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Digital Inclusion

Empowering Citizens in the Digital Age

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From the monumental socioeconomic challenges of poverty and inequality on the continent, to the hottest topic in South African telecommunications, that infamous ICT white paper, Dr Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, South Africa's Telecommunications and Postal Services minister, didn't shy away from the big issues at AfricaCom 2016. AfricaCom welcomed the Minister as a Leaders In Africa Keynote speaker in Cape Town, in November, where he spoke on harnessing the transformative power of Africa’s digital revolution.

In his keynote address, Minister Cwele provided an outline of some of the endemic challenges still hampering the development of African countries in the 21st century, yet noted through World Bank research how "on average a 10% increase in broadband penetration in developing countries such as [South Africa], results in 1.38% boost in the GDP." Dr Cwele said that providing this resource to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable is a key priority for government.

On the topic of government and service delivery, Minister Cwele said: "This digital transformation comes as a much needed catalyst to data driven governments -- demanding residents better access to information and augmenting citizen satisfaction and trust, while meeting the needs of rapidly changing demographics and optimising efficiency."

As much as government is utilizing the capabilities of the digital age to streamline its services, Minister Cwele said: "The key thing about bridging the digital divide is that it is our collective responsibility, it is not about government responsibility. It is a responsibility of society -- it is a responsibility of business." Through South Africa Connect, the national broadband policy, the government will invest in broadband infrastructure through the aggregation of public sector demand and smart procurement of high capacity networks, yet Minister Cwele noted that government only has the resources available for the pilot and is looking to extend this project with the aid of the private sector.

As such, the minister invited private sector executives at AfricaCom to partner with government for further rollouts of the scheme and to evolve public services: "All of you who are engaged in developing applications for e-government, you are very much welcome in South Africa and we would like to partner with you. All of you who will help us build these big data centers, you'll be welcome in South Africa. All of you who will make sure we will increase the trust in the use of Internet in our country, you will be welcome to work with us as government."

Localization was another major feature of the Minister's address at AfricaCom 2016, Dr Cwele discussed how South Africa imports a great deal of mobile products, yet as a country it has the capacity, skills and incentives to manufacture within its borders, declaring that "manufacturing is key to us."

Dr Cwele went on to discuss that a key driver of innovation in South Africa also lies with addressing the historic and still deeply entrenched inequality and marginalization of the black majority in South Africa. The Minister then announced that the South African government has introduced broad-based black economic ICT sector codes, which "support and compliment the development of small and medium enterprises, as they have been identified as a key driver for creating jobs and fighting poverty."

You can watch the Minister's full Leaders In Africa keynote address below:

Are you interested in gleaning more about Africa's technological evolution? You can learn, engage and debate with the architects at the forefront of digital Africa at one of the Connecting Africa series of events.

Upcoming events:

East Africa Com May 17-18, Nairobi

West Africa Com July 11-12, Dakar

Nigeria Com September 20-21, Lagos

AfricaCom November 6-10, Cape Town

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AfricaCom 2020 Digital Symposium - Day 2

Session One

Mobile Money 2.0: the Bright Future of Mobile Financial Service Innovation
Date: 08/20/20 @ 11:00 A.M. SAST

Speaker: Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Africa was the birthplace of Mobile Money and while it continues to rise in popularity, the industry is quickly evolving and launching more mobile-based financial services every day. In this Connecting Africa online event, local analysts and industry stakeholders will discuss how telcos are disrupting the financial services space and what the rise of Mobile Money 2.0 will look like for Africa.

  • From cash to mobile: heading towards a cashless society
  • Expanding MFS offerings beyond mobile money transfers
  • MNOs vs banks vs fintechs: an evolving competitive landscape
  • Unconnected and unbanked: fintech to improve financial inclusion
  • The rise of micro-loans and insurance through mobile platforms

12:15 P.M. - 12:30 P.M. BREAK

Session Two

Connecting the Next Billion: Strategies for Getting Africa On-Grid
Date 08/20/20 @ 12:30 P.M. SAST

Speaker: Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Africa has the fastest growing population in the world and also the youngest, with 60% of Africans under the age of 25. It is clear that the next billion connected are going to be the mobile-only generation. This digital symposium will bring industry experts together to discuss Africa’s digital divide and how to get devices into the hands of young Africans and empower them to join the digital revolution.

  • Who’s Driving? The role of government & regulator, private tech companies, and public-private partnerships
  • Device affordability: are we reaching a tipping point?
  • Status check: Satellite vs Fiber and the enduring infrastructure gap
  • Exploring the wider societal and economic benefits of a connected, digitally literate continent


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