10 Jun 2015

Connecting West Africa opens in Dakar Senegal: broadband, regulation, investment, efficiency, partnerships

ConnectingWest Africa opened on Tuesday 9th June in Dakar, Senegal, for two days of engaging debates on opportunities in the region’s broadband market and of networking among leading operators, service providers, investors, regulators, suppliers and telecoms & ICT experts.

Diego Camberos, MD of Senegal’s second operator Tigo, set the tone of the debate by focusing on the need for digital inclusion in a market where broadband services are growing. According to him, “digital inclusion isn’t the effort of one operator, it’s an effort of the whole society through partnerships”.

Ovum’s Thecla Mbongue concurred on the importance of digital communications in the West African market: “West African telecoms have now become data-focused with access to broadband and smartphone usage key factors to drive the future growth. According to Ovum, the West African mobile market grew by 12% year-on-year to 296 million users in Q1 2015; annual mobile revenues were $17 billion in 2014 including $3 billion generated by data usage”.

Clearly, from all speakers’ comments, the benefits of broadband to the region’s economies are well known. However there are still major hindrances to broadband access, as described by James Kanja Cobba of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Information & Communications, and Aboubakar Haman, of AtlantiqueTelecom.  According to them, the major issues still come from insufficient commitment from regulators, inconsistent market liberalisation, high taxes and lack of cooperation between operators. In a panel discussing on the potential of LTE, representatives of Tigo Chad, YooMee Africa and IFC also agreed on the need for government support as well as private investment to deliver the infrastructure needed.

Operators and other stakeholders also need to re-think their approach to innovation in this changing digital market. Sadibou Sow or AfriqueITnews said “one need to start with a clean slate and really understand the needs of customers and enterprises as they have changed completely”.

Outside the conference, participants enjoyed various opportunities to network, around coffee, a lunch sponsored by PCCW Global and a drinks reception sponsored by Sonatel. VIP participants also enjoyed a Speed Networking session. Amadou Makhtar Fall of ITMag and Sonatel, said of the event that it has been “a unique opportunity to meet in one place what Africa counts as the best in telecommunications”.

“The opening day of Connecting West Africa has shown that the West African market offers great opportunities for companies willing to adapt to new needs and new models” says Julie Rey-Gore, the event’s Research Director; “We are pleased to provide an environment for the region’s most dynamic companies to get together, share their experiences and build useful partnerships”.

The second day of Connecting West Africa will look at how to monetise data, managing the customer experience, meeting the need of enterprises, and promoting innovation in the digital economy. Speakers will include senior representatives of Sonatel, Millicom Group, Expresso Telecom Group, Mauritel, Alink Telecom, CTIC and more.

See what attendees thought of Day One...

“It is a good opportunity to connect with all the telecoms society and a good networking conference. I hope that It will continue every year. Congratulations for Connecting West Africa”
Ravelson Bruno Wilfrid, Green Com - Muni, Equatorial Guinea

“The Exhibition provides a very focused environment where all the relevant partners come in and really try to understand the value of their business. I appreciate the big support with one –on – one meeting arrangements, they have brought so much value to us as a company.”
Benny Tomer, Sales Director West Africa, PeerApp

“The event has been very good and I hope to participate in Connecting West Africa for many years to come. The organization was perfect and panel discussion very interactive and interesting”
Awa Diop, Country Representative, Senegal, ALINK TELECOM

“Excellent organization and great level of attendees this year”
Ababacar Fall, Manager, UAE, Etisalat

“Speed Networking is the most interesting activity I have had during the first day of the event. Meeting potential partners has been very good ”