Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


"I'm a Proud Capetonian -- I Love That This City Gets to Host This Magnificent Event": AfricaCom Interview with Bradley Shaw

Article Image

It's undoubtedly the people and the discussions that has helped shape AfricaCom (7-9 November 2017, Cape Town) into the global gathering of 13,000 visitors it will be this year, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Bradley Shaw has been a mainstay of the African telecommunications, technology and media landscape for over a decade and will be serving as part of the judging panel at this years' AfricaCom Awards, as well as taking part in the brand new AfricaCom 20/20 track in the Technology Arena (7 November, 12:25pm).

We caught up with Bradley to talk about his background and career, the huge impact of disruptive technologies in Africa and the future of the MNO.

Connecting Africa: At AfricaCom you will be taking part in a panel discussion on Digital Transformation. What can delegates expect from this session?

Bradley Shaw: I spend most of my working life with organisations that want to build networks in rural Africa, from the largest operators to NGOs. I'd like to share my experiences and insights about what's currently being deployed in rural Africa -- and what the challenges are. It would also be great to talk about OpenCellular, which NuRAN Wireless is working on with Facebook. This could certainly lead to a large reduction in the cost of the equipment needed to connect rural communities.

Connecting Africa: Can you tell us a bit about your background in telecommunications and how this has led to your current position as Regional Manager MEA at NuRAN Wireless?

Bradley Shaw: I started my telecoms career as the editor of Africa Telecoms, a monthly print magazine covering the industry across the whole continent. From there, I moved to a music streaming service and then a Digital Education startup. Then I had the opportunity to work on something which I feel very strongly about -- connecting the unconnected.

Connecting Africa: In your opinion, what kinds of technology is going to be the most disruptive in Africa?

Bradley Shaw: The one thing I feel strongly about is that fact that it will involve a mobile device, and that device will have to be connected. This is where it starts to get interesting. What will the form factor of that device be? Probably a phone. However, what else is possible? And what else will it be connected to? Well, a network of sorts, but will it be a mobile 2G/3G/4G/5G network, or will it be a WiFi network? Will it be a LEO satellite constellation? All good questions. Short term, device dependent, I would still say it will be predominantly 2G plus WiFi in rural Africa, with mobile broadband 3G/4G in urban areas.

Then, how does mobile banking and Fintech start to disrupt these connectivity models? There is so much happening and so much that can happen. Who will disrupt most I can't even begin to guess.

“Mobile operators are clearly the ones that have the most to gain or lose. One question currently being debated is whether, with Facebook and Google now building their own networks, the traditional MNO will be disrupted out of the market completely”

Connecting Africa: If there is one area or region of telecoms people should be keeping an eye on, what would it be?

Bradley Shaw: Mobile operators are clearly the ones that have the most to gain or lose. One question currently being debated is whether, with Facebook and Google now building their own networks, the traditional MNO will be disrupted out of the market completely. My feeling is that we could be a position that, in 10 to 15 years, there will be no MNO, and that all operators will effectively be MVNOs running on shared infrastructure. This would open these operators up to differentiate using marketing, services and content rather than competing on coverage, price and QoS.

Then, of course, we have the emergence of Fintech and its effect on the traditional banking market. Certainly the banks are now suffering as the various mobile payments services continue to be extremely popular. In Kenya it is very feasible to run your entire life without a formal bank account.

And then we need to consider how a raft of new technologies can be usefully deployed in Africa, including artificial intelligence, machine Learning and IoT.

Connecting Africa: What excites you most about working in the African telecoms sector?

Bradley Shaw: Impact. Everything we do in the market has such a huge impact on the communities that we touch. Bringing communication to communities for the first time changes the lives of people living and working in rural villages and towns. And it doesn't simply mean receiving or making a phone call or text message, it is so much more -- financial inclusion, government services, education, health content [and more] can be provided on even the most basic GSM network.

When I visit villages which have recently been connected, I can see and feel the change -- and that's both exciting and humbling at the same time.

“I certainly did not think in 2009 that, by 2017, we would be talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and so many other topics that were but a pipe dream for the African market”

Connecting Africa: Which was the first AfricaCom you ever attended, and how have you seen it change and develop?

Bradley Shaw: My first AfricaCom was in 2009, when we launched African Telecoms magazine. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. It is now the premium African telecoms event and a must-attend for everyone in the industry. It was a great event in 2009 but was probably 40% of the size I expect for 2017. As far as the content, I certainly did not think in 2009 that, by 2017, we would be talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and so many other topics that were but a pipe dream for the African market. And yet here we are. I cannot wait to see what we will be discussing in another 10 or 20 years' time. It is going to be a fascinating journey to get there.

Connecting Africa: How would you describe AfricaCom in three words?

Bradley Shaw: Africa's Telecoms Home (patent pending -- if you want to use the tagline I will send you an invoice…)

“You can meet industry executives from across the globe that are working in the region, all in one place, without needing to travel across a very wide region”

Connecting Africa: Would you, or why would you, recommend AfricaCom to others in your sector here and abroad?

Bradley Shaw: Anyone working in the telecoms sector with a focus on Africa or other emerging markets should attend. Africa has many similarities to south-east Asia and Latin America. So solutions that are working here have a high chance of success in those markets too. But if your focus is Africa, you really need to attend AfricaCom. You can meet companies providing practical solutions to solve problems in Africa. You can meet industry executives from across the globe that are working in the region, all in one place, without needing to travel across a very wide region.

Connecting Africa: What are you most looking forward to at the 20th anniversary AfricaCom?

Bradley Shaw: I'm a proud Capetonian and love that my home city gets to host this magnificent event.

There are lots of things I look forward to.

Networking, for sure. Seeing old friends from the industry that you might not have seen in an entire year. Meeting new people and forming new relationships.

Learning. In this industry, where the technology moves so quickly, a year is a long time, so there will always be something new to learn.

And finally, I'm looking forward to participating in the discussion about digital transformation of the African market.

See Bradley Shaw speak:

This year sees the launch of the brand new Technology Arena, which will be showcasing all the latest cutting-edge technologies disrupting ‘Digital Africa.' The AfricaCom 20/20 stage will play host to some of the ecosystem's most visionary figures discussing and demonstrating future tech. Find out more about the Technology Arena at AfricaCom (7-9 November 2017) here.

Join Bradley Shaw as well as speakers from Microsoft, Uber, Airbnb, BitPesa and more at AfricaCom 20/20 by signing up for your free AfricaCom visitor pass here.

Find out more about why anyone who is anyone will be at the 20th anniversary of AfricaCom here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation here:

— Amy Turner, Digital Content Marketer, KNect365

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: SA's FlexClub

South African startup FlexClub has launched a managed marketplace that helps independent drivers on digital platforms become vehicle owners.


Econet and X's Project Taara join forces to connect Africa

Econet Group and Google X's Project Taara are teaming up to deploy new high-speed Internet technology to communities across sub-Saharan Africa.

More Innovation hub

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Latest video

More videos

AfricaCom perspectives


AfricaCom Interview: Onica Makwakwa on closing the digital gender gap

The Alliance for Affordable Internet's head of Africa, Onica Makwakwa, shares her views on how to narrow the digital gender gap and the challenges keeping women offline on the continent.


AfricaCom Interview: Tunde Fafunwa on how the ACIP is fighting COVID-19

Tunde Fafunwa from the UN Economic Commission for Africa explains how the Africa Communication and Information Platform (ACIP) is helping Africa's battle against COVID-19.


AfricaCom Interview: Temidayo Oniosun on Africa's space and satellite industry

Space in Africa founder, Temidayo Oniosun, shares his views on the challenges and opportunities in the African space and satellite industry.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Partner perspectives

SD-WAN and satellite – how MNOs and telcos can enjoy the best of both worlds
By Ofer Asif, SVP BizDev, marketing and strategy at Spacecom

Africa's mobile operators need better roaming monetization for growth
By Damion Rose, product manager for Mobile Signaling and Roaming Solutions at BICS

How Africa's operators are driving socio-economic development
By Clémentine Fournier, VP Sales Africa at BICS

All Partner Perspectives

Upcoming events

Africa Green ICT Forum
December 2, 2020
Virtual Event
More Upcoming events

Flash poll

All polls

Archived webinars

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

More Webinars


Safaricom Spark Fund Portfolio

Infographics archive


AfricaCom 2019 Preview

Slideshow archive

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up