Africa is the home to a rich legacy of evolution and innovation. The world's largest Africa-focused technology and telecommunications event turns 25 this year and will take place in Cape Town from 7 – 11 November. It too has a rich legacy and over the past quarter of a century has experienced the rapid pace at which the continent has embraced technology and leap frogged its way into the future.
In 2020, according to the World Bank, SMMEs (Small to Medium and Micro Enterprises) contributed up to 60% of all employment and as much as 40% of the GDP in emerging economies. Across Africa, SMMEs make up around two thirds of the continent's formally employed workforce. That number has significantly grown over the last two years and in Africa, SMMEs comprise 90% of the private sector, employ >80% of the workforce, and number >44 million.
With the youngest population in the world, (70% of sub-Saharan Africa is under 30), Africa looks to its SMMEs to grow individual sovereign economies, as well as the pan-African collective. Much of this anticipated growth will come from technology or technology-supported ventures to help connect these businesses to opportunities, as well as assist in optimising their operations.
Seeking to empower SMMEs, AfricaCom and Africa Tech, anchor events within the Africa Tech Festival will focus key content on helping the continent's future rights holders deliver on their promise. James Williams, Director, Events | Connecting Africa | Informa Tech explains: "SMMEs are playing an increasingly important role in the economic development and sustainability of the African continent, and we have witnessed an incremental growth in attendance from this sector at Africa Tech Festival in recent years. "In compiling the programme for this year's event, we have emphasised some of the more pertinent influences and considerations that will enable these SMMEs to make meaningful contributions to the continent's future."
Also looking to enable SMMEs, Vodacom Business has launched an online V-Hub, resource portal specifically designed to help SMMEs unlock their full potential as they embark on a digital transformation journey to future-proof their business. The zero rated and easy-to-use platform will help bring digital-advisory services to the fingertips of entrepreneurs.
"Adopting the right digital solutions will help SMMEs become more agile and resilient, enabling them to quickly adapt to customers' evolving needs and better solve their business challenges," explains Vodacom Business Executive Head for SME and SOHO, Nastassha Dooks.
Headliner key notes at Africa Tech Festival that speak to the support and promotion of SMMEs on the continent will include the likes of: Enterprise Empowered - Financing the Digital Disruption of Africa's SMMEs; Networks of the Future: New Models to Connect Africa's Underserved; Not All Internet is Created Equal - Unlocking Meaningful Connectivity; Telco 2022: Critical Development Enablers in Emerging Markets, and a keynote panel - Digital Skills Africa - An Educated Youth is Key to Unlocking the 4IR.
On Tuesday 8th November on the Africa Tech Centre Stage, delegates can look forward to the following discussions: Fireside Chat: The Next Wave: Unlocking SMEs Potential Through the Power of Emerging Technology and later in the day, a panel on Talent and Skills as Critical Enablers of Africa 4.0: Equipping Africa's Workforce for Tomorrow's Jobs and on Thursday a panel entitled Tech for All – Building a More Inclusive and Accessible Digital Africa.
Also at Africa Tech, expect to engage with topics such as The Future of Startup Funding: What Works? What's Next? and on Thursday 10 November, How Web3 will Foster the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs.
In 2022, Africa Tech Festival will present a dedicated stage that looks at 4IR Talent & The Future of Work. Wednesday 9th November opens with a keynote that will address Maximising the Potential of Africa's Human Capital. A panel, that could unlock potential ideas and business endeavours for the next successful SMME, entitled Surviving Talent Shortage in a Changing World also supports a Fireside Chat: The Future Workforce – Learning and Development in the 4th Industrial Revolution, along with a panel: Youth Employment in Africa: Effective Strategies for Positive Outcomes.
Africa Tech Festival's rich content continues with the AHUB: Scaling Start-Ups Stage which will showcase a series of pitch sessions as well as inspiring and motivating discussions including an opening keynote on Supporting Startups to Foster Innovation
Also supporting the case to encourage the participation of more SMMEs in shaping Africa's future economy, and based on findings from their recent publication on economic development in Africa, Habiba Ben Barka, Chief, Africa Section, Division for Africa of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), remarked: "The African private sector (especially SMMEs) are potential new actors that can enhance the complexity and sophistication of production and business processes in Africa and influence a paradigm shift in trade expansion and economic diversification on the continent.
"Empowering SMMEs with access to financial services and technology-enabling services particularly provides greater opportunities for value addition, market expansion and industrial upgrading in Africa."
Rounding out some of the content aimed at sparking SMME involvement this year, the Connectivity Hall will once again play host to the AfricaCom Centre Stage, and enabling SMMEs, will present a discussion entitled: Affordable Internet Access for All: Empowering Africa's Connectivity Champions to Bridge the Digital Divide and a Fireside Chat discussing Mobile Financial Services: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Empower Economies,
To operate effectively, businesses – no matter their size or where they are in their business growth cycle - need to take account of future functional needs such as data centres, cloud services and, the necessary cybersecurity. Look out for topics such as fireside chats entitled The Era of Digital Headquarters: shifting towards cloud-first business models, and developing a cloud-savvy workforce to meet the rapidly growing demand for talent, as well as a panel on: Security in the era of Web 3.0: What are the implications?
The consequences of not being at Africa Tech Festival in 2022 could also mean missing out on future networking opportunities that can open doors to new business.
Habiba Ben Barka