Top Takeaways from ITW Africa
What were the most important issues the industry discussed at the first ITW Africa event on the continent?
1) Subsea Capacity is growing at a never before seen rate!
Africa is experiencing the largest increase in subsea capacity that any market has ever seen at one time. An expected price drop will stimulate capacity demand but investment is required in fibre backbone, data centres, last mile connectivity, energy infrastructure and digital literacy to make use of all the additional capacity.
2) Fibre needs a rethink
The industry has been thinking about national long-distance (NLD) fibre all wrong. Almost all telcos need to look at NLD as a common shared highway that everyone needs to rely on, rather than as a differentiator between themselves. The consortium model we have seen for subsea is relevant to NLD and telcos want to open discussions on collaboration.
3) Everyone is talking about LEO satellites
There’s no doubt they’re going to be disruptive but it’s not yet clear where the biggest impacts will be felt. Will satellite be a friend or a foe? It’s important to open dialogue with satellite players to prepare appropriately.
In addition, legacy providers are rethinking their service model, branching into multi-orbit approaches and offering additional services to compete with the new players like Amazon and Starlink.
4) I (sometimes) have the power!!!
Power is a challenge but there is a once in a generation opportunity ahead for telecoms. Data centres can turn renewables into a selling point for Africa, attracting workload from overseas, whilst the sector can support the broader economy by meeting the continent’s power needs through wheeling and selling power.
While load shedding is becoming more common in markets like Africa, satellite solutions are being used to keep enterprises and communities connected at difficult times.
5) Cloud investment is required
With the exception of South Africa, the cloud is not yet in Africa and for Africa to realise its full potential and attract business from overseas significant investment is still required.
6) Mobile reigns supreme
Mobile reigns supreme in Africa and will for a while, especially outside of high income areas. Fixed wireless access can offer a more cost-effective option to fibre to the home, and can often feel a more familiar solution to consumers
7) Digital Infra money is following specialists
Whilst synergies are to be found between digital infrastructure asset classes, pure financial investors generally value specialist expertise and reward companies staying true to their core. For strategic investors however the needle may shift with industrial synergies weighing more heavily on their decisions
8) Talent is the key to the future
Skills development and talent retention is a problem everywhere but is even more acute in Africa. Multifaceted strategies are being put in place by companies to attract, develop and retain talent, but more needs to be done.
In the talent and tech roundtable, we did hear good news about skilled workers that left Africa returning to local companies.