SoftBank Corp, the South African Chamber of Commerce in Japan (SACCJ) and the South African Embassy in Japan host a webinar on Connectivity in Africa
11 March 2022
SoftBank Corp, the South African Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and the South African Embassy co-hosted a webinar on Connectivity in Africa, with Econet Global, Safaricom and Meta as keynote speakers. The webinar featured a series of presentations moderated by Simon Farrell, Vice Chairperson of the SACCJ, and a fireside chat moderated by SoftBank Corp’s Head of Global Business and SoftBank America Telecom’s CEO Daichi Nozaki. The presenters and panellists included Mr Otis Makahamadze, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Econet Global, Mr Mathew Harrison-Harvey, Chief External Affairs and Regulatory Officer at Safaricom Ethiopia, and Thys Kazad, Africa Public Policy Manager for Access and Connectivity at Meta. The welcoming speech was given by HE Mr LS Ngonyama, the Honourable Ambassador of South Africa in Japan.
Ambassador Ngonyama's welcoming speech provided the context for the webinar, which covered issues such as connectivity infrastructure, data and device affordability, investment, and the role of government and private sector in connecting Africa's unconnected. The Ambassador addressed the vital problem of intra-African traffic, which remains low and prevents direct contact between African nations and called for more spectrum to be allocated so that 4G and 5G connections may be deployed. The Ambassador called on companies to match the deregulation by the government with increased investment in the sector.
Following Ambassador Ngonyama’s remarks, Econet's Mr. Otis Makhahamadze gave a presentation on the company's history as well as its current services and products. The installation of more than a hundred thousand kilometres of fibre in Africa, mobile money innovations, and the commencement of 5G testing in Zimbabwe were among the highlights of the Econet presentation. When face-to-face interaction was not feasible due to the pandemic, the company implemented business continuity measures, including business process outsourcing. During the pandemic, Econet was able to deploy self-service through its portals to keep clients connected during lockdowns. Econet is one of Africa's leading telecoms businesses, with a growing investment portfolio and a presence in more than 30 African nations.
The Econet presentation was followed by Mr Matthew Harrison-Harvey’s address, who represented Safaricom Ethiopia. His presentation focused on the Global Partnership for Ethiopia, an international partnership that has been granted a licence to provide telecom services in Ethiopia. The goal of the impact investment consortium is to help Ethiopia's digital transformation and improve the lives of its people. This cooperation also emphasises the webinar subject of collaboration among diverse stakeholders. Among the members of the consortium are the Vodafone Group, Vodacom Group, Sumitomo Corporation, and the CDC Group.
Mr Thys Kazad of Meta concluded the presentations session with a presentation on the state of connectivity in Africa and how high-speed connection can be a facilitator for creativity and economic change by accelerating the digital economies of Sub-Saharan African countries. Meta's lecture included a variety of themes, including spectrum allocation, business, and policy regulation, to name a few. Partnerships were also emphasised, with the TIP community serving as a platform for such cooperation by creating a metaverse that allows artists and collaborators to create. The talk came to a close by emphasising the need of addressing issues of relevance and preparedness, as well as accessibility and cost associated with connectivity.
The Fireside Chat, led by Daichi Nozaki of Softbank, focused on how African enterprises may form mutually beneficial collaborations with telecoms from other continents. The discussion focused on shared resource initiatives and partnerships that may help customers get more out of the internet. COVID-19 has encouraged innovation, although the pace in Africa is still slower than elsewhere, according to the debate. It was easier for richer countries to transition to remote working, but this was not the case in Africa. The conversation raises the possibility of partnership between African businesses and foreign partners.