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Leo Chen, President of Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa.

THE majority of Africans (60%) are excluded from the digital economy due to physical infrastructure barriers or the limited availability of suitable and affordable digital applications and services.

This is according to Mondli Gungubele,  South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, speaking at the opening of AfricaCom 2023 at the Cape Town International Convention Center on Tuesday. 

Gungubele said collaboration would help boost Africa’s digital leap. 

The “Fibre Broadband Initiative- unpacking the vision towards a gigabit Society in South Africa”, a collaborative work between Digital Africa Council, Africa Analysis, the Department and Huawei was a great example of government-industry collaboration, said Gungubele.

“These partnerships are great example of meaningful collaboration, affirming that Africa
remains a great investment destination hub,” he added.

Mondli Gungubele,  South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies.

His sentiments are echoed by Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who says government is committed to building digital technologies to boost the economy, working with companies such as Huawei in partnerships that will guarantee a better digital future for all. 

On a trip to China earlier this month, Mashatile commended Huawei for launching its Innovation Centre in Johannesburg, saying this “promotes and facilitates collaborative innovation in the ICT sector among Huawei’s South African partners, application developers and SMMEs”.

He was speaking during a meeting at the ICT giant’s regional office in Shanghai.

Mashatile said the Centre,  officially opened by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July, will go a long way in boosting South Africa “and the broader African continent in transitioning to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)”

“As we embark on this new era of technological advancements, it is essential for countries and organisations to work collectively and harness the power of innovation to address some of the most pressing global challenges,” said Mashatile. 

He added: “South Africa is enthusiastic about the prospect of collaborating with Huawei and learning from the technological advancements that have revolutionised societies.

“Huawei is positioned at the vanguard of this revolutionary technological landscape, which is undergoing an unprecedented rate of change from artificial intelligence to fifth-generation (5G) networks.”

Mashatile also said South Africa would use technological advancements to tap into the country’s rich cultural heritage and integrate tech into the nation’s development agenda.

Said Mashatile: “Our government is committed to creating an enabling environment for the digital economy to thrive, one that encourages investment, promotes innovation, and places cybersecurity at the forefront.

“Through a collaborative partnership with Huawei, it is possible to ensure that all South Africans have equal access to the opportunities that the digital revolution presents by bridging the digital divide.”

Leo Chen, President of Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa, in his keynote address at AfricaCom 2023, said two transformative forces- digitalisation and decarbonisation- are driving humanity towards an intelligent world. 

The global ICT giant  is a key participant and sponsor at AfricaCom.

Chen said the continent can ride a new wave of “digital-physical convergence”, marking a new phase of digitalisation to leapfrog development in the digital economy era.

Chen believes this can be achieved if Africa prioritised development of more advanced, more future-proof, and more inclusive and accessible connectivity infrastructure.

“That is because, in the future, more people, things, and applications will be connected,” he said. 

“This process will generate far more data than it does today. So, we need a more secure, reliable, and developed network to act as the foundation for digitalisation.”

Chen said it was important that African countries have access to the same leading-edge connectivity technology as the rest of the world, such as Huawei’s 4G, 5G and even 5G-Advanced solutions. 

To be future-proof, this nfrastructure should support future application scenarios, like smart solutions in vertical industries and smart homes. 

He said the company’s “cost-effective” wireless RuralStar solution had proven than remote areas can be connected “with broadband coverage, access to the Internet, and digital services. This bridges the digital gap and enables inclusive development”. 

He also imploded Africa to fully embrace the benefits of cloud. 

“It is important that African countries establish national cloud data centres to provide computing resources to the governments, public and SMEs. This will drive the innovation ecosystem. 

“By establishing ‘e-Government Clouds, governments can improve operational efficiency, and provide citizens with one-stop and innovative services,” said Chen. 

Chen added that adopting digital technologies will boost decarbonisation, pointing out that the ICT industry can help reduce global carbon emissions by 20%, equivalent to 10 times its own emissions, and can also make digital energy production more efficient. 

An example was its work at Scatec, the largest ground PV plant project in Africa, which can provide clean electricity to more than 120 000 households. 

Huawei’s solution improved the plant’s energy yield by over two percent, and improved O&M efficiency by more than 40%. 

“Huawei’s solutions can also help carriers to cut their carbon emissions,” he said. “For example, across more than 10 African countries, we have built over 6 000 green sites, and helped carriers save US40 million.” 

“Moreover, Huawei’s Smart PV can be used for scenarios like industrial and commercial, household, and micro-grid solar,” he added.

“Therefore, it can help the African people gain a sustainable, affordable, and reliable power supply.” 

People are at the centre of these innovations, said Chen.

 “This is why Huawei has always put digital talent cultivation at the centre of the digital ecosystem.

“Over the past five years, Huawei has trained 100 000 digital talents in Sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2022 and 2025, we will train another 100 000,” said Chen.