It was a data affair at the subtly lit Serena Katonga conference hall in Kampala on Tuesday 28th January 2014.
Right from the opening remarks by the Swedish ambassadors, their excellencies Mr. Urban Andersson and Mr. Jonas Hafstom and also the key note speech by the minister of ICT in Uganda Hon. John Nasasira.
The most important thing was the impressive line of presentations that told stories behind the data provided. Otherwise, it would have seemed like a data crunching contest amongst whiz kids on a conquest to invent a new language —mathese!
The conference, an initiative by the the Swedish Ministry of foreign affairs and Business Sweden introduced a number of Swedish entrepreneurs to the Uganda market as well as partnering companies for example Ericsson, EKN and Flexenclosure. On the Ugandan side UCC and NITA(U) represented regulating bodies while telcos like MTN Uganda graced the event too.
Sub Saharan Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world
In his presentation about Building a networked society in Africa, Mr. Fredrick Jejdling, Head Ericsson Sub Saharan Africa shared some key insights about the market –more than 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and increase of mobile subscriptions from 476 million in 2013 to 1 billion by 2019.
He explained this as Ericsson’s vision to be part of the networked society especially through mobility, broadband and cloud.
This was rhetoric of Sweden’s SymbiocityICT vision by 2020 and Uganda’s Vision 2040. This is a clear indication that in Africa, it is no longer a mobile first approach but rather a mobile only approach.
The relationship between coffee and innovation busted
Swedes drink lots of coffee and coincidentally majority of the most innovative minds drink it in abundance too, in fact they abuse it. Now, it doesn’t come as surprise that Sweden is ranked 2nd as the most innovative country in the world. Also, it is ranked 2nd on world wide coffee consumption ladder.
Ironically, Uganda is one of the leading producers of coffee but is waning on innovation. It is ranked 22nd in Africa and 130th in the wold when it comes to internet connectivity. The key question is whether we’re consuming as much to keep awake as we innovate? Or we just treat coffee and innovation separately. Maybe.
Sweden’s position as an ICT leader (and coffee consumer) set pace for further discussions that were to be held later in the day. The agenda was about potential partnerships in various innovative scopes.
Mobile is driving growth in Africa
Mobile money, by far, is Africa’s greatest ICT innovation because it addresses a local monetary transaction need as well as having received widespread growth and massive adoption. For example in Kenya; over 70% of the unbanked populace now has access to financial services, the GDP has grown by over 5% among other benefits.
To fuel innovations as these, strategic policy making and incentives ought to be in place.
Nevertheless, the SMS platform plays a vital role in communication in Africa. A UNICEF led project –UReport– that promotes e-governance and citizen journalism through a platform where issues of national interest are reported on an anonymous basis. This was aimed at demonstrating the vitality of innovating in ICT in building e-governance platforms.
Save for the amazing delicacies served at the networking food and coffee breaks, at the end of the day, the public and private sectors got to learn a whole lot more about each other.
Now, that’s an open market condition. That, my friend, is business.
Image via Business Sweden