private sector players, calls for open, competitive and innovative broadband markets, with the need to bring down costs stressed as vital.
This follows the launch of internet.org, championed primarily by Facebook, which aims to provide internet access to five billion people. Facebook says that an increase in internet adoption of less than 9 per cent per year is concerning, and thus is looking to tackle the problem, mainly by focusing on bringing down data costs.
Google has also joined the crusade, joining the A4AI as well as launching Project Loon, which hopes to provide internet to underserved parts of the world through the launch of thousands of balloons to the edge of space. The company is also set to invest in wireless connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa.
We must be clear that from the point of view of Facebook and Google, this is not charity but business. With Africa having the lowest penetration of mobile and internet globally, but also the fastest growth, the continent and other developing regions are the only places on Earth where the likes of Google and Facebook can still expect to grow their user bases and revenues, and they are making their move now to make sure that happens.
Regardless of their motives, however, the focus of multinational corporations on rolling out connectivity across Africa and the rest of the developing world can only be good for the countries involved. A World Bank study has estimated a 10 per cent increase in broadband connectivity leads to 1.38 per cent increase in GDP. In 2011, McKinsey reported that internet-related consumption and expenditure had overtaken agriculture and energy, while a study released this year by the Technology & Social Change Group at the University of Washington Information School found that community access to ICT was crucial for connecting people to the information and skills necessary in a digital world.
Central to the question of connectivity in developing countries is cost, though infrastructure and spectrum, as Qualcomm spelled out recently, are also important. Facebook and Google may have spotted an opportunity for growth given the fact only 16 per cent of Africans are online, compared to 77 per cent in the developed world, but in order to increase this penetration costs must come down.
A 1GB data plan in Europe costs just two per cent of gross national income (GNI), but in Africa the figure increases to 50 per cent. This is far too expensive for the total rollout of connectivity to be a reality in the near future, with Facebook noting in its recent ‘A Focus on Efficiency’ report that the current cost of data is 100 times too expensive for it to be economically feasible to provide internet as a basic human right.
How to cut these prices – be it by building more efficient apps or launching thousands of balloons into African skies – is central to the whole idea of increasing the number of people in the developing world who have internet access, but identifying the problem – which the world now seems to have done – may prove half the battle.