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Going cashless is a priority for Africa tourism

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Although tourism in emerging markets grew from 30 percent in 1980 to 45 percent in 2015 Africa has not enjoyed the same growth rate. This, according to ELIAS AAD, VP, Government Solutions Lead, Mastercard Advisors, is due to security and the lack of going cashless.

Over the last eight years, travel and tourism has grown by 17.3 percent in the top ten fastest-growing global destinations.  This rate speaks to the rapid growth of tourism and how the industry, and an increasing priority for countries seeking for new growth opportunities. In emerging markets tourism grew from 30 percent in 1980 to 45 percent in 2015 and is expected to reach 57 percent by 2030.

Africa has not enjoyed the same growth rate, and although the continent offers a range of benefits, the sector remains largely an untapped opportunity. This is largely due to challenges facing the sector, including security concerns.

Recognizing the economic importance to mitigating the challenges was high on the agenda during the 2017 World Tourism Conference held in Rwanda earlier last year. Sector leaders discussed how to maximize opportunities and also reviewed the needs of the sector to reach its full potential.

The event was attended by tourism ministers from various African countries alongside tour operators, travel agents, hotels, airlines, some of the key private sector players. A set of challenges were identified and we broadly agreed that focusing on tackling them together, as industry leaders and the public sector, would make tangible differences to not only each of the African countries independently but also for the continent as a whole.

Easing of travel visa restrictions:

Current travel visa restrictions prevent even Africans from exploring their own continent. The ministers highlighted the complexity behind removing visas, especially considering that there are a number of factors, including security that needs to be considered. However, keen consideration and solutions as to how countries can circumnavigate the concerns around the need for travel documents will go a long way to feed into the decision to remove the need all together. By removing travel restrictions – particularly at an inter-African level – would boost the sector significantly.

Developing infrastructure that allows for easy travel

Lack of adequate infrastructure, whether air, road or water, makes it complicated to travel between destinations. One such example is a traveler trying to go from Kigali to Cape Verde – currently they need to take a number of connecting flights and routes – costly and a real issue for business travelers. As it stands, there is a critical need to further develop a strong airline and road network that connects African locations as well as consideration of smart ways to utilize existing infrastructure. This speaks to the importance of developing smart, connected, cities across Africa – technology will go a long way to boosting efficiencies that will have a long-term benefit on tourism.

Going cashless must be a priority for African economies

With 94 percent of retail transactions still in cash, there is a real need to displace cash given the countless benefits for consumers to shift behaviour. Additionally, benefits will benefit the sector and overall economy. Focus should be placed on:

·         Safety: Digital payments is far safer, and although in Africa the need still remains to have some cash available, it is important to develop a wider acceptance network that includes hotels but also tourist hot spots.

·         Customer experience: COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) has launched a program called from Cape Town to Cairo, providing travelers with a full itinerary to travel from, to and in-between these cities. The initiative is helping to take the pain out of having to carry multiple currencies when travelling. The collaboration highlights the importance of similar initiatives, and a closer relationship between countries.

·         Increased tourism spending: Hospitality providers and retailers benefit from higher footfall and greater purchase power from consumers given the ease of paying for goods digitally.

·         Contribution to GDP growth: A Moody’s study showed that increased use of electronic payments added 0.8 percent to the GDP across emerging markets and 0.3 percent for developed markets. This was driven by; higher potential tax revenue; lower cash handling costs; guaranteed payment for merchants; a reduction in the grey economy due to lower unreported cash transactions; and greater financial inclusion.

The reality is that these seamless experiences will only be realized once sound infrastructure is implemented.

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Africa gets broadband boost

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ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.

Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.

Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.

ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.

At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”

Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.

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Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world

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Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.

Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.

AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.

The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.

‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”

The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.

‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.

The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”

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