18 Nov 2015

Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize highlights the importance of ICT for development in a keynote at AfricaCom

The Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, took to the stage at AfricaCom this morning to highlight the importance of information and communications technologies for socio-economic development in Africa.
“As a newly established Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, we appreciate an opportunity to come and share ideas with such a distinguished audience” the Minister said.
She highlighted the Department’s objectives: “Much of the ICT revolution is driven by the private sector but as a government we have realised that we have an important role to play in aligning policies with the possibilities emerging from the private sector. What we’ve struggled with is the digital divide. The cost of communications is unreasonably high in societies where it is needed the most".
Broadband access is a key priority: “In 2014 South Africa had an internet penetration rate of about 40%. There is a significant growth but it tends to be concentrated in the ‘golden’ cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and East London. Our target in terms to achieve 100% broadband penetration by 2020”.
She mentioned education, e-government, e-health and mobile financial services as key elements of ICT development: “We are investing a lot in e-government. We see the use of technology as a real enabler. People who access services online tend to have higher levels of satisfaction, so it calls for a clear e-strategy.”
She called for increased cooperation between industry stakeholders and recognised the important support that regulators and governments can give the industry: “we are aligning our policy strategies with the regulators and ensuring we promote a competitive environment.  I invite you to look carefully at partnerships and to take advantage of the tax breaks and the many opportunities that governments are availing.” In terms of spectrum allocation, the department is in the process of auditing the needs and she acknowledged the clear need for new allocation toward ICT development.
Overall the Minister emphasized the importance of developmental goals: “The biggest commodity in the world today is knowledge. Strategic investment in the ICT sector will allow Africa to take its right place in the world”.
AfricaCom continues in Cape Town until Thursday 19th November.

17 Nov 2015

Innovation needs more support in Africa, say keynote speakers at AfricaCom

AfricaCom 2015 opened today with a keynote panel on innovation leadership, asking how to support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in digital Africa.
Moderated by Larry Madowo, tech editor at NTV Kenya, the panel brought together Christian de Faria, CEO of Airtel Africa, Markku Makelinen, Director of Global Operator Partnerships at Facebook, Marc Rennard, EVP of AMEA at Orange and Bright Simons, President of mPedigree and award-winning entrepreneur.
Christian de Faria started by stating “We’re not doing enough in terms of innovation. There’s a lot of talent in Africa so how do we support it?” He mentioned the partnership Airtel developed with Facebook as a way of supporting innovators and called for the gian OTT brand to expand its presence in Africa beyond the new office opened recently in South Africa.
According to Markku Makelinen, the driver for all innovation is connectivity to the internet.
For Marc Rennard, innovation is part of our Orange’s DNA: “We support local innovation through partnerships with incubators, venture prizes, technocentres etc. The most important thing is to create a favourable local environment as the innovation coming from the field in Africa meets actual needs of local people”
Bright Simons said governments are uniquely positioned to support innovation: “Africa is very fragmented so the market isn’t the best place to transform innovation into a scalable market-winning product. Governments can create the initial spark for local innovation and the market will follow.” Other panellists agreed on the lack of support from governments, who don’t always have the will or ability to look at long-term objectives. Taxation was once again mentioned as an issue in the tech field.

To wrap up the discussion, Bright called for ecosystem innovation; Marc said the future will be API, open innovation and a multi-cultural approach to innovation; Markku advised entrepreneurs to innovate not imitate; and Christian called for the industry to get together in a more meaningful manner and encourage the bright minds we have on the continent.