Cape Verde’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Olavo Correia announced plans this week to put the archipelago at the forefront of the internet revolution by being among the first countries in the world to embrace 5G technology.
Supported by China’s Huawei, this bold initiative in an island nation of 560,000, with just 352,000 online, is indicative of a bigger picture whereby many of the world’s emerging markets are leapfrogging entire stages of technological development.
I’m writing this from The Gambia, West Africa, ranked twelfth poorest country on the planet. Ten years ago it was 2G mobile phones and dial-up internet via an expensive hotel. Today pretty much everyone has a smartphone and a3G or 4G connection.
And that’s the story behind the story with this item.
Ten years ago the idea of making book rights available for a country like The Gambia or Cape Verde or pretty much any African country was laughable. Outside a few key countries like South Africa the continent was considered a dead end for books.
In many ways it still is. If I want to find the latest bestsellers in print I need to hustle at the hotels and see what the tourists have left behind.
If I want to buy ebooks I can. With my British ex-pat credentials, that is. As a Gambian the best I can hope for is a handful of titles at US prices from the Kobo international store. Amazon? Apple? Google Play? Those ebook stores aren’t even visible here.
Were I in South Africa it would be a different story. Google play is there, Kobo is there, and while there is no Kindle ZA store Kindle ebooks can be bought from South Africa.
Why? Because publishers have long since been making available rights for South African distribution.
South Africa, by the way, is one of the few countries where 5G is already live. Back in February of this year the data-only mobile operator Rain launched the country’s first 5G commercial network, again in partnership with Huawei.
But let’s get back to Cape Verde.
Asked why Cape Verde should be looking to get 5G when many developed nations have yet to make that leap, Olavo Correia said,
We have to adapt to the context and the speed of the world. We can’t adjust the world to our speed, we have to adjust our speed to the speed of the world.
A lesson for publishers everywhere.