Africa can expect ‘non-stop innovation’

After two years of virtual meetings, the annual AfricaCom event – Africa’s largest technology conference – returned with a message of hope for the continent in person.

“The high resilience and rapid growth of the continent’s digital economy, technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence and the cloud are developing rapidly, and the adoption of ICT in a variety of industries is increasing,” said Leo Chen, President of Huawei Sub-Region Sahara Africa, in the opening speech. “You’re helping Africa drive the tech revolution, boost productivity and create jobs.”

The event took place at the Cape Town International Conference Center (CTICC) and brought together African operators, industry insiders and opinion leaders. Huawei had a strong presence at the event themed “Lighting up the Future”.

Chen told the audience that Africa has made significant strides in digitization over the past two decades. It has built a first-mile infrastructure connecting countries across the continent to the global internet. It has tripled its internet infrastructures in the middle mile, expanding connectivity within and between countries.

However, there are still challenges to overcome.

“Today, we still need to improve last-mile broadband infrastructure and bridge the urban-rural digital divide.”

While there is a desire for greater adoption of digital technologies, constraints such as a skills gap and lack of viable technology solutions are hampering the progress of ICT adoption.

Chen said there are three main ways to break these bottlenecks.

“We must continue to deepen connectivity to connect more people, businesses and scenarios; unleash digital productivity and enable digital transformation across multiple industries; Make the ICT industry more energy efficient and use ICT technologies to reduce emissions across all industries.”

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Of particular relevance to the African context were case studies on the digital transformation of the port and mining sectors in China, which attracted a great deal of attention from the African colleagues. These case studies provide a reference for the potential of developing the digital economy in Africa, as 90% of Africa’s imports and exports are by sea and mining is an important source of wealth creation for many African countries.

As Africa’s digital ship sails into the future, it needs strong tailwinds to propel it forward, Chen said. He called for more favorable industrial policies and more cooperation between the public and private sectors.

To this end, Huawei has established four innovation centers in Africa, launched several plans to support the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and will train 100,000 “digital champions” in Africa over the next three years.