BY EMEKA AGINAM, (who was in Cape Town, South Africa)
Despite sustained growth of the mobile industry in the Sub-Saharan Africa, in the recent years, the biggest impact of mobile in the region is yet come. Just last week, the GSAM Mobile 360 Series Africa conference held in Cape Town, South Africa had convened key stakeholders to examine the practical steps to be taken to help bring about collaboration, including, coordinating and enabling policies that would promote digital and financial inclusion in the Sub-Saharan continent.
The Mobile 360 Series is one of several industry events established and organized by the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide
But by the time the latest report on Sub-Sahara Africa mobile subscription figure was released last week at the forum, there were positive signals that mobile services are becoming increasingly affordable and accessible to millions of unconnected citizens across the region.
The results are impressive. The report, according to Anne Bouverot, Director General of the GSMA had projected that the number of unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa would pass the half billion mark in 2020.
According to the new report, Sub-Sahara Africa is expected to see the highest growth on any region in terms of smartphone connections with 525 million smartphone connections in the region by 2020, accounting for more than half of the total connection base at that date.
The attendant result, however, is that mobile connectivity is already playing important roles in enabling the inclusion of the underserved in the social and economic development of the African continent.
For the participants at the event that identified ways in which collaboration could bring about digital and financial inclusion, the barriers limiting Africa could only be removed through collaboration and robust government policies.
delivering affordable access to the people of Africa, enabling digital economy and empowering digital citizens, mobile for development, among others were topics examined by the participants at the forum.
Africa has bright future:
While leading lights in the African telecoms ecosystem shared their visions and concerns about developments in the sector, while announcing mobile subscriber figure in the continent, the Director General of the GSMA, Anne Bouverot, GSMA earlier in her speech told the gathering that Africa has bright future regarding internet growth if limiting factors were resolved.
Barriers to remove:
To fully realize the transformative potential of mobile in Sub-Saharan Africa, the mobile industry, she said requires a supportive regulatory framework that provides long-term stability and encourages investment.
For a safe and responsible mobile money ecosystem, the GSMA , according to her has launched a Code of Conduct for Mobile Money Providers with the aim of establishing common business principles that all mobile money providers would commit to implementing.
The code, she said set of common business principles are designed to encourage the take-up of digital financial services.
In his opening speech, the Group Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Sifiso Dabengwa noted that for digital and financial to be fully realized, there was need for original equipment manufacturers in mobile devices to produce affordable 3G enabled phones.
While calling for consolidation among mobile operators to avoid market failures, these devices, he said could cost at least twenty to thirty dollars to enable low income earners in the region be part of digital and financial inclusion.
While the pricing of handsets is an important issue when it comes to affordable telecoms, keeping the device charged is a problem in most African countries where electricity is still a challenge.
This is even as an Israeli firm, Nova-Lumos pledged support to deal with this challenge by bringing affordable electricity to off-grid communities via an indoor unit charged through solar panels.
We have partnered with operators such as MTN Nigeria to encourage the use of these units, the Chief Executive Officer, Davidi Vortman told the audience.
For Priya Jaisinghani, Acting Director of the Center for Global Solutions, US Global Development Lab, USAID, at the GSMA’s Connected Women event warned that If women were not deeply involved in technology, there is a big risk that the inequalities of the outside world will be reflected in the digital one, warned.
To tackle this, women, she said must be encouraged to study ICT and consider it as a career, and must be made aware of the benefits that technology, such as mobile phones could bring.
Broadening digital and financial inclusion:
While increasing digital and financial inclusion have the potential to save Africa, panelists who spoke during a session titled ,’Broadening digital and financial inclusion’ noted that in order to deliver the full benefits of digital and financial inclusion, the right policy foundation was essential . For the Chief Executive Officer of Terragon Group, Elo Umeh, who called for price point with respect to internet access that would work for all African said that the citizens need the right environment to make the most of the opportunities available through digital communications.