How mobile connectivity is helping actualise Africa’s huge potential

Mobile connectivity and connected technologies are enablers, supporting countries as they build forward better in pursuit of economic recovery and resilience.

The GSMA’s first in-person MWC Africa  since 2019 opened its doors on October 25 in Kigali, Rwanda with a fireside chat between President Paul Kagame and Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.

The theme of the opening Keynote was “Building a Digital Future, Together” and focused on  how mobile connectivity, a major engine of growth, is bringing endless potential by accelerating digital transformation for all business sectors in Africa, from healthcare and education to manufacturing and financial services.

“Africa is home to creative and tech-savvy youth, looking for the right platform to contribute solutions. We cannot afford to reduce them to a statistic only, or sit idly by, as they seek opportunity outside of Africa. Our young people have a lot to offer. We must do our part and keep our promise to them. To leave no one behind, we must create a more enabling legal and regulatory environment,” Kagame said.

“However, to leave no one behind means a number of things as well, and we must recognise that digital transformation is not a zero-sum game, where progress comes at the expense of the most vulnerable. Not at all. Everyone, regardless of status, gender, or nationality, must benefit if we want to create lasting change.”

MWC Africa brings together industry sectors, business leaders and policymakers with the region’s mobile ecosystem to discuss the continent’s ambition to enhance the power of connectivity. The event also marks the release of the Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2022 report which finds that closing the mobile internet usage gap[1] is crucial to realising the potential of mobile connectivity, with 5G-related activities beginning to pick up across the region.

“Africa stands at a unique moment in time. Over the past two decades, mobile growth across Sub-Saharan Africa has been phenomenal. Today, 46% of the population is connected and subscribed to mobile services, rising to 50% by 2025. In 2021, mobile technologies and services generated around 8% of GDP across Sub-Saharan Africa, supporting 3.2 million jobs across the region. Imagine what Africa will be when everyone is connected,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.

“To continue the momentum and create more jobs and foster inclusion and reduce inequality, we have to ensure that everyone has access to connectivity and can benefit from all it offers.”

“We anticipate welcoming attendees from nearly 90 countries across Africa and around the world who will gather this week to convene and hear from over 60 speakers, 45% of whom are female,” said Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA.

“Mobile connectivity and connected technologies are enablers, supporting countries as they build forward better in pursuit of economic recovery and resilience. At MWC Africa, we will examine the urgency to bridge the digital divide for building inclusive, sustainable societies across Africa.”

Barriers to mobile internet

The report calls for stakeholders to address the main barriers to mobile internet adoption, including affordability and digital skills, to realise the potential of mobile connectivity to drive economic growth and development. Its findings reveal how mobile connectivity is helping the region’s post-pandemic economic recovery by creating the digital technologies and services needed to build back economies that are more productive and efficient.

Some 40% of the adult population is now connected to mobile internet services. However, the usage gap remains a challenge: 44% live in areas covered by mobile broadband networks, but do not yet use mobile internet services.

In 2021, the mobile ecosystem supported more than 3.2 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $16 billion raised through taxes on the sector.

By 2025, mobile’s contribution to the GDP of Sub-Sahara Africa will grow by $65 billion (to almost $155 billion), as the countries in the region increasingly benefit from increased take-up of mobile services

By 2025, 4G will account for a third of mobile connections in the region, compared to under a fifth of connections in 2021.

5G Africa: Realising the potential

5G-related activities have begun to pick up across Africa, including spectrum auctions, pilots and commercial trials, as well as efforts to develop locally relevant 5G use cases.

“Our new report launched today, 5G Africa: realising the potential, reveals that 5G will contribute $26 billion to Africa’s economy by 2030,” GSMA says.

Retail, manufacturing, and agriculture are among the sectors that will see the most impact. Additionally, 5G will account for 20% of mobile connections in Africa by 2030. Today there are commercial 5G networks in more than 10 countries and many more countries are expected to launch commercial 5G by 2025.

To ensure equal participation of persons with disabilities at MWC Africa, sign language interpretation will be provided at the event by the GSMA Innovation Fund for Assistive Tech start-up,  and Signs Media Kenya Limited, creators of the on-demand sign language interpretation app, assistALL.

MWC Africa is supported by Mastercard, MTN, Orange, ZTE, ASVL Summit 2022 and Smart Africa.

“We thank them for their contributions and encouragement to help the delivery of the industry-leading agenda,” GSMA said.

Mobile World Live, the event’s Lead Media and Broadcast Partner, is live streaming the event keynotes.

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