GSMA THRIVE AFRICA 2020: Orange CEO Stephane Richard (pictured) called on the industry to improve cooperation with authorities to boost connectivity and mobile internet usage, as he unveiled a $30 Android smartphone designed for its markets in the region.

Speaking as part of the first keynote, Richard pointed to the importance of connectivity in the aftermath of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, noting the lack of internet removed many opportunities to overcome the social and economic impact.

“If we don’t take action now we run risk reinforcing existing inequalities”, and “further marginalising vulnerable people”.

Richard noted operators could, and should, do more to cooperate with national governments and international bodies to expand connectivity, while highlighting a large number of people live within a 3G or 4G signal but do not connect.

“The digital divide is much more important than the coverage gap,” he added. “In Africa there are 520 million people who are covered by a mobile broadband network but don’t access the services because the services are too expensive for their revenue, because the content does not fit their daily needs or because they lack the necessary skills.”

As part of its bid to improve access, the executive unveiled its latest affordable device, the Sanza Touch. The 4G device, produced in partnership with Google, is set to retail for around $30 and will be available on a credit plan through the PayJoy app.

It will be the fourth device to use the Sanza branding, with the first three being feature phones running KaiOS.

Ethiopia pitch
Later in the keynote Orange Middle East and Africa CEO Alioune Ndiaye showcased the company’s achievements in the region and make its case for one of the new licences set to be sold-off by the Ethiopian government.

Ndiaye highlighted Orange’s record in Africa on connectivity, mobile money, energy services, and supporting digital skills initiatives and start-ups.

“We are looking with great interest at the opportunity afforded by the ongoing reform of the Ethiopian telecommunications market initiated by the Ethiopian government,” he added.

“In line with what it offers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Orange truly believes it can bring added value to the Ethiopian population by providing access to high quality digital broadband, launching innovative multi-service offerings by developing services for businesses and the public sector, ensuring internet access for the greatest number of people in Ethiopia.”