LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 MENA, DUBAI: Authorities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) must adopt regulation designed to support competition and investment, if mobile operators are to continue playing a major role in the region’s economies, GSMA director general Mats Granryd stated.

Speaking in the IoT keynote this morning, Granryd highlighted the significant economic contribution made by the sector and pointed to strong developments made across MENA towards smart city and 5G rollout.

However, he warned governments needed to ensure a regulatory framework “fit for the digital age” was in place to ensure a “sound foundation for ongoing competition, investment and innovation that benefits everyone.”

Specifically, Granryd pointed to timely release of harmonised spectrum, the approval of consolidation to drive investment while maintaining competition, and the application of “same service same rules” initiatives.

Big contribution
The mobile industry currently employs a million people across MENA through direct and indirect channels. According to GSMA figures the sector contributed $20 billion to public funds during 2016, excluding fees paid in spectrum auctions.

As wireless innovation continues to drive greater efficiencies and productivity, its economic value is expected to grow to $194 billion by the end of the decade (4.3 per cent of the region’s GDP). Much of this is expected to be driven by technologies leading up to, and related to, 5G – which Granryd said would open a “new world of digital services” in the region.

The next generation technology, he said, was being developed much more widely across the area than had been the case previously, as a number of technology hubs operate outside of the traditional hotspots of Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council (comprising the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait).

“Countries in North Africa are becoming much more active in this space,” he added: “There are over 70 active tech hubs, incubators and accelerator programmes across five countries in MENA, with increased activity in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia in particular.”