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Exclusive speaker interviews:

Russell Southwood, CEO, BALANCING ACT


Why did you choose to speak at Capacity Africa 2015?


I have known about Capacity Africa for a long time and the line-up of other speakers seemed particularly interesting this year.
 
What are the topics you specialise in and what can we expect to hear from you at Capacity Africa 2015?

The company I run - Balancing Act - specialises in telecoms, Internet and media in Africa and has done so over the last 15 years. The market has arrived at a particularly interesting stage. Bandwidth is now beginning to be sufficiently cheap and reliable for digital services to develop. For there to be a mass market in African digital services, bandwidth has to become even cheaper and this poses an interesting set of challenges for all involved.
 
What new developments are you expecting in the African telecoms market in the coming year?~

The growth of things that will reflect that Africa is becoming a more sophisticated and complex data market: things like independent data centres and interconnect points, more third party data network suppliers, better payment solutions and more digital services.
 
What do you think are the main challenges for the telecommunications industry in the region ?
 
There are many but particular challenges include: putting capital into upgrading networks to LTE when data revenues are less rewarding, getting a wider spread of national data networks, offering better local access options and understanding that the days of easy and fast returns are now over.

Zahir Khanm, COO, PROJECT ISIZWE


Why did you choose to speak at Capacity Africa 2015?

Every opportunity to engage and collaborate adds significantly to the enhancement and development of the continent and its people; I see this as an opportunity to share what Project Isizwe is doing and to learn about other initiatives that may compliment our efforts.

What are the topics you specialise in and what can we expect to hear from you at Capacity Africa 2015?

My areas of expertise are the Telecommunications industry, services, networks and commercialisation. For Capacity Africa 2015, I will focus on the digital divide and how Project Isizwe is making headway through the Free WiFi initiatives in closing this gap for South Africa in the short to medium term and our plans to achieve long-term sustainability.

Why should people attend Capacity Africa 2015 and what are you looking forward to gaining from the event?

The event affords an opportunity to collaborate with global partners and to take back new lessons to enhance and optimise whatever you are doing today.

What new developments are you expecting in the African telecoms market in the coming year?

The African telecoms market is seeing significant growth and over the next year this will continue with further investment into network infrastructure. Government will continue independent investment into longhaul networks all of which are planned to be commercially sustainable. With a plethora of infrastructure available, increasing market size, reducing service rates to consumers and shareholder pressures on operators to turn higher profits, the future is bright for a handful of large players. Ultimately, the next year will see the start of significantly more difficult times for the telecommunications industry as market size starts to cap for paying subscribers and new markets must be unlocked. This is where Project Isizwe is making a significant impact as we connect the unconnected and unlock future markets.

What do you think are the main challenges for the telecommunications industry in the region ?

The digital divide is growing due to the high cost of infrastructure deployment and the lack of suitable infrastructure for service delivery across most of Africa. First world countries have infrastructure in place and can now leverage that to move to digital or cloud-based services for users while Africa struggles to get higher broadband penetration rates. We will get there in time but the gap will continue to grow until we have connected our unconnected people.

More interviews to be added shortly from other top speakers at Capacity Africa 2015!



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