LIVE FROM MWC KIGALI 2023: Smart Africa director general and CEO Lacina Kone (pictured) cited the potential for 5G to be groundbreaking for Africa, though together with his peer from SAMENA Council pointed to continued digital adoption challenges facing markets in the region.

Speaking during the event’s second keynote Kone promoted future use cases set to create significant societal impact when strategically implemented, including in telemedicine and in opening use cases for IoT.

Describing 5G as “one of the most transformative technological advances of our era” he explained “it is the groundbreaking element that will disrupt our industry, create new opportunity and, in my view, can allow a leap-forward of Africa into digital.”

Alongside opening digital use cases, Kone stated there were also benefits from being able to switch-off legacy 2G and 3G systems in terms of refarming spectrum and energy efficiency (factors cited by operators across several markets in recent years).

SAMENA Telecommunications Council CEO Bocar Ba backed the targeted 5G deployment in the region, adding “in the era of fifth generation digital technologies connecting and building Africa through local innovation and smart fit-for-purpose technology mix is essential.”

He added “In Africa in these early days of 5G adoption it is imperative to pick up harmonised space through spectrum auctions, pilots and commercial trials as well as identifying locally relevant use cases.”

However, as was raised by both speakers, barriers remain to expand use of digital technologies in communities with low adoption rates.

Kone pointed to a need for more affordable connectivity and devices, the latter of which is being addressed by players in the region, alongside upping digital skills.

Ba agreed the issue of people covered by mobile internet services but not accessing them, known as the usage gap, in the region was “predominantly due to handset and broadband affordability, shortage of digital skills and insufficient relevant content.”