Stakeholders Call for Strategic Investments in Africa's Digital Infrastructure


Thursday, July 29, 2021 / 9:00 AM / Ottoabasi Abasiekong for WebTV / Header Image Credit: Eventbrite

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Stakeholders at the end of the 2021 Connected Africa summit which discussed the theme "Monetization in the Digital Economy" called for new and significant investments in the digital infrastructure of the region.


This, according to the experts, analysts, and business leaders at the summit, would spur growth, create jobs, improve data connectivity, and bridge the digital divide.


Giving the opening remarks the Chairman of the Summit Mr. Yehia Alamine, the Deputy Editor-In-Chief, Inside Telecom described Africa as a hub for innovation and technology. He was delighted to note that operators in the industry were willing to scale connectivity, opportunity, and reliability especially as the growth of 4G and 5G pushes the region to the next level of transformation.


Alamine believed that the Telecoms industry had a major role to play in driving a robust and integrated digital economy in Africa, and the summit had the mandate to proffer solutions and practicable steps to achieving transformation.


According to him the COVID 19 pandemic brought to the fore the need for the telecoms industry in Africa, to provide home-grown innovations and solutions that can be globalized.


In a Q&A session, the CEO of Airtel Africa, Mr. Raghunath Mandava, said the region had a lot of work to do when it comes to improving connectivity and bridging the digital divide. He said a deliberate step by governments to digitize their operations, would encourage other sectors to adopt the digital approach to transformation.


He said one of Africa's major challenges in achieving a vibrant digital economy was improving its digital banking services, which entails transforming cash into digital wallets. The Telco boss said banking penetration in Africa was still between 35% and 40% which was relatively low.


Speaking further he noted that digital banking operations would play a critical role in driving the digital economy, with the strengthening of services like "Mobile Money", and improving distribution channels that could spread across rural areas.


In his presentation, Mr. Gustavo Raiter, Senior Business Development Lead, Microsoft4Afrika on "Framework for Paving the Way to a Successful Telco" highlighted improved customer service, reduced costs and complexity of operations, and new business models as the forces behind telco growth.


Looking at the focus and trends in the telecommunications sector, Raito identified the following areas of interest:

  • The Customer
  • The Employee
  • The Operations
  • The Products


Discussing the topic "Bridging the Digital Divide", Mr. George Njuguna, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Safaricom, Kenya said the digital disruption was here and was critical to unlocking the growth and development of Africa's digital economy.

He observed that disruption was an opportunity to improve the mobile-first solutions, improve the opportunities for Open API, enhance cloud solutions, and most importantly deepen the digital culture (focus on people transformation).


William Mzimba, CEO of Vodacom Business Group, Vodacom, South Africa in his comments decried the fact that about 500m people in Africa, do not have access to the internet, which was instructive for telco operators, indicating that they must be deliberate in addressing pockets of no coverage in rural areas.


He agreed that Fintech can be Africa's success story, given an enabling regulatory and policy environment.


Considering the importance of "Cybersecurity", Bernard Acquah, CIO, MTN Ghana said with the wave of cybercrime it was a must-have for companies to achieve a competitive edge, manage risks effectively, deter financial loss and solidify their brand.


The summit organized by the International Center for Strategic Alliances (ICSA) also featured thought-provoking panel sessions.

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