The main part of the 4-day Mobile West Africa conference, arguably the most progressive and interactive mobile focused event in Sub-Saharan Africa kicked off yesterday after “Focus Day” also known as Day 0.
The event (which is still ongoing) held at the Four Points and featured interesting talks and addresses on the state of mobile in West Africa from the likes of Gustav Praekelt, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, Tomi Ahonen, and also featured interactive sessions and a panel discussion.
Gustav on Ecosystem Growth and Consumer Adoption
First up was Gustav Praekelt, who gave a presentation on “Ecosystem Growth and Consumer Adoption.” According to him, mobile has evolved from just being only a device to something that provide services to users while making life decisions. Also interesting to note the role mobile plays in democracy as seen in places like South Africa and India where SMS is used to tell Indian voters about candidates, including criminal record, assets, etc. Perhaps the most profound statement from Gustav was – “The greatest solution come from the most difficult challenges” equating innovation and problem solving to the kind of challenges people face.
Gustav also went on to throw some numbers about mobile and technology in Africa some of which include:
1. Wikipedia gets over 500m unique visitors a month, 517m mobile monthly uses, but only 65m from Africa and India.
2. There was approximately 5,000,000 searches made in relation to the 2014 elections in India.
A connected nation and broadband
After Gustav’s insightful session, it was the turn of OpenMedia Chairman, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe to take the stage and gave another stellar speech on the evolution of broadband in Nigeria , from the exclusivity of telephones to the stage where mobile phones are now everywhere you turn. “Without adequate supply of Broadband services in Nigeria, it’d be difficult to claim to be a developed community”, he said. It is also no longer news that a higher percentage of Nigerian population fall within the age range of those who are hungry for broadband – for connectivity – even the older generation as seen in the tweet below. With electricity still a big issue for West Africa countries especially Nigeria, it was interesting to see that broadband put on the same level of importance.
Dr Ernest Ndukwe gave anecdote – an older man in Nigeria doesn't call his daughter's landline – doesn't want to talk to the husband #mwa2014
— tomiahonen (@tomiahonen) May 14, 2014
Like Praekelt, Dr Ndukwe also played the numbers game by providing some eye catching stats such as these ones:
1. Smartphone penetration in Nigeria is put at less than 15%.
2. 80% of handsets in Nigeria are 2G.
3. The cost of power in Nigerian’s telecom industry is over $6Mn – most going to self-generated power.
Mr. Lucas Dada from Etisalat also gave a presentation on what can be done to accelerate progress, giving insights into the numbers of yet to be connected Nigerians – even at a level of making voice calls, and the need to adopt practices like infrastructure sharing in order to fast-pace growth in the industry.
After the first three speakers spoke, it was time for a panel discussion that included Tomi Davies, Jason Njoku, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, Gustav Praekelt and others with Chika Nwobi as anchor. The panelist discussed extensively on the technology ecosystem and some issues were pointed out like that of Tomi Davies on the uneven distribution of revenue in the ecosystem. This session lead to the break in plenary.
Toby Shapshak: Africa – a mobile driven Continent
Toby Shapshak kicked off the second half of day as he took the plenary on journey through a mobile driven continent. He touched on citizen journalism which he defined as “being at the wrong place at the right time with a cellphone.”
No surprises he dropped his popular one liner – Africa is not a mobile first economy, it a mobile only economy, and added a new one which does make a lot of sense when it comes to information management – “The SIM card is the bank of Africa. It is the greatest disenfranchise of banks in Africa.” According to Toby, the radio is still a killer app in Africa because everyone listens to it and it just works, and on SMS and innovation in Africa, he said, “SMS remains the most profound means of communication”. He wasn’t left out on the game of numbers and did say “Every 10% increase in broadband penetration results is 1.4 GDP growth in a country.”
The near future of mobile: what’s the opportunity – Tomi Ahonen
That was the title of the session taken by none other than wide traveling mobile advocate, Tomi Ahonen, who began his session by lending his voice to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, before he went on a journey of mobile and how it is threatening every industry. While addressing the plenary, he made mention of the fact that contrary to speculations “OTT isn’t killing SMS. It is only stopping the growth of SMS, SMS is not dead.” He also argued the case of mobile as being so effective that it generated 18.2m missed calls and reached 1.2m customers for Indian company, Wheel detergent. The global mobile industry is worth $6tn and every other industry is racing towards it including advertising and insurance. His advice to startups and tech companies alike – “You only should worry about android, HTML and Java” and rounded of with note on failure with an example from Finnish game maker Rovio which was close to bankruptcy before Angry Birds. “Don’t be afraid to fail, but fail fast.”
Day 2 of the conference is scheduled to feature presentations from the likes of Chioma Agwuegbo of YNaija2015, Yemi Adamolekun of Enough Is Enough, Leah Farmer of Voto Mobile, Isla Macleod of BBC amongst others.
You can follow live updates on our twitter page @TechAfric an hashtag #MWA2014.