HomeAccessEmerging technologies can drive Africa’s digital and financial inclusion

    Emerging technologies can drive Africa’s digital and financial inclusion


    Airtel Africa’s Group CEO, Segun Ogunsanya, challenges the telecoms industry in Africa, seals deal with Rwanda

    Speaking at this week’s MWC in Kigali, Airtel Africa’s Group CEO, Dr Segun Ogunsanya, challenged Africa’s telecoms industry. He urged the industry to leverage emerging technologies to enable everyone on the continent to connect, engage and transact with the rest of the world.

    Dr Ogunsanya said telecom players have an opportunity to step up efforts to bridge the digital divide, drive financial inclusion and deepen the availability of affordable smart devices. He cited Generative AI (GenAI) as a powerful tool for predicting customers’ behaviour and deepening insights about customer needs and preferences.

    Intelligent connectivity

    He said there is also an opportunity also in intelligent connectivity – combining the attributes of 5G, IoT and AI to accelerate technological development and enable new disruptive digital services.

    “The telecom industry is in a unique position to make it easier for people to enter the digital world by deploying these technologies. This is through significant investments in building digital highways across the continent, while creating a vibrant mobile money ecosystem,” he said. “Through collaborations with equipment manufacturers and other key stakeholders, we can put smart devices in the hands of every African.”

    The Airtel Africa Group pointed out that a significant proportion of Africa’s young population is disconnected from the digital world: smartphone penetration stands at 59% and only two out of every 10 Africans have a mobile money wallet. 

    Examples to consider

    Airtel Africa gave the examples of using AI to aid e-learning by designing curricula based on students’ learning abilities and e-health to improve monitoring of patients and more efficient health facilities. Also, agritech could use AI and connectivity to detect crop disease. Financial inclusion could be improved by triangulating the digital highway, a unified payment system and intelligent mobile wallets.

    The technologies could be used in smart cities to promote safe communities and efficient public utilities. They could be applied to development planning by predicting populations’ movements and help with urban planning and rural development. Smart meters could provide accurate measurement of usage to improve sustainability and better customer experience. Biometric technology can be deployed for for authentication, privacy, access control and non-repudiation.

    Airtel Africa is rolling out 5G network across its 14 markets in Africa with the aim of facilitating a digitally connected world and unlocking a broad range of opportunities.

    The operator group has also recently announced collaboration with the government of Rwanda to provide over 1 million people in the country with affordable LTE smartphones. The picture above shows Dr Ogunsanya (left) shaking hands with Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.

    The President publicly thanked MTN at MWC this week for its 25 years in Rwanda, acknowledging the big risk the operator took investing in the country after the genocide that took place there in the 1990s.