The telecoms industry has unlocked a whole world of socio-economic development – especially in emerging and developing African markets. Consider that 82% of the African population own mobile phones and it’s easy to understand why this is the fastest growing market in the telecoms industry. Held at the CTICC in Cape Town from 13-15 November, the 21st annual AfricaCom event was a hive of activity and excitement for everyone from techies to telcos.

A few big announcements were made during the course of the event and we’ll take a look at some of those, as well as what Clickatell brought to the AfricaCom 2018 table.

MTN launches smart feature phone for under ZAR300, a streaming music service, and relaunches Mobile Money in SA and Nigeria

While artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things may have been the hottest topics at AfricaCom 2018, MTN sure made waves with a few key launches – the biggest of these being a new 3G enabled smart feature phone which will launch in South Africa and Nigeria early in 2019.

MTN Group President & CEO Rob Shuter announced that the group will be releasing the first ever ‘smart’ feature phone. The company is addressing challenges that African mobile consumers face by creating a device that will allow users access to the internet without having to pay the exorbitant costs for a smartphone.

MTN launches smart feature phone for under ZAR300, a streaming music service, and relaunches Mobile Money in SA and Nigeria
"MTN has 220 million customers and only 72 million of them have devices that have access to mobile internet," said Shuter. There’s clearly a massive gap in the market here and it’s set for massive growth. “This initiative contributes to the achievement of one of our key goals to provide affordable data enabled handsets to our customers, and by doing so, remove some of the barriers to mobile internet adoption in Africa,” he said.  

The handset will run on KaiOS and will have access to apps such as Facebook, YouTube, and Google Maps. It’ll be MTN branded and will retail for around R300 – that’s only $20 – making it completely affordable for anyone on the continent to own an internet connected device.  The phone also sports two cameras (front and back) and an impressively long battery life – actually longer than many other high-end smartphones, including the iPhone 6.

To make this happen, MTN partnered with KaiOS, as well as with telecom giant China Mobile, and chipset maker UNISOC. Shuter also announced that the company will be relaunching MTN Mobile Money which will be integrated onto the phone. A recent acquisition of music streaming service, Simfy, was also announced.

Nokia partners with telecoms operator rain to deploy 5G in South Africa

NokiaWe live in a digitally-driven world and a massive shift is underway. It’s changing the way businesses connect with their customers, how technology improves, and how we live and work in our day-to-day lives.

Customer demands are forcing companies and businesses to become more data-driven and all of this data needs to be immediately available, on-demand, and in real-time. Nobody wants to sit around waiting on their slow connectivity anymore. Customers are younger, and they want access to what they’re looking for, via their preferred channels – and they want it all NOW.

5G is set to change the entire landscape – offering blazingly fast mobile internet connectivity. At the AfricaCom 2018 event, Nokia announced its partnership with South African operator rain. The partnership will see the rollout of 5G services in South Africa, bringing affordable broadband internet to the masses. It also aligns well with the SA government’s strategy to ‘connect the unconnected’, thereby improving the lives of all citizens.

rainDeployment of the network will begin in the first quarter of 2019 with services launching around mid-year. rain adopted 5G technology early on and the rollout will be ahead of a number of other countries globally, bringing connectivity in even the remotest of locations in order to stimulate economic growth and also improve the standard of the education system in the country.

The technology will also aid in unleashing the latest in virtual and augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and enable massive growth in the health industry. The applications and benefits are simply endless. Low latency connectivity is what all of these technologies and industries need in order to function optimally – and 5G brings just that.

“Nokia has a long-standing relationship with rain, and we are proud to work with the company on 5G. Nokia believes that 5G will change the connectivity landscape in South Africa and the entire continent. It will connect the unconnected and reshape services such as education and health, with the introduction of more connected things. 5G is a key investment and innovation and the connectivity it offers is critical to digital transformation. This is the path to unlocking new opportunities, enhancing education and driving economic growth.” Marc Rouanne, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said.

Huawei launches its AI-integrated public Cloud offering for Africa at AfricaCom 2018

Over on the AfricaCom 2018 headliners stage, Huawei Director Chief of the Transformation Office, Business Carrier Group, Fernando Gordo, discussed how the 4th industrial revolution will impact every person, home, and organization.

The company also launched Huawei Cloud South Africa which will start providing cloud services at the end of 2018. This will enable South African organizations, as well as those in neighboring countries, to access reliable, secure cloud services.

“With over 30 years of technical accumulation in ICT infrastructure and products, Huawei provides reliable, secure, and sustainable cloud services to customers worldwide,” Edward Deng, Vice President of Huawei Cloud Business Unit, said.

“Looking forward, Huawei Cloud’s innovative technologies and services, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence, will help African governments, carriers, and enterprises in a variety of industries such as finance, energy, agriculture, to leapfrog to a fully-connected, intelligent era.”

Clickatell presents how emerging markets are leading nextgen customer commerce

While the rest of the Clickatell team engaged with delegates at our exhibition booth, our SVP of Sales, Juan du Toit, presented in the Fintech Africa stream. Emerging markets such as those in Africa differ significantly in their habits. This makes sense when one considers the proportion of the African population who can be described as digital natives. “95% of Africa’s population are generations X, Y, and Z,” explained du Toit.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, unique mobile subscribers are projected to grow from 444 million in 2017 to 634 million in 2025. Generations Y and Z are especially highly connected, true blood technologists, born into technology, and now becoming economically active.”

This is a connected generation that expects a consistent, always-on presence. Loyalties have shifted from brands and businesses to the overall experience. Added to that, financial inclusion in Africa is thriving, with 135 live mobile money services in 39 countries by the end of 2017. Clickatell has added momentum to this movement as, together with WhatsApp, we’ve taken three banks live onto WhatsApp Business within just 60 days!

What does all this mean for businesses in the chat commerce space? Du Toit concluded with the insight that what’s innovative today could turn mainstream tomorrow, and businesses need to be adapting constantly by testing new strategies. “Apps are out and chat – effectively a new interface itself – is in. Consumers want self-service without the complexity. To remain competitive, businesses need to start pilots and take simple steps towards meeting this generation where they are.”

New technologies to have on your radar – Day 2 panel discussion

On day 2 of the event, it was the turn of our CMO Nirmal Nair to share his wisdom in the Enterprise Digital Transformation stream. He joined a panel discussion with Gavin Kandier (Chief Information Officer at Constantia Insurance Company), and Gert de Beer (Chief Business Development Officer at Transnet SOC) as they unpacked the technologies that business leaders need to be aware of.

Nair emphasized the need for businesses to not only embrace different channels but to offer the same experience on each of them. “Voice and SMS have been prevalent, but now, increasingly, consumers are moving to digital channels. This means talking to businesses on Facebook or WhatsApp. Suddenly, you’ve got four or five channels, with consumers demanding the same experience on each.”

Another aspect of successful digital transformation is transactability. Nair highlighted convenient, cashless transactions as completing the digital transformation puzzle, citing China as a benchmark for Africa with their implementation of online commerce company Alibaba and WeChat Pay.

What was your experience of AfricaCom 2018? What did you enjoy most or get the most value out of? Which new technologies are you most excited about? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook or Twitter channels.

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