17 October 2023, MWC Kigali: MWC Kigali 2023 today returned to the Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda, with His Excellency Paul Kagame, the President of the Republic of Rwanda participating in the event’s celebratory opening ceremony. The event brings together policymakers and global business leaders for three days of discussion on innovations in mobile technology and Africa’s rapidly evolving connectivity ecosystem.

The GSMA welcomes an exceptional roster of keynote speakers to MWC Kigali this year, representing leading names in government, global business, emerging technologies and more. This includes ATU, Ethiopia Telecom, Huawei, MTN Group, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Orange Middle East and Africa, the Rwandan Ministry of ICT & Innovation, the SAMENA Telecommunications Council, Smart Africa, Take Back the Mic and ZTE Corporation.

“Today, Africa has the fastest-growing mobile penetration rate globally. But we still have a long way to go. Yet, we already have the means to address the problems we are dealing with today. We must continue to prioritize digital skills and literacy. Globally, we are also seeing strong momentum to support Africa’s digital transformation. If there is one lesson from the pandemic, it is that in times of crisis, we have to look for the common denominator. Only then, can we see the light at the end of the tunnel, and build the future we all deserve,” said H.E. Paul Kagame.

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA said, “The mobile industry has seen remarkable growth across Sub-Saharan Africa and now reaches almost 490 million unique subscribers – but only one-in-four people in the region subscribe to the mobile internet. MWC Kigali provides a forum for policymakers and leaders in connectivity to come together and discuss ways of accelerating the digital transformation of Africa, closing the usage gap and, ultimately, ensuring everybody in the region benefits.”

What’s on at MWC Kigali

With over 60 exhibitors and sponsors, MWC Kigali features a number of activations aimed at shining a light on key issues surrounding the policy agenda as well as showcasing the talent disrupting the regional mobile ecosystem.

The GSMA’s Mobile for Development team will once again play a prominent role, convening mobile operator members, tech innovators, the development community and governments to discuss the role of digital technology in reducing inequality. Its Development Theatre, located in room AD12 of the convention centre, will host insightful keynotes and panels on topics including digital inclusion, the socio-economic benefits of mobile money, and the keys to building a smarter future for African cities.

In addition, the GSMA Africa Policy Leaders Forum will invite stakeholders from ministries, regulatory bodies and the broader mobile ecosystem for an agenda focused on accelerating Africa. Reflecting topics explored throughout the event, the forum will deal with key issues such as the investment gap, bridging the digital divide and handset affordability. The issue of affordable handsets will be discussed in The AfricaWeWant Needs Affordable Smartphones: Accelerating Adoption and Scale on day 1 from 13:45 – 16:40.

The Better Future Stage, located in Foyer 1C and open to every event attendee, will bring together start-ups, investors and entrepreneurs and showcase leading lights from the African telecoms ecosystem and adjacent industries through on-stage debates, pitches and fireside chats. On day 2 of the event, Orange will use the stage to announce the winners of its annual Orange Social Venture Prize during a ceremony between 12:45-2:45pm.

This year’s MWC Kigali is co-located with two other events – the Africa HealthTech Summit and Smart Africa; the Africa HealthTech Summit will showcase the power of digital innovation in Africa’s healthcare sector through an agenda of panel sessions taking place over three days; while Smart Africa will host a committee co-chaired by ITU and African Union Commission, convening public sector organisations and private sector players focused on accelerating the socio-economic development of the continent.

Mobile Economy Report Sub-Saharan Africa

The GSMA marked the opening of MWC Kigali 2023 with the publication of its annual Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa Report, which revealed a considerable mobile internet usage gap of 59% in Sub-Saharan Africa. The usage gap refers to individuals who are not using mobile internet despite living in an area covered by mobile broadband networks. While the report acknowledged over 285 million people in the region – representing 25% of the population – were using mobile internet, the significant usage gap highlights the impact of the barriers to adoption, including the lack of affordability and low levels of digital skills.

Mobile internet penetration levels varied across Sub-Saharan Africa, with Mauritius, South Africa and the Seychelles all reporting adoption rates of over 50%. Meanwhile, Benin, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo represented the countries with the fewest mobile internet users, with penetration levels below 15%.