Africa Tech Festival 2023 is the ultimate meeting of minds to intensify Africa’s much-needed digital infrastructure development and response. So said South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technology, Mondli Gungubele, who was speaking at the opening of this year’s 26th Africa Tech Festival at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Tuesday.
Africa Tech Festival is delivered in partnership with the South African Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), and punctuating the importance of connectivity for Africa’s progression, Gungubele said one of the biggest challenges facing Africans is the issue of data, which he remarked underscored the notable divide between Africa and Europe and the wealthy and indigent. “About forty percent of the African population has access to the internet, compared to Europe where its 69% or more.”
But Gungubele also noted that there is work being done to improve the South African technology ecosystem, as evidenced by the rollout of wireless sites and fibre connections. “There is a focus on SMMEs because without connectivity they can’t build their business in Africa and other parts of the world.”
He says the plan for the rollout of fibre optic is set to increase by up to 5%, adding that the growing demand for access to cloud services and infrastructure is driving the urgency.
“The demand for cloud access and infrastructure is about 35 to 30% annually. We have to respond to this as there is great potential on the continent that is the youngest and fastest expanding population in the world.”
James Williams, Senior Director, Events | Connecting Africa | Informa Tech, who welcomed delegates, speakers, exhibitors, and visitors from across the continent and beyond, stated that Africa Tech Festival’s growth this year was a sign of just how important Africa’s connectivity has become in the global context.
Taking Africa to the world and vice versa, Africa Tech Festival this year, is running several concurrent streams that include AfricaCom, the connectivity and communications backbone over which technology is conveyed. Some of this amazing technology that informs our lives, is on display in the AfricaTech arena’s products and services in CTICC 2. Ensuring that there will be a thriving and vibrant fully connected future for Africa, AfricaIgnite was packed today with several sessions aimed at the burgeoning Africa start-up sector.
“Progress in technology is one of the most potent assets in history. It can create a prosperous and sustainable Africa.” Leon Chen, Huawei President sub-Saharan Africa.
The strategic challenge facing Africa in accelerating digital inclusion for all is access and training, according to Brelotte Ba, Deputy CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa. “Across Africa, there are digital footprint discrepancies between urban and rural; men and women; the educated and uneducated. But inclusion does not only mean to be consumers, but also authors and players in the market,” Ba shared.
“In Africa, mobile money is the primary means of financial inclusion and a major contributor to socio-economic development. It should be a joint effort – access and training, he said.
On the same panel entitled: ‘Accelerating Inclusion in Africa and the Middle East’, Leo Chen, President, sub-Saharan Africa at Huawei, said current digitization networks should be cost-effective, future-proof and be able to support future advancements. “Cloud migration will be in high demand going forward. By 2026, 76% of Africans will have adopted it. Therefore, it must be low-cost and flexible. Already government clouds are increasing efficiency, so it is important to provide citizens with innovative services with cloud technology,” Chen stated.
In Guinea, the lack of digital infrastructure hasn’t stopped the country from planning to lay more cable and expand reach within the next five years, though: “Currently, we have a learning centre for ages 5-17 where we try to bridge the digital divide. We’re also pushing for all public services online as well as setting up a project to encourage the assembly of mobile units locally to make it more affordable and accessible,” says Nfaly Sylia, Guinea’s Chief of Cabinet in Telecomm and Digital Eco.
Day One of Africa Tech Festival also included several sessions on pioneer tech and fintech with their own dedicated stage, which was packed with excellent content and a focused audience, while the cybersecurity tracks were also well attended.