African leaders are set to converge at GITEX AFRICA, a powerful cross-continental forum in Marrakech from 31 May – 2 June 2023. The agenda intends to press on with digital transformation alliances as the tech world reorganises itself in the wake of global digital upheaval. Set against the biggest market correction in recent years, Africa continues to march on to her unique beat while empowering and unifying a continent on the cusp of transformative ICT growth. The influential summit will spearhead an inspiring programme unifying 500-plus policymakers, government heads, investors and academics to explore how technology and connectivity are redrawing the boundaries of sustainable social-economic development for African government, business and society.
H.E. Lacina Koné, the Director General and CEO of Smart Africa – the pan-African organisation driving the continent’s digital transformation agenda – is a notable headline speaker. Digital technologies offer new avenues for economic growth in Africa by accelerating job creation and talent development while supporting access to public services and increasing productivity and innovation. But challenges remain. “The lack of connectivity in remote and rural regions along with insufficient data protection and high cost of African connectivity has brought new challenges to businesses, governments, and people,” said Koné, who oversees the process of defining Africa’s digital agenda in addition to advancing key continental initiatives. “Intra-governmental cooperation is the key enabler of digital services adoption and acceleration while mitigating these associated challenges across the African continent.”
Koné will be part of a panel at the GITEX AFRICA Digital Summit titled Uniting Towards One African Market. He will share how Africa’s leaders are building a secure, resilient and sustainable digital future. “Agile-enabling regulations are needed to quickly respond to market developments, facilitating the entry of new competitors for the benefit of consumers in a united African continent,” he said. The Summit will arrive amid a remarkable period of African ICT and broadband growth, with statistics showing the continent has the world’s fastest-growing internet population, up by 20 per cent in just one year. Africa’s digital economy has become one of the main drivers of cross-continental progress, coupled with strong talent development and a spike in public-private sector investments.
Jérôme Hénique, CEO for the Middle East & Africa at Orange, France, Tonny Bao, Vice President of Huawei, China, and Saad Toma, General Manager of IBM MENA, are among the foremost private sector leaders speaking on the critical pathways advancing the continent’s digital transformation missions, from building a more digital and inclusive Africa to exploring the social and economic impacts of 5G, or how AI can drive business transformation and sustainability. Other headliners will include H.E. Syed Amin Ul Haque, Minister of Information Technology and Communications in Pakistan alongside Babajide Sanwo-Olu the Governor of Lagos, Nigeria, who will deliver a keynote address on what is inspiring Africa’s transformation into the next Silicon Valley.
The state of play in Africa’s digital economy is another anticipated key discussion point as addressed by H.E. Belete Molla, the Minister of Innovation and Technology in Ethiopia with H.E. Cina Lawson Minister of Digital Economy and Transformation in Togo. “I am honoured to be part of the GITEX Africa hosted by Morocco,” said H.E. Molla. “It creates opportunities for governments, innovators and leading experts from around the world to discover new ideas, build new partnerships, and connect with inspiring mentors and investors. It would help Ethiopia to get connected to the global tech space and leading players.”
Accelerating the epic race for Africa’s AI dominance
With some of the brightest minds stimulating curious conversations on the dedicated AI track come Day 3 will also discuss the next wave of digital transformation as accelerated by the power of Generative AI. Its impact on African societies should make for riveting discussions as these thinkers share their insights on AI’s ability to revolutionise industries from agriculture to finance.
Dr Adel Alsharji, COO at UAE-headquartered Presight, the Middle East’s leading international big data analytics company powered by AI, will naturally deliver the keynote address on this. “The societal impact of AI is multifaceted and far-reaching globally, and it is already reshaping sectors such as healthcare, finance, agriculture, education, and manufacturing and therefore the way we live,” said the good doctor. “The African continent is showing a speedy AI adoption rate and a readiness to explore and harness the potential of AI for driving economic growth and addressing local challenges, ultimately benefiting the greater good of people,” he noted, adding, “As AI advances, we can anticipate further innovation and positive applications. It is crucial, however, to embrace AI responsibly, ensuring ethical considerations are in place as we navigate this transformative landscape.”
Mustapha Zaouini, CEO of Fliptin, a start-up studio bridging fintech and blockchain and Co-Founder/Chairman of AI in Africa, will speak on a panel on responsible Generative AI. While Africa has unique challenges such as disparity in internet access, the continent is steadily embracing AI. “Africa is exploring AI to solve pressing issues like poverty, unemployment, and inequality,” said Zaouini. “However, readiness varies across countries, and there’s a need to invest in infrastructure, education, and policy-making to fully harness this fast-evolving technology. Access to AI technologies can level the playing field so it is essential not to be left aside. Ensuring equitable access to technology and bridging the digital divide are crucial steps to prepare for AI’s impact in Africa.”
Digital cities evolution and plotting the path to a net zero future
With that in mind, considering the global push towards a net zero economy, technology’s role in advancing sustainability is more important than ever. A panel at GITEX AFRICA’s Digital Cities conference track will explore how technology can advance an African-centric Net Zero agenda. It will be addressed by Dr Shaoshan Liu, Founder and CEO of PerceptIn in the US, Mohammed Essaidi, MEA Chairman of the Global Cities Alliance, IEEE in Morocco, Laurent Roussel, President of Francophone Africa & Islands at Schneider Electric, and Gilles Babinet, French Government Representative of Digital Champions Group (EU) in France. Other preeminent speakers at GITEX AFRICA include Emmanuel Gadret, CEO of Francophone Africa at Deloitte, who will share his insights into charting Africa’s path to prosperity by unlocking economic and data sovereignty; and Dr Ray Johnson, CEO of the Technology Innovation Institute in the UAE, who will dive into Generative AI’s ubiquitous role in fuelling economic growth.
A historic launch in the world’s next biggest digital economy
The inaugural GITEX Africa will make its historic debut by welcoming more than 900 exhibitors, start-ups, and visiting delegations from 80 countries for three days of intensive outcome-focused public-private sector collaborations in the world’s next biggest digital economy. More than 250 hosted investors from 34 countries with $200 billion worth of assets under management will also seek breakthrough technologies and potential African tech scale-up co-investment opportunities. As the ultimate start-up incubator and a magnet for flourishing VC funds, GITEX AFRICA will deliver an unmatched scouting platform for these investors, of whom 70 per cent are coming from outside of Africa.
Held under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, and hosted by the Digital Development Agency (ADD), the public entity leading the Moroccan government’s digital transformation agenda under the authority of the Moroccan Ministry of Digital Transition and Administration Reform, the Marrakech-bound event is organised by KAOUN International. It will leverage the power of the trusted GITEX GLOBAL brand in Dubai, the world’s largest tech event.
With tech-friendly policies in a continent that is now far more accessible, African investment is rocketing. Analysts predict the tech market is on track to scale from $115 billion to $712 billion by 2050, while according to Briter Bridges, African start-ups raised a total of $5.4 billion across 900+ deals in 2022. Meanwhile, a youthful populace coupled with Africa’s rapid urbanisation is accelerating digital economic growth, with 70 per cent of the Sub-Saharan African population under 30 years of age and 45 per cent of Africans set to live in cities by 2025.