Mobile World Congress cancelled over coronavirus

Coronavirus Watch Europe Main Story
  • Zimbabwe tech giant affected
  • More than 100,000 people no longer to attend

ZTN Reporter

Organisers of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), one of the world’s premier tech and telecom events, have cancelled it because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because of the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances,” read a statement from the trade group GSMA.

GSMA, which represents nearly 400 companies in the mobile industry, added that it was impossible to hold the event, which had been slated for Spanish city of Barcelona through to 2023 under a long-term agreement.

“The host city parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the host city parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions. Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed company Cassava Smartech had been slated as one of the exhibitors, while several Zimbabwean government officials and companies were set to attend the event, now derailed by the coronavirus epidemic which has spread beyond China to 24 countries.

More than 100,000 people were expected to attend the Mobile World Congress, with keynote speakers from Orange, Google Cloud and Telefónica slated. Yet a growing number of companies including Facebook and Nokia had already cancelled plans to participate.

Among the planned speakers was Egyptian Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union Commissioner in charge of Infrastructure, Energy, ICT and Tourism, and former African Development Bank manager. Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim, the Nigerian minister for Communications and Digital Economy, and Ken Njoroge, the Kenyan co-founder of Cellulant, also were listed as speakers.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday said there are 45,171 confirmed cases of the virus, now named COVID-19. More than 1,100 people have died from the virus, all but one of them in China. While several African nations continue to investigate infections, none have yet confirmed any positive coronavirus tests.