For the first time ever, this year on 17-19 July Mobile 360 – Africa took place in Kigali, Rwanda – a country sculpting a strong national identity around harnessing the collective power of the youth – and convened over 840 attendees to connect and network with the brightest industry leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Key speakers at the event included H. E, Amb. Claver Gatete, Minister of Infrastructure in the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa , Minister of ICT, and H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Tourism at the African Union Commission.
The theme for this year was ‘Who will lead the digital revolution: the people or the technology?’ The two-day conference focused on unpacking, deliberating and answering this central question that stimulated debate among all attendees; from start-ups to regulators, network operators to tech hardware manufacturers, NGOs to banks, and more.
Opening the event, Akinwale Goodluck, GSMA’s Head of Sub-Saharan Africa said, “The rise of mobile and digital technology has unlocked new opportunities across the African continent, providing a platform for innovation, creating new opportunities and services, and providing employment opportunities.”
The topics ‘Power of data, is Africa inclusive for all?’ and ‘Releasing the potential of Africa’s young entrepreneurs’ were both explored. Thought leaders shared their insights on the direction that the industry is taking across the continent.
In the ‘Power of data’ session it was argued that regulators need to become more like innovators and consumers need to be at the forefront as services develop. Robert Shutter, CEO of MTN Group, spoke regarding the amount of data that has grown in Africa and how that data can be used to develop new services to help more people become connected. Stephen Chege, Director of Corporate Affairs at Safaricom, argued that telcos could create services and have a role to play across all sectors including health, education and agriculture. Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Special Advisor, Smart Africa moderated the ‘Releasing the Power of Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs’ session which focused on the challenges and opportunities facing Africa’s young entrepreneurs and the need for champions and role models for the youth.
A new addition to M360 – Africa this year was the #BetterFuture Stage that traced the journey of Africa’s digital successes and challenges. It featured presentations from Google, Women4Tech, Telepin, Kirusa, MasterCard, Celo, Mahindra Comviva, AFR and MFS Africa. MasterCard also presented a breakfast briefing entitled ‘Moving beyond a Transactional Mind-set’.
In a bid to consolidate over 50 individual sessions on navigating Africa’s digital landscape, a panel of experts was gathered to discuss the outcomes of the event and deduce what they think the future might hold. The predictions panel, which included Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Sub Saharan Africa, GSMA; Dorcas Muthoni, CEO and Founder, Openworld; Mariam Abdullahi, Africa Industry Lead, Telecommunications, SAP Africa; and Simon Karikari, Managing Director, Tigo Tanzania, concluded 9 predictions that they believe will come true in the next 12 months across the continent.
The last day of the event was dedicated to discussing matters related to mobile money during the Mobile Money Leadership Forum. With the industry now processing a billion dollars a day, mobile money has evolved into the leading payment platform for the digital economy in many emerging markets. The focus of the sessions was the role of investment in unlocking opportunities in the digital economy, which technology will have the greatest impact in the next few years and how different industry initiatives are enhancing trust in the ecosystem, to accelerate the journey towards a cash-light economy. Industry actors and policymakers who are at the frontline of financial services innovation were the key speakers and helped to examine these pressing industry themes.
The event was an ideal time to host the annual regional CEO Roundtable. The meeting which was chaired by John Giusti was mainly focused on the adoption of a responsible tax approach to improve reputation and trust in the mobile sector.
The conference was also an opportune time for the launch of the 2018 edition of The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa report, which provides statistics, trends & forecasts for the mobile industry.