Africa Tech Festival – Day One And Two Overview

Uniting technology and talent, the key to Africa’s socio-economic growth and resilience

“Everyone deserves the benefit of a modern, connected life” – Charles Molapisi, MTN Group Chief Technology & Information Officer

The 2020 Africa Tech Festival got off to a cracking start on Monday 9th November, for the 4-day virtual conference and exhibition that incorporates AfricaCom and AfricaTech, the world’s largest and most influential Africa-focused technology and telecommunications event.  Whilst COVID-19 permeated conversations – the need for a virtual festival for example, but also the accelerated adoption of technology across the continent – it was the keynote presentations and weighty discussions exploring the events key theme of ‘resilience and growth: uniting tech and talent for socio-economic impact,’ that attracted a global audience and set the scene for Africa’s connected future.

Monday kicked off with content that pretty much summarised where the whole world is now – a comprehensive move to multi-platforms.  Also underlining the move to online for all businesses, including media and content (explored through Video Exchange Africa), is the need to address declining revenue streams and replace them with new ways to generate revenue, as well as how going digital, has reduced reliance on labour but highlighted the need to upskill existing manpower. 

Monday also belonged to discussions around healthcare, technology and COVID-19’s impact on access and delivery to not only COVID-related information and assistance, but to ongoing every day essential health and medical services.  Data Centres Africa also started on Monday with a rousing discussion around the proliferation of information, is it safe and in whose hands is our personal information. With data growing faster each day, this is a conversation to be continued …

Infrastructure, Investment and Innovation

Welcoming delegates to Africa’s biggest virtual event, Event Director. Tom Cuthell said: “It is our hope that Africa Tech Festival this week will provide a broad platform from which to build a better digital world that is more inclusive, better connected and more sustainable.” Officially opening Tuesday’s sessions, South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams welcomed delegates, shared some of South Africa’s plans to embrace 4IR in the country.  She remarked that the continent can rise to greater heights through digital transformation, by putting people at the centre of decision making and prioritising connection of all people to the digital economy.  Noting that South Africa and the continent as a whole needed to move away from a culture of consuming technology to inventing it she said: “This is the time for Africa, and the only way for us to do that is work together.”

Critical to addressing not only Africa’s requirement for socio-economic growth, discussions on the second day of the virtual Africa Tech Festival, focused around filling the infrastructure gaps across the continent – network density, capacity and how to expand it and what technologies to utilise – and the need to do so with greater urgency.  Also featuring strongly, the need for substantial investment into making this dream of continental connectivity a reality.

Chen Kuan-Hong, Chief Consultant, National Broadband and full-fibre, Analysis office at Huawei, who chaired Next-Gen ICT Infrastructure Brings Connectivity for All Africa, remarked how important it is for African governments to not only focus on access to energy and other utilities rollout but to include broadband as a first line item, otherwise the continent will be stuck in a perpetual legacy situation. 

Investing in next generation ICT infrastructure will unlock greater opportunities way beyond just being a means to providing entertainment.  Significant to unlocking tax contributions and sustaining future growth, across Africa, is investment into ICT infrastructure, which various studies conducted in developed countries have shown how full fibre and 5G roll-out are strategic markers for governments to stimulate economic growth. 

Partnership, sharing and collaboration are strong themes that have resonated in recent years and, which show no sign of abatement.  Africa’s largest sub-sea cable, 2Africa is a case in point, a consortium of China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN Global Connect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC – their presentation is available on the Africa Tech Festival platform.

Much deliberation has been levied at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in the region, particularly throughout 2020.  However, while there is clearly a desire, the ability to make it a reality is severely limited across a continent that still needs to connect people to basic amenities, before they can develop their ideas. Consequently, serious investment and co-investment – not just in infrastructure but in the technologies and talent that is going to drive it forward – is required.  ‘Reimagining Africa: the importance of tech innovation in a post-COVID-19 world’, presented by Lilian Barnard, Managing Director at Microsoft South Africa touched on this.

Highlighting the role that women are playing in innovation across the technology ecosystem in Africa, Juliet Ehimuan, Director leading Google’s business in West Africa remarked:  “The next Bill gates is female and African.”

Discussions revealed that there is appetite for investment in technology, and at this time, with some panellists revealing how the number of their investments have grown although the value in each, may have decreased.  Access to funds is just one half of the equation as we all know, with business mentorship also vital to future success.  Industries that are trending in the capital attraction stakes include fintech and health-tech.

Other tracks to look back at include: Africa50 Innovation Challenge, accelerateHER, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning as well as 5G Africa.

The conversations continue on Wednesday 11th November, including announcements around some of the winners from the 2020 AfricaCom Awards…

All sessions were recorded and are available on the Africa Tech Festival platform – access for registered delegates only – registration is still open as the content will also be available for 90 days. https://tmt.knect365.com/africacom/

For further information please visit the 2020 website

Media accreditation is now open: https://registration.gesevent.com/survey/06t0kg4kkf2ei

For other media enquiries, interviews and/or images please contact:  Kaz Henderson [email protected] or call on +27 (0) 82 339 1199.  Please note that media registration will open next week. 

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