The 9th annual West & Central Africa Com opened in Dakar, Senegal this week with over 500 delegates registered to attend the conference and exhibition.
The event is a gathering of the entire digital ecosystem from across the region, and provides a platform for the industry stakeholders to meet, learn and network, with the aim of driving growth for service providers. This year’s main focus is on new opportunities in the West & Central African digital market. The keynotes saw key visionaries sharing their experiences and strategies for a digital West & Central Africa, including speakers like Tidjane Deme, Lead for Francophone Africa at Google, Chams Diagne, Chief Operating Officer, Africa, for the Viadeo social networking platform, Tiemoko Coulibaly, CEO for Francophone Markets at Airtel Africa, and MTN Group’s VP for WECA (& CEO at MTN Cote d’Ivoire), Wim Vanhelleputte, to mention a few. The audience included telecom operators, solution vendors, OTT players, content providers, solution vendors, and entrepreneurs. In particular, the theme of how the West & Central African digital market will progress and shape up was popular: there was consensus amongst the keynote speakers from Google, Viadeo, Airtel and MTN about the need for service providers to adapt to consumer needs, since consumers are increasingly demanding. These demands range from the need for better connectivity, enterprise customers requesting tailored services, low ARPU-segments wanting more advanced services, mobile internet users insisting on free of charge access to social networking, local & international content, etc. How these demands will be met by digital players is yet to be seen, but Google’s Tidjane Deme emphasised that ‚content needs to come from a local ecosystem, this ecosystem needs to be encouraged to grow and only then will there be real value added services for West & Central African consumers‚ . Airtel’s Tiemoko Coulibaly strongly agrees with other speakers that ‚enterprise & cloud computing, mobile internet & content, electronic payments & low-cost smartphones‚ are key areas of focus for service providers, and he places the consumer demand for better coverage as perhaps the most important point to focus on. Many of the speakers took the opportunity to plead with regulators in Francophone Africa to assist with easing through necessary improvements, changes and spectrum allocations in order to benefit the consumer and enable service providers to continue growing in the region.