Meeting of the Minds – China Africa Business Summit

Published in ChinAfrica Magazine December 2009

Positive aspects of China’s involvement in Africa on display at 2009 China Africa Business Summit

Take the positive effects of Chinese companies coming into Africa. Use that as an example so that African governments and policy makers will say, “Hey, these kinds of partnerships do work.” Henk Kleynhans, Wireless Access Providers Association.

It seems the relationship between China and Africa has become an irresistible force in recent years. The desire to strengthen cooperation and understanding between the two is bringing people together to talk, listen and act. This phenomenon was on display in October when business and political leaders from China and Africa came together in Cape Town, South Africa for the 2009 China Africa Business Summit, hosted by Corporate Africa. “My view is that the summit was actually the beginning,” said Motsepe Matlala from the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions. “I think it was able to paint a map of where we must go [with the China-Africa relationship.]” Matlala said the networking was extremely useful and he was encouraged to see how the people came together.

The summit’s aim was to encourage the flow of ideas and expertise and included six panel discussions and six group workshops spread over three days. These sessions covered specific topics crucial to the development of Africa and the audience of national delegates and business leaders were able to benefit from a wealth of knowledge. One of the most exciting workshops at the summit was “Wireless Partnerships.”

Getting wired

There is a communications revolution going on in Africa and it seems to be moving faster than anyone could have predicted. The Wireless Partnerships workshop mainly focused on the radical changes seen in Africa as a result of the surge in cell phone ownership, as well as the direction this sector should be heading and the potential for Chinese companies to play a role.

Henk Kleynhans, from the Wireless Access Providers Association, chaired the session. He told the audience that by the end of 2009 there are expected to be 450 million cell phone subscribers in Africa, a huge increase from just 280 million in 2007. This is the fastest rate of growth in the world and the social benefits have been enormous. Poorer Africans are now using their phones to perform important, daily tasks; mobile banking, money transfers, checking agricultural information, access to health information – the list goes on.

The audience also heard a presentation from Chen Junhua, representing the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei. Huawei has brought cell phones to Africa at a price that makes them accessible to whole new sections of the population. As Chen explained, the company is not simply dumping truckloads of phones on the continent. They have set up about 20 training centers around the continent, training 10,000 staff each year. They have also established research and development centers at Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria.

“One of Huawei’s main objectives is to improve the efficiency of society and bridge the digital divide between rich and poor in the African continent and the rest of the world,” he said. Kleynhans said the Huawei example provides a useful way of looking at Chinese investment in Africa. “I do think that’s actually a phenomenal case study, in the sense that there was this opportunity for a Chinese communications infrastructure provider to sell goods in Africa. They realized the challenges but they came in and did what they needed to.”

Keeping right perspective

Kleyhans said Huawei should be seen in the proper perspective. He said that if the positive effects of Chinese companies coming into Africa are highlighted, they could be used as an example to show African governments and policymakers.

He told the audience that in his opinion this initiative would only work if Chinese companies are not restricted when coming into Africa. Kleynhans pointed out that Africa’s healthy communications revolution is partly due to the fact that governments have avoided protectionist policies in this sector. “There hasn’t really been any import tariffs that I know of [on communications equipment]. I think most African companies realize that what’s more important right now is to get more people connected. It’s not about the manufacturing of cellular equipment in Africa.”

Jumping the gun?

Another point of contention arose when Chen explained that Huawei was actively investing in LTE technology for Africa. LTE is the next generation of cell phone network technology that will eventually overtake the current 3G networks. “Over the years, Africa has been seen as a ‘Technology Follower.’ We believe it is high time that Africa be technologically on par with other global markets,” said Chen. This prospect has industry insiders chomping at the bit, but some in the workshop audience suggested the focus for now should be on getting a current 3G phone to every African possible, rather than prioritizing on LTE. “I challenged that [suggestion],” said Kleynhans. “[We should be] leapfrogging the old technologies. Don’t slow down technology, because you probably will then get a situation where every single person in Africa has a normal 3G handset, but you find that the later applications for mobile money and educational tools will not be developed for the 3G technology. So you probably won’t be giving them access to what would be most beneficial to them.” Both Kleynhans and Chen said the summit was an outstanding networking opportunity. “I’ve been contacted already by a number of potential clients and partners,” said Kleynhans.

Workshops and panel discussions at the Summit:
* Agricultural self-sustainability
* Banking and finance
* Tourism
* Power and energy
* Wireless communication
* Developing partnerships with Chinese investors
* Mining
* Health

China Africa Business Summit at a glance

* Organized by Corporate Africa, backed by China Africa Business Council
* Held in Cape Town, South Africa October 21-23
* Dedicated to building partnerships and trade between China and Africa
* 12 nations represented
* According to business and political figures, the summit was a networking extravaganza
* 12 workshops/discussion panels on crucial African sectors
* Summit to become an annual event

Skyrove named as a South African Startup to Watch

We’re really proud to say we’ve been listed on isean.co.za ‘s list of South African Startups. Have a look at here to read about Skyrove and the 9 other awesome startups (and note that most of them are Cape Town based!)

Free Wi-Fi internet at Greenmarket Square

For an initial six months only, Capetonians can enjoy free wireless internet at South Africa’s oldest public space, Greenmarket Square. In a unique collaboration between Cape Town Partnership and Skyrove, the premium Wi-Fi hotspot provider, locals will now have access to 10MB’s of free internet daily.

The free wireless internet will be a welcome addition to Greenmarket Square’s newly developed residential community; their revamped retail area; and their outdoor marketplace. “Businesses on Greenmarket Square will see a significant increase in the number of people lingering in their establishments, as more locals will schedule meetings outside of the office – or linger over coffee – while they enjoy wireless internet in the cosmopolitan bustle of this 300-year old heritage space,” says Henk Kleynhans, CEO of Skyrove.

Says Kleynhans, “The influx of visitors to popular tourist locations during the 2010 World Cup will be significant and we wanted to ensure that we could accommodate even the most tech-savvy soccer revellers and possibly enhance the attractiveness of the precinct.”

“As we constantly strive to make Cape Town a valuable resource for both cultural and creative inspiration, Skyrove’s proposition has assisted us to strengthen our positioning as a creative hub,” says Cape Town Partnership Senior Project Manager Terri Carter. She continues, “We hope to roll out similar projects around the city very soon.”

The City of Cape Town has spent over R18 million on the upgrade of Greenmarket Square. The first phase saw the granite cobbles, laid in 1965, lifted and cleaned before being rearranged at new levels to accommodate surrounding restaurants. In addition, CCTV cameras and pedestrian lights were installed; new bollards, benches and signs were added; as well as the sidewalks paved. The roof of the ablution facility is being transformed into a stage which will allow for special events such as lunchtime concerts which will further enhance business in the Square.

Article published on the Cape Town Partnership website.

Exemplary Service – Customer Testimonial

Today we had a problem at one of our Wi-Fi Hotspots, the Fat Cactus, in Cape Town. We recently upgraded their equipment. Free Skyrove vouchers are registered so that they can only be used at a particular hotspot, and because of the upgrade, there were some vouchers still registered to the old Wi-Fi routers.

Unfortunately, the Fat Cactus still had a handful of old vouchers which weren’t working with the new equipment. One of our customers, Anthony, phoned us after not being able to log in at the hotspot. Fortunately we were able to quickly diagnose and solve the problem.

Anthony later wrote the following feedback on our customer forum:

Examplary Service

Today I had issues with establishing a connection to Skyrove’s hotspot at a local restaurant in Gardens. Firstly, the free vouchers I received from the venue did not work, then I could not surf the net through my pre-paid account. A frustrating experience indeed.

I contacted Skyrove support by email and promptly received a telephone call from Robert from Support, who went through the issues with me. He soon discovered the problems, addressed them in a friendly manner, and arranged the issue to be resolved. I then received a follow-up email encapsulating the discussion we had prior on the phone and even received some Skyrove credit in the form of a voucher number.

This is what I call ‘service’.

May Skyrove go from strength to strength. I’m a happy customer :)

I think there are 2 key learnings out of this:

First, proper communication with your customers. We use Zendesk to track all customer support queries. It makes a BIG difference to your customers when you keep them in the loop.

Secondly, have a customer forum. It’s always a bit scary to have a section of your website that might point out weaknesses in your product/service. But it’s also very transparent and engenders trust from customers. And of course now and then a happy customer might just make some time to thank you for solving their problems.

iPad Accounts for 5% of Mobile Wi-Fi Traffic

Wi-Fi roaming provider Boingo just reported on their blog that the iPad already accounts for 5% of Mobile Wi-Fi traffic, outpacing even Android devices!

Apparently, it took much longer for the iPhone to have this big an impact. (It’s still in the lead with 89.3% of hotspot associations)

Of course, it has to be noted that Apple’s devices (iPhone, iPod Touch & now iPad) are famous (notorious?) for actively seeking out and associating with Wi-Fi networks.

See the graph below for a breakdown: