Newsletter English

Issue no 604 11th May 2012

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Top story

  • The hype about cloud computing and data centres can often seem overblown when you visit some of Africa’s smaller markets but in many of the larger markets, data centres and the services they enable are now becoming an established part of enabling both consumer and corporate services. A recent conference in South Africa provided the opportunity to look at the challenges and floated the idea that the challenging circumstances of Africa may offer it the opportunity to become a pioneer in green, energy efficient solutions.

    What is not often recognized is that data centres in Africa are managed by IT staff who are not necessarily trained in data centre optimization and in  best cooling techniques but are more focused on the latest software and networking equipment.

    One of the objectives of this forum was to highlight how to cut down the cost of data center through improved facilities design and management. The forum showcased the implementation of successful data center virtualization methods and looked at outsourcing strategies that focus in particular on developing a foolproof disaster recovery plan for maximum security and protection.

    Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst at Balancing Act opened the first day session and provided a presentation of recent market research carried out in Africa. Data centre facilities are limited on the continent but due to grow by 10% per year over the next 3 years.

    In its 2011 report, Balancing Act counted 120 commercial data centers and projects in Africa with about 10 to 20 more commercial centers to be built over the next 5 years. In-house data centers are estimated to be 10 times this number across Africa with South Africa leading the pack. Examples provided by APC by Schneider highlighted that data centers can reduce energy costs by 20-30%. Beletre showed where the new data centers are being built across Africa's most developed cities and gave pointers to growth drivers and investment opportunities across the region. Balancing Act plans on releasing an update to its 'Data Centres in Africa' report in the autumn of this year.

    Lee Smith, director at Dee Smith & Associates in South Africa is a design, implementation and integration expert in South Africa.  For Smith, deciding on the right data centre location is key: not only it is important to make sure that expert staff will feel comfortable about working in its environment, it is also key to ensure sufficient local enterprise needs, power and bandwidth availability.

    Lee Smith examined energy cost reduction measures and made a point that for a data centre to improving energy performance it needs to be designed in before the centre gets built. Vendors need to train management and operating teams to make sure they know how to use each technology. Smith also explored ways and means of improving data center management by involving all technical teams and getting them to talk in a common language from the start.
       
    Working with your procurement contract partners at an earlier stage of project development will improve outcomes. Continuous performance controls ensure that your facility is cost effective. Smith also stressed that the modern data centre is scalable and flexible. Modernising the rules, tools and methods of your procurement is also key to setting up a long term scalable facility.

    Smith gave some simple practical tricks such as having racks and servers painted in bright colours rather than in black which can reduce temperature and light consumption by up to 30%. Unfortunately today, most legacy equipment is painted in black. A facility's diesel tank needs to be stored far from the main sever facility with a shower type pipe which allows it to empty its tank fast in case of fire or leakage. BCX and a few other data center owners work with Lee Smith because he supplies training for their facility managers and supplies some customized consulting.

    Marilyn Howard, Director of BMH Technology Solutions in South Africa provided a better understanding of the data centre definitions and challenged current opinions. For some, data centers mean faster and safer access to data. For others, it is a way to back up critical data. Overall, it is a crucial piece of the nascent African ICT infrastructure. "It is an enterprise tool made of software and hardware components that meets specific requirements" Ms. Howard concluded.

    Howard illustrated the idea of a successful data center virtualization method and explained that today we can do much more with less investment. Many efficient best practices require minimal costs and don’t require expensive purchases to help data centers reduce CO2 emissions and lower their energy costs. BMH claims to be able to set up data centre containers at a quarter of the price of a standard facility - from USD 250,000 for 100 servers instead of the usual USD 1 m.

    Paul de Klerk, Regional Manager at BT Cape (EOH owned) explored new data centers' cooling systems solutions and designs that enable organisations to attain best practice standards and compliance requirements. BT Cape specializes in rolling out cable in data center facilities. De Klerk explored ways to reduce energy consumption while maximizing cooling systems. He emphasized that "a data centre is not a simple office building", and he also pointed to global data centre accreditation standards. "There is no such thing as an off the shelves package for African data centres, these have to be customized to fit the environment and clients' requirements" he noted, adding that it often comes back to budget limitations.

    Over lunch break, an attendee in charge of the data centre at Cape Town's University confirmed de Klerk point on customizing data centre designs across Africa: "In Cape Town one of the issues we have is salt in the air coming from the sea. In Joburg, temperatures are higher and local staff have to focus on reducing summer heat; The other issue comes down to power and the region could use alternative sources such as the sun or powerful water and air currents available on the coast".

    Microsoft South Africa's Stephen Cakebread, Private Cloud and Azure Product Manager provided a review of cloud, virtualisation and efficiency methods that can easily be implemented. Cakebread explored new data centres services and applications delivered by the IT giant. Cakebread gave a short analysis of the emerging technologies for data centers and assessed what the next generation of cloud computing and data centers apps look like. To date Microsoft does not yet have any of its own data centres in Africa but they are using local commercial facilities.

    For Sakkie Burger, Managing Executive for Data Centre Services, Business Connexion (BCX), optimizing data centre environments and how to further enhance value for clients were the reasons that attracted him to the forum. "I am also attending because green aspects are top priorities and Africa represents a serious opportunity for BCX facilities' expansion" Burger said, adding that "BCX had about 27% of the data centre services market share in South Africa as of Nov. 2011 according to Frost and Sullivan. BCX is also the only service provider in the country that has Tier 4 accreditation provided by the 'Uptime Institute' and delivered back on 15 May 2009". The South African data centre market is heating with major players like T-Systems (which manages some local data centers) and Teraco (one of the main carrier neutral data centers' owner) taking shares in what could become a leading outsourcing destination.

    In its November 2011 report entitled ‘An overview of the South African Data Centre Market’, Frost & Sullivan put annual data centre revenues at R2.3 billion in 2010, while it expects a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 9.6% through to 2016, when revenues are anticipated to R4.0 billion. It notes that the top four data centre providers have a combined market share of 68% with the remaining 32% contested by more than ten companies. The nearest competitors to Business Connexion are IBM with 16% of the market and Dimension Data with 15%.

    Among the comments made during the first session, it was mentioned that cooling air is a major cost for data centre facilities. But there is an opportunity to re-sell that hot air to local community buildings. There have been examples of hot air being re-used to heat hotel or private outdoor swimming pools and offices.

    One of the attendees mentioned that there have had recent requests for audio-streaming storage and this seems to be a future market across Africa. Audiovisual content such as video-streaming will certainly pick up in the years to come.

    Nils Gerstle, director of Collaboretix Enterprise Consulting (Pty) Ltd - a South African based business consulting, technology and management company focused on strategic alignment and data centres - observed that technology and data centre managers often rely too much on vendors to educate them on available solutions. Technology choices are overwhelming and too little time is spent on analysing strategic needs, before making technology decisions. Gerstle pointed out: "You often have a situation where technology buyers go for the Rolls-Royce of technology solutions where the BMW would have been more than sufficient". Collaboretix works with clients to bed down their enterprise and management strategies and align them with their actual business and technological requirements. This establishes a base for clients to make more informed decisions relating to their technology solutions and ensures alignment. “Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects in business”, says Gerstle.

     

    According to delegates, it seems that Africa has the potential to lead a new generation of greener data centers and set up its own accreditation standard relevant to its innovations, varied environment and its limited electric capacity.

    To find out more about the event, click here.

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs


    Jesse Oguns, blogger at oTeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Liberia’s Cellcom will be launching an HSPA+ network in the country in an effort to improve the internet browsing experience for mobile internet users. The implementation will be the fastest and only HSPA+ network in the country.

    Avishai Marziano, the CEO of Cellcom, said that the technology will give mobile users the best possible experience and allow for mobile phones to perform better. “We are stepping up our technology a notch to give our consumers the best for their money. We are redefining cellular technology in Liberia and will provide the fastest and best quality in surfing as part of what is the vision of the mobile Internet which is the key component and central service for our client.”

    The launch of the HSPA+ network will give mobile users the chance to experience internet at a much faster speed than many home office internet connections in Liberia. The technology will have a capacity of 21Mbs browsing.

    “With the new technology, the current browsing speed cellular network will exceed by 100 times that of our competitors and 10 times of 3G network,” Marziano continued.

    “We have seen an increase in customers consuming cellphones since we broke the monopoly. Now with new technology like smartphones and l-phones we are in the process of upgrading our networks to make our customers happy and stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Leading mobile network operator Safaricom has moved to court seeking to recover close to half a billion shillings from its rivals for non-payment of termination fees since October together with penalties.

    Safaricom is demanding close to half a billion shillings from Airtel and about Sh150 million from Essar for non-payment of termination fees — the amount of money an operator pays rivals if its subscribers call another network — since October.

    It’s also seeking that the operators pay it interests and collection fees for delayed payment, arguing that the dues are hurting its cash flow. The interest is pegged on the average base rate that currently stands at 20.34 per cent and Safaricom hopes the penalty will act as a deterrent for delayed payments. 

    “What Safaricom is telling its rivals is that they can hold on to its debt as long they wish, but at a cost and the cost are the penalties,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the suit and wished not to be named.

    For a start, Safaricom is demanding Sh4 million from Airtel for the late payment of termination charges covering July and August, which stood at Sh173 million.

    Safaricom through Havi and Company Advocates is accusing Airtel of breaching the July 2002 interconnection agreement for the provision of telecommunications services to their respective customers. Airtel has not responded to the suit.

    The agreement states that operators must prepare a billing statement and tax invoice for interconnection charges and forward the same to the other party within two weeks of every month.

    The termination rate—which currently stands at Sh2.21 a minute—is emerging as a big issue in Kenya’s mobile telephony market and has split the board of the telecommunication regulator on whether it should be reduced or not.

    Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director, said last Wednesday that the termination rate will drop to Sh1.44 per minute in July from the current Sh2.21, but Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, also a director, is opposed to it.

  • Telecom Namibia has over the past seven years lost more than N$100 million (US$12.4 m) through their investment in Mundo Startel (MST) in Angola, of which it holds 44 per cent shares.

    The company has now decided to exit the joint venture, which has been described by those close to the deal as a “difficult” partnership. An urgent meeting between the two companies is expected to take place to finalise Telecom’s exit in this joint venture which is no longer viable.

    “Mundo has struggled to achieve its business plan over the past few years and as a result there is an indication that carrying value of this investment in the company accounts may be impaired. “By impairment it means a reduction in the value of an asset because the asset no longer generates the benefits expected earlier as determined by the company through periodic assessments,” Telecom Namibia’s Senior Manager Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula, told The Namibian.

    He further explained that in the light of the current difficult situation of this venture “Telecom management and Board have impaired the carrying value of this investment in the company’s financial statements by an amount of N$18 million in 2011 to bring the accumulated impairment [loss] of the investment to N$79 million”.

    In 2005 when Telecom Namibia entered into a business partnership with the Angolan investors, it made an initial investment of N$29.8 million for the 44 per cent shareholding in MST.  However over the years Telecom invested N$162 million in the  unprofitable company. Due to Angola’s challenging geography the new company would have concentrated on installing next generation networks, VSAT and wireless digital technology instead of digging trenches and setting up telephone poles.

    However, by May last year Telecom saw the writing on the wall and decided to jump ship and exit the partnership. Now a year later a final meeting is planned in Luanda to try and finalise the controversial issue, which cost Telecom Namibia a loss of more than N$23.7 million. “This is a follow-up meeting of the one that was held in March this year during which certain proposals were made after the Angolan partners agreed to buy Telecom Namibia’s shares. We have to ensure that we recover our investment,” said Angula.

    Telecom provided start-up capital as well as loans to MST to the tune of N$146.3 million to get the business off the ground and build the initial network in Luanda.
    It is understood that MST now wants to offer Telecom a cash payment of about N$15 million over a 60 day period from the date of sale and that the issuance of about N$94 million preferred shares be paid with a premium once MST becomes profitable.

  • Tanzanian fixed line operator Six Telecoms Company (6Telecom) has launched a new Metro Network in the country, targeting the corporate user segment. 6Telecom is looking to offer business users improved internet connectivity in the region with CEO Nick Odero noting: ‘As companies grow and expand in Tanzania it is important that they have a dedicated network that will allow for them to connect all of their branches in a redundant and secure manner that is robust and cost effective. Metro Network is aligned to act as a business development partner for our clients as reliable and secure networks are a vital component to growth within East Africa.’

    The unit’s 6Telecom Data arm aims to match customer requirements to the desired level of connectivity they need. For example, some customers will require more than fibre-optic provisioning and here, Metro Network can offer licensed microwave links it says. 6 Telecoms’ new Metro Network covers a number of areas in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Mtwara.

  • The company behind the planned 40Tbit/s Wasace cable says the African leg of the submarine system will be ready for service in early 2014. And it's coming to SA.
    The African leg of a new submarine telecommunications system that will serve markets in the North and South Atlantic will be ready for service in the first quarter of 2014. The cable will offer high-speed global connectivity to SA, Angola and Nigeria.

    That’s the word from the Wasace Cable Company, which is building the multibillion-dollar Wasace system. The company said on Wednesday that it had begun the procurement process to select a system supplier for the cable’s construction.

    An invitation to tender has been sent to four potential suppliers and Wasace expects to select the successful bidder in July 2012. The company has retained two financial services companies, including Aterios Capital, as financial advisors to source funding for the project.

    International telecoms constulting firm, the David Ross Group, is administering the procurement process and leading the development of the project.

    The 40Tbit/s cable will connect SA, Angola and Nigeria to the US, as well as to markets in South America and Europe, using the latest “100G” fibre-optic technology. The system will consist of three parts:

    Wasace Americas, connecting Brazil (Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza) to the US via a landing station in Florida, with “optional, on-demand connectivity to Colombia, Panama and the US state of South Carolina.

    Wasace Africa, connecting SA and Nigeria to the US with optional and on-demand connectivity to the Niger Delta at Bonny Island and to Angola.
    Wasace Europe, connecting Florida to Virginia Beach and across the North Atlantic to San Sebastian in Spain.

    The Wasace Cable Company plans to develop the network in phases, beginning with the Americas and Africa segments, which are scheduled to be in service by early 2014 — if that deadline is met, it will be ahead of the newly announced Brics Cable, which will follow some of the same route at Wasace.

internet

  • The TEAMS cable company has sued the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and a shipping firm for the recent cable cut at Mombasa that caused disruption in Internet services.

    “We will sue it (KPA) again as soon as we establish the cause of the cut, we have already sued it for $15 million in the earlier case of which they have deposited $2.5 million with the court,” said Bitange Ndemo, PS in the Ministry of Information and Communication as he spoke to the Business Daily.

    This incident had happened before causing Internet disruptions for close to a month in February and it led to companies moving in on Satellite Internet services that are much costly and offer slower voice and data services as compared to fiber optic services just to be safer when fiber cable cuts happen.

    Ken Munyi, GM at iWay Africa, commented that, “Operators are increasingly appreciating the importance of back-up solutions, which has seen increased demand for satellite services.” He added, “Since the EASSY cable was cut on February 25, we have witnessed increased enquiries and interest.”

    Ndemo acknowledged the need to find out the activities that were happening there and whether KPA was using geo-maps to direct ships considering it is an “off-limit” landing zone.

  • The Niger Telecommunications Company announced the reinstatement of its broadband Internet services, after three months of load shedding due to a failure on a separate line of fiber optics in neighboring Benin. This a breakdown that reinforces the need for countries to have multiple fibre connections for redundancy purposes.

    "We have restored the high-speed Internet (....) on the optical fiber, after the failure recorded since January this year in Benin from where we are served," said Amoumoune Adam, head of sales and marketing. Niger experienced disturbances on its Internet following a breakdown at the line called "Sat3" which supplies the country since the maritime source in neighboring Benin.

    This situation, the official said, has forced the company to "consider a supply via satellite, but it is insufficient." Niger has a low penetration of Information Technology and Communication (ICT), especially because of the costs of ICT equipment very high in this country.

  • The National Liberation Front Party (FLN) announced on Thursday that its Secretary General Abdellaziz Belkhadem would reply on Sunday to the Internet users' questions and queries on Facebook as part of the ongoing campaign for the May 10th legislative polls in Algeria.

    The announcement was made on the FLN party's Website indicating that Mr Abdellaziz Belkhadem would provide answers to the questions between 19h and 20h local time or 18h and 19h GMT.

    The FLN Party which held the majority of seats in the outgoing National Popular Assembly is hoping to retain its leading role by garnering a maximum of seats in the future Assembly at a time when the party is beset by an internecine power struggle which could shatter its unity and cohesion.

    Algeria with a population of over 36 million inhabitants, counted in late 2010 around 5 million-Internet users.

  • Sam Bikassam, CEO of Togo Telecom has given details of the arrival, as expected by users, of high speed bandwidth delivered by the new WACS cable. It will be for the month of June, said Bikassam. The fiber optic cable that will provide unparalleled data rates will be commissioned in South Africa on May 10.

    The cable WACS (West Africa Cable System) is a consortium of several African operators including Togo Telecom, Angola Telecom, Broadband Ifraco, Cable & Wireless, MTN, Portugal Telecom, Sotelco, Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom and Vodacom. It connects

    South Africa to Britain with connection points in Togo, Namibia, DRC, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This is the first direct link of this kind. Cost of investment: 600 million, including $ 27 million for the only operator in Togo.

    14,000 km along the WACS must route communications standard and high-speed Internet (3.8 terabits / s) at costs far lower than they are today. This will also pave the way for new technologies such as triple play (telephone, television, internet), Togo Telecom which plans to create very quickly.

    On the business offer, the details will be provided in the coming weeks, but the rates should be particularly attractive. "The connection to the WACS will give us the enormous advantage of not being dependent on foreign operators and the inherent risks," says Sam Bikassam.

  • The landing of the fiber optic submarine cable to Seychelles from Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam was launched on Saturday afternoon with a laying of the first inch of the long cable to the Seychelles capital of Victoria.

    A brief ceremony to lay the first inch of the almost 2,000-kilometer-long cable that will run underwater to connect the two countries was organized in Dar es Salaam in the presence of the Seychelles Minister for Natural Resources and Industry, Peter Sinon, and the Island’s Honorary Consul to Tanzania Ms. Maryvonne Pool.

    Along with Minister Sinon, Seychellois journalists and other dignitaries witnessed the event, which signified the launching of the first fiber optic submarine cable to their country and which will connect the people of Seychelles to the rest of the world through this modern telecommunication technology.

    The Alcatel Submarine Ship (ASN) docked in Dar es Salaam last Friday for the submarine optic fiber system project under the coordination and management of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) linked to the EASSy fiber optic cable already on the coast of the African continent.

    SEAS has been built by Seychelles Cable Systems Limited through funding from Seychelles government, Cable and Wireless (Seychelles), and the mobile phone company, Airtel.

    Ms. Maryvonne Pool who is also the island’s Tourism Ambassador to Tanzania said SEAS is also the very first fiber optic submarine cable to link Seychelles to the rest of the world and is very much a historic and development milestone for this island state.

    SEAS project is a good example of regional integration and private sector partnership as it involves entities from East African countries and also involves the use of regionally-deployed telecom infrastructure and EASSy, which is a regional African project.

    The project will as well be vital in cementing Tanzania and Seychelles relations through various areas of business, social and economic sectors, mostly travel and tourism.

    Both Tanzania and Seychelles are members of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern African (RETOSA) and is in need of a quick and effective communication that will speed up connection among tourists and other travelers between these friendly nations, while attracting more business stakeholders from each country through high-tech communication.

  • AfriNIC-16, the African Network Information Centre’s (AfriNIC) 16th bi-annual meeting together with AfNOG (The African Network Operators Group) will take place in Serekunda, The Gambia from the 6th – 18th May 2012. This year our Public Policy Meeting will host among others the first African Internet Summit and the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG).

    This Annual African Internet Summit will be a platform where all key development issues faced by Africa will be discussed and provide a more business-oriented structure to better meet the Operators' needs in Africa. As the future growth of Internet in Africa will be through mobile operators, AfriNIC through the uniqueness of its mandate will reaffirm its support to all African Network Operators.

    Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC comments, “The uniqueness of this first AfriNIC event is the essence of our mission to go beyond the simple core of IP engineering capacity building and be an active player in the African Internet community. Our entire stakeholder spectrum has shown an increasing interest in playing an even more active role in understanding the Internet infrastructure. It’s vital that all key stakeholders are brought together in ways such as this event allows us to. It’s only through working together that we can guarantee continued growth of an Internet economy in Africa.”

    AfriNIC 16 is taking place at the Kairaba Hotel, Serekunda, The Gambia. For further information about the event, please visit www.afrinic.net/afrinic 16. Non attendees can also participate remotely.

    The event will also include the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG), with the intention of strengthening the collaboration between AfriNIC, African Governments and regulators.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, gave further clarification on its roadmap for broadband delivery for Nigeria as Dr Eugene Juwah, the Commission's Executive Vice-Chairman said in Lagos that to enable service delivery at affordable prices for the end-user, where it may not be economically viable to do so, the Commission will offer financial incentives to the infrastructure providers to enable them operate reasonably profitably.

     ‘In addition, the Government through the Commission will facilitate agreements and engage in dispute resolution among the various stakeholders.” He spoke at the West African ICT Congress which took off in Lagos Tuesday.

    President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Chris Uwaje, said at the same event that the West African sub region has become a major consumer of technology, without offering anything to the technology world. He urged governments in the sub-region to declare ‘state of emergency’ in ICT. ‘The world is changing and the sub-region must be involved in the change’ Uwaje said.

  • Starting from May this year, Institutions of higher learning, vocational training centres, state schools as well as health centres will enjoy free Internet access. This information was made available by the The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MITC), Joël Kaapanda. He revealed that government has spent US$37.5 million, which equals approximately N$300 million, to make the service available.

    The telephone line and the and the wireless technology for the project has been made available by the Telecom Namibia.

    However, Electricity still remains a very serious challenge at all schools, lack of computer equipments in schools is also another concern, according to Kaapanda.
    He added that MITC and the Ministry of Education would avail a computer for every Namibian child. “We are gradually implementing this programme,” he stated.

    “Internet usage will be free unless blocked by the institution for destructive websites,” he explained. Internet access will be free on state-owned premises as well as individuals on the premises.In addition, the cost of Internet will be reduced drastically for business people and private individuals.

    He went on to explain that the broadband connection would come from Portugal and travel through West Africa, connecting a number of African countries along the coast until it lands in Swakopmund.

    Internet access in the country is still slow, epileptic and expensive, and this has resulted to huge financial losses for businesses over the years.

computing

  • In april 2012 Viafrica's pilot 'KIDSworks' began in Tanzania and Kenya. The project Kidsworks will provide ICT support to some social organisations that visit schools with life skills programmes. These organisations are Macheo Children's Centre and Watoto in Kenya and White Orange Youth in Tanzania.

    At the heart of the project is intention to improve the knowledge of the children’s life-skills. The skills focused on in the pilot are HIV\AIDS, drug abuse and adolescence. Our aim has been to augment the already existing social programmes of our local partners with ICT based learning. This involves a dynamic relationship between learning from interactive E-learning content contained on the laptops supplied for the programme as well as the classical approach given by partner organization’s social workers.

    Behind the concept of the programme is its technical implementation as the development of the KIDSworks platform on which the E-content is deployed by Oscar Buse, the platform is operated by one of Viafrica’s technicians travels with the programme. The platform itself is operating as mobile and wireless in a powerless environment.

     The pilot programme reaches ten primary schools in Tanzania and twenty primary schools in Kenya. In each country and social context, we are testing different aspects of the programme to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the skills and knowledge of the children. With a successful implementation the possibility is opened to make it part of a diverse range of learning activities.

  • As part of an effort to bridge the ‘digital divide’, the Intel Learning Series Alliance in partnership with Jasco, Custom Technologies and the Xavier Group, have delivered a completely solar powered ‘Classroom on Wheels’ to Victorious Primary School in Uganda.

    The ‘Classroom on Wheels’ includes a laptop trolley, a teacher laptop and 35 Intel powered Classmate PCs along with a WiFi access point, with content and administration delivered by the Critical Links Education Appliance. To address the unique needs of the school in Uganda a complete solar charging solution forms part of the system. This solar solution operates as an autonomous system without ever requiring mains power.

    “Solar power is a vital component to the solution, since many schools in Uganda, including Victorious Primary School, are off the national grid. Even those that receive state power are prone to surges and outages, which makes running any sort of computer centre or computer classroom difficult,” says Paul Fick, divisional MD of Jasco Enterprise. “This project was commissioned by Intel as part of a global mission to advance technology in education.”

    The solar powered classroom solution is a fully sustainable solution, as it runs entirely off a renewable energy source. The charging system incorporates three solar panels, two battery connections and a charge management system, which is fed into a charging unit housed within the laptop cart that facilitates the charging of the laptops and the server. The system has also been designed to run off a simple battery - even a car battery - to ensure that a cost effective option can be found for any region it is shipped to. Fully charged, the solution can last for up to three days before the battery is drained. The entire solution is designed to continue functioning should a single component break, and individual components can be quickly replaced to restore the system to full capacity.

    “Computers are the future, and if our students do not have access to computers they are put at a disadvantage. This project showcases the opportunities that ICT provides. The project has been very successful and has attracted a lot of interest both locally and across Africa. The Inspector of Schools and the Minister of Energy have both paid the site a visit, and the Victorious Primary School computer classroom also appeared in a Kenyan newspaper. The students also enjoy being able to learn on computers and being connected to the world using the Internet, and they and their parents have embraced the new computer classroom” says David Raymond Magezi, CEO of Xavier Group.

    “This innovative solar solution, combined with the purpose-built ruggedness of the Classmate PCs which have been designed to withstand even the roughest handling, and the powerful teaching capabilities presented by the Critical Links Education Appliance, offers an exciting new teaching concept that brings ICT within reach of children in developing countries like Uganda. It gives these learners the opportunity to embrace technology from an early age and engage with their educators in new ways, as well as to stay up to speed with developments all over the world, giving them a chance to become competitive in the modern world,” Fick concludes.

    The Ugandan Government is currently on a drive to introduce solar powered computer and technology solutions into schools. Victorious Primary School will act as a pilot project and proof of concept to illustrate the power of technology in schools and, hopefully, to attract further investment in this type of technology in future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has teamed up with Orient Bank and Warid Telecom to come up with an efficient tax payment method where taxpayers can have the comfort of clearing their taxes through the mobile money platform.

    Allen Kagina the Commissioner General at URA said the innovation’s strategy is aimed at cutting costs involved for small tax payers and the innovation is open to all banks and telecoms that can match up to the set standards. “We are targeting the smaller tax payers to help them cut cost. We won’t be required to move from the Banks to the different URA offices and vice versa.”

    Moses Kajubi the Commissioner Domestic Taxes said that it would enable tax payers have the comfort of paying taxes through SMS and at their convenience. “We appreciate that you are busy attending to other businesses as well. So we want to make it easy and instant through the SMS.”

    Sriram Yarlagadda , CEO at Warid Telecom said that the deal would bring about customer convenience for Ugandan’s.

    Maxwell Ibeanous, Managing director at Orient Bank added, “The innovation would reduce on congestion at the banks and would help those far from banks to receive the same service as those in urban centers.”

  • MCash's mobile financial service has launched in Uganda in partnership with Housing Finance Bank (HFB).

    M-Cash is under the Bank’s umbrella in Uganda to bring new service delivery channels to all Ugandan citizen. MCash’s inherent independence from mobile network operators offers an attractive business model that offer to Housing Finance Bank various alternative channels to bank the unbanked and service efficiently the under-served.

    The excitement on this new delivery channel is due to the promise to bring about a breakthrough of major importance into the mobile payment ecosystem. It offers the possibility of massive outreach to people in locations that remain underserved, especially those in hard-to-reach rural areas. Some channels, including microfinance institutions, churches, retail agents such as supermarkets or drug stores that act as banking agents, may bring the industry closer to significantly serving more Ugandan with or without a mobile phone.

    M-Cash is a universal payment solution that allows customers to open and access virtual bank accounts on which they can save their money, send or transfer money to someone else or make payments to participating Merchants. MCash solution offers a refreshing approach to mobile payment that overcomes the challenges of cashless payment by using multi-factor authentication mechanisms (NSDT, fingerprint, NFC and Voice biometric) technology. Customers access their accounts through proximity Agents where they can register to open up accounts, deposit, withdraw and transfer money.

    “Unlike many other mobile payment products on the market, M-Cash allows anyone to open a bank account without restrictions to Mobile Network, software downloads, phone types or one method of authenticating account ownership. As a completely revolutionary product, M-Cash is a simple to use, completely secure solution that lets customers access and use their accounts 24/7 regardless of their mobile network with transactions that happen in real time,” said Mme Edith Gasana Kutesa, the CEO of MCash Uganda Ltd about the product.

    According to Paul Musoke, Housing Finance bank's Deputy Managing director, with the M-cash account, a client will have a 24-hour access to their account. The product has multi-security features, like fingerprint identification, pin codes, NSDT and NFC card, all designed to protect a customer's funds.

    The Head of Marketing and Product Development Judith Owembabazi Muyinda, further explained that through this product, traders will be able to pay their tax, a student will pay his or her school fees, while a driver could pay for fuel at selected points, all of which can be done without the hassle of lining up somewhere

    “It is the expectation that HFB and M-Cash will bring financial services closer to the customer and allow a massive outreach to Ugandans everywhere to have accounts and make better use of the financial services that are readily available to them.  It is also expected that the market will quickly adopt the product as it is simple to use, convenient and completely secure”, says Mr Patrick Gordon Ngabonziza, MobiCash Group CEO.

  • MTN Mobile Money subscribers who use Starbow can now purchase their air tickets through MTN Mobile Money. MTN announced the new addition during an interaction with News Editors and senior journalists in the Volta Region.

    The forum was to brief journalists on new trends in telecommunications, the drive towards convergence, MTN’s CSR initiatives, as well as the company’s network coverage expansion projects currently underway in the region.

    Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Cynthia Lumor told journalists the purchase of Starbow ticket was a new addition to the Mobile Money portfolio, adding that the process involved customers calling Starbow on 18181 or 0245000000 for booking.

    “An invoice is then sent to the customer for payment through MTN Mobile Money wallet or any MTN Service Center," she said.

    The Commercial Manager for MTN’s South East Business District, Sam Adjei-Sah told journalists 56% of 3G data capacity available in the commercial towns of Volta region was not being utilized, an indication of low data usage in the region.He therefore encouraged the media to take advantage of the facility to enhance their work.

    Adjei-Sah also highlighted the convenience of the MTN Mobile Money Service, particularly during the raining season, stating that: ”during the rainy season it will be difficult to go out to purchase airtime, pay electricity and DSTV bills or transfer money to business partners; but with Mobile Money all these transactions can be done within a few minutes from the comfort of your home or office.”
    Payment of Domestic Airline tickets made easy by MTN Mobile Money

    The Field Services Manager for the South East Business District of MTN, Nicholas Frimpong, demonstrated some of the services available on MTN’s network, including video calling.

    He also highlighted some of the key investments MTN has made in the network to improve quality of service.

    They included the relocation of fiber between Agbozume and Ho Junction and the addition of protective mechanisms on the fiber route to minimize voice and data outages; another investment was the introduction of new, high capacity Huawei equipment to replace the existing old ones.

    He also emphasized that the investments in the network was being done across the country.

    The Volta Regional President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Victor Kwawukume, expressed appreciation to MTN for the importance it placed on the media, especially those in the region, and urged MTN to organise more capacity building sessions on the telecoms industry to keep the journalists updated of emerging trends.

    The program was also attended by members of the MTN Corporate Communications team and MTN’s key distributr in the region. The MTN Corporate Communications team also visited various stakeholders as part of their regional engagements

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has revealed that it has no plans to issue new fixed line or mobile telephony licences, despite interest from a number of foreign firms,

Digital Content

  • The World Bank is in the process of developing the next Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY13-FY16 for Ethiopia. As part of the CPS preparation process and in order to gain a better understanding of the development context and the needs of the ultimate beneficiaries of World Bank support, the Bank is conducting consultations with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the country and abroad.

    The process of gathering input from stakeholders was launched with a client survey conducted in December 2011, and will include a series of meetings with different development partners scheduled to be held in May 2012.

    The consultations will be done through face-to-face meetings as well as through an online platform, which will serve as a clearinghouse for the CPS consultation process. The Bank will post input received as well as minutes of the face-to-face meetings. It will also serve as a tool for direct communication with members of the Bank's CPS Ethiopia Team.

    The basis for discussion during the consultations will be documents and power point presentations outlining the proposed Bank interventions in Ethiopia. In order to better guide the discussions and help identify priority areas of assistance, a series of questions will be provided.

    The CPS document will be presented to the Bank's Board of Directors in September 2012, so it is important that the Bank's Ethiopia team receive inputs by May 28, 2012.

  • Mobile operator Vodacom, South African budget airline Mango and Internet service provider Wireless-G teamed up last week to bring the country and the Southern Hemisphere one step further to in-flight wifi.

    Over a hundred guests boarded the maiden Wi-Fi flight in Lanseria, just outside Johannesburg, to take to the skies while staying in contact with friends and family on the internet. But the excitement was only limited to a few passengers, as 70% of the eager surfers were unable to connect to the network.

    WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said most of the passengers couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network due to budgetary constraints when it came to the allocation of IP addresses. He explained that the system at the moment is designed to provide each passenger with one IP address, and if there are more devices on board connecting to the network than passengers, some won’t be able to use the service.

    “The system is configured to allocate 128 IPs for passengers. Yesterday, while there were 115 passengers on board, many of them had multiple devices and we saw three times the allowed connections, with hundreds of IP addresses constantly requesting access. This was not a technical or hardware problem, but rather a case of tech-hungry individuals with a desire to test the service to its limits,” he said.

    But users should be aware that not all devices will connect successfully, with Apple and Samsung devices leading the pack for the most successful connections. Van der Merwe added that BlackBerry products had the least amount of successful connections, as some users still make use of version 5 BlackBerry’s operating system.

    “According to our information, 50% of South Africans still have these old devices. As the system goes on and people begin to learn how it works, they will become more compatible with it. We cannot budget for all devices,” he concluded.

    There are three different options available for passengers who wish to make use of the service, and start at as little as R50 for a single flight. Passengers will be able to buy a one-day pass for R90, or a per-minute option, billed through G-Connect’s online account.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released their May 2012 Bulletin chronicling many such innovations in global health, under the theme of "eHealth".

    While there is celebration in order for the many eHealth initiatives designed and deployed everyday across the globe, this WHO Bulletin prompts one to wonder as well: just because impressive technologies exist, are they making a difference? Do they immediately lead to improved care quality, cost savings, or lives saved?

    There is no doubt that new technologies, and the hardware and infrastructure required to make them run, are proliferating across the developing world. Just two weeks ago I attended the eHealth Africa Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a country in which 75 percent of people who access the Internet do so through their mobile phones. Representatives from the Ghana Health Service spoke of how their national Information Technology (IT) agency has helped not only in crafting a national eHealth strategy, but also in retaining Ghana's top IT talent. And farther south in Angola -- a country in which 72% of citizens live on less than $2 a day -- a high-speed 4G network is currently being constructed.

    Yet the eHealth Conference attendees -- an array of African policymakers, health practitioners, and technology developers -- collectively acknowledged that simply having technology in hand was not sufficient for producing tangible health benefits. Policy makers in particular explained their challenge in adopting new technologies: if a health system is fractured, then technology may only exacerbate existing weaknesses, or if patients cannot easily and inexpensively access technology, then its potential to promote change cannot be realized. There was not yet enough evidence, from their perspective, to suggest which kinds of eHealth interventions were wise investments.

    One particular report in the WHO Bulletin would be of great interest to the concerns of these decision-makers, namely an analysis by Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), who documented and summarized main findings to date from eHealth programs in low- and middle-income countries. They aimed to answer the questions that policy makers have by showing evidence of programs that are already working.

    As the most comprehensive, global survey in peer-reviewed literature of eHealth initiatives, the report documents 176 technology-enabled programs that aim to improve quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care in developing countries. "By identifying emerging global trends in eHealth, the study provides guidance about how ICT can help solve common health systems challenges in developing countries," said Gina Lagomarsino, a managing director at the Results for Development Institute, of which CHMI is a unit.

    CHMI authors identified six primary ways in which most eHealth programs are already functioning: extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients, facilitating patient communications between health workers and patients, improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers, improving data management, streamlining financial transactions, and mitigating fraud and abuse.

    But an interesting and important finding in the CHMI report is that only 16 of the 176 programs documented responded to CHMI's request for self-reported, clear, and quantifiable impacts. The report further reveals that almost no programs had independent evaluations conducted, the quality of available evaluations was low, and the generalizability of available evaluations was not sufficiently broad to make a case for scale. In some cases this may mean that programs have simply not existed for long enough to be able to show any impact. Yet for those who have, it also hints at the challenge of evaluating new technologies -- and reveals that not enough innovators are rising to this challenge.

    The challenge of measuring a moving target is a conundrum -- with such rapid changes in hardware, software, and networks on which they operate, it is understandable that measuring impact is an intimidating task. Yet it is one that we must attempt to solve. If innovators cannot rigorously prove that a technology will save costs or save lives, then policy makers cannot be expected to commit effort and resources to applying it to strengthen health systems.

    Closing a panel on Health Information Systems at the eHealth Africa Conference, moderator Dr. Khama Rogo lamented to the audience,"I think more Africans die from misinformation than lack of medicines."

    Thankfully we now have a wide array of eHealth initiatives that can increase the availability of data for patients, providers, and policymakers alike -- what we need now is fresh, honest thinking on data management and greater effort towards evaluation if we want to see the benefits of eHealth interventions be brought to scale.

  • I had the honor of attending on Saturday 21-April 2012; a meeting organized by some Sudanese academicians and youth aiming at establishing an organization for promoting a Knowledge-based Society in Sudan.

    The initiative aims at establishing a non-governmental society or organization with branches all over Sudan and the goals have been defined to raise awareness and education about KM (Knowledge Management) through the provision of training courses on electronic learning using the Internet sharing experiences ,organizing competitions and KM system development .

    The SKBSO four additional aims are documentation and assembly of knowledge in all study areas organizing regular scientific workshops .create global knowledge exchange opportunities create knowledge exchange mechanisms between academic and professional and continues improvement and development of KM strategies.
    It was interesting that the Forum was attended by a number of private sector companies and businessmen which indicate that awareness is increasing about the importance of the knowledge society for business in today world.

More

  • Dimension Data CEO to step down

    Technology services group Dimension Data, which operates across a number of key regions including Africa and Middle East, announced that current CEO for Africa and Middle East Allan Cawood will vacate his post at the end of this month.

    Cawood will be replaced by Internet Solutions (IS) Managing Director Derek Wilcocks. Wilcocks’ departure from IS allowed Saki Missaikos, regional sales director at Dimension Data, to take up the reins at Internet Solutions.

  • ITU seeks next generation of social entrepreneurs
    Would-be young innovators can win chance to pitch their ideas to industry leaders at ITU Telecom World 2012

    Geneva, 1 May 2012 – ITU has launched the second edition of its Young Innovators Competition, giving young, talented social entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend its key global networking and knowledge sharing event, ITU Telecom World 2012, and the chance to win funding, mentorship and ongoing support.

    Open to 18-25 year olds worldwide, the Young Innovators Competition calls for projects/concepts which engage the power of ICTs to meet real-world developmental challenges relevant to one of eight core areas under the theme “Youth Innovation for Development”:

         Cybersecurity
         Education
         Empowerment of Women
         Environmental Sustainability
         Healthcare
         Human Rights
         Transparency
         Youth Employment

    Submissions consisting of everything from well researched concepts to ongoing operations showing preliminary results are welcome. From these, the twelve most outstanding entries -– judged to have the greatest possible social impact and potential for business success -– will win the chance to attend and participate in ITU Telecom World 2012, which takes place from 14-18 October in Dubai.

    The 12 finalists can benefit from one-on-one mentorship sessions with top level representatives from various sectors, hands-on workshops focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and the chance to showcase concepts and projects at a centrally located stand before the uniquely influential audience of World 2012 delegates. They can also benefit from the rich opportunities for networking with the leading names and key decision makers from industry, government and academia plus visionaries and digital thought leaders present at the event.

    Final winners will also benefit from prize money of up to CHF10,000 to realize entrepreneurial dreams. In addition winners will have access to the network of mentors offering ongoing support for up to one year, be invited to form an active part of the Young Innovators community and update their submission as featured on our website with regular progress report.

    “Participation in this competition offers a great opportunity for the next generation of young visionaries to demonstrate their ideas and innovations on a truly global stage at our event, and show how their fresh digital thinking can change the world for the better,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Crucially, the reach of the Young Innovators Programme will also extend way beyond the event, building a cohesive international community of highly talented social entrepreneurs working on ICT-based initiatives in areas that are vital to developmental issues facing the world today.”

    The deadline for initial submissions is 1st July 2012. For further details and the application procedure, please visit here. 

    For more information on the event, please see world2012.itu.int or contact:

    Sanjay Acharya

    tel     +41 22 730 5046
    tel     +41 79 249 4861
    tel     sanjay.acharya@itu.int

Issue no 604 11th May 2012

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Top story

  • The hype about cloud computing and data centres can often seem overblown when you visit some of Africa’s smaller markets but in many of the larger markets, data centres and the services they enable are now becoming an established part of enabling both consumer and corporate services. A recent conference in South Africa provided the opportunity to look at the challenges and floated the idea that the challenging circumstances of Africa may offer it the opportunity to become a pioneer in green, energy efficient solutions.

    What is not often recognized is that data centres in Africa are managed by IT staff who are not necessarily trained in data centre optimization and in  best cooling techniques but are more focused on the latest software and networking equipment.

    One of the objectives of this forum was to highlight how to cut down the cost of data center through improved facilities design and management. The forum showcased the implementation of successful data center virtualization methods and looked at outsourcing strategies that focus in particular on developing a foolproof disaster recovery plan for maximum security and protection.

    Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst at Balancing Act opened the first day session and provided a presentation of recent market research carried out in Africa. Data centre facilities are limited on the continent but due to grow by 10% per year over the next 3 years.

    In its 2011 report, Balancing Act counted 120 commercial data centers and projects in Africa with about 10 to 20 more commercial centers to be built over the next 5 years. In-house data centers are estimated to be 10 times this number across Africa with South Africa leading the pack. Examples provided by APC by Schneider highlighted that data centers can reduce energy costs by 20-30%. Beletre showed where the new data centers are being built across Africa's most developed cities and gave pointers to growth drivers and investment opportunities across the region. Balancing Act plans on releasing an update to its 'Data Centres in Africa' report in the autumn of this year.

    Lee Smith, director at Dee Smith & Associates in South Africa is a design, implementation and integration expert in South Africa.  For Smith, deciding on the right data centre location is key: not only it is important to make sure that expert staff will feel comfortable about working in its environment, it is also key to ensure sufficient local enterprise needs, power and bandwidth availability.

    Lee Smith examined energy cost reduction measures and made a point that for a data centre to improving energy performance it needs to be designed in before the centre gets built. Vendors need to train management and operating teams to make sure they know how to use each technology. Smith also explored ways and means of improving data center management by involving all technical teams and getting them to talk in a common language from the start.
       
    Working with your procurement contract partners at an earlier stage of project development will improve outcomes. Continuous performance controls ensure that your facility is cost effective. Smith also stressed that the modern data centre is scalable and flexible. Modernising the rules, tools and methods of your procurement is also key to setting up a long term scalable facility.

    Smith gave some simple practical tricks such as having racks and servers painted in bright colours rather than in black which can reduce temperature and light consumption by up to 30%. Unfortunately today, most legacy equipment is painted in black. A facility's diesel tank needs to be stored far from the main sever facility with a shower type pipe which allows it to empty its tank fast in case of fire or leakage. BCX and a few other data center owners work with Lee Smith because he supplies training for their facility managers and supplies some customized consulting.

    Marilyn Howard, Director of BMH Technology Solutions in South Africa provided a better understanding of the data centre definitions and challenged current opinions. For some, data centers mean faster and safer access to data. For others, it is a way to back up critical data. Overall, it is a crucial piece of the nascent African ICT infrastructure. "It is an enterprise tool made of software and hardware components that meets specific requirements" Ms. Howard concluded.

    Howard illustrated the idea of a successful data center virtualization method and explained that today we can do much more with less investment. Many efficient best practices require minimal costs and don’t require expensive purchases to help data centers reduce CO2 emissions and lower their energy costs. BMH claims to be able to set up data centre containers at a quarter of the price of a standard facility - from USD 250,000 for 100 servers instead of the usual USD 1 m.

    Paul de Klerk, Regional Manager at BT Cape (EOH owned) explored new data centers' cooling systems solutions and designs that enable organisations to attain best practice standards and compliance requirements. BT Cape specializes in rolling out cable in data center facilities. De Klerk explored ways to reduce energy consumption while maximizing cooling systems. He emphasized that "a data centre is not a simple office building", and he also pointed to global data centre accreditation standards. "There is no such thing as an off the shelves package for African data centres, these have to be customized to fit the environment and clients' requirements" he noted, adding that it often comes back to budget limitations.

    Over lunch break, an attendee in charge of the data centre at Cape Town's University confirmed de Klerk point on customizing data centre designs across Africa: "In Cape Town one of the issues we have is salt in the air coming from the sea. In Joburg, temperatures are higher and local staff have to focus on reducing summer heat; The other issue comes down to power and the region could use alternative sources such as the sun or powerful water and air currents available on the coast".

    Microsoft South Africa's Stephen Cakebread, Private Cloud and Azure Product Manager provided a review of cloud, virtualisation and efficiency methods that can easily be implemented. Cakebread explored new data centres services and applications delivered by the IT giant. Cakebread gave a short analysis of the emerging technologies for data centers and assessed what the next generation of cloud computing and data centers apps look like. To date Microsoft does not yet have any of its own data centres in Africa but they are using local commercial facilities.

    For Sakkie Burger, Managing Executive for Data Centre Services, Business Connexion (BCX), optimizing data centre environments and how to further enhance value for clients were the reasons that attracted him to the forum. "I am also attending because green aspects are top priorities and Africa represents a serious opportunity for BCX facilities' expansion" Burger said, adding that "BCX had about 27% of the data centre services market share in South Africa as of Nov. 2011 according to Frost and Sullivan. BCX is also the only service provider in the country that has Tier 4 accreditation provided by the 'Uptime Institute' and delivered back on 15 May 2009". The South African data centre market is heating with major players like T-Systems (which manages some local data centers) and Teraco (one of the main carrier neutral data centers' owner) taking shares in what could become a leading outsourcing destination.

    In its November 2011 report entitled ‘An overview of the South African Data Centre Market’, Frost & Sullivan put annual data centre revenues at R2.3 billion in 2010, while it expects a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 9.6% through to 2016, when revenues are anticipated to R4.0 billion. It notes that the top four data centre providers have a combined market share of 68% with the remaining 32% contested by more than ten companies. The nearest competitors to Business Connexion are IBM with 16% of the market and Dimension Data with 15%.

    Among the comments made during the first session, it was mentioned that cooling air is a major cost for data centre facilities. But there is an opportunity to re-sell that hot air to local community buildings. There have been examples of hot air being re-used to heat hotel or private outdoor swimming pools and offices.

    One of the attendees mentioned that there have had recent requests for audio-streaming storage and this seems to be a future market across Africa. Audiovisual content such as video-streaming will certainly pick up in the years to come.

    Nils Gerstle, director of Collaboretix Enterprise Consulting (Pty) Ltd - a South African based business consulting, technology and management company focused on strategic alignment and data centres - observed that technology and data centre managers often rely too much on vendors to educate them on available solutions. Technology choices are overwhelming and too little time is spent on analysing strategic needs, before making technology decisions. Gerstle pointed out: "You often have a situation where technology buyers go for the Rolls-Royce of technology solutions where the BMW would have been more than sufficient". Collaboretix works with clients to bed down their enterprise and management strategies and align them with their actual business and technological requirements. This establishes a base for clients to make more informed decisions relating to their technology solutions and ensures alignment. “Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects in business”, says Gerstle.

     

    According to delegates, it seems that Africa has the potential to lead a new generation of greener data centers and set up its own accreditation standard relevant to its innovations, varied environment and its limited electric capacity.

    To find out more about the event, click here.

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs


    Jesse Oguns, blogger at oTeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Liberia’s Cellcom will be launching an HSPA+ network in the country in an effort to improve the internet browsing experience for mobile internet users. The implementation will be the fastest and only HSPA+ network in the country.

    Avishai Marziano, the CEO of Cellcom, said that the technology will give mobile users the best possible experience and allow for mobile phones to perform better. “We are stepping up our technology a notch to give our consumers the best for their money. We are redefining cellular technology in Liberia and will provide the fastest and best quality in surfing as part of what is the vision of the mobile Internet which is the key component and central service for our client.”

    The launch of the HSPA+ network will give mobile users the chance to experience internet at a much faster speed than many home office internet connections in Liberia. The technology will have a capacity of 21Mbs browsing.

    “With the new technology, the current browsing speed cellular network will exceed by 100 times that of our competitors and 10 times of 3G network,” Marziano continued.

    “We have seen an increase in customers consuming cellphones since we broke the monopoly. Now with new technology like smartphones and l-phones we are in the process of upgrading our networks to make our customers happy and stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Leading mobile network operator Safaricom has moved to court seeking to recover close to half a billion shillings from its rivals for non-payment of termination fees since October together with penalties.

    Safaricom is demanding close to half a billion shillings from Airtel and about Sh150 million from Essar for non-payment of termination fees — the amount of money an operator pays rivals if its subscribers call another network — since October.

    It’s also seeking that the operators pay it interests and collection fees for delayed payment, arguing that the dues are hurting its cash flow. The interest is pegged on the average base rate that currently stands at 20.34 per cent and Safaricom hopes the penalty will act as a deterrent for delayed payments. 

    “What Safaricom is telling its rivals is that they can hold on to its debt as long they wish, but at a cost and the cost are the penalties,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the suit and wished not to be named.

    For a start, Safaricom is demanding Sh4 million from Airtel for the late payment of termination charges covering July and August, which stood at Sh173 million.

    Safaricom through Havi and Company Advocates is accusing Airtel of breaching the July 2002 interconnection agreement for the provision of telecommunications services to their respective customers. Airtel has not responded to the suit.

    The agreement states that operators must prepare a billing statement and tax invoice for interconnection charges and forward the same to the other party within two weeks of every month.

    The termination rate—which currently stands at Sh2.21 a minute—is emerging as a big issue in Kenya’s mobile telephony market and has split the board of the telecommunication regulator on whether it should be reduced or not.

    Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director, said last Wednesday that the termination rate will drop to Sh1.44 per minute in July from the current Sh2.21, but Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, also a director, is opposed to it.

  • Telecom Namibia has over the past seven years lost more than N$100 million (US$12.4 m) through their investment in Mundo Startel (MST) in Angola, of which it holds 44 per cent shares.

    The company has now decided to exit the joint venture, which has been described by those close to the deal as a “difficult” partnership. An urgent meeting between the two companies is expected to take place to finalise Telecom’s exit in this joint venture which is no longer viable.

    “Mundo has struggled to achieve its business plan over the past few years and as a result there is an indication that carrying value of this investment in the company accounts may be impaired. “By impairment it means a reduction in the value of an asset because the asset no longer generates the benefits expected earlier as determined by the company through periodic assessments,” Telecom Namibia’s Senior Manager Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula, told The Namibian.

    He further explained that in the light of the current difficult situation of this venture “Telecom management and Board have impaired the carrying value of this investment in the company’s financial statements by an amount of N$18 million in 2011 to bring the accumulated impairment [loss] of the investment to N$79 million”.

    In 2005 when Telecom Namibia entered into a business partnership with the Angolan investors, it made an initial investment of N$29.8 million for the 44 per cent shareholding in MST.  However over the years Telecom invested N$162 million in the  unprofitable company. Due to Angola’s challenging geography the new company would have concentrated on installing next generation networks, VSAT and wireless digital technology instead of digging trenches and setting up telephone poles.

    However, by May last year Telecom saw the writing on the wall and decided to jump ship and exit the partnership. Now a year later a final meeting is planned in Luanda to try and finalise the controversial issue, which cost Telecom Namibia a loss of more than N$23.7 million. “This is a follow-up meeting of the one that was held in March this year during which certain proposals were made after the Angolan partners agreed to buy Telecom Namibia’s shares. We have to ensure that we recover our investment,” said Angula.

    Telecom provided start-up capital as well as loans to MST to the tune of N$146.3 million to get the business off the ground and build the initial network in Luanda.
    It is understood that MST now wants to offer Telecom a cash payment of about N$15 million over a 60 day period from the date of sale and that the issuance of about N$94 million preferred shares be paid with a premium once MST becomes profitable.

  • Tanzanian fixed line operator Six Telecoms Company (6Telecom) has launched a new Metro Network in the country, targeting the corporate user segment. 6Telecom is looking to offer business users improved internet connectivity in the region with CEO Nick Odero noting: ‘As companies grow and expand in Tanzania it is important that they have a dedicated network that will allow for them to connect all of their branches in a redundant and secure manner that is robust and cost effective. Metro Network is aligned to act as a business development partner for our clients as reliable and secure networks are a vital component to growth within East Africa.’

    The unit’s 6Telecom Data arm aims to match customer requirements to the desired level of connectivity they need. For example, some customers will require more than fibre-optic provisioning and here, Metro Network can offer licensed microwave links it says. 6 Telecoms’ new Metro Network covers a number of areas in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Mtwara.

  • The company behind the planned 40Tbit/s Wasace cable says the African leg of the submarine system will be ready for service in early 2014. And it's coming to SA.
    The African leg of a new submarine telecommunications system that will serve markets in the North and South Atlantic will be ready for service in the first quarter of 2014. The cable will offer high-speed global connectivity to SA, Angola and Nigeria.

    That’s the word from the Wasace Cable Company, which is building the multibillion-dollar Wasace system. The company said on Wednesday that it had begun the procurement process to select a system supplier for the cable’s construction.

    An invitation to tender has been sent to four potential suppliers and Wasace expects to select the successful bidder in July 2012. The company has retained two financial services companies, including Aterios Capital, as financial advisors to source funding for the project.

    International telecoms constulting firm, the David Ross Group, is administering the procurement process and leading the development of the project.

    The 40Tbit/s cable will connect SA, Angola and Nigeria to the US, as well as to markets in South America and Europe, using the latest “100G” fibre-optic technology. The system will consist of three parts:

    Wasace Americas, connecting Brazil (Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza) to the US via a landing station in Florida, with “optional, on-demand connectivity to Colombia, Panama and the US state of South Carolina.

    Wasace Africa, connecting SA and Nigeria to the US with optional and on-demand connectivity to the Niger Delta at Bonny Island and to Angola.
    Wasace Europe, connecting Florida to Virginia Beach and across the North Atlantic to San Sebastian in Spain.

    The Wasace Cable Company plans to develop the network in phases, beginning with the Americas and Africa segments, which are scheduled to be in service by early 2014 — if that deadline is met, it will be ahead of the newly announced Brics Cable, which will follow some of the same route at Wasace.

internet

  • The TEAMS cable company has sued the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and a shipping firm for the recent cable cut at Mombasa that caused disruption in Internet services.

    “We will sue it (KPA) again as soon as we establish the cause of the cut, we have already sued it for $15 million in the earlier case of which they have deposited $2.5 million with the court,” said Bitange Ndemo, PS in the Ministry of Information and Communication as he spoke to the Business Daily.

    This incident had happened before causing Internet disruptions for close to a month in February and it led to companies moving in on Satellite Internet services that are much costly and offer slower voice and data services as compared to fiber optic services just to be safer when fiber cable cuts happen.

    Ken Munyi, GM at iWay Africa, commented that, “Operators are increasingly appreciating the importance of back-up solutions, which has seen increased demand for satellite services.” He added, “Since the EASSY cable was cut on February 25, we have witnessed increased enquiries and interest.”

    Ndemo acknowledged the need to find out the activities that were happening there and whether KPA was using geo-maps to direct ships considering it is an “off-limit” landing zone.

  • The Niger Telecommunications Company announced the reinstatement of its broadband Internet services, after three months of load shedding due to a failure on a separate line of fiber optics in neighboring Benin. This a breakdown that reinforces the need for countries to have multiple fibre connections for redundancy purposes.

    "We have restored the high-speed Internet (....) on the optical fiber, after the failure recorded since January this year in Benin from where we are served," said Amoumoune Adam, head of sales and marketing. Niger experienced disturbances on its Internet following a breakdown at the line called "Sat3" which supplies the country since the maritime source in neighboring Benin.

    This situation, the official said, has forced the company to "consider a supply via satellite, but it is insufficient." Niger has a low penetration of Information Technology and Communication (ICT), especially because of the costs of ICT equipment very high in this country.

  • The National Liberation Front Party (FLN) announced on Thursday that its Secretary General Abdellaziz Belkhadem would reply on Sunday to the Internet users' questions and queries on Facebook as part of the ongoing campaign for the May 10th legislative polls in Algeria.

    The announcement was made on the FLN party's Website indicating that Mr Abdellaziz Belkhadem would provide answers to the questions between 19h and 20h local time or 18h and 19h GMT.

    The FLN Party which held the majority of seats in the outgoing National Popular Assembly is hoping to retain its leading role by garnering a maximum of seats in the future Assembly at a time when the party is beset by an internecine power struggle which could shatter its unity and cohesion.

    Algeria with a population of over 36 million inhabitants, counted in late 2010 around 5 million-Internet users.

  • Sam Bikassam, CEO of Togo Telecom has given details of the arrival, as expected by users, of high speed bandwidth delivered by the new WACS cable. It will be for the month of June, said Bikassam. The fiber optic cable that will provide unparalleled data rates will be commissioned in South Africa on May 10.

    The cable WACS (West Africa Cable System) is a consortium of several African operators including Togo Telecom, Angola Telecom, Broadband Ifraco, Cable & Wireless, MTN, Portugal Telecom, Sotelco, Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom and Vodacom. It connects

    South Africa to Britain with connection points in Togo, Namibia, DRC, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This is the first direct link of this kind. Cost of investment: 600 million, including $ 27 million for the only operator in Togo.

    14,000 km along the WACS must route communications standard and high-speed Internet (3.8 terabits / s) at costs far lower than they are today. This will also pave the way for new technologies such as triple play (telephone, television, internet), Togo Telecom which plans to create very quickly.

    On the business offer, the details will be provided in the coming weeks, but the rates should be particularly attractive. "The connection to the WACS will give us the enormous advantage of not being dependent on foreign operators and the inherent risks," says Sam Bikassam.

  • The landing of the fiber optic submarine cable to Seychelles from Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam was launched on Saturday afternoon with a laying of the first inch of the long cable to the Seychelles capital of Victoria.

    A brief ceremony to lay the first inch of the almost 2,000-kilometer-long cable that will run underwater to connect the two countries was organized in Dar es Salaam in the presence of the Seychelles Minister for Natural Resources and Industry, Peter Sinon, and the Island’s Honorary Consul to Tanzania Ms. Maryvonne Pool.

    Along with Minister Sinon, Seychellois journalists and other dignitaries witnessed the event, which signified the launching of the first fiber optic submarine cable to their country and which will connect the people of Seychelles to the rest of the world through this modern telecommunication technology.

    The Alcatel Submarine Ship (ASN) docked in Dar es Salaam last Friday for the submarine optic fiber system project under the coordination and management of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) linked to the EASSy fiber optic cable already on the coast of the African continent.

    SEAS has been built by Seychelles Cable Systems Limited through funding from Seychelles government, Cable and Wireless (Seychelles), and the mobile phone company, Airtel.

    Ms. Maryvonne Pool who is also the island’s Tourism Ambassador to Tanzania said SEAS is also the very first fiber optic submarine cable to link Seychelles to the rest of the world and is very much a historic and development milestone for this island state.

    SEAS project is a good example of regional integration and private sector partnership as it involves entities from East African countries and also involves the use of regionally-deployed telecom infrastructure and EASSy, which is a regional African project.

    The project will as well be vital in cementing Tanzania and Seychelles relations through various areas of business, social and economic sectors, mostly travel and tourism.

    Both Tanzania and Seychelles are members of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern African (RETOSA) and is in need of a quick and effective communication that will speed up connection among tourists and other travelers between these friendly nations, while attracting more business stakeholders from each country through high-tech communication.

  • AfriNIC-16, the African Network Information Centre’s (AfriNIC) 16th bi-annual meeting together with AfNOG (The African Network Operators Group) will take place in Serekunda, The Gambia from the 6th – 18th May 2012. This year our Public Policy Meeting will host among others the first African Internet Summit and the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG).

    This Annual African Internet Summit will be a platform where all key development issues faced by Africa will be discussed and provide a more business-oriented structure to better meet the Operators' needs in Africa. As the future growth of Internet in Africa will be through mobile operators, AfriNIC through the uniqueness of its mandate will reaffirm its support to all African Network Operators.

    Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC comments, “The uniqueness of this first AfriNIC event is the essence of our mission to go beyond the simple core of IP engineering capacity building and be an active player in the African Internet community. Our entire stakeholder spectrum has shown an increasing interest in playing an even more active role in understanding the Internet infrastructure. It’s vital that all key stakeholders are brought together in ways such as this event allows us to. It’s only through working together that we can guarantee continued growth of an Internet economy in Africa.”

    AfriNIC 16 is taking place at the Kairaba Hotel, Serekunda, The Gambia. For further information about the event, please visit www.afrinic.net/afrinic 16. Non attendees can also participate remotely.

    The event will also include the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG), with the intention of strengthening the collaboration between AfriNIC, African Governments and regulators.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, gave further clarification on its roadmap for broadband delivery for Nigeria as Dr Eugene Juwah, the Commission's Executive Vice-Chairman said in Lagos that to enable service delivery at affordable prices for the end-user, where it may not be economically viable to do so, the Commission will offer financial incentives to the infrastructure providers to enable them operate reasonably profitably.

     ‘In addition, the Government through the Commission will facilitate agreements and engage in dispute resolution among the various stakeholders.” He spoke at the West African ICT Congress which took off in Lagos Tuesday.

    President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Chris Uwaje, said at the same event that the West African sub region has become a major consumer of technology, without offering anything to the technology world. He urged governments in the sub-region to declare ‘state of emergency’ in ICT. ‘The world is changing and the sub-region must be involved in the change’ Uwaje said.

  • Starting from May this year, Institutions of higher learning, vocational training centres, state schools as well as health centres will enjoy free Internet access. This information was made available by the The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MITC), Joël Kaapanda. He revealed that government has spent US$37.5 million, which equals approximately N$300 million, to make the service available.

    The telephone line and the and the wireless technology for the project has been made available by the Telecom Namibia.

    However, Electricity still remains a very serious challenge at all schools, lack of computer equipments in schools is also another concern, according to Kaapanda.
    He added that MITC and the Ministry of Education would avail a computer for every Namibian child. “We are gradually implementing this programme,” he stated.

    “Internet usage will be free unless blocked by the institution for destructive websites,” he explained. Internet access will be free on state-owned premises as well as individuals on the premises.In addition, the cost of Internet will be reduced drastically for business people and private individuals.

    He went on to explain that the broadband connection would come from Portugal and travel through West Africa, connecting a number of African countries along the coast until it lands in Swakopmund.

    Internet access in the country is still slow, epileptic and expensive, and this has resulted to huge financial losses for businesses over the years.

computing

  • In april 2012 Viafrica's pilot 'KIDSworks' began in Tanzania and Kenya. The project Kidsworks will provide ICT support to some social organisations that visit schools with life skills programmes. These organisations are Macheo Children's Centre and Watoto in Kenya and White Orange Youth in Tanzania.

    At the heart of the project is intention to improve the knowledge of the children’s life-skills. The skills focused on in the pilot are HIV\AIDS, drug abuse and adolescence. Our aim has been to augment the already existing social programmes of our local partners with ICT based learning. This involves a dynamic relationship between learning from interactive E-learning content contained on the laptops supplied for the programme as well as the classical approach given by partner organization’s social workers.

    Behind the concept of the programme is its technical implementation as the development of the KIDSworks platform on which the E-content is deployed by Oscar Buse, the platform is operated by one of Viafrica’s technicians travels with the programme. The platform itself is operating as mobile and wireless in a powerless environment.

     The pilot programme reaches ten primary schools in Tanzania and twenty primary schools in Kenya. In each country and social context, we are testing different aspects of the programme to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the skills and knowledge of the children. With a successful implementation the possibility is opened to make it part of a diverse range of learning activities.

  • As part of an effort to bridge the ‘digital divide’, the Intel Learning Series Alliance in partnership with Jasco, Custom Technologies and the Xavier Group, have delivered a completely solar powered ‘Classroom on Wheels’ to Victorious Primary School in Uganda.

    The ‘Classroom on Wheels’ includes a laptop trolley, a teacher laptop and 35 Intel powered Classmate PCs along with a WiFi access point, with content and administration delivered by the Critical Links Education Appliance. To address the unique needs of the school in Uganda a complete solar charging solution forms part of the system. This solar solution operates as an autonomous system without ever requiring mains power.

    “Solar power is a vital component to the solution, since many schools in Uganda, including Victorious Primary School, are off the national grid. Even those that receive state power are prone to surges and outages, which makes running any sort of computer centre or computer classroom difficult,” says Paul Fick, divisional MD of Jasco Enterprise. “This project was commissioned by Intel as part of a global mission to advance technology in education.”

    The solar powered classroom solution is a fully sustainable solution, as it runs entirely off a renewable energy source. The charging system incorporates three solar panels, two battery connections and a charge management system, which is fed into a charging unit housed within the laptop cart that facilitates the charging of the laptops and the server. The system has also been designed to run off a simple battery - even a car battery - to ensure that a cost effective option can be found for any region it is shipped to. Fully charged, the solution can last for up to three days before the battery is drained. The entire solution is designed to continue functioning should a single component break, and individual components can be quickly replaced to restore the system to full capacity.

    “Computers are the future, and if our students do not have access to computers they are put at a disadvantage. This project showcases the opportunities that ICT provides. The project has been very successful and has attracted a lot of interest both locally and across Africa. The Inspector of Schools and the Minister of Energy have both paid the site a visit, and the Victorious Primary School computer classroom also appeared in a Kenyan newspaper. The students also enjoy being able to learn on computers and being connected to the world using the Internet, and they and their parents have embraced the new computer classroom” says David Raymond Magezi, CEO of Xavier Group.

    “This innovative solar solution, combined with the purpose-built ruggedness of the Classmate PCs which have been designed to withstand even the roughest handling, and the powerful teaching capabilities presented by the Critical Links Education Appliance, offers an exciting new teaching concept that brings ICT within reach of children in developing countries like Uganda. It gives these learners the opportunity to embrace technology from an early age and engage with their educators in new ways, as well as to stay up to speed with developments all over the world, giving them a chance to become competitive in the modern world,” Fick concludes.

    The Ugandan Government is currently on a drive to introduce solar powered computer and technology solutions into schools. Victorious Primary School will act as a pilot project and proof of concept to illustrate the power of technology in schools and, hopefully, to attract further investment in this type of technology in future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has teamed up with Orient Bank and Warid Telecom to come up with an efficient tax payment method where taxpayers can have the comfort of clearing their taxes through the mobile money platform.

    Allen Kagina the Commissioner General at URA said the innovation’s strategy is aimed at cutting costs involved for small tax payers and the innovation is open to all banks and telecoms that can match up to the set standards. “We are targeting the smaller tax payers to help them cut cost. We won’t be required to move from the Banks to the different URA offices and vice versa.”

    Moses Kajubi the Commissioner Domestic Taxes said that it would enable tax payers have the comfort of paying taxes through SMS and at their convenience. “We appreciate that you are busy attending to other businesses as well. So we want to make it easy and instant through the SMS.”

    Sriram Yarlagadda , CEO at Warid Telecom said that the deal would bring about customer convenience for Ugandan’s.

    Maxwell Ibeanous, Managing director at Orient Bank added, “The innovation would reduce on congestion at the banks and would help those far from banks to receive the same service as those in urban centers.”

  • MCash's mobile financial service has launched in Uganda in partnership with Housing Finance Bank (HFB).

    M-Cash is under the Bank’s umbrella in Uganda to bring new service delivery channels to all Ugandan citizen. MCash’s inherent independence from mobile network operators offers an attractive business model that offer to Housing Finance Bank various alternative channels to bank the unbanked and service efficiently the under-served.

    The excitement on this new delivery channel is due to the promise to bring about a breakthrough of major importance into the mobile payment ecosystem. It offers the possibility of massive outreach to people in locations that remain underserved, especially those in hard-to-reach rural areas. Some channels, including microfinance institutions, churches, retail agents such as supermarkets or drug stores that act as banking agents, may bring the industry closer to significantly serving more Ugandan with or without a mobile phone.

    M-Cash is a universal payment solution that allows customers to open and access virtual bank accounts on which they can save their money, send or transfer money to someone else or make payments to participating Merchants. MCash solution offers a refreshing approach to mobile payment that overcomes the challenges of cashless payment by using multi-factor authentication mechanisms (NSDT, fingerprint, NFC and Voice biometric) technology. Customers access their accounts through proximity Agents where they can register to open up accounts, deposit, withdraw and transfer money.

    “Unlike many other mobile payment products on the market, M-Cash allows anyone to open a bank account without restrictions to Mobile Network, software downloads, phone types or one method of authenticating account ownership. As a completely revolutionary product, M-Cash is a simple to use, completely secure solution that lets customers access and use their accounts 24/7 regardless of their mobile network with transactions that happen in real time,” said Mme Edith Gasana Kutesa, the CEO of MCash Uganda Ltd about the product.

    According to Paul Musoke, Housing Finance bank's Deputy Managing director, with the M-cash account, a client will have a 24-hour access to their account. The product has multi-security features, like fingerprint identification, pin codes, NSDT and NFC card, all designed to protect a customer's funds.

    The Head of Marketing and Product Development Judith Owembabazi Muyinda, further explained that through this product, traders will be able to pay their tax, a student will pay his or her school fees, while a driver could pay for fuel at selected points, all of which can be done without the hassle of lining up somewhere

    “It is the expectation that HFB and M-Cash will bring financial services closer to the customer and allow a massive outreach to Ugandans everywhere to have accounts and make better use of the financial services that are readily available to them.  It is also expected that the market will quickly adopt the product as it is simple to use, convenient and completely secure”, says Mr Patrick Gordon Ngabonziza, MobiCash Group CEO.

  • MTN Mobile Money subscribers who use Starbow can now purchase their air tickets through MTN Mobile Money. MTN announced the new addition during an interaction with News Editors and senior journalists in the Volta Region.

    The forum was to brief journalists on new trends in telecommunications, the drive towards convergence, MTN’s CSR initiatives, as well as the company’s network coverage expansion projects currently underway in the region.

    Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Cynthia Lumor told journalists the purchase of Starbow ticket was a new addition to the Mobile Money portfolio, adding that the process involved customers calling Starbow on 18181 or 0245000000 for booking.

    “An invoice is then sent to the customer for payment through MTN Mobile Money wallet or any MTN Service Center," she said.

    The Commercial Manager for MTN’s South East Business District, Sam Adjei-Sah told journalists 56% of 3G data capacity available in the commercial towns of Volta region was not being utilized, an indication of low data usage in the region.He therefore encouraged the media to take advantage of the facility to enhance their work.

    Adjei-Sah also highlighted the convenience of the MTN Mobile Money Service, particularly during the raining season, stating that: ”during the rainy season it will be difficult to go out to purchase airtime, pay electricity and DSTV bills or transfer money to business partners; but with Mobile Money all these transactions can be done within a few minutes from the comfort of your home or office.”
    Payment of Domestic Airline tickets made easy by MTN Mobile Money

    The Field Services Manager for the South East Business District of MTN, Nicholas Frimpong, demonstrated some of the services available on MTN’s network, including video calling.

    He also highlighted some of the key investments MTN has made in the network to improve quality of service.

    They included the relocation of fiber between Agbozume and Ho Junction and the addition of protective mechanisms on the fiber route to minimize voice and data outages; another investment was the introduction of new, high capacity Huawei equipment to replace the existing old ones.

    He also emphasized that the investments in the network was being done across the country.

    The Volta Regional President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Victor Kwawukume, expressed appreciation to MTN for the importance it placed on the media, especially those in the region, and urged MTN to organise more capacity building sessions on the telecoms industry to keep the journalists updated of emerging trends.

    The program was also attended by members of the MTN Corporate Communications team and MTN’s key distributr in the region. The MTN Corporate Communications team also visited various stakeholders as part of their regional engagements

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has revealed that it has no plans to issue new fixed line or mobile telephony licences, despite interest from a number of foreign firms,

Digital Content

  • The World Bank is in the process of developing the next Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY13-FY16 for Ethiopia. As part of the CPS preparation process and in order to gain a better understanding of the development context and the needs of the ultimate beneficiaries of World Bank support, the Bank is conducting consultations with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the country and abroad.

    The process of gathering input from stakeholders was launched with a client survey conducted in December 2011, and will include a series of meetings with different development partners scheduled to be held in May 2012.

    The consultations will be done through face-to-face meetings as well as through an online platform, which will serve as a clearinghouse for the CPS consultation process. The Bank will post input received as well as minutes of the face-to-face meetings. It will also serve as a tool for direct communication with members of the Bank's CPS Ethiopia Team.

    The basis for discussion during the consultations will be documents and power point presentations outlining the proposed Bank interventions in Ethiopia. In order to better guide the discussions and help identify priority areas of assistance, a series of questions will be provided.

    The CPS document will be presented to the Bank's Board of Directors in September 2012, so it is important that the Bank's Ethiopia team receive inputs by May 28, 2012.

  • Mobile operator Vodacom, South African budget airline Mango and Internet service provider Wireless-G teamed up last week to bring the country and the Southern Hemisphere one step further to in-flight wifi.

    Over a hundred guests boarded the maiden Wi-Fi flight in Lanseria, just outside Johannesburg, to take to the skies while staying in contact with friends and family on the internet. But the excitement was only limited to a few passengers, as 70% of the eager surfers were unable to connect to the network.

    WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said most of the passengers couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network due to budgetary constraints when it came to the allocation of IP addresses. He explained that the system at the moment is designed to provide each passenger with one IP address, and if there are more devices on board connecting to the network than passengers, some won’t be able to use the service.

    “The system is configured to allocate 128 IPs for passengers. Yesterday, while there were 115 passengers on board, many of them had multiple devices and we saw three times the allowed connections, with hundreds of IP addresses constantly requesting access. This was not a technical or hardware problem, but rather a case of tech-hungry individuals with a desire to test the service to its limits,” he said.

    But users should be aware that not all devices will connect successfully, with Apple and Samsung devices leading the pack for the most successful connections. Van der Merwe added that BlackBerry products had the least amount of successful connections, as some users still make use of version 5 BlackBerry’s operating system.

    “According to our information, 50% of South Africans still have these old devices. As the system goes on and people begin to learn how it works, they will become more compatible with it. We cannot budget for all devices,” he concluded.

    There are three different options available for passengers who wish to make use of the service, and start at as little as R50 for a single flight. Passengers will be able to buy a one-day pass for R90, or a per-minute option, billed through G-Connect’s online account.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released their May 2012 Bulletin chronicling many such innovations in global health, under the theme of "eHealth".

    While there is celebration in order for the many eHealth initiatives designed and deployed everyday across the globe, this WHO Bulletin prompts one to wonder as well: just because impressive technologies exist, are they making a difference? Do they immediately lead to improved care quality, cost savings, or lives saved?

    There is no doubt that new technologies, and the hardware and infrastructure required to make them run, are proliferating across the developing world. Just two weeks ago I attended the eHealth Africa Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a country in which 75 percent of people who access the Internet do so through their mobile phones. Representatives from the Ghana Health Service spoke of how their national Information Technology (IT) agency has helped not only in crafting a national eHealth strategy, but also in retaining Ghana's top IT talent. And farther south in Angola -- a country in which 72% of citizens live on less than $2 a day -- a high-speed 4G network is currently being constructed.

    Yet the eHealth Conference attendees -- an array of African policymakers, health practitioners, and technology developers -- collectively acknowledged that simply having technology in hand was not sufficient for producing tangible health benefits. Policy makers in particular explained their challenge in adopting new technologies: if a health system is fractured, then technology may only exacerbate existing weaknesses, or if patients cannot easily and inexpensively access technology, then its potential to promote change cannot be realized. There was not yet enough evidence, from their perspective, to suggest which kinds of eHealth interventions were wise investments.

    One particular report in the WHO Bulletin would be of great interest to the concerns of these decision-makers, namely an analysis by Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), who documented and summarized main findings to date from eHealth programs in low- and middle-income countries. They aimed to answer the questions that policy makers have by showing evidence of programs that are already working.

    As the most comprehensive, global survey in peer-reviewed literature of eHealth initiatives, the report documents 176 technology-enabled programs that aim to improve quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care in developing countries. "By identifying emerging global trends in eHealth, the study provides guidance about how ICT can help solve common health systems challenges in developing countries," said Gina Lagomarsino, a managing director at the Results for Development Institute, of which CHMI is a unit.

    CHMI authors identified six primary ways in which most eHealth programs are already functioning: extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients, facilitating patient communications between health workers and patients, improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers, improving data management, streamlining financial transactions, and mitigating fraud and abuse.

    But an interesting and important finding in the CHMI report is that only 16 of the 176 programs documented responded to CHMI's request for self-reported, clear, and quantifiable impacts. The report further reveals that almost no programs had independent evaluations conducted, the quality of available evaluations was low, and the generalizability of available evaluations was not sufficiently broad to make a case for scale. In some cases this may mean that programs have simply not existed for long enough to be able to show any impact. Yet for those who have, it also hints at the challenge of evaluating new technologies -- and reveals that not enough innovators are rising to this challenge.

    The challenge of measuring a moving target is a conundrum -- with such rapid changes in hardware, software, and networks on which they operate, it is understandable that measuring impact is an intimidating task. Yet it is one that we must attempt to solve. If innovators cannot rigorously prove that a technology will save costs or save lives, then policy makers cannot be expected to commit effort and resources to applying it to strengthen health systems.

    Closing a panel on Health Information Systems at the eHealth Africa Conference, moderator Dr. Khama Rogo lamented to the audience,"I think more Africans die from misinformation than lack of medicines."

    Thankfully we now have a wide array of eHealth initiatives that can increase the availability of data for patients, providers, and policymakers alike -- what we need now is fresh, honest thinking on data management and greater effort towards evaluation if we want to see the benefits of eHealth interventions be brought to scale.

  • I had the honor of attending on Saturday 21-April 2012; a meeting organized by some Sudanese academicians and youth aiming at establishing an organization for promoting a Knowledge-based Society in Sudan.

    The initiative aims at establishing a non-governmental society or organization with branches all over Sudan and the goals have been defined to raise awareness and education about KM (Knowledge Management) through the provision of training courses on electronic learning using the Internet sharing experiences ,organizing competitions and KM system development .

    The SKBSO four additional aims are documentation and assembly of knowledge in all study areas organizing regular scientific workshops .create global knowledge exchange opportunities create knowledge exchange mechanisms between academic and professional and continues improvement and development of KM strategies.
    It was interesting that the Forum was attended by a number of private sector companies and businessmen which indicate that awareness is increasing about the importance of the knowledge society for business in today world.

More

  • Dimension Data CEO to step down

    Technology services group Dimension Data, which operates across a number of key regions including Africa and Middle East, announced that current CEO for Africa and Middle East Allan Cawood will vacate his post at the end of this month.

    Cawood will be replaced by Internet Solutions (IS) Managing Director Derek Wilcocks. Wilcocks’ departure from IS allowed Saki Missaikos, regional sales director at Dimension Data, to take up the reins at Internet Solutions.

  • ITU seeks next generation of social entrepreneurs
    Would-be young innovators can win chance to pitch their ideas to industry leaders at ITU Telecom World 2012

    Geneva, 1 May 2012 – ITU has launched the second edition of its Young Innovators Competition, giving young, talented social entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend its key global networking and knowledge sharing event, ITU Telecom World 2012, and the chance to win funding, mentorship and ongoing support.

    Open to 18-25 year olds worldwide, the Young Innovators Competition calls for projects/concepts which engage the power of ICTs to meet real-world developmental challenges relevant to one of eight core areas under the theme “Youth Innovation for Development”:

         Cybersecurity
         Education
         Empowerment of Women
         Environmental Sustainability
         Healthcare
         Human Rights
         Transparency
         Youth Employment

    Submissions consisting of everything from well researched concepts to ongoing operations showing preliminary results are welcome. From these, the twelve most outstanding entries -– judged to have the greatest possible social impact and potential for business success -– will win the chance to attend and participate in ITU Telecom World 2012, which takes place from 14-18 October in Dubai.

    The 12 finalists can benefit from one-on-one mentorship sessions with top level representatives from various sectors, hands-on workshops focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and the chance to showcase concepts and projects at a centrally located stand before the uniquely influential audience of World 2012 delegates. They can also benefit from the rich opportunities for networking with the leading names and key decision makers from industry, government and academia plus visionaries and digital thought leaders present at the event.

    Final winners will also benefit from prize money of up to CHF10,000 to realize entrepreneurial dreams. In addition winners will have access to the network of mentors offering ongoing support for up to one year, be invited to form an active part of the Young Innovators community and update their submission as featured on our website with regular progress report.

    “Participation in this competition offers a great opportunity for the next generation of young visionaries to demonstrate their ideas and innovations on a truly global stage at our event, and show how their fresh digital thinking can change the world for the better,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Crucially, the reach of the Young Innovators Programme will also extend way beyond the event, building a cohesive international community of highly talented social entrepreneurs working on ICT-based initiatives in areas that are vital to developmental issues facing the world today.”

    The deadline for initial submissions is 1st July 2012. For further details and the application procedure, please visit here. 

    For more information on the event, please see world2012.itu.int or contact:

    Sanjay Acharya

    tel     +41 22 730 5046
    tel     +41 79 249 4861
    tel     sanjay.acharya@itu.int

Issue no 604 11th May 2012

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Top story

  • The hype about cloud computing and data centres can often seem overblown when you visit some of Africa’s smaller markets but in many of the larger markets, data centres and the services they enable are now becoming an established part of enabling both consumer and corporate services. A recent conference in South Africa provided the opportunity to look at the challenges and floated the idea that the challenging circumstances of Africa may offer it the opportunity to become a pioneer in green, energy efficient solutions.

    What is not often recognized is that data centres in Africa are managed by IT staff who are not necessarily trained in data centre optimization and in  best cooling techniques but are more focused on the latest software and networking equipment.

    One of the objectives of this forum was to highlight how to cut down the cost of data center through improved facilities design and management. The forum showcased the implementation of successful data center virtualization methods and looked at outsourcing strategies that focus in particular on developing a foolproof disaster recovery plan for maximum security and protection.

    Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst at Balancing Act opened the first day session and provided a presentation of recent market research carried out in Africa. Data centre facilities are limited on the continent but due to grow by 10% per year over the next 3 years.

    In its 2011 report, Balancing Act counted 120 commercial data centers and projects in Africa with about 10 to 20 more commercial centers to be built over the next 5 years. In-house data centers are estimated to be 10 times this number across Africa with South Africa leading the pack. Examples provided by APC by Schneider highlighted that data centers can reduce energy costs by 20-30%. Beletre showed where the new data centers are being built across Africa's most developed cities and gave pointers to growth drivers and investment opportunities across the region. Balancing Act plans on releasing an update to its 'Data Centres in Africa' report in the autumn of this year.

    Lee Smith, director at Dee Smith & Associates in South Africa is a design, implementation and integration expert in South Africa.  For Smith, deciding on the right data centre location is key: not only it is important to make sure that expert staff will feel comfortable about working in its environment, it is also key to ensure sufficient local enterprise needs, power and bandwidth availability.

    Lee Smith examined energy cost reduction measures and made a point that for a data centre to improving energy performance it needs to be designed in before the centre gets built. Vendors need to train management and operating teams to make sure they know how to use each technology. Smith also explored ways and means of improving data center management by involving all technical teams and getting them to talk in a common language from the start.
       
    Working with your procurement contract partners at an earlier stage of project development will improve outcomes. Continuous performance controls ensure that your facility is cost effective. Smith also stressed that the modern data centre is scalable and flexible. Modernising the rules, tools and methods of your procurement is also key to setting up a long term scalable facility.

    Smith gave some simple practical tricks such as having racks and servers painted in bright colours rather than in black which can reduce temperature and light consumption by up to 30%. Unfortunately today, most legacy equipment is painted in black. A facility's diesel tank needs to be stored far from the main sever facility with a shower type pipe which allows it to empty its tank fast in case of fire or leakage. BCX and a few other data center owners work with Lee Smith because he supplies training for their facility managers and supplies some customized consulting.

    Marilyn Howard, Director of BMH Technology Solutions in South Africa provided a better understanding of the data centre definitions and challenged current opinions. For some, data centers mean faster and safer access to data. For others, it is a way to back up critical data. Overall, it is a crucial piece of the nascent African ICT infrastructure. "It is an enterprise tool made of software and hardware components that meets specific requirements" Ms. Howard concluded.

    Howard illustrated the idea of a successful data center virtualization method and explained that today we can do much more with less investment. Many efficient best practices require minimal costs and don’t require expensive purchases to help data centers reduce CO2 emissions and lower their energy costs. BMH claims to be able to set up data centre containers at a quarter of the price of a standard facility - from USD 250,000 for 100 servers instead of the usual USD 1 m.

    Paul de Klerk, Regional Manager at BT Cape (EOH owned) explored new data centers' cooling systems solutions and designs that enable organisations to attain best practice standards and compliance requirements. BT Cape specializes in rolling out cable in data center facilities. De Klerk explored ways to reduce energy consumption while maximizing cooling systems. He emphasized that "a data centre is not a simple office building", and he also pointed to global data centre accreditation standards. "There is no such thing as an off the shelves package for African data centres, these have to be customized to fit the environment and clients' requirements" he noted, adding that it often comes back to budget limitations.

    Over lunch break, an attendee in charge of the data centre at Cape Town's University confirmed de Klerk point on customizing data centre designs across Africa: "In Cape Town one of the issues we have is salt in the air coming from the sea. In Joburg, temperatures are higher and local staff have to focus on reducing summer heat; The other issue comes down to power and the region could use alternative sources such as the sun or powerful water and air currents available on the coast".

    Microsoft South Africa's Stephen Cakebread, Private Cloud and Azure Product Manager provided a review of cloud, virtualisation and efficiency methods that can easily be implemented. Cakebread explored new data centres services and applications delivered by the IT giant. Cakebread gave a short analysis of the emerging technologies for data centers and assessed what the next generation of cloud computing and data centers apps look like. To date Microsoft does not yet have any of its own data centres in Africa but they are using local commercial facilities.

    For Sakkie Burger, Managing Executive for Data Centre Services, Business Connexion (BCX), optimizing data centre environments and how to further enhance value for clients were the reasons that attracted him to the forum. "I am also attending because green aspects are top priorities and Africa represents a serious opportunity for BCX facilities' expansion" Burger said, adding that "BCX had about 27% of the data centre services market share in South Africa as of Nov. 2011 according to Frost and Sullivan. BCX is also the only service provider in the country that has Tier 4 accreditation provided by the 'Uptime Institute' and delivered back on 15 May 2009". The South African data centre market is heating with major players like T-Systems (which manages some local data centers) and Teraco (one of the main carrier neutral data centers' owner) taking shares in what could become a leading outsourcing destination.

    In its November 2011 report entitled ‘An overview of the South African Data Centre Market’, Frost & Sullivan put annual data centre revenues at R2.3 billion in 2010, while it expects a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 9.6% through to 2016, when revenues are anticipated to R4.0 billion. It notes that the top four data centre providers have a combined market share of 68% with the remaining 32% contested by more than ten companies. The nearest competitors to Business Connexion are IBM with 16% of the market and Dimension Data with 15%.

    Among the comments made during the first session, it was mentioned that cooling air is a major cost for data centre facilities. But there is an opportunity to re-sell that hot air to local community buildings. There have been examples of hot air being re-used to heat hotel or private outdoor swimming pools and offices.

    One of the attendees mentioned that there have had recent requests for audio-streaming storage and this seems to be a future market across Africa. Audiovisual content such as video-streaming will certainly pick up in the years to come.

    Nils Gerstle, director of Collaboretix Enterprise Consulting (Pty) Ltd - a South African based business consulting, technology and management company focused on strategic alignment and data centres - observed that technology and data centre managers often rely too much on vendors to educate them on available solutions. Technology choices are overwhelming and too little time is spent on analysing strategic needs, before making technology decisions. Gerstle pointed out: "You often have a situation where technology buyers go for the Rolls-Royce of technology solutions where the BMW would have been more than sufficient". Collaboretix works with clients to bed down their enterprise and management strategies and align them with their actual business and technological requirements. This establishes a base for clients to make more informed decisions relating to their technology solutions and ensures alignment. “Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects in business”, says Gerstle.

     

    According to delegates, it seems that Africa has the potential to lead a new generation of greener data centers and set up its own accreditation standard relevant to its innovations, varied environment and its limited electric capacity.

    To find out more about the event, click here.

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs


    Jesse Oguns, blogger at oTeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Liberia’s Cellcom will be launching an HSPA+ network in the country in an effort to improve the internet browsing experience for mobile internet users. The implementation will be the fastest and only HSPA+ network in the country.

    Avishai Marziano, the CEO of Cellcom, said that the technology will give mobile users the best possible experience and allow for mobile phones to perform better. “We are stepping up our technology a notch to give our consumers the best for their money. We are redefining cellular technology in Liberia and will provide the fastest and best quality in surfing as part of what is the vision of the mobile Internet which is the key component and central service for our client.”

    The launch of the HSPA+ network will give mobile users the chance to experience internet at a much faster speed than many home office internet connections in Liberia. The technology will have a capacity of 21Mbs browsing.

    “With the new technology, the current browsing speed cellular network will exceed by 100 times that of our competitors and 10 times of 3G network,” Marziano continued.

    “We have seen an increase in customers consuming cellphones since we broke the monopoly. Now with new technology like smartphones and l-phones we are in the process of upgrading our networks to make our customers happy and stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Leading mobile network operator Safaricom has moved to court seeking to recover close to half a billion shillings from its rivals for non-payment of termination fees since October together with penalties.

    Safaricom is demanding close to half a billion shillings from Airtel and about Sh150 million from Essar for non-payment of termination fees — the amount of money an operator pays rivals if its subscribers call another network — since October.

    It’s also seeking that the operators pay it interests and collection fees for delayed payment, arguing that the dues are hurting its cash flow. The interest is pegged on the average base rate that currently stands at 20.34 per cent and Safaricom hopes the penalty will act as a deterrent for delayed payments. 

    “What Safaricom is telling its rivals is that they can hold on to its debt as long they wish, but at a cost and the cost are the penalties,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the suit and wished not to be named.

    For a start, Safaricom is demanding Sh4 million from Airtel for the late payment of termination charges covering July and August, which stood at Sh173 million.

    Safaricom through Havi and Company Advocates is accusing Airtel of breaching the July 2002 interconnection agreement for the provision of telecommunications services to their respective customers. Airtel has not responded to the suit.

    The agreement states that operators must prepare a billing statement and tax invoice for interconnection charges and forward the same to the other party within two weeks of every month.

    The termination rate—which currently stands at Sh2.21 a minute—is emerging as a big issue in Kenya’s mobile telephony market and has split the board of the telecommunication regulator on whether it should be reduced or not.

    Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director, said last Wednesday that the termination rate will drop to Sh1.44 per minute in July from the current Sh2.21, but Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, also a director, is opposed to it.

  • Telecom Namibia has over the past seven years lost more than N$100 million (US$12.4 m) through their investment in Mundo Startel (MST) in Angola, of which it holds 44 per cent shares.

    The company has now decided to exit the joint venture, which has been described by those close to the deal as a “difficult” partnership. An urgent meeting between the two companies is expected to take place to finalise Telecom’s exit in this joint venture which is no longer viable.

    “Mundo has struggled to achieve its business plan over the past few years and as a result there is an indication that carrying value of this investment in the company accounts may be impaired. “By impairment it means a reduction in the value of an asset because the asset no longer generates the benefits expected earlier as determined by the company through periodic assessments,” Telecom Namibia’s Senior Manager Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula, told The Namibian.

    He further explained that in the light of the current difficult situation of this venture “Telecom management and Board have impaired the carrying value of this investment in the company’s financial statements by an amount of N$18 million in 2011 to bring the accumulated impairment [loss] of the investment to N$79 million”.

    In 2005 when Telecom Namibia entered into a business partnership with the Angolan investors, it made an initial investment of N$29.8 million for the 44 per cent shareholding in MST.  However over the years Telecom invested N$162 million in the  unprofitable company. Due to Angola’s challenging geography the new company would have concentrated on installing next generation networks, VSAT and wireless digital technology instead of digging trenches and setting up telephone poles.

    However, by May last year Telecom saw the writing on the wall and decided to jump ship and exit the partnership. Now a year later a final meeting is planned in Luanda to try and finalise the controversial issue, which cost Telecom Namibia a loss of more than N$23.7 million. “This is a follow-up meeting of the one that was held in March this year during which certain proposals were made after the Angolan partners agreed to buy Telecom Namibia’s shares. We have to ensure that we recover our investment,” said Angula.

    Telecom provided start-up capital as well as loans to MST to the tune of N$146.3 million to get the business off the ground and build the initial network in Luanda.
    It is understood that MST now wants to offer Telecom a cash payment of about N$15 million over a 60 day period from the date of sale and that the issuance of about N$94 million preferred shares be paid with a premium once MST becomes profitable.

  • Tanzanian fixed line operator Six Telecoms Company (6Telecom) has launched a new Metro Network in the country, targeting the corporate user segment. 6Telecom is looking to offer business users improved internet connectivity in the region with CEO Nick Odero noting: ‘As companies grow and expand in Tanzania it is important that they have a dedicated network that will allow for them to connect all of their branches in a redundant and secure manner that is robust and cost effective. Metro Network is aligned to act as a business development partner for our clients as reliable and secure networks are a vital component to growth within East Africa.’

    The unit’s 6Telecom Data arm aims to match customer requirements to the desired level of connectivity they need. For example, some customers will require more than fibre-optic provisioning and here, Metro Network can offer licensed microwave links it says. 6 Telecoms’ new Metro Network covers a number of areas in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Mtwara.

  • The company behind the planned 40Tbit/s Wasace cable says the African leg of the submarine system will be ready for service in early 2014. And it's coming to SA.
    The African leg of a new submarine telecommunications system that will serve markets in the North and South Atlantic will be ready for service in the first quarter of 2014. The cable will offer high-speed global connectivity to SA, Angola and Nigeria.

    That’s the word from the Wasace Cable Company, which is building the multibillion-dollar Wasace system. The company said on Wednesday that it had begun the procurement process to select a system supplier for the cable’s construction.

    An invitation to tender has been sent to four potential suppliers and Wasace expects to select the successful bidder in July 2012. The company has retained two financial services companies, including Aterios Capital, as financial advisors to source funding for the project.

    International telecoms constulting firm, the David Ross Group, is administering the procurement process and leading the development of the project.

    The 40Tbit/s cable will connect SA, Angola and Nigeria to the US, as well as to markets in South America and Europe, using the latest “100G” fibre-optic technology. The system will consist of three parts:

    Wasace Americas, connecting Brazil (Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza) to the US via a landing station in Florida, with “optional, on-demand connectivity to Colombia, Panama and the US state of South Carolina.

    Wasace Africa, connecting SA and Nigeria to the US with optional and on-demand connectivity to the Niger Delta at Bonny Island and to Angola.
    Wasace Europe, connecting Florida to Virginia Beach and across the North Atlantic to San Sebastian in Spain.

    The Wasace Cable Company plans to develop the network in phases, beginning with the Americas and Africa segments, which are scheduled to be in service by early 2014 — if that deadline is met, it will be ahead of the newly announced Brics Cable, which will follow some of the same route at Wasace.

internet

  • The TEAMS cable company has sued the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and a shipping firm for the recent cable cut at Mombasa that caused disruption in Internet services.

    “We will sue it (KPA) again as soon as we establish the cause of the cut, we have already sued it for $15 million in the earlier case of which they have deposited $2.5 million with the court,” said Bitange Ndemo, PS in the Ministry of Information and Communication as he spoke to the Business Daily.

    This incident had happened before causing Internet disruptions for close to a month in February and it led to companies moving in on Satellite Internet services that are much costly and offer slower voice and data services as compared to fiber optic services just to be safer when fiber cable cuts happen.

    Ken Munyi, GM at iWay Africa, commented that, “Operators are increasingly appreciating the importance of back-up solutions, which has seen increased demand for satellite services.” He added, “Since the EASSY cable was cut on February 25, we have witnessed increased enquiries and interest.”

    Ndemo acknowledged the need to find out the activities that were happening there and whether KPA was using geo-maps to direct ships considering it is an “off-limit” landing zone.

  • The Niger Telecommunications Company announced the reinstatement of its broadband Internet services, after three months of load shedding due to a failure on a separate line of fiber optics in neighboring Benin. This a breakdown that reinforces the need for countries to have multiple fibre connections for redundancy purposes.

    "We have restored the high-speed Internet (....) on the optical fiber, after the failure recorded since January this year in Benin from where we are served," said Amoumoune Adam, head of sales and marketing. Niger experienced disturbances on its Internet following a breakdown at the line called "Sat3" which supplies the country since the maritime source in neighboring Benin.

    This situation, the official said, has forced the company to "consider a supply via satellite, but it is insufficient." Niger has a low penetration of Information Technology and Communication (ICT), especially because of the costs of ICT equipment very high in this country.

  • The National Liberation Front Party (FLN) announced on Thursday that its Secretary General Abdellaziz Belkhadem would reply on Sunday to the Internet users' questions and queries on Facebook as part of the ongoing campaign for the May 10th legislative polls in Algeria.

    The announcement was made on the FLN party's Website indicating that Mr Abdellaziz Belkhadem would provide answers to the questions between 19h and 20h local time or 18h and 19h GMT.

    The FLN Party which held the majority of seats in the outgoing National Popular Assembly is hoping to retain its leading role by garnering a maximum of seats in the future Assembly at a time when the party is beset by an internecine power struggle which could shatter its unity and cohesion.

    Algeria with a population of over 36 million inhabitants, counted in late 2010 around 5 million-Internet users.

  • Sam Bikassam, CEO of Togo Telecom has given details of the arrival, as expected by users, of high speed bandwidth delivered by the new WACS cable. It will be for the month of June, said Bikassam. The fiber optic cable that will provide unparalleled data rates will be commissioned in South Africa on May 10.

    The cable WACS (West Africa Cable System) is a consortium of several African operators including Togo Telecom, Angola Telecom, Broadband Ifraco, Cable & Wireless, MTN, Portugal Telecom, Sotelco, Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom and Vodacom. It connects

    South Africa to Britain with connection points in Togo, Namibia, DRC, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This is the first direct link of this kind. Cost of investment: 600 million, including $ 27 million for the only operator in Togo.

    14,000 km along the WACS must route communications standard and high-speed Internet (3.8 terabits / s) at costs far lower than they are today. This will also pave the way for new technologies such as triple play (telephone, television, internet), Togo Telecom which plans to create very quickly.

    On the business offer, the details will be provided in the coming weeks, but the rates should be particularly attractive. "The connection to the WACS will give us the enormous advantage of not being dependent on foreign operators and the inherent risks," says Sam Bikassam.

  • The landing of the fiber optic submarine cable to Seychelles from Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam was launched on Saturday afternoon with a laying of the first inch of the long cable to the Seychelles capital of Victoria.

    A brief ceremony to lay the first inch of the almost 2,000-kilometer-long cable that will run underwater to connect the two countries was organized in Dar es Salaam in the presence of the Seychelles Minister for Natural Resources and Industry, Peter Sinon, and the Island’s Honorary Consul to Tanzania Ms. Maryvonne Pool.

    Along with Minister Sinon, Seychellois journalists and other dignitaries witnessed the event, which signified the launching of the first fiber optic submarine cable to their country and which will connect the people of Seychelles to the rest of the world through this modern telecommunication technology.

    The Alcatel Submarine Ship (ASN) docked in Dar es Salaam last Friday for the submarine optic fiber system project under the coordination and management of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) linked to the EASSy fiber optic cable already on the coast of the African continent.

    SEAS has been built by Seychelles Cable Systems Limited through funding from Seychelles government, Cable and Wireless (Seychelles), and the mobile phone company, Airtel.

    Ms. Maryvonne Pool who is also the island’s Tourism Ambassador to Tanzania said SEAS is also the very first fiber optic submarine cable to link Seychelles to the rest of the world and is very much a historic and development milestone for this island state.

    SEAS project is a good example of regional integration and private sector partnership as it involves entities from East African countries and also involves the use of regionally-deployed telecom infrastructure and EASSy, which is a regional African project.

    The project will as well be vital in cementing Tanzania and Seychelles relations through various areas of business, social and economic sectors, mostly travel and tourism.

    Both Tanzania and Seychelles are members of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern African (RETOSA) and is in need of a quick and effective communication that will speed up connection among tourists and other travelers between these friendly nations, while attracting more business stakeholders from each country through high-tech communication.

  • AfriNIC-16, the African Network Information Centre’s (AfriNIC) 16th bi-annual meeting together with AfNOG (The African Network Operators Group) will take place in Serekunda, The Gambia from the 6th – 18th May 2012. This year our Public Policy Meeting will host among others the first African Internet Summit and the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG).

    This Annual African Internet Summit will be a platform where all key development issues faced by Africa will be discussed and provide a more business-oriented structure to better meet the Operators' needs in Africa. As the future growth of Internet in Africa will be through mobile operators, AfriNIC through the uniqueness of its mandate will reaffirm its support to all African Network Operators.

    Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC comments, “The uniqueness of this first AfriNIC event is the essence of our mission to go beyond the simple core of IP engineering capacity building and be an active player in the African Internet community. Our entire stakeholder spectrum has shown an increasing interest in playing an even more active role in understanding the Internet infrastructure. It’s vital that all key stakeholders are brought together in ways such as this event allows us to. It’s only through working together that we can guarantee continued growth of an Internet economy in Africa.”

    AfriNIC 16 is taking place at the Kairaba Hotel, Serekunda, The Gambia. For further information about the event, please visit www.afrinic.net/afrinic 16. Non attendees can also participate remotely.

    The event will also include the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG), with the intention of strengthening the collaboration between AfriNIC, African Governments and regulators.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, gave further clarification on its roadmap for broadband delivery for Nigeria as Dr Eugene Juwah, the Commission's Executive Vice-Chairman said in Lagos that to enable service delivery at affordable prices for the end-user, where it may not be economically viable to do so, the Commission will offer financial incentives to the infrastructure providers to enable them operate reasonably profitably.

     ‘In addition, the Government through the Commission will facilitate agreements and engage in dispute resolution among the various stakeholders.” He spoke at the West African ICT Congress which took off in Lagos Tuesday.

    President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Chris Uwaje, said at the same event that the West African sub region has become a major consumer of technology, without offering anything to the technology world. He urged governments in the sub-region to declare ‘state of emergency’ in ICT. ‘The world is changing and the sub-region must be involved in the change’ Uwaje said.

  • Starting from May this year, Institutions of higher learning, vocational training centres, state schools as well as health centres will enjoy free Internet access. This information was made available by the The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MITC), Joël Kaapanda. He revealed that government has spent US$37.5 million, which equals approximately N$300 million, to make the service available.

    The telephone line and the and the wireless technology for the project has been made available by the Telecom Namibia.

    However, Electricity still remains a very serious challenge at all schools, lack of computer equipments in schools is also another concern, according to Kaapanda.
    He added that MITC and the Ministry of Education would avail a computer for every Namibian child. “We are gradually implementing this programme,” he stated.

    “Internet usage will be free unless blocked by the institution for destructive websites,” he explained. Internet access will be free on state-owned premises as well as individuals on the premises.In addition, the cost of Internet will be reduced drastically for business people and private individuals.

    He went on to explain that the broadband connection would come from Portugal and travel through West Africa, connecting a number of African countries along the coast until it lands in Swakopmund.

    Internet access in the country is still slow, epileptic and expensive, and this has resulted to huge financial losses for businesses over the years.

computing

  • In april 2012 Viafrica's pilot 'KIDSworks' began in Tanzania and Kenya. The project Kidsworks will provide ICT support to some social organisations that visit schools with life skills programmes. These organisations are Macheo Children's Centre and Watoto in Kenya and White Orange Youth in Tanzania.

    At the heart of the project is intention to improve the knowledge of the children’s life-skills. The skills focused on in the pilot are HIV\AIDS, drug abuse and adolescence. Our aim has been to augment the already existing social programmes of our local partners with ICT based learning. This involves a dynamic relationship between learning from interactive E-learning content contained on the laptops supplied for the programme as well as the classical approach given by partner organization’s social workers.

    Behind the concept of the programme is its technical implementation as the development of the KIDSworks platform on which the E-content is deployed by Oscar Buse, the platform is operated by one of Viafrica’s technicians travels with the programme. The platform itself is operating as mobile and wireless in a powerless environment.

     The pilot programme reaches ten primary schools in Tanzania and twenty primary schools in Kenya. In each country and social context, we are testing different aspects of the programme to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the skills and knowledge of the children. With a successful implementation the possibility is opened to make it part of a diverse range of learning activities.

  • As part of an effort to bridge the ‘digital divide’, the Intel Learning Series Alliance in partnership with Jasco, Custom Technologies and the Xavier Group, have delivered a completely solar powered ‘Classroom on Wheels’ to Victorious Primary School in Uganda.

    The ‘Classroom on Wheels’ includes a laptop trolley, a teacher laptop and 35 Intel powered Classmate PCs along with a WiFi access point, with content and administration delivered by the Critical Links Education Appliance. To address the unique needs of the school in Uganda a complete solar charging solution forms part of the system. This solar solution operates as an autonomous system without ever requiring mains power.

    “Solar power is a vital component to the solution, since many schools in Uganda, including Victorious Primary School, are off the national grid. Even those that receive state power are prone to surges and outages, which makes running any sort of computer centre or computer classroom difficult,” says Paul Fick, divisional MD of Jasco Enterprise. “This project was commissioned by Intel as part of a global mission to advance technology in education.”

    The solar powered classroom solution is a fully sustainable solution, as it runs entirely off a renewable energy source. The charging system incorporates three solar panels, two battery connections and a charge management system, which is fed into a charging unit housed within the laptop cart that facilitates the charging of the laptops and the server. The system has also been designed to run off a simple battery - even a car battery - to ensure that a cost effective option can be found for any region it is shipped to. Fully charged, the solution can last for up to three days before the battery is drained. The entire solution is designed to continue functioning should a single component break, and individual components can be quickly replaced to restore the system to full capacity.

    “Computers are the future, and if our students do not have access to computers they are put at a disadvantage. This project showcases the opportunities that ICT provides. The project has been very successful and has attracted a lot of interest both locally and across Africa. The Inspector of Schools and the Minister of Energy have both paid the site a visit, and the Victorious Primary School computer classroom also appeared in a Kenyan newspaper. The students also enjoy being able to learn on computers and being connected to the world using the Internet, and they and their parents have embraced the new computer classroom” says David Raymond Magezi, CEO of Xavier Group.

    “This innovative solar solution, combined with the purpose-built ruggedness of the Classmate PCs which have been designed to withstand even the roughest handling, and the powerful teaching capabilities presented by the Critical Links Education Appliance, offers an exciting new teaching concept that brings ICT within reach of children in developing countries like Uganda. It gives these learners the opportunity to embrace technology from an early age and engage with their educators in new ways, as well as to stay up to speed with developments all over the world, giving them a chance to become competitive in the modern world,” Fick concludes.

    The Ugandan Government is currently on a drive to introduce solar powered computer and technology solutions into schools. Victorious Primary School will act as a pilot project and proof of concept to illustrate the power of technology in schools and, hopefully, to attract further investment in this type of technology in future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has teamed up with Orient Bank and Warid Telecom to come up with an efficient tax payment method where taxpayers can have the comfort of clearing their taxes through the mobile money platform.

    Allen Kagina the Commissioner General at URA said the innovation’s strategy is aimed at cutting costs involved for small tax payers and the innovation is open to all banks and telecoms that can match up to the set standards. “We are targeting the smaller tax payers to help them cut cost. We won’t be required to move from the Banks to the different URA offices and vice versa.”

    Moses Kajubi the Commissioner Domestic Taxes said that it would enable tax payers have the comfort of paying taxes through SMS and at their convenience. “We appreciate that you are busy attending to other businesses as well. So we want to make it easy and instant through the SMS.”

    Sriram Yarlagadda , CEO at Warid Telecom said that the deal would bring about customer convenience for Ugandan’s.

    Maxwell Ibeanous, Managing director at Orient Bank added, “The innovation would reduce on congestion at the banks and would help those far from banks to receive the same service as those in urban centers.”

  • MCash's mobile financial service has launched in Uganda in partnership with Housing Finance Bank (HFB).

    M-Cash is under the Bank’s umbrella in Uganda to bring new service delivery channels to all Ugandan citizen. MCash’s inherent independence from mobile network operators offers an attractive business model that offer to Housing Finance Bank various alternative channels to bank the unbanked and service efficiently the under-served.

    The excitement on this new delivery channel is due to the promise to bring about a breakthrough of major importance into the mobile payment ecosystem. It offers the possibility of massive outreach to people in locations that remain underserved, especially those in hard-to-reach rural areas. Some channels, including microfinance institutions, churches, retail agents such as supermarkets or drug stores that act as banking agents, may bring the industry closer to significantly serving more Ugandan with or without a mobile phone.

    M-Cash is a universal payment solution that allows customers to open and access virtual bank accounts on which they can save their money, send or transfer money to someone else or make payments to participating Merchants. MCash solution offers a refreshing approach to mobile payment that overcomes the challenges of cashless payment by using multi-factor authentication mechanisms (NSDT, fingerprint, NFC and Voice biometric) technology. Customers access their accounts through proximity Agents where they can register to open up accounts, deposit, withdraw and transfer money.

    “Unlike many other mobile payment products on the market, M-Cash allows anyone to open a bank account without restrictions to Mobile Network, software downloads, phone types or one method of authenticating account ownership. As a completely revolutionary product, M-Cash is a simple to use, completely secure solution that lets customers access and use their accounts 24/7 regardless of their mobile network with transactions that happen in real time,” said Mme Edith Gasana Kutesa, the CEO of MCash Uganda Ltd about the product.

    According to Paul Musoke, Housing Finance bank's Deputy Managing director, with the M-cash account, a client will have a 24-hour access to their account. The product has multi-security features, like fingerprint identification, pin codes, NSDT and NFC card, all designed to protect a customer's funds.

    The Head of Marketing and Product Development Judith Owembabazi Muyinda, further explained that through this product, traders will be able to pay their tax, a student will pay his or her school fees, while a driver could pay for fuel at selected points, all of which can be done without the hassle of lining up somewhere

    “It is the expectation that HFB and M-Cash will bring financial services closer to the customer and allow a massive outreach to Ugandans everywhere to have accounts and make better use of the financial services that are readily available to them.  It is also expected that the market will quickly adopt the product as it is simple to use, convenient and completely secure”, says Mr Patrick Gordon Ngabonziza, MobiCash Group CEO.

  • MTN Mobile Money subscribers who use Starbow can now purchase their air tickets through MTN Mobile Money. MTN announced the new addition during an interaction with News Editors and senior journalists in the Volta Region.

    The forum was to brief journalists on new trends in telecommunications, the drive towards convergence, MTN’s CSR initiatives, as well as the company’s network coverage expansion projects currently underway in the region.

    Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Cynthia Lumor told journalists the purchase of Starbow ticket was a new addition to the Mobile Money portfolio, adding that the process involved customers calling Starbow on 18181 or 0245000000 for booking.

    “An invoice is then sent to the customer for payment through MTN Mobile Money wallet or any MTN Service Center," she said.

    The Commercial Manager for MTN’s South East Business District, Sam Adjei-Sah told journalists 56% of 3G data capacity available in the commercial towns of Volta region was not being utilized, an indication of low data usage in the region.He therefore encouraged the media to take advantage of the facility to enhance their work.

    Adjei-Sah also highlighted the convenience of the MTN Mobile Money Service, particularly during the raining season, stating that: ”during the rainy season it will be difficult to go out to purchase airtime, pay electricity and DSTV bills or transfer money to business partners; but with Mobile Money all these transactions can be done within a few minutes from the comfort of your home or office.”
    Payment of Domestic Airline tickets made easy by MTN Mobile Money

    The Field Services Manager for the South East Business District of MTN, Nicholas Frimpong, demonstrated some of the services available on MTN’s network, including video calling.

    He also highlighted some of the key investments MTN has made in the network to improve quality of service.

    They included the relocation of fiber between Agbozume and Ho Junction and the addition of protective mechanisms on the fiber route to minimize voice and data outages; another investment was the introduction of new, high capacity Huawei equipment to replace the existing old ones.

    He also emphasized that the investments in the network was being done across the country.

    The Volta Regional President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Victor Kwawukume, expressed appreciation to MTN for the importance it placed on the media, especially those in the region, and urged MTN to organise more capacity building sessions on the telecoms industry to keep the journalists updated of emerging trends.

    The program was also attended by members of the MTN Corporate Communications team and MTN’s key distributr in the region. The MTN Corporate Communications team also visited various stakeholders as part of their regional engagements

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has revealed that it has no plans to issue new fixed line or mobile telephony licences, despite interest from a number of foreign firms,

Digital Content

  • The World Bank is in the process of developing the next Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY13-FY16 for Ethiopia. As part of the CPS preparation process and in order to gain a better understanding of the development context and the needs of the ultimate beneficiaries of World Bank support, the Bank is conducting consultations with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the country and abroad.

    The process of gathering input from stakeholders was launched with a client survey conducted in December 2011, and will include a series of meetings with different development partners scheduled to be held in May 2012.

    The consultations will be done through face-to-face meetings as well as through an online platform, which will serve as a clearinghouse for the CPS consultation process. The Bank will post input received as well as minutes of the face-to-face meetings. It will also serve as a tool for direct communication with members of the Bank's CPS Ethiopia Team.

    The basis for discussion during the consultations will be documents and power point presentations outlining the proposed Bank interventions in Ethiopia. In order to better guide the discussions and help identify priority areas of assistance, a series of questions will be provided.

    The CPS document will be presented to the Bank's Board of Directors in September 2012, so it is important that the Bank's Ethiopia team receive inputs by May 28, 2012.

  • Mobile operator Vodacom, South African budget airline Mango and Internet service provider Wireless-G teamed up last week to bring the country and the Southern Hemisphere one step further to in-flight wifi.

    Over a hundred guests boarded the maiden Wi-Fi flight in Lanseria, just outside Johannesburg, to take to the skies while staying in contact with friends and family on the internet. But the excitement was only limited to a few passengers, as 70% of the eager surfers were unable to connect to the network.

    WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said most of the passengers couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network due to budgetary constraints when it came to the allocation of IP addresses. He explained that the system at the moment is designed to provide each passenger with one IP address, and if there are more devices on board connecting to the network than passengers, some won’t be able to use the service.

    “The system is configured to allocate 128 IPs for passengers. Yesterday, while there were 115 passengers on board, many of them had multiple devices and we saw three times the allowed connections, with hundreds of IP addresses constantly requesting access. This was not a technical or hardware problem, but rather a case of tech-hungry individuals with a desire to test the service to its limits,” he said.

    But users should be aware that not all devices will connect successfully, with Apple and Samsung devices leading the pack for the most successful connections. Van der Merwe added that BlackBerry products had the least amount of successful connections, as some users still make use of version 5 BlackBerry’s operating system.

    “According to our information, 50% of South Africans still have these old devices. As the system goes on and people begin to learn how it works, they will become more compatible with it. We cannot budget for all devices,” he concluded.

    There are three different options available for passengers who wish to make use of the service, and start at as little as R50 for a single flight. Passengers will be able to buy a one-day pass for R90, or a per-minute option, billed through G-Connect’s online account.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released their May 2012 Bulletin chronicling many such innovations in global health, under the theme of "eHealth".

    While there is celebration in order for the many eHealth initiatives designed and deployed everyday across the globe, this WHO Bulletin prompts one to wonder as well: just because impressive technologies exist, are they making a difference? Do they immediately lead to improved care quality, cost savings, or lives saved?

    There is no doubt that new technologies, and the hardware and infrastructure required to make them run, are proliferating across the developing world. Just two weeks ago I attended the eHealth Africa Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a country in which 75 percent of people who access the Internet do so through their mobile phones. Representatives from the Ghana Health Service spoke of how their national Information Technology (IT) agency has helped not only in crafting a national eHealth strategy, but also in retaining Ghana's top IT talent. And farther south in Angola -- a country in which 72% of citizens live on less than $2 a day -- a high-speed 4G network is currently being constructed.

    Yet the eHealth Conference attendees -- an array of African policymakers, health practitioners, and technology developers -- collectively acknowledged that simply having technology in hand was not sufficient for producing tangible health benefits. Policy makers in particular explained their challenge in adopting new technologies: if a health system is fractured, then technology may only exacerbate existing weaknesses, or if patients cannot easily and inexpensively access technology, then its potential to promote change cannot be realized. There was not yet enough evidence, from their perspective, to suggest which kinds of eHealth interventions were wise investments.

    One particular report in the WHO Bulletin would be of great interest to the concerns of these decision-makers, namely an analysis by Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), who documented and summarized main findings to date from eHealth programs in low- and middle-income countries. They aimed to answer the questions that policy makers have by showing evidence of programs that are already working.

    As the most comprehensive, global survey in peer-reviewed literature of eHealth initiatives, the report documents 176 technology-enabled programs that aim to improve quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care in developing countries. "By identifying emerging global trends in eHealth, the study provides guidance about how ICT can help solve common health systems challenges in developing countries," said Gina Lagomarsino, a managing director at the Results for Development Institute, of which CHMI is a unit.

    CHMI authors identified six primary ways in which most eHealth programs are already functioning: extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients, facilitating patient communications between health workers and patients, improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers, improving data management, streamlining financial transactions, and mitigating fraud and abuse.

    But an interesting and important finding in the CHMI report is that only 16 of the 176 programs documented responded to CHMI's request for self-reported, clear, and quantifiable impacts. The report further reveals that almost no programs had independent evaluations conducted, the quality of available evaluations was low, and the generalizability of available evaluations was not sufficiently broad to make a case for scale. In some cases this may mean that programs have simply not existed for long enough to be able to show any impact. Yet for those who have, it also hints at the challenge of evaluating new technologies -- and reveals that not enough innovators are rising to this challenge.

    The challenge of measuring a moving target is a conundrum -- with such rapid changes in hardware, software, and networks on which they operate, it is understandable that measuring impact is an intimidating task. Yet it is one that we must attempt to solve. If innovators cannot rigorously prove that a technology will save costs or save lives, then policy makers cannot be expected to commit effort and resources to applying it to strengthen health systems.

    Closing a panel on Health Information Systems at the eHealth Africa Conference, moderator Dr. Khama Rogo lamented to the audience,"I think more Africans die from misinformation than lack of medicines."

    Thankfully we now have a wide array of eHealth initiatives that can increase the availability of data for patients, providers, and policymakers alike -- what we need now is fresh, honest thinking on data management and greater effort towards evaluation if we want to see the benefits of eHealth interventions be brought to scale.

  • I had the honor of attending on Saturday 21-April 2012; a meeting organized by some Sudanese academicians and youth aiming at establishing an organization for promoting a Knowledge-based Society in Sudan.

    The initiative aims at establishing a non-governmental society or organization with branches all over Sudan and the goals have been defined to raise awareness and education about KM (Knowledge Management) through the provision of training courses on electronic learning using the Internet sharing experiences ,organizing competitions and KM system development .

    The SKBSO four additional aims are documentation and assembly of knowledge in all study areas organizing regular scientific workshops .create global knowledge exchange opportunities create knowledge exchange mechanisms between academic and professional and continues improvement and development of KM strategies.
    It was interesting that the Forum was attended by a number of private sector companies and businessmen which indicate that awareness is increasing about the importance of the knowledge society for business in today world.

More

  • Dimension Data CEO to step down

    Technology services group Dimension Data, which operates across a number of key regions including Africa and Middle East, announced that current CEO for Africa and Middle East Allan Cawood will vacate his post at the end of this month.

    Cawood will be replaced by Internet Solutions (IS) Managing Director Derek Wilcocks. Wilcocks’ departure from IS allowed Saki Missaikos, regional sales director at Dimension Data, to take up the reins at Internet Solutions.

  • ITU seeks next generation of social entrepreneurs
    Would-be young innovators can win chance to pitch their ideas to industry leaders at ITU Telecom World 2012

    Geneva, 1 May 2012 – ITU has launched the second edition of its Young Innovators Competition, giving young, talented social entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend its key global networking and knowledge sharing event, ITU Telecom World 2012, and the chance to win funding, mentorship and ongoing support.

    Open to 18-25 year olds worldwide, the Young Innovators Competition calls for projects/concepts which engage the power of ICTs to meet real-world developmental challenges relevant to one of eight core areas under the theme “Youth Innovation for Development”:

         Cybersecurity
         Education
         Empowerment of Women
         Environmental Sustainability
         Healthcare
         Human Rights
         Transparency
         Youth Employment

    Submissions consisting of everything from well researched concepts to ongoing operations showing preliminary results are welcome. From these, the twelve most outstanding entries -– judged to have the greatest possible social impact and potential for business success -– will win the chance to attend and participate in ITU Telecom World 2012, which takes place from 14-18 October in Dubai.

    The 12 finalists can benefit from one-on-one mentorship sessions with top level representatives from various sectors, hands-on workshops focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and the chance to showcase concepts and projects at a centrally located stand before the uniquely influential audience of World 2012 delegates. They can also benefit from the rich opportunities for networking with the leading names and key decision makers from industry, government and academia plus visionaries and digital thought leaders present at the event.

    Final winners will also benefit from prize money of up to CHF10,000 to realize entrepreneurial dreams. In addition winners will have access to the network of mentors offering ongoing support for up to one year, be invited to form an active part of the Young Innovators community and update their submission as featured on our website with regular progress report.

    “Participation in this competition offers a great opportunity for the next generation of young visionaries to demonstrate their ideas and innovations on a truly global stage at our event, and show how their fresh digital thinking can change the world for the better,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Crucially, the reach of the Young Innovators Programme will also extend way beyond the event, building a cohesive international community of highly talented social entrepreneurs working on ICT-based initiatives in areas that are vital to developmental issues facing the world today.”

    The deadline for initial submissions is 1st July 2012. For further details and the application procedure, please visit here. 

    For more information on the event, please see world2012.itu.int or contact:

    Sanjay Acharya

    tel     +41 22 730 5046
    tel     +41 79 249 4861
    tel     sanjay.acharya@itu.int

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

node ref id: 24793

Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 602 27th April 2012

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Top story

  • Tanzania is making big strides in rolling out its national backbone and connecting to all of its neighbours. Also at the beginning of April this year, it dropped its bandwidth prices and amended its multi-drop access to make it cheaper. Local operators are pleased about these developments but would like to see rates come down further. Russell Southwood spoke to Peter Nogota, Head, NICTBB about what’s been happening.

    When completed, NICTBB will represent a total investment of US$200 million, US$170 million of which will have come from a concessionary Chinese loan and US$30 million from the Tanzanian Government.

    The project is being built in three phases: the first phase is the northern ring which connects Singida and Arusha and this has been completed. The second phase is completing the southern ring which will connect Mtware, where oil has been discovered. The third phase is building the western side of the western ring from Tunduma to Biharamulo. The second phase is completed and testing and will come on stream in the next 20 days.

    In addition, the national backbone is so close to all its neighbours borders that it will add much need additional connections for those countries, giving them additional redundancy in event of cuts. Malawi is already connected at Kasumulo through MTN and Airtel. Zambia is connected at Tunduma by Zamtel and Burundi is connected at Kabanga through Ucom. Rwanda has completed a connection at Rusumo with RDB and Rwandatel.

    The three not yet connected are Uganda, Kenya (three parts still to do) and Mozambique (where there are still 371 kms to complete). With the exception of a fibre link to Rwanda, all the other cross-border links above are microwave.

    Overall performance on the network is acknowledged by the operators with whom we discussed it to be good. However, all sides concede that the usual problems of cuts due to road construction and vandalism exist and operators are concerned when there are cuts at the speed of repair. Ngota says that it is investing in programmes to raise public awareness and sensitise them to the importance of not cutting the fibre because they think it’s copper.

    On its charges for STM1s-STM64’s, it has since 1 April dropped its prices by 35% since 1 April this year. When we asked Ngota whether there would be further price cuts, he told us:”Let’s see the market response. I’d like to do tariff revisions on IRUs. All operators want to increase their capacity on the basis of the new rates.

    But what about the small operators who might not be able to afford an STM1?”We’re looking at how best to accommodate the ISPs at the lower level. It should be possible to create a shared tariff between several ISPs on a single STM1.” And what about the vexed question of the charges for multi-dropping along a route bought? “This will now cost, for example, 20% (per drop) of the STM1 you have bought.”

    There have been concerns expressed about the governance of NICTBB given its closeness to the former incumbent TTCL but Ngota is clear about its role:”The structure is working OK. There is 100% account separation. TTCL is the overall manager but there is fair play and transparency with equal rights and access for all operators. TTCL has the expertise and the coverage and complements us on the last mile. Most operators are buying their last mile through TTCL.”

    The Government’s overall e-strategy is to use the fibre backbone to get the population close to connectivity. The Universal Communications Access Fund will be used to implement connections to villages and connect the County offices. The e-Government agency is using the backbone to connect a number of Government organisations and offer them things like teleconferencing. NICTBB is also in discussions with broadcasters about how to use its capacity to deliver digital television across the country. Finally, the Government is looking at how best to address last mile connectivity.

    In the private sector, there is a consortium between Tigo, Airtel and Zantel that is putting up metronets in the larger cities.

    To get higher levels of take-up across the country – for individuals, corporates and the Government – the operators we spoke to are convinced prices need to come down more and that the multi-dropping charges need to be lower. As one told us:”It’s amazing the backbone’s there but we need to see the rates come down by at least half again, particularly if we are to get demand moving in a range of places across the country. It’s our responsibility to figure how to get the take-up of the services but the wholesale has to be at the right price to make it work.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • The Senate Committee on Privatisation on Tuesday, rejected plans to liquidate the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL) and its mobile arm, Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTEL).

    The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Gbenga Obadara (ACN-Ogun), made the announcement at an interactive session with officials of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).

    The committee chairman frowned at the attitude of some Federal Government agencies whom he observed, had contributed to the collapse of the companies by refusing to settle their indebtedness to the companies.

    He promised that the committee would ensure that all government agencies, indebted to NITEL settled their debts, without further delay. Obadara said the committee would also tour all NITEL offices in the country to determine the exact value of the companies, which the BPE had put at between N80 billion and N90 billion as at 2009.

    He expressed displeasure at government's plans to liquidate the companies without making effort to find out their values. "Nobody is telling us the worth of NITEL; we are only told how much NITEL owes. We should understand that it is all about protecting government's enterprises.

    "The condition of NITEL is not as bad as people portray. We have the option of making MTEL work; we could get credible people to run it. We are not impressed about the term 'guided liquidation' because the same executive has masterminded the liquidation of most of the privatised companies since its inception in 2001," he said.

    The Chairman, Technical Committee on Privatisation, Atedo Peterside, put NITEL/MTEL's liabilities at N351. 21 billion. Peterside was summoned by the committee alongside the Director General of the BPE, Ms Bolanle Onagoruwa, over the planned liquidation. The N35 billion debt owed NITEL he said, would be difficult to recover because the last bill paid to NITEL was paid about five years ago, adding that most of the companies indebted to the company had folded up.

    Peterside also told the committee that the only way the enterprises could attract investors was to liquidate them. "It is only through liquidation that investors can show interest. In that case, liquidators would take responsibilities for the debt owed creditors.

    "No potential investor will indicate interest in a business that will put creditors on their necks. "

  • Angolan telecom mobile operator Movicel has launched Africa's first commercial LTE network in the country's capital, Luanda. The LTE network, built with technology from Chinese telecom equipment markers ZTE and Huawei, is designed to enable up to 120M bps Internet access. LTE is still being piloted by Africa's largest mobile operator, MTN, in South Africa, making Angola the first country in Africa to have a commercial LTE network. As part of the project, ZTE will also provide LTE equipment for key markets across the country.

    China's work with Angola to launch the first LTE network in the region is a sign of how China is helping African countries develop the telecom sector in exchange for natural resources, and of Chinese telecom companies' dominance in the African mobile market. In Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, China has spent millions of dollars to develop communication infrastructure in exchange for licenses in extractive industries and construction.

    "China has penetrated Africa's telecom sector because of the combination of money and technology," said Edith Mwale, telecom analyst at Africa Center for ICT Development.

    As in many other countries in Africa, ZTE is expected to start marketing smartphones on the Angolan market to enable as many people as possible to own handsets for data in addition to voice services.

  • The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA has slammed a N5 million fine on MTN for reopening its base station in EFAB Estate, Mbora District, Abuja sealed last week.

    Director, Inspection and Enforcement of NESREA, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, who led a NESREA Team of Inspection and Enforcement Officials to reseal the premises, insisted that the base station must remain shut for violating Environmental Laws and falling short on the regulation on 10 metres set back from the residential area.

    Soyombo said that MTN would also pay a daily fine of fifty thousand naira for as long as the offence persists. "No one is bigger than the law. MTN must be made to operate by the rules and regulations."

    The said base station according to NESERA defied an earlier removal order from FCDA development control.

    Following numerous complaints from angry residents, NESREA investigated the base station and shut it down two weeks ago when it was found to be only 1.2 metres from the nearest house. Moreover, residents in the area insisted that the operators had been warned as far back in 2009 not to erect on that site which they ignored, a statement from NESERA noted.

    Soyombo said that "apart from the five million naira, we are going to press charges against MTN for acting outside the confines of the law and also for illegally removing a seal which was put by NESREA. That is a criminal offence against the Federal Republic of Nigeria".

  • Safaricom Kenya and Bharti Airtel are set to form an agreement that will enable the two giants to lay a fiber network. The move is designed to cut costs associated with the involvement of third parties whom they rely on for their internet.

    Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, told the Business Daily that the company initiated talks with other mobile operators including Telkom Kenya and Essar, but only Airtel took up the bid. About the fiber he added: “We are going to roll out the fibre in the coming financial year; it will involve partnering with other mobile operators.”

    “Safaricom and Airtel have a long standing Tower Sharing Agreement and we have similar agreements with Telkom Kenya and Essar. Therefore, collaborating in fibre optic network deployment is an extension of this and will ensure that operators minimise costs while avoiding duplication.”

    The increase in cheaper smart phones, such as IDEOS and other tablets, has resulted in a data surge, where users need wireless internet. As such Kenya’s Communications Commission (CCK) says that this has seen the mobile operators upgrade their networks to better and high-speed wireless services.

    Collymore added, “We have mentioned in the past that the strategy remains one of “in filling” which means that we focus on building fibre in the areas that have no infrastructure whilst avoiding unnecessary duplication.”

  • Tanzanian government will soon investigate and report back to the national assembly about the stands of ownership of the local mobile phone operator MIC Tanzania Ltd, Tigo.

    This comes following the pressure from some members of Parliament who wanted to know why Tigo Tanzania Ltd is wholly owned by foreigners which is contrary to the laws of the country specifically EPOCA Act of 2010.

    During the question and answer parliamentary session in Dodoma last week, the Kigoma North Member of Parliament for Chadema, Mr. Zitto Kabwe had wanted to know why the local telecommunication company Tigo Tanzania Ltd was wholly owned by foreigners contrary to the laws of the land.

    Mr. Zitto said that he was surprised to note that while other telecommunication companies were having the local share ownership Tigo Tanzania Ltd was enjoying a 100 percent foreign ownership a thing that contradicts with the requirement of the laws in the country.

    Zitto, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Parastatal Organizations Accounts Committee (POAC) said that he was also surprised to see that the said telecommunication company was not even listed at the Dar es salaam stock exchange market (DSE).

    The outspoken MP, who is also the deputy leader of the opposition camp in the National Assembly noted that until 2005 the government had shares in Tigo and that the government decided to cancel its call option on the business contentiously.

    In February 2006, after buying out its minority shareholders, the Luxembourg-based pan-African mobile operator Millicom International Cellular announced to take a full control of three of its African-based Mobile operators including MIC Tanzania limited.

    In Tanzania a US$1.332 million deal enables Millicom to acquire the remaining 16% stake it did not already own after the cellco's minority shareholders agreed to cancel their call option on the business. Since then Millicom is the full controller of the company.

    He noted, "allowing the company to operate while being fully owned by a foreign company or companies is against the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010."

    Following this pressure, the government has promised to scrutinize and report back to the coming law maker's assembly which will be held in Dodoma in August for further step.

    I would like to take this opportunity and assure all the members of the parliament that the government will investigate and report back to this assembly on the ownership status of the mobile phone company, Tigo Tanzania Ltd," said the acting head of government business in the house, Samuel Sitta.

    Sitta, who is also Minister for East African Cooperation and Member of Parliament for Urambo Constituency in Tabora via CCM, told the National Assembly last week that they will need time to look into the matter and get back to the August house on the same.

    "We will take time to study the matter critically and come back with actual findings in August; he said Minister Sitta and adding "It seems that the legislator has a point on this."

    He told the parliament that the government needs to work for it extensively because it seemed that the whole issue shrouded in controversies.

    Earlier, the Deputy Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Mr Charles Kitwanga, noted that the EPOCA does not make it mandatory for all mobile phone companies to list at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.

    "It is not every telecommunication company that can be listed at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, authorities have to discuss and approve which should be listed and which should not," said Mr Kitwanga.

    On the other hand, Mr Said Amour Arfi (Mpanda Urban-Chadema) wondered why the process of selling Zain Tanzania company shares to become Airtel Tanzania Ltd was not channeled through the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, saying that it was against EPOCA.

    Responding to the question, Mr Kitwanga said that the government still maintains a 40 per cent stake in Airtel Tanzania Limited that was carried forward from Zain Tanzania.

    "The government's 40 per cent shares have remained intact despite the change in the company's name, so when the appropriate time for the government to sale its shares comes, we will do so in accordance with the country's laws," he added.

    Quoted by local media recently, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mr. Mustafa Mkulo said that the government cannot sale its shares from the second largest mobile operator in the country, Airtel because there is no need to do so.

    "I would like to take this opportunity to let you knows that our 40 percent shares which the government own to Airtel, will not be sold," said the finance minister without further elaboration.

    Other mobile phone operators which have local ownership in the country include Vodacom and Zantel Tanzania.

internet

  • A new report by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) illustrates how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are aiding citizen participation in Uganda, but also points to the challenges that need to be overcome for these technologies to have a wider impact on governance.

    The report reviews various ICT tools being used to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in Uganda.

    It examines the utility and shortcomings of these tools, the challenges they face, and the factors contributing to their success.

    Furthermore, it offers suggestions for improving the utility, reach, and, hopefully, the success of initiatives that utilise ICT to improve citizen participation.

    Based on the 24 ICT tools assessed, seven main categories of uses of tools were identified: Information provision; Election monitoring; Lobbying and activism; Voter registration; Elections reporting; Citizen policing; and Civic participation in the post-election period.

    Innovations especially with mobile telephony and interactive mapping have showcased how ICT can help improve transparency and accountability in the delivery of public services. In the run up to Uganda’s 2011 general elections, ICT tools were used broadly, for campaigning, tallying results, monitoring the actions of political groups and the electoral body, for civic education, and for activism. The tools included mobile phones, automated calls, and crowd sourcing platforms, radio and television, as well as social media. They contributed to transparency of the polls – but probably not to voter turn-out.

    However, the most immediate challenge to the adoption of these tools is that few Ugandans are embracing them. In Uganda, market penetration for voice stands at 45% with a population coverage of close to 100%. Mobile accounts for more than 90% of new connections, with 910,000 new subscribers being added each year. While this is providing a solid base in terms of numbers of those who can use the ICT, the figures do not tell the whole story. For example, studies show that nearly half of mobile phone subscribers own at least two SIM cards. Moreover, even among the phone-owning class, for many usage beyond voice (and, well, Facebook and radio) remains limited.

    And there are yet more challenges. Limitations such as the cost of accessing and using the ICT, language barriers and low literacy levels mainly for the internet and mobile based platforms - as well as minimal attention by government to boosting usage of ICT in governance all hinder the effective use of these tools. This study finds that it is therefore crucial for organisations using ICT for participation and democracy to carry out extensive assessments before deploying the technology, to work with others rather than duplicate efforts, to create awareness and capacity among users, and to continuously assess the impacts the ICT initiatives are creating.

  • Participants at the NGOs Forum on Monday passed a resolution condemning the blocking of a number of online Gambian newspapers.

    Participants said the continuous blocking of online newspapers and blogs by the government of Yahya Jammeh constitutes an infringement on the rights of Gambians to access information.

    “We the participants at the NGOs Forum are deeply concerned at the blocking of many online media and information websites denying thereby alternative sources of information to the Gambia public,” they said in the resolution.

    The resolution comes amid dedicated efforts spearheaded by JollofNews over the building of an Internet firewall by the Gambia government with no legal basis.

    With regard to the murder of Journalist Deyda Hydara in December 2004 by unidentified gunmen and the disappearance of Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh of Daily Observer, the resolution recommended to the African Commission to put pressure on the Gambia government to reveal the whereabouts of Mr Manneh and to conduct an independent and impartial enquiry into the murder of the Deyda Hydara.”

  • A Tunisian group claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous - the international cyber-activist collective- has announced a new operation called "Stop AMAR 404â-' against recent measures to enhance internet security.

    Government official's concerns about the security of the websites of Tunisian Interim Government ministries have increased, especially after recent cyber-attacks targeting the Tunisian Prime Minister's email account and the official website of the Ministry of Justice.

    The government's budget for 2012, presented by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to the Constituent Assembly on April 5th, focused on improving internet security by including funding for hiring new experts at the Ministry of the Interior.

    Anonymous called for a protest on Avenue Habib Bourguiba on May 1st, against what they called, "internet censorship."

    The government's decision to hire new internet security experts at the Ministry of Interior has alarmed Anonymous activists. "The decision threatens internet freedom, it will monitor all actions on the internet, emails, social networks, searches, absolutely everything. It will give full powers to the government to have a totalitarian control over your confidential information online. The (internet) commission will probably recognize you more than your friends and family. The commission says their aim is to formally protect against cyber crime at a national level. But the term "cyber crime" is deliberately vague. It may refer to protections for the government, its scandals, leaks and similar cases. The government has the same reasons to censor as Ben Ali. It will be basically used to hunt you down if you criticize, especially Ennahda," anonymous announced.

    According to a video released by anonymous, people must mobilize against internet censorship in the planned May day rallies to oppose "internet censorship, the restriction of freedom of expression, the monitoring of all online activities" and to protest against the "loss of freedoms and civil rights and the possible loss of internet connections for those who violate the new rules."

  • Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Media Communication Centre (MCC), the company that publishes The Reporter, has asked Ethio-Telecom for an explanation but has not yet received a response.

    “Website blocking is not new in Ethiopia but a leading independent newspaper’s site has never previously been affected,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Tests carried out by the OpenNet Initiative in 2008 and 2009 showed that certain outspoken or opposition sites based abroad were the target of filtering, but this is the first time a newspaper such as The Reporter has been targeted.”

    The Reporter’s site normally has upward of 30,000 visitors a day, more than five times the number of readers of the print version. “Has The Reporter’s site been blocked to prevent the dissemination of sensitive articles,” Reporters Without Borders asked.

computing

  • What is International Girls in ICT Day?

    International Girls’ in ICT Day is an initiative backed by ITU Member States in Plenipotentiary Resolution 70 (Guadalajara, 2010) to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of information and communication technologies (ICTs). International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in April every year. This year, International Girls in ICT day was held on 26 April 2012.

    Who organizes Girls in ICT Day events?

    Ministries of Communication, Education, National Regulatory Authorities, private sector companies, academic institutions, relevant UN agencies and NGOs can organize local, national or regional events on 26 April 2012. The ITU Secretary General has encouraged all ITU Member States and Sector Members to consider organizing a national or local event on 26 April 2012 in his World Telecommunication Information Society Day letter and its Call for Action. See the Secretary General’s Circular Letter and Call for Action here:

    If interested countries would like to see how one country organized their first Girls in ICT Day event last year, here is a video about the Republic of Serbia’s 2011 event. Information about Serbia’s experience is posted on the ITU Girls in ICT Portal as well under the Events section.

    Why do we need a Girls in ICT Day?

    Globally, it is estimated that the world shortfall in skilled ICT professionals exceeds two million. Despite the obvious benefits, many girls never even consider a career in ICTs.

    The ICT sector remains a growing sector for employment, and a key economic factor underpinning both national and international development in both developed and developing countries. Many countries and regions are predicting a shortage of qualified staff with math, science, engineering and computing skills to meet the growing demand.

    At the same time, many companies are looking to increase the number of women in the sector.

    This means that highly qualified women in technical fields have significant opportunities available to them in both developed and developing countries. The need for qualified professionals in developing countries worldwide should come as no surprise, considering the rate of ICT growth in developing countries. The BDT Thematic Report: A Bright Future in ICTs: Opportunities for a New Generation of Women includes more information and will be published soon on the Girls in ICT Portal.

  • The award winning Tunisian blog Nawaat, in partnership with Tunisian Ministère de la Jeunesse et des Sports & Canal France Internationale (CFI), has launched a new project in Tunisia to create citizen journalism clubs in youth centres. Six local citizen media collectives have been started in Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Bizerte, Makther, Gafsa, and Gebili – all located in Tunisia’s interior and south. These citizen journalism collectives will allow people to use the computers of the youth centers and disseminate news and views through six platforms.

    The goal is to have a national network of alternative and citizen media, using simple blogging platforms, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts as the collectives’ technical support. The project embodies the heart of grassroots journalism: decentralizing information by helping local citizen journalists create their own regional content through a network covering issues directly relating to local residents.

    The project kicked off by hosting a total of six training sessions – one in each city – at the local and regional youth centers. Ten representatives from each city attended each of the training sessions, which are taught by both Nawaat bloggers and Canal France Internationale (CFI) journalists. The average age of participants is 17. At the trainings, 60 participants learned how to write different types of articles and how to use appropriate angles in reporting.

    Following the first cycle of training, with adequate tools available, all six groups have set up their respective blogs.

    Nawaat plans to create a national platform to aggregate all the blogs and consolidate the network by the end of April, and to have a total of 15 clubs by the end of 2012. We will share more information about this project in the future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MasterCard has partnered with local mobile-centric financial services company Oltio to bring MasterCard Mobile to the South African market, expanding the platform for online shopping in the country.

    MasterCard Mobile lets MasterCard and Maestro cardholders make online purchases using their mobile phones. Consumers can use the platform to make secure online purchases with their PIN-based debit, cheque or credit cards by linking these to their mobile phones.

    "It's a convenient and cost-effective payment mechanism that doesn't require customers to open yet another bank account," Oltio CEO Terry Timson said in a statement last week.

    To use the service, cardholders must select the MasterCard Mobile option on participating e-commerce sites. First-time users will be prompted to register their cards and their mobile phone numbers on a secure site.

    Thereafter, the cardholder's mobile phone number is used to initiate payments, which the cardholder authorises by entering their PINs into their mobile phones.

  • Zimbabwe telco Econet Wireless has reported a 24% increase in full-year revenues in its financial year to end-February 2012. Sales rose to USD611.1 million, up from USD493.5 million the previous year, driven by a 16% increase in subscriber numbers to 6.41 million. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) climbed from USD242.7 million to USD290.9 million, while net profits were up 18% at USD165.7 million.

    Econet has confirmed that it is currently in the final stages of concluding a syndicated USD307 million loan from a group of international banks to help fund its continued network expansion and upgrade programme. The operator says it has invested USD614 million in its Zimbabwe operations over the last three years, including USD184 million in the most recent twelve-month period. Econet Wireless controls almost two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s mobile market, competing with Vimpelcom/Orascom subsidiary Telecel and state-owned firm NetOne.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • MTN Rwanda internet subscribers are set to benefit from the operator's decision to cut its data prices. The company announced on Monday that it had slashed data prices by half the current price for both post-paid and top-up users as it seeks to consolidate its leadership position amidst growing competition.

    In a statement, which outlines the new tariff structure, MTN said that on the 250Mb package, prices were reduced to Rwf3,000 from Rwf6,000. Prices on the 5Gb were reduced from Rwf30,000 to Rwf15,000 while on the 500Mb package, the price dropped from Rwf10,000 to Rwf5,000. The new tariffs are available on MTN Internet (3.75G) and MTN Hotspot (Wi-Fi), the company said.

Digital Content

  • Frommer’s Unlimited has teamed up with South African travel technology company, Tourism Radio, in a move that is set to revolutionise the world of mobile travel guides.

    Frommer’s has been a trusted source of travel guides for more than 50 years, and its partnership with Tourism Radio will see the company firmly establish itself in the mobile space with the next generation of travel guides. Tourism Radio’s unique mobile technology seamlessly blends Frommer’s travel content with Tourism Radio audio clips, which automatically play as the user enters their location.

    The initial partnership launch will see the release of audio and text travel guides to a number of popular travel destinations around the world. This includes comprehensive guides to the top tourist cities of New York, London and Paris. Destination information will include Frommer’s recommended restaurant, attraction, nightlife, shopping and hotel picks, highlighting how to travel smart and experience each city as a local. The guides can be downloaded as standalone applications for Android and iPhone, or accessed through the Tourism Radio travel application, Hummba.

    Tourism Radio founder and CEO Mark Allewell says, “We like to think of our partnership with Frommer’s as serendipity on steroids. Travellers will now be able to easily access an unprecedented amount of quality travel information, directly from their mobile phones. We’re also delighted to partner with one of the world’s oldest and most respected travel companies, and we look forward to producing guides that cater for every traveller’s needs.”

    "Offering Frommer's travel information through Tourism Radio's intelligent mobile audio guides is an exciting new way for travelers to access our expert travel advice at the right time in the right place, said Craig Schickler, Director of E-Business Development, Frommer’s Unlimited. We are happy to be working with Tourism Radio and together helping shape memorable experiences for travelers around the globe."

    From launch until the 1st of May, the audio travel guides from across the globe will be free for download, after which, they will range in price from US$0.99 to US$4.99, depending on the amount of travel content they contain. A selection of free, lite guides, to several popular destinations around the world, will also be available for download. These give travellers the opportunity to sample the content before committing to the purchase of a full guide.

  • Chris Haye Onanuga, the man at the center of the purported hijacking of the judges’ verdict for the Miss Liberia 2011/2012 crown, said he had to step in to avoid confusion because the judges were “ignorant” of the rules and regulations governing the pageant, which was created by the organizer, CT.Com.

    Onanuga said the panel of judges, headed by Maxine Menson of Ghana (an Executive Producer of the ECOWAS Peace Pageant and Consultant to the Miss Ghana Beauty Pageant), failed to follow the rules and regulation of Miss Liberia 2011/2012.

    “In order to move away from the archaic situation where judges only decide the winner, we decided that the public would have a voice. Therefore, we gave 40% of the decision making to the public to select their choice via SMS. And at the event, we as organizers decided to give the judges 60% say, according to the rules of the Pageant,” Mr. Onunaga explained. “Therefore, on the night of the contest, judges had 60% say, while the public opinion through voting counted for 40%.

    “At the close of the pageant, it became apparent that the judges wanted to reject the public opinion voting. Instead of taking 60%, the judges wanted to have 100% say in the final results, which is against the rules. This is where we as organizers refused because we could not accept that the judges should have 100% say and ignore the views of public opinion,” Onanuga stated.

    The chief organizer of the pageant further stated that owing to the judges’ refusal to include the public’s grading (40%) of the queens’ actual event performances (60%), he and his staff tabulated the scores, including the SMS voting scores and the judges’ scores, and announced the results.

    “There have been concerns about why we as organizers announced the result; [but] this is what happened: the judges handed the final scores to Desmond Elliot (a Nigerian actor), [as] all of us believed that the judges had tabulated both the SMS voting as well as their [scores]. After Mr. Elliot announced the second and third winners, he refused to announce the [first place] winner owing to the crowd’s agitation and the presence of about 30 police officers.

    “When the judges were then asked to announce the winners as is traditionally the case in Liberia, they too refused. At this point, we did final tabulation, which included both the judges’ and the SMS voting scores, and announced the results.”

  • A media blackout is being enforced by the military junta in Guinea-Bissau that staged a coup d'état on April 12, 2012.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) source in the country reported that on the day of the coup, the coup makers forced all the media houses to close down.

    The source said that in the evening of the same day, the soldiers seized a camera belonging to the local team of RTP-Africa, a Portuguese broadcaster after issuing death threats to them. The owner of privately-owned online news website, Ditadura de Consense, was reportedly tortured by the soldiers.

    This latest censorship has worsened the already repressive media environment in Guinea-Bissau. Journalists in the country have been practicing self-censorship as a result of harsh treatment meted out to them by security forces and powerful individuals with connections to drug barons.

    Apart from the climate of fear, the media in Guinea-Bissau have endured and operated under very dire economic and political conditions. There are only about five newspapers and few radio and television stations including the state- run Radio Televisao de Guinea-Bissau (RTGB).

  • The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) has launched an online marketing campaign called 'Conservation Destination' to showcase remarkable conservation stories about Namibia, and inspire locals to make contributions.

    NTB spokesperson Maggy Mbako said in a media statement issued on Tuesday that the campaign will run until June 1 this year.

    The 'Conservation Destination' campaign was launched last Sunday to coincide with World Earth Day.

    As part of the campaign, the NTB has invited online users to use Facebook and Twitter to interact with four conservation ambassadors, being Dara the Damara Tern, Chase the Cheetah, Roger the Rhino and Holden the Golden Mole.

    NTB has worked with four conservation organisations - the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management (NACOMA) project, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), the Save the Rhino Trust and the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) to bring these characters to life.

    Throughout the campaign, the ambassadors will 'tweet' and post information about real-life threats facing their survival, and also spread the word about conservation success stories taking place in Namibia.

    "We hope to engage Namibians of all ages with this campaign, and alert them to the work being done in their own country - and then give them a chance to visit it themselves," said Mbako. She said Facebook was the best medium to do this since over 150,000 Namibians make use of the social media network.

    NaDEET Director Viktoria Keding said the campaign is a great and engaging way to communicate the wonders and challenges facing conservation and the environment in Namibia."We are extremely excited about promoting environmental education and NaDEET through Holden, our Golden Mole," said Keding.

More

  • Safaricom: Collymore appointed to UN global board

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, announced the appointment of Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore to the UN Global Compact Board.

    The UN Global Compact is a voluntary initiative aimed at recognizing businesses committed to adopting sustainable and socially-responsible policies.

    “As Safaricom, we feel it is important for companies to report on their operations from a holistic perspective and to report on their sustainability credentials. Corporate governance and ethics are a key factor that underpins a company’s reputation.” said Collymore

    Last year, Collymore made a presentation on an initiative “Every Woman, Every Child,” before the UN General Assembly.

    He highlighted Safaricom’s commitment to improve maternal health and reducing child mortality by mobile technology.

    He added: “In Kenya we have one doctor for every 10,000 patients. Bearing in mind that we have more than 25 million mobile phones and less than 450 hospitals, it goes without saying that mobile technology should be used to create effective solutions for our healthcare challenges. We realize that as a telecommunications company, the use of mobile technology for health purposes can revolutionize society’s ability to deliver access and use health information to promote health, fight disease and respond to medical emergencies.”

    Diego Gutierrez appointed as Tigo Tanzania’s new General Manager (Tanzania)

    Mobile operator Tigo has appointed Diego Gutierrez as the General Manager for its operations in Tanzania. As per the company Gutierrez has 12 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, and has been working with the organisation for the past two and a half years as the Consumer/ Deputy General Manager.

    Gutierrez replaces Marcelo Aleman who has been appointed as General Manager of MIC’s operations in El Salvador. He said that he is very pleased to have been promoted to General Manager of Tigo Tanzania.

    He added that he is proud to be heading a healthy business with a strong brand and enormous potential for growth as they offer new services to the market such as Tigo Pesa and Tigo Internet, which are proving to be very popular with their customers.

    New CEO for Broadband Infraco

    Puleng Sejanamane has been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of telecommunication provider Broadband Infraco, the Department of Public Enterprises said on Wednesday.

    Sejanamane has also been appointed as an ex officio member of the Board of Broadband Infraco (Infraco). She is a former chief marketing and sales officer at Broadband Infraco. She had also worked at MTN SA from August 2008 to 2011.

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