The GSMA announced that it will host the 2021 Mobile World Congress (MWC21) in Kigali, Rwanda, bringing the global event series to the African continent for the first time.

GSMA Director General, Mats Granryd announced the news during his opening keynote address at Thrive Africa, the GSMA’s virtual event platform, which is running from the 29 September to 1 October 2020.

MWC21 Africa is part of the GSMA’s flagship series of MWC events, which includes editions in Barcelona, Shanghai and Los Angeles.

I am proud of what we have built with Thrive and the previous Mobile 360 events, which have helped shape the continent’s connected digital future,” said Granryd. “From 2021 we will celebrate MWC Africa, joining our world-leading platforms for thought-leadership and technology and recognising the important role Africa will play in our connected future.”

Granryd added that around the world, access to mobile internet is helping close the digital divide. “Its transformative power is nowhere more obvious than in Africa. That is why I’m excited about welcoming the world to Kigali next year to shine a light on African mobile and tech innovation.”

Thrive Africa 2020 examined the role of connectivity in powering a better future, and how this can accelerate to achieve the best outcomes in terms of health provision, economic benefits and inclusion.

Speakers also discussed Africa’s readiness for the 4th Industrial Revolution: in the next five years, the continent will host 1.3 billion devices and IoT connections, but increased connectivity will be essential to maximise the available benefits.

Africa’s mobile economy

The GSMA also published its annual Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa report to coincide with Thrive Africa.

This in-depth study explores the latest data, forecasts and trends for the region. It includes a range of policy recommendations that will help ensure that mobile internet makes the best possible contribution to the regional economy, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the report, Sub-Saharan Africa remained the fastest-growing region, with 477 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2019, with an additional 137 million subscribers over the period to 2025, representing a compound  annual growth rate of 4.3%.

“Notably, 272 million are now mobile internet users, representing 26% of the population. In 2019, mobile technologies and services generated 9% of gross domestic product in Sub-Saharan Africa, a contribution of more than $155 billion,” the report said.

Policy leaders forum

This year, GSMA Thrive Africa also hosted the first-ever regional Policy Leaders Forum, following the format of the Ministerial Programme at MWC Barcelona, but with a dedicated African focus.

The event brought together key stakeholders from ministries, regulatory bodies and the broader mobile ecosystem to exchange views, and consider how all mobile players in Africa are adapting to a new era of intelligent connectivity.

The findings from our Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa report clearly show the importance and value of digital connectivity,” said GSMA Head of Africa Akinwale Goodluck,. “Realising the full potential of a progressive digital future requires an informed policy debate of the sort that GSMA Thrive Africa will deliver. I look forward to welcoming everyone in person to the inaugural MWC21 Africa, an event which represents the continent’s next step towards closing the digital divide.”

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