76% of Africans unconnected, says Huawei chief

By Kokumo Goodie, Cape Town, South Africa

Chinese technology giant Huawei Technologies has lamented that a huge divide still exists between the digitally disconnected and digitally included in Africa.

The President, Southern African Region at Huawei Technologies, Mr Li Peng, said some 76 per cent of people on the continent still do not have access to information communication technology (ICT) tools.

Speaking at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, venue of ongoing AfricaCom conference in South Africa, he said the huge divide provides an opportunity for both the public and private sectors to invest to bridge the divide.

He spoke during the ICT Africa Forum organised to bring together regulators, operators and other stakeholders in the information communication technology (ICT) ecosystem to chart a way forward in the continent's challenges.

Peng said a lot of African leaders have put in place policies that are designed to bridge this gap, more nonetheless still needed to be done to create access for the largely rural dwellers that have been disenfranchised in the digital transformation sweeping across the world.

Also present at the forum were the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, South Africa, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Namibia, Hon Tjekero Tweya; Minister of Information Communication and Technology, Zimbabwe, Hon Supa Mandiwanzira and Secretary-General, African Telecommunications Union (ATU), Abdoulkarim Soumaila.

Others are Minister of Communications, Ghana, Hon Ursula Owusu-Ekuful; Director, Technology Media and Telecommunications at Deloitte, Sharoda Rapeti, Head, sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA, Akinwale Goodluck, Chief Strategist at Huawei Technologies, Bill Lan and Policy Manager, sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA, Kamal Tamawa.

Dr Cwele lamented that education, gender, income, age and other factors remain stumbling blocks to access to ICT on the continent.

He said the problem should be addressed from both supply and demand sides. He said South Africa has set aside some R1.8billion, adding that other parts of the country are not left out.

Mandiwanzira lamented that when government spends money on infrastructure, operators take advantage of it, adding that the beneficiaries too must partake in building the infrastructure.

According to him, the government has spent so much of public funds in providing ICT connection to public schools, lamenting that the government has to spend another funds on buying content from Microsoft.

He therefore urged African leaders to also invest in content provision by locals to build the ecosystem.

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