IBM, Airtel join forces to foster mobile innovation in Africa

IBM in partnership with Airtel Ghana has announced two initiatives to drive innovation in the mobile technology sector in Ghana.

As part of the partnership, the two companies have opened a new Mobile Centre of Excellence which is the first of its kind in West Africa at the University of Ghana.

The facility is to provide students with access to cutting edge mobile technologies to foster an innovative ecosystem in academic.

The two companies also intend to launch other Mobile Centres of Excellence in some selected universities across Africa, with laboratories in the key markets of Nigeria and Kenya expected to be opened this year.

In addition, the two companies have also organised a competition for Ghanaian university students to encourage the development of new mobile solutions and lay the foundation for start-up enterprises in the country.

In a statement issued Sunday, the Managing Director of Airtel Ghana Philip Sowah expressed excitement about the partnership which would serve as a platform to drive mobile innovation across Africa.

“We have been impressed by the level of talent and dynamism amongst students in Ghana and are confident that with the right support and access to technologies, they can go on to play an important role in developing the mobile technologies and businesses of the future”, he said.

According to recent GSM Association Report, Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, and is the biggest after Asia. The number of subscribers on the continent has grown almost 20 per cent each year for the past five years, reaching over 700 million subscribers at the end of 2012.

Africa is known for its quick adoption of new services using advanced mobile phone technologies, including mobile money transfer services like Airtel Money and HD Voice services which Airtel is currently rolling out across Africa.

Mr Joe Mensah, IBM Ghana General Manager, said Africa had gained a reputation for innovation in mobile technology with a number of applications and start-ups coming under the global spotlight.

He said for this momentum to continue, it was important to foster the culture of innovation in African academia and build the skills and experience required for the development of commercially viable businesses in future.

The mobile innovation competition was launched with the University of Ghana last year where a student developed an application dubbed “Check It” – allowing mobile phone users take photos of goods and send them to a standards body for verification.

This year’s competition has been extended to students of Ashesi University and the University of Cape-Coast.