As part of the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, TechAfrica News had the opportunity to sit down with Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA, to discuss the digital divide in Africa, the MOU signed between the GSMA and Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and the upcoming MWC Africa event in Kigali.
In Africa, there is still a digital divide that’s continuing to grow. While the rest of the world is looking at 5G advanced, we’re still having conversations now and 2G and 3G shutdowns in Africa. The bedrock of that centers around the affordability of devices. To date, they’re still not accessible to most of the population, with over 80% of Africa’s adult population not connected to the Internet.
Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), intended to bring the transformational power of mobile connectivity to support Africa’s most significant healthcare challenges, was signed at MWC Barcelona between the GSMA and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
Wamola explained the MOU aims to bring the transformational power of mobile connectivity to support Africa’s most significant healthcare challenges. The partnership will focus on a range of priorities spanning from digital strategy, policy, and governance frameworks across the continent to drive adoption of mobile technologies with potential to strengthen Africa’s health security and outcomes for millions.
The GSMA will work closely with Africa CDC on HealthConnekt Africa, an initiative to connect all health facilities and workforce in Africa to the internet by 2030. The initiative will start with a small group of pioneer African Union Member States and communities, which will see their health facilities connected to the internet and health workers equipped with smart devices, allowing them to improve the quality of care provided to their clients through access to vital online resources.
We are delighted to announce that we have signed this MOU with Africa CDC, and the intent is to look at a post-pandemic situation where we realize that we need to take a critical look at how we can deliver digital health services to our people during the pandemic. Access to information about how the pandemic would impact our health and how we could prevent its spread was very limited. Still, we saw rapid innovation across the globe and the industry in Africa on how they were able to piggyback off of the mobile infrastructure.
This MOU intends to build a platform for advancing digital health services greater and greater. How can we use innovation towards telemedicine, because we know we have a limited infrastructure on the availability of doctors in terms of the number of doctors to people ratio, so we can use this opportunity to make sure that we solve the problem.
Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA
The conversation with TechAfrica News was joined by Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, a representative of Africa CDC, who shared his thoughts on the recently signed MOU between GSMA and Africa CDC. Mr. Nsengimana expressed his excitement about the partnership, stating that “connectivity and digital innovation are key enablers of our vision to extend universal quality care.” He emphasized the need to bridge the digital divide in Africa’s healthcare sector and highlighted the potential of mobile technologies to improve health outcomes for millions.
We intend to strengthen the partnership between the telecom sector and the public health sector because we believe that the future of healthcare in Africa will be digital. Together we need to work in partnership with the telecom and technology industries. Then we bring it to the public health sector, understanding its needs and matching them with the power of technology and we start solving the problems facing our continent as far as public health is concerned.
The partners will also work together on promoting homegrown healthtech innovations and organizing convenings that bring together the public health and tech communities to chart ways of accelerating the digital transformation of the health sector in Africa.
Wamola emphasized that while mobile growth across the region has been phenomenal over the past two decades, more needs to be done to harness the power of the technology across Africa’s healthcare sector. Bringing together expertise and resources will help establish a powerful new infrastructure providing African healthcare workers access to the information they need in a timely fashion and the intelligence necessary to help prevent the spread of disease across international borders.
Regarding the upcoming MWC Africa event in Kigali, Wamola said that it would be an opportunity for industry stakeholders to come together and showcase the latest innovations in the mobile and technology space. The event would provide a platform for networking, learning, and collaborating to drive the growth and development of the mobile industry in Africa.
The partnership between GSMA and Africa CDC and the upcoming MWC Africa event in Kigali signal exciting developments in the digital transformation of the health sector in Africa. The power of mobile connectivity has the potential to transform the quality of care provided to millions of Africans, and it is heartening to see industry stakeholders coming together to drive this transformation forward.