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.

Big Data

African Telcos Open Up on AI, Digital Transformation

Article Image
Two of Africa's leading operators have revealed their attitudes towards embracing technologically driven transformation, including the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI).

Vodacom Pty. Ltd. and Safaricom Ltd. -- two of Africa's most dominant mobile operators -- spoke of the challenges relating to organizational change in the face of digital transformation. At a roundtable discussion during the AfricaCom in Cape Town, hosted by Connecting Africa in collaboration with sister sites Light Reading and, network transformation, cultural change and the introduction of AI services all came to the fore.

Vuyani Jarana, Vodacom's eterprise chief executive, made the point that operators today are facing a tipping point with regards to customer expectations, from both the managed services and consumer services perspectives.

"When it became clear that the traditional consumer business will be under pressure unless it transforms, it also became clear that the big shift has to go towards becoming the total communications provider," he said. "That's why we made big bets on the enterprise business, largely because we realized we need to diversify, we need to look at other revenue streams for the business."

Jarana went on to explain that the great challenge -- beyond the rudimentary network requirements -- is getting cultural buy-in from across the organization.

"The architectural design becomes key, otherwise you'll struggle to really share the economics of the network between consumer and enterprise and have a much more effective capex utilization model. That is what is enabling us to actually be able to do this. I think the big issue is always going to be the question of culture.

"You're coming from organizations that have always been very consumer and mobile-centric. To actually shift the culture, there needs to be a lot of engagement, a lot of advocacy. You need to be evidence based, you need to actually be able to do proper market research so that people can see and believe in the opportunity."

As part of the transformation, Safaricom's head of strategy, Ken Okweru, believes artificial intelligence will gradually become introduced into specific business functions, such as marketing, but that there's a fundamental lack of talent being able to maximize its potential.

"I believe that we're not going to have enough data scientists who will be able to analyze data as fast as we need them to," he said. "Instead, we'll use AI-as-a-service. When we look into the future we think that AI is taking the place of marketing functions. Marketers previously were the guys who felt the market and understood what consumers wanted.

"When you are looking at data for analysis from the marketing point of view, sometimes there's no opportunity. But, you put that same data to a data scientist and all of a sudden these guys are seeing the opportunities. We can take that a step further with AI so that it sees all of the opportunities."

These comments are just some of the insights that feature in the recently published eBook: Tomorrow's World - What is the Future of Telecoms? -- download and read the whole book here.

— Tim Skinner, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: Pan-African fintech KamaPay

This month's hot startup is pan-African fintech KamaPay, which helps individuals and businesses make cross-border payments on the continent.


Afretec awards $3.3M in grants to African research teams

The African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec) has awarded grants worth $300,000 each to 11 university research teams across Africa to advance digital technologies.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.


Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.


Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up