AfricaCom 2015: Day 1 – Uber, Huawei, Broadband & more

November 17th saw the launch of AfricaCom 2015; South Africa’s largest tech conference which gathers the chief decision makers among the country’s digital industry. Present where a wide variety of networks, businesses, manufacturers and service providers, alongside day-long series of panels, forum discussions, debates and talks dealing with unique topics pertaining to South Africa’s digital environment.

We were live at the Cape Town International Convention Center to report on the latest developments, trains of thought, and devices on display. While AfricaCom offers an enormous variety of daily events and seminars to take part in, we were present at Uber SA’s General Manager Alon Lits’ address, the Connecting Africa stream held first chaired by Yahsat’s Kevin Viret, as well as on the main exhibition floor prowling for the latest devices set to hit the market.

Alon Lits: Build it and they will come 

Kicking off AfricaCom’s Appsworld Africa stream, Uber SA General Manager Alon Lits presented a keynote address, covering the launch of Uber in South Africa and the potential of apps and services to fundamentally change the way in which society operates.

Lits covered the rise of Uber in South Africa – the first country outside of the US in which the company launched in more than three cities. Lits cited that the advent of platforms such as Uber has fundamentally changed the landscape of the taxi industry and has revealed positive avenues in which to affect societal change.

Lits particularly highlighted the ability of entrepreneurs to make use of Uber as a platform to grow their own business, as well as their new-found ability to access tools and assets to grow their business potential, such as Uber SA’s recent Wesbank partnership, which will see drivers able to access a preferential vehicle loan and maintenance plan.

Citing the success of Uber in South Africa – which has seen more than 1 million trips made in the past year alone – Lits offered insight into different avenues the service was set to embark upon, including Uber Eat and the Uber Pool initiative to introduce ride-sharing as a means to address traffic congestion in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Lits concluded that local developers should seek to use their apps as platforms, and empower themselves and their communities in the same way that Uber has.

Connecting Africa: examining the role of regulators & government in boosting connectivity across Africa

Yahsat’s Regional Director, Kevin Viret, launched AfricaCom’s stream by kicking off a discussion surrounding how to assess Africa’s remaining connectivity needs; following from this, Dawit Bekele (Director of the African Regional Bureau) Isias Barreto da Rosa (Commissioner for Telecommunications & IT) Thari Pheko (Board Member of Botswana Communications) and Pakamile Pongwana (CEO, ICASA) initiated a panel discussion examining the role of regulators and government in boosting connectivity across Africa.

The panel largely concluded that the dichotomy of different legislation between African states needed to be harmonized in order to ensure an efficient rollout of broadband-based services; Pheko added that landlocked countries, such as Botswana, suffered in terms of internet access at the hands of coastal states such as South Africa, which charged a premium for delivering connectivity and stifled the ability of other African states to adequately connect to broadband services.

Taking questions from the floor, the panel also added that broadband technologies weren’t the only solutions to enabling African citizens the ability to connect to the internet, and cited that mobile operators and networks needed to co-ordinate and evenly distribute infrastructure while remaining competitive.

Exhibition floor: Huawei, Alcatel, and Wiko

Among the most prominent device manufacturers present at AfricaCom were Chinese company Huawei, as well as French manufacturers Alcatel and Wiko.
Huawei made a strong play into the local market and showcased the very latest models amongst its lineup, showcasing the much anticipated Huawei Watch as well as the MediaPad M2, and presently released devices such as the P8, P8 Lite, and Mate 7.
French manufacturer Alcatel made the surprising move to display handsets not yet available on the South African market, including the Pop range in addition to the company’s newest flagship, the X1. Alcatel’s design language is particularly tangible among these new devices, with the X1 adopting a curved glass USP not dissimilar from the Galaxy S6 Edge, yet far less overt.
Lastly, market newcomer Wiko prominently displayed its latest ware, sharing the Fever, Rainbow Jam, Sunset 2, as well as the Pulp Fab prominently. The budget French manufacturer, the second largest device manufacturer in France behind Samsung, have endeavored to commit to the South African market.
Stay tuned for device previews from both Alcatel and Wiko in the coming days, and be sure to check back tomorrow for more coverage of AfricaCom on Day 2!