Takeaways from MWC Kigali 2023: Shaping Africa’s Digital Trajectory

Read now the TechAfrica News Insights from MWC Kigali 2023

We were thrilled to be on-site at MWC Kigali 2023, bringing you all the latest news and developments right from the heart of the show floor. This year’s event proved to be an exceptional gathering, breaking records and setting new standards for the tech and innovation industry in Africa.

MWC Kigali 2023 in Numbers

The second edition of MWC in Kigali showcased an impressive assembly of 230+ thought leaders, industry experts, and visionaries who generously shared their insights and expertise. With the participation of over 1,400 companies, it provided a unique and fertile ground for networking, collaboration, and the exchange of groundbreaking ideas, hopefully resulting in a better-connected, digital future for Africa.

This year’s MWC Kigali drew in a top-tier audience, with 45%+ of the attendees holding senior-level positions within their organizations. They enjoyed extensive access to 90+ hours of diverse content, spanning a wide spectrum of sessions, workshops, and presentations.

MWC Kigali 2023 stood as a genuinely international gathering, with representation from more than 90 countries. This diversity fostered a global perspective on technology and innovation in Africa. The numbers speak for themselves, demonstrating the significance and reach of MWC Kigali 2023. Throughout the event, we witnessed groundbreaking announcements, cutting-edge technologies, and thought-provoking discussions that will undoubtedly shape the future of technology and innovation on the African continent and beyond.

In an era where information and technology are transforming the very fabric of African societies, our mission at TechAfrica News is to shed light on the incredible innovations and partnerships that are shaping the continent’s digital future. We believe in the power of collaboration, and events like this are a testament to how industry leaders, governments, and communities can come together to unlock the vast potential of Africa in the digital age.

Akim Benamara, Founder of TechAfrica News

The event’s inaugural day was remarkable, featuring inspiring speeches by President Paul Kagame and Minister Paula Ingabire. Their shared message emphasized the fusion of government and industry efforts, setting Africa on a path toward a future that goes beyond mere connectivity.

President Paul Kagame emphasized the urgency of addressing disparities in access and connectivity. He astutely noted that despite Africa’s fastest-growing mobile penetration globally, there is still much work ahead. Priority, he emphasized, must remain on digital skills and literacy. He also acknowledged the global momentum building to support Africa’s digital transformation, reaffirming the continent’s position in the digital landscape.

We must urgently address the gaps in access and connectivity. Many Africans remain offline. Africa has the world’s fastest-growing mobile penetration rate, but there’s still a long way to go. We must continue to prioritize digital skills and literacy. Globally, strong momentum supports Africa’s digital transformation.

President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame

Minister Paula Ingabire echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the dynamic interplay between contemporary challenges and our ever-evolving technological environment. She highlighted that these challenges, far from being obstacles, drive innovation, leading to products and services that empower the people. The event’s overarching theme, she explained, provides an opportunity to explore current and upcoming technological solutions, ensuring that no African is left behind, enabling them to fully utilize the expanded access to the internet.

Each day, new challenges test both our humanity and our need to adapt to technology. These challenges give rise to new products and services that empower our people. This year’s theme offers a chance to explore technology solutions, ensuring that no African is left unconnected and can fully utilize the expanded internet access.

Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT, Rwanda

The future of Africa and the Middle East

MWC Kigali served as a platform for acknowledging the pivotal challenges across various themes of digital inclusion and transformation. The dialogues held during the event underscored the importance of addressing these challenges to ensure that Africa fully embraces the potential of technology, ultimately promoting socio-economic growth and enhancing the lives of its citizens across the continent.

The digital Usage Gap in Africa emerged as a central theme at MWC Kigali. This persistent challenge poses a significant barrier to widespread internet accessibility, which is integral to socio-economic development. Key issues discussed included the affordability of data and devices, limited digital literacy within specific demographics, insufficient localized digital content, and safety concerns in rural and underserved areas. MWC Kigali stressed the importance of bridging this divide to ensure that the digital age’s benefits reach beyond urban centers, ultimately fostering digital inclusion and socio-economic growth across the continent.

Strategies for reducing communication costs and promoting digital solutions were pivotal at MWC Kigali. Digital access’s central role in boosting economic growth and job creation was discussed extensively. Key themes included infrastructure development, regulatory reforms, and investments in broadband and network expansion. MWC Kigali acknowledged the necessity of addressing challenges, such as power supply reliability, network coverage expansion, and equitable access to digital services.

In the heart of a dynamically expanding continent with almost 1.5 billion people, Orange Middle East and Africa is on a mission to increase digital inclusion. At Orange, we are convinced that as Africa embraces digital transformation, it can better tackle global challenges in education, energy and health. Being a part of MWC Africa 2023 gives us another opportunity to contribute to a more inclusive and digital Africa.

Jérôme Hénique, Executive Director, CEO Orange Africa and Middle East, quote for MWC Kigali

Meet the Industry Leaders and Innovators at MWC Kigali

The advent of MWC Kigali has opened the door to a wealth of new digital services that promise substantial benefits for the people of Africa. This transformative event serves as a catalyst for bridging the digital divide and expanding access to crucial services like healthcare, education, and financial services. Our interviews aim to share the latest innovations and highlight the companies making a difference in the mobile industry. Through the interviews, we provide insights into the industry’s future and identify critical growth and development opportunities. 

We have experience in the African market, and one of the main situations we want to adapt here is areas with low connectivity. We provide real-time access control, and for that to work, there needs to be some kind of internet connection, and in some areas, that is not possible. We have an alternative solution in which we have an offline working mode. Here, if you enter an area with no connectivity, you can still access the sites.

Pedro Díaz Jiménez, Managing Director of Sicurlock

By harnessing the latest technologies, telecommunications companies at MWC Kigali are poised to introduce groundbreaking solutions that not only cater to the diverse needs of their customers but also stimulate economic growth and generate fresh opportunities for the African population. In doing so, they are laying the foundation for innovative digital revenue streams that will further empower the continent.

Today, 85% of Africans have mobile Internet coverage. Mobile operators have made significant investments in expanding coverage. While there are still 200 million Africans without coverage, the majority, that is 85%, are already covered. Mobile operators are committed to further investments, with plans to invest $75 billion into connectivity between now and 2030. So, the 15% who are not covered is an important issue, but what’s even more significant is the population that has coverage but is not utilizing it. If we do the math – 100% minus the 25% who are actively using it, and the 15% who lack coverage – we find that nearly 60% of the population falls into this category. The infrastructure and investment are in place, and they have access to mobile internet, yet they’re not using it. This is what we refer to as the ‘usage gap.

Max Cuvellier, Mobile for Development, GSMA

Lacina Kone Highlights the Importance of Connectivity in Africa’s Future

During a conversation with TechAfrica News, Lacina Kone, CEO of Smart Africa, shared the importance of connectivity and innovation in Africa. He stressed that a digitally connected Africa is vital for providing access to education, healthcare, jobs, and economic opportunities. Kone discussed the need for innovation in areas such as affordable handsets, internet access, renewable energy, and digital skills to bridge the digital divide. He emphasized the importance of collaboration between governments, businesses, civil society, and citizens to achieve these goals.

Kone also discussed the significance of 5G technology, which has the potential to revolutionize how Africa connects, communicates, and collaborates. He emphasized the importance of affordable access to smart devices and the role they play in facilitating the transition to 5G networks. Kone encouraged collaboration to make these initiatives a reality, emphasizing that the future of a connected Africa is within reach.

As Smart Africa, we have nearly 34 initiatives, with 12 in the pilot phase. We’re creating special purpose vehicles to scale them up on the continent. A crucial aspect of digital transformation is digital identification, which we refer to as E-KYC (Know Your Customer). It’s vital to transform Africa into a single digital market. This requires developing a platform for interoperable digital IDs, which currently doesn’t exist. We’re working on developing national digital IDs and platforms to interoperate, allowing startups in one African country to access markets in others. This is a priority as it underpins everything, from AI to the private sector to government services.

Lacina Koné, CEO, Smart Africa

Rohde & Schwarz Paving the Way for 5G and Beyond in Africa

In Kigali, Rohde & Schwarz demonstrated its cutting-edge mobile and wireless communications testing solutions, offering significant implications for Africa’s digital future.

In a time where Africa’s mobile industry has been rapidly evolving, Rohde & Schwarz’s contributions are crucial. They brought to the forefront solutions that directly address the unique challenges and opportunities of the African mobile ecosystem. With a focus on LTE and 5G NR device testing through their R&S CMX500 one-box signaling tester, Rohde & Schwarz is not only enabling local mobile device manufacturers but also empowering the continent to stay at the forefront of mobile technology. The integration of a shielded chamber and user-friendly web-based interfaces further simplifies the testing process, making it accessible for local businesses.

For network operators and regulatory authorities, Rohde & Schwarz showcased tools for mobile network testing, benchmarking, spectrum monitoring, and interference hunting. The compact and forward-looking R&S Benchmarker 3, in particular, stands as a pivotal asset for data collection, supporting network operators in their quest to enhance network quality and user experience. Their R&S PR200 portable monitoring receiver reinforces the commitment to ensuring seamless and interference-free connectivity, a vital need across the diverse African landscape.

In Africa there is a very big market for lower-end smart devices, what we’ve seen is these smart devices, typically do not perform up to the level of some of the higher-end devices. So I think when it comes to, mobile devices’ testing is very important from a regulator perspective to understand whether these devices are of sufficient quality and conformance to be allowed to be used inside their country and also from an MNO perspective to understand whether these devices should be allowed onto their networks.”

Axel Hansmann, Director of Industrial IoT Security at Rohde & Schwarz

With the opening of a software development lab in Kigali in 2022, the company has embedded itself in the heart of the continent, actively participating in and contributing to its technological growth. This commitment underscores Rohde & Schwarz’s role as a key enabler in advancing Africa’s digital future.

Significance of Enabling Partnerships and Cross-Industry Cooperation

In a world where connectivity is central to progress, this event provides a unique platform for diverse stakeholders to come together like no other event does. By connecting the technology sector with various industries, it creates opportunities to explore innovative solutions and drive economic and social growth. The significance of such partnerships cannot be overstated. In a region where connectivity and access to technology have the power to transform lives, events like MWC Kigali offer a gateway to bridging the digital divide. By bringing together telecommunications companies, tech startups, policymakers, and representatives from sectors like healthcare, education, and agriculture, MWC Kigali sparks dialogues that lead to innovative solutions. 

In an era marked by unprecedented challenges, the need for innovation, digital transformation, and financial inclusion has never been greater. MTN is steadfast in our commitment to leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress. We do this in collaboration with stakeholders who share our vision of empowering communities, restoring dignity, and fostering shared prosperity.

Ralph Mupita MTN Group President and CEO, quote for MWC Kigali

These partnerships are the key to not only expanding connectivity but also harnessing it to address real-world challenges, making technology accessible and relevant to the lives of millions. MWC Kigali 2023 demonstrated that by uniting industries and stakeholders, we can propel Africa into a new era of connectivity and innovation, driving economic development, improving access to essential services, and ultimately fostering a brighter future for all.

Today, we find ourselves amid the largest technological revolution in human history, four times larger than the industrial revolution, and at its core is connectivity. As we progress toward the digitization of everything, it is our responsibility as leaders to ensure that we are constructing a future where no one is left behind. The usage gap stands as one of the greatest challenges our industry is committed to overcoming, but we cannot do it in isolation. The solution requires collaboration across governments, industries, and the private and public sectors to dismantle barriers and ensure that everyone benefits from access to mobile internet.

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA

Some of the MWC Kigali 2023 Partnerships

Orange Middle East and Africa and Smart Africa join forces to foster entrepreneurship and sustainable jobs for youth in Africa

Orange Middle East and Africa and the Smart Africa alliance have entered a three-year partnership during the Mobile World Congress Africa in Kigali. The collaboration is geared towards advancing digitalization in Africa through advocacy, knowledge sharing, and assessing government digital maturity to accelerate the continent’s digital transformation and the creation of sustainable jobs. Both organizations will focus on training the youth and women, aiming to bolster employability in digital professions.

A Pioneering Collaboration: Experian and MTN’s Chenosis Unite for Financial Inclusion in South Africa

Experian, a prominent credit bureau in South Africa, and Chenosis, a cross-industry API marketplace, have partnered to harness data for the promotion of financial inclusion in the country. Despite having around 25 million credit-active consumers in South Africa, over 20% of the population remains unbanked and relies on cash for transactions. The partnership aims to improve financial inclusion and access to credit by using consented data from MTN’s mobile customers to establish alternative risk metrics. 

The partnership seeks to go beyond traditional scoring criteria and consider non-traditional variables to support risk assessment processes, ultimately improving credit access for underserved consumers in South Africa.

GSMA’s Angela Wamola Addresses Challenges and Opportunities at MWC Kigali

In a conversation with Angela Wamola from the GSMA, she shared the significant progress has been made in the past decade in terms of the transformative impact of mobile connectivity in the region. However, there is a collective recognition that more work needs to be done in the next ten years.

The interview also touched on the commitment of the industry to accelerate the development of the next phase of connectivity. This commitment is evident in various aspects, including the transition to 5G, which is viewed as a revolutionary change. Initiatives are already underway to make the necessary spectrum available and roll out 5G, as well as addressing challenges such as digitizing users on 2G. The conversation highlighted the industry’s focus on stimulating demand and overcoming existing barriers to ensure wider adoption of mobile internet. Overall, the interview emphasized the multifaceted efforts and commitment within the industry to drive progress and enable digital connectivity for all.

We aim to ensure that we can leverage the efficiencies that new technologies bring and transition our customers seamlessly. Simultaneously, we’re also addressing the challenges tied to stimulating demand and overcoming barriers that currently exist for the adoption of mobile internet by our population. All in all, it’s a complex blend of efforts aimed at driving progress and ensuring that everyone can benefit from the digital age

Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA

African Mobile CEOs Discuss Partnerships for Digital Inclusion at MWC Kigali

Six CEOs from some of Africa’s largest Mobile Network Operators met at MWC Kigali to explore the potential for stronger partnerships with African governments to advance digital inclusion and mobile infrastructure development across the continent. They engaged with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Rwanda’s Minister of Information and Communications and Innovation. The CEOs acknowledged the progress made toward key global and continental goals but emphasized the need for deeper political support to close connectivity and usage gaps. 

They committed to collaborating with governments in four priority areas: fiscal and policy reforms for inclusive connectivity, closing the investment gap for broadband infrastructure, addressing environmental impact, and fostering economic growth and environmental transformation. The industry pledged an additional $75 billion investment, aiming to add 200 million unique mobile subscribers by 2030, resulting in nearly 700 million total subscribers.

The CEOs called on African leaders and policymakers to partner with the mobile industry, develop targeted policies, and support investment in digital infrastructure and climate action. They seek tax rationalization, regulatory support, and climate action policies to accelerate the positive impact of mobile technologies. The CEOs hope to deepen digital and financial inclusion for the benefit of all African citizens.

MTN Rwanda and GSMA Africa Partner to Boost Digital Literacy and Inclusion through the “WeCare” Campaign

In a significant step towards fostering digital inclusion and equipping communities with essential digital skills, MTN Rwanda and GSMA Africa have joined hands through a Letter of Intent to deliver digital literacy activities as part of the “WeCare” Campaign. Recognizing the transformative power of digital literacy and the pivotal role it plays in the digital age, this collaboration seeks to address the existing digital divide and provide accessible opportunities for people to enhance their digital skills.

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