INTERVIEW: The days of one-dimensional service providers are over, says MTN CEO

Godfrey Motsa, CEO of MTN South Africa.

“With the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), mobile technology innovation and quality network infrastructure become crucial to reshaping and improving living standards for more people. Mobile network operators need to be agile to accommodate innovations,” says Godfrey Motsa, CEO of MTN South Africa.

Godfrey Motsa, CEO of MTN South Africa.

IT News Africa’s Jenna Cook had the opportunity to talk with him about 4IR, financial inclusion and tech-enabled solutions. Here’s what transpired:

What are MTN’s plans for the future and to help businesses harness the digital economy? 

The 4IR requires access to tools and resources to be part of the connected community. MTN aims to increase connectivity across Africa and the rest of the world. World internet statistics estimate that only 39.8% of the African continent has access to the internet (other estimates put this number as low as 24%), as compared to the rest of the world average of 61%.

Whilst connecting people is a key driver in Africa going forward, the true benefits in leveraging the impact of digital technologies would involve connecting everyone and everything. As the cost of sensors and computing continues to fall, integrating technology into every aspect of the built environment is becoming a key driver in the rise of big data and AI systems managing city infrastructure optimally.

MTN is also embarking on an extensive infrastructure modernisation drive in preparation for coming fifth-generation wireless (5G) cellular technology and to accommodate more spectrum. Modernising the network will benefit businesses and enhance user experience with seamless connectivity.

5G offers tremendous potential benefits, cost and access remain a challenge for most Africans. The risk though is that if Africa misses this opportunity it loses out on the first truly scalable solution to connect everything and everyone at speeds up to 200 times faster than 4G or LTE.

How does digital access drive financial inclusion, empower and enable SMEs, jobs growth and broad community development? 

Over the past few years, Africa has led the charge in developing solutions aimed at facilitating access to financial services to millions of unbanked and under-banked people. Innovative solutions such as mobile money have helped to kick-start the birth of a new payment and remittance ecosystems.

Mobile money has created an army of mobile money merchants and agents, thus contributing to the development of SMEs and employment creation and has revolutionised several industries, including agriculture which has helped many countries and communities to edge closer to attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With South Africa needing growth and jobs, what has MTN’s focus turned towards?

MTN believes that providing its customers with high-performance networks will go a long way toward enabling industries and leading the delivery of a bold, new digital world. This was brought to life with MTN’s digital master class which equipped SME’s with digital skills. We believe that the digital world is rich with opportunities, and as we continue to partner with organisations such as IamAnEntrepreneur, SimoDisa to ensure we continue to support small business to ensure they have the essential skills in the business environment. We are in a better position to unlock these opportunities for individuals and small businesses.

The days of being a one-dimensional service provider are truly over and MTN is fast transforming from just being a mobile phone company to becoming a multi-purpose digital platform innovator. Aside from moving strongly in the mobile money services space on the continent, it has also extended its offerings to cater to everything from money transfer to digital-based insurance, and a range of other digital services.

How can technology provide solutions to problems currently being faced by businesses in SA?

MTN has seen first-hand how technology and connectivity have helped to address some of the challenges facing South Africa and the countries in which it operates. These solutions range from access to financial services and education to health.

On the business front, we believe that smart solutions can help businesses to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and become more competitive. We are proud of the initiatives we have launched such as the MTN Business IoT & Conference Awards and the MTN Business App of the Year Awards.

These initiatives have helped to uncover several innovative solutions that disrupted the business landscape. Some of the apps that both initiatives have unearthed have become household names and an integral part of doing business.

The previous winners of both the MTN Business App of the Year Award and the MTN Business IoT & Conference Awards include the world-renown payment platform Snapscan, IoT.nxt, a technology company that has developed a world-leading framework that makes the efficiencies, cost savings and increased revenue from IoT a reality for businesses and Digital Matter, a company that supplies an innovative range of GPS tracking and telematics devices and a user-friendly web-based software platform to the fleet, logistics and communications industries

The range of innovative solutions that technology and connectivity can bring to the business are infinite. Harnessing modern technologies will improve how companies interact with customers and stable, fast and secure networks will be the key enablers of these digital highways of the future. MTN is proud to be playing a meaningful role by enabling technology to contribute meaningfully to the growth of business.

By Jenna Cook

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