Greater innovation from telecoms and technology companies is vital to drive the expansion of internet connectivity in Africa, according to new research from blockchain-based mobile network operator World Mobile.

The study among African business leaders found nearly two out of three (65%) worry that a lack of infrastructure is stopping traditional telecom companies from delivering the internet connectivity the continent needs.

But they are optimistic that innovation from new entrants will achieve dramatic improvements. Nearly three-quarters (71%) say new approaches are expanding internet connectivity to hard-to-reach areas more affordably.

The study with African business leaders from companies with combined annual revenues of more than $6,75-billion found that executives believe the expansion of the African middle class coupled with government support is driving demand for innovation.

Two-thirds (66%) believe connectivity will improve over the next five years with a quarter (24%) expecting dramatic improvements, the research among senior executives at companies based in Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa shows.

African business leaders believe the biggest benefits of expanding connectivity will be growing internal trade on the continent which was highlighted by 78%. Around 75% pointed to growth in international trade, while 55% however say better education and healthcare.

Micky Watkins, CEO of World Mobile, comments: “There is growing confidence that Africa is on the verge of a revolution in internet connectivity with innovators such as World Mobile responding to the huge growth opportunities across the continent and government support.

“However, the research with business leaders detects some scepticism with more than a quarter of senior executives saying they expect no change in connectivity over the next five years and pointing to potential roadblocks such as bureaucracy and a lack of innovation.

“Improving internet connectivity is vital to delivering the potential of Africa, which is not just good for global economic growth but also for improving living standards across the continent and we are focused on playing our part in supporting innovation.”