Day Three – Africa Tech Festival

Africa Tech Festival

“The future belongs to Africa” – Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Deputy Chair Presidential 4IR Commission

AfricaCom, AfricaTech, AHUB, accelerateHER, Fintech Africa, 5G Africa, AI Africa and more have come together online to discuss, debate and deliberate how technology and telecommunications are impacting development on the African continent – what Africa can learn from the world, but as importantly, if not more so, what the world can learn from Africa. 

Day three of the virtual Africa Tech Festival on Wednesday 11November, once again reinforced how partnerships, collaboration and co-operation in the telecoms and technology sectors are the key to digital transformation and inclusivity – on the continent (and around the world). 

COVID-19 has proved to be a catalyst for change on many levels and several discussions highlighted just how far Africa has come in 2020 – but also, just how far it still has to go. That said, in an insightful presentation by ProfessorTshilidzi Marwala, entitled, ‘Accelerating Africa’s Journey to 4IR’, he noted that the future does indeed belong to Africa. 

In his work with South Africa’s Presidential 4IR Commission, Marwala observed that while Africa was a continent of many different countries, there were many similarities that bind it – he said the top and uniting priority for the continent when it comes to owning the 4IR, is to invest in human capital. 

Breaking up the boys club

Echoing Marwala and several other keynote speakers remarks, accelerateHER, a new event within the Africa Tech Festival, also presented a number of illuminating and inspiring discussions, centred around the role women currently and will play in Africa’s dominance going forward.  A panel discussion – ‘Widening access to technology for more women in Africa’ – with the Hon Paula Ingabire (Minister of ICT Government of Rwanda), Tracey Turner (Copia Global), Elizabeth Rossilello (AZA) and Baratang Miya (GirlHype), noted that the fundamental key to women’s inclusivity in the digital economy, is access to information and education – whether located in urban or rural areas –  which mobile phones (even feature phones) can provide. 

Technology has the power to radically transform the lives of women not only in addressing social issues but in the cost of finance of doing business, which is generally 80% lower in cost than physical payments.  Remote working can also narrow the gender pay gap – allowing more women to work from home, but also, fathers wishing to spend time with their children too.

Open and Connected and Secure

Telecom Infra Project (TIP), also presented a number of sessions on Wednesday, addressing how open architecture, cellular data and wi-fi coverage as being key to connectivity and to the telecoms business as a whole, going forward.  People should be able to work where they want to not where they have to because of connectivity.  Operators should work with the vendors that provide them with the services they need for any particular given scenario, thus moving away from static products to use case deployment – real life needs are met.  Collaboration and co-operation were again, key discussion points during all of these discussions that punctuated how open wi-fi access can democratise the digital ecosystem for the benefit of all.

The always connected culture we have brings with it, risk too.  As the amount of data that is produced has increased, so too has its attendant risk, especially as information storage has migrated to cloud-hosted systems and with the roll-out of 5G, our homes, our lives will all be connected to the cloud in some way shape or form.  A panel discussion – ‘Exploring the future of cyber risk in an increasingly connected world’ – touched on not only the need to protect data, how to and where but, as tabled by Yousuf Karrim, Governance Risk and Compliance Lead at Puleng Technologies, also what motivates cybercrime and the steps that can be taken to mitigate what is the biggest and fastest growing constituent in our world today – data generation and its use.

Other notable discussions to review include a fireside chat with Shameel Joosub, CEO & Executive Director of the Vodacom Group, called ‘Intelligently navigating the COVID-19 outbreak: striving for societal benefit over profit,’ speaking about the role that telcos played in enabling Africa’s speedy transition to remote working, digital healthcare, education, finance and even farming.  Joosub also touched on the partnerships Vodacom has in several sectors, including a digital farming project in Kenya (now being replicated in South Africa), that also connects women to each other and markets and effectively takes out the middleman.  Integral to transformation across the continent, are the Mobile Network Operators own transition from pure play telecoms providers to lifestyle platforms…and beyond.

AI and Machine Learning are also playing their role in this transition and several sessions looked at the opportunities and challenges facing healthcare, finance, education, agriculture etc.  Notable were: Applying AI Automation across the Entire Lifecycle of Network Operations, Microsoft’s AI in building a decentralised Government model and a fireside chat with an illustrious panel discussing the hurdles to AI adoption in Africa.

With Africa having a vibrant venture capital community on home soil, there is plenty of opportunity for support for inventive solutions that address every day needs on the continent.  Over on the AHUB track, start-ups and entrepreneurs got a boost with several capital injection initiatives such as the StartUp Bootcamp Africa, and the 2020 VC4A Venture Showcase, where 10 innovative high-growth ventures that have the potential to yield high social and environmental impact can secure the capital they require. Also showcasing Africa’s innovative potential, The International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Initiative, which aims to connect 3 million women to markets.

Thursday promises to be as rich in thought provoking content as the past week – with a throw forward to what the next decade might look for Africa and who and where Africa’s tech giants and unicorns will come from. 

All sessions were recorded and are available on the Africa Tech Festival platform – access for registered delegates only – registration is still open as the content will also be available for 90 days.

For further information please visit the 2020 website

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