Time for Africa to take tech lead, ownership

A panel on how technology is changing Africa at Cape Town's AfricaCom 2015. (Gareth van Zyl)
A panel on how technology is changing Africa at Cape Town's AfricaCom 2015. (Gareth van Zyl)

Cape Town - Africa is not just a consumer of technology anymore as the continent's telecommunications market could become bigger than that of Europe in the next five years.

This is according to Andile Ngcaba, the chairperson of Convergence Partners, speaking at AfricaCom 2015 in Cape Town on Tuesday.

In a panel discussion on how new technology will transform Africa, Ngcaba pointed to Africa's growing telecoms market.

Africa is forecast to have over one billion mobile phone subscriptions by 2021, according to networking technology firm Ericsson in its 2015 mobility report.

And Ngcaba said it's time that Africans switch their mindsets to creating technology standards rather than adopting them from other regions such as Europe.

"If you go back in the telecoms world, we almost never were included or involved in standards making," said Ngcaba.

"I think the critical issue for me is that when we talk about digital Africa...it is about us designing our own technology, taxonomy," he said.

Ngcaba said Africa still needs a lot of technology infrastructure but that a lot had been achieved with the laying of sub-sea cables such as Seacom to Africa's shores.

As a result, Ngcaba said that Africa's technology market has lots of room to grow among its almost one billion strong population - a phenomenon that could change the global telecoms space.

"People in Europe see us as a market. In the next five years or so we will be bigger than Europe as a market," said Ngcaba.

"We are no more a colonised Africa. We need to think of ourselves as people to produce technology and take it to other parts of the world," he said.

Meanwhile, other participants in the panel discussion said that Africa’s technology market has great opportunities but that it still experiences challenges.

A lack of skills is one of those challenges, said Andy MacDonald, Cisco’s vice president for sales in the Middle East, Africa and Russia.

MacDonald also said that growing Africa’s technology market with "scale and speed” but “without strategy will lead to problems".

*Fin24 is being sponsored by Cisco to attend AfricaCom 2015.

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