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Iain Morris on the Challenges of Connecting Africa

Craig Matsumoto

Light Reading News Editor Iain Morris just spent a week in Cape Town, South Africa, attending AfricaCom, and he's returned with some fascinating stories about the hopes and fears that surround the issue of connecting the continent.

You'll find all that coverage on our Connecting Africa site, but we thought we'd also offer a preview here. Africa is a vast set of markets with a lot of promise but also a lot of challenges in prices, regulations and plain old geography. Here's our mini-tour through the issues.

Automation Anxiety Grips Africa -- We all worry about artificial intelligence taking our jobs -- In Africa, the concern is particularly acute, and it's colliding with a fear from the opposite direction: What if there aren't enough skilled workers to wrest the real benefits out of the coming wave of automation?

Huawei, Telcos Clash With Policymakers in Cape Town -- An undeniable gulf that got aired early on in the conference.

Ericsson Forecasts Lackluster 5G Take-Up in Africa -- Not a huge surprise, as most of the continent is still striving for 4G coverage. On the other hand, Orange is already strategizing for the next generation -- see Orange Botswana on Long Trek to 5G.

Future Telcos Will Be Invisible to Consumers -- A prediction from Vodacom's innovation boss, Jannie van Zyl: The telecom business will be about connectivity and delivering digital capabilities, but someone else will be the interface to the customer.

"I'm a Terrible Capitalist, Not a Greedy Coward" -- Price is a sensitive issue in Africa, as one audience member pointed out to Safaricom Chief Innovation Officer Kamal Bhattacharya. He acknowledged the issue but pointed at that telcos do need to make a profit.

Liquid Strikes Microsoft Deal, Targets Cloud Dominance in Africa -- Fiber operator Liquid Telecom came up in a couple of our stories. Liquid runs fiber in 14 African countries and wants to be the continent's conduit to the cloud, starting with Microsoft Azure.

Mugabe's Man Bashes US & Asian Tech Firms -- "There was a cabinet reshuffle and I survived," said a member of the Robert Mugabe administration. "Nervous laughter" is how Morris described the response.

— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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11/13/2017 | 4:36:47 AM
The full depth and breadth of the challenges and opportunities
This set of atricles encapsulates the enormous breadth and depth of the challenges and opportunities facing communications network operators and service providers across Africa, where considerations about AI and 5G sit alongside 2G expansion and basic connectivity strategies.... the full range is on show. 

Ultimately, what counts is that the full breadth of available technologies and service options is targeted at 'Connecting Africa' in any and every way possible.
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