In sub-Saharan Africa, many people are turning to mobile connectivity to access basic services that would otherwise be out of reach.
Take mom, for example. The service launched in 2013 by the Vodafone Foundation to provide emergency transport to pregnant women in remote areas of Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Lesotho: an initiative created to combat a high rate of maternal deaths.
Meanwhile, Safaricom’s m-Pesa was launched the same year to address a deep financial gap, even though 45 percent of adults in sub-Saharan Africa remained unbanked. by the end of 2022. Today, the app allows its 51 million users to send and receive money via SMS and manage household bills. MTN’s MoMo, launched in Ghana in 2009, allows users to do the same.
While mobile technologies are expected to continue to play a central role in the socio-economic life of Africa, said Max Cuvellier, Head of Mobile for Development (M4D) at the GSMA. Mobile World Live (MWL) that fintech and healthcare tech will be key topics at MWC Kigali 2023, which will be held at the Kigali Convention Centre, Rwanda, from October 17-19.
Health is wealth
“We generally think about how to harness technology to provide people with healthy and dignified lives. One of them is obviously health. Health is wealth, generally speaking, but in the past, health technologies have probably not received the visibility they deserve. So it’s great to have that as a key theme this year,” Cuvellier said.
This year’s congress will focus on the integration of new technologies to bring solutions to African citizens, added Cuvellier, who named the continent as the place with the greatest concentration of digital technology deployments to date. strong impact.
Sessions around this topic will be organized by the Africa HealthTech Summit, which brings together Africa CDC, a public health agency of the African Union, and Smart Africa, a joint government initiative aimed at encouraging investment in ICT.
With diversity and inclusion being something of an anchor for MWC Kigali 2023, the Africa HealthTech Summit will feature discussions among women leaders who are breaking barriers to shape the future of the digital health ecosystem in Africa and other industry experts who will address investment gaps in the health sector. sector.
Home to 760 million mobile money users, discussions on the digital economy and financial technologies are expected to dominate the congress: “Half of the world’s mobile money users are in Africa, and two thirds of the value of mobile money transactions worldwide take place in Africa. ” said Cuvellier.
However, he also highlighted that moving to a digital financial landscape comes with its own challenges, saying it is an “increasingly complex environment”.
Indeed, a 2021 study found that half of m-Pesa users had been victims of fraud. So, “it’s really crucial to keep the momentum going and also have difficult conversations,” he added.
Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at the GSMA, said MWL Collaborative efforts between the private and public sectors are crucial to raising awareness of the risks of digital technology and advancing “strict regulatory frameworks”.
This is fundamental at a time when “Africa’s digital economy faces further disruption as it grows,” Wamola said.
MWC Kigali 2023 also aims to draw attention to how innovations in Africa have expanded well beyond mobile apps, thanks to a mature start-up ecosystem that, in 2022, has raised over $3 billion dollars of funding.
Themed Accelerate Africa, the event is expected to look at how emerging tech start-ups are reshaping the continent’s entrepreneurial sector, with Cuvellier referring to Africa 118, an Ethiopian company that connects over 10,000 African SMEs to Internet and helps them grow. their online presence.
Its CEO, Ezana Raswork, will be part of a panel to explore the impact of technology on small businesses. Cuvellier also highlighted Freetown Waste Transformer, a women-led business based in Sierra Leone’s capital that converts organic waste into clean energy.
“We work a lot with start-ups, and I think they have really emerged over the last five years,” creating “solutions that take not only businesses but society to the next level.”
Sub-Saharan Africa has made great strides in making mobile innovation a driver of change. Today, 85 percent of the region is covered by mobile networks, but the remaining 15 percent, representing around 200 million people, remains unconnected.
Of the 85 percent covered by the Internet, there are more people who don’t use the Internet than who do, Cuvellier said. This is due to the lack of access to affordable mobile phones and broadband, which pose major obstacles to Africa’s digital journey.
“Africa is a mobile-first continent. Owning an Internet-enabled phone is an important step on the path to full integration into society and the economy, and it touches every aspect of Africans’ personal and professional lives,” Cuvellier said.
Meanwhile, Wamola highlighted that the upcoming event will showcase programs and policy developments aimed at bridging the digital divide, including subsidizing devices and data plans for marginalized communities and rural areas.
At the event’s Political Leaders Forum, Wamola will speak alongside Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, Zambia’s Minister of Technology and Science, Felix Mutati, and other experts to explore what is needed to make digital inclusion a reality.
“Ultimately, achieving equality of access and knowledge in emerging technologies requires collaboration, adaptability and sustained efforts from diverse stakeholders. MWC Kigali is a fantastic opportunity to bring these stakeholders together, foster dialogue and action plans that can advance the digital inclusion mission,” said Wamola.
MWL will broadcast the main sessions of the event herestay tuned!