The next five billion people to become connected to the internet will do so via mobile, and as such industry players must concentrate on achieving profitable growth over the coming period, according to panelists at AfricaCom 2013.
Speaking today (Tuesday) on the first day of the 16th annual AfricaCom conference in Cape Town, panelists agreed the main focus of the coming years needs to be figuring out how to monetise the impending boom in mobile internet uptake.
“The main point is how to manage profitable growth, not just how to manage growth,” said Marc Rennard, executive vice president (EVP) for the Africa, Middle East and Asia region at Orange Group, adding that growth will come anyway, especially through data.
According to Brett St Clair, head of new products for Sub-Sahara at Google South Africa, given that the next five billion internet users will all access via mobile, the key to any strategy is scalability.
“It’s not going to be free getting the next five billion people online,” St Clair said, adding that players need to figure out how to encourage people to spend money online.
“We need to get users to understand the value of the internet,” said St Clair.
Anthony Masunga, chief executive officer (CEO) of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, said the way to achieve profitability is to focus on providing solutions to everyday needs and problems.
“For me, the key is using mobile to bridge the services and productivity gap,” said Masunga.
In Botswana, Masunga said this has been achieved, with many entities allowing for mobile payments; for example, most recently utility companies have made mobile pre-paid power available across the country.
“What we did is look for mobile services which make life easier. We don’t have to mimic the western world,” said Masunga.