Comms minister Ntshavheni endorses new telco alliance

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 12 Aug 2022
Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and ACT CEO Nomvuyiso Batyi.
Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and ACT CEO Nomvuyiso Batyi.

Digital communications and technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni yesterday punted reinforcing participation in the digital economy to telcos, during her address at the launch of the Association of Communications and Technology (ACT).

The minister urged the operators to play a meaningful role in empowering communities to embrace the growing economy, and broaden connectivity into outlying areas.

The South African telecoms sector has teamed up to launch ACT, an industry body that will collectively represent the operators on non-competitive industry matters.

Cell C, Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, Rain and Liquid Telecom unveiled the alliance yesterday. It is led by former Independent Communications Authority of SA councillor Nomvuyiso Batyi as CEO, and Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub chairs the group.

ACT intends to care for the interests of licensed infrastructure-based mobile network operators, and collaborate with regulators and government on strategic national initiatives.

The industry body also wants to share best practices within the group on 5G innovation and generate different use cases for South Africa.

In her remarks, minister Ntshavheni urged ACT to be at the forefront of driving the digital economy and broadening connectivity across the country.

“We must agree on what is it that we call national interest, because it’s in our collective interest that SA succeeds. South Africa succeeding means economic participation for all, because that’s how we grow our businesses. So, as I rise today, I am going to ask, how do we leverage a partnership in accelerating digital transformation, digital inclusion and bridging the digital divide in this country?

“The birth of this association asserts a popular African proverb that if you want to go fast, go alone and if you want to go far, we must go together. Earlier this year, during the budget vote, I remarked that the work you do is not for us, it is for future generations; you cannot aim low no matter the task,” said Ntshavheni.

Digital economy devotion

“The task and those that lie ahead of us demand we remain resolute and focused. We are looking forward to the impact you will make in this country. In the next five to 10 years, 30% to 50% of the economy will be the digital economy. You will be the driving forces within that economy, so the work you do as an association or individual companies will impact the lives of South Africans in general.

“We expect the work the association undertakes will become intentional and focused on making sure the digital economy in our country doesn’t exclude the rural areas, doesn’t exclude women who are the majority, and doesn’t exclude youth who are the majority of the population. Because if they’re excluded, we are going to have instability; for your businesses to prosper, you need stability.”

Batyi said the formation of ACT will assist the network operators in reducing fragmentation in the industry and ensure they provide a common message on industry-related matters.

“The sector has and will continue to be a key economic driver in the country and collaboration to deepen the benefits is paramount,” added Batyi.

“The ICT sector creates job opportunities and economic participation in industries such as health, banking, financial institutions, as well as education, making the role of a unified industry voice critical to aid government in managing these sectors.”

Experience and pain

ACT chairman Joosub said the association has been long in the making, with a vision to collaborate across the sector to advocate for thriving communications and a telecommunications sector backed by best practices, research and analysis.

“Today is a historical day. It’s something we have been planning for many years and has taken us 28 years to get here. So you can understand why it’s a historic moment for us.

“It comes at the right time, if you look at where we have come from. This is one of the first countries to introduce GSM technology. We are the country that invented prepaid for the world. We are also the country that took 17 years to allocate spectrum. So this is at the core of why we need this association − this association is needed to be able to foster the path forward.

“We want to be in the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution and we also want to take full advantage of 5G. 5G presents different opportunities to us than potentially in Europe where there is a lot of underlying connectivity.

“We need the connectivity of fixed mobile; it’s very important for us as we chart our way forward, So, the industry’s purpose is to do research, look at how technology is evolving around the world to proactively work with industry bodies, with the regulators so we charter a way forward that ensures our unique challenges are taken care of.”