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Africa trails behind global standard in mobile adoption, innovation despite gains – MTN CEO

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CEO of MTN Ghana, Stephen Blewett, emphasized that despite progress in digital technology across Africa, the continent still lags behind the global standard in mobile adoption and innovation.

He identified challenges such as limited infrastructure coverage, high costs of data and smartphones, and a lack of digital skills training as barriers to internet access, particularly for vulnerable groups like women.

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Blewett made these remarks during the opening of the ongoing 3i Africa Summit at the Accra International Conference Center.

The summit, themed ‘Unleashing Africa’s FinTech and Digital Economic Potential,’ aims to foster collaboration among stakeholders to drive innovation throughout Africa.

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It is a collaborative effort by the Bank of Ghana, Development Bank of Ghana, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The 3i Africa Summit serves as a platform to showcase and stimulate Africa’s FinTech and digital potential, with a focus on transforming the continent’s economic landscape through sustainable capital allocation.

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Blewett emphasized the significance of the African fintech ecosystem in propelling a digital revolution in his address.

He said, “Africa’s fintech ecosystem is the engine that will drive its digital revolution and economic development in the coming years.

Fintech can stimulate local economies and drive progress across the continent in several ways – financial inclusion, innovation and entrepreneurship, job creation, cross-border transactions and payments, digital identity and security, agriculture and rural development, government services, investment, and funding, as well as digital and financial literacy.

The success of services like MTN’s Mobile Money and Vodafone and Safaricom’s M-pesa provide sufficient evidence of the ability of fintech to revolutionize business on the continent and provide millions of people with access to essential financial services.”

He added, “Despite these gains, Africa lags far behind the world in mobile adoption and innovation. Constraints such as low infrastructure coverage, affordability of data and smartphones, and lack of digital skills training continue to inhibit access to the Internet among vulnerable groups, especially women.

We must therefore make every effort to remove these bottlenecks and close the usage gap by improving data coverage and lowering the cost of data and data-enabled devices especially in rural and low-income areas and enhance digital literacy.”

Stephen Blewett also addressed the topic of sustainability, urging business leaders and policymakers to prioritize the integration of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices into their commercial endeavors. He emphasized the importance of maintaining a focus on sustainability in all aspects of business operations.

“We must not lose sight of the impact that our actions have on our environment and society and strive towards creating shared value in business outcomes. We must progressively reduce our carbon footprints by investing in renewable energy, and other energy-efficient tools and technologies that lead to efficiency.

We must take up the challenge of placing Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) at the heart of our commercial activities and support the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. I believe that together, we can shape an Africa that not only thrives in the digital age but also serves as a shining example of inclusive and sustainable development.”

Additional speakers from MTN include Shaibu Haruna, CEO of Mobile Money Limited Ghana, and Eli Hini, CEO of MoMo PSB in Nigeria. Also present are Cedric Nguessan, representing MTN Group Finco Payments and E-Commerce, Angela Mensah-Poku, Chief Enterprise Business Officer for MTN Ghana, and Dario Bianchi, Chief Digital Officer at MTN Ghana.

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