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Ramaphosa urges ‘greater connectivity’ for South Africa

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 13 Jul 2023
From left: China’s ambassador to SA Chen Xiaodong, president Cyril Ramaphosa, Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa president Leo Chen and Huawei SA CEO Will Meng at the opening of the Huawei Innovation Centre. (Photograph by The Presidency)
From left: China’s ambassador to SA Chen Xiaodong, president Cyril Ramaphosa, Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa president Leo Chen and Huawei SA CEO Will Meng at the opening of the Huawei Innovation Centre. (Photograph by The Presidency)

South Africa must move very, very quickly to ensure there’s greater connectivity across the country, says president Cyril Ramaphosa.

This will ensure no one is left behind and there are no further delays in growing the country’s economy.

Ramaphosa made the remarks during his keynote address this morning at the official opening of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s Innovation Centre in Johannesburg.

The president said digital technology and the business services sectors are key pillars of SA’s investment strategy, which is why government focused on several structural reforms in the ICT sector, such as the auctioning of high-demand spectrum.

Last year’s spectrum auction, alongside digital migration, will “significantly” expand access to broadband, bring down data costs and improve connectivity through SA Connect, he noted.

Referencing a recent visit to rural KwaZulu-Natal, Ramaphosa said he received complaints from community members about the lack of connectivity in that area.

What was most worrying, he commented, is that young people can’t access employment opportunities because they don’t have the necessary connectivity to send their CVs or receive responses from potential employers.

He added it’s worrying to hear connectivity penetration in provinces like KwaZulu-Natal is only at about 11%.

“SA Connect needs to work very closely with ICT companies like Huawei so that we can spread connectivity throughout the country.

“The longer we take to ensure connectivity of the people of South Africa, the longer they are left behind and the longer our economy will take to grow.”

Ramaphosa said there have been discussions on setting aside spectrum for the security sector, to meet the country’s needs. “This is to unleash all those capabilities that new technologies have to give.”

Group effort

Located at Huawei’s office park in Woodmead, Sandton, the innovation centre has been described as the company’s first innovation facility on the African continent.

The centre brings together Huawei’s different business units – consumer, enterprise, carrier and cloud computing – in a collaboration hub with local partners, app developers and ICT-focused SMMEs.

Leo Chen, president of Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa, stressed that the facility will be a co-innovation space. “This is so that we can develop innovation that can meet the real needs of South Africans, industries and markets, to build a flourishing digital ecosystem for the country.

“South Africa is recognised on the continent as well as the global stage for 5G deployment and 5G-driven industrial digital transformation.

“As we look to the future, Huawei is committed to contributing more to the country’s ICT infrastructure development and industry’s digital transformation.”

Chen Xiaodong, ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to SA, added: “The digital economy has increasingly become an important area of the China-South Africa business co-operation.

“China strongly supports the growth of South Africa’s digital economy, and we are ready to work with South Africa to accelerate 5G applications and jointly embrace the fourth industrial revolution.”

Ramaphosa noted the ICT sector is one of the “most attractive” industries for investment, and highlighted the importance of partnerships with ICT sector companies like Huawei for greater capability and efficiency.

“As we grow the digital economy, it is our expectation that this growth in revenue should be matched by an increase in the number of jobs the sector creates.

“It is, therefore, encouraging that this innovation centre will be focusing on knowledge and skills transfer, as well as SMME development.

“By adopting the range of cutting-edge technologies being pioneered by companies such as Huawei, South Africa and the continent will be able to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution.”

The president concluded by saying he hopes the innovation centre will be a springboard “to new business processes that grow our economy and support our national developmental goals”.