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DRC: The enemies of promise gather to throw away the digital opportunity

Last Friday the WACS cable was lit up at the DRC’s landing station in Muanda. This should be a cause for great optimism but the country is run by the enemies of promise so do not expect anything to happen quickly. Russell Southwood reflects on how the digital opportunity might be thrown away by this country’s politicians.

Egypt’s regulator NTRA tries to hold back the wave of the future by banning apps like Viber and What’s App on investment and security grounds

With data revenues set to exceed voice revenues by 2018 according to a GSMA report, there are still some places that are not yet on the programme for the new business model. This week the Egyptian regulator set up a Committee to look at whether to ban apps like Viber and What’s App. Russell Southwood looks at how Africa’s regulators need to stop looking at the future through the rearview mirror of history.

Music to the ears – African online mobile music platforms break out all over the continent

Music is not as bandwidth-heavy as video so there have been a significant number of online mobile music platforms launched in the last 12 months. Russell Southwood looks at the contenders in the field and how they might make out.

The largest of the current online platforms (both on mobile and PC) is iROKING (which is part of iROKO Partners) that also runs a Nollywood film platform in parallel.  It received investment from US private equity fund Tiger Global and has been expanding its reach and recently opened a South African office.

Google and Microsoft pitch TV White Spaces as a way to wring out more spectrum and beat the digital divide in rural areas

Around 100 people have gathered this week in Dakar to attend an event jointly co-hosted by Google and Microsoft to look at how TV white Spaces and the technology that can use it will make a contribution to the continent’s access to cheaper Internet. Not since the heady days of African ISPs lobbying for international fibre bandwidth has there seemed to be such a head of steam around a particular issue. Russell Southwood looks at what’s promised and what might be delivered.

Kenya’s Sleepout.com raises seed funding to expand its offer across Africa and into the Middle East

The seed fund sum is a modest US$200,000 but it marks the slow but steady march of business going online in Africa. Sleepout.com attracted this seed funding from Amsterdam-based Africa Media Ventures Fund. It has already invested in EatOut.com and its founder Mikul Shah is a co-founder of this new venture. Russell Southwood spoke to its other co-founder Johan Jenson.

LTE insurgent challenger Smile does a hard launch in Tanzania and will open its network on a wholesale basis to other operators

Smile Communications has put in place the first public roll-out in Africa of LTE in 800 MHz spectrum in Tanzania and has ambitious plans to roll out in the same spectrum in three more countries. This week it moved from soft to hard launch status in Tanzania and the other 3 countries will follow. Russell Southwood spoke to founder and CEO of the company Irene Charnley.

Despite setbacks, Somalia begins to pick itself up and looks at bringing international bandwidth to Mogadishu

It may be two steps forward and one step back but Somalia is beginning to pick itself up off the ground after years of civil war. In the absence of regulation, a telecoms sector has developed. Now the new Government must put in place regulation and start to focus on connecting the disparate parts of the country. Russell Southwood spoke to Tim Kelly, World Bank about what’s been happening there.

African gaming looks set to raise its game with Kulaya.com raising seed stage investment, giving US$2 million valuation

Until recently, the African gaming sector has been largely a small number of dedicated and enthusiastic developers in search of a business model. This week’s announcement that Nigeria’s Kulaya.com has raised small seed funding could be a flash in the pan but might also be the start of the development of a more prosperous games sector. Russell Southwood spoke to the Head of Kulaya, Kunle Ogungbamila.

The Buying and Selling Game in Africa – A backstage look at the way Mergers and Acquisitions Happen

With the developed world economies flat-lining, the prospect of investing in Africa has never been more attractive. With the halo effect from the mobile growth years still in place, buyers are coming to a set of markets that are much changed. Russell Southwood looks at who might be up for sale and who might not be sold and at who the possible buyers might be.

TV White Spaces trial in South Africa seeks to accelerate access to managed spectrum

TV White Spaces offers two potential benefits: immediate use of unused spectrum for rural area deployment and better overall use of existing spectrum. Africa currently has two active trials, one in Kenya (sponsored by Microsoft) and a second in South Africa (sponsored by Google). This week Russell Southwood looks at the second of these two trials to see why it is different from the first one and the potentially revolutionary implications of managed spectrum.

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