The second day of MWC Kigali continued to delve into the theme of “Building a Connected Africa.” Sessions on this day primarily focused on the early stages of 5G adoption in Africa and the role of technology in addressing pressing societal challenges. Additionally, there was a strong emphasis on the need for highly reliable, scalable, and low-cost infrastructure as a fundamental pillar for the continent’s digital transformation.
The central theme of the day was the shared vision for a digitally connected Africa. Attendees and speakers were united in their aspiration to utilize technology to provide essential services such as education, healthcare, job opportunities, and more. However, a significant challenge was highlighted – bringing mobile broadband to the 680 million people in Saharan Africa who currently lack access to these services. To address this challenge, the importance of innovation tailored to Africa’s specific context was stressed, encompassing areas such as affordable handsets, internet access, renewable energy, and digital skills.
In the spirit of collaboration and interconnectedness, the call was made for governments, businesses, civil society, and citizens to come together to translate this vision into reality. Several initiatives were introduced to achieve this goal, such as the Bulk Capacity Marketplace, Smart device affordability, and the Smart Africa Digital Academy. These projects aim to reduce broadband costs, increase smartphone penetration, and provide competency-based digital skills to Africa’s population.
5G technology was a major focal point, being recognized as a revolutionary force with the power to reshape communication and collaboration. The potential for 5G to facilitate telemedicine and education in remote areas without the need for extensive physical infrastructure was underscored. Additionally, 5G was acknowledged as a critical enabler of the Internet of Things (IoT), allowing seamless and real-time communication between devices.
Smart Africa, in alignment with this vision, launched two key projects: the regulation of 5G and the promotion of affordable access to smart devices. These initiatives are aimed at supporting regions where upgrading 2G or 3G equipment is challenging due to a lack of 4G and 5G devices. By providing low-cost feature phones that can access 5G services, Smart Africa intends to accelerate the transition to next-generation networks, ensuring that the benefits of 5G are accessible to all.
An additional highlight of the day was the emphasis on the importance of affordable devices, which not only extend the benefits of 5G technology but also aid in the efficient phasing out of older networks, making better use of freed-up frequencies. Moreover, affordable devices were recognized as having a critical role in environmental sustainability by enabling more efficient resource management.
Day 2 of MWC Kigali reinforced the vision of a connected Africa that leaves no one behind. It celebrated the commitment and collaboration demonstrated at the event and underscored that Africa’s digital future holds immense promise.