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Baidu will join France Telecom Orange in developing a multi-lingual browser for the African Android-based smart phone market, beginning with its Arabic-language platform which is currently available through the Mobinil provider in Egypt.
The browser is expected to reach up to 75 million customers in the 20 countries where Orange operates. According to officials in Orange, the goal is to reach 300 million customers in 2015.
Baidu’s move into Africa is significant in many ways, say telecom experts, because it reveals the strategic plans of major Chinese companies in emerging markets, and also signals that Africa may be the next Internet battleground.
The World Bank and the African Development Bank agree. They say rapid modernisation and upgrading of information infrastructures in just the past five years has enabled the number of cellular subscribers to reach 650 million in 2012.
Such a market is bigger than the US or the EU and comes second only to Asia.
The World Bank says that such growth is “quickly changing lives, driving entrepreneurship fueled in part by collaborative technology hubs, and delivering innovation and home-grown solutions for Africa”.
The report expects that Africa will also see an increase in Internet and computer usage, which will nourish a growth in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) innovations.
With input from Agencies