Johan Dennelind, CEO, Vodacom

Ahead of the AfricaCom 2011 conference in November, we took the opportunity to speak with Johan Dennelind, CEO of Vodacom Group, about growth in the region.

What will you be covering in your presentation at AfricaCom 2011?

An overview of what Vodacom is up to in its African operations outside South Africa, some of the good things we’ve been doing and why we’re optimistic about Africa.

What are the three most pressing challenges your company faces at the moment?

The usual ones we are all facing like regulatory, macro and exchange rates. But also looking at how to keep up with the growth in voice and boom in data.

The ITU SG has said he wants to see high grade fixed broadband increase in penetration in a comparable way to mobile telephony in Africa. Do you think this can happen?

It’ll certainly be challenging in rural areas and we should not look at a specific technology but rather focus on the customer demands.

How urgent is the need for broadband in your market, and in the wider African marketplace?

Very. There is a pressing need is for affordable devices supplied with a decent network connection. So we can’t do this alone.

Is the ongoing existence of independent African operators threatened by the large multinational players?

There are definite advantages to being part of a large multinational group, so the independent companies may find it harder to compete.

What can the African communications sector teach the rest of the world?

That creativity is just as important as technology when it comes to developing useful, practical solutions to customer needs. Especially when they in many cases are driven out of the basic human needs.

We hear much of the increased importance of the operator in African society compared to the rest of the world. Is this true for your company and what examples can you share with us?

The link between increased connectivity and GDP growth is well-established. Mobile technology has so much to offer when it comes to providing practical solutions to the challenges facing Africa: education, health care, and lack of fixed infrastructure. With this in mind, we do have the privilege of being able to make a real difference to the society we operate in, and at the same time we obviously have an enormous responsibility to get it right.

Johan is speaking at the AfricaCom event, starting on November 9 in Cape Town

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