As the dust settles on another Mobile 360 Africa – and our first in Rwanda – we leave with a real sense of optimism. Here are some of our key takeaways.
This year, Mobile 360 Africa showed exactly how the industry is delivering a Digital Africa and the huge impact it is having socially and economically – just check out Farm Crowdy, Musanga, Girl Effect, Yego Moto, Lynk, Andela, Mercy Corps, KopaGas …I could go on.
It’s estimated that there will be over 600 million unique mobile subscribers in the region by 2025 – equivalent to 52% of the population – which will add more than $150 billion to the overall economy – almost 8% of GDP in Sub Saharan Africa. Impressive numbers that has significantly changed the tone of discussion. Speak to those on the ground and they love to discuss the innovation, entrepreneurship and amount of investment coming to the region. There are still a lot of challenges but they no longer view themselves as a ‘developing’ continent.
One challenge in particular caught my attention – operators are paying three times more for spectrum compared to other regions, a number that burdens mobile operators, which in turn massively impacts’ affordability and network coverage. Access needs to be affordable for all and government has a major role in supporting this.
That said, the new Rwandan Minister of ICT, Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, opened the conference underlying the need for collaboration, partnership and respect for the mobile industry in supporting the digital transformation.
Patrick Nyirishema from RURA followed on saying all regulators need to start thinking like innovators – words I thought I’d ever hear from a regulator – and MTN’s CEO, Rob Shuter added ‘we all have to work together for connectivity’
Here we have government, regulator and industry all effectively singing from the same hymn sheet, which can only mean great things right?
It definitely seems to be having an effect. Aurelien Duval-Delort, CEO of Bizao said operators must actively seek partnerships with start-ups in the market. In fact, the biggest cheer came when he said operators should target engaging with 100 start-ups within a year.
A domino effect seemed to have begun – starting from the very top. Before the event, I wrote here saying that the digital transformation was being led from the bottom up but it appears the government have listened.
Discussions on consumerism, 5G, fake news, data privacy reflected the changing landscape and the considerable opportunities for the expansion and diversification of mobile services. As Africa becomes synonymous with entrepreneurship – shown by the number of students, innovation hubs and starts up at this year’s show – it seems the next generation are ready to take the vision of Digital Africa to the next level.