Gitex tech conference looks to Africa for new innovations

Morocco to host first edition of the exhibition held outside Dubai

The Dell Technologies stand at Gitex in Dubai. The event will take place in Africa for the first time this week. Leslie Pableo / The National
Powered by automated translation

Gitex technology week, which has long been a staple of the Dubai conference season, will open in Africa for the first time to showcase the best innovation the continent has to offer.

As nations across Africa embrace a period of rapid digital transformation, new development opportunities will be on show at the three-day conference that begins in Marrakech, Morocco on Wednesday.

The event is one of the largest tech and start-up shows held in Africa and is being staged at the 45,000 square metre exhibition hub at Place Bab Jdid.

For too long the world’s second largest continent has been under-stated and overlooked for its profound digital opportunities and aspirations
Trixie LohMirmand, KAOUN International

More than 900 companies, government entities, start-ups and participants from at least 100 nations will arrive in Morocco to show how digitisation and technology is transforming the way Africa works.

With huge disparity in access to reliable power supplies and a stable internet connection across Africa, investment in telecoms and infrastructure is key to the continent’s digital future.

“Gitex Africa will be an opportunity for Moroccan and African start-ups owners and young programmers to get in touch with regional and global investors and business incubators,” said Ghita Mezzour, Minister of the Moroccan Ministry of Digital Transition and Administration Reform.

“It will provide an opportunity as well to network with actors in both public and private sectors.”

Growing workforce

According to the World Food Bank, Africa’s share of the global workforce is expected to become the largest in the world by the end of the century.

With more than 22 million Africans forecast to join the workforce annually, the uptake of digital infrastructure and technologies is critical to boost employment opportunities.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest gap between availability of digital infrastructure and usage, said World Bank report Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs.

On average, 84 per cent of populations in the region had access to 3G internet, but just 22 per cent were using online services in 2021.

Data collected by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association found internet usage rates ranged from just 6 per cent in South Sudan, to 53 per cent in South Africa.

Potential for growth

Over three days of key note speeches, discussions and exhibitions at Gitex Africa, business start-ups can link with technology providers and funding gateways to improve internet usage and related opportunities.

The conference aims to build on the continent’s huge potential for growth.

According to analysts Briter Bridges, African start-ups raised $5.4 billion in more than 900 deals in 2022.

Recent successful African start-ups include Tunisian carpooling service Lamma, while Rwandan start-up Viebeg enabled healthcare providers to manage procurement more efficiently via its data-driven logistics platform.

Meanwhile, Uganda has been a hotbed for entrepreneurship with its young population benefitting from a rapid digital transformation.

The Uganda Investment Authority was named the pick of 170 nations at the Annual Investment Meeting in Abu Dhabi for the way it handled direct foreign investment to support start-ups, small and medium enterprises and future cities.

At Gitex Africa, scouting programmes will connect innovators with some 250 investors, of which 70 per cent are from outside the continent.

“For too long, the world’s second-largest continent has been understated and overlooked for its profound digital opportunities and aspirations,” said Trixie LohMirmand, chief executive of event organiser KAOUN International.

“Gitex integrates Africa strategically into the hyper-connected tech ecosystem across 100 countries.

“It now firmly plugs Africa into the global entrepreneurial innovation economy.

“We focus on empowering the new generation of tech and creative talents to augment the culture of entrepreneurship to bring together public and private sector leaderships to build tangible meaningful outcomes.”

Latest tech innovations at Gitex Dubai – in pictures

Updated: May 31, 2023, 4:00 AM