A Glimpse into Africa’s Digital Future —MWC Barcelona 2024 Post-Event Recap

TechAfrica News was right at the heart of the action at MWC 2024, dedicated to bringing you insights and updates on the latest developments shaping Africa’s digital landscape.

The halls of MWC Barcelona 2024 buzzed with excitement as industry leaders, tech enthusiasts, and innovators from around the world converged to showcase and discuss the cutting-edge technologies shaping our tomorrow. The theme “Future First” highlighted the importance of teamwork, tackling social issues, and using technology responsibly. 

Over 101,000 in-person attendees, a staggering number, converged from 205 countries and territories, transforming the halls of the event into a global hub of innovation. But the magic wasn’t just in the numbers. The ideas, the groundbreaking advancements on display, and the insightful discussions filled the air. More than 2,700 exhibitors, showcased their latest innovations, and over 1,000 keynote speakers and thought leaders ignited conversations about the future of connectivity.

From the TechAfrica News team, we were right in the thick of it, speaking with key players and experiencing firsthand the trends that will define the future of connectivity. 

As the dust settles on MWC Barcelona 2024, I’m filled with excitement about what we’ve learned regarding the future of connectivity, artificial intelligence, sustainability, and much more. MWC 2024 wasn’t merely an event; it offered a glimpse into what lies ahead. The energy and innovation on display were truly inspiring, and I can’t wait to see how these advancements will shape our world in the coming years.

Akim Benamara, CEO & Founder, TechAfrica News 

Breaking Down the Big Picture 

The future is intelligent, connected, and brimming with possibility, according to MWC 2024’s six key themes. 

Artificial intelligence reigned supreme, transforming networks, personalizing experiences, and even revolutionizing healthcare with virtual assistants like the ones showcased by Google. Discussions around 5G buzzed with anticipation for the next leap – 6G and its potential to create intelligent, edge-based networks seamlessly woven with AI.

Collaboration emerged as a crucial theme. From cloud giants to satellite providers and everyone in between, the message was clear: building a truly connected world requires a united effort. Only by fostering open, sustainable, and secure solutions can we fast-track the development of future technologies.

While AI’s ability to automate tasks is undeniable, MWC 2024 highlighted the growing focus on “Humanizing AI.” Experts explored ways to leverage AI’s potential for personalization, enriching human interactions in the digital realm.

The manufacturing landscape is undergoing a revolution driven by robotics, sustainable technology, and connected vehicles. MWC showcased how these advancements are boosting efficiency, improving production performance, and decreasing costs, with connectivity becoming an absolute necessity for businesses to stay competitive.

Finally, MWC acknowledged that technological advancement cannot exist in a vacuum. The event addressed critical societal issues like diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. The message was clear: ethical practices and a commitment to building a diverse and equitable future are essential for a successful digital DNA.

MWC 2024 painted a picture of a future powered by AI, connected by 5G, and driven by collaboration. It’s a future brimming with exciting possibilities, and the groundwork is being laid today. 

What the Future Holds for Africa 

The winds of change are blowing across the African continent, and MWC 2024 took notice. A growing number of companies are setting their sights on Africa, with panel sessions and discussions buzzing to unlock the full potential of Africa’s digital economy. The future looks bright for Africa, with collaboration and innovation at the forefront. 

As TechAfricaNews, we never miss the chance to stay ahead of the curve. We met and spoke to industry leaders making a tremendous impact on the African and Middle Eastern markets. Their insights were transformative and exciting, highlighting the region’s unique opportunities and challenges. 

One of the most important aspects of MWC 2024 for me has been the opportunity to speak with industry leaders who are taking the reins in Africa’s digital transformation. From all these conversations, a clear message emerges that collaboration is absolutely a driving force for us as a continent.  However, achieving our goals also requires strong political will alongside that collaborative spirit.

Akim Benamara, CEO & Founder, TechAfrica News

Smart Africa’s Vision for Digital Sovereignty and Collaboration

At the event, we had the chance to speak to Lacina Kone, CEO of Smart Africa, who argues that Africa urgently needs its own digital platform with a robust digital ID system. This will reduce reliance on foreign platforms and create a single African digital market. He emphasizes collaboration between African countries and sees education, particularly in AI, as crucial for Africa’s digital future. While AI is a powerful tool, Lacina warns against overhyping it and stresses responsible adoption for maximum impact.  

There’s a statistic: by 2050, 40% of the world workforce will be in Africa. We talked about the educated Africans, that’s where the skills, reskilling, and upskilling come into play. We will never reach that point if we don’t go and rescale ourselves on the emerging technology (AI).

Lacina Kone, CEO, Smart Africa

Yahsat’s Innovation Sky Phone to Revolutionize Satelite Connectivity in Africa  

Our CEO & Founder had an interview with Yahsat’s Chief Commercial Officer and CEO of Thuraya, Suleiman Ali, and he highlighted their commitment to bridging the digital divide in Africa. Through their latest strategic investments and innovative solutions, Sky Phone, Yahsat aims to provide seamless satellite and mobile connectivity, especially in underserved regions.  Sky Phone offers users uninterrupted communication and paves the way for broader applications like Sky SMS. 

We are showcasing our latest and greatest innovative solution when it comes to mobile connectivity and the satellite industry—The Sky Pone, which is a smartphone available in the market today to provide satellite connectivity and GSM Connectivity at the same time, enabling us to bridge the digital divide within the African continent.

Suleiman Ali, CCO Yahsat & CEO Thuraya 

Intelsat Shaping the Future of Africa’s Connectivity Through Multi-Orbit Vision

At the event, we had a chance to chat with Jean-Philippe Gillet, Senior Vice President of Global Sales Media, Mobility & Networks at Intelsat. Our conversation explored the latest advancements in satellite technology and its impact on telecommunications.

Gillet highlighted Intelsat’s dedication to providing comprehensive connectivity solutions for telecom companies. This includes services for cell towers, businesses, the Internet of Things (IoT), and disaster recovery. 

We are providing a real showcase of multi-orbit connectivity for cell tower disaster recovery, describing IoT services with a very small terminal, the size of two iPads, delivering IoT services in remote locations simultaneously with 5G Edge computes for higher throughput requirements on sites, demonstrating a wide range of services for our customers today and outlining the roadmap for future network advancements.

Jean-Philippe Gillet, SVP of Global Sales Media, Mobility & Networks, Intelsat 

Exploring GSMA’s Strategic Partnership for Financial Inclusion in Africa 

Financial education is a global powerhouse, and mobile money providers hold the key to unlocking its potential in Africa. 

We also had a chat with Ashey Olson Onyango, Head of Finacial Inclusion, GSMA, and she discussed their collaboration with VISA which aims to create localized digital financial literacy content specifically tailored for mobile money users in Africa by targeting four key demographics: women, smallholder farmers, micro and small merchants, and refugees. These groups often face significant barriers to financial inclusion due to limited literacy or lack of access to proper financial education. 

We’re extremely enthusiastic about partnering with Visa. They possess significant expertise in global financial education. Together, we’re exploring how to adapt their knowledge to the markets we operate in, particularly with mobile money providers. Our focus is on creating tailored financial literacy content for specific demographics like women, smallholder farmers, micro and small merchants, and refugees. By addressing their needs, we aim to boost adoption rates, close gaps, increase usage, and ultimately enhance financial health and livelihoods.

Ashley Olson Onyango, Head of Finacial Inclusion, GSMA 

UNDP on Africa’s Digital Future -Overcoming Constraints and Harnessing Innovation

We sat down with Robert Opp, the Chief Digital Officer of UNDP, who highlights Africa’s youthful population as a source of innovation and potential for digital transformation. While acknowledging the abundance of talent and intelligence across the continent, he also underscores the challenges faced, including financial constraints and regulatory issues. He discusses the significance of strengthening education systems, addressing affordability barriers, and promoting meaningful digital services.  

We need to look at how we strengthen the education systems, STEM education, the University networks, and primary school as well, so there’s a lot of work that can be done in countries, particularly least developed countries that tend to have education systems that may be not as strong as others. But if we address that, and we look at some of the issues of Education, that we address the affordability issue slightly differently there.

Robert Opp, the Chief Digital Officer, UNDP

GSMA on a Mission to Connecting Africa’s Youth to the Mobile Future

In our recent interview with Max Cuvellier Giacomelli,  Head of Mobile Development at GSMA, he emphasized the indispensable role of partnerships in overcoming barriers to mobile connectivity across Africa. 

Despite impressive mobile network coverage reaching 85% in Africa, a significant “usage gap” persists. This gap is attributed to two key obstacles: the affordability of handsets and a lack of digital literacy among the population.  To bridge this gap, innovative solutions like fractional payments for handsets and digital skills training are crucial.  

The issue that we’re facing is a usage gap, which is basically the majority of the population who is connected today, who could be using, is not using, and the two main barriers are their affordability of handsets that remain still too expensive for quite a big part of the population, and the second one is around digital skills.

Max Cuvellier Giacomelli,  Head of Mobile Development, GSMA

Multi-pronged Approach to Bridge Africa’s Digital Divide 

In a conversation with Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA, she outlined a multi-pronged approach to tackle Africa’s digital divide. GSMA is collaborating with governments and industry partners to find solutions for affordability (both device and data costs), green energy solutions for mobile infrastructure, and digital skills training, while advocating for policies that promote digitalization across sectors. 

“Political will is a key challenge in Africa. Africa is a continent, not one country; it’s 54 countries. And I think how we can come together in a well-orchestrated opportunity of harmonizing the ambitions of Africa through political will.”

Angela Wamola, the head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA

Africa Takes Center Stage —News and Highlights

Amid technological advancements showcased at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024, Africa stands at the forefront of digital transformation and growing emphasis on collaboration. with several initiatives fostering innovation and economic inclusivity across the continent. 

Mastercard and MTN Group Fintech Forge Alliance for Digital Payment Expansion Across Africa 

Mastercard and MTN Group Fintech have forged a multi-market agreement to usher in a new era of collaboration aimed at connecting millions of people and small businesses across Africa with digital tools for secure mobile payments. 

Building upon their recent minority investment agreement, the collaboration will impact 13 markets in Africa, including Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Republic of Guinea, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia.

“Our innovation strategy is based on collaboration. We are very proud of our partnership with MTN that will enable digital commerce for millions of people in Africa”. 

-Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development EEMEA, Mastercard

Madagascar Joins SATA Declaration at MWC2024, Embracing Digital Transformation

On the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024 in Barcelona, the Republic of Madagascar has officially become the 12th country to sign the Smart Africa Transformation Agenda (SATA) Declaration signaling a significant step towards embracing digital transformation.

By joining this initiative, Madagascar underscores its commitment to leveraging technology for socio-economic development, aligning with broader efforts to drive digital innovation and connectivity across Africa. 

GSMA Innovation Fund Backs African Climate Solutions

The GSMA has announced the launch of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation Cohort 2.0, building upon the success of its previous initiative aimed at supporting digital innovations to address climate change challenges.

With African startups like BizyTech, Farm To Feed, Pricepally, Sommalife, and UjuziKilimo at the forefront, innovative solutions ranging from sustainable agriculture to food supply chain resilience are poised to make a significant impact.

The GSMA’s support empowers these African innovators by fostering partnerships, providing technical expertise, and promoting their work on a global stage.

AI for Good: African Agriculture Through Innovative Initiatives

In Africa, the convergence of AI technology and agricultural innovation is unlocking new pathways for sustainable development—initiatives like Farmer.Chat and Amini are leading the charge in harnessing AI for the betterment of African agriculture. 

Farmer.Chat aims to provide advisory services to local farmers, using AI to translate these advisories into local languages, boosting crop yields and bringing knowledge and technological advancements to the farmers in Kenya. 

Amini is at the forefront of tackling environmental challenges in Africa. Combining AI and space technology, Amini addresses the scarcity of environmental data, offering comprehensive solutions. By promoting systemic change and economic inclusivity, Amini empowers farmers and enhances supply chain resilience across Africa and beyond. 

Beyond Headlines: More Key Interviews with Industry Leaders 

We get the inside scoop on the mobile industry’s hottest innovations and the companies redefining the future. Through these interviews, we provide insights and identify key opportunities for the industry to flourish. 

RAD Prioritizes Edge-Based Security to Address Africa’s Connectivity Needs

TechAfrica News sat down with Yair Maor, General Manager of RAD, to explore the company’s innovative solutions showcased at MWC 2024.  RAD prioritizes 5G, artificial intelligence, and edge access solutions, underlining their commitment to bolstering network security. 

R inside TI means Right Inside Threat Intelligence, and we have this software solution capable of detecting DoS attacks and their origin. The origin usually comes from the edge, and our architecture is to provide Edge solutions and edge access solutions. So, we are not just rerouting traffic as others are doing, rerouting traffic to a scrubbing center and then adding latency.

Yair Maor, General Manager, RAD

Whale Cloud’s Strategic Embrace of AI to drive transforamtion in Africa Telco Industry 

In an interview, George Zhao, Deputy CMO of Whale Cloud, emphasized the company’s focus on AI investment, particularly in integrating generative AI with BSS OSS systems. This strategic move aims to facilitate transformative applications such as digital human customer agents, highlighting Whale Cloud’s dedication to revolutionizing customer engagement approaches.

Everybody’s talking about AI today, and at Whale Cloud, we are investing quite a lot in AI. Our latest product integrates generative AI with our BSS OSS systems, enabling transformative applications such as digital human customer agents. 

George Zhao, Deputy CMO, Whale Cloud

MwareTV’s Flexible TV Platform and No-Code App Builder for African Operators 

In our discussion, Cees van Versendaal, COO of MwareTV, highlighted their commitment to addressing the unique needs of African operators and their audiences through innovation. He emphasized their provision of a white-label OTT platform, designed to support live TV, video on demand, and other media services, ensuring accessibility and affordability for the mass market.

Van Versendaal particularly highlighted the company’s focus on innovation, exemplified by its revamped TV platform. By incorporating a billing module, they have streamlined financial operations for operators. Additionally, their innovative no-code app builder stands out, enabling the efficient and cost-effective creation of customized, Telco-grade apps.

Billing is always a challenge because you need integration with billing systems, you have to manage that recurring cycle, so we have integrated the complete billing module for that. The second thing is that Telcos expect Telco-grade quality apps, but they don’t have the knowledge, the experience, but also not the money to invest tons of money in it. So, we have designed a no-code app builder where you can easily configure an app completely to your needs

Cees van Versendaal, COO, MwareTV

LigaData’s Telco GPT to Revolutionizing Africa’s Telecom Data Monetization

We sat down with Bassel Ojjeh to discuss the groundbreaking concept of a “Telco GPT” and LigaData’s innovative approach to data monetization in the telecom industry. 

Being a custodian of data, telcos hold vast amounts of subscriber information. Privacy and governance are paramount, but the real value lies in leveraging this data for innovation. By layering applications like segmentation onto robust data governance frameworks, telcos can roll out tailored solutions to enhance the subscriber experience.

Bassel Ojjeh, CEO, LigaData

Exploring Africa’s Telco Transformation – A Chat with Protei’s Vladimir Freinkman

Africa is undergoing a rapid digital transformation, and at the heart of this journey lies connectivity. Digital transformation, the process of leveraging technology to fundamentally change how we live, work, and interact, hinges on the ability to connect and exchange information. This is where telecommunication infrastructure comes in, acting as the vital channel that makes connectivity a reality.

To gain a privileged perspective on this exciting journey, TechAfrica News sat down with Vladimir Freinkman, the VP of Protei,  a leading provider of telecom solutions in Africa. 

We explored how their expertise is assisting African telecom operators in navigating the complexities of network modernization. We’ll discuss how Protei ensures compatibility with existing infrastructure, and their strategies for making network upgrades smooth and efficient, and generally explore how Protei is shaping the future of Africa’s telecommunication industry in 2024.

PROTEI is trying to be on the edge of this digital transformation journey, especially in the African continent, where communities and industries are hurry to develop and welcome all players who may encourage competition and affordably bring new knowledge and technologies.

Vladimir Freinkman, VP,  Protei 

Allot’s Strategic Focus on the African Telecom Market

We spoke with Amir Oren, Vice President of Sales, EMEA & LATAM at Allot, who discussed the company’s focus on the African market. Amir highlighted Allot’s Smart and Secure product lines, designed to meet the specific needs of African telecom operators. 

All you know, Africa, at least in the last two years, has been a super interesting market for us. It’s a market that, unlike other geographies these days, is still going okay. 4G is booming, and it has some very unique requirements that allow us to really bring out our strengths in the solution. So, they have a lot of prepaid customers. It’s a prepaid savvy market.

Amir Oren, Vice President of Sales, EMEA & LATAM , Allot

PortaOne Unveils Groundbreaking Hardware Kit for Rapid IoT Deployments

Akim Benamara and Andriy Zhylenko, CEO of PortaOne, discussed their latest developments, focusing on their innovative solutions for IoT deployment and Telco services. Andriy introduced a new hardware kit called “IoT Mill,” designed to expedite IoT deployments. This platform, similar to Raspberry Pi but tailored for IoT projects, aims to simplify the process for companies entering IoT innovation. 

We’re trying to help Telcos to launch new services or better operate the ones they already have, but this time we are adding something new. We used to be a software provider for many, many years. Now we have a hardware kit for rapid IoT deployments. The idea is there are so many companies that would like to innovate and launch some new thing, whether it’s for agriculture, security, or smart home, but a lot of these experiments fail due to the hardware circuit design manufacturing with all the delays and shortage of microchips.

Andriy Zhylenko, CEO,  PortaOne

ST Engineering’s Embracing Multi-Orbit Solutions for Seamless Connectivity in Africa 

Sridhar Kuppanna, Senior Vice President of Engineering at ST Engineering iDirect, emphasized the transition towards multi-orbit solutions, which integrate both space and ground infrastructures to address the increasing need for seamless connectivity. 

Ericsson Addressing Connectivity Challenges in Africa 

Todd Ashton, President and Head of Ericsson South and East Africa, talked about Ericsson’s progress in Africa, particularly the substantial growth in 4G coverage, which has increased from 7% to nearly 30% since 2020. He emphasized the network effect that occurs after the 20% coverage mark. Ashton also underscored the challenges faced, such as the affordability of 4G devices and the crucial need for adequate spectrum allocation for mobile operators. 

Squire Technologies’ Approach and Insights into 5G Transformation in Africa

Sanjeev Verma, CEO of Squire Technologies, highlighted the company’s strategy of enhancing existing systems rather than simply replacing them, ensuring both forward and backward compatibility. This approach aims to reduce costs and prolong the lifespan of current networks. 

In discussing the transformative potential of 5G in Africa, Verma emphasized its ability to significantly improve connectivity in business hubs across the continent, providing fast and reliable connections. 

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