ZTE vows to help Africa sustain its journey to digitalisation

Johannesburg, 02 Oct 2020
Read time 4min 20sec

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fundamental role that mobile connectivity plays in helping to digitally transform society. For Africa, acceleration towards a digital future means the promise of GDP per capita growth and strengthened ability to address socio-economic challenges, including job creation, healthcare and education.

Global technology services provider ZTE says Africa represents one of the fastest-growing developing markets in the world and is a continent bursting with potential for more widespread adoption of 5G, advanced network infrastructure, mobile connectivity, AI, cloud and big data. The company’s vision is to roll-out these technologies to help build a sustainable digital ecosystem for the continent and ensure that no one is left behind in the transition.

This was the message carried over by ZTE senior management, including Jacky Wu, CTO of ZTE Middle East & Africa Region, Darren Zhao, ZTE Corporation President for MEA, and Xiao Ming, ZTE Corporation President, International Sales, during the GSMA Thrive Africa 2020 event, hosted virtually on 29 September.

Mobile economy

The event coincided with the release of the GSMA Mobile Economy Report, providing the latest insights on the state of the mobile industry worldwide.

According to this research, sub-Saharan Africa will remain the fastest-growing region, with a CAGR of 4.6% and an additional 167 million subscribers over the period leading to 2025. This will take the total subscriber base to just over 600 million, representing around half the continent’s population.

During 2019, 3G will overtake 2G to become the leading mobile technology in the region, with just over 45% of total connections by the end of the year. 3G adoption has doubled over the past two years as a result of network coverage expansion and cheaper devices.

“We also see mobile-enabled platforms increasingly disrupting traditional value chains in different verticals across the region. These platforms – mostly developed by a rapidly expanding local tech start-up ecosystem – aim to eliminate inefficiencies in conventional business models, as well as extend the reach of services and provide greater choice to customers,” the GSMA report stated.

ZTE Corporation is a founding partner of the GSMA Thrive Africa platform, organised under the auspices of Mobile World Congress (MWC) and Mobile 360.

The company is confident of Africa’s future and remains a steadfast investor in the continent’s digital exploits, particularly because COVID-19 has actually resulted in a change in general mindset and intensified urgency around digital technology adoption.

At the same time, it is aware of the challenges that the continent faces and highlights reliable, secure telecommunications infrastructure along with access to digital solutions and regulation/policy direction, as among the most pressing.

Wu underlined the importance of policy to direct infrastructure coverage and the role of government to regulate the environment.He believes that enterprises have an opportunity to develop and roll out solutions for key sectors including agriculture, mobile payment and transportation.

While ZTE believes the deployment of 5G and ongoing investment is pivotal to Africa’s digital future, the company emphasises the importance of 3G and 4G technology – and that 5G is actually positioned to help sustain these networks.

Zhao said the company’s strategy, investment focus and vision for Africa was to bridge the digital divide and build a sustainable, digital continent. “5G and digital transformation represent a huge economic and social benefit.”

ZTE is also confident that in addition to leveraging the power of mobile connectivity solutions and infrastructure, Africa can also enhance its skills levels and will benefit from increased focus on digital skills training and development.

Akinwale Olumide Goodluck, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA, said while there had been progress in Africa in ensuring more people were connected, less than 40% had access to the Internet and there remained a lot of work to be done to address the digital divide.

The core message from ICT, telecommunications and digital economic professionals is that reaching the goal of ubiquitous universal broadband will require collaboration between all stakeholders and the roll-out of sustainable infrastructure to facilitate access to affordable connectivity.

Zhao underlined the impact of smart manufacturing and mining, along with automation and better logistics – as well as real-time access to education and healthcare – as examples of how Africa is leveraging innovation.

“All of these also create new jobs and help grow local economies. We are working hard with our strategic partners to not leave anyone behind in the 5G era. But the biggest challenge is not all infrastructure is on the same level across different regions. We are working with customers to make sure that short-term investment in 3G and 4G is in the same direction as the evolution of 5G.”