Internet as Big as Agriculture in South African Economy

South Africa

Throughout the world we hear how more and more people are accessing the internet and this is true even in South Africa. In the past two years there has been a 60% rise in internet users and now the internet is proving great for the economy.

While South Africa only has an estimated 8.5 million internet users out of a population that is topping 50 million people, the online sector now contributes around 2% to the GDP. According to a study by internet research company, World Wide Worx, and Google, this puts the internet in the same ballpark as Agriculture (2.1%) and Utilities (2.6%).

The good news is that this isn’t going to slow down. Right now the online economy is growing at a faster rate than the old fashioned offline one and by 2015 it is estimated that it could account for 2.5% of the GDP. The even better news is that, according to the study, it will be the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that will benefit most from this growth.

The study found that SMEs with a website are currently three times more profitable than those without one and approximately 20% of small businesses surveyed stated that they would not be able to survive without an online presence. With these figures it’s estimated that 1.56 million jobs would be lost without the internet.

South Africa isn’t Africa’s biggest internet user. That title goes to Morocco with 49% of its population accessing the internet, followed by Nigeria (29%), Egypt (26%) and Kenya (25%). The study suggests that South Africa take measures to avoid being left behind by these other countries. These include:

  • Investing in broadband infrastructure
  • Making it easier for people to receive right of way permits
  • Putting government services online
  • Encouraging SMEs to have a strong online presence

These figures are all very encouraging and could mean great things for the South African economy. If the government recognises and encourages such growth, who knows what the future could hold for the country’s online economy.

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