Event Report MWC Africa 2022: Closing the usage gap in Africa and exploring the true potential of mobile connectivity

Seeing the industry coming together in Kigali for the first edition of MWC Africa was amazing. The TechAfrica News team had the opportunity to witness the fantastic strides being made to close the digital divide and better the lives of the people in Africa. It’s great to see the private sector and the governments in open conversations, working together to deliver the next generation of services and opportunities for the continent. 

Akim Benamara, Founder, TechAfrica News

The GSMA’s first in-person MWC Africa opened its doors in Kigali, Rwanda with a fireside chat between H.E. Paul Kagame, the President of the Republic of Rwanda and Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.

The theme of the opening Keynote, “Building a Digital Future, Together” led the event’s discussions about how mobile connectivity, a major engine of growth, is bringing endless potential by accelerating digital transformation for all business sectors in Africa, from healthcare and education to manufacturing and financial services.

“Africa is home to creative and tech-savvy youth, looking for the right platform to contribute solutions. We cannot afford to reduce them to a statistic only, or sit idly by, as they seek opportunity outside of Africa. Our young people have a lot to offer. We must do our part and keep our promise to them. To leave no one behind, we must create a more enabling legal and regulatory environment. However, to leave no one behind means a number of things as well, and we must recognise that digital transformation is not a zero-sum game, where progress comes at the expense of the most vulnerable. Not at all. Everyone, regardless of status, gender, or nationality, must benefit if we want to create lasting change.”

H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

GSMA MWC Africa brings together industry sectors, business leaders and policymakers with the region’s mobile ecosystem to discuss the continent’s ambition to enhance the power of connectivity. The event also marks the release of the Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2022 report which finds that closing the mobile internet usage gap is crucial to realizing the potential of mobile connectivity, with 5G-related activities beginning to pick up across the region.

The report calls for stakeholders to address the main barriers to mobile internet adoption, including affordability and digital skills, to realise the potential of mobile connectivity to drive economic growth and development. Its findings reveal how mobile connectivity is helping the region’s post-pandemic economic recovery by creating the digital technologies and services needed to build back economies that are more productive and efficient.

Key findings Include:

  • 40% of the adult population is now connected to mobile internet services. However, the usage gap remains a challenge: 44% live in areas covered by mobile broadband networks, but do not yet use mobile internet services
  • In 2021, the mobile ecosystem supported more than 3.2 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $16 billion raised through taxes on the sector.
  • By 2025, mobile’s contribution to the GDP of Sub-Sahara Africa will grow by $65 billion (to almost $155 billion), as the countries in the region increasingly benefit from increased take-up of mobile services
  • By 2025, 4G will account for a third of mobile connections in the region, compared to under a fifth of connections in 2021.

Africa stands at a unique moment in time. Over the past two decades, mobile growth across Sub-Saharan Africa has been phenomenal. Today, 46% of the population is connected and subscribed to mobile services, rising to 50% by 2025. In 2021, mobile technologies and services generated around 8% of GDP across Sub-Saharan Africa, supporting 3.2 million jobs across the region. Imagine what Africa will be when everyone is connected. To continue the momentum and create more jobs and foster inclusion and reduce inequality, we have to ensure that everyone has access to connectivity and can benefit from all it offers.

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA

TechAfrica News and Angela Wamola from the GSMA on the future of connectivity and MWC

Akim Benamara: How important is the cooperation between the industry and the governments in Africa, in order to better the lives of the people on the continent and close the digital gap?

Angela Wamola: This cooperation is critical. The industry has worked very well with the governments, and we have almost closed the coverage gap. We have about 600 million in Africa still yet to be connected to a signal, but more than 84% have coverage with a 3G-4G signal. That now presents a demand challenge for us. So stimulating demand, in order to utilize the assets that have already been invested in, requires partnerships.

We have 44% of the adult population who have a 3G or 4G signal, but they have never went online. That is potential that’s just sitting there waiting to be tapped in but we need these conversations with the governments to understand what are these barriers and how can policies be used to unlock those opportunities.

Stay tuned for the Q&A with Angela Wamola!

Fintech Highlights – What does the future hold?

The fintech ecosystem in Africa is adopting new technologies to deliver financial services

Governments, regulators, financial institutions, payment and technology companies, funders, and entrepreneurs are collaborating to be at the forefront of financial innovation, developing use cases such as mobile money and using fintech as a vehicle for financial inclusion.

Recent years have seen a faster rate of digitization, driving the adoption of neobanks and digital payments. Cryptocurrency, nonfungible tokens (NFTs), and blockchain-backed technologies have come into the mainstream, often backed by dynamic regulation that supports the growth of more affordable financial services.

During the Fintech Keynote The panelists Bankole Falade (Flutterwave), Benjamin Around, (Chainadvise), Ngoni Megwa (Mastercard) and Sitoyo Lopokoiyit (M-Pesa) explored the current projects, visions, and strategies for the fintech market in the future.

Platforms such as M-PESA, are key to giving the underserved or the excluded in developing markets, access to more secure financial systems that better their lives. We strongly believe that if the community is successful then we as a business will continue to be successful.

Sitoyo Lopokoiyit (M-Pesa)

Sitoyo went into the challenges and milestones the future holds for M-PESA including the need to create a level playing field between traditional financial institutions and new emerging fintech digital ecosystems. He also mentioned the importance of collaboration between industries and governments to help close the digital divide in the continent.

It is encouraging to witness the growth of the fintech landscape across the region, creating multiple opportunities for start-ups, scale-ups, enablers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to bring more people into the digital fold. At Mastercard, we are helping to fuel fintech acceleration by offering access to our expertise, network and technology. We provide a portfolio of technology solutions, APIs, developer tools, partner network, startup programs and a community experience for every fintech company and payments developer, helping turn their bold ideas into reality.

Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partners and Enablers, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard

Insights from the OTT/IPTV industry

How to deliver quality content to the African market?

The TechAfrica News team met with MwareTV to hear more about the latest developments in the continent and how they are working on democratizing content in Africa.

Akim Benamara: Good to see you at the very first edition of MWC Africa. Why did you decide to participate, and what will you be showcasing? 

Frans Blommestein: The African market is very interesting because many mobile operators invest heavily in 5G-4G and fiber-to-the-home networks. We’ve learned from those operators that they would like value-added service on those networks to create a return on investment that they did in the infrastructure, so they need data traffic on their networks.

We were sitting together with them, and we thought of how to bring a product to the African market that is interesting for a big chunk of subscribers. We knew we couldn’t compete with DSTV because it’s too expensive, so we created a $3 to $5 product to tackle 10% to 20% of our subscribers, which have a high yard up here average revenue per user. 

We have an up-and-running technical platform, which is very easy to do because we do this often. That is the reason why we are here at the Mobile World conference in Africa. We are signing the deals at this moment.

Do you want to know more about MwareTV and their OTT/IPTV platform? Stay tuned for our latest Q&A!

The TechAfrica News team met with PortaOne during MWC to understand better how their solutions are implemented in more than 20 African countries and what did their 20+ years of experience thought them about the market.

How PortaOne is supporting the African MVNOs and allowing companies to maximize their profits?

Akim Benamara: From your extensive market experience, what are the most important market solutions and cravings now?

Roman Khalenkov: The MVNO market is purely regional, meaning it depends on a specific country. It is driven by regulatory issues, so you need to have your authorities allow the MVNOs to exist and put enough pressure on mobile network operators to follow specific guidelines on how to work with MVNOs. We provide MVNOs with a business support system and online charging system that allows them to communicate with the mobile operators’ network, exchange data, and provide niche services. 

We have customers in approximately 20 African countries —the Republic of South Africa being the biggest (probably controlling 50% of the South African market). We’ve just helped launch 3 MVNOs in South Africa, signifying that PortaOne has many tolls for any African country. We service national operators in Malawi, big wireless ISPs in Nigeria, South Africa, and even small countries like the Gambia.

Stay tuned for our Q&A with PortaOne!

MWC Africa 2023

With the success of the first edition, we are sure that MWC Africa will play an important role in closing the usage gap and connecting the unconnected in Africa. We are looking forward to MWC Africa 2023!

So we are going to be here next year, 17th of October. We will still be in the beautiful city of Kigali. The host has invited us back to stay and continue enjoying the country. We want to ensure that we see this event’s value continue to grow and yield value for the people who have attended.

Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA

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