Airtel Africa’s Group CEO, Dr. Segun Ogunsanya has challenged the telecommunications industry in Africa to leverage emerging technologies to enable all people in the continent to connect, engage, and transact with the rest of the world.
Speaking at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Kigali, Ogunsanya noted that through these technologies, telecom players have an opportunity to step up efforts to bridge the digital divide, drive financial inclusion, and deepen the availability of affordable smart devices. He cited Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) as a powerful tool for predicting customer behavior and deepening insights about customer needs and preferences. Opportunity also exists in intelligent connectivity, a concept that foresees the combination of 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accelerate technological development and enable new disruptive digital services.
“The telecom industry is in a unique position to make it easier for people to enter the digital world by deploying these technologies,” said Ogunsanya. “This is through significant investments in building digital highways across Africa while creating a vibrant mobile money ecosystem.”
Ogunsanya added that through collaborations with equipment manufacturers and other key stakeholders, telcos can put smart devices in the hands of every African.
The Airtel Africa Group argued that a significant proportion of Africa’s young population remains unreached with 59% smartphone penetration and only two out of ten Africans have a mobile money wallet.
Emerging technologies can be used in AI-aided e-learning to design the best curriculum based on students’ learning abilities, e-health to improve patient monitoring and more efficient health facilities, Agritech that uses AI and connectivity in crop disease detection tools, and financial inclusion, by triangulating the digital highway, unified payment system and intelligent mobile wallets.
The technologies can be used in smart cities for safe communities and efficient public utilities, development planning to predict population movements and help governments in designing urban and rural development, and smart metering for accurate measurement of usage, enhanced sustainability, and improved customer experience. Biometric technology can be used for authentication, privacy, access control, and non-repudiation.
Airtel Africa is currently rolling out its 5G network across its 14 markets in Africa intending to facilitate a digitally connected world and unlock a broad range of opportunities.
Notably, Airtel Africa recently announced a collaboration with the Government of Rwanda to provide over 1 million people in the country with affordable high-speed, cutting-edge LTE smartphones.
Ahead of the Mobile World Congress, the two parties launched a budget-friendly 4G smartphone, making strides toward bridging the digital divide in Rwanda. The smartphone, priced at USD$16.5 (approx. 20,000 Rwandan Francs), comes with a minor monthly fee of USD$0.8, making it an affordable choice for many. Besides the smartphone, subscribers will also benefit from 1GB of data daily and unlimited calls to any network in Rwanda, further promoting digital connectivity.