Connecting the dots that will drive innovation in Africa

AfricaCom 2015, the continent’s largest and most comprehensive ICT, Technology and Media event kicked off in Cape Town today and lived up to its theme – innovation, transformations and leadership.

Keynote speeches and discussions on the opening day of the three-day event, centred on the role digital innovation can play in helping Africa grow towards a better-connected and more prosperous society.

“Connectivity, partnerships and services that meet local needs also dominated the conversation,” commented Julie Rey-Gore, the Research Director at Informa, organisers of the annual event now in its 18th year.  “Being connected, isn’t a one-size-fits-all: the diversity of Africa means customers’ needs and how they use services vary widely.”

 Being social also has a different context in Africa – whereas social shared apps and platforms are generally geared towards capturing and sharing information about personal happenings, in Africa, a basic hierarchy of needs is dictating how African economies are developing.  Societal connectivity revolves around safety, food, economic stability and being digitally enabled to learn.  Here, the digital ecosystem can improve and even save lives, it’s as simple as that

Innovation in this space is vastly different to the entrepreneurial space in Silicon Valley, noted Bright Simons, President of mPedigree as part of a panel discussion looking at driving investment and innovation in Africa.  Simons also remarked that African entrepreneurs are far more likely to be driven by a personal stake to succeed as opposed to the Silicon Valley model that adopts say 100 potential start-ups with only 2% making it.  Here, there is almost an obligation to society to make the difference.

For innovation to truly happen though, collaboration, partnership and access to free open source platforms within a regulatory frameworkthat is not only supported by Governments, but also in fact driven by them, will be required.  Acknowledging the role that regulatory reform will have in championing change, AfricaCom 2015 also hosted its first regulatory panel that brought to the fore the need for the right conditions to give the private sector the necessary tools to make sure that national broadband plans can be implemented.

AfricaCom’s own new feature also launched today with the official opening of its AHUB sector, powered by Ericsson.  This refreshingly new space, aimed at promoting and encouraging tech start-ups, investors, incubators and everyone vested in helping more people to get on board with the networked society, is a three-day-showcase dedicated to linking and learning.

Day two at AfricaCom 2015 will begin with yet more insightful discussions into Africa’s digital ecosystem, including an address by South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Telecommunications & Postal Services, Prof. Mkhize at 09H20.

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