The Same But Different

By Mandy Blackburn, Operations Director at Roscom.

It’s very easy to think that because we operate in a global market place we, in telecoms, are all the same in terms of our problems, solutions and our goals. But each region has its own issues. That’s why it’s so important the RAG conferences are held in different countries across the year. In September it will be Nairobi where we can hear from leaders in the African telecoms market.

On a continent where in most countries less than half the population has access to electricity, the fact that more than two-fifths of people living in sub-Saharan Africa have mobile phones has been transformative. A recent report in the Economist highlights the huge difference this has made, even if many have to walk for miles to get a signal or recharge their battery.

Going straight to mobile – bypassing the landline – has provided a connection to the outside world and a freedom we in the Western world take for granted. In an article in the Financial Times, the veteran Africa investor, Miles Morland likened the emerging mobile networks in Africa to the coming of the railway in Victorian England; that is how much mobile phones have transformed lives. But it is not the end of it.

The Mobile Economy 2018 report from the London-based GSM Association suggests the number of subscribers will continue to grow – albeit more slowly; but it is the predicted growth in the mobile internet (doubling by 2025 in sub-Saharan Africa) which will make the biggest difference. This will provide access to everything from shopping online to global content platforms for self-publication; enabling would-be African pop stars to be discovered by music producers in the USA.

How Roscom could and have helped African telcos accurately measure and charge subscribers for their data services is something I will be discussing with them at the conference. In addition to obligations set by telecommunications regulators, there is also a variety of national security and financial requirements. Recently telcos have been reported trying to bypass government monitoring systems, or battling against increasing taxation, as telecommunication companies are often seen as a good source of tax revenues.

The other biggest differentiator is mobile money, where Africa are world leaders. In seven countries in the sub-Sahara, around 40% of adults use mobile money. It has changed the lives of those without access to banks. Buying food, transferring money to a relative in a remote region and paying energy bills are now all available at the touch of a button. It is attracting investors who see it as a growing and profitable market.

RAG Nairobi is going to be a fascinating conference. Topics include the changing priorities for Risk Assurance and a look at the latest technologies. Roscom have recently launched a new controls suite which revolutionises the way people think about test calls – another topic on the agenda in Nairobi.

We believe it is important to support these diverse conferences by RAG, so Roscom are showing our commitment by sponsoring RAG Nairobi.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Mandy Blackburn, Operations Director, Roscom