LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – AFRICA: Executives from Orange, Millicom and Dynamic Spectrum Alliance discussed the evolving nature of partnerships in Africa, and their cross-industry work.
Thomas Chalumeau, CSO for Orange MEA, said the most important partnerships remain with states and international donors, particularly when it comes to extending connectivity to underserved areas.
“When we look at the European experience, the way that Europe and especially France has succeeded in covering all the ‘white’ territories – the areas where there is not sufficient access to connectivity – it was built on the model of capex investment from operators with the support of universal funds,” he said.
Such alliances are “stronger, more ambitious, and quicker to go to the market,” he added.
Orange and Millicom also talked about their work with content providers and other ecosystem partners.
Mohamed Dabbour, EVP Africa at Millicom (which operates the Tigo brand), said: “We have worked with handset manufacturers, and we have been able to get the first handsets with Kiswahili menus. And we also worked with Facebook on the Kiswahili version of their website, and we have offered Free Basics, and we saw the results immediately.”
The executive also talked about how cross-industry efforts have been central to the success of services such as mobile money: “One thing the industry has done very well in Tanzania is offering interoperability across all the networks, so any Tigo customer can interact with anyone in Tanzania, regardless of the network,” he said.
Orange’s Chalumeau said: “We launched a very ambitious initiative in 2016 with Google, across 14 countries in Africa and Jordan, to try and offer a very affordable package, with $40 smartphone plus free access to a series of applications, like Google Search, Google Maps and YouTube, plus a campaign for the on boarding of customers.”
Mark Rotter, treasurer at Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, brought up the issue of how to ensure the participants in a project are “true partners”.
“We did a telemedicine project in Botswana, with a tremendously supportive regulator, who was innovative and inviting to new projects. That partnership consisted of many different stakeholders, who came to the partnership as equals,” he said.
“What’s important to understand is that Microsoft is in that partnership, but also a tiny little ISP. Trying to work out how to be equitable in the partnership, Microsoft is not prescribing to the partner, but is saying ‘come and join us, let’s work out the solution together.’ So that it really allows this true innovation from the bottom up.”