Chief Executive Officer-MTN Ghana, Stephen Blewett, has emphasised the importance of collaboration in unleashing Africa’s economic potential.

Reiterating the immense promise of the continent’s digital economy, he noted that challenges such as infrastructure limitations and digital literacy gaps persist.

Speaking at the 2024 3i Africa Summit held in Accra, he called for a collaborative effort among leaders, innovators, businesses, financiers and investors to accelerate this transformation and create a sustainable and inclusive digital economy for Africa.

“The digital economy in Africa holds immense promise, but its success relies on our collective efforts to drive innovation, attract investment and create a positive impact.

“As leaders, it is our responsibility to champion these causes; whether by supporting startups, advocating for policy reform, investing in infrastructure or fostering collaboration among various stakeholders. I believe that, together, we can shape an Africa which not only thrives in the digital age but also serves as a shining example of inclusive and sustainable development,” Mr. Blewett stated.

Mr. Blewett’s call came at a time when the World Bank, in its January 2024 Results Brief, reported that 160 million Africans gained broadband Internet access between 2019 and 2022.

Also, there was a 115 percent increase in Internet users between 2016 and 2021 in sub-Saharan Africa alone, while 191 million additional individuals made or received a digital payment between 2014 and 2021.

Despite these gains, Africa lags far behind the world in mobile adoption and innovation. Constraints such as low infrastructure coverage, affordability of data and smartphones, and lack of digital skills training continue to inhibit access to the Internet among vulnerable groups, especially women.

“We must therefore make every effort to remove these bottlenecks and close the usage gap by improving data coverage and lowering the cost of data and data-enabled devices – especially in rural and low-income areas – and enhance digital literacy,” he emphasised.

Innovation, investment and impact

He further added that to unleash Africa’s economic potential, the region’s digital and fintech journey must be guided by innovation, investment and impact.

He highlighted the pivotal role of innovation in driving Africa’s digital revolution and economic development, saying: “The success of services like MTN’s Mobile Money and others provide sufficient evidence of fintech’s ability to revolutionise business on the continent and provide millions of people with access to essential financial services.

“With over 295 million subscribers in Africa, we must continue deepening relations with our critical stakeholders to create innovative digital and financial services that cater to the growing needs of Africans. Industry must lead this charge with the advantages and opportunities available to leapfrog Africa’s development,” he added.

Mr. Blewett also noted the need for sustainable investments in digital infrastructure, calling for policies that encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

He urged policymakers and regulators to strike the right balance between investment, innovation and revenue generation, emphasising the importance of creating transparent and forward-looking policies and regulations.

“The stark reality is that across the African continent, less than a third of the population has access to broadband connectivity. To increase access, mobile network operators must invest heavily in their infrastructure,” he added.

Mr. Blewett also stressed the impact of industry actions on society and the environment, advocating for the integration of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) principles into commercial activities.

He emphasised the significance of reducing carbon footprints and supporting impactful social programmes to complement governmental efforts.

“While focusing on growth we must not lose sight of the impact that our actions have on our environment and society, and strive towards creating shared value in business outcomes. To this end, we must progressively reduce our carbon footprints by investing in renewable energy and other energy-efficient tools and technologies that lead to efficiency.

“If industry plays its part in this, then governments and policymakers must equally rise to the occasion; because it is only through our collaborative efforts that we can bring about meaningful social change,” he stressed.


Africa leads the world in mobile banking, with the highest number of services, accounts and transactions. Fintech has allowed millions of unbanked people to access financial services in areas where traditional banking services are absent. The continent boasts more than 760 million accounts that generate more than US$830billion in transactions per year. Ghana, in particular, is emerging as a key player in the fintech space.

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