As mentioned by my colleague Nick Jotischky, innovation is a crucial part of Africa's telecoms market, and the continent is renowned for having been at the forefront of new technologies and services; mobile financial services are probably the best example of a new service finding its first major market success in Africa.
Despite the continent's status as a developing market, or probably more because of it, companies operating in Africa have to be more innovative than in other parts of the world, because they have to offer attractive services with sometimes little financial support, for a customer base that generally has low spending power.
That is why the programme of this year's AfricaCom includes a keynote session dedicated to innovation. It will start with a 'Leadership Roundtable' on how operators adapt their strategies to changing market conditions, with contributions from Jose dos Santos, CEO of Vodacom Mozambique (whose presentation on 'services for the low-end market' was a great success in 2008, as well as his contribution to the CEO panel last year), Gaurav Anand, VP Africa at Tata Communications (bringing the point of view of a wholesale carrier and owner of dynamic fixed-line operator Neotel), and Hussein Rifai, Chairman and Managing Director of telecom management group MDC (which owns among others Vivacell in Sudan).
The session will also include a perspective from outside Africa, with a presentation from Ashish Thomas, director of Singtel Group Innovation, a division of the pan-Asian operator group dedicated to tackling innovation and creating new opportunities for the group.
And to include the latest company looking to bring a fresh perspective on operations in Africa, the group of speakers will also be joined by a senior representative of Airtel Africa. The speaker will be announced in the days to come so keep an eye on this blog!