Header: A look back at 20 years of AfricaCom shows how far we have come …and where we are yet to go…
Strap: Enabling Economic Democracy
AfricaCom, Africa’s largest technology, telecoms and media event celebrates its 20th anniversary in November this year, and promises delegates and exhibitors three days of thought-provoking content and cutting-edge technology and a glimpse into what the future holds in terms of digital and its impact on life as we know it.
Taking place from 7-9 November at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), South Africa, organiser KNect365 has introduced a host of innovations of its own to celebrate this auspicious occasion – a brand-new and happening Technology Arena that will provide a glimpse of the potential the future holds for forward-thinkers – whether it is in the Fintech space, or E-Health, education, energy, agri-tech or more.
The Technology Arena will also house an exciting array of new tech (over 100 exhibitors), some of which, will be interactive and on display in demo pods, along with many other novel developments that will debut at the show. Included in this exciting space is another fresh feature, AfricaCom 20/20. This is a brand-new show floor item dedicated to accelerating Africa’s digital transformation and is the centrepiece of the new arena.
Underpinning the event, is a business-critical agenda and, as always, world class speakers, alongside over 400 exhibitors. But AfricaCom is more than an exhibition and a conference. It is now a staging ground for re-imagining and re-defining how we, as Africans and humans, will communicate and transact with one another.
“2017 is a landmark for AfricaCom. Over the past two decades, we have grown from being a purely telecommunications-focused event, to a broader, digital communications show now hosting the foremost group of influencers involved in every aspect of the African digital ecosystem,” explained Tom Cuthell, Portfolio Director of KNect365, the organizer of the event.
“As the digi-sphere continues to expand and impact every aspect of our personal and professional lives, AfricaCom has grown in scope to create a broad platform for everybody involved in powering the digital economy in Africa.”
The importance of this event is unquestionable. Over the past two decades, it has provided a stage for robust debate, as well as identifying the needs for Africa’s growth and the solutions and subsequent policy making that has seen the continent leapfrog the desktop era, straight into mobile.
‘Digital’ is now intrinsic in our daily DNA, tomorrow and the day after. As such, AfricaCom’s bringing together of front-end developers and backend engine drivers, into one place, is an essential service to the custodians of not just Africa’s future, but the planet’s, as we embrace the merging of man and machine in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
How did we get here?
The first-ever AfricaCom in 1997, was launched in Cape Town as GSM Africa, the same year the first proposal for a regional internet registry for Africa was launched (remember that!). Mapping Africa’s technology and technology journey from that time, 2001 saw the first major sub-sea cable connecting Africa. In 2002, SAT3/WASC/SAFE cable system was inaugurated in Senegal. SAT3/WASC/SAFE was a technology and commercial breakthrough of unparalleled significance for Africa, offering a faster, more efficient trading channel between the continent and international markets. It was made possible by the participation of 36 nations, which fully funded the undersea cable system costing more than US$600 million.
In 2007 Mpesa, the mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service, was launched in Kenya and Tanzania and now reaches over 25 million customers. During 2007, wireless broadband subscribers overtook that of fixed line broadband subscribers in South Africa. 2008 saw the first mobile payment linked to a credit card, performed by the WIGROUP in South Africa, while in 2009 the first iPhone was launched on the continent.
In 2012, AfricaCom welcomed 8 000 delegates through its doors and in 2014, Namibia became the first African country to terminate analogue TV signals, with more than 3.8 million jobs being directly or indirectly attributed to the mobile industry by 2015. Now in 2017, over 167-million Africans have access to the Internet with around 300 technology hubs on the continent and AfricaCom prepares to welcome over 13 000 delegates from all corners of the world.
As a global events organization, Informa (incorporating KNect365, the organiser for AfricaCom), took a bird’s eye view and early-on, recognized the growing confluence of digital, telecommunications and media. Consequently, over the past few years, it has launched several new streams and brought together global influencers to share best practice. The result is a 2017 show and conference menu that is poised to re-engineer thought processes and business outputs.
Enabling economic democracy
But AfricaCom is not just about blue-sky thinkers, out of this world technology and enterprise offerings. It also plays a vital role in enabling small businesses. Entrepreneurs and small to medium enterprises across the continent, are the backbone of a healthy economic democracy. Acknowledging this, KNect365 is also making AfricaCom available to entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses, and the companies that can provide them with the tools and know-how to get them going and growing.
Newcomers to AfricaCom, Experimac, for example, have identified AfricaCom as the ideal space to meet new partners and businesses who require a helping hand. Offering re-furbished Apple products, the company realizes that without the appropriate tools, at an affordable rate, a young company has little chance of growing, especially in this always on world. “We are exhibiting at AfricaCom this year, as for us, it presents a perfect opportunity to engage with young minds who are shaping the business landscape and who might not necessarily have access to finance or the equipment to put their ideas into practice. AfricaCom will attract these fresh minds, as it will provide them with insight and opportunity and we can help them realise their dreams and potential” said Dirk van Loggerenberg, CFO of Experimac.
AfricaCom is the event at which, like-minded business individuals can raise their profile, showcase their latest solutions and meet decision makers with purchasing power.
As always, the calibre of speakers – 400 of them – is a major drawcard. The conference tracks will deliver the latest advances in their respective areas. Some of the luminaries to present their insights include Herman Singh, Group Chief Digital Officer, MTN; John Momoh (OON), Chairman and CEO of Channels Media Group; Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission and Joseph Hundah, CEO of Econet Media. Helping business people to connect is the Partner Programme, giving direct access to potential customers.
Another opportunity to bond is The Village. This is AfricaCom’s VIP luxury networking space, designed exclusively for C-Level operators and regulators, speakers and ICT leaders from large enterprises. Here decision makers of Africa’s tech and telco industry can meet to conduct business, share insights and swap stories, entertain clients, arrange private meetings or just recharge and reflect on the day’s events.