Digital Africa is watching the clock -- the countdown to several key developments set to recalibrate both the African tech and telecoms sectors has begun. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now taking hold on the continent, and those within the ecosystem are placing bets as to the timescale for a 5G launch on South African soil and where the first fully realised smart city will emerge.
But what, and who, are the key drivers behind these developments? And how far has Africa got in terms of its digital development and its efforts to bridge the digital divide?
Whether your interest is connectivity infrastructure, disruptive technologies, digital services or ICT strategy, AfricaCom 2018 -- 13 to 15 November at the CTICC in Cape Town, South Africa -- will be the place to meet the key influencers and decision-makers, ask and answer these key questions, shape Africa's digital future and witness the development of African tech and telecoms first hand.
AfricaCom turns 21 in 2018 and is set to be bigger and better than ever, taking into account the ever-increasing influence of technology on everyday lives and introducing new features to reflect market developments. As always, the world's largest Africa-focused technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) event will offer visitors and delegates the prospect to develop business opportunities, as well as network with some of the most progressive minds in the sector.
Over the course of three days, more than 30 of these thought leaders will advance the conversation around Africa's digital transformation through a series of expert sessions -- the AfricaCom Headliners -- that are free of charge to all registered visitors. "We made a decision to open up a number of key conference areas, as we recognise the importance and significance of the conversations taking place around a multitude of topics all connected by the backbone of technology," commented Tom Cuthell, Portfolio Director of KNect365, AfricaCom's organiser. "The more people involved in these discussions, the quicker Africa will advance towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
Where do telcos fit into the digital ecosystem?
With greater connectivity comes greater responsibility and a requirement for new business models to address this latest era of communications. As the conduit for all this connectivity, telcos will need to explore how they can connect the next billion and unlock the true value of Africa's digital transformation.
Addressing these issues, the Headliners will deliver a number of keynote presentations and discussions: For example, Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO, MTN Group will talk about the evolving role of the African telco in a new age of data and digital services on Day One of AfricaCom 2018. While the mobile operator may continue to own the billing relationship in the current communication equation, the ability for customers to connect, converse and consume content is no longer dependent on telcos, with a myriad of alternative methods available to them. In order, then, to do more than reverse downward revenue trends and prosper, telcos need to re-engineer their businesses to grab a slice of the (paradoxically) growing communications services pie. This will be one presentation guaranteed to hold attention and stimulate debate.
From LTE to 5G in Africa
Kicking off proceedings on day one, and under the banner of 'Digital connectivity to drive socio-economic development,' will be a discussion around Africa's readiness for 5G. This also sets the scene for 5G Africa (formerly LTE Africa), which will run over two days. 5G Africa will focus on defining and developing preparations for the next evolution of mobile connectivity across the continent.
Supplementing the 5G discussions, for premium delegates, are tracks covering 5G-enabling technologies -- multi-access edge computing (MEC), network functions virtualization (NFV), software-defined networking (SDN) and network slicing – that, once deployed, look set to lead to a proliferation of next generation services such as augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR).
The Internet of Things (IoT)
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues apace, bringing with it greater connectivity and subsequent products and services, the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a gamechanger for cities, enterprises and end users. Consequently, AfricaCom 2018 will concentrate many Headliner discussions, and a three-day IoT World Africa conference track around how this can be achieved.
Delegates can unlock the African IoT opportunity with sessions focused on: Making a business case for IoT; why, and how, IoT will bridge the "digital divide" in Africa; and the transformative impact of IoT on Africa's social and economic development.
As Africa urbanises with more devices connecting to the IoT, the African smart city will emerge, but what are the essential ingredients for success? How are ambitions with socio-economic realities aligned with such developments? What makes a city 'smart'? Day Two of the Headliners will look at realising the African smart city vision.
For enterprises, the key questions revolve around: What technologies should be used to ensure participation in the digital era?; how to separate the hype from the practical -- what will really lead to innovation and business success?; and how to stimulate a corporate culture that supports innovation and entrepreneurship. Day Two of the Headliners will end with a spirited panel discussion on how to develop a winning ICT strategy.
The critical role of policymakers and regulators in determining how Africa and Africans will connect to strengthen their economies also forms part of this year's Headliner agenda. Enabling an African information-based society will be critical to the continent's ability to advance and transact: A case study, presented by Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, will shed light on how this can be achieved.
Underpinning all development and future trade are financial services, so what's next for African fintech? Headliners will address the opportunities that exist as the financial services market continues to grow and evolve. For premium delegates, FinTech Africa will discuss, among other things, mobile money interoperability with leading mobile operators and financial institutions, as well as blockchain deployment and cryptocurrency opportunities in Africa. In addition, leading fintech startups will pitch their innovative solutions.
Rounding out the Headliner discussions at of AfricaCom 2018 is a panel discussion that addresses the shift in how broadcasting models are developing in line with digital transformation across Africa. This content complements the newly launched Africa Video Forum, the evolution of TV Connect Africa.
The world class speaker line-up in 2018 includes:
- Rob Shuter - Group President and CEO, MTN
- Olabiyi Durojaiye - Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission
- Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful - Minister of Communications, Republic of Ghana
- Jean Philbert Nsengimana - Special Advisor, Smart Africa, Former Minister, Ministry of Information Technology and Communication, Government of Rwanda
- Mohamed Dabbour - CEO, Africa, Millicom
- Babak Fouladi - Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, MTN
- Siyabonga Mahlangu - Group Executive: Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations, Telkom
- Nicholas Naidu - Managing Executive: Technology Strategy, Architecture & Innovation, Vodacom
- Francis Mumbi - Innovation Lead, Stanbic Bank
- Joseph Hundah - Group President and CEO, Econet Media
- Jason Lobel - Group Head of Video, MTN
- Botlenyana Mokhele - Councillor, ICASA
- Catherine Wanjiku Njari - Senior Manager, TV & Media Content, Safaricom
- John Momoh (OON) - CEO, Channels Media Group and Chairman, BON
AfricaCom 2018 will bring together 14,000 attendees, 450 speakers and 400 exhibitors showcasing technologies and solutions covering everything from 5G, AI, IoT, fintech, blockchain and more, with a host of new content options and exciting developments.
— Amy Turner, Head of Digital Content, KNect365