21 Nov 2014

AfricaCom 2014 – Smart Phones, Cheap Phones and even Smarter Cheaper Phones

The mobile ‘phone’ in all its guises, dominated the chatter throughout AfricaCom this year.  The main exhibition hall, keynotes and many of the events were awash with new devices, new operating systems and new services that can be used on mobiles.

Smartphones, cheaper smartphones and even cheaper smarterphones – how to get more phones to more people and offer them something they need and want, and ultimately convert them from feature based devices, to the ever expanding digitally connected world around them. 

But once they have these devices then what?  Content.  Cracking the code on content will determine how successful a product, service or even operator is.  Understanding who people are and, what they want was another common theme dominating many of the sessions and corridor conversations. VAS giants such as Mahindra Comviva to garage developers like I’m Bored and those in between, agree that their business success depends on really getting to know their target audience as an ‘individual,’ and not as part of a mass segment, even as much as collating and tracking 43 personal attributes about a customer to better serve him or her.  Raul Martinez, Commercial Director Africa, Millicom was quoted as saying: “it’s important to know what makes customers tick.”

Paying for these services is also made easier with the many mobile payment methods – traditional and exotic – available to people all across the continent.  Advances in inter-operability payment systems and international remittance via mobile also made an appearance.  These developments will free up trade and add to economic and social progress as they are also tailored to each customer’s payment preference.

This more customer-centric approach is being considered from operators to brands such as BMW’s Connected Drive, which has a captive audience, supplying them with information as and when they need - in the moment.   Technological interfaces are making life easier all round, indicating that the entire digital ecosystem is shifting.  This was also summed up by Dave Coles, Executive Business Development, Platco “We’re going to see a lot of change in the industry, it’s an exciting time.”

However, AfricaCom’s Conference Director, Julie Rey’s comment perhaps best encapsulates what went down here this year: “There has been a palpable buzz across the whole event – all the very different industry players are talking collaboration and next year we look forward to seeing industry embarking on the next phase of its digital transformation.”

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