LIVE FROM MWC21 AFRICA: Yolanda Cuba, MTN Group VP for Southern and East Africa region (pictured), asserted the operator played a pivotal role in helping Africa become ready to enter the 5G era, highlighting efforts to address connectivity and smartphone penetration issues.

In an keynote, Cuba explained Africa it not yet on the 5G journey but the region will be preparing for this chapter through transformation.

Admitting the continent was still “some way off” in terms of connectivity, the MTN executive pointed to device access as one of the main problems, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where she noted smartphone penetration was between 30 per cent and 40 per cent on average.

“We are still a long way from really enjoying the benefits of a modern connected life”.

Cuba explained MTN was confident it could deliver technology which “helps others, that is empowering and that is inclusive”.

“We see ourselves as a pioneer that goes before everyone actually goes to areas and allows for connectivity and inclusiveness”.

As part of its efforts, the company has also focused on increasing overall digital inclusion and access to financial services. Cuba said monthly active users of MTN Mobile Money service currently stand at 49 million compared with 24.1 million at end-2018.

Cuba highlighted a programme launched in Rwanda in January 2020, which MTN estimates helped boost smartphone penetration by around 7 per cent.