Continuing to break new ground, bringing people together to bridge the current digital divide and preparing for an inclusive tomorrow, the three-day Africa Tech Festival conference and Expo welcomed the who’s who from the telecoms and technology industry in Cape Town for the 25th edition of Africa Tech Festival this week.
Africa Tech Festival may have drawn to a close today, but the impact that the world’s largest Africa-focused technology and telecommunications event has, will continue to be felt over the months and years ahead. Cape Town has been the place to be this week, as many of the African telecoms and technology intelligentsias, industry elite and tomorrow’s economy champions gathered for the event that has set the tone for much of the continent’s digital progress over the past 25 years.
The conference and exhibition attracted a record number 25 000 registrations this year, marking the importance these two sectors continue to have, and will have, on moving Africa forward.
The event’s ability to attract decision makers, innovators, policy makers from around the world, is due to the broad and essential content on offer and the influence the telecoms and technology sectors have on the world at large.
The Connectivity Hall (AfricaCom) is a showcase for next gen developments in communications infrastructure, devices and instruments that make the technology on show in the Africa tech arena, possible.
Panel discussions, fireside chats, workshops, headlining keynote speeches and presentations over the three days have portrayed a vibrant, exciting, and capable continent that is embracing digital parity and, from whom the so-called ‘developed world’ can learn lessons.
The physical return of Africa Tech Festival, after its two-year enforced hiatus because of COVID-19, has been met this week with enthusiasm and aside from the increased foot fall, the increased networking between companies and individuals has yielded many successes.
A quote from transformation agent, Dhiresh Surajpal, Head of Strategic Partnerships | Telecoms | Africa | EMEA Partnership Solutions, encapsulates the expected impact of the creative digital economy on the continent, saying: “African stories will find impact and scale through two key elements: The right Digital Platform – one that offers commercial sustainability & support while our creators grow, and 2, pan-African industry partnerships, like our Telcos, who together with our digital platforms, will catalyse access demand and drive local content relevance.”
Key concepts and talking points that arose of the past three-days include discussions on women empowerment in the sector, sustainability, and green energy – what the ICT sector and IoT will need to power it but how planet friendly it needs to be. Key to everything, is the infrastructure required to roll-out the communications frameworks that will be necessary to connect the African people to one another, the world and vice versa.
No discussion on digital is complete without the mention of FinTech – access to finance and the means to include more people in the economy to overcome socio-economic disparity – as well as the growing importance of implementing measures to safeguard personal information, as cybercrime runs parallel with the growth in connectivity. On this point, Dr. R. Tombari Sibe, CEO/Lead Forensic Examiner at Digital Footprints Nigeria Ltd shared a sobering fact released by INTERPOL, that more than 61% of businesses in Africa were affected by Ransomware. “Africa has seen a lot of growth in IT Adoption, increased internet penetration, and increased tele-density. This growth has also come with emerging threats; two of which were discussed in this session – ransomware and cyber extortion.”
This point is further underlined by David Lotfi of Evina who emphasised that the mobile payment business in Africa is the hottest market in the world today and is set to pass the $12,000-billion-dollar mark in 2026. “Its market performances are four times higher than the rest of the banking world, as credit cards are being ditched for the mobile phone, which is why mobile payment is the biggest opportunity for telcos by far,” said Lotfi. However, he cautioned that in Africa fraud is a huge threat to the growth of this market because when fraud occurs around 20% of people affected will no longer use that service, with the ripple effect through to their friends and family having the potential to destroy the future of mobile money in Africa.
“If you want to have more and more users then you have to have a very smooth customer journey that is also very efficient,” he added.
The talk of collaboration and partnerships has been strong in the industry over the past few years and none more so than in 2022 at Africa Tech Festival. Siyabonga Mahlangu, Telkom remarked that: “The new world is a world of partnerships, and there are partnerships not only between suppliers and telcos or partnerships with customers or channels, but also partnerships across sectors. So now you have to think more broadly and have to be open that the thinking is much more about what you can do together, rather than you issuing an RFP.”
Echoing Mahlangu, Dejan Kastelic, Group Chief Technology Officer at Vodacom said: “I also believe that the next wave for telcos is all about partnerships, and in different forms. One form would be when you have so many plans, but you cannot do everything by yourself. So, then you have to search for partners as you don’t have either the cash or the capability to do the entire project on your own.” Kastelic confirmed Vodacom is actively researching partners to build fibre across the footprint of Africa.
Summing up the events of the past week, James Williams, Event Director, at Informa Tech, organisers of Africa Tech Festival said: “We know that the world has changed and that business as usual is no longer. However better business is possible, and we have witnessed that here this week. It has been exceptionally busy, and the feedback we have had from delegates, speakers, exhibitors has reaffirmed our commitment to continue growing the event in the years to come, including emphasising the growing importance of Africa’s entrepreneurs and start-up sector.
“I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say, that is has been wonderful to be back in Cape Town and to experience the positive energy that has happened here this week across the show floors. We look forward to returning in 2023, with yet more in-depth content and possibilities for Africa’s digital transformation into a connected powerhouse.”
The headline keynotes for the 2022 event, will remain accessible on the Informa Tech app for all registered delegates and media. The app can be found in all app stores.
Dates for the 2023 event have been confirmed as being 14 to 16 November 2023.