Zambia hints at fifth telco operator

A fifth telco
for Zambia?

Enough room says
industry regulator.

Thursday, Feb 20th

Africa's journey to 4th industrial revolution under scrutiny at AfricaCom 2017

AfricaCom 2017 looks to secure 13 000 more attendees

The 2017 edition of technology, media and telecommunications conference AfricaCom will take a more indepth look at Africa's progress towards the 4th industrial revolution, and aims to attract 2000 more attendees than last year and secure its target of 13 000 for the event in November.

At the event's launch function in Johannesburg, organisers said that AfricaCom will mark its twentieth year by adding a new exhibition hall called the Technology Arena, separate from the existing one within the grounds of the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Tom Cuthell, Portfolio Director at AfricaCom series says the annual event has expanded its focus over the two decades leading up to 2017.

"Over the years AfricaCom has evolved from a purely telecoms focused event to a much broader platform where we are looking at digital transformation as a whole in Africa and how that translates into socio-economic development. What we have done is launch this hall to kind of celebrate that and we have included some new features in it."

Cuthel adds that while telecommunications is still a core part of the show, everyone involved in Africa's digital economy will benefit from taking part.

"That additional space means that we can introduce more conference content, more networking features and of course more companies who are active in new areas such as AI, IoT and big data. We have a lot more FinTech this year than we had in the past and we will be looking very broadly at Africa's journey towards the fourth industrial revolution, at what needs to happen, who are the key players and what barriers need to be overcome."

Putting consumers at the forefront

During a panel discussion at the launch event, several speakers urged organisers and the broader ICT community on the continent to a to get a better understanding of African consumers and their needs.

Elizabeth Migwalla, Senior Director for Africa Government Affairs at Qualcomm said, "There is one missing participant in this conversation and that is the user or the consumer. We probably don't know them because they are not us. I live in a rural farm in Kenya, the people who surround me are not like us, it is those people who need 'to do life' - but we need to transform the way they do life with digital. The African user does not look like any other but none of us knows what they look like, what they consume and how they want to consume it. We seem to think of ourselves as 54 different countries, but we need to find ways to harmonise the African ICT sector or the African market so that if we have unique requirements we can spell them out and create an enabling environment for them."

Manny Teixeira, Group Head of Digital Media and Services, MTN echoed Migwalla's views. "As a telco I will put my hand up - even though I got into a bit of trouble last year at AfricaCom for saying the same thing - is that we are great product houses and we engineer and shove them down the pipe and hope that consumers are there to absorb or consume them. It generally worked because consumers didn't have a choice of who to go to when it comes to voice and messaging ,but now they do have a choice in this new world. We have to go right to the source and ask what consumers want to do with us, and with that internet connectivity. If we don't keep pace with consumers, they will find alternatives."

Gustav Praekelt, Founder & Chairman of Praekelt.org summed up the appeal as one for an ICT industry where "computers become more like humans and not humans being more like computers."

AfricaCom will have 16 different tracks in 2017 among them Visions for Africa Keynotes, SDN and NFV, Mobile Finance and eCommerce in Africa, Enterprise ICT, and Connecting Africa, as well as LTE Africa.

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