Discovering the technology driving Africa forward

The world’s largest Africa-focused Technology Media and Telecommunications (TMT) event – AfricaCom

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The world’s largest Africa-focused Technology Media and Telecommunications (TMT) event – AfricaCom – has been at the forefront of the communications conversation on the continent for the past 21 years

What started primarily as a telecoms event discussing how to get voice services – fixed and wireless - to the many unconnected, has evolved into the premier go-to place for discovery, business solutions, networking, which has led to the exponential growth of digital democracy and the rise of Africa.

21 years on and technology and telecommunications have now converged to enable pretty much everything, from social calls, to health, education, transport, computing, manufacturing, broadcast, finance and everything in between. “It’s an exciting space to be involved in” commented Tom Cuthell, Portfolio Director of KNect365, the company responsible for bringing AfricaCom to the world. “We live and operate in a fully connected ecosystem where TMT drives economies, and smart cities – the world over. Curating the content for the 2018 AfricaCom is a never ending lesson in how vast and ubiquitous technology has become and what the opportunities are for Africa. There is real potential to leapfrog the rest of the world in terms of where it takes the continent and those that follow.”

Terms such as the Internet of Things (IoT), 4th Industrial Revolution (4ICT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), the rise of robots and machine learning, are now common parlance. For those in the tech world these developments are easily understandable and present exciting opportunities for business growth, but for the ordinary man in the street, the speed at which we are moving towards full convergence, can be somewhat daunting. This is especially true for those living in the less developed areas of the continent where many are still getting to grips with the basics of being able to make a simple telephone call, have running water, electricity and access to basic education.

So, while AfricaCom addresses the top end of the spectrum—those equipped with smartphones that run over LTE and now 5G, connected home appliances and smart transport options (amongst others) - the event also looks to address how to roll out the infrastructure and supporting services that can connect the next billion people.

As the conduit for connectivity, the Telecommunications companies (Telcos) have the ability to unlock the true value of Africa’s digital transformation. This will also require Telcos to redefine their business models to avoid being relegated to the status of ‘dumb pipe’. Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO, MTN, who is a ‘Headliner’ at AfricaCom this year, will discuss the evolving role of the African telco in a new age of data and digital services.

Whereas the Telcos may continue to own the billing relationship in the current communication equation, the ability for customers to connect, converse and consume content is no longer dependent on telcos, with a myriad of alternative methods available to them. In order then, to do more than reverse downward revenue trends and prosper, telcos will need to re-engineer their businesses to grab a slice of the paradoxically, increasing volume pie. This will be one presentation guaranteed to hold attention and stimulate debate.

(The Headliners is a series of high-level presentations and panel discussions and also FREE of charge to registered visitors— for more information on who else you can see go to: tmt.Knect365.com).

From LTE to 5G in Africa

Kicking off proceedings on day one of AfricaCom and under the banner of ‘Digital connectivity to drive socio-economic development’, will be a discussion around Africa’s readiness for 5G. This also sets the scene for 5G Africa (formerly LTE Africa), which will run over two-days. 5G Africa will focus on defining and developing preparations for the next evolution of mobile connectivity across the continent.

Supplementing the 5G discussions for premium delegates, are tracks covering 5G enabling technologies—MEC, NFV, SDN, Network Slicing—that will lead to a proliferation of next generation services such as AR/VR, AI and VOLTE.

The IoT

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues apace, bringing with it, greater connectivity and subsequent products and services, IoT becomes a tangible gamechanger for cities, enterprises (and end users). Consequently, AfricaCom 2018 will concentrate a number of discussions and a 3-day IoT World Africa conference track around how this can be achieved. Delegates can unlock the African IoT opportunity with sessions focused on making a business case for IoT; why—and how—IoT will bridge the “digital divide” in Africa and the transformative impact of IoT on Africa’s social and economic development.

As Africa urbanises with more devices connecting to the IoT, the African smart city becomes a reality but, what are the essential ingredients to achieving this? How are ambitions with socio-economic realities aligned and what makes a smart city, smart? Day Two of the Headliner sessions will look at realising the African smart city vision.

For enterprises, the key question is what technologies to use to ensure participation in the digital era; how to separate the hype from the practical—what will really lead to innovation and business success and how to stimulate a corporate culture that supports innovation and entrepreneurship.

The critical role of policymakers and regulators in determining how Africa and Africans will connect to strengthen their economies, also forms part of this year’s Headliner agenda. Enabling an African Information-based society will be critical to the continent’s ability to advance and transact—a case study, presented by Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, will shed light on how this can be achieved.

The Money

Underpinning all development and future trade, are financial services, so what’s next for African Fintech? Headliners will address the opportunities that exist in the midst of this financial services paradigm shift. For premium delegates, Fintech Africa will discuss, among other things, mobile money interoperability with leading MNOs and financial institutions, as well as blockchain deployment and cryptocurrency opportunities in Africa. Top quality fintech start-ups will also pitch their game-changing solutions.

Broadcast

Rounding out the Headliner discussions at AfricaCom 2018, is a series of discussions that address the shift in how broadcasting models are developing in line with digital transformation across Africa. This content complements the newly launched Africa Video Forum (AVF), the evolution of TV Connect Africa.

It’s been a trend for a couple of years now, but entertainment on the go is still growing. At AVF, a key session will be around how to keep data costs low by off-loading to wi-fi as much as possible, in order that consumers can be constantly connected. Beyond wi-fi though, what are the next connected innovations? Reduced data costs will also lead to more live-streaming services, yet another discussion point at AVF. Live-streaming also impacts on the media and film industry so how can these sectors keep up, change or lead? Whatever the answers, it’s bound to be fascinating.

Artificial Intelligence

Talking of intriguing, what’s the buzz around AI—is it really going to take over the world and take away human jobs or is it going to open the doors to new possibilities? Tackling these questions and more, The AI Summit Cape Town, will be held at AfricaCom. One of the more contentious bound to attract an interested audience will be the presentation entitled: Building an autonomous workforce: AI in Mining. On the flip side, AI is also increasingly instrumental in saving lives which Manu Kumar, the Chief Digital Officer at BUPA, will share with interested parties, as too how AI is enabling banking and the retail sectors and their customers.

The Technology Arena

AfricaCom is a huge event. It expects over 13 000 delegates this year, with more than 450 speakers and 400 exhibitors. As bewildering as it could be, the organisers have cleverly delineated the areas from the main exhibition hall that contains the ‘engine’ of technology – all the nuts and bolts, fancy bits and intangibles that make the end result happen. Over in the Technology Arena (in the new section of the Cape Town International Convention Centre), visitors will be able to experience some of the new technology that is driving Africa forward.

Whether you are involved in technology, media or telecommunications or whether you are a student looking to the future, AfricaCom is the place to be to get ‘connected’ this year. 

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