Newsletter English

Issue no 598 30th March 2012

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Top story

  • The business of running a mobile operation in Africa in comparison to Europe or any developed countries should be roughly the same but there are major differences and this starts with the core element of a mobile operator’s network, the base station. Running base stations in Africa is different from running base stations in Europe. The issues around powering a base station for example are altogether dealt with differently in Africa. Isabelle Gross looks at what it takes to African mobile operators to ensure that their base stations are up and running 24/7.

    A large number of countries in Sub-Sahara Africa still have little electricity and an electricity grid that too often stops at the outskirt of the capital city. At least in the capital city mobile operators should have a choice of the type of power – electricity from the grid or electricity from the diesel generator – that they will use for their base stations. Unfortunately even in the capital city the supply of electricity from the grid is unreliable with frequent and lasting load shedding. Mobile operators can’t afford to have a base station down because it means a loss of revenue for them. Diesel generators remain the most reliable power source when it comes to keeping base stations up and running 24/7 but this comes at a “high” cost for most African mobile operators.

    In small towns and further in rural areas, the only option (beside renewable energy sources) is diesel generators but getting the diesel there is not always an easy and fast task. I recently travelled from Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia to Ganta, a town in the East not far away from the border with Guinea. The distance between the two places is roughly 300km and it took us approximately 4 hours to reach Ganta which was not bad. The road between Monrovia and Ganta is tarmac but there are so many potholes in the road especially after Banga that it quite common to see cars, trucks and buses driving on the wrong side of the road because the state of the road is slightly better. My trip was during the dry season but in the rainy season flooding and mudslides must make this journey much more difficult. The COO of Total in Liberia told me that last least year one of their fuel trucks got stuck six days because of some flooding of the road. During my trip, we stopped in Totola, a remote place high in the hills, an ideal place for a base station. The last hundred meters before reaching the base station was just a dirt track with a very sharp slope. On the way up, I just wondered how the heck a fuel truck makes it to the top during the rainy season. Fuelling base stations in rural areas is not easy and so many things can go wrong until the fuel truck reaches the base station.

    Diesel is a precious commodity especially in Sub-Sahara African countries where demand is growing as there are now more and more cars, motorbikes and home diesel generators. Diesel can easily and rapidly be exchanged for cash and therefore stealing diesel can become a lucrative business or more a way to make ends meet. In Liberia for example, a security person in charge of guarding a base station earns between US$65 and US$75 per month. This is not much especially if you have a family and children to look after. The retail price of a gallon of diesel on the other hand is US$4.5. Stealing a couple of gallons of diesel here and there is not only a temptation but the sad reality.

    Diesel theft can happen anytime between the moment the fuel truck leaves the secured compound of the oil company up to when the diesel is burnt by the generator at the base station. In between these stages, there are so many opportunities to get small or large quantities of diesel to vanish. This is an ongoing nightmare that African mobile operators have to face and it comes at a cost. In order to minimise the level of diesel theft they have put in place numerous controls and counter-checks at various stages. So for example to avoid that the fuel truck driver delivers less than what he is supposed to deliver to a given base station, the mobile operator will send somebody with him thus avoiding that the fuel truck driver cuts a deal with the security guard at the base station.

    Although the level of diesel in the tank at the bases stations is monitored on a daily basis, this unfortunately is not enough to make sure that no diesel will be stolen. Unannounced visits to the base stations are another mean to check that the metre readings of the diesel tanks are made accurately and not a gallon of diesel remains unreported. To further avoid diesel theft in the base station, the pipe’s joints between the tank and the diesel generators are sealed with plastic straps. Diverting diesel at the joint between the tank and the pipe or the joint between the pipe and the diesel generators would require breaking the plastic seals. Whatever measures mobile operators put in place to reduce the level of diesel theft, they will never be enough and all of them add to the cost of running base stations in Africa.

    When I visit my mum who lives in the countryside in France, I often pass near a base station erected at the edge of a wood. The base station which has been there for many years is of course connected to the electricity grid and is unguarded. For African mobile operators this must be a dream and they have a long road ahead of them before they can stop worrying about how their base stations stay all the time powered.

    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, Gilat Satcom
    on doing business in South Sudan

telecoms

  • MTN customers in Cote d'Ivoire and Benin will now enjoy the benefits of world-class connectivity; this follows the awarding of 3G licences to the mobile telecoms provider in both countries.

    "We are grateful to the governments of Cote d'Ivoire and Benin for enabling MTN to further enhance the experience of mobile telephony for our customers," said Christian de Faria, MTN group chief commercial officer.

    The Ivorian Minister of Post and Information Communication Technologies, Bruno Kone, delivered the news about the 3G licence to MTN Cote d'Ivoire last Thursday at the MTN offices in Abidjan during a press conference held to display the SIM and subscriber registration process in MTN service centres and the equipment related to the West African Cable System (WACS).

    Wim Vanhelleputte, the chief executive officer of MTN Cote d'Ivoire, announced that WACS, a submarine cable stretching 14,000 kilometres between Portugal and SA, would upgrade connectivity for Ivorians to international standards.

    "The cable will allow more Ivorians to enjoy fast access to the internet. We have already identified about 30% of subscribers who will be the first to experience and enjoy the 3G service," he commented.

    Meanwhile, in Benin, MTN was granted a universal licence, which allows the company to provide mobile telecommunications services using any technology within the defined agreed frequency range without additional fees.

    This includes 3G, 4G, LTE, Wimax, Wi-Fi outdoor as well as the use of VoIP.

    Eric Tronel, chief executive officer for MTN Benin said MTN was the first and only operator in Benin with a license that allows the use of new generation technologies, such as 3G, 4G, LTE and Wimax.

  • SOMTEL has for the first time launched 3G network services in Erigavo and Las-Anod this week, the company which provides telephone services, internet and mobile in all six regions of the country. On the 22nd of March SOMTEL launched it 3G mobile network services in Erigavo in a well attended ceremony which was held at the Hotel Mahuran, speaking during the occasion the head of SOMTEL in Sanag region Mr Ahmed Ibrahim said that SOMTEL is the only national company which traces its roots in Erigavo, the place where it was first founded and the company provides a wide range of services committed in satisfying the needs of its customers.

    Elaborating on the benefits of 3G Adan Abdillahi the regional coordinator at SOMTEL said, the service will enable SOMTEL to offer its subscribers a wide range of advanced network services while achieving a greater network capacity transfer rates and spectral efficiency.  Abdinasir Awad (Donyo) who is the head of public relations at SOMTEL reiterated that SOMTEL is committed to focusing telecommunication development in Somaliland and that the 3G network provides a platform for distributing converged fixed mobile, voice data, internet and multimedia services.

    SOMTEL just recently broadcasted the national football tournament live all over Somaliland and also the basketball tournament using 3G network service to transmit live matches to the delight of thousands of viewers all over the country.

  • Samsung Electronics Co aims to double its share of the sub-Saharan smartphone market to 20 percent by next year, as it focuses on affordable handsets, the head of its Africa business said on Thursday.

    The Korean maker of televisions and white goods is aggressively courting African consumers with its "Built for Africa" line, which features energy-saving electrical appliances purpose built to withstand high temperatures and erratic power supply.

    But the company sees some of its biggest opportunities on the continent from rising demand for cheaper smartphones, Kwang Kee Park, Samsung's president and chief operating officer for Africa, told Reuters in an interview.

    "We intend to grow the smartphone market up to 20 percent for the next one year's time with the Galaxy Pocket," he said, referring to a stripped-down version of its Galaxy smartphone.

    Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world and will be home to 738 million handsets by the end of this year, according to a survey by industry body GSMA.

    The rise of smartphones has also given millions of African internet access for the first time.

    Samsung estimates the total African market for handset devices shipped was around 97 million, with smartphone penetration currently around 6 to 8 percent. Samsung's share of the smartphone market in Africa stands at about 10 percent.

    Samsung, which had assembly plants in South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mali and north Sudan, is aiming reach the $3 billion sales mark this year, up $1 billion on last year.

    The company has said it aims to boost its revenue from Africa to $10 billion by 2015.

    But Park said that would depend on Samsung being able to develop more locally relevant products at cheaper prices.

    "Every year we can come up with another $1 billion in business," he said.

    "But it really depends on how we develop more locally relevant products and make the products more affordable."

  • The Russian telecoms group Vimpelcom says its subsidiary in Algeria, Orascom Telecom Algeria (OTA), which offers mobile services under the brand name Djezzy, will appeal fines totalling DZD99 billion (USD1.3 billion) which have been imposed for alleged breaches of foreign exchange regulations. A senior executive at Djezzy is also facing a criminal sentence as part of the same court judgement. Algerian authorities first filed the case against Djezzy in 2010.

    A statement from the Russian operator reads: ‘OTA is taking the necessary steps to file an appeal. The lodging of the appeal will provisionally suspend the judgment. Vimpelcom maintains that OTA and OTA’s senior executive have acted in good faith and in compliance with the law. The management in Algeria continues to have Vimpelcom’s full support.’

    The case further complicates the already strained relationship between Vimpelcom and authorities in Algiers. Throughout 2010 OTA and the Algerian government were embroiled in a bitter legal dispute, ostensibly over the payment of back taxes. However, the real issue was the government’s attempt to derail Vimpelcom’s pending acquisition of OTA shareholder Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH). In September 2010 Vimpelcom agreed to merge its telecoms assets with those of OTH, including its Algerian arm, in a transaction valued at USD6.5 billion. The Algerian government, unhappy at the move, attempted to block the deal since, according to the terms of legislation passed in 2009, Algiers was supposed to have first refusal over Djezzy if Orascom ever opted to sell the lucrative mobile unit.

    In October 2010 Vimpelcom conceded that it was happy to sell part of the OTH stake in Djezzy, but only if the Algerian government was willing to match its USD7.8 billion valuation – more than the Russian firm had eventually paid for the collective telecoms assets of OTH. Eventually, in January 2012, Vimpelcom signed a memorandum of understanding for the sale of a 51% stake in Djezzy to the Algerian state. Terms and conditions have yet to be finalised, and the latest developments will have done nothing to ease the negotiations.

  • Vodacom Group Ltd. (VOD) may lose control of its wireless unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a court ordered its shares be confiscated to settle a $21 million dispute with a consultant.

    The commercial court, based in the capital Kinshasa, on March 26 issued an order to attach Vodacom’s 510,000 shares in its 51-percent held Vodacom Congo SPRL unit in order to enforce its Jan. 25 judgment that Vodacom pay Moto Mabanga’s Namemco Energy (Pty) Ltd. a $21 million consultancy fee, according to court documents provided by Mabanga.

    “Vodacom’s appeal against the judgment is still before the court and is due to be heard,” Pieter Uys, the Chief Executive Officer of Johannesburg-based Vodacom, a unit of Vodafone Group Plc, said by phone today. The company has also pleaded to the central African nation’s justice inspectorate to speed up the appeal. “We are aware of the confiscation order. Our lawyers are looking into it and will respond.”

    Mabanga sued Vodacom last year, seeking a $40.8 million success fee for work done during 2007 and 2008. The commercial court ruled on a reduced award. Mabanga was already paid a $2.8 million service fee for the consultancy work. “We have paid him in terms of the two contracts we had with him and there are no outstanding payments,” said Uys.

    Jose Roger Mbonga, the head clerk at the commercial court, last week confirmed the authenticity of the order, which was signed and executed by Pasho Babene, a bailiff in the Kinshasa suburb of Gombe.

    Vodacom, the largest provider of wireless services to South Africans, always honors its contractual obligations, Uys said. The contracts Vodacom had with Mabanga stated that all agreements were to be in writing and any disputes would be resolved in the South African legal jurisdiction, said Uys.

    “The court is handling the attachment process and will determine how many shares must be sold in order to pay me,” Mabanga said by phone today. “That’s because nobody knows their value as the company is unlisted. It’s been a long struggle.”

  • MTN Swaziland this week won a court case that will result in the closure of a network launched by Swaziland Post & Telecommunications Corporation because of a conflict of interest.

    MTN Swaziland is 30% owned by MTN, 19% by the Swaziland Empowerment Group, with Swaziland Post & Telecommunications originally owning the other 51% — though it claims this was transferred to Swaziland’s finance ministry (41%) and King Mswati (10%), to pave the way for its independent entry into the cellphone sector.

    According to the Times of Swaziland, Swaziland Post & Telecommunications was ordered by the International Court of Arbitration to end the mobile component of any telephony network and service it operated, including mobile data services or functions in competition with MTN Swaziland, voice or text messaging services.

    It was also ordered to cease advertising or in any other way promoting these services and to stop canvassing subscribers and other potential users about them for as long as it is a shareholder of the joint venture agreement that exists between the two parties.

    MTN Swaziland also said the orders of the Supreme Court and the International Chamber of Commerce had addressed with finality the conflict of interest that arose as a result of Swaziland Post & Telecommunications competing with MTN Swaziland while still a shareholder in it.

    MTN Swaziland said it was not opposed to Swaziland Post & Telecommunications venturing into the service and competing with it, but it could not do so while still a shareholder in MTN Swaziland, the newspaper reported.

    An analyst who declined to be named said Swaziland was a tiny market for MTN and it is unlikely any pricing pressure would have a negative effect on the company.

  • The Angolan government says it is working on a strategic infrastructure plan to support telecoms growth.

    The Angolan Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, João Carvalho da Rocha, said Angola’s existing infrastructure would be connected across national borders to link up to backbones across Africa.

    He said a fibre optic network would also be built across the country, connecting all 18 provinces.

    The minister was speaking in Luanda at an ICT workshop organised by the 6th Committee of Education, Science, Technology, Culture, Youth, Sports, Religious Affairs and Media of the National Assembly.

    He highlighted the government’s ICT development white paper, which aimed to stimulate the development of a knowledge society in Angola.

internet

  • The government is taking steps to completely block internet pornography in Egypt, according to Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology Mohamed Salem.

    Salem announced Thursday that the National Telecommunications Regulation Authority will form a committee to lay out the technical methods for the control of adult websites, which he estimated to number in the millions. The censorship was also recently discussed in Parliament.

    “Parliament will be represented in the committee. The issue is becoming persistent and worrying to families,” said Salem in a briefing on the sidelines of a conference for people with special needs.

    Some specialized companies are issuing software that would block these sites for underage users, he added without giving specifics.

    The ministry will have a representative on the constituent assembly that will draft the new constitution to ensure that it caters to the needs of the sector, he said.

    The People's Assembly Transportation and Telecommunications Committee asked the government earlier this month to block access from within Egypt to all pornographic sites. The committee also called for legislation to punish internet companies that allow access to these sites.

  • Swaziland's Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs is threatening a clampdown on Facebook and Twitter users who say bad things about the kingdom.
    Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze said he would use the law against people who criticise Swaziland on the Internet.

    Most mainstream media in Swaziland, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, are state controlled. Censorship on state TV and radio is common and one of Swaziland's two daily newspapers is in effect owned by King Mswati. There is only one independent newspaper group in the kingdom and this censors itself when reporting about the Swazi royal family.

    A number of blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook sites have been created in recent years, many with the express purpose of furthering the campaign for democracy in Swaziland.

    Many of them originate in the kingdom and others are based outside. They are the only freely-available source of news and comment critical of the king that is available inside Swaziland.

    Chief Gamedze told the Swazi Senate that he would use what he called 'international laws' to bring the Internet critics to task. He was reacting to concerns from Senators that the Internet sites showed 'disrespect' to the king. Chief Gamedze did not specify which laws he would use.

    This is not the first time the Swazi Government has claimed it will attack Internet users. In May 2011 Nathaniel Mahluza, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, said the police had specially-trained officers to track down people who used Facebook to criticise the Swazi Government.

    In March 2011, Barnabas Dlamini, the Swaziland Prime Minister, told Senators that his government would track down, arrest and prosecute Gangadza Masilela, a prominent Facebook activist. Despite these threats, no arrests have been made.

  • For over a century, the laws of Ghana have lived in courtrooms and leather-bound books where lawyers and judges across the country can refer to rulings from years ago. Information was often out of date and only accessible to a select few. To improve accountability and expand access to this critical national information, Chief Justice Georgina Wood decided to bring the system on-line.

    The Judicial Service of Ghana has joined the Google Books Partner Programme, uploading judicial opinions from the High Courts, Appellate Courts, and Supreme Court to Google Books and making them searchable from the Court’s homepage.

    The Court has also embedded a Google search box on its homepage, allowing any user to search and read Ghanaian judgments. Once uploaded, judicial opinions are not only searchable from the Court’s website, but also from Google.com alongside scholarly titles and Dickens classics.

    You can start exploring this new digital justice resource today at www.judicial.gov.gh, and we hope you’ll find it interesting and relevant!

    The Google Books Partner Programme is available to any institution at books.google.com/partner, where organizations can upload digital content for free and make it searchable from their homepage.

    The Court’s work thus far marks exciting progress in bringing local African content online and is a continuation of the work we have been doing across the continent, for instance in Kenya with the Kenya Gazette. Congratulations to the Supreme Court of Ghana on making this first step, and we look forward to contributing to these efforts as they grow.

  • The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project  went live on the web, on Tuesday, 27 March 2012, to allow the world to share in the life and legacy of this extraordinary African statesman.

    Google gave a US$1.25 million grant to the Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) in 2011 to help preserve and digitise thousands of archival documents, photographs and videos about Mandela.

    Along with historians, educationalists, researchers and activists, users from around the world now have access to extensive information about Mandela. The new online multimedia archive includes Mandela's correspondence with family, comrades and friends, diaries written during his 27 years of imprisonment and notes he made while leading the negotiations that ended apartheid in South Africa.

    The archive will also include his earliest-known photograph, rare images of his cell on Robben Island in the 1970s and never-seen drafts of the manuscripts for the sequel to his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

computing

  • The Rwanda Development Board in partnership with Google, commence a mapping exercise with the objective of increasing access to information and visibility of Rwanda’s tourism attractions on the web.

    This event dubbed Rwanda Tourism MapUp from March 23rd to 24th 2012, started with team’s road trip from Kigali where key touristic features were mapped and continued to Musanze and Rubavu whose attractions were also added to the Google map list.

    The Head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB, Rica Rwigamba said that Rwanda is proud to be the first African country to work with Google.

    “Citizen mappers and tourism operators to systematically map all tourism facilities and attractions to increase discoverability through search engines. Today, more than ever, more tourism destinations are chosen through online searches and recommendations by other travelers,” she said.

    The Rwanda MapUp brought together 40 participants including professional mappers, GIS experts, university students as well as tourism operators to map all the major tourism features in Rwanda.

    As stressed by the Sustainable Tourism Development Master Plan for Rwanda, the internet is now firmly established as the most important means of communication in the global travel industry.

    Estimations state that around 70% of travel decisions are made using websites to research information and Google Maps is identified as the major one.

    This exercise will be held regularly so as to preserve the accuracy of the maps.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MTN Group Ltd. (MTN), Africa’s largest wireless operator, bribed officials, arranged meetings between Iranian and South African leaders, and promised Iran weapons and United Nations votes in exchange for a license to provide mobile-phone service in the Islamic Republic, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS (TCELL) alleged in a lawsuit.

    Turkcell, which initially was awarded the Iranian mobile- phone license, sued its Johannesburg-based rival yesterday in federal court in Washington for $4.2 billion in damages. The suit includes numerous alleged internal MTN memos that detail the company’s efforts to win the Iranian business after losing the bid to Turkcell in February 2004.

    “Upset by the loss of the open competition, MTN sought to obtain illegally what it could not obtain through honest competition and thereafter embarked on a premeditated program of corruption through bribery and trading in influence,” the complaint states.

    MTN noted the Turkcell filing, Xolisa Vapi, a spokesman for MTN, said by phone, declining to further comment.

    The license tender was “the largest new international telecommunications opportunity in the world and was known to involve the largest single investment opportunity into Iran since the 1979 Revolution,” according to the complaint prepared by Patton Boggs LLP (1211L), a Washington-based international law and lobbying firm.
    ‘Project Snooker’

    MTN dropped as much as 2.6 percent to 135.91 rand and traded 1.9 percent lower as of 12:59 p.m. in Johannesburg. The stock has declined 4.8 percent this year, giving MTN a market value of 258 billion rand ($33 billion). Turkcell, based in Istanbul, slipped 0.9 percent.

    In the memos attached to the complaint, MTN codenamed the effort “Project Snooker,” and described payoffs to Javid Ghorbanoghli, then Iran’s deputy foreign minister, dubbed “Long-J” in the memos, and Yusuf Saloojee, South Africa’s ambassador in Tehran at the time, who was codenamed ‘Short-J.’’ The men were paid $400,000 and $200,000 respectively, according to the complaint.

    In a Sept. 21, 2005, memo attached to the lawsuit, then-MTN Chief Executive Officer Phuthuma Nhleko wrote that “Project Snooker still presents one of the most significant ‘virgin’ mobile opportunities in the world.” MTN signed agreements with Iran that week “under duress” in order to “book our place at the foot of the mountain,” he wrote according to the memo.

    MTN prevailed upon the South African government to abstain from three votes on Iran’s nuclear energy program at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 2005 and 2006, according to the complaint. The Iranian communications ministry allegedly told MTN it was withholding its license until it saw how South Africa voted at an upcoming IAEA meeting.

    South Africa’s representative to the IAEA, Abdul Minty, abstained from an IAEA vote on Iran on Nov. 24, 2005. The license was delivered three days later, the complaint states.

    According to the complaint, MTN in August 2004 struck a deal with Ali Shamkhani, who was then Iran’s defense minister, to facilitate South African military cooperation and the delivery of defense equipment, including Denel AH-2 Rooivalk helicopters, encrypted military radios, sniper rifles, G5 howitzer artillery weapons, cannons, armored personnel carriers and radar technology. The list was set in a 2004 memorandum of understanding, which wasn’t included with the suit, according to the complaint.

    MTN executives and the Iranian officials came to call the shopping list by the codename “The Fish,” according to the complaint.

    Much of the equipment on the list wasn’t available to Iran through legitimate channels because of U.S. and international restrictions, the complaint alleges.

    While MTN had promised Iran it could deliver South African military aid, no arms sales took place, angering Iranian officials, Turkcell claimed.

    Turkcell’s complaint cites violations of the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 law that gives U.S. courts jurisdiction in some instances to consider claims by foreigners for illegal conduct that occurred in another country. The law is usually cited in human rights and torture cases.

    The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case brought by a group of Nigerians seeking damages under the statute, claiming Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) helped their government commit torture and murders in the early 1990s. The company argued that corporations can’t be sued under the law. Four federal appeals courts have permitted corporations to be sued under the Alien Tort Statute, the Nigerians argued.

    On March 12, MTN issued a statement accusing Turkcell of attempted extortion and saying Turkcell threatened a lawsuit alleging improper payments to an Iranian and a South African official. MTN said at the time that any such suit would lack merit.

    MTN also said that U.S. courts would not have jurisdiction over any such a case, because the “accusations involve conduct alleged to have taken place in South Africa and Iran, and have no connection to the United States.” MTN said it established a committee of non-executive directors to investigate Turkcell’s allegations.

    The claims against MTN also include aiding and abetting violation of U.S. treaties, tortuous interference with a contract, defamation and breach of contract related to a confidentiality agreement that Turkcell says MTN violated.
    Security Council

    A “highly confidential” March 25, 2007 alleged memo to MTN’s chief executive from its representative in Iran, Chris Kilowan, recounts Saloojee’s description of visits to South Africa by top Iranian officials on behalf of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Khamenei dispatched Ali Larijani, then the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, to remind Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s president at the time, “that certain defense- related promises were made by the South African Minister of Defense in 2004 in exchange for which MTN was allowed to replace Turkcell in the Irancell consortium,” according to the memo.

    The same memo reports that Manouchehr Mottaki, who was then Iran’s foreign minister, was sent by Ahmadinejad to “get a direct answer” from Mbeki about South Africa’s alleged promises to sell arms to Iran. Mbeki “would not like to be drawn into the matter,” his spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said today by mobile phone.
    ’Defense Cooperation’

    Mottaki “reiterated their understanding that MTN was allowed to replace Turkcell in exchange for defense cooperation,” Kilowan wrote in the memo attached to the complaint.

    In addition, the suit alleges that former South African trade unionist Irene Charnley, then a senior executive at MTN, arranged meetings for Iranian officials with the South African president and defense minister in 2004 and 2005, when MTN was trying to wrest the license away from Turkcell.

    Charnley also tried to facilitate a meeting between Iranian officials and Denel (Pty) Ltd, a South African government-owned defense company in late 2004, according to fax she allegedly sent an Iranian official.

    Efforts to reach Charnley after hours at Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd., a Mauritius-based company, were unsuccessful. Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for the South African Department of International Affairs and Cooperation, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

    Repeated calls to the Iranian Interests Section in Pakistan’s embassy in Washington weren’t answered. No one was available to comment after two phone calls were put through to the office of Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast and Minister of Communication and Information Technology Reza Taghipour. Thursday is the start of the weekend in Iran.

    No one answered the phone after hours at the South African embassies in Muscat, where Saloojee is now ambassador to Oman, or in Vienna, where the IAEA is located.

    Lanny Davis, a Washington lawyer and former special counsel to President Bill Clinton who said he represents MTN’s law firm, declined to comment last week. Davis referred calls to Tim Coleman, a Washington lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (1002L) LLP, who said he couldn’t immediately comment because he hadn’t seen the complaint.

    Turkcell’s agreement suffered a setback in 2005 when Iran’s parliament ordered the company to reduce its stake from 70 percent to 49 percent, deeming that foreign control of the joint venture was a threat to Iran’s security. Turkcell eventually agreed, and later paid the license fee in September 2005, according to the lawsuit.

    Turkcell claims that Iran continuously changed its terms, opening the way for MTN to replace the Turkish company in the deal.

    As part of the new deal, MTN, which controlled only 49 percent of the Irancell consortium, agreed to pay the capitalization costs, taxes and license fees owed by the Iranian shareholders, as well, the complaint alleged. The payments, including $88 million in capitalization costs, were allegedly disguised as loans that “MTN knew at the time would not be repaid.”

  • A top Swiss NGO for global poverty, CARE International, Kenya’s Equity Bank and France’s Orange unit in the country announced on Monday in a press statement that they are partnering to bring better access to mobile phones in the country through reducing overall costs.

    CARE village savings and loan associations (VSLAs), also known as savings groups, will be able to make deposits and withdrawals at Equity Bank and Orange agents’ locations. The number of agents throughout the country has not been disclosed.

    The accounts will return 2.5 percent annual interest rate for customers.

    “As of June 2010, CARE International reported total assets of EUR 592 million (USD 782 million). As of December 2010, Equity Bank reported total assets of USD 1.66 billion and 525,000 active borrowers. As of December 2011 Orange’s sales stood at EUR 45.3 billion (USD 60.1 billion),” the companies and the NGO said.

    As of now, some 25 Kenyan savings groups have enrolled in the program with 175 saving groups scheduled to start in September 2012.

    Lauren Hendricks, Executive Director of CARE’s Access Africa program, reportedly said “Community-managed VSLAs are an important first step to financial inclusion for many of the poorest households. VSLAs help vulnerable members develop financial skills and build assets. For many members, the merger of mobile payments with financial products specialized for groups will allow VSLAs to become an on-ramp for formal financial inclusion.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Africonnect, one of Zambia’s leading internet service providers, has launched a WiMAX network which it claims is the fastest in Zambia.

    - Vodafone Ghana has launched a promotion offering double the mobile download allowance for the first two months for new subscribers.

    - ZTE says that it has signed a contract with the MTN Nigeria to upgrade and expand its GSM/UMTS networks in Nigeria.

Digital Content

  • Ghana’s general elections are coming up this December, and to help streamline the voter registration process, the country is now implementing its first-ever biometric voter registration — in other words, using fingerprint technology to help verify identity. Ghana is also using social media to publicize the process, correct misconceptions and increase overall attention about the upcoming elections.

    The non-partisan project Ghana Decides, launched on March 24, “aims to foster a better informed electorate for free, fair and safe 2012 Elections using online social media tools.” It’s an initiative under GhanaBlogging, which itself is a membership-based platform to connect bloggers both in and outside of Ghana who write about the country.

    Getting potential voters to participate in the high-tech fingerprint scanning technology is a huge initiative for Ghana, and it’s costing the country $45 million. Other countries in Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have already implemented similar voting procedures. These countries share Ghana’s frustration with disputes about election results, which come largely due to problems such as people voting more than once.

    Using fingerprint technology to verify identity would help ensure that those who can vote are voting, and that they do so only once. But issues still remain. Many people are concerned, for instance, that the high-tech tools might cause cancer, a fear which Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) has been quick to disclaim.

    Those fears are in part what prompted EC to broaden the scope of the voter registration education campaign. As Daniel Amertey Shah, one of Ghana’s Municipal Chief Executives, said in an interview with Ghana’s Daily Graphic, “They thought it necessary to summon the assembly with the motive of ensuring that necessary information on the biometric voters registration is disseminated for the electorate to be also educated.”

    That’s where Ghana Decides and its outreach efforts on social media come in. The project’s organizers are using Tumblr (which serves as the project’s home base), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to put the spotlight on the voter registration process, which started on March 24 — the same day Ghana Decides officially launched — and ends May 5.

    On Twitter, Ghana Decides is promoting the hashtags #iRegistered and #GhanaDecides to aggregate media about registering and speak out about the entire initiative. The #iRegistered campaign, in particular, is aimed at encouraging more people to register by sharing the experiences of those who have already been through the process:

    The Ghana Decides Flickr account has more pictures of freshly registered voters with their brand-new voter I.D. cards, and its Facebook account combines pictures with articles and other media. Meanwhile, the organizers are using YouTube to feature interviews with voters as they register, and show what exactly the entire process is like.

    The project does have some potential caveats, however, and Ghana Decides acknowledges them. The low level of internet penetration in the country raises concerns over just how much the online campaigns will affect voter registration turnout. But Kinna Likimani, the Project Lead of Ghana Decides, said in an official press release that projects would first be conducted offline, then promoted online to ensure that as many people are reached as possible.

    However, part of the point of the online campaigns is to educate Ghanaian citizens about “the effective use of social media for social change.” An estimated 1.2 million Ghanaians are on Facebook, out of a population of about 24.4 million, according to public data from the World Bank. At just about five percent of the country, this is a tiny fraction, but the majority of those who are on Facebook are between the ages of 18 and 35. According to Likimani, it’s time for political parties, independent governance institutions and civil society organizations to actively engage with these online users.

  • The US Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Kenya plans to introduce new technologies in the country’s war against tuberculosis, said Erna Kerst, Mission Director.

    Last year, the country, placed 15th among 22 most TB burdened countries in the world, reported 106, 083 new cases due to the disease.

     According to Maurice Maina of the USAID, the plan is to develop an online TB reporting system---that is able to tell where the patients are, what medication they are on…how many of those initiated on TB treatment end with resistance form of TB and provide supportive supervision to improve adherence to treatment.

    Speaking on the sidelines of a press briefing in Nairobi ahead of the World TB Day set for Saturday 24th March, Maina said the plan is to improve governance and accountability in TB programmes besides helping programme implementers be able to know how much resources are used in any district and the impact these resources have. This, he said, will help them match inputs and outputs.

    “The system is going to be real-time using online connectivity using mobile phone provider to ensure that patients and health workers at all levels have all the information they need on real-time basis. The provider is yet to be identified as the plan is still being mooted,” he said.

    Maina said for ease of operations, the system will be housed at the Division of Tuberculosis and Leprosy in the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation who will be the main driver of the system.

    “They will be the ones who will be using the system with the USAID is only developing the system and make it user-friendly, support follow up activities by the ministry of health staff,” he told Africa Science News Service.

    According to Maina, the patients will be able to get information on where they can get subsequent diagnosis, treatment and mobile alerts on when to take their medications.

    Further, he said patients who experience any side effects on any given medicine will be able to send questions and expect to get advise from experts on what next to do.person is diagnosed with TB they will automatically be put in the system to begin benefiting from the services offered.

    The plans by the USAID is testimony of the growing demand for timely information and services by both the patient and the health care provider.

    According to Prof Odongo William Okello of the School of Computing, University of Nairobi, there is growing interest and need for more sophisticated health information systems and the call for bringing health care to the patient when and where it is required.

    This is creating a growing demand for timely information and services by both the patient and the health care provider.

    Statistics show that one in three adults in Kenya carry a mobile phone and the rapid spread of mobile phones, mobile broadband and internet usage at the household level has increased the use of ICT in a number of development programmes including health.

    Not to be left behind, the government has introduced use of computers in all health facilities with the hope that the use of the equipment will increase timeliness of reporting and improve patient care.

    According to Beth Mugo, minister in charge of Public health and sanitation, the direction that the ministry is taking calls for healthcare workers to be computer literate.

  • The Swaziland Government's spokesperson has admitted that it is powerless to stop people in the kingdom setting up their own Internet radio stations.

    Swaziland, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, has strict controls over the media. Nearly all broadcasting is state-controlled with news and speech programmes heavily censored. The one independent TV station and one independent radio station in Swaziland self-censor so that no criticism of King Mswati and his supporters are allowed on the airwaves.

    Swazi Governments have for many years refused to allow new radio stations - especially community stations - to operate so it can control what Swazi people are allowed to hear and say on air.

    But a new station called Radio Sikuphe has challenged this. It broadcasts on the Internet and also on a low-powered transmitter inside Swaziland.

    Earlier this month, Government Spokesperson Percy Simelane said Radio Sikuphe was broadcasting illegally on land and on the Internet, but now he has been forced to backtrack.

    In a statement to local newspapers Simelane said it was not illegal to broadcast over the Internet. 'If they are using internet and nowhere at any point do they use the country's frequency then they are off the hook,' he is reported saying.

    He added it would still be illegal for Radio Sikhuphe to broadcast over the air in Swaziland, even if it was only doing so for short distances.

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  • - Orange Kenya CEO Mickael Ghossein said he would step down at the Kenyan Treasury’s request, but said no such request had been made. Ghossein’s comments come after the government demanded more representation within the company’s management as a precondition for additional funding from Nairobi.

  •  Google Geo Tools workshop set to be held in Harare

    The MAPA project, an initiative to “make African conservation more accessible and visible”, will be holing a Google Geo Tools training workshop in Harare in May. The purpose of the workshop is to help conservation practitioners in Zimbabwe understand and use Google mapping tools like Google Earth, Maps and Fusion Tables to visualize and share their work online.

    The event is the first such mapping event where learning the practical application of Google mapping technology is the focus. Through the workshop and other related efforts in the coming months, MAPA hopes to highlight conservation efforts, areas and issues in Zimbabwe through the Google tools.

    The workshop is part of what the MAPA project calls the Zim Project Map Drive, a Zim focused effort to create a registry & public, shareable map to which anyone can contribute. According to the MAPA project, Zimbabwe has been their first focus country and they hope to use the work done in here as p template when they take the project to other countries in Africa. The MAPA Project’s vision is to map all African conservation projects.

    The MAPA project is a non-profit based in South Africa. You can read more about them on their website by clicking here:

    Individuals and organisations wishing to participate can apply on this MAPA Google Site page.

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telecoms

  • India and Mauritius’ MTNL, a public sector enterprise, announced on Monday in a statement that it was to launch 3G services later this year and said it would finalize its plans to deploy the service at a board meeting next month.

    The company’s new chairman and managing director AK Garg and new director Kuldip Singh are slated to attend the MTNL Mauritius’s board meeting.

    The operator announced it also has plans to roll out 3G services in other African markets if it is given governmental permission to do so. MTNL’s Mauritius arm has already won a 3G license and will be the third company in the country to offer this facility there after Orange Plc and Emtel. China’s ZTE will supply the hardware and software updates.

    “Mauritius receives over 1 m global tourists every year and offers a Rs 2,000-crore annual revenue opportunity for telcos, with international roaming accounting for 15% of operators’ earnings,” the company said in announcing their intentions.

    MTNL had been searching for new markets across the continent as its operations in India continue to be loss-making and it has to repay 7,000 crore of bridge loans it took to buy 3G and mobile broadband airwaves in 2010.

  • Kenya's telecoms regulator, the CCK has dismissed calls for surrender of broadcasting spectrum in the 700MHz band for use in deployment of LTE services as ill-timed and impracticable.

    Last week, the country's largest network operator, Safaricom said that it might consider withdrawing from a joint LTE network with the other networks if they are not able to use the 700Mhz spectrum.

    CCK Ag. Director General Mr. Francis Wangusi said the 700MHz band would become available for re-assignment to other services after the country migrates from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

    He said though that it was premature to agitate for reallocation of spectrum that is not there in the first place.

    In a press statement, Mr. Wangusi said immediate surrender of broadcasting frequencies in the 700MHz band for 4G services would result in disconnection of many Kenyans who are still dependent on analogue TV transmissions. Digital TV signal is only available in Nairobi at the moment, meaning the existing analogue transmissions cannot be switched off before national digital TV signal coverage is met.

    The deadline for the switch off of analogue TV broadcasting in Africa, parts of Europe, Russia and the Middle East is June 17, 2015 in line with an agreement signed at the ITU in 2006. "As a member of the ITU, Kenya is bound by the provisions of this agreement," added Mr. Wangusi.

    Kenya has set 2012 as the switch-over date to enable the country have flexibility and time to address any difficulties that may arise before the 2015 deadline. This deadline, the CCK Ag. Director General said, was not cast in stone but could be postponed in the event of compelling challenges.

    He said spectrum that will be freed up as a result of the migration process shall be surrendered to CCK for re-planning and re-assignment. "The re-planning exercise shall involve deciding on the methodologies for re-assignment, including the use of spectrum auction," Mr. Wangusi added. Re-assignment shall consider various competing radiocommunication services that require access to this spectrum.

  • On the eve of international arbitration, Swaziland's state-owned telco, SPTC has shut-down its mobile network after seemingly accepting that the service breached an agreement signed with MTN to be the monopoly provider of mobile services.

    SPTC is also a shareholder in Swazi MTN.

    Citing sources at the company, the Times newspaper reported that SPTC is said to have offered to withdraw the mobile and Fixedfone services after conceding that these two projects were in breach of the Joint Venture Agreement entered into with Swazi MTN in 1997.

    The joint venture between the two companies bared Swazi MTN shareholders from competing with it in the mobile market.

    "It appears SPTC was advised that they would not win the matter at the International Court of Arbitration. In the letter to Swazi MTN, SPTC conceded they launched ONE and Fixedfone much against the spirit of the agreement. They then offered to shut down these operations," a source added.

  • Vodacom has been been ordered to pay a politically connected fixer $21-million (R159-million) this week by a court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but the episode could end up costing the mobile operator almost twice that amount.

    On the phone from Kinshasa this week, Moto Mabanga, the South African based fixer who was awarded the money by the court, said he reserved the right to go after the $19.6-million (R149-million) he felt he was still owed.

    The Mail & Guardian initially reported on the dispute between Mabanga’s company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who consulted in the DRC for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

    The amount related to consulting work Mabanga did for Vodacom in the DRC between May 6 and July 31 2007 and September 12 2007 and August 31 2008.

    The disputed amount of $40.8-million relates to a “success fee” that Mabanga claimed was negotiated between himself and Vodacom.

    According to the consultancy agreements between Vodacom and Namemco Energy, Mabanga was tasked with advising Vodacom on economic, sociopolitical and security conditions in the DRC, providing advice and assistance on “government relations issues” in the the country, advising and assisting in the relationship between Vodacom and its DRC partner, Congolese Wireless Network (CWN), ensuring that Vodacom’s DRC staff were safe and not harassed or obstructed from doing their jobs, identifying parties interested in buying CWN’s 49% shareholding in Vodacom Congo and securing visas for Vodacom staff to enter the DRC.

    This week Mabanga said he had had to change his course of action, switching his legal challenge from South Africa to the DRC, after he heard about a year ago that Vodacom was seeking to sell off its business interest in the DRC.

    “If it had sold its 51% in Vodacom DRC, it would have been difficult for me to recoup the money I was owed,” said Mabanga.

    “So we went to court in the DRC to attach 5% of its shareholding in Vodacom DRC.”

    In April last year, the high court in Kinshasa ruled that Vodacom had to provisionally place shares to the value of $40.8-million in an escrow account.

    In January this year, the court in Kinshasa awarded a reduced claim of $21-million to Mabanga, against which Vodacom lodged an appeal for a stay of execution. The appeal was dismissed this week, paving the way for Vodacom to pay Mabanga the $21-million.

    Asked to comment, Richard Boorman, Vodacom’s head of corporate affairs, said: “We have not yet received the full judgment on the ... matter. Once we have the relevant documentation, we will decide on an appropriate course of action.”

    When the initial judgment was handed down in January, Vodacom released a statement that it would object to a ruling by a DRC court, a move that Mabanga insists shows the company’s lack of respect for the DRC’s judicial system.

    The Vodacom statement issued by Boorman at the time said: “We would clearly have material objections to any judgment by a Democratic Republic of Congo court in which a monetary award was granted to Namemco while the contractual dispute is currently being heard in court in South Africa, which has jurisdiction on the issue.”

    Vodacom’s objections stemmed from the fact that its contract with Namemco Energy stipulated that any dispute would be decided under South African law.

  • Expresso Ghana will soon land a new undersea fibre optic cable called ACE in Ghana, Adom News can confirm.

    A top official of Expresso Ghana confirmed to Adom News the company is in the process of landing the cable in Ghana soon, but could not provide the exact date immediately.

    Expresso would be the third individual operator in Ghana to have landed a submarine fibre optic cable after Glo Mobile landed Glo One and MTN landed WACS.

    ACE is the acronym for Africa Coast to Europe fibre optics cable system, owned by a consortium of financiers consisting of seventeen telecommunications operators, including Benin Telecoms SA, Camtel, Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações, Côte d’Ivoire Telecom, France Télécom, Gamtel, Maroc Telecom, Mauritano-Tunisienne des Télécommunications, Orange Bissau, Orange Cameroun, Orange Guinée, Orange Mali, Orange Niger, Orange Spain, Portugal Telecom, Sonatel and Togo Telecom).
    .
    The 14,000km ACE cable originates from France and terminates in South Africa, with landing stations in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Canary Islands (Spain), Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola and Namibia.

    Even though it is yet to land in Ghana, it has already landed in Sierra-Leone, Liberia and some other countries outside of Africa, and will start operation later this year.

  • LAP GreenN Networks has petitioned the Lusaka High Court to order the Zambian Government to compensate it for the compulsory take-over of Zamtel in January this year.

    The Libyan firm has demanded that compensation should be at the market value of the shares pursuant to Section 11 (2) of the Lands Acquisition Act.

    The company has stated that the Government had no powers under the Lands Acquisition Act to compulsorily acquire the shares.

    In a petition filed yesterday in the principal registry by lawyers from Corpus Legal Practitioners and Malambo and Company, Lap GreenN is also seeking another order to compel the Government to yield possession of the shares, damages with interest and all losses related to the acquisition, wasted costs and expenses.

    Lap GreenN wants the court to declare that the decision to compulsorily acquire the shares was null and void, a violation of its fundamental rights, contravention of Article 16 of the Constitution and sections 3,5, and 6 of the Lands Acquisition Act.

    According to the grounds upon which redress is being sought, the compulsory acquisition of the 75 per cent shares for the sum of US$257million was illegal.

    "That further, the purported acquisition of the shares under the Lands Acquisition Act was not urgently required and that the committee set up to investigate the sale of Zamtel was an illegal body as it was not set up pursuant to the Inquiries Act or any Law," reads the petition.

    The petitioner said the committee had no investigative powers which were a preserve of law enforcement agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Drug Enforcement Commission (ACC) and the Zambia Police Service.

    LapGreenN contends that the Government failed to take into account that it was never involved in the valuation of Zamtel and was a successful bidder to purchase the shares after beating other bidders.

    Other details contained in the petition indicate that at the time Lap GreenN acquired the 75 per cent shares, Zamtel was in considerable financial difficulties.

    According to the audit report, the petitioner said, the organisation had K542, 154 billion assets compared to liabilities of K903, 240 billion and only 200 000 subscribers compared to Zain's 2.3 million subscribers.

    Lap GreenN indicated that during the run-up to 2011 general elections, the then opposition Patriotic Front president, Michael Sata on several occasions stated that the PF Government would reverse the sale of Zamtel.

    "After the September general elections which ushered the PF Government into power, the President made an announcement that his Government would reverse the sale of shares having made that pre-election promise.

    The petitioner complained that in determining the action the Government acted unreasonably or took into account irrelevant considerations like the assertions of wrong-doing by the previous government, ministers and advisers as alleged by the report of the commission.

    Lap GreenN contended that it had nothing to do with such actions. The petitioner contended that it acted in compliance with the provisions of the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) Act Number 6 of 2006.

internet

  • On Monday 19th March the internet activist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange conducted an interview, via video teleconference, with Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.

    According to Ghassen Dridi, communication adviser for the Tunisian president; Wikileaks is organizing the discussion with Tunisian interim President Moncef Marzouki as a part of a series of interviews with international leaders. The interview sought to highlight Tunisia's role as the country that triggered the chain of democratic uprisings, often referred to as the "Arab Spring."

    During the interview Assange asked the Tunisian president about his role as a human rights activist prior to becoming Tunisia's first democratically appointed president. President Marzouki answered, "I am still the human rights activist that I once was, though it is hard to keep up with activism. My career as a politician makes things tough for me."

    Touching on the subject of the ongoing crisis in Syria, Marzouki emphasized Tunisia's opposition to military intervention as a means of settling the unrest. The Tunisian president asserted that, "even arming the opponents of Assad's regime would endanger lives of Syrian citizens. Nobody can calculate the outcome of this act."

    Since its inception in October 2006, Wikileaks - a non-profit media organization created for the purpose of anonymously disclosing confidential information - has been responsible for leaking thousands of classified documents primarily associated with the U.S. government's international activity.

  • By now, word is out that Malian army officers toppled President Amadou Toure’s government and suspended the constitution over the state’s handling of a Touareg rebellion in northern Mali. Something seemed amiss when the official Twitter account of Amadou Touré, the Malian President, denied a coup attempt and then went silent after days of consistent Tweets.

    Most Malians may not use the Internet, but that doesn’t mean the Internet can’t provide the outside world with a glimpse of what is happening in the streets of Bamako. In fact, this marks the first time the world has been able to watch military leaders speak to the public immediately following a transfer of power. Within a day, videos from state TV were already on YouTube. To some degree, it is surreal to watch a group of Malian soldiers in fatigues calmly address a frightened nation after they eliminated democratic rule moments before. In the video below, the army explains why they felt a coup was necessary and then cites goals of empowering the army to unify all cities & organize free and transparent elections as soon as possible.

    Since Wednesday’s coup, a handful of journalists, Malians, and media outlets have commented in real-time on events in Bamako. Kudos to CPJ for such quick analysis, MaliActu.net for such unique video, and Tommy Miles for his unmatched coverage:

    Perhaps the best review of how word of the coup spread online comes from Mohamed Keita, Africa Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. He has written an in-depth look on how social media spread news of the coup, with dozens of sources. His conclusion: traditional media is limited in times of fast-breaking news.

    Mali Actualités, a Malian news site has released recent video from state TV ORTM onto YouTube. Six videos totaling 6,000 views have been uploaded since the coup.

    Tommy Miles, a self-described “West Africa watcher” has created a list of 20 Twitter accounts to follow for news about Mali. He has posted and re-tweeted more than one hundred pieces of information. Especially interesting are how the Mauritania government supposedly supports the Malian coup, transcripts from TV announcements, and links to media articles.

    GlobalVoices has posted a dozen or so Twitter reactions from Malian citizens. The consensus: great surprise by the recent events.

    Phil Paoletta, an American living in Bamako has provided a steady stream of observations. One of the most interesting is how state TV so casually alternates from military speech to music videos.

    Jules Cavendish, a reporter for a variety of international publications, happens to be in Bamako and has provided poignant commentary on the situation (ie. “Could the irony of Toure’s legacy be that democracy only lasted as long as he was around?”)

    Martin Vogl, freelance journalist working for the BBC and AP, was considered one of the most credible resources for international media to cite.

    Fabien Offner, a West African journalist, made a couple of updates, including how one presidential candidate’s home was vandalized.

    Bruce, an expat living in Bamako, has posted detailed accounts of his past couple of days on his WordPress blog, including insights from the US Embassy.

    MaliJet has extensive coverage of the news, plus dozens of reactions and some images as does Journal du Mali.
    Hashtags have included #Bamako #Mali #ORTM #SanogoShow.

    The military claims to have formed a transitional council that will organize elections. The group also plans to restore power to a democratically elected leader, but a date has not been set.

    Note: Although state television and state radio were taken over (as is protocol for African military coups), the Internet was not explicitly shut-down.

  • Djibouti Telecom SA, the Horn of Africa nation’s only mobile-phone operator, said it signed a partnership agreement with Level 3 Communications Inc. (LVLT) to provide an Internet network.

    The agreement forms part of a plan to make Djibouti an “indispensable hub of telecommunications in the region,” Director-General Abdurahman Mohamed Hassan told reporters in the capital, Djibouti City, on March 19.

    Level 3, based in Broomfield, Colorado, is a broadband- services provider. Djibouti is about the size of Massachusetts. The country has a $982 million economy with fewer than 1 million people that relies on services related to its strategic location on the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, according to the U.S. State Department.

  • Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has come up to openly tell the world that Uganda is at peace in a YouTube message, aimed at clearing the air over allegations that Joseph Kony still exists in northern Uganda.

    The Invisible Children, in their latest campaign dubbed Kony2012, uploaded a video on YouTube and viewed by millions of online users, depicts Uganda as still in the conflict.

    But Mbabazi in his over eight-minute video told the world that Kony has not returned to Uganda since he was defeated by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) in 2006.

    "Kony is truly an evil criminal," Mbabazi stated, describing the warlord who mutilated thousands, killed innocent people, forced children into war, used young girls as sex slaves and forced children to take arms against the government.

    "Joseph Kony is not in Uganda. United Nations and CIA agree that Joseph Kony has not based his criminal organisations in Uganda since 2006."

    The Premier said Kony is now based in the Central Africa Republic, DR Congo and Southern Sudan and ICC has issued an arrest warrant on the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that has become a regional menace.

    "Uganda is not in conflict. It is a modern developing country which enjoys peace, stability and security," he assured, and explained that it is from this that Lonely Planets declared Uganda as the best place to visit in 2012 in the world.

    Mbabazi said he had managed to tweet with the 20 celebrities that had been signed up to the Kony2012 campaign to visit Uganda, especially the northern region where the video claims that Kony is still active.

    He invited the celebrities to come and see how the people have managed to go back to normal life after the atrocious LRA group was forced out of the country to neighboring regions..

    "They will meet the people who lost family members to the murderous gangs of the LRA, and whose children were abducted and never to be seen again and those who were forced to flee.

    "You all come and see Uganda for yourself. You will see a very big difference from that was portrayed by the Invisible Children," Mbabazi assures.

  • Mr Winfred Monu, Tema Metropolitan Librarian on Wednesday called on stakeholders in education to help the 53 public libraries in the country to acquire the needed logistics for the implementation of e-libraries.

    Mr Monu, who made the appeal in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said the benefits of e-libraries are enormous.

    He said it is about time Ghana gets e-library facilities, to allow the public libraries to acquire latest editions of reference books and magazines.

    This, he said would cut down on the cost of acquiring books by the Ghana Library Authority (GLA).

    Mr Monu said e-library would also be beneficial to on-line students, since all the information they need for research would be available, making it less time-consuming.

    He expressed regret that even though, some of the librarians of the GLA have received e-library training in India and the United Kingdom, to also train their colleagues the facility is not available.

    Mr Monu said he solicited funds from some companies in the metropolis to put up a 30-seater internet café to encourage students to learn how to extract information from the World Wide Web.

    He said his outfit is planning to educate Information Communication Technology (ICT) teachers in the metropolis.

    Mr Monu said the facility would also be made available to schools that lack the needed equipment for their ICT training.

    He, therefore, appealed to philanthropists and other public-spirited organisations to provide more computers and internet connectivity devices to the metropolitan Library to make the dream a reality.

    Mr Monu indicated that in 2011, the library recorded 2,020 juvenile membership, made up of 500 for the first quarter, 620, 550 for the second, 350 for the second, third and fourth quarters respectively.

    The adult membership also came to 1,577, comprising 457 in the first quarter, 320 in the second quarter, 350 for the third quarter and 450 for the fourth quarter.

    He said the book stock for the library as at July 2011 were, 7,094 juvenile lending and 360 reference books.

    The library also had 5,002 adults lending and 819 adult reference books during the same period under review.

    He said the greatest challenge of his outfit is the lack of fence wall, which has opened the premises to the nefarious activities of hooligans, while stray animals also disturb clients who patronise the library. GNA

  • Until last year, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the world’s leading watchdog of press freedom, had always considered at least one African nation an “Enemy of the Internet”. Fortunately, the trend has continued into 2012 – none of the twelve nations with the heaviest Internet censorship are found in Africa. Still, even a year after North African regime changes and Arab Spring, RSF has kept perennial Internet censors Egypt, Tunisia, and Eritrea in the lesser “under surveillance” category. Libya, no longer under the harsh rule of the Gaddafi regime, is finally off the list.

    African nations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa are under relatively little government surveillance.

    The unchanged ranking of Egypt, Tunisia, and Eritrea in 2012 comes as no surprise. Last year, we noted how Egypt and Tunisia must still eliminate the possibility for future censorship. Our guess is that Tunisia will no longer be on this list in 2013. Eritrea continues to operate under a dictatorship that greatly monitors Internet access and will most likely be “under surveillance” for years to come. In fact, Eritrea is at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index, which covers all forms of media.

    Reporters Without Borders provides the reasoning behind their assessment of Internet censorship. Below are the methods of how each African nation on the list has censored its Internet in 2012.

    Egypt:
    Detention of multiple bloggers throughout the year
    Possible limited bandwidth during legislative elections in November 2011
    Good news: most bloggers have no intention of giving up

    Eritrea:
    No independent site is operated from within the nation
    Self-censorship in cyber cafes
    Government wages online offense against criticisms – including disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks against opposition sites
    Good news: Active diasporan community is able to spread information

    Tunisia:
    Continued punishment of outspoken bloggers
    Freedom of the entire Internet is not covered by upcoming legislation
    Limited Internet filtering was implemented in February 2012, and although halted due to financial reasons, could presumably resume in the future
    Good news: Restructuring of the Tunisian Internet Agency to work under international practices. Liberalizing the Internet market. Fighting filtering techniques.

  • Senegal’s telecommunications regulator, ARTP, recently published an annual report for 2011. Although their official website makes no mention of any report past the year 2008, Telecompaper has reported on the findings.

    The number of Internet subscribers in Senegal grew phenomenally in 2011. There are currently more than twice the number of Internet subscribers than a year ago.

    However, the largest gains were in the mobile Internet market. Although the number of mobile subscribers grew by a steady 12%, the number of mobile Internet users grew by staggering 680%. The mobile internet market was driven by factors like Sonatel earning a 3G license, the release of cheaper smartphones, and the popularity of social networks among young consumers. The elections likely played a role as well.

  • Mauritania may very well have the highest rate of online activism per Internet user. There were only an estimated 34,000 Facebook users in the country at the end of 2011, but thousands have spoken out against government repression in the past year.

    GlobalVoices editor Claire Ulrich recently conducted an interview with Nasser Weddady, an influential Mauritanian who is part of the diaspora. The answers to a handful of basic questions provide a unique glimpse into how Mauritanians are using the Internet:

    Quality over quantity: The Facebook page for last year’s February 25th movement is influential even though it claims only 750+ followers. Other pages have 3,000 and 10,000 fans (many are presumed to be Mauritanians living abroad).

    Formal Mauritanian blogs have largely disappeared in recent years, but Twitter is growing as a tool of communication.

    Young Mauritanians are also starting to learn Photoshop skills.

    Web censorship has, to date, been ineffective. Still, the threat looms.

    Also intriguing is Mr. Weddady’s comment how Mauritania is unique in that the people are tied to both the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps Mauritania can use this position to combine the social momentum of Arab nations with the economic growth of SSA. Plus, a strong economy can mean better Internet access – something Mauritanians are eager to adopt.

computing

  • Mrs Elizabeth Amoah –Tetteh, a Deputy Minister of Education, has presented 178 laptops to seven basic schools in the Kassena Nankana and Builsa Districts.
    Each of the junior high schools received 24 laptops. The schools include, Tedam Junior High, Kolgo JHS, Basina JHS Navro-Pungu JHS, Amenga Ete-Go JHS in the Kassena East District and Sandema Preparatory and Kadema JHS schools in the Builsa District. The presentation formed part of the government’s manifesto launched in the Basic School Computerization project to enhance teaching and learning.

    Ms Fauziatu Salifu Sidii, ICT Coordinator, said 400 basic schools in the three northern regions were expected to benefit for the project, adding the project would be scaled up when improvements were seen and also when more school infrastructure is put in place to satisfy the growing needs of schools.
    Miss Felicia Amangure , a form two student of Basina JHS, thanked the government and said hither-to she had learnt ICT without seeing a computer and this made the study of the subject challenging.

  • When Mpasua Msonobari mingled with foreign students mainly from the US who came to Kenya to study African languages, little did he know he was sowing the seed for his future source of bread and butter.

    Attracted by his coastal accent and mastery of the language, the foreigners asked Msonobari — then a Kiswahili language student at Kenyatta University — to teach them the language.

    “I developed a good relationship with the foreign students. And they paid for the lessons. I used to charge them $20 (Sh32,000) an hour. I started learning how to make and save money while still a student,” he says.

    This ignited his passion to establish a business and make money through his prowess in Kiswahili. Other languages his centre teaches are Kinyarwanda, Luganda, Chagga, Kikuyu, Luhya and Luo.

    As the foreign students returned home, Mr Msonobari spread his tentacles overseas. He later turned his classes into an online Kiswahili centre — Kampamso Language Centre — to tap the global community.

    With its headquarters in Nairobi, the Kampamso Language Centre provides Kiswahili language and other African Languages consulting services for translation, training and dealing with all other Kiswahili language related services in the very dynamic yet not so popular industry in East Africa’s biggest economy.

    He was not surprised when students from different parts of the world registered in droves to benefit from his High Intensive Language Drilling (HILD) system meant to teach the language online. The system enables him to teach from the comfort of his office using Skype.

    He makes a tidy sum. By charging $20 (Sh32,000) for every student, in one hour when he handles a class of about 15 students at a sitting, he makes between KSh15,000 (Sh270,000) to KSh20,000 (Sh350,000) on a good day. Compounded, he rakes in between Sh350,000 (Sh6.3 million) to KSh600,000 (Sh10.8 million) a month.

    Msonobari, who is the chief executive officer of Language Africa, sealed contracts with multinational firms like Microsoft, and Google to translate their products into Kiswahili. He says by making Kiswahili available in certain computer programmes, integration process could be simplified.

    Msonobari also recently developed the Kiswahili version of the widely used computer programme Microsoft Windows 7.

    The project involved the translation of over 300,000 technical words in the Microsoft Windows seven glossary into Kiswahili.We had over 3,000 words in Microsoft’s glossary to translate into Kiswahili over a short time.” he told the Kenyan media at a press conference early last year.

    Because of his efforts, users with limited grasp of English can still access a broader range of computer programmes in Kiswahili — a widely spoken language in East Africa.in 2010, he helped develop the Swahili version of Google Search Engine.

    we says technology plays a critical role in the maintenance of linguistic diversity, promotes mutual understanding and dialogue as well as strengthening local economies.

    Communities are excluded from IT skills fluency, and the accompanying job opportunities for lack of technology in local language,” he says.

    Mission to unite East Africa
    It is estimated that over 150 million people speak Kiswahili. Many are illiterate and cannot understand English, a widely used language in writing computer programmes.

    Msonobari also plans to use his language skills as a tool to unite East Africa, and may be the whole of Africa.

  • The American Carnegie Mellon University which has just established a regional centre in Rwanda, will largely aim to spearhead the development of science and technology in East Africa.

    The Carnegie Mellon University will also offer a 50 per cent discount on scholarships to prospective students from the East African Community (EAC) partner states, the regional body’s Arusha-based secretariat announced yesterday.
    “Research and development in technology is now a global enterprise and Carnegie Mellon realised that education also needed to be a global enterprise to meet the demands of highly skilled engineers and innovators,” said Prof Bruce H. Krogh, the university’s director in Rwanda.

    He said the West was no longer the sole source of technological breakthroughs and nor was it the dominant growth market for information and communication technology (ICT).

    During the official launch of the centre that took place at the Rwanda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, the don added that there was a likelihood of Africa outpacing the rest of the world in ICT growth
    He disclosed that Carnegie Mellon University chose to come to East Africa because the region had recorded significant growth in recent years.

    Prof Krogh cited ICT where EAC has an Internet broadband access with the most extensive in-land fibre-optic connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.

    “For the case of Rwanda, there is a business-friendly, pro-ICT development programme (Vision 2020) under which nation-wide fibre optic cable will be installed throughout the country,” he said.

    Speaking during the official inauguration, EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera said the establishment of the university centre in the region comes at a time when the Community was finalising plans to set up the  EAC Commission of Science and Technology.

    For the Community to move forward, he pointed out, science, technology and innovation were critical drivers of growth. “Science and technology cannot be bound by boundaries. We have got to let the two drive us and not bottle us within our boundaries,” he said.

    He urged universities and tertiary institutions in the region to consider students from partner states as locals rather than foreigners when paying they tuition fees.

  • Mathematical models developed in the United States could help developing countries better allocate their limited health resources and improve the provision of life-saving technologies and disaster relief.

    Case studies of the computer models, which were designed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada last month (19 February).

    Julie Swann, associate professor at the institute's H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, said the models were intended for decision-makers - including local governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    "Most of the models are explicitly created" [for clients and] "require nothing more than Microsoft Excel", she told SciDev.Net.

    "Our end goal is to create a portfolio of models that can be run on ordinary laptops to help the decision-makers themselves see the impact of various choices they have."

    In South Africa, a model was developed to help an NGO determine how best to expand the donation and distribution of breast milk for women across the country. The model identified the best locations for storehouses and guided a decision to replace volunteer drivers with couriers for deliveries.

    In Swaziland, in collaboration with the WHO, Swann's team designed systems to improve the delivery of bed-nets and identified target areas for insecticide spraying - and calculated the number of people who would be protected from malaria as a result.

    Swann told the AAAS that the Swaziland model had delivered an efficiency saving of 25 per cent with the same level of funding.

    "Running these scenarios in different situations can give a clearer picture of the health of the system overall," Swann said, adding that this process could also highlight relevant information that might not have been obvious to local authorities.

    Computer models could also be valuable tools even where relevant data is lacking, she said. "It is possible to estimate some of the data and run simpler models. It may not provide as exact a result, but it will still let you see trends and what is affecting the problem to aid decision-makers."

    Further work is planned with authorities in Belize to assess the effectiveness of hurricane evacuation plans.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria has received a valuation for Vimpelcom's Djezzy mobile phone unit and is now in talks over nationalising it, Finance Minister Karim Djoudi said on Wednesday, potentially ending an ownership dispute that has dragged on for over a year.

    Russian-focused Vimpelcom acquired Djezzy last year as part of a $6 billion deal to buy the assets of Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom, but the transaction immediately became clouded in uncertainty after the Algerian government said it wanted a majority stake.

    Vimpelcom agreed in January to sell Algeria a 51 percent stake in the unit which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom's business. It said at the time it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Algerian government to explore the sale subject to an acceptable price.

    "The valuation has been done. We have received it. We are now in talks," Djoudi told reporters in parliament on Wednesday.

    He declined to give a figure or any more details.

    The long-running saga over Djezzy has come to symbolise, for many investors, the risks of doing business in Algeria, a North African energy exporter which in the past few years has swung sharply towards economic nationalism.

    Vimpelcom agreed to buy 51.7 percent of Orascom from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris in 2011, a deal that expanded its horizons out of its Russian heartland and into Italy and North Africa as well as other emerging markets.

    Vimpelcom had hoped to gain control over Djezzy as part of the deal, or at least receive a fair market price for the unit from the Algerian government. But the planned nationalisation has been stalled for a year, adding to shareholder pressure on Vimpelcom's management.

    The deal had been strongly opposed by Vimpelcom's Norwegian shareholder Telenor, which said the acquisition would saddle the group with too much debt and distract it from recovering market share in Russia.

  • MTN Uganda, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and Grameen Foundation have announced plans to introduce a new initiative to research and develop mobile financial products for the poor.

    This partnership was reached during the world mobile congress held in Barcelona, Spain, according to a company statement. CGAP is an independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world's poor.

    MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer Mr. Themba Khumalo explained his company will continue to be innovative and relevant, particularly with increasing competition in the global market.

    "This partnership will ensure that we are able to address the needs of our customers in the rural market by enabling them to access otherwise inaccessible financial services. This in turn will ensure that the rural poor have better access to other social services, such as education, health and investment opportunities," noted Khumalo.

    He said the aim is to build up the extensive research already conducted through Grameen Foundation's Application Laboratory (AppLab) in Uganda and to leverage MTN's successful mobile money services.

    As a result of the joint venture the telephone giants and Grameen Foundation will provide US$1 million in financing to this initiative.

    "Access to financial services can help the poor smooth their income and invest in productive assets, education and health services.

    "However, 2.7 billion people most of whom live in developing countries still do not have a bank account. This gap is due to two major challenges: Many low-income communities are underserved by financial institutions, and the products offered by these institutions are more suitable for higher-income clientele," he added. Khumalo indicated the goal of the initiative is to drive the next wave of innovation in the mobile money space by researching and developing products that are both appropriate for poor clients and commercially viable for the financial service providers involved.

    CGAP CEO Tilman Ehrbeck believes to achieve the goal of financial inclusion for all, the industry needs to move beyond mobile payments and provide a full array of pro-poor mobile financial products.

    "The growth of mobile money is helping address the access issue, but there is still a need for product offerings that are appropriate for low-income consumers."

    President and CEO of Grameen Foundation Alex Counts noted that the collaboration with CGAP and MTN Uganda will enable them to lead the next wave of product innovation to truly serve poor people's needs.

  • Housing Finance bank is to introduce a virtual bank account that is expected to enable account holders to have an electronic wallet of money that can be accessed through numerous channels.

    The M-cash technology is to enable the holder of the account to make payments and remittances via multi-channel options.|

    The M-cash account has also been developed so that all people whatever their geographic location, literacy or income levels will be able to conveniently use this account, making it a truly universal product that can bank the so-called unbanked.

    Housing finance account holders will be able to have access to the following features like phone banking through specially developed point of sales terminals that will be available across the country and through the internet.

    In an interview, Paul Musoke the deputy managing director Housing Finance bank said that registration of new M-cash account holders will be done through customized Point of Sales (POS) terminals which means that they can be enrolled at their places of work, worship or abode and not necessarily have to move to the bank's physical locations and also through the 24 hour access to the funds on their M-cash account.

    M-cash accounts will have an option for multi authentication methods to verify their identities when making payments from their account.

    Musoke further explained that the authentication methods will include finger or voice identification, unique user Pin codes, Near Field Communications (NFC) Cards and Near Sound Data technology (NSDT).

    The M-cash account will also give the owners of this account multi-channel payment options through the following features like phone to phone payments and transfers within the M-cash system, phone to Web payments and vice versa within the M-cash system.

  • West Africa’s oldest aviation company Aero Contractors has introduced a mobile payment system on the Universal Message Object (U-MO) platform.

    U-MO is a mobile money service enabling users to make and receive payments, and conduct other financial transactions on their mobile phones.

    This service enables users pay for their Aero flight tickets via their mobile phones.

    According to Aero MD Akin George, “This new service is going to revolutionise how people purchase their airline tickets and what they expect from their airline.”

    The new payment option aims to increase operational efficiency, save money for the airline and ultimately decongest the airline’s reservation offices.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Internet subscribers of Orange Uganda are set to receive bonuses upon renewal of their Mobile Internet and Internet Everywhere packages.

    Customers will automatically be rewarded with the bonus once they renew their packages and will be able to enjoy up to 50% bonus on Mobile Internet and 20% bonus on Internet Everywhere. For instance, Internet Everywhere (modem users) subscribers who buy data of 10GB will be able to receive a 20% bonus of 2GB while a mobile internet user who buys 1GB of data will receive a 20% bonus.

    MTN has announced that the popular board game “Oware” will soon be available on the MTN App Store. This app is a modification of the ancient board game “Oware”, which has its roots in West Africa. The game has been developed to suit the new generation player. “Oware” was the winning app of MTN’s App Developer Competition, launched by the MTN Group last year. The app was developed by South African Gustav Mauer.

Digital Content

  • John Holdsworth, the businessman who took on the mobile operators over high wholesale call charges and won, has launched a new business that will take advantage of falling prices and faster mobile data networks. He hopes, in the process, to shake up the mobile telecommunications industry in SA.

    AppChat will launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) this year — Holdsworth’s not saying yet which network operator it has partnered with — that plans to take advantage of lower interconnection rates and advances in broadband wireless technology to slash the cost of mobile telephony in SA.

    Unlike SA’s other MVNO, Virgin Mobile, AppChat is also building some of its own network infrastructure, including a core Internet protocol network with points of presence in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban.

    AppChat is developing an application for smartphones running Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and RIM’s BlackBerry OS that will “intelligently” route calls over its mobile partner’s broadband data network where third-generation (3G) network coverage is good. Where it’s not, calls will be routed over 2G GSM.

    Developing this sort of technology is not easy — and Holdsworth’s team is going to have to be smart about how it handles quality-of-service issues — but placing voice-over-data mobile calls is usually cheaper than making a traditional mobile phone call.

    AppChat wants to take advantage of this and slash the cost of mobile telephony. Users will not be billed for the data they use to make the call, only the call’s advertised per-second tariff.

    It’s even promising to offer better quality voice over broadband than what’s offered over traditional mobile voice networks. With networks deploying speedier 3G technology, it’s an idea whose time may have come.

    AppChat, which is modelled after successful Danish MVNO Telmore, plans to launch commercial services in October.

    Holdsworth is promising a low, uniform voice tariff that applies to all calls, whether they’re made during the day or late on a Sunday night. If he gets the model right, the big operators may find him even more of a thorn in their side than before.

  • Google has announced a service which would enable Gmail users to communicate with mobile phone subscribers on MTN, Globacom, Airtel, Visafone and Starcomms networks through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

    At the launch of the service, Gmail Chat SMS, at Google’s G-Nigeria event in Lagos, Country Manager for Google Nigeria, Ms Juliet Ehimuan, said users can use Gmail Chat to communicate with all mobile phones and platforms, even if offline, as well as receive Google+ SMS notifications and post status updates via SMS for free.

    She said by using Gmail SMS Chat, users can send text messages from their Personal Computers (PC) chat interface directly to mobile phone numbers via SMS. In return, the mobile phone users can reply by SMS and their responses will appear in the original sender’s Gmail Chat interface.

    The G-Nigeria event brought together tech savvy entrepreneurs, developers and journalists who were trained on how to get the best from the Internet. Participants discussed the future of Web application development, as well as received training on Google’s products and online business skills.

    Conference content included Google’s developer and business technologies, ranging from established products such as Google Maps and YouTube, to other Google innovations such as Trader SMS and Google+ SMS products.

    Speaking at the event, Ms Ehimuan, said: “The conference is aimed at equipping developers and organisations in the country on relevant ways to make the most of the Web and broaden the range of technical skills relevant in today’s technology landscape.”

  • The Electoral Commission has demonstrated the Biometric Registration process to personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces. Officers and men from the Army, the Navy and Air Force watched the demonstration at the Burma Hall in Accra.

    Volunteer applicants went through a mock biometric registration exercise after which voters ID cards were issued in an effort to educate military officials on the new registration process.

    Applicants first presented a valid voter's ID, passport or driving license after which their personal data were entered on a registration form.

    All ten fingers were scanned for prints in a 4- 4- 2 formation (four fingers of the right hand, four fingers of the left hand and both thumbs) followed by the taking of a passport photo.

    An ID card is then detached from the registration form, laminated and issued to the applicant immediately after the process.

    The Deputy Chairman of EC in charge of Finance and Administration, David Kanga, took the officers through several processes including acts constituting electoral malpractices.

    The Deputy Chairman stressed the need for high level of security during the polls.

    A soldier expressed concern about the inability of soldiers on peace-keeping mission to vote by proxy under the new registration process and urged the EC to reconsider the issue to avoid disenfranchising his colleagues.

    In response, the Deputy E.C boss assured the matter is under consideration.

    The Acting Chief of Defence Staff, Rear Admiral Quarshie reiterated that the Army is prepared to ensure that Ghana is peaceful before, during and after the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections.

More

  • Kenya: Nokia Hosts Mobile APP Competition 'Ignite Hackathon'

    Mobile technology company, Nokia in partnership with CapitalFM and eMobilis will host a two day mobile application development competition on 24th and 25th of March 2012.

    The competition, dubbed 'Ignite Hackathon', will challenge participants to develop mobile apps for the masses using efficient code, well thought architecture, user experience and engagement.

    The main aim of the hackathon is to release into the market applications that have mass market appeal and can adapt to the challenges that accompany rapid growth in user numbers.

    "Many young developers do not have access to global publishing platforms and this is a great opportunity for them to get published on the Nokia Store and using the most popular platform, the Series 40," said Ken Mwenda, Managing Director, eMobilis.

    Ignite Hackathon is open to students and tech-prenuers who have an app that is near completion or an app idea that can be completed and published within the 36 hours of the event.

    Nokia and CapitalFM will be rewarding top mobile apps developed during the hackathon. The winner will get a cash prize of $5,000 while the runners up and the second runners up will win $3,000 and $500 respectively.

    CapitalFM has sponsored the media category where the winner of a media mobile app wins a lucrative contract to build the CapitalFM app.

    There will also be consolation prizes for the 4th, 5th and 6th positions.

    James Mwai, creator of the award winning 'AroundMe' app, will be one of the judges along with Waithera Kabiru, Head of Digital & IT at CapitalFM.

    A resident mobile application specialist will guide the teams from start to finish. Winning applications will be published in the Nokia store.

    The Hackathon will be held at the Piedmont Plaza, Ngong rd, 4th floor. Application deadline is 22nd, Thursday, March.

    Interested developers can register here:

    CapitalFM will be live streaming the event on click here to view: Follow @capitalfm_kenya for updates

Issue no 597 23rd March 2012 3

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Top story

telecoms

  • India and Mauritius’ MTNL, a public sector enterprise, announced on Monday in a statement that it was to launch 3G services later this year and said it would finalize its plans to deploy the service at a board meeting next month.

    The company’s new chairman and managing director AK Garg and new director Kuldip Singh are slated to attend the MTNL Mauritius’s board meeting.

    The operator announced it also has plans to roll out 3G services in other African markets if it is given governmental permission to do so. MTNL’s Mauritius arm has already won a 3G license and will be the third company in the country to offer this facility there after Orange Plc and Emtel. China’s ZTE will supply the hardware and software updates.

    “Mauritius receives over 1 m global tourists every year and offers a Rs 2,000-crore annual revenue opportunity for telcos, with international roaming accounting for 15% of operators’ earnings,” the company said in announcing their intentions.

    MTNL had been searching for new markets across the continent as its operations in India continue to be loss-making and it has to repay 7,000 crore of bridge loans it took to buy 3G and mobile broadband airwaves in 2010.

  • Kenya's telecoms regulator, the CCK has dismissed calls for surrender of broadcasting spectrum in the 700MHz band for use in deployment of LTE services as ill-timed and impracticable.

    Last week, the country's largest network operator, Safaricom said that it might consider withdrawing from a joint LTE network with the other networks if they are not able to use the 700Mhz spectrum.

    CCK Ag. Director General Mr. Francis Wangusi said the 700MHz band would become available for re-assignment to other services after the country migrates from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

    He said though that it was premature to agitate for reallocation of spectrum that is not there in the first place.

    In a press statement, Mr. Wangusi said immediate surrender of broadcasting frequencies in the 700MHz band for 4G services would result in disconnection of many Kenyans who are still dependent on analogue TV transmissions. Digital TV signal is only available in Nairobi at the moment, meaning the existing analogue transmissions cannot be switched off before national digital TV signal coverage is met.

    The deadline for the switch off of analogue TV broadcasting in Africa, parts of Europe, Russia and the Middle East is June 17, 2015 in line with an agreement signed at the ITU in 2006. "As a member of the ITU, Kenya is bound by the provisions of this agreement," added Mr. Wangusi.

    Kenya has set 2012 as the switch-over date to enable the country have flexibility and time to address any difficulties that may arise before the 2015 deadline. This deadline, the CCK Ag. Director General said, was not cast in stone but could be postponed in the event of compelling challenges.

    He said spectrum that will be freed up as a result of the migration process shall be surrendered to CCK for re-planning and re-assignment. "The re-planning exercise shall involve deciding on the methodologies for re-assignment, including the use of spectrum auction," Mr. Wangusi added. Re-assignment shall consider various competing radiocommunication services that require access to this spectrum.

  • On the eve of international arbitration, Swaziland's state-owned telco, SPTC has shut-down its mobile network after seemingly accepting that the service breached an agreement signed with MTN to be the monopoly provider of mobile services.

    SPTC is also a shareholder in Swazi MTN.

    Citing sources at the company, the Times newspaper reported that SPTC is said to have offered to withdraw the mobile and Fixedfone services after conceding that these two projects were in breach of the Joint Venture Agreement entered into with Swazi MTN in 1997.

    The joint venture between the two companies bared Swazi MTN shareholders from competing with it in the mobile market.

    "It appears SPTC was advised that they would not win the matter at the International Court of Arbitration. In the letter to Swazi MTN, SPTC conceded they launched ONE and Fixedfone much against the spirit of the agreement. They then offered to shut down these operations," a source added.

  • Vodacom has been been ordered to pay a politically connected fixer $21-million (R159-million) this week by a court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but the episode could end up costing the mobile operator almost twice that amount.

    On the phone from Kinshasa this week, Moto Mabanga, the South African based fixer who was awarded the money by the court, said he reserved the right to go after the $19.6-million (R149-million) he felt he was still owed.

    The Mail & Guardian initially reported on the dispute between Mabanga’s company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who consulted in the DRC for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

    The amount related to consulting work Mabanga did for Vodacom in the DRC between May 6 and July 31 2007 and September 12 2007 and August 31 2008.

    The disputed amount of $40.8-million relates to a “success fee” that Mabanga claimed was negotiated between himself and Vodacom.

    According to the consultancy agreements between Vodacom and Namemco Energy, Mabanga was tasked with advising Vodacom on economic, sociopolitical and security conditions in the DRC, providing advice and assistance on “government relations issues” in the the country, advising and assisting in the relationship between Vodacom and its DRC partner, Congolese Wireless Network (CWN), ensuring that Vodacom’s DRC staff were safe and not harassed or obstructed from doing their jobs, identifying parties interested in buying CWN’s 49% shareholding in Vodacom Congo and securing visas for Vodacom staff to enter the DRC.

    This week Mabanga said he had had to change his course of action, switching his legal challenge from South Africa to the DRC, after he heard about a year ago that Vodacom was seeking to sell off its business interest in the DRC.

    “If it had sold its 51% in Vodacom DRC, it would have been difficult for me to recoup the money I was owed,” said Mabanga.

    “So we went to court in the DRC to attach 5% of its shareholding in Vodacom DRC.”

    In April last year, the high court in Kinshasa ruled that Vodacom had to provisionally place shares to the value of $40.8-million in an escrow account.

    In January this year, the court in Kinshasa awarded a reduced claim of $21-million to Mabanga, against which Vodacom lodged an appeal for a stay of execution. The appeal was dismissed this week, paving the way for Vodacom to pay Mabanga the $21-million.

    Asked to comment, Richard Boorman, Vodacom’s head of corporate affairs, said: “We have not yet received the full judgment on the ... matter. Once we have the relevant documentation, we will decide on an appropriate course of action.”

    When the initial judgment was handed down in January, Vodacom released a statement that it would object to a ruling by a DRC court, a move that Mabanga insists shows the company’s lack of respect for the DRC’s judicial system.

    The Vodacom statement issued by Boorman at the time said: “We would clearly have material objections to any judgment by a Democratic Republic of Congo court in which a monetary award was granted to Namemco while the contractual dispute is currently being heard in court in South Africa, which has jurisdiction on the issue.”

    Vodacom’s objections stemmed from the fact that its contract with Namemco Energy stipulated that any dispute would be decided under South African law.

  • Expresso Ghana will soon land a new undersea fibre optic cable called ACE in Ghana, Adom News can confirm.

    A top official of Expresso Ghana confirmed to Adom News the company is in the process of landing the cable in Ghana soon, but could not provide the exact date immediately.

    Expresso would be the third individual operator in Ghana to have landed a submarine fibre optic cable after Glo Mobile landed Glo One and MTN landed WACS.

    ACE is the acronym for Africa Coast to Europe fibre optics cable system, owned by a consortium of financiers consisting of seventeen telecommunications operators, including Benin Telecoms SA, Camtel, Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações, Côte d’Ivoire Telecom, France Télécom, Gamtel, Maroc Telecom, Mauritano-Tunisienne des Télécommunications, Orange Bissau, Orange Cameroun, Orange Guinée, Orange Mali, Orange Niger, Orange Spain, Portugal Telecom, Sonatel and Togo Telecom).
    .
    The 14,000km ACE cable originates from France and terminates in South Africa, with landing stations in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Canary Islands (Spain), Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola and Namibia.

    Even though it is yet to land in Ghana, it has already landed in Sierra-Leone, Liberia and some other countries outside of Africa, and will start operation later this year.

  • LAP GreenN Networks has petitioned the Lusaka High Court to order the Zambian Government to compensate it for the compulsory take-over of Zamtel in January this year.

    The Libyan firm has demanded that compensation should be at the market value of the shares pursuant to Section 11 (2) of the Lands Acquisition Act.

    The company has stated that the Government had no powers under the Lands Acquisition Act to compulsorily acquire the shares.

    In a petition filed yesterday in the principal registry by lawyers from Corpus Legal Practitioners and Malambo and Company, Lap GreenN is also seeking another order to compel the Government to yield possession of the shares, damages with interest and all losses related to the acquisition, wasted costs and expenses.

    Lap GreenN wants the court to declare that the decision to compulsorily acquire the shares was null and void, a violation of its fundamental rights, contravention of Article 16 of the Constitution and sections 3,5, and 6 of the Lands Acquisition Act.

    According to the grounds upon which redress is being sought, the compulsory acquisition of the 75 per cent shares for the sum of US$257million was illegal.

    "That further, the purported acquisition of the shares under the Lands Acquisition Act was not urgently required and that the committee set up to investigate the sale of Zamtel was an illegal body as it was not set up pursuant to the Inquiries Act or any Law," reads the petition.

    The petitioner said the committee had no investigative powers which were a preserve of law enforcement agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Drug Enforcement Commission (ACC) and the Zambia Police Service.

    LapGreenN contends that the Government failed to take into account that it was never involved in the valuation of Zamtel and was a successful bidder to purchase the shares after beating other bidders.

    Other details contained in the petition indicate that at the time Lap GreenN acquired the 75 per cent shares, Zamtel was in considerable financial difficulties.

    According to the audit report, the petitioner said, the organisation had K542, 154 billion assets compared to liabilities of K903, 240 billion and only 200 000 subscribers compared to Zain's 2.3 million subscribers.

    Lap GreenN indicated that during the run-up to 2011 general elections, the then opposition Patriotic Front president, Michael Sata on several occasions stated that the PF Government would reverse the sale of Zamtel.

    "After the September general elections which ushered the PF Government into power, the President made an announcement that his Government would reverse the sale of shares having made that pre-election promise.

    The petitioner complained that in determining the action the Government acted unreasonably or took into account irrelevant considerations like the assertions of wrong-doing by the previous government, ministers and advisers as alleged by the report of the commission.

    Lap GreenN contended that it had nothing to do with such actions. The petitioner contended that it acted in compliance with the provisions of the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) Act Number 6 of 2006.

internet

  • On Monday 19th March the internet activist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange conducted an interview, via video teleconference, with Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.

    According to Ghassen Dridi, communication adviser for the Tunisian president; Wikileaks is organizing the discussion with Tunisian interim President Moncef Marzouki as a part of a series of interviews with international leaders. The interview sought to highlight Tunisia's role as the country that triggered the chain of democratic uprisings, often referred to as the "Arab Spring."

    During the interview Assange asked the Tunisian president about his role as a human rights activist prior to becoming Tunisia's first democratically appointed president. President Marzouki answered, "I am still the human rights activist that I once was, though it is hard to keep up with activism. My career as a politician makes things tough for me."

    Touching on the subject of the ongoing crisis in Syria, Marzouki emphasized Tunisia's opposition to military intervention as a means of settling the unrest. The Tunisian president asserted that, "even arming the opponents of Assad's regime would endanger lives of Syrian citizens. Nobody can calculate the outcome of this act."

    Since its inception in October 2006, Wikileaks - a non-profit media organization created for the purpose of anonymously disclosing confidential information - has been responsible for leaking thousands of classified documents primarily associated with the U.S. government's international activity.

  • By now, word is out that Malian army officers toppled President Amadou Toure’s government and suspended the constitution over the state’s handling of a Touareg rebellion in northern Mali. Something seemed amiss when the official Twitter account of Amadou Touré, the Malian President, denied a coup attempt and then went silent after days of consistent Tweets.

    Most Malians may not use the Internet, but that doesn’t mean the Internet can’t provide the outside world with a glimpse of what is happening in the streets of Bamako. In fact, this marks the first time the world has been able to watch military leaders speak to the public immediately following a transfer of power. Within a day, videos from state TV were already on YouTube. To some degree, it is surreal to watch a group of Malian soldiers in fatigues calmly address a frightened nation after they eliminated democratic rule moments before. In the video below, the army explains why they felt a coup was necessary and then cites goals of empowering the army to unify all cities & organize free and transparent elections as soon as possible.

    Since Wednesday’s coup, a handful of journalists, Malians, and media outlets have commented in real-time on events in Bamako. Kudos to CPJ for such quick analysis, MaliActu.net for such unique video, and Tommy Miles for his unmatched coverage:

    Perhaps the best review of how word of the coup spread online comes from Mohamed Keita, Africa Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. He has written an in-depth look on how social media spread news of the coup, with dozens of sources. His conclusion: traditional media is limited in times of fast-breaking news.

    Mali Actualités, a Malian news site has released recent video from state TV ORTM onto YouTube. Six videos totaling 6,000 views have been uploaded since the coup.

    Tommy Miles, a self-described “West Africa watcher” has created a list of 20 Twitter accounts to follow for news about Mali. He has posted and re-tweeted more than one hundred pieces of information. Especially interesting are how the Mauritania government supposedly supports the Malian coup, transcripts from TV announcements, and links to media articles.

    GlobalVoices has posted a dozen or so Twitter reactions from Malian citizens. The consensus: great surprise by the recent events.

    Phil Paoletta, an American living in Bamako has provided a steady stream of observations. One of the most interesting is how state TV so casually alternates from military speech to music videos.

    Jules Cavendish, a reporter for a variety of international publications, happens to be in Bamako and has provided poignant commentary on the situation (ie. “Could the irony of Toure’s legacy be that democracy only lasted as long as he was around?”)

    Martin Vogl, freelance journalist working for the BBC and AP, was considered one of the most credible resources for international media to cite.

    Fabien Offner, a West African journalist, made a couple of updates, including how one presidential candidate’s home was vandalized.

    Bruce, an expat living in Bamako, has posted detailed accounts of his past couple of days on his WordPress blog, including insights from the US Embassy.

    MaliJet has extensive coverage of the news, plus dozens of reactions and some images as does Journal du Mali.
    Hashtags have included #Bamako #Mali #ORTM #SanogoShow.

    The military claims to have formed a transitional council that will organize elections. The group also plans to restore power to a democratically elected leader, but a date has not been set.

    Note: Although state television and state radio were taken over (as is protocol for African military coups), the Internet was not explicitly shut-down.

  • Djibouti Telecom SA, the Horn of Africa nation’s only mobile-phone operator, said it signed a partnership agreement with Level 3 Communications Inc. (LVLT) to provide an Internet network.

    The agreement forms part of a plan to make Djibouti an “indispensable hub of telecommunications in the region,” Director-General Abdurahman Mohamed Hassan told reporters in the capital, Djibouti City, on March 19.

    Level 3, based in Broomfield, Colorado, is a broadband- services provider. Djibouti is about the size of Massachusetts. The country has a $982 million economy with fewer than 1 million people that relies on services related to its strategic location on the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, according to the U.S. State Department.

  • Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has come up to openly tell the world that Uganda is at peace in a YouTube message, aimed at clearing the air over allegations that Joseph Kony still exists in northern Uganda.

    The Invisible Children, in their latest campaign dubbed Kony2012, uploaded a video on YouTube and viewed by millions of online users, depicts Uganda as still in the conflict.

    But Mbabazi in his over eight-minute video told the world that Kony has not returned to Uganda since he was defeated by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) in 2006.

    "Kony is truly an evil criminal," Mbabazi stated, describing the warlord who mutilated thousands, killed innocent people, forced children into war, used young girls as sex slaves and forced children to take arms against the government.

    "Joseph Kony is not in Uganda. United Nations and CIA agree that Joseph Kony has not based his criminal organisations in Uganda since 2006."

    The Premier said Kony is now based in the Central Africa Republic, DR Congo and Southern Sudan and ICC has issued an arrest warrant on the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that has become a regional menace.

    "Uganda is not in conflict. It is a modern developing country which enjoys peace, stability and security," he assured, and explained that it is from this that Lonely Planets declared Uganda as the best place to visit in 2012 in the world.

    Mbabazi said he had managed to tweet with the 20 celebrities that had been signed up to the Kony2012 campaign to visit Uganda, especially the northern region where the video claims that Kony is still active.

    He invited the celebrities to come and see how the people have managed to go back to normal life after the atrocious LRA group was forced out of the country to neighboring regions..

    "They will meet the people who lost family members to the murderous gangs of the LRA, and whose children were abducted and never to be seen again and those who were forced to flee.

    "You all come and see Uganda for yourself. You will see a very big difference from that was portrayed by the Invisible Children," Mbabazi assures.

  • Mr Winfred Monu, Tema Metropolitan Librarian on Wednesday called on stakeholders in education to help the 53 public libraries in the country to acquire the needed logistics for the implementation of e-libraries.

    Mr Monu, who made the appeal in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said the benefits of e-libraries are enormous.

    He said it is about time Ghana gets e-library facilities, to allow the public libraries to acquire latest editions of reference books and magazines.

    This, he said would cut down on the cost of acquiring books by the Ghana Library Authority (GLA).

    Mr Monu said e-library would also be beneficial to on-line students, since all the information they need for research would be available, making it less time-consuming.

    He expressed regret that even though, some of the librarians of the GLA have received e-library training in India and the United Kingdom, to also train their colleagues the facility is not available.

    Mr Monu said he solicited funds from some companies in the metropolis to put up a 30-seater internet café to encourage students to learn how to extract information from the World Wide Web.

    He said his outfit is planning to educate Information Communication Technology (ICT) teachers in the metropolis.

    Mr Monu said the facility would also be made available to schools that lack the needed equipment for their ICT training.

    He, therefore, appealed to philanthropists and other public-spirited organisations to provide more computers and internet connectivity devices to the metropolitan Library to make the dream a reality.

    Mr Monu indicated that in 2011, the library recorded 2,020 juvenile membership, made up of 500 for the first quarter, 620, 550 for the second, 350 for the second, third and fourth quarters respectively.

    The adult membership also came to 1,577, comprising 457 in the first quarter, 320 in the second quarter, 350 for the third quarter and 450 for the fourth quarter.

    He said the book stock for the library as at July 2011 were, 7,094 juvenile lending and 360 reference books.

    The library also had 5,002 adults lending and 819 adult reference books during the same period under review.

    He said the greatest challenge of his outfit is the lack of fence wall, which has opened the premises to the nefarious activities of hooligans, while stray animals also disturb clients who patronise the library. GNA

  • Until last year, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the world’s leading watchdog of press freedom, had always considered at least one African nation an “Enemy of the Internet”. Fortunately, the trend has continued into 2012 – none of the twelve nations with the heaviest Internet censorship are found in Africa. Still, even a year after North African regime changes and Arab Spring, RSF has kept perennial Internet censors Egypt, Tunisia, and Eritrea in the lesser “under surveillance” category. Libya, no longer under the harsh rule of the Gaddafi regime, is finally off the list.

    African nations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa are under relatively little government surveillance.

    The unchanged ranking of Egypt, Tunisia, and Eritrea in 2012 comes as no surprise. Last year, we noted how Egypt and Tunisia must still eliminate the possibility for future censorship. Our guess is that Tunisia will no longer be on this list in 2013. Eritrea continues to operate under a dictatorship that greatly monitors Internet access and will most likely be “under surveillance” for years to come. In fact, Eritrea is at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index, which covers all forms of media.

    Reporters Without Borders provides the reasoning behind their assessment of Internet censorship. Below are the methods of how each African nation on the list has censored its Internet in 2012.

    Egypt:
    Detention of multiple bloggers throughout the year
    Possible limited bandwidth during legislative elections in November 2011
    Good news: most bloggers have no intention of giving up

    Eritrea:
    No independent site is operated from within the nation
    Self-censorship in cyber cafes
    Government wages online offense against criticisms – including disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks against opposition sites
    Good news: Active diasporan community is able to spread information

    Tunisia:
    Continued punishment of outspoken bloggers
    Freedom of the entire Internet is not covered by upcoming legislation
    Limited Internet filtering was implemented in February 2012, and although halted due to financial reasons, could presumably resume in the future
    Good news: Restructuring of the Tunisian Internet Agency to work under international practices. Liberalizing the Internet market. Fighting filtering techniques.

  • Senegal’s telecommunications regulator, ARTP, recently published an annual report for 2011. Although their official website makes no mention of any report past the year 2008, Telecompaper has reported on the findings.

    The number of Internet subscribers in Senegal grew phenomenally in 2011. There are currently more than twice the number of Internet subscribers than a year ago.

    However, the largest gains were in the mobile Internet market. Although the number of mobile subscribers grew by a steady 12%, the number of mobile Internet users grew by staggering 680%. The mobile internet market was driven by factors like Sonatel earning a 3G license, the release of cheaper smartphones, and the popularity of social networks among young consumers. The elections likely played a role as well.

  • Mauritania may very well have the highest rate of online activism per Internet user. There were only an estimated 34,000 Facebook users in the country at the end of 2011, but thousands have spoken out against government repression in the past year.

    GlobalVoices editor Claire Ulrich recently conducted an interview with Nasser Weddady, an influential Mauritanian who is part of the diaspora. The answers to a handful of basic questions provide a unique glimpse into how Mauritanians are using the Internet:

    Quality over quantity: The Facebook page for last year’s February 25th movement is influential even though it claims only 750+ followers. Other pages have 3,000 and 10,000 fans (many are presumed to be Mauritanians living abroad).

    Formal Mauritanian blogs have largely disappeared in recent years, but Twitter is growing as a tool of communication.

    Young Mauritanians are also starting to learn Photoshop skills.

    Web censorship has, to date, been ineffective. Still, the threat looms.

    Also intriguing is Mr. Weddady’s comment how Mauritania is unique in that the people are tied to both the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps Mauritania can use this position to combine the social momentum of Arab nations with the economic growth of SSA. Plus, a strong economy can mean better Internet access – something Mauritanians are eager to adopt.

computing

  • Mrs Elizabeth Amoah –Tetteh, a Deputy Minister of Education, has presented 178 laptops to seven basic schools in the Kassena Nankana and Builsa Districts.
    Each of the junior high schools received 24 laptops. The schools include, Tedam Junior High, Kolgo JHS, Basina JHS Navro-Pungu JHS, Amenga Ete-Go JHS in the Kassena East District and Sandema Preparatory and Kadema JHS schools in the Builsa District. The presentation formed part of the government’s manifesto launched in the Basic School Computerization project to enhance teaching and learning.

    Ms Fauziatu Salifu Sidii, ICT Coordinator, said 400 basic schools in the three northern regions were expected to benefit for the project, adding the project would be scaled up when improvements were seen and also when more school infrastructure is put in place to satisfy the growing needs of schools.
    Miss Felicia Amangure , a form two student of Basina JHS, thanked the government and said hither-to she had learnt ICT without seeing a computer and this made the study of the subject challenging.

  • When Mpasua Msonobari mingled with foreign students mainly from the US who came to Kenya to study African languages, little did he know he was sowing the seed for his future source of bread and butter.

    Attracted by his coastal accent and mastery of the language, the foreigners asked Msonobari — then a Kiswahili language student at Kenyatta University — to teach them the language.

    “I developed a good relationship with the foreign students. And they paid for the lessons. I used to charge them $20 (Sh32,000) an hour. I started learning how to make and save money while still a student,” he says.

    This ignited his passion to establish a business and make money through his prowess in Kiswahili. Other languages his centre teaches are Kinyarwanda, Luganda, Chagga, Kikuyu, Luhya and Luo.

    As the foreign students returned home, Mr Msonobari spread his tentacles overseas. He later turned his classes into an online Kiswahili centre — Kampamso Language Centre — to tap the global community.

    With its headquarters in Nairobi, the Kampamso Language Centre provides Kiswahili language and other African Languages consulting services for translation, training and dealing with all other Kiswahili language related services in the very dynamic yet not so popular industry in East Africa’s biggest economy.

    He was not surprised when students from different parts of the world registered in droves to benefit from his High Intensive Language Drilling (HILD) system meant to teach the language online. The system enables him to teach from the comfort of his office using Skype.

    He makes a tidy sum. By charging $20 (Sh32,000) for every student, in one hour when he handles a class of about 15 students at a sitting, he makes between KSh15,000 (Sh270,000) to KSh20,000 (Sh350,000) on a good day. Compounded, he rakes in between Sh350,000 (Sh6.3 million) to KSh600,000 (Sh10.8 million) a month.

    Msonobari, who is the chief executive officer of Language Africa, sealed contracts with multinational firms like Microsoft, and Google to translate their products into Kiswahili. He says by making Kiswahili available in certain computer programmes, integration process could be simplified.

    Msonobari also recently developed the Kiswahili version of the widely used computer programme Microsoft Windows 7.

    The project involved the translation of over 300,000 technical words in the Microsoft Windows seven glossary into Kiswahili.We had over 3,000 words in Microsoft’s glossary to translate into Kiswahili over a short time.” he told the Kenyan media at a press conference early last year.

    Because of his efforts, users with limited grasp of English can still access a broader range of computer programmes in Kiswahili — a widely spoken language in East Africa.in 2010, he helped develop the Swahili version of Google Search Engine.

    we says technology plays a critical role in the maintenance of linguistic diversity, promotes mutual understanding and dialogue as well as strengthening local economies.

    Communities are excluded from IT skills fluency, and the accompanying job opportunities for lack of technology in local language,” he says.

    Mission to unite East Africa
    It is estimated that over 150 million people speak Kiswahili. Many are illiterate and cannot understand English, a widely used language in writing computer programmes.

    Msonobari also plans to use his language skills as a tool to unite East Africa, and may be the whole of Africa.

  • The American Carnegie Mellon University which has just established a regional centre in Rwanda, will largely aim to spearhead the development of science and technology in East Africa.

    The Carnegie Mellon University will also offer a 50 per cent discount on scholarships to prospective students from the East African Community (EAC) partner states, the regional body’s Arusha-based secretariat announced yesterday.
    “Research and development in technology is now a global enterprise and Carnegie Mellon realised that education also needed to be a global enterprise to meet the demands of highly skilled engineers and innovators,” said Prof Bruce H. Krogh, the university’s director in Rwanda.

    He said the West was no longer the sole source of technological breakthroughs and nor was it the dominant growth market for information and communication technology (ICT).

    During the official launch of the centre that took place at the Rwanda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, the don added that there was a likelihood of Africa outpacing the rest of the world in ICT growth
    He disclosed that Carnegie Mellon University chose to come to East Africa because the region had recorded significant growth in recent years.

    Prof Krogh cited ICT where EAC has an Internet broadband access with the most extensive in-land fibre-optic connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.

    “For the case of Rwanda, there is a business-friendly, pro-ICT development programme (Vision 2020) under which nation-wide fibre optic cable will be installed throughout the country,” he said.

    Speaking during the official inauguration, EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera said the establishment of the university centre in the region comes at a time when the Community was finalising plans to set up the  EAC Commission of Science and Technology.

    For the Community to move forward, he pointed out, science, technology and innovation were critical drivers of growth. “Science and technology cannot be bound by boundaries. We have got to let the two drive us and not bottle us within our boundaries,” he said.

    He urged universities and tertiary institutions in the region to consider students from partner states as locals rather than foreigners when paying they tuition fees.

  • Mathematical models developed in the United States could help developing countries better allocate their limited health resources and improve the provision of life-saving technologies and disaster relief.

    Case studies of the computer models, which were designed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada last month (19 February).

    Julie Swann, associate professor at the institute's H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, said the models were intended for decision-makers - including local governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    "Most of the models are explicitly created" [for clients and] "require nothing more than Microsoft Excel", she told SciDev.Net.

    "Our end goal is to create a portfolio of models that can be run on ordinary laptops to help the decision-makers themselves see the impact of various choices they have."

    In South Africa, a model was developed to help an NGO determine how best to expand the donation and distribution of breast milk for women across the country. The model identified the best locations for storehouses and guided a decision to replace volunteer drivers with couriers for deliveries.

    In Swaziland, in collaboration with the WHO, Swann's team designed systems to improve the delivery of bed-nets and identified target areas for insecticide spraying - and calculated the number of people who would be protected from malaria as a result.

    Swann told the AAAS that the Swaziland model had delivered an efficiency saving of 25 per cent with the same level of funding.

    "Running these scenarios in different situations can give a clearer picture of the health of the system overall," Swann said, adding that this process could also highlight relevant information that might not have been obvious to local authorities.

    Computer models could also be valuable tools even where relevant data is lacking, she said. "It is possible to estimate some of the data and run simpler models. It may not provide as exact a result, but it will still let you see trends and what is affecting the problem to aid decision-makers."

    Further work is planned with authorities in Belize to assess the effectiveness of hurricane evacuation plans.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria has received a valuation for Vimpelcom's Djezzy mobile phone unit and is now in talks over nationalising it, Finance Minister Karim Djoudi said on Wednesday, potentially ending an ownership dispute that has dragged on for over a year.

    Russian-focused Vimpelcom acquired Djezzy last year as part of a $6 billion deal to buy the assets of Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom, but the transaction immediately became clouded in uncertainty after the Algerian government said it wanted a majority stake.

    Vimpelcom agreed in January to sell Algeria a 51 percent stake in the unit which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom's business. It said at the time it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Algerian government to explore the sale subject to an acceptable price.

    "The valuation has been done. We have received it. We are now in talks," Djoudi told reporters in parliament on Wednesday.

    He declined to give a figure or any more details.

    The long-running saga over Djezzy has come to symbolise, for many investors, the risks of doing business in Algeria, a North African energy exporter which in the past few years has swung sharply towards economic nationalism.

    Vimpelcom agreed to buy 51.7 percent of Orascom from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris in 2011, a deal that expanded its horizons out of its Russian heartland and into Italy and North Africa as well as other emerging markets.

    Vimpelcom had hoped to gain control over Djezzy as part of the deal, or at least receive a fair market price for the unit from the Algerian government. But the planned nationalisation has been stalled for a year, adding to shareholder pressure on Vimpelcom's management.

    The deal had been strongly opposed by Vimpelcom's Norwegian shareholder Telenor, which said the acquisition would saddle the group with too much debt and distract it from recovering market share in Russia.

  • MTN Uganda, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and Grameen Foundation have announced plans to introduce a new initiative to research and develop mobile financial products for the poor.

    This partnership was reached during the world mobile congress held in Barcelona, Spain, according to a company statement. CGAP is an independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world's poor.

    MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer Mr. Themba Khumalo explained his company will continue to be innovative and relevant, particularly with increasing competition in the global market.

    "This partnership will ensure that we are able to address the needs of our customers in the rural market by enabling them to access otherwise inaccessible financial services. This in turn will ensure that the rural poor have better access to other social services, such as education, health and investment opportunities," noted Khumalo.

    He said the aim is to build up the extensive research already conducted through Grameen Foundation's Application Laboratory (AppLab) in Uganda and to leverage MTN's successful mobile money services.

    As a result of the joint venture the telephone giants and Grameen Foundation will provide US$1 million in financing to this initiative.

    "Access to financial services can help the poor smooth their income and invest in productive assets, education and health services.

    "However, 2.7 billion people most of whom live in developing countries still do not have a bank account. This gap is due to two major challenges: Many low-income communities are underserved by financial institutions, and the products offered by these institutions are more suitable for higher-income clientele," he added. Khumalo indicated the goal of the initiative is to drive the next wave of innovation in the mobile money space by researching and developing products that are both appropriate for poor clients and commercially viable for the financial service providers involved.

    CGAP CEO Tilman Ehrbeck believes to achieve the goal of financial inclusion for all, the industry needs to move beyond mobile payments and provide a full array of pro-poor mobile financial products.

    "The growth of mobile money is helping address the access issue, but there is still a need for product offerings that are appropriate for low-income consumers."

    President and CEO of Grameen Foundation Alex Counts noted that the collaboration with CGAP and MTN Uganda will enable them to lead the next wave of product innovation to truly serve poor people's needs.

  • Housing Finance bank is to introduce a virtual bank account that is expected to enable account holders to have an electronic wallet of money that can be accessed through numerous channels.

    The M-cash technology is to enable the holder of the account to make payments and remittances via multi-channel options.|

    The M-cash account has also been developed so that all people whatever their geographic location, literacy or income levels will be able to conveniently use this account, making it a truly universal product that can bank the so-called unbanked.

    Housing finance account holders will be able to have access to the following features like phone banking through specially developed point of sales terminals that will be available across the country and through the internet.

    In an interview, Paul Musoke the deputy managing director Housing Finance bank said that registration of new M-cash account holders will be done through customized Point of Sales (POS) terminals which means that they can be enrolled at their places of work, worship or abode and not necessarily have to move to the bank's physical locations and also through the 24 hour access to the funds on their M-cash account.

    M-cash accounts will have an option for multi authentication methods to verify their identities when making payments from their account.

    Musoke further explained that the authentication methods will include finger or voice identification, unique user Pin codes, Near Field Communications (NFC) Cards and Near Sound Data technology (NSDT).

    The M-cash account will also give the owners of this account multi-channel payment options through the following features like phone to phone payments and transfers within the M-cash system, phone to Web payments and vice versa within the M-cash system.

  • West Africa’s oldest aviation company Aero Contractors has introduced a mobile payment system on the Universal Message Object (U-MO) platform.

    U-MO is a mobile money service enabling users to make and receive payments, and conduct other financial transactions on their mobile phones.

    This service enables users pay for their Aero flight tickets via their mobile phones.

    According to Aero MD Akin George, “This new service is going to revolutionise how people purchase their airline tickets and what they expect from their airline.”

    The new payment option aims to increase operational efficiency, save money for the airline and ultimately decongest the airline’s reservation offices.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Internet subscribers of Orange Uganda are set to receive bonuses upon renewal of their Mobile Internet and Internet Everywhere packages.

    Customers will automatically be rewarded with the bonus once they renew their packages and will be able to enjoy up to 50% bonus on Mobile Internet and 20% bonus on Internet Everywhere. For instance, Internet Everywhere (modem users) subscribers who buy data of 10GB will be able to receive a 20% bonus of 2GB while a mobile internet user who buys 1GB of data will receive a 20% bonus.

    MTN has announced that the popular board game “Oware” will soon be available on the MTN App Store. This app is a modification of the ancient board game “Oware”, which has its roots in West Africa. The game has been developed to suit the new generation player. “Oware” was the winning app of MTN’s App Developer Competition, launched by the MTN Group last year. The app was developed by South African Gustav Mauer.

Digital Content

  • John Holdsworth, the businessman who took on the mobile operators over high wholesale call charges and won, has launched a new business that will take advantage of falling prices and faster mobile data networks. He hopes, in the process, to shake up the mobile telecommunications industry in SA.

    AppChat will launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) this year — Holdsworth’s not saying yet which network operator it has partnered with — that plans to take advantage of lower interconnection rates and advances in broadband wireless technology to slash the cost of mobile telephony in SA.

    Unlike SA’s other MVNO, Virgin Mobile, AppChat is also building some of its own network infrastructure, including a core Internet protocol network with points of presence in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban.

    AppChat is developing an application for smartphones running Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and RIM’s BlackBerry OS that will “intelligently” route calls over its mobile partner’s broadband data network where third-generation (3G) network coverage is good. Where it’s not, calls will be routed over 2G GSM.

    Developing this sort of technology is not easy — and Holdsworth’s team is going to have to be smart about how it handles quality-of-service issues — but placing voice-over-data mobile calls is usually cheaper than making a traditional mobile phone call.

    AppChat wants to take advantage of this and slash the cost of mobile telephony. Users will not be billed for the data they use to make the call, only the call’s advertised per-second tariff.

    It’s even promising to offer better quality voice over broadband than what’s offered over traditional mobile voice networks. With networks deploying speedier 3G technology, it’s an idea whose time may have come.

    AppChat, which is modelled after successful Danish MVNO Telmore, plans to launch commercial services in October.

    Holdsworth is promising a low, uniform voice tariff that applies to all calls, whether they’re made during the day or late on a Sunday night. If he gets the model right, the big operators may find him even more of a thorn in their side than before.

  • Google has announced a service which would enable Gmail users to communicate with mobile phone subscribers on MTN, Globacom, Airtel, Visafone and Starcomms networks through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

    At the launch of the service, Gmail Chat SMS, at Google’s G-Nigeria event in Lagos, Country Manager for Google Nigeria, Ms Juliet Ehimuan, said users can use Gmail Chat to communicate with all mobile phones and platforms, even if offline, as well as receive Google+ SMS notifications and post status updates via SMS for free.

    She said by using Gmail SMS Chat, users can send text messages from their Personal Computers (PC) chat interface directly to mobile phone numbers via SMS. In return, the mobile phone users can reply by SMS and their responses will appear in the original sender’s Gmail Chat interface.

    The G-Nigeria event brought together tech savvy entrepreneurs, developers and journalists who were trained on how to get the best from the Internet. Participants discussed the future of Web application development, as well as received training on Google’s products and online business skills.

    Conference content included Google’s developer and business technologies, ranging from established products such as Google Maps and YouTube, to other Google innovations such as Trader SMS and Google+ SMS products.

    Speaking at the event, Ms Ehimuan, said: “The conference is aimed at equipping developers and organisations in the country on relevant ways to make the most of the Web and broaden the range of technical skills relevant in today’s technology landscape.”

  • The Electoral Commission has demonstrated the Biometric Registration process to personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces. Officers and men from the Army, the Navy and Air Force watched the demonstration at the Burma Hall in Accra.

    Volunteer applicants went through a mock biometric registration exercise after which voters ID cards were issued in an effort to educate military officials on the new registration process.

    Applicants first presented a valid voter's ID, passport or driving license after which their personal data were entered on a registration form.

    All ten fingers were scanned for prints in a 4- 4- 2 formation (four fingers of the right hand, four fingers of the left hand and both thumbs) followed by the taking of a passport photo.

    An ID card is then detached from the registration form, laminated and issued to the applicant immediately after the process.

    The Deputy Chairman of EC in charge of Finance and Administration, David Kanga, took the officers through several processes including acts constituting electoral malpractices.

    The Deputy Chairman stressed the need for high level of security during the polls.

    A soldier expressed concern about the inability of soldiers on peace-keeping mission to vote by proxy under the new registration process and urged the EC to reconsider the issue to avoid disenfranchising his colleagues.

    In response, the Deputy E.C boss assured the matter is under consideration.

    The Acting Chief of Defence Staff, Rear Admiral Quarshie reiterated that the Army is prepared to ensure that Ghana is peaceful before, during and after the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections.

More

  • Kenya: Nokia Hosts Mobile APP Competition 'Ignite Hackathon'

    Mobile technology company, Nokia in partnership with CapitalFM and eMobilis will host a two day mobile application development competition on 24th and 25th of March 2012.

    The competition, dubbed 'Ignite Hackathon', will challenge participants to develop mobile apps for the masses using efficient code, well thought architecture, user experience and engagement.

    The main aim of the hackathon is to release into the market applications that have mass market appeal and can adapt to the challenges that accompany rapid growth in user numbers.

    "Many young developers do not have access to global publishing platforms and this is a great opportunity for them to get published on the Nokia Store and using the most popular platform, the Series 40," said Ken Mwenda, Managing Director, eMobilis.

    Ignite Hackathon is open to students and tech-prenuers who have an app that is near completion or an app idea that can be completed and published within the 36 hours of the event.

    Nokia and CapitalFM will be rewarding top mobile apps developed during the hackathon. The winner will get a cash prize of $5,000 while the runners up and the second runners up will win $3,000 and $500 respectively.

    CapitalFM has sponsored the media category where the winner of a media mobile app wins a lucrative contract to build the CapitalFM app.

    There will also be consolation prizes for the 4th, 5th and 6th positions.

    James Mwai, creator of the award winning 'AroundMe' app, will be one of the judges along with Waithera Kabiru, Head of Digital & IT at CapitalFM.

    A resident mobile application specialist will guide the teams from start to finish. Winning applications will be published in the Nokia store.

    The Hackathon will be held at the Piedmont Plaza, Ngong rd, 4th floor. Application deadline is 22nd, Thursday, March.

    Interested developers can register here:

    CapitalFM will be live streaming the event on click here to view: Follow @capitalfm_kenya for updates

Issue no 596 16th March 2012

node ref id: 24409

Top story

  • Back in December 2011 Balancing Act published an article on mobile data revenue which highlighted that data revenues for mobile operators in Sub-Sahara Africa remain tiny in most countries with the exception of South Africa and to a lesser extent Kenya. In the last couple of years many African mobile operators have launched 3G networks and more rollouts are in the pipeline. These are high CAPEX investments at stake and as in a poker game, the player needs to have the right cards in its hand to win the hand. Isabelle Gross looks at what mobile operators already have in their hands and which cards are missing to make the most out of their 3G investments.

    In its Q4-2012 report, Pieter Uys, Vodacom Group CEO, reported for South Africa that “demand for smartphones remains high, with 655,000 devices activated during the quarter. We now have 4.8 million active smartphones on the network, which as of 31 December 2011 accounted for 18.0% of all active devices”. Undoubtedly, there are more and more smartphones making their way into Africa despite the high price tag of some of these smartphones.

    Furthermore BlackBerry phones or Apple’s iPhones are no longer only solely owned by the privileged high-ranking executives working in banks or for a foreign companies. Recently, on two occasions, I came across people owning an iPhone that didn’t belong to the groups described above. Of course, this is not enough to get too hasty conclusions but these are interesting purchasing behaviours. The first owner of the iPhone was a guy exchanging currency on the street. He showed me proudly his iPhone which he took out from behind his stall which was not more than a couple of wooden planks nailed together. My second encounter with an unusual iPhone owner was with a policeman. Although the man didn’t exactly do street policing, salaries in the public sector in Africa are not that high.

    While Vodacom in South Africa has an impressive smartphone penetration of 18% across all the active devices on its network, this figure is still a kind of far-fetched dream for most mobile operators in Sub-Sahara Africa.

    For the countries at the bottom of the list of the GDP per capita country list, smartphone penetration will be more around 1 to 2% of the total devices on a given mobile operator’s network. Wealthier countries like Kenya will likely be around 10%. Nevertheless in wealthier or poorer African countries, there is a growing attraction for smartphones among mobile users and this has less to do with the notion of buying power than the desire to own a fashionable high-tech mobile phone.

    By and large this is all good news for African mobile operators as they will have to push less on the marketing side to get smartphones in the market but the story doesn’t stop here. African mobile operators still have to somehow get these owners of smartphones to use data services and this is where it gets a bit more challenging.

    In low-end African countries in particular, the true is that most owners of smartphones don’t use them for data services and mobile operators ought to ask themselves why so? Two primary explanations spring straight to mind. The first is that the data packages on offer are too expensive for the average smartphone owners. The second explanation is that most of the smartphone owners don’t have a need for data services because they don’t go on the Internet or check their emails or do anything else that would require a data connection.

    A simple promotion targeted at smartphone owners offering free data services for a limited period of time should help to test the level of true of the first explanation. A while ago, a mobile operator based in West Africa just carried out such a promotion. Targeted smartphone owners ranged from Apple, HTC, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Huawei to ZTE. Each of them received an SMS offering free Internet on their smartphone as well as an invite to activate the service.

    Around 9% of the smartphone owners targeted activated the service. In other words one in ten smartphone owners has an issue with the prices of the data service and will only use it on their smartphone if it is given away as a freebie. This issue can be addressed by a smarter pricing structure that takes more care of the customers’ specific needs.

    However what is more worrying is that the vast majority of the smartphone owners targeted (except for those one that had their smartphones switched off when the SMS was sent out) didn’t bother. Obviously, they must be happy with using their smartphone for voice, SMS and some of the pre-installed applications that they have on their smartphones like the camera, the music player, the calendar, the alarm, the radio, the games, etc but what seems to be missing is this little tilting interest towards social networks, emails or the Internet at large.

    It is clear that the task ahead for African mobile operators is to work out a way on how to get these smartphone owners on the online content ladder. What will work? Cheesy marketing campaigns like mobile operators are used to do for voice services or a more sustained educational effort? The latter option is more likely to yield positive results.

    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, Gilat Satcom
    on doing business in South Sudan

telecoms

  • Kenya's Safaricom has said that it will withdraw from plans to build a shared LTE network for all the mobile networks if the government insists that it operate in the 2.6Ghz spectrum band.

    Safaricom wants the network to be built using the 700Mhz spectrum band as it requires far fewer base stations, especially in rural areas and is hence cheaper to deploy, at least initially.

    "We would want to know the frequency band that will be used; if it is not the 700MHz then they (government) may consider our self out of it," Nzioka Waita, Safaricom's corporate affairs director told Business Daily Africa.

    The government has been pushing for the networks to cooperate on a single shared network infrastructure as it says there will be cost saving for consumers if the networks do not build competing systems.

  • South Africa’s Vodacom Group has been ordered to pay former consultant Moto Mabanga USD21 million after losing an appeal in a Democratic Republic of Congo court, Bloomberg reports. Mabanga told the news agency: ‘The judgment is now final. I have a judgment and will now follow the legal process to recover the funds from Vodacom. We are now trying to identify Vodacom’s assets to attach them, if it comes to that’. In January this year a Kinshasa court ordered Vodacom to pay Mabanga – who was hired by the company to assist in negotiations with co-owner Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN) between 2007 and 2008 – USD21 million, plus 8% interest (per year). Mabanga was paid USD2.8 million for the work, but sued the company for a USD40.8 million ‘success fee’ that he believes he is entitled to. For its part, Vodacom was reluctant to accept the court’s decision, with spokesman Richard Boorman commenting: ‘We have not received the judgment on this matter so it is difficult to comment in detail. We would clearly have material objections to any judgment by a Congo court in which a monetary award was granted … while the contractual dispute is currently being heard in court in South Africa, which has jurisdiction on the issue.’

    The development marks the latest in a long line of Congolese setbacks for the South African giant; Vodacom is also embroiled in a long-standing dispute with its local partner CWN regarding the funding and structure of the venture. With the two so far unable to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion, and the case progressing slowly through courts in South Africa, DRC and Brussels, Vodacom has raised the possibility of selling its stake in the company. Fellow South Africans MTN and Angola’s Unitel have both expressed an interest in acquiring the stake, should Vodacom go ahead with the sale.

  • After months of fears, Mobinil this week announced its margins of losses for last year were not nearly as poor as analysts and observers believed. Still, the company has a long ways to go before it returns to its pre-uprising status as a profit maker in the country.

    A managing consultant at Mobinil in Cairo and part of a number of task forces aimed at developing the country’s business model through selling off most of its stocks to France Telecom last month, said that the “future is bright for Mobinil.”

    The official, who was not pre-authorized to speak to the media, argued that despite fears the French takeover could see the reduction in jobs and Egyptians losing their work, he says the opposite is likely to happen.

    “FT has a lot of innovative ideas to bolster the company’s image, brand and services in Egypt in the coming months and years, which means more manpower to make this happen,” he continued. “So those fears are not founded. What we should be worrying about is how quickly we can get back into the black.”

    He was referring to a downturn last summer and fall, which saw the company’s earnings plummet into the negative 100 million Egyptian pounds, but the final quarter of 2011 did see earnings of more than 85 million, showing the company was returning to its position.

    Even as Egypt continues to face economic hardship, and jobs remain scarce, citizens continue to use their mobile phone, including a report earlier this month showing that subscription rates were up nearly 20 percent last year, revealing that when the economic is down, telecom remains strong.

    And Mobinil, and now its French owners, agree, and are looking for new ways to offer better options and data plans to more Egyptians.

  • The company said that over last one year, it has reduced the number of telecom sites running solely on diesel by more than 50% by overcoming the challenge of lack of grid connectivity through use of innovative models such as Hybrid Battery Bank.

    According to a Press Release from the company, by 2013, the company aims to completely eradicate the constant use of diesel to power its network. This means no telecom site of the company will rely solely on diesel power 24 hours a day.

    Hybrid Battery Banks collect the excess energy produced by the diesel powered generator in a battery that powers the site once the generator in switched off.

    This has helped reduce the use of diesel by up to 14 hours a day. Close to 60% of Bharti Airtel’s telecom sites in Africa are now powered using the Hybrid model resulting in major reduction in emissions and also operating costs for the company. The company is targeting over 70% of all its sites to be powered by the Hybrid model by end of 2013. It added that is also working on the use of solar and wind power to power its telecom sites.

    Eben Albertyn, Chief Technical Officer, Bharti Airtel, said, “This milestone is the result of significant steps by Airtel taken to ensure that we reduce our fuel consumption and that we play our part in conserving the environment. We will continue to do so as the year progresses.  Our first priority is to reduce the number of sites that are completely reliant on diesel generators. We are doing this by connecting these sites to grid electricity in areas where this option is feasible. Where it is not, we are exploring alternative forms of power supply, which include Hybrid Battery Banks and solar/wind power.”

    Bharti Airtel said that it has already made significant strides in using solar panels to power sites in select markets. Over the last two months, 105 solar sites have already been set up in Niger reducing the use of diesel generators from 24 hours a day to a meager 3 to 4 hours.

    In the short span of two years, the , the implementation of all key initiatives – increased grid connectivity, battery hybrid and solar/wind power - will mean that Bharti Airtel will be using 35% less diesel on average to power each site.

    The company is confident that as it maintains its focus on using alternative sources of fuel to replace diesel, it will continue to play a significant role in conserving the environment.

  • The CEO of Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Kwaku Addo Sakyi-Addo said 20% import tax on SIM cards is an anomaly in the copyright law and must be removed.

    The Copyright Regulation, 2010, places 20% import tax on all devices capable of being used to copy copyright works; among the devices listed was SIM card - the others included flash drive, CD, diskets and others.

    Kweku Sakyi-Addo asked journalists on a visit to his office “which of you stores copyright material like music, pictures, audio visuals, or even books on your SIM card.”

    He said the SIM card does not even have enough capacity to store the many contacts people keep on their phones, adding that SIM is mainly to activate the mobile phone to be able to make calls, and not to store copyright material.

    Indeed, industry experts agree that currently the highest memory of a SIM card, until recently was 64kilobytes, which is way too small to copy anything significant; the largest memory of SIM card in Ghana right now is 128kilobyte (from Glo Mobile), and it cannot copy copyright material.

    The experts said even if the SIM holder wants to copy any material apart from phone numbers unto the SIM card, one would need the permission of the mobile operator, and the mobile operator would have to even do the copying directly at source.

    “No mobile operator allows or facilitates copying of copyright material onto SIM cards so the idea of the law is completely irrelevant,” he said.

    Meanwhile import duty on mobile phones, which could copy copyright material has rather been abolished, but the duty is rather on SIM card, which cannot practically copy such material.

    Some pundits have even asked if there is a 20% import tax on swipe cards like VISA card, MASTERCARD, E-Zwich card and others, which may probably have same memory as SIM cards.

    Kwaku Sakyi-Addo said the chamber is pushing to have the tax removed.

  • Nigeria's Communications Commission (NCC) has confirmed that it is seeking to reclaim unused radio spectrum from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) which could be resold to the mobile network operators.

    There have been several meetings already to secure the release of addition 2.5Ghz spectrum, although local politics has proven to be a barrier to progress.

    NCC executive Dr. Bashir Gwandu said "Both the 2.5GHz and the 700MHz are in the hands of NBC at present and we have to work to free the bands for efficient use. I do not believe any of such bands are being used efficiently as at today and the country cannot continue to wait."

internet

  • The Facebook page of Hizb Ettahrir, an Islamist political party that is legally unrecognized in Tunisia, was hacked last night by a Tunisian group claiming affiliation with the international cyber activist collective Anonymous.

    A representative of the Tunisian Anonymous group, calling himself "CaliforniaKB," said that the attack was motivated by the activity of the Tunisian hacking group Fellaga, who he accused of working for Hizb Ettahrir, and last Wednesday's desecration of the national flag by an Islamist protester at Manouba University.

    The representative said that the group did not have an ideological orientation, but was simply defending the "people's freedom."

    "We are not liberals, we do not represent any political party. We are for the people, we are the people. We fight fire with fire, we were watching and doing nothing until we saw the Tunisian flag getting down in Manouba University," CaliforniaKB explained.

    CaliforniaKB also stated that the group is not against Islamism. "We are not against Hizb Ettahrir. Personally, I am a Muslim; we are against any extremist idea whether from left, right or center," he asserted.

    Ridha Belhaj, spokesperson of Hizb Ettahrir, expressed that the party was undaunted by the attack. "This is a cowardly thing to do; instead of confronting us, they resorted to these methods. This will not put us down, we will always be here," Belhaj said.

    Belhaj also declared that Hizb Ettahrir was not involved in the flag incident that occurred in Manouba university. "We had nothing to do with it. We are against violence - these are Hizb Ettahrir principles," said Belhaj.

    The representative of Anonymous in Tunisia threatened future attacks against the Tunisian government if they do not, "achieve the aims of the revolution," and claimed to have access to incriminating e-mails and "financial documents" about the government.

    "We do have access to many secret files. We are waiting for the good moment to take you down unless you finish the revolution in the right way," said CaliforniaKB.

  • Prudence Okoilu, a 300 level student of Physics and Electronics, University of Lagos (UNILAG), recently opened a social network website "HIPINGG." Its feature combines Facebook, Twitter and Pinging. Tosin Adesile met with him to talk to him about what it does.

    Tell us about yourself?

    I'm Prudence Okoilu, a student who also doubles as an internet entrepreneur. By this I mean, a programmer, website hacker and Graphic designer.

    As an internet entrepreneur, what significant project have you embarked upon?

    I've studied website and what people like. I started a website that allows people to ping without their blackberry but with the use of laptop and the likes. The website is live and its members are increasing daily and work is still in progress to make the initiative better. I studied some feature from facebook, twitter and blackberry. All these were brought together to make hipingg.

    When did you start working on it?

    I started working on it in October , 2011 and it became operational on December 24, 2011. Currently, we have more than 170 people on hipingg,I envisage that over 50,000 people would have joined the website before next year.

    What is unique about Hipingg?

    You can ping and it has a recent update unlike facebook and it combines the feature of blackberry, twitter and facebook as I have said earlier.

    As a student, how do you combine your studies with these?

    I work on weekends and also with the support of friends

    What is unique about you?

    Marx Zuckerberg, Sean Parker are programmers and unique in the system. As a Nigerian, I think an idea like this is unique coming from a 19-year-old trying to get closer to the achievement of the founder of Facebook and particularly, Sean Parker who has achieved his feat.

    Why Hipingg?

    Just because it is Hipingg and it's different and unique on its own. Very soon, we'll add more features and meet more creative people on the site. Hipingg team is not complete yet and we are still trying to get our mobile site that will be useful for different electronic gadgets.

    General advice to the youths: If you're not on Hipingg, you're missing the fun. It is indeed a re-definition of social media.

  • Last Tuesday Tunisia celebrated the National Day of Internet Freedom. A ceremony was held at the Carthage Presidential Palace, where the Tunisian President paid tribute to the memory of Zouhair Yahyaoui.

    Yahyaoui was one of Tunisia's first vocal online political dissidents who fought against corruption during the Ben Ali era. His publication of the critical TuneZine blog led to his arrest and reported torture by the former regime. He died on March 13, 2005, at the age of 37.

    A number of bloggers whose names figured prominently in the Tunisian Revolution, such as Slim Ammaou and Lina Mhani, were also honored by the President. Although the initiative seems to be appreciated and welcomed by many Tunisian bloggers, some expressed skepticism regarding the progress Tunisia has made toward realizing genuine Internet freedom in Tunisia.

    Sami Bouguarbia, a Tunisian blogger whose blog was the first to be censored by the former regime in 2000, expressed his frustration over the fragility of internet freedom in Tunisia. "It's quite impressive to recognize a national day of Internet freedom, but it is also frustrating to feel that Internet censorship could take other forms - mainly moral or religious," he said.

    Reporters Without Borders have lately released a report analyzing the evolving context of Internet freedom in Tunisia. The report highlights the tangible progress Tunisia has achieved since the fall of Ben Ali's regime in terms of Internet freedom. However, the report cautions, "the potential resumption of filtering as a way of resorting to the former repressive measures."

  • Ghana has been ranked number one in Africa as the country with the highest Internet speed, according to the latest global internet speed report released March 5, 2012 by US-based, Ookla.

    Ookla is the global leader in broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic applications, and its report was based on millions of recent test results from Speedtest.net. Its NetIndex compares and ranks consumer download speeds around the globe, and reported Ghana had an average broadband speed of 5.13 megabits per second.

    This year's results for Ghana were obtained by analyzing test data between Feb 10, 2012 and Mar 14, 2012; tests from 31,183 unique IPs have been taken in Accra, and of 182,596 total tests, 10,624 were used for the current Index.

    According to the index, Ghana beat Kenya to second place with 4.49Mbps, South Africa to sixth place with 2.98Mbps, and near-by Nigeria to the eighth place in Africa with 2.3Mbps.

    Morocco, Angola, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Libya were all in the top ten, but obviously behind Ghana.

    Between the telecom operators in Ghana, professed broadband speeds range from 3.1Mbps (Expresso) to 14.4Mbps (Vodafone).

    But the index reported Ghana Telecom (Vodafone) had 6.13 Mbps, as per consumer experience; Zipnet/Broadband Home Ltd had 2.02 Mbps, and Scancom Limited (MTN) has 1.51 Mbps, and they constituted the major Internet service providers (ISPs) in country.

    Obviously, Vodafone has maintained its position from last year as the network with the highest internet speeds in Ghana

    At the global level, Lithuania was first with 31.67Mbps followed by South Korea with 30.59 Mbps, and Latvia in third place with 27.42 Mbps.

    Ghana placed 72nd in the global rankings; ahead of Italy at 73rd with 5.05Mbps and several other European countries. Kenya came in at 75th; South Africa, 105th, and Nigeria, 129th.

    Ookla solutions have been adopted by nearly every Internet Service Provider in the world, and have been translated into over 30 languages for use by thousands of small businesses, federal and state governments, universities and major organizations such as AT&T, BBC, Cisco, Comcast,
    FCC, Reuters, Time Warner, Verizon, Vodafone and Vonage.

  • Netpage has launched a new WiMAX-based wireless broadband service in Gambia, under the banner ‘4G Max Evolution’, which hit the market on 15 March 2012. Netpage is offering fixed-wireless internet connection speeds of up to 20Mbps and ‘fully mobile’ connectivity with speeds of up to 9Mbps over a WiMAX 802.16e-based network in the 2.3GHz to 2.4GHz frequency range.

     Modem devices being offered at launch are: the ‘Max Egg’ mobile WiMAX/Wi-Fi router (promising data speeds of up to 9Mbps), the ‘Max Indoor’ WiMAX/Wi-Fi modem (up to 12Mbps), and the Max Outdoor WiMAX antenna/modem for extended coverage within 15km of a Netpage base station (up to 20Mbps). A Netpage spokesperson said that: ‘the devices that we have can provide speeds of up to 40Mbps’. At launch the wireless broadband service offers coverage of eight locations in the greater Banjul/Serrekunda region. Planned coverage in the near future encompasses 14 locations.

computing

  • Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria has awarded ICT scholarships to 15 students of the University of Lagos. The Huawei ICT Scholarship scheme is targeted at full-time undergraduate students who are committed to a career in ICT- related fields. The scholarship covers tuition fee, accommodation, study materials and upkeep. Each of the students received N200,000.

    Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Mr. Wei Chengmin, the company's President, Western Africa Region, said the scheme was part of the organisation's community social responsibility initiative aimed at developing talents for the ICT industry.

    He said: "This scheme supports educational bodies to encourage and cultivate talents in the telecom field, equipping them with sufficient knowledge about telecom technology, thereby bridging the digital divide among communities, regions and countries through education.

    "This is part of our commitment to "Bridging the Digital Divide" through education, which is one of the cardinal objectives of Huawei CSR strategies in Nigeria."

    Wei said the choice of University of Lagos for the pilot scheme was due to its exemplary contributions to ICT education in the country and its continuous adoption and deployment of ICT in every area of its business.

    In his remarks, the institution's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Babatunde Sofoluwe, thanked the company for the gesture, adding that support from corporate organisations for educational institutions is necessary in view of government's limited resources.

    One of the award recipients, Kesa Oluwafunmilola, said the award would ginger them to work harder and encourage them to aspire to the top. She stated their resolve to put in more efforts next year in order to be qualified again for the award.

  • The Ministry of Health recently advertised a tender for the supply of computer equipment for hospitals in Oshakati, Rundu, Keetmanshoop and Windhoek as part of the implementation of the E-Health system.

    According to information in the Tender Bulletin, the value of the submissions ranges between N$4,2 million and N$10,1 million.

    Health Ministry Permanent Secretary (PS) Kahijoro Kahuure has confirmed that the equipment is intended for the implementation and use of the ministry's Integrated Health Care Information Management System (IHCIMS), also known as the E-Health System.

    Last year Health Minister Richard Kamwi launched the E-Health system in Windhoek at the Windhoek Central Hospital, and said that the system will play a significant role in the delivery of healthcare services.

    According to tender specifications, submissions were to be made for the supply of 340 desktop personal computers (PCs) and 95 laptops. 180 PCs and 45 laptops are intended for Oshakati, 60 PCs and 20 laptops are intended for Keetmanshoop and 100 PCs and 30 laptops are intended for Rundu.

    This means that no new PCs or laptops will be assigned to the Windhoek Central and Katutura hospitals.

    The implementation of the E-Health system comes at a cost of N$54,3 million over a three-year period, and Kahuure said that "the system development and implementation cost for Windhoek Central and Katutura hospitals as a pilot project is N$9,2 million".

    Kahuure said in addition to this the Namibian Government has received a grant of US$5 million (N$37,7 million) from the Indian government.

    "A portion of this grant will be used to supply computer hardware, servers, printers and other related peripheral devices which will cater for hospitals across the country," Kahuure said.

    He said that a tender for the procurement of this equipment was advertised in India and has closed, and that the equipment is expected in Namibia in either June or July this year.

    According to Kahuure, the network infrastructure and computer equipment cost is estimated to be N$30 million, but added that it is not to be used exclusively for the E-Health system.

    The implementation of the E-Health system will be carried out over three phases, Kahuure said, adding that the first phase is the pilot project currently underway at the two State hospitals in Windhoek.

    In the second phase the E-Health system will be extended to 14 hospitals which will start in May this year and will conclude in April 2013. The third phase is expected to start in May 2013 and by "March 2014 all 34 hospitals will be completed and they will be operating as 100 per cent paperless hospitals."

    Kahuure said that 85 per cent of the "system modules" are up and running at the Windhoek Central Hospital and it is expected that the system will be 100 per cent operational by the end of April this year.

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists told Bikyamasr.com that today Angolan police raid at the independent weekly Folha 8, which was conducted in connection with a politicized investigation into the publication of a satirical photo montage. Officers confiscated all of Folha 8′s computers, effectively crippling the operations of one of the country’s two remaining independent publications.

    About 15 officers of the Angolan National Directorate of Criminal Investigations arrived at the Luanda offices of Folha 8 at around 1 p.m., according to the paper’s editor-in-chief, Fernando Baxi. The officials took away about 20 computers from the newsroom, António Setas, said. Officials also forced Baxi to remove the battery of his cell phone during the seizure to prevent him from communicating with anyone, Setas said.

    In an interview with the Portugal-based news agency LUSA today, Folha 8 editor William Tonet said the raid was connected to a public prosecutor’s December 2011 criminal investigation into the paper’s re-publication of an Internet photo montage lampooning President José Eduardo dos Santos, Vice President Fernando Piedade Dias dos Santos, and Gen. Manuel Helder Vieira Dias Júnior Kopelipa, the military adviser to the president. No formal charges in the investigation have been filed, but the newspaper’s computers could be used as evidence against them in the case.

    An obtained copy of the search warrant signed by Public Prosecutor João Vemba Coca, called on Angolan police to seize all computers and tools used to commit “acts that constitute the crime of outrage against the state, the person of the president, and the organs of the executive.” Folha 8 has reported on government corruption and has also covered the recent anti-government protests challenging Dos Santos’ 32 years of rule. Without its computers, the paper is unable to publish.

    Angolan police spokesman Carmo Neto did not immediately return calls for comment.

    “The seizure of Folha 8′scomputers is a crude act of censorship meant to silence one of the few remaining independent news outlets in Angola,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Satire is not an outrage against the state-it’s an important part of robust debate in a free society. We call on authorities to return Folha 8′sequipment at once and put an end to this politically motivated investigation.”

    Journalists at Folha 8 have been targeted before. In October 2010, authorities handed Tonet a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 10 million kwanza (US$105,000), which he is still appealing. The journalist had written stories alleging corruption and abuse of power by five senior officials close to Dos Santos, according to local journalists.

  • The Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, says in order to help improve ICT education, his ministry would soon be donating laptops to all teachers across the country, to make them competitive in discharging their functions in a ICT knowledge society.

    The Minister made the announcement when he spoke at the launch of the rlg Foundation on Monday, during which His Excellency Vice President John Dramani Mahama was the Guest of Honour.

    Speaking on the ministry's commitment to raising Ghana's ICT education to the highest standards, Ocran affirmed how the pursuit of ICT advancement can help accelerate national development.

    He said in line with the sector's policy on transforming education through ICT, 60,000 rlg computers were already being distributed to school children nationwide, under the Basic Schools Computerisation Project.

    In agreement with other speakers, Ocran made it categorically clear that his ministry did not import the computers, but rather contracted rlg, a local company, to produce the said laptops, because it believed in supporting local Ghanaian industries to grow.

    He, therefore, indicated that his ministry was working feverishly on seeking continuous collaboration with rlg to provide laptops for all teachers, and to train them on how to use the equipment. This way, he said, teachers can upgrade their skills and offer better guidance to the children in their care.

  • The US government is to extend technical assistance to Kenya in developing ICT strategies on universal access and broadband.

    According to an agreement signed between the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and USAID, the US Government shall assist CCK in developing strategies to stimulate universal access to ICT services in underserved and un-served areas of the country.

    The technical assistance covers the development of a national broadband strategy to underpin the deployment of modern broadband infrastructure to meet the needs of businesses, government and the entire economy. The assistance, which shall be provided through the USAID's Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) initiative, will also assist CCK in developing capacity in universal service Fund management, and universal service.

    In his address, Ag. CCK Director-General Mr. Francis W. Wangusi said the development of universal access and broadband strategies would invigorate the growth of the ICT sector and thus accelerate the development of other sectors of the economy, including provision of e- and m- government services.

    Citing the ICT Access Gaps Study undertaken by CCK last year, Mr. Wangusi said close to 1,120 sub-locations out of the total of 7,149 in the country had no access to basic communication services. This situation, he added, called for urgent regulatory interventions to facilitate the transition of a sizeable number of Kenyans to the digital age.

    The Director-General decried the prevailing low penetration of data/internet services in Kenya, saying the country had only 5.2 million Internet subscribers, of which 2.33% were broadband. He said the strategies to be developed through USAID's technical assistance would play a key role in improving access to communications services in all parts of the country.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Omidyar Network and Accion International have invested USD3.2m in Mobile Transactions International, a Zambia-incorporated company that leverages mobile technology and an agent network to enable financial transactions across the Zambian economy. The USD4m investment round also includes USD500,000 in converted debt funding from Mennonite Economic Development Associates.

    Mobile Transactions has also received previous equity funding from Frontier Investments and Sarona Asset Management. Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam.

    Mobile transactions and payment processing companies are a popular new target for PE investors in Africa, where governments, donors and the private sector in many countries are working to expand access to financial services through technology and ‘cash-lite’ mobile banking.

  • In a statement issued in Accra on Tuesday, it was revealed that UniBank Ghana Limited has collaborated with Airtel Money and Star Micro Insurance.

    The aim is to offer life insurance coverage for free (no premiums paid) as an additional benefit to subscribers who use Airtel’s mobile commerce product, Airtel Money.

    Airtel stated that Airtel Money users and their next of kin would be covered by the insurance package when they keep an average minimum balance of GHC 5 at the end of every month.

    Kola Sonola, the Director of Mobile Commerce at Airtel Ghana, says Airtel is pleased that the introduction of the insurance policy tops up the other numerous advantages Airtel Money offers to users.

    He said, “What we are doing at Airtel is to look at introducing products which are innovative and which our subscribers will find useful.”

    Sonola stressed that Airtel Money is continuing to build partnerships with other financial institutions and businesses to ensure it provides its subscribers with products to suit their daily needs.

    Donald Gwira, the Head of Corporate Communications and External Affairs of Airtel Ghana, explained that Airtel Money users would enjoy the insurance benefit, when they text ”uniBank” to short code ”3131”. They will then receive a confirmation message upon success. The product is open to Ghanaian residents between the ages of 18-75.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

Digital Content

  • iZimbabwe’s Fungai Machirori, has launched  a website dedicated to discussing and articulating Zimbabwean women’s issues and experiences. Being one of Zimbabwe’s most insightful writers and one who’s already been already writing so much about her experience as a woman means the website is set to deliver quality content, something that you’ll agree is so much in short supply on the local web in Zimbabwe.

    Two days ago the website went live. Already the amount and depth of information on the site is pleasing. Looks like Machirori has managed to bring together a talented team of writers. The tech side of the project looks solid too; the website has been designed by the same folks who work on Zimbojam, Zimbabwe’s most popular and fast growing entertainment news website.

    It’s been said too many times and it remains true that Zimbabwe, and indeed the wider Africa, needs more relevant content for its internet users. Her Zimbabwe brings that, and it brings top quality content too.

    In terms of the type of content the website has, from what we can tell, it’s a multi-author blog written mostly by women but also has male writers contributing. The iZimbabwe article refers to it as a portal, a term that lost meaning (to us at least) ages ago, so we’ll just go with calling it a ‘multi-author blog’ for now. The posts include videos as well, like this one in which the founder explains what Her Zimbabwe is about. You can visit herFacebook page here:

More

  • World Economic Forum chooses SEACOM’s Brian Herlihy as a Young Global Leader for 2012
     
    Brian Herlihy, Executive Director at SEACOM, has been named as one of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) 192 Young Global Leaders for 2012. The annual honour recognises up to 200 outstanding young leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
     
    Herlihy’s role in helping to bring high-speed Internet access to more of Africa’s people through the SEACOM high-capacity submarine cable system earned him a place on the prestigious list. He is the founder of SEACOM and was the Chief Executive Officer of the company at launch, and now focuses on strategic projects essential for SEACOM’s continued growth and success.
     
    As one of the 2012 honourees, Herlihy will become part of the broader Forum of Young Global Leaders community that currently comprises 713 outstanding individuals. The YGLs convene at an Annual Summit, which will be held this year in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on 14 to 18 April.

  • Create your own SMS application with ForgetMeNot Africa and launch it on the Econet Zimbabwe network

    There’s an amazing opportunity in Zimbabwe to create your own apps business. ForgetMeNot Africa, Jumpstart Community, TechZim and Econet Wireless Zimbabwe are working in partnership to offer the chance for Zimbabwean developers to create new SMS applications. Details of the ForgetMeNot Africa Optimiser Platform can be found here.

    Successful developers will earn revenue for apps that are successfully launched in Zimbabwe on the FMNA platform, and the winning team/individual receive up to 3 iPads and $2,000 seed capital. The ForgetMeNot Africa team will provide consistent support and mentoring for all developers and there’s even a potential opportunity to have your app launched in other countries where FMNA operates.

    Key dates:

    • 27th March – JumpStart Community Launch Event (18:00 at the Harare Club)

    • 28th March – Workshops with FMNA technical personnel (08:00 and 13:00 at the Harare Club)

    • 20th April – Ideas Deadline

    • 2nd May – Shortlist Announced

    • 19th May – TestDrive final (at the Harare Club)

    To enter:

    1. Become a member of the Jumpstart Community

    2. Register as a developer on the FMNA platform

    3. Submit your app onto the Econet eTXT platform

    For more information on the Zimbabwe ZeTXT apps challenge visit the official website, and join the official ForgetMeNot Developers Facebook page

Issue no 595 9th March 2012

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Top story

  • Increased bandwidth in Africa has opened up new opportunities for cloud-based services. Unfortunately discussions about these kinds of cloud-based services have generated…well, clouds fully of empty corporate jargon. This week Russell Southwood looks at some different examples of actual cloud-based services that are being used successfully in Africa to try and get a handle on where the opportunities lie.

    Orange Business has launched two cloud-based services: Flexible Computing Express (just IT infrastructure with company applications on top) and Flexible Computing Premium (Orange providing some applications and managing or sharing managing the service). These services were launched in Europe initially at are aimed squarely at the corporate sector. It has attracted 150 customers for them in just 2 months but these are mostly in France.

    According to Philippe Jacquier, Head of IT Services and Solutions, Africa, Middle East and Russia, Orange Business:”90% of these initial customers are SMEs but not outside of France, where it is being taken up by multinationals. In this type of company there are thousands of non-critical applications which they are happy to host on this platform.” (see video link at the bottom of this article)

    Anglo Gold Ashanti began using the service on a pilot basis at the end of last year and it became fully operational in January 2012. The advantages it sees in the service are two-fold: it could move things offsite and get predictable latency and it has the flexibility to grow and shrink its requirements on a monthly basis:

    ”In the past, the Mine Manager would find himself looking after IT. Now he can get support. This platform is connected through our VPN and the Internet and Anglo Ashanti Gold have an MPLS network run by Orange.” So connecting to the cloud can happen through either a VPN or the Internet, depending on the resilience required by the company.

    There is a 100-millisecond latency and this allows real-time applications like voice and desktop management for many users and this compares with an average of 350-milliseconds (including satellite links) from Johannesburg to the Paris data centre:”Where the data is routed depends on the connectivity. Where we handle the WAN, we can get lowest latency. With improvements in latency, companies are becoming much more network-centric”

    Orange Business has also partnered with SITA that provides the underlying architecture for airline operations, who want to provide services for local carrier SAA.

    According to Jacquier:”The market will grow itself.  The key arguments are around cost and functionality but a mindset change is needed. Companies can save human resources.” For the wary, companies can – like Anglo Gold Ashanti- pilot using the service. Jacquier can provide an Excel spreadsheet that shows how the pricing works and the likely charges based on the number of uses per day.

    These kinds of services will cause a large expansion in data centres. Orange Business will set up 8 data centres. The first is in Paris (another will be added there) and three are being constructed in Frankfurt, Singapore and Atlanta. A further three will then be added: Johannesburg, Hong Kong and Sydney.

    Local South African company Securicom has been providing cloud-based services for over ten years. Its Regional Sales Manager, Richard Broeke sees a transition happening:”In the past, there was the public Internet and the private, corporate cloud. Now there’s a blurring between these two. We secure the private cloud and the public cloud infrastructure.” It targets what it describes as the mid-market, companies with between 250 and 10,000 employees and delivers up to 15 different services to them including: e-mail security and archiving, web security, managed firewalls, data storage, end-point management and cloud optimization.

    Their arguments are very similar to those of Orange Business but nuanced slightly differently:”With shared infrastructure, you can get the latest technology at a cheaper price. The per device billing model means you can have 100 seats this month and half that amount next month.”

    It has provided service for an African bank that had challenges with its deployed applications because the bandwidth was expensive and low quality:”We put our WAN optimization into 32 branches in Kenya. They’re now getting LAN-like responses across all of the WAN, even in remote locations. We do this through supplying optimization technology and 24 hour monitoring.”

    “The cost savings are probably going to be greatest for a small organization. If you take something like Microsoft Exchange, because of cost, it’s only going to be available to a certain size of company. It will be a lot more affordable through a cloud-based service. There are massive opportunities in Africa in terms of providing cloud-based services. Companies tend to deal with several different companies but we can provide a one-stop shop with end-to-services and that’s when you get economies of scale.”

    At the other end of the scale completely are end user services for individuals and very small companies. Opportunities here are focused around three things: back-up; synch between the proliferating number of devices (laptop, phone and tablet); and cloud-based, cyber-cafe-style services offering “virtual computers” by login (that also synch with certain phones).

    Kenya’s M-Wingu was set up by Charles Musungu to address the simplest but often most important of needs: backing up people’s phone contacts so they don’t lose them when their phone is stolen or falls into the toilet (don’t laugh – it seems to happen quite often if my conversations are anything to go by.).

    ”We set up M-Wingu to help individuals to synch their contacts across all devices and to restore contacts. It’s software as a service and the consumer pay a subscription fee that the operators charge as a percentage per day.’ In Kenya, it costs KS10 per month and in South Africa 80 cents a month and generally works out at around 20% of ARPU.

    It has pilots operating with three major operators and there are currently 1,000 users across all of the pilots. Soon it will go live with an operator across 9 markets. The service detects what phone is connected and which new contacts need backing up:”The cloud hosting for the service is provided by Google and Amazon and the data centres are in the USA. However, the back-end applications are hosted in Kenya. There is a robust level of encryption.”

    As users do more things involving content, services and transactions on their phones and other devices, they will need to have both the synch and back-up functions. The key question will be whether they will see whether they need to be able to afford the service.

    The wide open market space is to provide individual customers a “virtual computer” that they can log into anywhere there’s a machine or device and bandwidth. If African cyber-cafes were smarter, this would be a good replacement for the dwindling access market, making software as a service an ideal business: a small monthly sum that would be a great deal less than even the current much cheaper laptops and tablets. Who’s going to be first to start it?


    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, Gilat Satcom on doing business in South Sudan

telecoms

  • The Peoples Democratic Party has approached a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for an order to compel the Nigerian Communications Commission to revoke the licence of MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd.

    In the suit filed by the Osun and Ekiti Chapters of the party and the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, they alleged that NCC has failed to protect them from unfair practices of MTN.

    They alleged that when asked to provide the National Judicial Council with call logs containing the alleged conversations between the suspended president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami to substantiate allegations that Justice Salami was influenced by some chieftains of the Action Congress of Nigeria to arrive at the decision that removed Oyinlola from office, MTN provided the council with an incomplete data.

    In the statement of claim filed by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Adebisi Raimi, they claimed that, “MTN deliberately frustrated the work of the panel by providing inadequate and incomplete call data records and thus manipulated same.

    “The action of MTN to deliberately frustrate the work of the NJC panel by providing inadequate and incomplete call data records constituted gross professional and ethical misconduct.”

    According to them, MTN forwarded to NJC call data records containing only the originating component and deliberately withheld the terminating components, which left the NJC with no option but to declare the call logs as lacking in evidentiary value.

    They said: “MTN deliberately omitted the months of September, October and November 2010 from the call data records forwarded to the NJC panel, to effectively obliterate records of the period of communication between and among the following individuals: Justice Isa Ayo Salami, Tunji Ijaiya, Tunde Folawiyo Lagos State Governor, Gbadegesin Ademola,  Moha-mmed Rufu Lai, Lagos State Government ,Kayode Fayemi; thereby blanking out the period immediately preceding the judgements of the governorship election appeals in respect of Osun and Ekiti state.”

    They said that MTN deliberately omitted the months of September, October and November 2010 from the call data record, to mislead the NJC Panel and to pervert the course of justice. They said that MTN’s action contravened the Nigerian Communications Commission Act.

    They are also asking the court to order MTN to pay the sum of N150 Billion as general damages. In his evidence on oath which was attached to the statement of claim, the former Osun State governor Oyinlola said that if MTN had forwarded the authentic, adequate, complete and undistorted and bonafide call data records in respect of communication between and among the individuals mentioned above to the NJC panel, the report of the NJC Investigative Panel and the recommendations of the committee set up to review the report would have been different.

    He said: “That if the recommendations of the panel and the committee had been different, necessary legal action and steps would have been taken to ensure that their candidates in the 2007 gubernatorial elections, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State and Chief Segun Oni of Ekiti state were reinstated.

    “That because their candidates (PDP’s Oyinlola and Oni) were not reinstated, they had suffered and are still suffering unimaginable integrity, prestige and image, financial and political loses.”

  • Egypt will launch a tender for mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licences within four weeks, the country's communications minister said on Tuesday.

    MVNOs are mobile phone service providers which lease excess network capacity from telecom operators.

    Industry executives had been hoping the tender would take place last year but major investment decisions have been delayed by the army-backed interim government appointed after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

    Companies aiming to secure an MVNO licence include Telecom Egypt, the country's landline monopoly, which is sitting on record amounts of cash and wants to boost its presence in fast-growing mobile and data services.

    "We are finalising the format for the MVNO and hopefully we should expect (to issue the tender) in four weeks' time," Mohamed Salem, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, told Reuters during an industry conference in Qatar.

    Salem said he was unsure how many MVNO licences Egypt would issue and declined to say how much selling them could raise for a government that is struggling to finance its budget deficit.

    He said fourth-generation mobile network licences would also be sold some time after June, by when the government would have formulated a new strategy for expanding broadband services.

    "4G will be included in the broadband strategy," said Salem. "The broadband plan ... will be issued by the end of June."

    Mobile phone subscriptions now roughly equal Egypt's population and companies are seeking to maintain revenue growth by encouraging customers to use more data services. Egypt is the Arab world's most populous country, with more than 80 million people.

    Telecom Egypt has a venture with Vodafone that vies with Mobinil for leadership of the mobile phone market. The third-placed operator is Etisalat Egypt.

  • The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) yesterday sealed off a base station in Tundun Amba area of Lafia, Nasarawa State over environmental violations after pre-sanction notice.

    Alhaji Abdusalami Issah, the NESREA State Coordinator, who represented the Director-General/CEO of the agency, Dr Ngeri S. Benebo, said the action of the company was in breach of Section 5 (4) of the Telecommunication and Broadcast facilities Regulations 2011 which provides 10 meters setback for new mast to residential buildings.

    Issah said that the operators of the base station had failed to provide their site-specific Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Certificate when asked to do so, and also fail to respond to an earlier letter written to them by NESREA before the construction with regards to the wrong citing of the mast. "They boldly went ahead as if there were no laws in this country", said the team leader. "People should think more of the health implications of this poorly erected mast", he added.

  • Airtel customers suffered a network outage last week. The outage affected calls originating from Airtel and sending SMS, though some calls from other networks and international calls were able to terminate on Airtel. The customers could also not load airtime directly from scratch cards or make purchase from Airtel money. The cause of the problem is yet to be explained by the company.

    Airtel Kenya had told consumers via text message and social media that it was working on the 'slight hitch' in the morning, but was yet to resolve it several hours later. "We have a slight hitch and our engineers are on it. Sorry for inconvenience," Airtel Kenya official page said on twitter in the morning in response to public queries on the problem. Hours later it said,"Dear customers, sorry for the unexpected service outage for the last 3 hours. Our technical team is restoring it to normalcy,"

    The company officials had not responded directly to us by press time but by late afternoon the problem seemed to have been largely dealt with. The service outage, which also affected internet connection, comes barely two weeks after it launched it 3G network. Airtel has around 4.5 million subscribers which is around 16 per cent of the country total subscriber base. It has 8.5 per cent market share of the data market.

  • Ghana's telecoms regulator has given mobile subscribers an additional month to rectify incomplete SIM card registration data before their accounts are cut off.

    Last Saturday marked the end of the deadline for the registration of SIM cards in the country. SIM cards that were not registered have already been cut off, but there are a number of registrations that were not completed correctly.

    "Such persons are to rectify whatever anomalies thereof, or they will have their SIMs deactivated just as those who have not registered at all," the Deputy Director of Communications and Consumer Services at the NCA, Mawuko Zormelo, advised.

    Part of the difficulty comes from the process of verifying Passport or Driving License data with government records. There have been complaints that the government agencies had been slow to respond to requests for information.

internet

  • The Rwandan government has made it mandatory with immediate effect for telecom operators and internet service providers to provide seamless redundancy and diversity of internet bandwidth to guarantee service.

    The move will allow automatic sharing of bandwidth between operators at pre-negotiated and determined prices to avoid service interruptions in case of any breakdown.

    The industry regulator - Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), will in the next few days institute a settlement system for allowing inter operator bandwith backup and seamless routing of bandwidth once any operator's available bandwidth reduces to a predetermined threshold.

    However, the move is set to rescue MTN Rwanda, the country’s biggest telecom company by subscriber base which has been struggling to offer bandwidth to full capacity due to the current East African Submarine System (EASSY) cable disruptions detected between Djibouti and Port Sudan, which carries the majority of its internet traffic (80 percent ).

    The telecoms giant has approximately 2.9 million subscribers with network coverage of over 90 per cent, having pioneered the mobile market in Rwanda.

    Under the new guidelines, any affected operator will be required to maintain a certain level of bandwidth availability by tapping into available bandwidth of other operators.

    “The directive has already been communicated by the regulator to all telecoms operators and internet services providers and will take immediate effect.

    All operators will be required to provide a guaranteed level of service to their client by accessing the pool bandwidth in the event of major catastrophes,” said Dr Ignace Gatare, the Rwandan Minister in charge of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) in a press statement released on Friday.

    He added that the decision in support of international bandwidth aggregation was taken in order to mitigate the social and economic impact of poor bandwidth availability.

    “It also ensures efficient management of Rwanda internet resources. The regulator will ensure that there is sufficient bandwidth in the country to meet our national requirements,” Dr Gatare said.

    Currently, Rwanda has two telecoms companies, MTN and Tigo Rwanda, owned by Luxemburg based Millicom International Cellular. Bharti Airtel is expected to officially launch on the market this year, with an investment pledge of over $100 million in the next three years.

  • The World Bank has launched a regional initiative to improve broadband connectivity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by bringing utilities' fiber optic networks into broadband use. The Bank also announced a new focus on citizen participation in the creation of information and communication technologies (ICT) solutions to development problems, building on the success of the Cairo WaterHackathon.

    The World Bank's broadband connectivity initiative will study the potential for developing regional broadband backbone networks in MENA and prepare the ground for new investments. It will use a new approach that leverages already-deployed infrastructure from other utilities, such as electricity, transport or oil and gas. The study is expected to tackle the main bottlenecks to broadband connectivity in the region, in particular providing redundancy (extra capacity) to existing international connectivity and opening alternative backbone networks in domestic markets.

    "Worldwide, broadband is becoming an essential infrastructure for innovation, economic growth, and competitiveness," said Doyle Gallegos, Practice Leader, Connectivity Infrastructure, World Bank. "This World Bank initiative will help increase MENA countries' capacity to cope with the tremendous predicted increase in broadband traffic and to compete in the 21st century's global market."

    The MENA region has been actively increasing broadband connections and, as of today, broadband connects over a quarter of MENA households. Broadband traffic in the region is predicted to grow over 100 percent in the next five years, making MENA the fastest growing region in the world with Sub-Saharan Africa.

    The World Bank study will cover the region's international and domestic connectivity and will produce four country case studies focused on utility infrastructure use in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. In addition, the World Bank will look at broadband-based applications to increase operational efficiency and competitiveness of utilities, starting with a smart-grid pilot project in Jordan. Findings from these activities will be shared through regional workshops aimed at boosting investment in the region, particularly in utilities' fiber-optic networks.

    The broadband connectivity initiative is part of the World Bank's Arab World Initiative and is supported by the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and the Korean Government. Jointly with InfoDev, the World Bank has also produced the Broadband Strategies Handbook, a tool providing hands-on knowledge of broadband market, technology, and policy action.

    Cairo hosted the first-ever WaterHackathon in October 2011 which brought together Egyptian technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt's biggest water challenges. A hackathon in this context is a series of events that source problem statements from citizens, civil society, and development experts; build sectoral and digital literacy for technologists and development practitioners; and allow these partners to collectively identify technical pilot solutions.

    "The Cairo WaterHackathon allowed the World Bank to 'do things differently' in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and engage local communities interested in shaping the future of their country," explained Carlo Rossotto, MENA Regional Coordinator, ICT, World Bank. "Based on this success, the World Bank will increasingly use citizen participation in the creation of ICT solutions as a mainstream tool to tackle development challenges."

    - A mobile and web-based application for more equitable water distribution, enabling farmers to remotely control irrigation (Salt & Rocks team)
     - An application for irrigation optimization and water saving in agricultural production, using smart mobile devices to enhance collection of field data (Abu Erdaan team)
    - A concept addressing water saving in industrial line production, using data visualization and SMS and web updates on water consumption (Run Time team)

    The winning teams continue to develop their ideas. Team Abu Erdaan has managed to develop and beta-test its application and is now shortlisted among the top fifty competitors in Google's Business Competition in Egypt. As a follow-up, the World Bank is planning a Transport Hackathon in Cairo later this year.

  • Aquiva WirelessOne of Zimbabwe’s licensed Internet Access Providers (IAP), Aquiva Wireless, will be launching VoIP services by April this year. We got the news from the company this week that they are finalizing interconnection agreements with some of the existing mobile operators and the fixed line operator (TelOne) and will be launching VoIP commercially in the coming weeks.

    The VoIP service is something similar to Econet’s recently launched service which you can access via any broadband internet connection from ordinary PCs or Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

    In terms of tariffs we should expect prices as low (or as high) Africom, Broadcom, Telco and Gigatel. In summary the POTRAZ approved tariffs for VoIP providers; US 5 cents for on-net calls and 11 cents for off-net calls.

    Aquiva Chief Operations Officer, Artwell Mataranyika said that while some existing mobile operators have “not been in a hurry” to interconnect with new VoIP telephony providers like his company, they have nevertheless been responsive and they’ve managed to secure some agreements. He added though without naming any specific operators that a few are deliberately dragging their feet and interconnection agreements with these would take a long while.

    As more and more IAPs launch VoIP services, interconnection remains one the main problems they face getting the product ready for commercial use. Users naturally expect to be able to make calls to any number under the sun when subscribed to a phone service and the realization that they can’t call some networks exposes the issue for the deal breaker it is.

    Telecontract, one for the first IAPs to launch voice services back in 2010, only interconnected (and celebrated the event with ads in the papers) more than a year later and even it was just to one of the three mobile operators, Econet.

  • Spectrum Training, a leading IT Networking and Security training, certification and consultancy services provider in the Middle East & Africa region expanded its reach in the region by setting up its new training center in Cairo.

    The new training center in Cairo is equipped with state of art labs to provide global standard technical training to several of the enterprises in Egypt. The new facility consists of 2 class room facility that can train upto 24 students at a time. The center is managed by highly skilled professional with wealth of experience in IT training across the region.

    The company will provide networking and security courses on several specialised training and certification from leading vendors like Juniper Networks, Comptia, BlueCat Networks among others.

    "We are extremely pleased to set up a world class training center in Cairo and with this investment in the new facility, Spectrum wants to reinforce our commitment to Egypt as well as cater to the growing demand of IT training and certification in the region." said, Sanjeev Singh, Managing Director, Spectrum Training, "We already have large customer base in Egypt and the new facility will help us bring down the cost of training which customer has to pay earlier by spending extra on traveling outside Egypt. "

    "We want to create this facility as the center of excellence not just for Egypt but for whole of the North Africa," adds Sanjeev.

  • Lonestar Cell MTN has launched the Internet for Liberia Project, introducing a variety of internet services.

    The Internet for Liberia Project is aimed at getting devices into the hands of Liberians, getting Liberians to use the internet more, rewarding Liberians for using the internet and ultimately, increasing the efficiency of Liberians through the use of internet in every field of endeavor.

    Chief Marketing Officer, Clement Ofori, who spoke at the launch at the company’s headquarters in Congo Town, said Lonestar Cell MTN is taking into consideration that its customers come from diverse backgrounds so everything was being done to tailor services based on needs.

    Ofori explained that the EDGE Plus customers will during this period enjoy a 20% discount on their daily, weekly and monthly bundles. For customers, who choose not to buy bundles, but pay per use, he said they are extending happy hour to cover the internet. So they will enjoy ½ prices for internet use between 12:30am to 5am every day.

    According to him, the iConnect customers most of whom are corporate customers will receive 50% off their package for this month.

    “We realize that all these great offers will not mean much to our customers if there is no device to use the internet on - that is why we have partnered with some device suppliers, notable amongst them, Samsung and Huawei to make devices available to our customers of various segments,” said Ofori.

    He said the company is particularly excited about the world’s acclaimed solar powered laptop or net book, which Liberians can also own and use the internet on courtesy of Samsung and Lonestar Cell MTN.

    Lonestar had led the way in bringing to Liberia the first 3G internet service when it launched the iConnect service last year. The company believes it’s time to take it to the next level by getting more Liberians on the internet.

    Ofori announced that Lonestar Cell MTN has just completed a major project that has significantly increased its bandwidth, adding that customers will from now progressively experience much better speeds, using the same devices they have been using.

    “In the coming days and weeks”, he said,  “We will be rolling out several customer engagement activations around the use of the internet, which will no doubt touch every Liberian, including the farmer, the teacher, the doctor, the market woman, the student, the business person and indeed just about everybody no matter your profession.”

    According to the Chief marketing Officer, most of these activations will be in partnership with various bodies, including the media, educational institutions, government ministries and corporate institutions.

  • NGO Invisible Children has launched an internet campaign against Joseph Kony, the fugitive head of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels. The LRA is infamous for committing extreme atrocities against civilians, including murder, mutilation and rape.

    Not all Ugandans agree with Invisible Children's approach. Or, to be more precise, many Ugandans who use Twitter, Facebook and Google disagree - that's a small minority of all Ugandans. As local journalist Maureen Agena tweeted: "I doubt that the people in North, East and Westnile Uganda where #kony dominated have an idea that this #stopkony discussion is on."

    For one, today's edition of national newspaper the Daily Monitor didn't devote any words to 'Kony 2012', as the Invisible Children's video on the web is called.

    What socially networking Ugandans criticise most is how their country and the LRA conflict are being represented in a simplistic, if not just plain wrong, manner. "If you are in #Uganda, pls advise [Twitter users that] Kony is hiding in Central Africa Rep nt Uganda," tweeted Guide2Uganda. The LRA has not been active in Uganda for over five years, a fact critics say Invisible Children does acknowledge in its video, which focuses on victims in northern Uganda.

    "Invisible Children paints a false picture of the current situation on the ground in northern Uganda," says Rosebell Kagumire. The Ugandan journalist has publicised her criticism of 'Kony 2012' via Twitter, where she has over 3,000 followers, both Ugandan and international. "Northern Uganda is not about war or catching Kony anymore, it is about rebuilding. Invisible Children neglects that. They campaign for the Ugandan children from 2005, not the current ones suffering in Congo."

    But does Invisible Children not at least create the kind of awareness that prompted President Obama's dispatch of 100 American special forces to assist in the search for Mr Kony last October? Obama's decision might precipitate the downfall of the LRA.

    "Awareness, yes," Kagumire says, "but the wrong sort of awareness. The Kony campaign suggests that political and military will in the West is all that is needed to end the conflict. Remember that in 2008, the Ugandan Army, already with US assistance, launched an operation against the LRA that led to the revenge killing of more than 300 Congolese. This could happen again. Invisible Children doesn't acknowledge the complexity on the ground or local agency."

    In a reaction to the criticism, Invisible Children says it does not claim to have a magic solution. The NGO reiterated its aim of raising awareness and pressuring politicians to find a solution. As to the accusation that Invisible Children favours the Ugandan Army (which, like the LRA, is accused of committing crimes), director of public and media relations Jedediah Jenkins emphasized that remaining strictly neutral is difficult when trying to end a conflict.

    "There is a huge problem with political corruption in Africa," Jenkins said. "If we had the purity to say we will not partner with anyone corrupt, we couldn't partner with anyone."

    Kagumire also faces censure. Opponents label her part of the small, privileged group of Ugandans with access to information and the internet, a world away from the millions who live in areas where the LRA has been active. "Ugandans who patronise #KONY2012 have not been affected directly by Kony's atrocities," Javie Ssozi tweeted.

    According to Kagumire: "I never claimed to represent the whole of Uganda. I do know many people in the affected regions, though, as well as their opinions. I covered the LRA for over ten years as a journalist. Last year I worked for an NGO in northern Uganda, southern Sudan and Congo."

  • The minister of Telecommunication and Information Technology, José Rocha de Carvalho, announced Tuesday that the capital cities of Angola’s 18 provinces will be connected through fibre optic cable, aimed at expanding and improving technological services and Internet in the country.

    The official spoke at the "conference on information technology as instruments for service of development", held under the 10th edition of the National Holiday Camp of University Students (Canfeu), taking place at this location until March 25th.

computing

  • News organisations and blogs globally are reporting that the hacker responsible for leading attacks on the Zimbabwe government’s (and other countries as well) websites following the Wikileaks stir in December 2010, Sabu (real Hector Xavier Monsegur), was turned into FBI informant when he was arrested in August last and has helped the US government penetrate the Anonymous hacker group.

    Monsegur was reportedly arrested in August after FBIO successfully traced his online chat activity to his home. He successfully struck a deal with the FBI to inform on  other hackers after he was threatened with 124 years in prison. Unbeknownst to his Anonymous colleagues, Monsegur helped the FBI break into the group, leading to the arrest of 5 top members of the anonymous hacker group this week.

    The 28-year old Lulzsec (a group that is part of Anonymous) leader pleaded guilty to hacking several websites belonging to the government websites in Algeria, Yemen and Zimbabwe amoung other countries. Monsegur also masterminded the attack on the US Senate website.

    The hacker group attacked the Zimbabwe government’s websites in retaliation to what they termed an attack on Zimbabwe’s press freedom.

  • A non-governmental organization in Ghana, CAMFED, The Campaign for Female Education is currently building three ultra modern Information Communication Technology centers in some selected districts of the Northern region of Ghana with financial backing from the Google Cooperate Giving Council.

    This project is aimed at Nanumba North (Bimbilla), Mamprusi East (Gambaga) and Gushegu districts in the Northern region. The Bimbila ICT centre has already been completed and commissioned with the organization promising to commission the remaining two in the coming months.

    The Deputy Minister for Communication, Ernest Atokwei Armah spoke at the official launch where he encouraged students in the area to take advantage of the centre and enhance their knowledge in ICT.“Every child everywhere in this world is expected to get a very good background in ICT: so to speak a child in Accra, Bimbilla or anywhere in Ghana should know what ICT is, so they will be able to chat and communicate,” he said. The deputy communications minister emphasized on the need for farmers and businessmen in Bimbilla township and its environs to patronize the centre, seeing that as the best means of making online transactions. He further stated: “ICT can allow our farmers in this particular community to communicate with the outside world to know the good price for their commodities so they will know exactly when their commodities are being needed and the good price to have for them.”

  • Working collaboratively online helps educators develop teaching material that transcends national boundaries and reaches learners of different cultures.  This has been the experience of teachers taking part in an ongoing e-twinning pilot study involving hundreds of 9-13 year olds at ten schools in Burkina Faso, France, Senegal and Togo. Coordinated by the Paris-based Association for the Promotion of Free Educational Resources (Apréli@), the study evaluates the experiences of learners and teachers when digital teaching resources are produced through virtual collaboration.

    During the study, the participating teachers upload course materials onto a Wiki. Duties are assigned such that different teachers focus on different aspects of the curriculum, and comprehensive lesson plans are developed. Creating a stock of free digital resources enables students and teachers easy access to a shared pool of knowledge, but it also allows partner schools deeper involvement with each other’s teaching and cultural practices. Each class in the pilot study documented their journey via an e-diary and occasional e-report which can be accessed by all.

    The different educational systems and standards in place in each country meant that in designing the project, special consideration had to be paid to how the schools were twinned. Geneviève Puiségur-Pouchin, president of Apréli@, said that before launching the project, they held a comprehensive workshop for all stakeholders, and the teachers, researchers, and educational administrators involved drew up a research model which would allow them to create activities that can be adopted in all national curricula.

    “Our e-twinning plan enables cooperative learning whilst changing the traditional teacher-student relationship,” Puiségur-Pouchin told eLearning Africa. “The teacher takes on the role of a guide, allowing the students to engage in more group work and self-reflection.” The e-twinning model that has been developed is flexible enough to ensure that classes in different countries can identify and develop common pedagogical approaches.

    Evaluating the efficacy of this e-twinning study is an ongoing endeavor. Continuous monitoring of how the teachers and students are handling their cross-border, intercultural knowledge exchange is the work of a team in each country. “We have had encouraging results,” says Puiségur-Pouchin. “The students are curious, motivated, and enthusiastic, and they have made notable progress in their written work, vocabulary acquisition and oral expression as well as in their independence and cooperation in group tasks.”

    Although going through the academic year with an e-twin sharing the journey has already had a myriad of benefits for the participants, there were nevertheless challenges posed by poor Internet connectivity which occasionally limited synchronicity thus making it harder for teachers to keep in touch with their colleagues. But despite these temporary set-backs, Puiségur-Pouchin says that their pilot study has proved successful so far in that the online digital diaries placed on the schools’ websites are a source of inspiration for the whole school community. “Apart from the academic benefits and improved ICT skills which the students report, there is also the open mindset and interest in other countries and cultures which is fostered.” The study is ongoing, but with these gains to date, those involved feel encouraged to continue.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Secretary-General of International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Hamadoun Touré has implored the government to cut down unnecessary taxes on ICT equipment and services that could hinder the growth of the mobile telecom sector in the future.

    Touré noted that some tax administrators have slashed some taxes off ICT equipment and the sector since they recognize the importance of ICT to the development of their countries but others still seem to take advantage of the thriving finance of the technology sector to impose heavy taxes.

    “It is encouraging to see a growing number of tax administrators recognize that ICT services are different from other services, because of their capacity to stimulate economic growth and social development.”Governments who have committed to following best-practice ICT regulation are now reducing or even eliminating some sector-specific taxes – ITU would like to see all governments follow their lead,” he said.

    He added that there was the need for the ICT and telecom sector to be encouraged to deploy advanced technologies across the globe so the world could realize the full advantage of the ‘mobile miracle’ ITU’s recent Radio Communication Assembly officially endorsed the two selected technologies that will form the basis of IMT-Advanced next generation high-speed cellular broadband.

    LTE-Advanced and Wireless MAN-Advanced both qualified as IMT-Advanced compliant, capable of supporting theoretical peak download speeds of 1 Gbit/s while stationary and 100 Mbit/s while in motion.

  • MTC has released a mixed bag of annual financial results for 2011 with revenue growing 3,2 per cent to N$1,4 billion, but profit dipping 14,2 per cent to N$319 million.

    Miguel Geraldes, MTC managing director, said the mobile operator’s shareholders have accepted lower profits for 2011 as funds have been redirected and invested back into the company. Geraldes said that MTC’s performance has been solid through 2011, as total revenue grew by 3.2 percent from 2010 to approximately N1,45 billion. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for 2011 is N$774 million, a decrease of 15 percent from 2010, where the amount was N$785 million.

    Geraldes also announced that the dividends which MTC paid to its shareholders for 2011 decreased by 4,9 per cent, or N$19 million, compared to 2010.
    The dividends paid to shareholders are lower because of the decision to re-invest in the company.

    MTC’s penetration rate has now surpassed 108 per cent of Namibia’s population and by September last year the mobile operator had well over 1,7 million subscribers. Geraldes said that MTC calculates this figure through the number of active sim cards which have been used in the last three months.

    With regard to the regulatory environment in Namibia, Geraldes said that two significant events have had an impact. The first was the establishment of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) and the second was  the decision by the Namibia Communication Commission (NCC) to intervene in retail prices set by service providers for their products.

    According to a statement from MTC, the mobile service provider “maintains that the NCC did not follow proper procedures to intervene in retail prices and that this decision will end up hurting customers and future entrants into the market.”
    The mobile operator also said that it “continues to struggle with the authorities (Windhoek Municipality) for authorisation to erect the much needed base stations (cellphone towers).

  • Algeria expects a valuation of Vimpelcom's Djezzy mobile phone unit, which it is part nationalising, to be completed by the end of March, Telecommunications Minister Moussa Benhamadi told Reuters on Tuesday.

    Vimpelcom, which acquired Djezzy as part of a $6 billion deal to buy the assets of Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom, earlier this year agreed, under pressure, to sell Algeria a 51 percent stake in the unit, which had been the most lucrative part of the Egyptian firm's business.

    Speaking at an industry event in Qatar, Benhamadi declined to say what the valuation was likely to be. Algeria said a year ago it had appointed law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP to advise it on the valuation of Djezzy.

    "We expect the end of March," Benhamadi said when asked about the completion of a valuation on the unit.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Google has added two indigenous African languages, Afrikaans and Zulu, to their social network, Google+ Google+ is available in up to 60 languages and they hope their latest move will drive users away from the  frontrunner Facebook.

    - Zimbabwean ISP Aquiva Wireless will become the latest company to launch voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony under an Internet Access Provider (IAP) licence in April

Digital Content

  • Giltedge Golf & Sport has launched a dedicated South African golf travel iPad App, which enables travellers to find the best golf locations, together with all the necessary information on hotels, game lodges and golf resorts.

    Users can also view room layouts, get detailed golf course information and pro tips, and view suggested golf and safari itineraries.

    The app is downloadable free of charge from the Apple iTunes store. Click on the following link (Giltedge Golf Travel App download) and within minutes the guide is at your fingertips.

    Giltedge Golf & Sport is part of the Giltedge Travel group of companies and offers its clients a complete, yet unique golfing safari experience both in southern Africa and abroad. Giltedge Golf & Sport also provides sports fans the opportunity to experience the world's major sporting events from premier viewing locations.

  • Neotel is currently trialing various broadband technologies with the aim of improving their broadband offerings, including LTE and fibre.

    “We are trialing various technologies including LTE, both fibre and wireless, as part of the continual improvement of broadband services to our customers,” Neotel said in response to questions about their LTE plans.

    “LTE is regarded globally as the successor technology to all current 3G technologies, including CDMA [which Neotel is currently using for their NeoFlex and NeoConnect services].”

    Neotel’s Angus Hay told MyBroadband that their trial network currently covers the Midrand area.

    Neotel joins Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and 8ta in trialing LTE, but Neotel is in the privileged position to be in possession of valuable 800MHz spectrum which is suitable for LTE deployments.

    Vodacom was the first company to trial LTE in South Africa, showing speeds exceeding 100Mbps using this technology at their Midrand campus.

    MTN currently has the largest LTE trial network with 100 live LTE sites using re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum. The company previously said that the only thing keeping them back from launching commercial services is a lack of spectrum.

    8ta is also actively trialing LTE. “As the specified upgrade path for a 3GPP network is LTE, it is prudent to consider this as an option in terms of 8.ta’s own evolutionary path,” said Amith Maharaj, senior managing executive at Telkom Mobile.

  • Gidi Traffic, Lagos motorists’ favourite traffic guide, received a nomination for a Shorty Award which honours the best short format content creators on Twitter.

    Gidi Traffic helping Lagos' traffic in Nigeria via Twitter. (image: twitter.com)Gidi Traffic is one of 399 nominees for the “Life Saving Hero” category. The bulk of the nominees are from the United States. Other entrants include New York’s Fire Department, actress Sophia Bush and US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

    Gidi Traffic started using Twitter September last year to save Lagosians petrol, stress and commuting time, easing congestion on Lagos’ roads. Users can use their Twitter handle to find information on filling stations to the nearest hospital for accident victims and which areas you should avoid.

    Gidi Traffic was invited to the March 26 award ceremony at the Time Center in the Big Apple after receiving the most African nomination votes.

    A spokesperson said: “Gidi Traffic is the only African [entrant] amongst the finalists in this category and we are proud to showcase a young and brilliant innovation from Nigeria. We see this as a huge opportunity to put Africa and Nigeria, most importantly, on the map for a positive cause.”

  • Ghana's Saya Mobile is the latest mobile chat app out of Africa. IM and chat messaging clients are incredibly popular on the continent. Applications such as 2go and mobile social networks such as MXit have raised the bar on the possibilities in the mobile and social space in Africa.

    As such, there is strong expectation for the success of the recently launched Saya Mobile in Ghana. Saya works on Java, iOS, Android and the Blackberry platforms and is a product of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST).

    The app's slogan is hip - "SMS is oldskool, Saya is the new cool" it says.

More

  • Snr 3G Rnpo Engineer - 25854

    Posted date: Thu, 8th Mar

    Location: Southern Africa

    Role: Snr 3G Radio Network Planning & Optimisation Engineer
    Location: South Africa
    Start Date: ASAP
    Length: 6 Month Renewable Contract

    Skills required:
    " 3 years NSN P&O on GERAN AND UTRAN
    " Radio planning on NSN Rel RG10 & RU20

    Responsibilities include:
    The Snr Radio Planning & Optimisation Engineer will be responsible for the design and planning of cellular radio networks (GSM/EDGE/2G/3G). This will be either as an extension to the network or as part of a network modernisation (swap) scenario. Once the network is planned and functioning accordingly, the Snr Radio Planning & Optimisation Engineer will be required to assess the network's performance and make improvement adjustments in order to optimise the performance and subscriber experience.

    Languages: English is a must (spoken and written).

    Apply on line here:

    APPLY NOW with your current CV. This is an URGENT requirement. The client will conduct INTERVIEWS IMMEDIATLEY for suitable candidates. All relevant applications will receive my INSTANT ATTENTION. For further information contact David Baker on davidbaker@pentaconsulting.com

Issue no 594 2nd March 2012

node ref id: 24291

Top story

  • For over a decade, Africa’s ICT entrepreneurs have struggled to make sense of how to innovate and make money on a continent that was largely connected to the outside world by satellite and extremely expensive fibre. Now with cheaper wholesale bandwidth and falling retail prices, the season is going from an unforgiving winter to perhaps a long Summer of Love. Russell Southwood looks at the changes afoot that are helping Africa’s ICT entrepreneurs stand a better chance of success.

    When we started Balancing Act 12 years ago, Africa’s ICT entrepreneurs were talking about a whole range of services and applications but none of the basics – like bandwidth, a critical mass of users, transaction technologies and finance – were in place. Over the last 12 months, many different things have begun to fall into place under each of these headings. Launches like Eskimi and Spinlet have turned the usual entrepreneurial road map for Africa round a different way.

    But what has been as impressive has been the growth of soft networks and hard, physical infrastructure like incubators and the way that these things have created links between Africa’s innovators and the rest of the world.

    VC4Africa started in 2007 when Ben White went to a meeting of the African Venture Capital Association in Dakar. It became clear at this meeting that its members were all focused on the “big deals” and that there was a gap in small-scale, start-up finance. As co-founder Ben White of VC4Africa told us:”Micro-finance is very limiting. It’s just too small. So there’s a missing middle between it and the big deals.”

    Rather than set out to raise that capital, White sought to create a platform that would create a community that would allow entrepreneurs to describe what they were doing (or wanted to do) and offered investors a place to come and see what was happening:”The investor can connect with a start-up in Accra but also the Ghanaian community in a city like Amsterdam might also help.”

    What started as a hobby on the Ning platform went professional as Bill Zimmerman (of ActivSpaces in Cameroon) and white came together to launch the platform. It now has 4,400 members and is still growing:”We put the focus on getting quality. New members are screened and vetted through a registration form that acts as a background check.”

    Members can post a description of their project and 2,000 of them have done so from 25 different countries. So where did most of them come from?”The top ‘usual suspects’ are Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. The latter is because of Bill Zimmerman’s work with ActivSpaces there. There have been some nice surprises like an entrepreneur in Togo and some individuals from Ethiopia.”

    What’s bad news for Europe has been good news for the continent:”The European investment community is looking at Africa because of the problems in Europe. But there’s also lots of members from the BRICs and south-south relations.”

    The impact of these kind of soft networks are hard to track but White and Zimmerman give several examples:

    •    The entrepreneur in Togo teamed up with one in Nigeria after they found they had a shared passion for education and are now developing an Android app together.

    •    Members in the community lend their expertise through mentoring. Often there are daily exchanges through e-mail.

    •    The site has connected several businesses including etsy-online and Market Fleas with international investors from the USA, France and Holland.

    •    An American software company Next2.us was able to find a Kenyan partner through the site and able to pilot and launch services, starting in August 2011.

    VC4Africa had a three year budget to be able to build a community, demonstrate how it can work and the ways in which it creates value. Going forward, its business model will be based on a Fremium model where members pay for additional services:”We’ll also be asking members that for any match made via VC4Africa that they make a 3% voluntary contribution.”

    The next big development has been the creation of physical spaces for ICT entrepreneurs. BongoHive’s Hubs in Africa  identifies 17 of these spaces that are a mix of technology hubs, business incubators, university tech labs and hacker spaces.

    Indeed, Zambia’s BongoHive is one of the latest of these spaces on a road pioneered by Nairobi’s iHub. This started last year in Lusaka after a visit to iHub and a meeting of 25 people who wanted Android capacity building. The space is in the Ministry of Education and it has set up training programmes for its members in things like Java.

    In September 2011, it got US$17,000 funding from a philanthropist called Brenda Davies for computers, testing devices and training. So the initial work was to build apps for her and VVOB, an NGO that the co-founder Lukonga Lindunda works for. As Lindunda says:”The aim was to give the developers an app to work through and to understand how to meet a deadline for specific projects.” That same month they also worked with Ushahidi on using their software to monitor elections. In December last year, Ushahidi and a Canadian developer ran an Android Boot Camp for members. The aim this year is to run a competition that will get some of the developers some recognition.

    To put the cream on the cake, three African developers were shortlisted for the Mobile Premier Awards organized by Apps Circus at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week: Ghanaian App Developer Robert Lamptey of Saya, Ugandan app developer Christine Ampaire of Mafuta Go!, and South African app developer Anne Shongwe of Moraba (see here for more).
    The winner of the Ringmasters Award (given by the organisers) was Christine Ampaire of Mafuta Go!, which is an app that helps drivers find the nearest and cheapest petrol station.

    App developer Christine Ampaire explains, “Our application was a product of a 48 hour hackathon called Garage 48. We are a group of students who are passionate about our country and the city we live in, and we wanted to address the daily struggle of rising petrol prices in our city.” Garage 48 is an Estonian organization that organizes workshops that allow developers to put a product together in 48 hours.

    The Second Open Innovation Africa Summit supported by Nokia and infoDev is taking place in Nairobi from 29-31 May 2012.

    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, Gilat Satcom
    on doing business in South Sudan
    http://www.youtube.com/user/BalancingActAfrica#p/u/9/OJQ5xr0j9Zg

telecoms

  • The Federal Government has finally approved the adoption of “guided liquidation” strategy for the privatisation of Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL) and its mobile arm, M-Tel because of the huge liabilities of both companies.

    The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had last year said government was considering a guided liquidation of the firm should the reserve bidder, Omen International, fail to pay the $105 million bid security by Friday, June 17. Omen defaulted.

    Consequently, the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), which okayed the liquidation at a meeting in Abuja, also approved that the Technical Committee (TC) and Legal Committee (LC), two standing committees of NCP, work closely to determine the modalities for handling NITEL /M-Tel’s guided liquidation.
    The NCP has further directed that all liquidators that have unresolved disputes with the BPE be excluded from the process for the appointment of a liquidator for the Nitel/Mtel transaction.

    At its last meeting on December 15, 2011, it had considered the presentations made by the management of NITEL and M-Tel on the way forward for both companies.

    To this end, the NCP had directed the managements of NITEL and M-tel to submit detailed financial reports and other relevant information on the proposals for the resuscitation of both companies to the TC of the NCP and tasked the TC to consider the submissions by NITEL/M-tel management and submit its recommendations to the next meeting of NCP.

    However, the TC recommended that "guided liquidation" should be adopted as the strategy for the privatisation of NITEL/M-Tel in view of the huge liabilities of both companies and that there was no viable financial alternative presented by the management of NITEL/M-tel.

    The NCP supported the recommendation of the TC that opted for liquidation.
    According to a statement signed by spokesman of BPE, Chukwuma Nwokoh, a copy of which was made available to ThisDay, the NCP had also observed from the NITEL/M-tel presentation that they were receiving some revenues from SAT-3 which were not fully accounted for and in respect of which there had been no audit for several years.

    The statement added: “In spite of the revenues, the management of Nitel/Mtel had been obtaining their salaries from the Federal Government of Nigeria. Consequently, the NCP directed the Sub-Committee of the Technical Committee on Information, Communication, National Facilities and Agric Resources to immediately carry out investigations and ensure that all revenues received were accounted for.”

  • To further deepen it network capacity and quality across the 36 states in Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria has launched a 3.75 G service targeted at boosting customers’ experience.

    With its 3.75 G service, the company will be empowering  customers  to have access to high speed mobile broadband and internet access, thereby empowering consumers to watch live TV, download music, make video calls as well as send and receive emails using enabled devices.

    Rajan Swaroop, Chief Executive Officer /Managing Director, who spoke at the unveiling of the product, said this is coming on the heels of its quest to delight Nigerians with more innovative and affordable telecoms offerings.

    Swaroop pointed that the innovation is timely and a direct response to the yearnings of telecommunications consumers in Nigeria where technological advancement is moving with the speed of light in line with global trends.

    “Today, we are the only operator with five different channels for data bundle activation and our 3.75G capacity is up to 42 megabytes per seconds. This is in sync with the commitment we made to Nigerians on commencement of operation not too long ago, that we shall provide our customers with mobile telecommunications services that will be innovative, affordable, delightful and impactful regardless of our customers’ class, social status or income level. We will continue to live by our commitment to becoming the most loved brand in the daily lives of Nigerians.”

    Speaking on the 3.75G network, the company said it  offers  up to 50 per cent bonus on purchase of any of its data plan bundles; free 2GB on purchase of data dongle and a free one month subscription for BlackBerry users who activate a two-month plan.

    In addition, new customers on the network will enjoy a bonus N100 airtime on any recharge from N100 and above, plus complimentary 10MB data valid for seven days.

    To activate Airtel 3.75G data speed transmission, customers are advised to send a preferred product code via SMS on their mobile device.

    Customers can also activate data bundle plans via My Airtel My Offer (MAMO) toll-free Interactive Voice Response on 141, while those who prefer the WAP or WEB route option can activate through Airtellive.com and selfcare.ng.airtel.com, respectively.

    However, Swaroop said, “the Airtel 3.75G network has coverage in all the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.”

  • THE delayed launch of MTC's 4G network hit another speed bump on Wednesday evening as the Windhoek City Council deferred a relevant item on the agenda of its monthly meeting. MTC has blamed both the municipality and the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) for the delay in the launch of its 4G network.

    MTC first applied to the City in July 2010 for the installation of underground ducts in the city's road reserves for the laying of fibre-optic cables. Another application, for laying underground fibre-optic cables to MTC's cellphone towers in Windhoek, was made on December 12 last year.

    According to the agenda for last month's City Council meeting, the council's management committee recommended that permission be granted to the municipality's transportation and information and communication technology departments to negotiate with MTC for the installation the ducts.

    However, when the matter came up for discussion, Windhoek Mayor Elaine Trepper passed it on to Agnes Kafula, the chairperson of the council's management committee. According to Kafula, more information is being gathered and the council should not decide on the application yet.

    Shortly after MTC's application to the City Council in 2010, Telecom Namibia asked the council not to allow MTC to construct its own "metro fibre ring", arguing that Telecom Namibia already has this infrastructure in place and that it can serve the needs of both MTC and the City. MTC believes that sharing the network would only be a temporary solution, as MTC would need more towers and cables to implement 4G.

    MTC managing director Miguel Geraldes informed City CEO Niilo Taapopi in a letter last month that following intervention by Prime Minister Nahas Angula, MTC and Telecom Namibia agreed that MTC would lease "dark fibres" from Telecom Namibia. Six months after the agreement was signed, this has not materialised yet.

    MTC and Cran have also been at each other's throats as the mobile service provider has blamed part of the delay in the 4G launch on Cran's unwillingness to issue MTC with a frequency and spectrum use licence.

    This too drew the attention of Angula who rapped Cran over the knuckles during the 4G trial last month, saying that MTC had invested N$225 million in 4G technology, which is now seen as a loss due to the delays.

    Angula ordered Cran to make the required frequency available to MTC, but in a statement issued last month Cran said that "spectrum is a scarce resource and in high demand, especially the potion of the spectrum which MTC applied for".

    "Spectrum that is high in demand must be efficiently managed by Cran and cannot simply be issued at an ad hoc, first-come-first-served basis. It should be defined by a well-supported and well-defined allocation and assignment strategy," Cran said, adding that it is drafting a national frequency band plan which will take into account changes in telecommunications, such as new entrants into the market.

  • Ahead of the July 5 set date for the full liberalization of Sierra Leone's international gateway and the revision of the country's telecom law, Sierratel's chairman has warned that the deregulation could lead to the shuttering of the government-owned institution.

    Addressing the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Information recently, Tom Kargbo said Sierratel is grappling with several problems, including difficulty paying staff as well as incessant cable theft. Liberalization of the international gateway would deprive Sierratel of the US$150,000 in gateway services revenue it generates monthly and compound the telco's problems, Kargbo said.

    He added that financial constraints have necessitated Sierratel's plan to cut staff from 643 to less than 200. Sierratel has had monopoly control of the international gateway and provided gateway services to other telcos such as Sierra Leone's three major GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) providers -- Airtel, Africell and Comium -- as well as ISPs (Internet service providers).

    The liberalization of the country's gateway is one of the conditions set by the World Bank for Sierra Leone's participation in the consortium of 23 countries that would connect to Europe via the ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) 17,000-kilometer fiber cable between France and South Africa.

    The communications network would be the first submarine cable to land in Sierra Leone and other African countries such as The Gambia, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania and Sao Tomé & Principe.

    In its release of the gateway deregulation timeline in January, the government stated that liberalization will safeguard open competition in the distribution of access to the ACE capacity, which is expected to be operational before the end of the year.

  • With customers of mobile phone operators having to endure a torrid experience due to poor quality of telephony communication, the government now wants service providers to connect to the national ICT backbone. According to the minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, the move along with upgrading infrastructure by the service providers would help reduce the shortcomings.

    In an exclusive interview with The Citizen on Sunday, Prof Mbarawa, expressed the government concerns that some of the mobile phone operators in the country had their infrastructure overwhelmed by the surging number of subscribers.

    “Customers experience frequent interruptions, jams and poor voice service. When a subscriber decides to use his phone, he does not want to be inconvenienced,” he said. However, the minister also conceded to the fact that the optic fibre, which is to facilitate the broadband services, had not reached every major urban centre in the country, adding that once this is completed, some of the current problems would be dealt with.

    Asked whether there was regular quality control by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) the way other nations like Uganda and Ghana were doing, Prof Mbarawa - without saying when was the last time such a measure was done – responded in the affirmative.

    “That’s one of their chief responsibilities. It also advises service providers on the measures to take whenever there is sort of a breakdown,” he said.Increasing operation snags in the country’s communication sector, just like in many African countries, deny customers optimal value for their money.  Reports put the figure of cell phone subscriptions in the continent at well above 500 million.

    Countries like Ghana and Uganda have not only been undertaking quality audits of mobile networks but also take stern measures against operators found providing poor services in the highly lucrative business.

    In Uganda recently, the state minister for ICT, Mr Nyombi Thembo, said it was defeatist for mobile phone operators to introduce new services into the market before perfecting the existing ones. According to him, there were concerns over deterioration of quality of service in the telecom industry, hence the need to fix the problems sooner than later.

    Late last year, the sectoral regulator in Ghana fined five mobile telephone operators a total of $751,990 (about Sh1.18 billion) for providing poor services to the country’s 24 million subscribers. This happened last year.  Four of the five firms have affiliations with similar service providers in Tanzania. Among the offences included dropped calls, bad network coverage, and excessive charges among other things.

  • United Arab Emirates telecommunications company Etisalat announced on Tuesday that it was boosting its capacity on Intelsat 22, to be launched next month in an effort to boost its presence in Africa.

    The Abu Dhabi-based company said in a press release that the new multi-transponder agreement will “utilize the satellite’s capacity to expand the reach of its broadband and GSM backhaul services to its customers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and central Asia.”

    “As the leading provider of connectivity in the Middle East, Etisalat will now be able to expand the reach of its broadband and GSM backhaul services to new regions across the globe,” said Ali Amiri, executive vice president of carrier and wholesale services for Etisalat. “This important agreement will provide Etisalat with the capability to meet the growing communications requirements of our customers.”

    The push into Africa has been a prime moving point for Etisalat already in early 2012. The company believes that it can offer more telecom infrastructure and mobile phone capacity in the African continent through its own offerings and expansive network that already spans three continents.

    “We continue to work closely with premier telecommunications providers like Etisalat to help them expand their global footprint,” said Jean Philippe Gillet, Intelsat’s regional vice president of sales for Europe and the Middle East. “Intelsat 22 is the first of five satellites expected to launch in 2012 that will provide additional capacity over key regions like the Middle East, Africa and Asia.”

    According to the companies joint statement, the new coverage will help boost its services in East Africa especially through the Indian Ocean, “which will blanket vital maritime and aeronautical routes.”

    In addition, Intelsat 22 will have Ku-band capacity serving the Middle East and East Africa.

internet

  • Millions of Internet users in East Africa have seen their connection speeds suffer after an undersea fibre optic cable connecting the continent to high-speed services in Europe and the Middle East were accidentally severed.

    The cable was damaged when a ship dragged its anchor across a major cable running between Djibouti and Zimbabwe, as it sailed into the Kenyan port of Mombasa on Saturday.

    The cables is owned by public-private TEAMS consortium including the Kenyan government – and could take up to three weeks to repair. Because the region is so reliant on a small number of cables – with just three major undersea lines bringing fast internet connections to the region – the outage crippled data connections in a number of East African countries.

    The Wall Street Journal says the TEAMS cable had already been seeing a larger-than-usual workload – as it was carrying the traffic which would otherwise have been carried on three smaller cables which themselves had been severed since February 17.

    In that incident, a cargo ship is thought to have dragged its anchor across a number of cables including one run by the EASSy consortium – though EASSy says the cut did not impact many of its customers, and that traffic was rerouted using ‘in-built redundancy in its network’. EASSy said one of the other two smaller cables, which were used by its customers for connections to Europe, is due to be repaired by March 12.

    The BBC says that in the meantime, the traffic from the cable has been rerouted through a third high-speed cable, the SEACOM, which runs between Europe, South Africa and India, while engineers work on repairing the two severed cables.

    However, because those buying back-up on SEACOM have not done so on a “like-for-like” basis, Internet speeds are currently much slower.

  • Walid Bahomane, an 18-year-old student, was tried behind closed doors in Rabat earlier this month on charges of Internet "piracy" and "insulting the sacred values of Morocco and the King" for posting humorous videos and cartoons, including a cartoon of the King, on Facebook.

    Apparently deciding that the case did not involve free expression, the court finally convicted him on the piracy charge alone on 16 February, sentencing him to a year in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams (1,000 euros).

    Bahomane has been held since 24 January, when the police "seized two Facebook pages (sic) containing phrases and images that insulted sacred values, and an IBM computer." This young netizen is appealing against his conviction but no date has been set for a hearing.

    Another student, Abdelsamad Haydour, 24, was convicted in a summary trial behind closed doors in the northern city of Taza on 13 February for criticizing the king in a video posted on YouTube. The court sentenced him to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams on a charge of "attacking the nation's sacred values."

    In the 4-minute video, filmed during a demonstration in Taza, Haydour lambasted the regime and described the king as a "dog of a dictator." He was not allowed access to a lawyer of his choice and the court did not assign one to defend him during the trial.

    Mohamed El Boukili, a member of the Moroccan Human Rights Association's administrative committee, told Reporters Without Borders that irregularities marked both trials. Both Bahomane and Haydour signed statements without their lawyer being present and after being held in custody and harassed by the police.

    "Such procedures are unfortunately the norm in Morocco and, in cases involving the king's sacred status, prosecutions end only too often in prison sentences," El Boukili told Reporters Without Borders.

    Reporters Without Borders has also noted a surge in pro-government cyber-activism on the Moroccan Internet. A group calling itself Kingdom Moroccan Attack keeps hacking into the Facebook pages and email accounts of independent journalists and members of the opposition 20 February Movement.

    Pro-government disinformation and propaganda campaigns are also being waged online. According to the VoxMaroc blog, some of these campaigns are being steered by the cyber-police, who also have very sophisticated Internet surveillance tools. One of these is a spy programme provided by the French company Amesys.

  • Angola is set to become Africa's first country to have a commercial next-generation long-term evolution (LTE) mobile network. Chinese makers of telecoms equipment Huawei and ZTE have worked with Angolan telecommunications firm Movicel to develop an LTE network in Luanda, a key crude oil province.

    Huawei officials say the network is to come online by the end of May, and it could potentially bring Internet download speeds of up to 100Mbps in that region to those with LTE-enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

    Mobile operator MTN has been testing LTE services in SA, but Angola's Movicel would be the first telco in Africa to offer the next-generation network as a commercial service.

    Angola is Africa's second-biggest oil producer after Nigeria, and it is also the second-largest crude supplier to China after Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters. Furthermore, Angola is China's largest trading partner in Africa, with business between the two nations having exceeded $18.6 billion in 2011, said the Forum on China Africa Co-operation in a report.

    The partnership between the two countries, which has resulted in Angola soon having the continent's first LTE network, is another sign of how Asia's economic giant is helping African countries develop sectors such as telecommunications in exchange for natural resources, says an expert.

    “I think the Chinese are pretty active in Angola in general and, if you know what they do in all African countries, is they provide tight financing and things like that in exchange for rights to resources,” said Brian Neilson, a research director at BMI-TechKnowledge.

    Angola has a booming mobile telecommunications market too, as a Frost & Sullivan report last year said mobile telecommunications revenue in the country is forecast to almost double from $8.8 billion in 2010, to $15.2 billion in 2015. Frost & Sullivan also said mobile phone usage rates are at 57% of the country's population.

    However, demand for LTE-enabled mobile phones or devices in Angola might not initially be high, says Neilson. Most people in the country are probably more likely to own a basic handset rather than the more expensive next-generation phones, as more than half of the country's population lives under the poverty line, according to the United Nations.

    Nevertheless, all telecommunications companies in Africa are still looking to next-generation services such as LTE to boost their revenues, says Dobek Pater, a telecoms expert for Africa Analysis.

    “Most operators in Africa, especially larger operators in Africa... have been looking at LTE as a technology growth path, because it offers a lot more, especially in terms of its ability to deliver quality of service,” said Pater.

    Huawei, in particular, has a strong position in the wireless communication technology sector in Africa.

    It has an estimated share of 29% of the GPRS base transceiver stations market in Africa, second to Ericsson's 38%, according to Informa Telecom research. The research further says that ZTE is the fifth largest player in this market in Africa, behind Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent, with a market share of 13%,

  • For the first time South African learners and schools will be able to compete in the World Education Games taking place from 6-8 March 2012.

    Individual learners or classes will be able to test their spelling, maths and science skills and compete in live challenges in real time against learners from all over the world using the online World Education Games website.

    Sydney in Australia has been selected to host this year's event which will involve 5.5 million students from over 200 countries.

    "Following the local success of the SA Maths Challenge and World Maths Day, 3P Learning is excited to bring the additional spelling and science challenges to local learners and schools," says Rob Masefield, general manager of 3P Learning. "It is always great to see learners of all ages, backgrounds and abilities having the opportunity to improve the speed and accuracy of subjects in a fun, interactive way."

    Registered learners between the ages of four and 18 already have the opportunity to start practising. "The practice rounds are aimed at getting participants excited about learning and the upcoming challenge and to also give students in each school an opportunity to see how they measure up against the best," says Masefield. World Spelling Day will take place on 6 March, World Maths Day on 7 March, and World Science Day on 8 March.

    On World Maths Day, students progress through five levels of difficulty in arithmetic and mental computation, and earn one point for every correct answer. Similarly, on World Spelling Day learners progress through five levels of difficulty based upon word complexity and context, earning one point for every correct answer. World Science Day is slightly different with three levels of difficulty within each challenge. The easier knowledge questions are worth one point, and the harder application and reasoning questions worth two or three points.

    "The questions within each challenge take a unique and provocative approach to science, designed to foster curiosity and excitement, while helping students improve their ability to answer knowledge, application and reasoning questions," adds Masefield.

    South Africa has appointed three 2012 World Education Games Ambassadors - Omar Akoob from the Metropolitan Raucall School in Gauteng, Ansoné Lombard from the Bloemhof School in Stellenbosch, and Dean Schmidt from Fourways High School in Gauteng. They will be representing South Africa on the world stage leading up to and during the challenge, promoting the values and spirit of the events in our country.

computing

  • The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform recently donated Macbooks and other ICT equipment to Gaopotlake High in Mokgalwaneng as part of a project to bring the best available technology and practical skills to schools.

    The school, situated about 100 km from Rustenburg in the North West, has approximately 585 learners - 290 in Grade 10, 212 in Grade 11 and 83 in Grade 12. It recieved 12 Apple Macbooks, 14 Nikon Cameras, an adapter and video camera. A total of R570 000 has been used to fund the project.

    The neighbouring schools will also benefit from the donation because they will have access to the equipment.

    In a statement, the department said it was important to introduce the iSchoolAfrica project to high schools as learners were getting ready for tertiary institutions and this would help with their career choices.

    There are 14 iSchools sponsored by the department in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.

    The project assists with the integration of technology into classrooms. Facilitators work with the respective schools for a duration of three years, guiding them on methodology and on using the Macbooks as tools to assist with curriculum delivery.

    The department said teachers and learners are introduced to ICT in a motivating way. Learners develop creative and critical thinking skills, essential for effective and meaningful participation in daily life.

    "The critical piece of hardware is the Macbooks, Apple's special-purpose education laptop. These Macbooks come preloaded with the I-Life suite of applications, allowing learners to make movies, music, and websites.

    "The focus of the programme is learning and teaching... However, language proves a challenge as most projects are not created in the vernacular," said the department.

    The equipment is kept in a secure, mobile case. The mobile case is a way of deploying scarce resources and can be moved from classroom to classroom, ensuring integration into subject teaching and learning.

  • With the fast growing access to ICT facilities, it has been disclosed that exposure of pupils to online competitions, will improve their performance in mathematics, spelling and other science-related subjects.

    The Proprietor, Ladybird Nursery and Primary School, Dr. Solo Amahoetu urged stakeholders and the government to assist in providing ICT facilities to schools, especially public schools as this will further facilitate learning among children.

    “Access to ICT facilities has created a platform for Ladybird pupils to compare their intelligence with other pupils who live in other parts of the world,” Amahoetu said.

    He made the disclosure during a press conference organized by the school to intimate the public about the World Education Games slated for March. He pointed that the school in realization of the relevance of ICT facilities to education, has invested in ICT, adding that it has impacted on the children.

    To encourage  public school pupils who lack the infrastructure to participate in such competitions, Ladybird Nursery and Primary School donated five laptops with 24 hours internet connection to National Primary School and also enrolled 50 pupils of the school in the 3P Learning Mathematics programme.

  • The Chief Executive of Birim North District in Ghana Mavis Ama Frimpong has revealed that the Assembly would be organizing ICT training for persons with disabilities.

    She said the training was in connection with Vice President John Dramani Mahama’s initiative to support persons with disabilities to have knowledge in ICT to enhance their knowledge.

    She said the assembly would also organize a non-formal education program in sign language for those who have their hearing impaired without any formal education to be able help to communicate with others and would work with telecom operators to better assist those in need of assistance.

    This is in line with the “better Ghana agenda” which is not only for developmental projects but also to care for persons with disabilities.

    Frimpong said, out of the GH¢82,105 allocated to the persons with disabilities in her district, only GH¢56,200 had been disbursed and therefore called on others to join the Association so that they could also benefit from the fund.

    She also urged people with disability to be ambassadors for peace in the upcoming election in the country.

  • Within the past year, more than 2,000 websites have been hacked. Kenya has signed a deal with a United Nations agency to boost the country's efforts in enhancing cyber-security.

    In a memorandum of understanding signed in Geneva last week by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Communications Commission of Kenya, the UN agency pledged to boost Kenya's cyber-security with budgetary and staff support.

    This will see establishment of the Kenya National Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (KE-CIRT), a platform for coordinating responses to cyber-security incidents in the country.

    The ITU will bear 30 per cent of the total cost of establishing and running the centre while CCK will raise the remaining 70 per cent.

    "The ITU will provide staff resources for coordination and management of the project and will be responsible for its overall management, implementation, supervision, monitoring, coordination, evaluation and hand-over to the commission after six months," said Francis Wangusi, Acting CCK director-general in a press release.

  • Hewlett-Packard, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Kenya's Ministry of Public Health have completed the rollout of a series of data centers to connect laboratories and health centers as well as to support disaster-recovery efforts.

    Under HP's Early Infant Diagnosis project, the partnership has set up five data centers that will have the computing and storage power to connect more than 1,500 health facilities and 20,000 health-care workers in Kenya and are designed to have an impact on the lives of infants.

    The centers will be instrumental in the digitization of government information such as data in the district health information system, which facilitates evaluation of public health performance, including vaccination coverage and mortality rate prevention for children under 5.

    "The data center will facilitate provision of life-saving care to infants, accelerating access to life-saving technologies and helping the government build the capacity required for high-quality care and treatment programs," said Ken Mbwaya, managing director of HP East Africa.

    Mbwaya said that the data centers will have HP Generation Seven servers and core switches, allowing connectivity to all types of networks, internal and external, and HP ProCurve switches to improve the LAN at Afya House (the Public Health Ministry headquarters). In addition, Fibre Channel storage will allow for storage that is separate from the servers and will support other, previously existing servers. Tape backup systems will allow for automated backups.

    "This data center is unprecedented in the history of the Health Ministry and represents the biggest investment in IT to date; as technology improves, so does the quality of life, therefore the ministry is willing to embrace technological advancements that will help improve the health sector," said Mark Bor, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Health.

    The data centers are expected to support other government ministries as well. The data centers already house key routing infrastructure for the country's integrated finance management information systems (IFMIS), which are run by the Ministry of Finance.

    The project is expected to have a major impact on HIV testing, after students from Strathmore University developed software and a database to allow blood sample results to be processed faster.

    "Instead of waiting for results to arrive by courier, doctors receive results via a text message sent to SMS [Short Message Service]/GSM [Global System for Mobile Communications]-enabled HP printers located throughout rural areas," added Mbwaya. "Results can arrive in just a few days, which means infants can receive lifesaving treatment in good time."

    The project is expected to strengthen other existing infrastructure around the Ministry of Public Health, in order to fully integrate with the data center infrastructure.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • KT Corporation may cut the price of an offer to buy a stake in Telkom South Africa Ltd. (TKG) or abandon the 3.8 billion rand ($505 million) transaction, Absa Asset Management and MMI Asset Management said.

    Telkom, Africa’s largest fixed-line phone company, and South Korea’s largest phone and Internet company, said on Oct. 14 that Seongnam-based KT offered 36.06 rand a share for 20 percent of Pretoria-based Telkom. Telkom has dropped more than a fifth to its lowest in eight years since announcing the talks as it faces an antitrust fine of as much as 3.25 billion rand.

    “The market is bracing itself for maximum damage,” Chris Gilmour, who helps manage the equivalent of $1 billion at Johannesburg-based Absa Asset Management, said by phone yesterday. The money manager doesn’t own Telkom stock. KT “might want to reduce the price and even opt out of the deal.”

    Telkom needs a partner to fight increasing competition that has cut profit excluding one-time items every year since 2006 while a deal provides a growth opportunity in Africa for KT. Telkom and KT declined to comment to e-mailed requests for comment from Bloomberg News. The companies are exploring areas of strategic and business cooperation, Telkom said on Jan. 27.
    State Control

    The Public Investment Corp., the state-owned South African money manager and Telkom’s second-largest shareholder with 10.9 percent, said on Oct. 18 it supports the deal. South Africa’s government owns a further 39.8 percent of Telkom.

    “The declining Telkom share indicates the market doesn’t think KT will pay the full price,” Wayne McCurrie, a fund manager at Johannesburg-based MMI Asset Management (MMI), said on Feb. 27. MMI holds 227,000 shares, or less than 0.1 percent of Telkom, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

    Telkom is facing charges of abuse of market dominance and anti-competitive practice by charging excessive prices for services to other industry participants before the Pretoria- based Competition Tribunal. The company has denied the charges at hearings started in 2009.

    The Competition Commission, which makes recommendations to the Competition Tribunal, asked for the maximum fine of 10 percent of Telkom’s annual revenue. While denying the charges, Telkom said in closing arguments at hearings during the second week of February that an appropriate fine would be 27.3 million rand, according to transcripts e-mailed by the Competition Tribunal. Judgment on the matter is pending.

    “That Telkom offered to pay a certain amount of the fine can be seen as an implicit admission of guilt,” said Khulekani Dlamini, head of research at Cape Town-based Afena Capital, which manages 18 billion rand and doesn’t own Telkom stock.

    Telkom needs the deal to break the state’s grip, he said. Under the proposed transaction, Telkom will sell new shares to KT, diluting existing shareholders, while jobs won’t be cut .

    “Controlled by the government, this is not a company with a lot of flexibility,” said Dlamini. “It can’t get rid of things and employees it no longer needs.”

    Telkom dropped 2 percent to 25.84 rand at the close in Johannesburg, its lowest since Nov. 5, 2003. The fall extended its decline this year to 11 percent. Vodacom Group Ltd. (VOD), the largest provider of mobile services to South Africans, has gained 16 percent. Telkom in 2010 started its 8ta mobile-phone company after selling its controlling Vodacom stake to Vodafone Group Plc. (VOD)

    “The share share has been falling under the weight of the many negative permutations around the company, including the possibility that the Koreans can pull out, which would be a sign of a lack of confidence,” said Dlamini. The outlook for earnings isn’t improving even though Telkom controls most of the South African fixed-line market, he

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Angola's privately-owned Unitel mobile phone operator has expanded its voice roaming and data services to six more countries from various continents: Gabon, including Australia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pharaoh Islands and Qatar.

Digital Content

  • Popular music crooner, Flavour had his twitter account hacked last week by unknown hackers.

    The hacker who tweeted from the twitter handle of the artist @flavournabania claimed that he had been in possession of the password of the account for a while. Also, from a series of more tweets, he promised that he will also hack the accounts of 2face, D’banj, Banky W, Don Jazzy and many more popular celebrities.

  • Where do the most game-changing innovations occur? Sometimes, they don't germinate in the executive boardroom but rather in a small company or even a garage. Think back to the humble beginnings of Apple's Macintosh.

    The African Development Bank (AfDB) is looking to galvanize Tunisia's entrepreneurial ecosystem with a particular focus on small IT businesses in its latest initiative to establish the Tunsian Start-Up Index (TSi). Today, in partnership with Elgazala Technopark, a workshop was conducted in which scores of Tunisian start-ups were introduced to the concept of TSi and its registration procedures.

    There are over 100 IT start ups in Tunisia, and this move by the AfDB follows the example of previously instituted start-up indices in South Africa and Malaysia, which have also been hotbeds for IT innovation.

    The Start-Up Index essentially serves as an interactive media platform in which the progress of Tunisian start-up companies will be regularly assessed, and the resulting information made public. This is of particular importance because it, "assists with creating investment visibility for start-up companies based on consistent measurements and criteria," according to the workshop's introduction of the concept of TSi.

    Visibility on the global IT market is necessary primarily for financing reasons. Venture capitalists, private equity firms, and angel investors, for example, may look to the TSi to glean critical information on the most dynamic IT start ups and then make investment decisions accordingly.

    Yasser Bououd, manager of Ezzayra, a software start up whose products aim to streamline agricultural management, emphasized the importance of visibility for his own company. Bououd, along with his co-developers, have successfully created mobile technology that allows one to control irrigation from a cellular phone. However, he entertains high hopes for another of Ezzayra's products. An integrated software system that manages agricultural inventory, labor, and operations could help Ezzayra carve its own niche in the global IT market.

    According to Bououd, analytic accounting technology of this variety does not exist in the field of agriculture worldwide. Bououd expressed his excitement for the greater visibility that this particular product of Ezzayra could potentially enjoy with the advent of the TSi.

    However, issues related to financing loom in the mind of Hamadi Gara, technical director and associate of Trading 3C. He along with his three associates - Chiheb Trabelsi, Hatem Zribi, and Imen Bokri - have already established Trading 3C, a start up that accesses local markets on behalf of call centers in Europe. Additionally, he is looking to start a second project - Ultrasweb - which will develop sites and provide technical support at one-third the rate of its counterparts in Europe. While they have already made contact with, potential clients in Europe, through an intermediary, they need financing to turn the idea of Ultrasweb into reality. According to Gara, it will be tougher to do so without the forthcoming establishment of the TSi.

    The TSi has the potential to be of added value to the Tunisian government as well. "The TSi is good for Tunisia's government because it is worried of joblessness. There are so many young people with ideas, but they lack the infrastructure to promote them," said an AfDB official, who asked to remain off the record.

More

  • David King new CEO for power management systems specialist Flexenclosure
     
    Telecom industry veteran David King has been appointed new CEO for Flexenclosure, a specialist provider of intelligent power management solutions for base stations. King will lead Flexenclosure through its rapid international expansion, after the company’s recent market breakthrough for its ‘next generation’ green energy solutions.

  • ‘Microsoft Imagine Cup software competition’

    The deadline to register for the annual Imagine Cup student technology competition is 13 March 2012, 23:59:59 GMT. Students are to register in one of eight categories including Software Design; Game Design (Xbox/Phone); Game Design (Phone); IT Challenge; Kinect Fun Labs Challenge; Windows Metro Style App Challenge; Windows Azure Challenge; and Windows Phone Challenge.

    Participants in Imagine Cup stand to win cash prizes and grants; and each Worldwide Finalist and one Mentor per team will be awarded a trip to Sydney, Australia to compete in the Worldwide Finals in July 2012.

    To mark the official launch of this year’s competition in Nigeria, a kick-off event will be held on March 6th in partnership with Rivers State Government and other stakeholders.

    To find out more click here:

Issue no 593 24th February 2012

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Top story

  • In August 2011, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officially issued guidelines for mobile money services that will serve as the legal framework for the future rollout of mobile money services in the country. It is a laudable step forward for a country that has one of the lowest GDP per capita in Africa and a banking sector that is as shallow as a paddling pool. Following conversations with various stakeholders, Isabelle Gross reports on how mobile money services have been so far rolled out

    The guidelines for mobile money services issued by CBL prescribe a “financial institution-led model whereby money mobile services are provided only by financial institutions and their agents”. CBL has favoured a “bank centric” model versus a “mobile centric” model or a “neutral/agnostic” model. The success of the former model has yet to be demonstrated while the mobile centric model has been successfully rolled out in several African countries. Of course, the case of Kenya springs straight into everybody mind. According to CBL’s guidelines, the local mobile operators are mere transmission pipes. It is sad that CBL doesn’t understand where the real dynamic and innovations lie when it comes to mobile money services. It is definitely not with African banks.

    Since the publication of the guidelines, two banks have announced partnerships with mobile operators: United Bank of Africa with Cellcom and Ecobank with MTN/Lonestar. Last year in September, the latter couple rolled out commercial services. So far, how has the mobile money model prescribed by CBL been implemented? According to a discussion with an Ecobank’s representative, the mobile money services offered by Ecobank and MTN/Lonestar runs entirely on the MTN Money platform which the mobile operator has already rolled out in several of its other African operations. It looks like that there is a big gap between the principle of a bank centric model and what is really being developed on the ground. It is not Ecobank that “runs the show” but MTN/Lonestar. Beside the contradiction between what is written on paper and what’s happening in reality, there is further a lesson for CBL, the banking regulator which prescribed a business model for mobile money services that totally ignored the underlying factors that made mobile money services a success in other African countries. 

    As of February 2012, they had 50,000 registered users to the mobile money services. If you start to drill down further and assume that between 5% and 10% of the registered users actually use the service this comes to between 5,000 and 10,000 users. If your drill down even further and assume that among the mobile subscribers that have used the service, there are about 10% among them that use the service on a regular basis that equates to between 500 and 1,000 regular users. MTN/Lonestar claims to have about 800,000 mobile subscribers and thus regular mobile money users represent less than 0.1% of its subscriber base. Of course, it is early days but to just reach 1% would mean a ten fold increase in the number of regular users. This will require a considerable financial investment in awareness and marketing campaigns. There is a long way to go before reaching any critical mass in Liberia.
    Not everything is bad in CBL’s guidelines for mobile money services. The guidelines prescribe a “many to many model which allows several banks and several GSM companies to entertain each other’s customers”. Exclusive partnership or monopolies are explicitly prohibited by CBL. This principle is a first step towards interoperability between mobile money services and it is a good thing. It has further the potential to boost the financial viability of rolling out mobile money services in a very small country. Liberia’s total population is around 4 million and the addressable market for mobile money services (above 15 years old) is roughly about 2.5 million. Any entity that wants to launch a mobile money service has to bear in mind this last figure if it wants to roll out a sustainable business. 

    Interoperability between mobile money systems is inevitable and it will further boost the adoption of mobile money services. The question is more how soon it will come. In Liberia, in principle, when a second mobile payment service will launch, it would be allowed to interconnect with the existing mobile money service operated by Ecobank and MTN/Lonestar as stipulated by the “many to many model”. So, CBL has to prepare itself to having to take some tough decisions in the future if it wants to stick to the principles that it stated in its guidelines for mobile money services.

    Are mobile money services doomed in Liberia? Not necessarily, if CBL acknowledges that successful mobile money services have been driven by mobile operators rather than by banks. It is all about reaching the unbanked population to allow it integrate into a more formal transfer and banking system. The overall economy will benefit from it too because moving money via a mobile phone is fast, reliable and cheap

     

    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:

    Data centres and managed services

    Jonathan Tawiah, CEO, Ostec on providing managed services in West Africa


    Le Cloud en Afrique selon Hedera Tech (en francais)

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel on data centres in Benin

    Services that drive data centre use - M-Money

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on how Uganda’s Lake Victoria fishermen and the truckers who buy from them use m-money services

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay on the up-take and use of Z-Pesa in Tanzania

    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on integrating other day-to-day tools into into its m-money platform ELMA

telecoms

  • Transport, Works, Supply and Communication Minister Yamfwa Mukanga has urged Airtel Zambia to consider reducing the cost of making calls on their network so that Zambians can use their phones for business purposes and not for mere luxury.

    Mukanga said Airtel should strive to reach a level where all Zambians are able to make business calls on this network thereby using the phones as necessities to improve their living standards. He said government would want the mobile service provider to invest more in technology so that calls can be cheaper for Zambians.

    He noted that government has reduced the cost of doing business in Zambia and therefore expects service providers to do the same so that the benefits can trickle down to the common Zambians who use phones every day.

    The Minister was speaking shortly after he toured Airtel head office to familiarise himself with the operations of the giant telecommunication service provider. Mukanga stated that government will welcome all investors who will do businesses that are aimed at benefiting Zambians and urged the company to improve the conditions of service for its employees.

    And Airtel Managing Director Fayaz King emphasised the importance of ICT advancement his company has made to improve the quality of service delivery to its clients.

    Fayaz said ICT in mobile communication have significantly transformed the lives of people adding that his company believes in improvement of every person’s quality of life.

    He noted that there was a positive correlation between investment in ICTs and economic growth saying his company will continue investing in ICT and work closely with government to improve people’s lives.

    Airtel recently undertook a 3.75G network roll out, an investment which is expected to contribute to the country’s economic growth by increasing efficiency, productivity and reduce the cost of doing business.

  • Egypt’s Orascom Telecom said it will give shareholders most of the $1 billion it is gaining in its recent deal with France Telecom announced this week.

    The recent deal includes the majority of remaining shares of Mobinil to be purchased by France Telecom. Mobinil will retain some five percent of the company, as under Egyptian law, a foreign company cannot own 100 percent of a company, a Mobinil official told Bikyamasr.com on Wednesday evening.

    “We expect a big portion of that will be given out to our shareholders as dividends, and we will keep the money we need for specific business development opportunities, which are not very clear for now,” said Khaled Bishara, Chief Executive of Orascom.

    He also added that Mobinil will still be operated by them through a contract. Bishara explained that after the sale, Mobinil would still retain more localized representation than the country’s two other mobile service operators, Vodafone and Etisalat.

    The deal was reportedly worth some $2 billion.

  • The government has blocked a bid by Econet Wireless to install a fibre optic cable linking Zimbabwe to high-speed undersea cables in Mozambique.

    Transport and Communications minister Nicholas Goche told reporters recently that the service was already being provided by Econet competitor and State-run TelOne. Government policy is that service providers must not compete for the provision of infrastructure, but on the provision of services, Goche said.

    It is also government policy that the public sector must provide infrastructure such as national backbone and that mobile cellular companies ride on the infrastructure. That service is already being provided by

    TelOne, which is connected to the undersea cables in Mozambique. Therefore, it would not have made business sense to have another company providing the same service, according to the Minister. But Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa said the move was not part of government ICT policy.

    Goche urged the country’s three mobile phone operators Econet, NetOne and Telecel to consider sharing infrastructure such as base stations. Goche also said a strategic partnership deal between MTN and TelOne was still under discussion.

  • Telecom Egypt expects to maintain its profitability this year as it presses ahead with cost cuts and business clients look again at investing after a turbulent 2011, company executives said on Thursday.

    Telecom Egypt reported fourth-quarter net profit of 584 million Egyptian pounds, up 0.5 percent from a year earlier according to Reuters calculations.

    Revenues, hit by slower business activity, weaker household incomes and depressed tourism, were down 3.2 percent in the full year at 9.9 billion pounds.

    But annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 46 percent of sales, more than expected by analysts such as Mohamed Helmy at CIBC brokerage.

    "We are positive overall on these results," he said, rating Telecom Egypt a "buy". "The EBITDA margin was almost flat despite higher salaries and call connection costs... Their cost optimisation programme has been very successful."

    Telecom Egypt's main fixed-line retail business has been slowing and the company is trying to keep profits growing by focusing on new broadband and wholesale services, getting more income from existing customers and a venture with Vodafone, which is Egypt's biggest mobile operator.

    It lowered non-payroll operating expenditure by 148 million pounds in 2011 and expects similar reductions this year and next.

    Chief Executive Tarek Aboualam said business customers who suffered in 2011 when Egypt's economy was struck by a political crisis had decided in the last quarter that they could not continue waiting for a rebound in the country's fortunes.

    "Maybe we have reached the bottom. But we cannot say that the last two months were different to the last quarter ... in the business sector," Aboualam told Reuters.

    Net income in 2011 was held back by a higher corporate tax rate, but the company played down prospects for any sharp increase in profits this year.

    Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy said management expected flat revenue in 2012 and "to still maintain our EBITDA margin within the mid-40s range and for capital expenditure we will be spending 1-1.2 billion Egyptian pounds".

    Capital spending in 2011 was 689 million pounds. EBITDA was 4.55 billion pounds in 2011, down 2.4 percent from a year earlier, the company said in a statement.

    The company is sitting on record amounts of cash and is looking to acquire a licence to operating a virtual mobile network in Egypt, but is waiting for the industry regulator to issue the licence terms.

    "They declared they are working on it and theoretically we should see something coming out from them by the end of Q1. We will study it and follow this opportunity," said Aboualam

  • More than 7.5 million mobile phone numbers in Ghana are likely to be deactivated come March 3, 2012, the legally set date by which all SIM cards in country should have been registered.

    The latest Summary of Data Verification for the SIM registration, available from the National Communication Authority (NCA), indicates that as at February 6, 2012, 5,580,875 various identity cards presented for SIM registration were rendered invalid.

    Meanwhile there is another 1,457,858 cards that have been submitted but are yet to be verified by the respective agencies such as the Passport Office, Electoral Commission (EC), Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), and the National Identification Authority (NIA).

    Again the NCA has confirmed that as at January 16, 2012 the total number of data submitted for verification stood at 22,708,716, which the NCA said was 98% of the total number of mobile subscriptions in Ghana; so the remaining two per cent, which is about 463,443 subscriptions have not even bothered to register.

    So in total, 5,580,875 plus 1,457,858 plus 463,443, which is equal to 7,502,176 (33%) mobile subscriptions face possible deactivation come March 3, 2012, some through no fault of theirs.

    Out of the total, which face deactivation, 3,048,242 are MTN numbers; 2,066,301 are Vodafone numbers; 936,143 are Tigo numbers; 924,216 are Airtel numbers, and the remaining 56,355 are Expresso numbers.

    The data also shows as at January 16, 2012, MTN had submitted 9,162,599 registration data for verification; Vodafone came second with 5,425,911 submissions, Tigo came third with 4,821,288 submissions, followed by Airtel with 3,103,779 submissions and Expresso followed with 195,139 submissions.

    The NCA has recently stated in a press release it would not extend the March 3, 2012 legally mandated deadline, no matter what. It has therefore asked the telecom operators to follow up with their subscribers whose registrations have been declared invalid to go regularise their registration or they would be deactivated on March 3, 2012.

    But the telecom operators have argued that, in as much as they are ready to deactivate the 463,443 subscriptions, whose owners have not bothered to register, and of those whose ID cards were actually found to be fake, they have a difficulty deactivating those whose registration may have been made invalid due to human error at either the registration or manual verification point.

    In several meetings between the NCA and telecom CEO’s, the latter have argued that they have managed to get back to several of the subscribers to go regularise their registration but those subscribers submitted the same identification cards and particulars, which were declared invalid during the manual verification at the various agencies.

    The telecom operators provided a common short code, 400, to which all subscribers on every network are required to send a blank text message and receive a reply that would indicate whether one’s SIM card is registered or not.

    The telecom operators have also pointed to a situation where several subscribers are likely to take legal action against the operators for deactivating them because those subscribers might have submitted valid and genuine particulars for registration, which might have been declared invalid due to human error during the verification process.

    Adom News is reliably informed that the whole verification process is nothing more than a group of people hired by the NCA and placed at premises of the various identification agencies to do a manual check of IDs people submitted against the hand-written records in those agencies.

    Information reaching Adom News, for instance, indicates that, at a particular agency, those doing the verification sit under trees because there is no space in the offices for them, and they work under very lax conditions, which creates room for human error.

    An official in charge of the verification process at one of the agencies said on grounds of anonymity “I have stopped going to the office because this whole process is not working – it is not very efficient – we are kidding ourselves.”

    But the NCA insist most of the problem came from registration agents who work for the operators, saying most of those agents registered persons without valid IDs and with fake IDs.

    Some NCA Board members are said to have insisted “this is a national exercise and we will not allow foreigners (the telecom operators) to dictate to us on this.” The NCA bosses have also said they are ready to meet anybody in court if any deactivated subscriber feels aggrieved and takes legal action.

    Meanwhile the NCA is said to be installing some automated verification equipment in the course of this month, to help do verification quickly and more efficiently and get the actual invalid registrations ready before March 3, 2012.

    This move by the NCA is being interpreted to mean the NCA itself acknowledges there are flaws in the current manual verification process, and yet it insists on the telecom operators deactivating subscribers based on an admittedly deficient verification process.

    Meanwhile the technical guys at the telecom companies say that automated equipment need to be tested to ensure the results it generates are reliable, and that takes time, but the NCA seem to gloss over that as well.

    So as things stand now, 14,521,639 Voters’ ID have been submitted to the EC for verification, and 14,401,259 have been verified, out of which 12,508,613 (86.9%) were valid and 1,892,646 (13.1%) were invalid; the remaining 120,380 are yet to be verified.

    For NHIS card, so far 4,281,852 have been submitted to the NHIA for verification, and 4,053,884 have been verified, out of which 2,105,070 (51.9%) were valid and 1,948,814 (48.1%) were invalid; some 227,968 are yet to be verified.

    In the case of Passports, 1,415,869 have been submitted to the Passport Office for verification so far, and 1,222,619 have been verified; out of which 509,830 (41.7%) were valid, and 712,789 (58.3%) were invalid; the remaining 193,250 are yet to be looked at.

    So far 1,406,555 Drivers’ License are with the DVLA for verification, and they have verified all of them, but only 452,875 (32.2%) were valid, and a whopping 953,680 (67.8%) were invalid.

    Finally, 1,090,277 National ID Cards have been submitted to the NIA for verification and they have verified only 174,017, out of which 101,071 (58.1%) were valid, and 72,946 (41.9) were invalid; and an overwhelming 916,260 have not been verified yet, and all those people face deactivation through no fault of theirs.

    But the opportunity still remains for subscribers to check if their SIM card is registered by sending a blank message to short code 400 on all networks.

  • Econet Wireless is seeking at least $3.1 billion in damages from Bharti Airtel in a dispute over ownership of its subsidiary Airtel Nigeria, according to a suit filed on Wednesday.

    The move follows a Nigerian court ruling on January 30 that Bharti Airtel's ownership of its subsidiary Airtel Nigeria is "null and void" because co-founder and 5 percent shareholder Econet was not consulted on the transfer.

    South Africa-based Econet Wireless is disputing the Indian company's ownership of one of its top Africa operations.

    Bharti said last month that its stake in its Nigerian unit was "completely safe" and that the world's fifth-biggest mobile phone carrier by subscribers had appealed against the verdict.

    "The claim for damages and equitable compensation against the Applicant and some of the Respondents might be in excess of $3 Billion," the document filed to the court said.

    "The above estimated damages might also be in addition to a claim for $100 Million received by the Applicant as fees for the management of VNL (Vee Networks Limited, a former name of Airtel) for a period of 6 years which sum should have accrued."

    Bharti Airtel inherited the legal case as part of a $9 billion acquisition of Zain's Africa operations in 2010, including 65 percent of Zain Nigeria. The basis of Econet's claim is that its 5 percent stake was unfairly cancelled when Zain took control, so any decision made since then without it, including the transfer to Bharti, is void. The Nigerian court upheld that claim. Nigeria contributes about 9.5 percent to Bharti's consolidated operational profits, the company says.

    Econet disputed the buyout of Airtel's stake from Zain Nigeria in 2010 because its right of first refusal over the stake was denied, in a dispute that had been ongoing since 2003, when the same assets were first sold to Vee Networks.

  • Calling rates could rise to a minimum of Sh4.42, if a request by Orange-Telkom to the government to set a minimum calling rate is heeded. The company wants to set the minimum rates to shield mobile phone companies from revenue losses.

    The rate, Orange-Telkom CEO Michael Ghossein said, should be double the mobile termination rate. At the current mobile termination rate -- the amount an operator pays if subscribers call another network -- of Sh2.21, the minimum price should be Sh4.42 per minute.

    "If we don't do this, we will kill the industry," Mr Ghossein said. He was speaking on Tuesday during the launch of the Angukia loyalty product.

    Currently Safaricom and Orange have the highest off-net calling rates at Sh4.00 per minute. Airtel and YuMobile charge Sh3.00 per minute. With Sh2.21 paid to the terminating company, the operator is left with less than 80 cents in revenue.

    In 2010, the Government slashed termination charges by 50 per cent from Sh4.42. Lower rates have favoured smaller firms whose subscribers make most of the off-net calls, while eating into a revenue stream for the bigger companies.

    Lower rates also sparked a price war as Bharti Airtel and YuMobile gained the headroom to lower their tariffs. A 47.4 per cent drop in the profits of market leader, Safaricom, was largely attributed to the price wars.

    Ghossein warned that telecom companies would not be able to expand in line with the upcoming devolution, if termination rates continue eroding profits. He suggested asymmetric charges determined on a case-to-case basis for each telecommunications company. The firm also intends to write to the Communications Commission of Kenya requesting a review of the mobile termination rates.

    Pleas by Safaricom to the industry regulator for a similar audit were spurned two weeks ago. The French-owned firm has been struggling to manage expenditure in the low-profit environment. Ghossein revealed that the company would be undertaking cost-cutting measures in the coming months. It will also focus on its data offerings as an alternative revenue source.

  • Residents of Camp Freeman Town adjacent villages and towns in Grand Cape Mount County have frowned at the Lonestar/MTN for not extending its network coverage to their areas.

    The residents said though other GSM companies operating in the country don't also have signals there, they are particularly concerned about Lonestar/MTN because according to them, 90 percent of the citizens in the affected areas with mobile phones are Lonestar Cell subscribers. The residents explained that they are completely out of coverage area and, as a result, they don't receive Lonestar's signal in their towns.

    Speaking at program marking the formal turning over of a six classroom school building by the Elephant Falls Mining Company in the county, the residents told the New Dawn that they usually travel about two hours away from the town to an area called Mafia Pai in order to receive Lonestar /MTN signal before they can make calls to relatives and friends in Monrovia.

    More than five towns and villages are said to be suffering from the lack of network coverage. Some of the affected towns include Fula Camp, Varney Camp, Camp Israel, Kpelle Village and Mafia Pai, amongst others. Our reporter, who visited the areas, said more young people in the areas were seen with cell phones and Lonestar/MTN SIMs, walking around with music blaring from their phones.

    The town people said their phones are only being used to play music from media files and to record numbers. "we are really suffering here; it is like we are in a different world. We cannot get Lonestar Cell signal here; in fact, not Lonestar Cell alone, but other GSM companies do not have signals here too. Are we outcast? We want to talk to our relatives and friends, but no way because no network on our phones," Varney Duma, a town chief.

    Camp Freeman and its surrounding towns and villages take about five hours drive from Monrovia and it is a mining area. Most people from Monrovia go there to work for mining companies. Francis Kamara said he took assignment there and Francis Kamara said he left his family in Monrovia and took assignment there to work for a mining company.

    Francis noted that since seven months ago, he has not got in touch with his family. "I know that my wife and kids are worried about me. I never really knew that here don't have signal, and all of my family use Lonestar Cell, so the company should really try to solve our problem here; we need to call too," he emphasized.

    The residents said they listen to radio discussions regularly and want to participate on talkshows, but are unable due to the communication problem. Meanwhile, Lonestar/MTN has promised to look into the citizens' concern.

    Lonestar/MTN Chief Communication Consultant Dr. Laurence Bropleh, said the company loves all Liberians no matter where they come from or in which part of Liberia they reside. Bropleh promised to take the issue up with the appropriate authorities of the company to finding a remedy for the subscribers.

internet

  • The Ségou Village Connection “cruise for Internet literacy” on the river Niger, in Mali, in partnership with the Loire-Niger UNESCO heritage project [fr], has now  completed a two-week training tour of schools on the banks of the river, with very positive results. Boukary shares highlights of his groundbreaking cruise.

    Rising Voices: How many villages and schools did you visit and train during this educational cruise?

    Boukary Konaté: The UNESCO barge stopped in Sékoro, Ségou, Markala, Mopti, Kokribozo, Macina, Diafarabé, Ouro-Modi and Mopti to present their photo exhibition on the Niger cultural heritage. I gave introduction workshops to the Internet in as many school along the way. In Mali, 40 to 60 pupils per class is average. On occasions, the whole school attended. We estimate the number of persons who have been introduced to the internet and basic search on the Web at around 800, from primary school kids to adult students.

    RV: What did you teach them?

    BK: Most villages along the Niger live from fishing or grow rice paddies, there is no road, no electricity or TV,  they are isolated but even the poorest shepherd has a mobile phone now. A lot of people had heard about the Internet, but did not know what it was. I am a teacher by profession, I emphasized that it is a learning tool. We did searches on Google on whatever they wished, and every time, they found the answers to their questions. I also introduced them to Skype, information websites such as Maliweb, Yahoo News, Global Voices, the Ministry of Education website, Twitter and Facebook.

     RV: Tell us about a training session that struck you.

    BK: In Macina, I lectured in a vocational school for farmers and cattle raisers (IFP). They searched Google on volcanoes, on the chemistry of soil, water, but what struck the students most was to discover that their village was on the Internet! And not only that: that there was another Macina, in Serbia! There was quite a debate with their teacher on books versus the Internet, but school books are rare, and we agreed that the Internet could become one day the school library.

    The Fulana chiefdom at Diafarabé has welcomed the Internet in their village. Photo by Boukary Konaté, under a Creative Commons license

    RV: How did the local authorities react?

    BK: Very well. There is often at first a prejudice, that “internet is for the rich”. In Fulana villages, I was told that “Once a man has enough to eat and drink, he needs to have information and share information, to know people and to be known”.  The villages would like to have a permanent access to the Web.

    RV: what have your learnt yourself from this tour?

    BK: Being a Bambara, I have discovered ethnic groups and languages I knew nothing about, the Fulani and Bozo. I have discovered my country! I was struck by how welcoming the Fulani are, by the beauty of their villages and architecture, up North. I am now comfortable sailing on water, something I was afraid of. And I will always cherish the beauty of sunsets and dawns on the river Niger.

    RV: How do you see the future of the Ségou Village Connection project?

    BK: We hope that UNESCO will organize another tour, that the Ministry of Education in Mali will take notice and mainstream such initiatives. All you need is second hand laptops, a solar cell, a transformer, and minutes of mobile phone credit to access Internet via mobile network, which is reliable in Mali even in remote places. The other solution is to crowdsource good will, not as a beggar, but as a person convinced that what he/she is trying to do is important.

  • "I will vote for Wade, of course!" shouts Amadou, a young taxi driver, taking me to my hotel in downtown Dakar. "Wade has worked hard and that's how it works here." We drive past large posters of the various presidential candidates as Amadou points them out: Abdoulaye Wade, Macky Sall, Moustapha Niasse and Ousmane Tanor Dieng.

    I arrive at the hotel where an elderly gentleman greets me at the counter. "Is your family not afraid for you? There were protests not far from here and people were killed. This is serious, very serious. The youth do not want Wade any longer. He is too old." Behind him there is a portrait of the President of the Republic. "He built roads," he explains. "He gave us lights. He did a lot for us."

    It's been an hour since I arrived in Senegal and I've only met fans of Wade. I'm a little surprised, after all the criticisms I've read in the international press and on the internet. This 85-year-old politician seems to have many friends.

    However there are demonstrations scheduled to take place at Dakar's Independence Square, organised by the opposition movement M23. After a tumultuous weekend around the country when several people died and others injured, things are heating up again. Mr Blog, @basileniane, is there.

    Basile Niane (28) is the President of the Association of Bloggers of Senegal:

    "I blog therefore I am," is his motto. "We, the Senegalese bloggers, have created our own # on Twitter to differentiate ourselves. Renamed as #Kebetu, it means chirping in Wolof, the most spoken language in Senegal."

    As the police start throwing tear gas at demonstrators, Niane writes on his mobile:

    "#Senegal video Demonstration Independence Square: Cheikh Bamba Dieye received his shot @sunu2012 #kebetu youtu.be/Ne5JJCfU2GM".

    Niane is not against Wade, he says. He came to Independence Square to inform people. "We do not have the power Wade has, but the web is very, very, very powerful. Everyone is on the internet to connect and learn."

    Basile Niane is absolutely sure that this election is a very special election: "Never has an election in Senegal triggered so much excitement across social networks. And nobody will be able to rig this election because we are here. Our power is in being able to watch and tell people: here's bad information and here's good information. Even if they do not have access to the internet, they can always use their mobile phones. We are in Africa and we will take the risk."

  • Reacting to the irregular Internet connection experienced by MTN users over the past days, the CEO of MTN Rwanda, Khaled Mikkawi, on Tuesday explained this is due to multiple cuts in the undersea fiber cables between Djibouti and Port Sudan.

    While acknowledging that both MTN broadband and mobile data users experienced disruptions, Mikkawi announced that measures are being taken to bring the situation back to normal.

    "Our fiber capacity depends on two cables: 80% of our traffic is driven through the EASSy (East African Submarine Cable System) undersea cable and 20% through TEAMS (The East African Marine System)," Mikkawi explained.

    As the CEO pointed out, the cuts affected all telecom operators that depended on the EASSy cable in the sub-Saharan region and the impact of the cuts was substantial as MTN remained with only 20% of the international bandwidth capacity. "We have currently re-routed our traffic through TEAMS and have looked for other service providers to give us additional capacity, which will double the available bandwidth," he declared.

    Before this problem occurred, however, MTN network users had already been experiencing interference and outages. "The reason behind the outages is the upgrades that were carried out to expand our infrastructure," Mikkawi said. "As a growing telecom operator, this is needed to increase our outlet capacity and better serve our subscribers."

    Those upgrades were done to increase 3G sites by over 30%. "With more people using smartphones and requiring more of our data services, this upgrade is necessary," Mikkawi pointed out.

    Tests and optimization exercise have been carried out on the new 3G sites. "The challenge is to do that while keeping our clients and subscribers online," the MTN boss said. "I can compare it to upgrading a road to make it wider and better without interfering with the traffic."

    Given that the optimization exercise has to be done at the same time, this caused some disturbance.

    MTN's chief Marketing Officer, Yvonne Manzi Makolo said that MTN is currently working on a compensation plan for all data clients including those with BlackBerry smart phones. "Yet the compensation plan cannot be implemented before all upgrades are completed and the fiber capacity fully restored," she explained. "Voice subscribers are billed per second so they didn't lose any money although they were inconvenienced by the upgrades."

    And Mikkawi announced that when the networks are once again fully operational, they will have a bigger capacity - from 14 megabytes per second to 21 megabytes. "Our customers will feel the difference," he said, adding that in the course of this week the network will be opened to its full capacity.

  • The Tiziano Project is a multimedia website and an outreach effort focusing on training citizen journalists in conflict and underreported regions around the globe. The project has trained community journalists in places like Somalia, Rwanda, DR Congo and Kenya and is developing guides and tools that will help these journalists produce and showcase their work.

    Its pilot project Tiziano | 360º Kurdistan featured personal accounts of Iraqis along with contributions from professional photojournalists. It showed that with sufficient tools and support, people can tell convincing stories about their community and have a great impact on the viewers.

  • The country's 18 provinces will be interlinked by fibre, meant to expand and improve telephone and internet services, says the minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, José Rocha de Carvalho.

    The official said this while speaking at a Conference on Information Technologies, as an instrument at the service of development, held under the 10th edition of the National University Students Holiday Camping (Canfeu), that is to last until February 25.

    "It is a project that has various phases and we are near the end, we are close to having the 18 capital cities linked by optical fibre", said the Minister.

    The programme will comprise about 10.000 kilometres of optical fibre until its conclusion, being that later it will include the link between municipalities and communes to provide more services in matters of information and communication technology, in any part of the Angolan territory.

    The Angolan satellite may be operational in the coming three to four years, under a project that is worth 320 million US dollars.

computing

  • New information has surfaced about the manner in which the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) awarded the N$63,8 million electronic voter registration contract to a South African IT firm, Face Technologies.

    It has emerged that Face Technologies initially tendered for N$83 million while another shortlisted South African company, Lithotech Exports, tendered for N$63 million. Lithotech, a subsidiary of South African Bidvest Paper Plus, is now preparing to take the matter to court.

    It alleges that the awarding of the contract to Face Technology at N$63.8 million was not fair since the ECN appears to have colluded with Face Technologies to secure the deal.

    After the initial bids by the two companies where they quoted N$83 million and N$63 million respectively, they were allegedly told by the ECN to submit a second round of bids.

    This was based on the fact that the ECN's initial specifications stipulated that the voter registration machines must be able to read ten fingerprints, which was deemed impracticable. In the second round, Face Technologies lowered its bid to N$63.8 million while Lithotech came in at N$57.1 million.

    Section D (5) of the tender requirements indicates that the two companies were required to be given seven days to design a prototype of the machines which they would then demonstrate to the election body. Lithotech alleges that ECN bent its own rules and gave the companies only two days to design the prototype.

    "It seems these guys already had Face Technologies in mind because to design the system in two days is just not reasonable," said a Lithotech representative in Namibia, who declined to be named.

    ECN director Moses Ndjarakana said last week that ECN has commented enough on the matter. "In the context of the impending court challenge we would not comment further," he said.

    Some tenderers have also asked why a contract of this magnitude was granted exemption from the normal tender procedures although there is no urgent need for general voter registration. General voter registration usually takes place every ten years and it was last done in 2009.

    The tender was given a type of exemption called "fast-track procurement", where prospective tenderers are given one week to prepare their bids. The normal time frame for tenders advertised by the Tender Board is 21 days.

    At least 30 companies collected application forms for the voter registration tender but only five submitted bids. The Tender Board gave the ECN the authority to select the successful tenderer.

    "How can one prepare documents for such a huge tender in one week," asked a company representative who preferred anonymity.

  • In a bid to continue standardize habitation countrywide, the the ministry of local government has embarked on a program to provide GPS (Global Position Satellite) tools to the districts, to help them elaborate and design settlement maps and master plans.

    As Local Government Minister James Musoni put it, local leaders should design their territorial plans in a more convenient and technological way. After making an inventory of all households living in Imidugudu, the findings showed that there was a need to improve the quality and the standards of village layouts.

    "This is in line with ensuring sustainable land management, human settlement either rural or urban, developing the access to low-cost housing materials and elaboration of layout plans of Imidugudu sites," Musoni said. "So we think that with devices given to them all this will be easier, because they can now picture their territories and redesign them to match with their plans, and identify areas for habitation, farming, economic zones and other."

    Esdras Rwayitare, the officer at the ministry in the department of territorial management, explained that district leaders and their technicians were trained on how to use GPS tools in designing their master plan and Imidugudu layouts.

    "After the training, we have given them the devices alongside digital video cameras and laptops," Rwayitare said. "They will now have to design at least a map showing one village plan down to the cell levels within an agreed time, and we shall continue assisting them in the process."

    Emile Nyakagabo, who is in charge of habitation and urbanization in the Gicumbi district, confirmed that they are ready to embark on the implementation process in better planning. "The GPS facility which will speed up the layouts of Imidugudu at the cell levels, and we will start to sensitize the population on the program so as to make clear guidelines," Nyakagabo explained.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Subsidiaries of Libya's sovereign wealth fund are no longer subject to a freeze on their assets abroad under an informal easing of U.N. sanctions targeting the regime of late leader Muammar Gaddafi, a U.N. panel of experts said on Thursday.

    The U.N. Security Council's financial sanctions had frozen $170 billion in Libyan assets, but a large sum was released in December when the council lifted the sanctions on the central bank's $100 billion, mostly cash assets.

    Libya made major investments in Africa during Gaddafi's rule, some of them managed by the LIA through a $5 billion fund known as the Libyan African Investment Portfolio.

    One of these investments, worth nearly $1 billion, was in the LAP Green Network, which operates in six African countries. Its chairman Wafik Shater said on November 30 that it had sought the expertise of an international lawyer to lift U.N. sanctions as it was in default with some creditors and its assets were frozen in some countries including Zambia.

    In January, Zambia dissolved the board of Libya-controlled Zamtel and appointed a new acting CEO, a day after it announced plans to seize 75 percent in the fixed-line operator from owner LAP Green.

    Libya will do all it can to protect its 75 percent in Zamtel, Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour bin Khayyal said on January 30. Financial experts appointed by the National Transitional Council are currently reviewing the LIA's investments. The sanctions regime was "never intended as punishment of the Libyans or to prevent trade," the U.N. panel member said.

    "It was aimed at preventing Gaddafi and his family and associates from using financial assets and property both in Libya and overseas to fund repression against their own people."

    In general, authorities worldwide moved quickly to ensure that assets were identified as soon as possible and accounts frozen so that the funds would not be accessible, he added.

    "The previous regime is no longer in charge. So some people would ask why is everything not delisted? There are a number of issues. There are good contacts with a number of institutions and they want to make sure everything will run smoothly when the money comes back," he said.

  • Mobile banking is set to get a major facelift after Nigerian bank FirstBank and Airtel have agreed to join forces to develop and produce a unified mobile money service to millions of users in the country.

    The two companies, in a press conference on Monday following the signing of the deal, said the new deal should enable users to have secure, convenient and user-friendly services through their mobile phones.

    In recent months, the Nigerian government, operators and the banking sector has pushed forward with efforts to create a better banking sector for the country, especially for those unbanked in Nigeria.

    Airtel Nigeria CEO and Managing Director Rajan Swaroop said that “Partnering First Bank to bring mobile financial services to all corners of country further demonstrates Airtel’s commitment to Nigeria and supports the concept of borderless mobile telecoms services across the country.”

    Speaking at the signing, Swaroop said, “Indeed, we are excited to partner with one of the biggest financial institutions in the country. This partnership will, without a doubt, assist us in realizing our vision of empowering more Nigerians with innovative and affordable mobile financial services. At Airtel Nigeria, we are committed to creating value propositions that will delight, enrich and benefit our customers regardless of their income level and location.”

  • Ali Ahmed Nur (Jim'ale) according to the statement released on Friday by the Security Council's department of public information, held leadership roles with the 'radical-Islamist element', the Somali Islamic Courts Union. Jim'ale was added to the list of people and entities subject to travel ban, assets freeze and targeted arms embargo by the UN Security Council. Jim'ale according to the UN Security Council Committee on Somalia and Eretria is one of Al Shabaab's 'chief financiers'. Jim'ale is accused of facilitating large lump sum payments to the Al Shabaab including owning a hawala fund where he collected Zakat and distributed to the terrorist organization.

    The statement also says Jim'ale established the service of Zaad which allows users' mobile to mobile money transactions, the reason being that Jim'ale helped facilitate Al Shabaab easy money transfers without the need of identification. Jim'ale is one of the biggest stakeholders in the telecommunications company Hormuud and according to this report Hormuud is one of the single largest financiers of Al Shabaab and provides logistical support, weapons, fighters and ammunition.

    Two months after the September 11 2001 attack Jim'ale was listed as being associated with Al Qaeda. Jim'ale who had majority stake in the then former Barakaat telecommunications company was accused of financing Al Qaeda and having close ties with Osama bin Laden. Barakaat was subsequently shut down and their assets frozen by the US which led to tens of thousands Somalis to lose access to their funds.

    The UN Security Council has imposed embargos on Eritrea and Somalia and has expanded its embargos on Eritrea recently, in order to prevent support to armed groups destabilizing Somalia. Transitional Federal Government President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed recently asked the UN Security Council to lift an arms embargo to fight Al Shabaab in southern Somalia. The ban which was imposed in 1992 has not stopped militants in Somalia from importing arms.

  • Speaking at the launch of the new purchasing method for pre-paid electricity in Windhoek on Tuesday, the deputy mayor of Windhoek, Gerson Kamatuka, said the municipality will not repeat the mistake it made in July 2011 when pre-paid electricity consumers were thrown into disarray after the sale of electricity through third parties was abruptly stopped.

    The municipality at the time cancelled the eight-year-old contract it had with Namibia Electronic Payment Terminals, which sold electricity on its behalf through vending machines, service stations, convenience stores and supermarkets.

    Shortly afterwards, the City of Windhoek went into a temporary arrangement with MobiPay to provide pre-paid electricity to its customers. Windhoek consumers this week received yet another method of buying electricity from the comfort of their homes.

    First National Bank (FNB) of Namibia clients can now purchase pre-paid electricity from the City of Windhoek by using cellphone banking. FNB manager for cellphone banking Desery van Wyk said the service will be available to all FNB clients with FNB transactional accounts. However, these clients should be registered for cellphone banking.

    The service is currently free of any bank charges and only cellphone network fees apply, which at this stage are N$1 for MTC customers and 25 cents for Leo customers.Van Wyk stressed that this service is currently available for Windhoek residents only, but plans are underway to expand this offering to other parts of Namibia as well.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Moroccan postal service Poste Maroc is reportedly planning to launch as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) within the next few months. A report from Telecompaper, which cites Moroccan news source La Vie Eco, says that Poste Maroc has held discussions with the country’s telecoms regulator ANRT over the award of an MVNO licence, while it has also contacted local cellular operators Maroc Telecom, Meditelecom and Wana Corporate for wholesale service pricing. Morocco currently has around 37 million mobile users across its three mobile networks.

    - Standard Bank Namibia, whose new computer system has caused an outcry from its clients, had Government employees seeing red last week. Police officers, teachers and secretaries who bank with Standard Bank, and who were scheduled to receive their salaries, were left empty-handed. According to the bank's spokesperson, Rejoice Itembu, "a technical issue" was behind the problem. She said it "has already been identified and thorough investigations are taking place to avoid this in future".

Digital Content

  • The Moroccan telephone operator, Maroc Telecom, has blocked  access to several sites that provide free VoIP telephone service to its users.
    The ban has affected the Skype service that is used by most Moroccans to call their friends, relatives and customers overseas.

    The ban has also affected access to TeamSpeak and many other services that provide the VoIP functionality.

     This decision has been taken by Maroc Telecom, which is know for its predatory commercial practices, for the purpose of shielding itself against competition and pushing its users  to pay for its services and stop using  free online services, like Skype, TeamSpeak, Viber and others.

    The Maroc telecom is the former state telecom monopoly that has been sold to the French Company Vivendi. It has been a cash Cow for Vivendi for many years. it has been producing unusually high profits for the company.  Maroc Telecom is the default internet providers for Most users in Morocco.

  • A project of indicators of the health quality through mobile phone, even without using the Internet, was presented has recently been presented in Luanda by the National Department of Public Health.

    The act of presenting the project dubbed "Implementing Technology based on mobile phones to produce quality health indicators, an approach to decentralisation of the health service" was chaired by the deputy minister for public health, Evelize Frestas.

    This project will help early detection of levels of growth or decline of certain diseases, outbreaks, epidemics, drug stocks a certain standard and quick query of data in health centres of the cities, allowing the central structures to know what goes on in municipality centres, thus allowing prompt actions.

    The project will start in Huambo in June this year, with the collection of data on malaria, since this province has seen many cases of this disease.

    The project is to be extended to the whole country by the end of 2013.

  • An M-Pesa transaction was the key piece of evidence that nailed a suspect in a robbery with violence case. A court said the fact that cash was transferred from the victim's phone to that of Francis Ndung'u Njoroge was proof that he was involved in the crime.

    Nyahururu senior resident magistrate Alice Mong'are sentenced Njoroge to death. Phone-related crime has become rampant in Kenya because millions of people own mobile handsets.

    But while police have used phone signals to track down and arrest suspected criminals in the past, this is the first time a cash transfer transaction was being used as evidence in a robbery with violence case.

    Ms Mong'are commended the use of modern technology to track criminals. The technology, she said, was crucial in proving cases against the accused.

    The prosecution said detectives who had been trailing Njoroge pounced on him in Subukia where he was still using the victim's phone.

    Ms Mong'are said police had proved the case against the accused after they tracked him for more than a month before raiding his house in Subukia, Nakuru county.
    His victim's SIM card was found, as well as several personal items.

  • In curbing the growing SIM Box fraud in the telecommunications industry, which adversely affects the industry's revenue, Airtel Ghana has introduced a short code - 919- for customers to report SIM Box fraud numbers.

    SIM box fraud is a set up, in which some fraudsters in Ghana connive with partners abroad to route international calls through the internet, using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and terminate those calls through a local phone number in Ghana, to make it appear as if the call is a local call.

    The caller is often not aware of the activities of these cyber fraudsters which result in the loss of revenue to the state. This illegal activity is an issue of concern to Airtel-Ghana, the Ministry of Communication (MoC) and the National Communications Authority (NCA), since the revenue loss affects the nation's financial basket as well.

    In a release, the Managing Director of Airtel Ghana, Philip Sowah, said "Airtel Ghana has deployed state-of-the-art systems at very high costs to actively detect SIM box on a real time basis to enable us block these numbers the moment we detect them on our network".

    According to Sowah, besides the internal systems put in place, Airtel Ghana in collaboration with other telecom operators provide information to the security agencies, the NCA and the MoC to assist in arresting these criminals from their hideout.

    Sowah called on the general public to help Airtel Ghana in the fight against SIM box fraud which is a menace to the telecommunications industry and the country as a whole. To report a SIM box number, customers should text the SIM Box number to short code 919 and the number will instantly be taken off the system.

More

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Issue no 592 17th February 2012

node ref id: 24174

Top story

  • All too often the news is about what China or India are doing to expand into Africa. This week saw a Japanese company Hitachi Data Systems buy South Africa based IT company Shoden Data Systems. Isabelle Gross spoke to Tony Read, COO of Hitachi Data System UK, Ireland and Sub-Sahara Africa about the acquisition of Shoden Data Systems and what it means for a Japanese global company to expand its footprint in Africa.

    Shoden Data Systems is a long-time South African provider of data centre technology both in its home country and into Sub-Saharan Africa and it has been working for many years with Hitachi Data System. Shoden Data Systems designs, provisions, deploys and supports products and technologies that simplify and optimise data centres used by banks, telecommunication companies and retail companies. Its offering includes data storage solutions including solid state disks (SSD) for faster access to information, software to assist and improve server virtualisation and data protection solutions. Shoden Data Systems has a good market share in South Africa and has managed to expanded its footprint further in Sub-Sahara Africa by supporting its existing customer base’s roll out of services in other African countries.

    According to Tony Reid, the two companies have become very close business partners over the years to the extent that 75% of Shoden Data Systems’ activities are Hitachi related. As the partnership between the two companies was getting stronger, it was a logical step forward to tie the knot between the two of them. Hitachi Data System will carry on providing equipment and resources while Shoden with its good understanding of the Southern African markets (South Africa and other countries in Southern Africa) will provide the routes to market. Shoden and Hitachi have also expanded their activities into Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and other SADC countries and the plan is to continue developing their activities in these countries.

    The acquisition of Shoden is a first in Africa for Hitachi Data System. For the large conglomerate with a global footprint, this acquisition represent a rather small drop in the sea but as Tony Read explains Hitachi has been investing for a while in emerging markets like China and Brazil and as time goes by they have been seeing good growth potential in South Africa and some other Sub-Sahara African countries.

    He is confident that the acquisition will be a success and will further strengthen Hitachi’s footprint in the region. When asked if Hitachi has any plans to move directly in the data centre business, Tony Read replies that this is not on the roadmap in the short term. He believes that going into this segment requires some other core qualities and he adds further that as African countries’ economies developed they will be more large organisations that will be looking for “in-house” data centre facilities rather then outsourcing the service.

    In Tony Read’s opinion, the data centre market in Africa has a good future. There are emerging solutions like cloud services that could make IT services more readily available to use by businesses. In Africa, enterprises are less well equipped when it comes to IT hardware and software and a business model based on a pay per use basis to access software and IT services would actually make sense and drive further the penetration of ICT services.

    Sooner rather than later, more telecoms operators will offer clouds services too and this is where Hitachi/Shoden will come in with the backend solutions and support. He believes that Africa has been pretty innovative in particular in the way that mobile telephones are used to carry out banking, transfer and payment services for example and so more innovations of this kind can be expected to develop.

    Of course the expected growth in the data centre business will not easily materialise if some nagging bottleneck issues are not dealt with. Tony Reid reckons that power as well as network bandwidth are still causing problems. There is also still a skill gap but it is shrinking fast in some countries and in particular in South Africa. 

    For now Shoden will carry on trading under the Shoden brand name in South Africa and in the other African countries where the company is doing business and depending on how things move forward it might later rebrand as Hitachi. As foreign investors are seeing potential growth opportunities in Africa more and more attractive compared to developed markets, it can be expected that more acquisitions of this nature will take place in Africa as the ICT market gets more mature and more diversified.

    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:

    Data centres and managed services

    Jonathan Tawiah, CEO, Ostec on providing managed services in West Africa


    Le Cloud en Afrique selon Hedera Tech (en francais)

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel on data centres in Benin

    Services that drive data centre use - M-Money

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on how Uganda’s Lake Victoria fishermen and the truckers who buy from them use m-money services

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay on the up-take and use of Z-Pesa in Tanzania

    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on integrating other day-to-day tools into into its m-money platform ELMA

    Correction:  In the story in last week’s issue about low-end social networking site Eskimi, we got our Baltic countries mixed up. Eskimi is a Lithuanian, not a Latvian country. Also other social media sites without a high profile in Africa include Pinterest and Spotify. Please also note the launch of the continent’s own Zing.

telecoms

  • Etisalat wants to acquire a licence in Libya or invest in one of the North African country's existing operators, its chairman told Reuters last week.

    Libya has two state mobile operators, Madar and Libyana, while another government-linked firm Lap Green Networks is active in several African countries including Uganda and Ivory Coast.

    "We have shown to the Libyan government our interest [in] the possibility to participate in the development of the telecoms market in Libya, either by a new licence or even by operating or investing in one of the existing mobile licences," Mohammad Omran said on the sidelines of an event in Tripoli.

    Etisalat bid for Libya's third mobile licence in 2009, but the licence was never awarded.

  • Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE should explain to Mobinil shareholders why it may sell part of its stake to France Telecom SA after rejecting a higher bid in 2009, Egypt’s markets regulator said.

    France Telecom said it reached a preliminary agreement to buy most of Orascom Telecom Media’s stake in their Mobinil venture at 202.5 Egyptian pounds ($33.56) a share. The same offer will be made to minority investors in the Egyptian Co. for Mobile Services, also known as Mobinil. That’s 42.5 pounds less than an offer by France Telecom in 2009 that Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, headed by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, blocked in court.

    Orascom Telecom Media should explain the agreement with France Telecom to its shareholders and those of Mobinil, the Cairo-based Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority said in a statement on its website today. France Telecom made the 2009 bid before Sawiris spun off Orascom Telecom Media from Orascom Telecom Holding.

    France Telecom owns about 71 percent of Mobinil Telecom Co., which controls Mobinil, and Orascom Telecom Media owns the rest. Orascom Telecom Media also holds a 20 percent direct stake in Mobinil, while about 29 percent is traded on the Egyptian Exchange. The shares jumped 10 percent today to 151.67 pounds, valuing the company at 15.2 billion Egyptian pounds.

    Sawiris opposed France Telecom’s 2009 bid because he said it offered minority shareholders in Mobinil less than the 273 pound price tag set by an international arbitration court for his stake in Mobinil Telecom, the holding company.

    Mobinil must appoint an independent adviser to assess France Telecom’s latest bid, the regulator said today.

  • Nokia plans to make Nairobi its global hub for research and investment for the India, Middle East and Africa region.

    The move is a big win for the country which will serve as a nerve centre for Nokia’s global research activities, bringing together application developers, businesses and software engineering eco-system from around the world.

    The company has research facilities in 13 locations worldwide, and Nairobi will be its nerve centre.

    The Nairobi Nokia Research Center (NRC) located at the Nairobi Business Park along Ngong Road previously served the African region only.

     “There is advanced development happening in Kenya. It is part of the reason why I am here. I am not visiting the 54 countries in Africa. I am only visiting Kenya and South Africa,” said Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop. He was speaking during a round-table meeting with the technology community in Kenya held at the iHub Nairobi, in what is his first visit to Africa.

    He highlighted the unique position of Kenya as a technology leader in the region, and said that the country’s track record in innovation informed the decision. The news comes at a time when Nokia has been in the midst of a global restructuring.

  • Burkina Faso has slapped three telecoms operators with more than $5 million in penalties for poor service, a regulatory official said Friday.

    "We decided to impose financial sanctions against the three mobile operators for their failure to comply with terms," said Bako Mathurin, the president of Burkina Faso's regulatory authority ARCEP.

    He added that the three companies--Telmob, Airtel and Telecel Faso--had two weeks to pay the combined total of 2.706 billion CFA francs ($5.36 million).

    Click here to find out more!Government officials and consumer groups regularly take the telecom operators to task for poor Internet service, as well as problems with calls and text messaging.

    But that hasn't stopped the government from recently awarding all three companies 3G licenses for XOF1.5 billion each.

    Telmob, a subsidiary of Morocco's Onatel, and the largest of the three telecoms with 3.5 million of Burkina Faso's 8 million mobile subscribers, was hit Friday with the largest penalty, at XOF1.086 billion.

    Airtel, owned by India's Bharti Airtel Ltd., was fined XOF894 million and locally owned Telecel Faso XOF724 million.

    The regulator has plans to allow a fourth operator into the Burkina Faso telecoms market.

  • Global wireless technology company, Qualcomm, announced on Thursday that Nairobi will be its regional business centre within the Sub-Saharan region. Qualcomm, whose offices span 75 countries, made the decision in response to the rapidly growing mobile market in Africa, which has been termed as the second largest mobile market in the world after Asia.

    "Qualcomm's new Nairobi office allows us to maintain close proximity to the people, governments and important industry events that are driving the regional telecommunications industry forward," said Billy Owino, Qualcomm's Director of Business Development in East Africa, during announcement of the company's new offices at a media briefing in Nairobi.

    According to Mr Owino, Qualcomm's presence in Nairobi is part of its long-term commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa, and will "continue to invest in strategic research and development.

  • Parliament has adopted the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulations, 2011 (L.I. 2006) to give backing to SIM card registration in the country. The Legislation provides that with effect from Saturday, March 3,2012, no SIM card can be used if not duly registered.

    Consequently, no mobile network operator shall be able to activate a SIM card for a new customer without it having been registered. In addition, existing subscribers who have either not registered their SIM cards or whose earlier registrations are invalid are required to re-register, failing which their SIM cards will be de-activated.

    This was contained in a statement issued in Accra on Thursday by the Director-General of National Communications Authority (NCA).

    It explained that the statement was to highlight the issue of the mandatory requirement that any SIM card in use must be registered by the deadline of March 3, 2012 after which any unregistered SIM card cannot be in use.

    The statement said on July 1, 2010, Ghana embarked on a SIM Card Registration Exercise which required users of mobile telephony services to register their SIM cards.

    The exercise was to run for a full year from July 1, 2010 to June 30 2011 at the end of which any SIM card that remained unregistered would be deactivated.

    At the end of that period, nearly all SIM cards in use had been registered. However, it quickly became evident that quite a

    number of subscribers had not followed the due process for the registration therefore, their registrations could not be validated.

    While some of the reasons for invalid registrations could be traced to the quality of subscriber information provided, others could be attributed to human error in the registration process, or plain deception on the part of subscribers and registration agents alike.

    At the time, the NCA announced the need for time to allow for invalid registrations to be corrected and indicated the Authority's resolve to ensuring that the exercise achieved a thoroughly sanitised and complete register.

  • Telkom will appear before the competition tribunal on Wednesday, in a case which may see the company go bust, SABC news reported on Tuesday.

    The Competition Commission has asked the tribunal to find Telkom guilty of excessive pricing and abuse of the market and wants the company to be fined R3.5 billion, the broadcaster said.

    Eight years ago, an investigation by the commission found that Telkom was guilty of charging excessive prices to smaller independent companies - which relied on the company's network infrastructure to provide data services like the internet and SMS.

    The commission also found that Telkom was discriminating against the independent service providers in that its charges were less for companies affiliated to it. The proposed R3.5 billion penalty has raised a few eyebrows, SABC reported.

    "Any fine of R3.5 billion is very big for any company in South Africa to pay and you could have a problem where the company's survival at stake," Mike Schussler, director of Economists.co.za, was quoted as saying.

    "When you look at that kind of fine in a company that's really got declining revenues, if you really look at it, it's really going to be difficult for it to survive under that sort of fine and I think we need to get the balance right between competition and the ability of a company to carry on."

    Telkom is expected to centre its argument around this when it takes the stand on Wednesday, SABC said.

    The company is expected to first argue for the case against it to be dismissed, failing which the penalty against it should be symbolic rather than punitive in nature.

  • Swaziland’s minister of ICT Winnie Magagula has publicly called for an end to the on-going hostilities between national telecoms regulator the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (which is also the incumbent telco) and the country’s sole wireless operator MTN Swaziland. Magagula told the Times of Swaziland that she hopes that the dispute – which relates to SPTC’s attempts to launch fixed-wireless services under the ‘One’ brand name – can be solved in the boardroom rather than the courtroom, arguing that the two entities cannot do without one another as they are ‘joined at the hip’. MTN believes that One contravenes the long-standing Joint Venture Agreement that forbids SPTC from competing with it, but SPTC maintains that it faces financial collapse if it abandoned the fixed-wireless initiative, on account of the substantial sum already invested in it.

    During a tour of MTN’s facilities this week, Magagula told board members and staff: ‘I have to see to it that there is harmony between the two companies. There is no way that the government can sit back and watch the fight. Swazi MTN is a child of SPTC and therefore there is no way you can run away from each other. You are a creature of statutes. You are stuck together. I also told SPTC the same thing. I urge you to harmonise your relationship. We have to move out of court corridors and to the boardroom. I urge MTN and SPTC to rekindle the relationship that existed from 1997. Once you harmonise you will give cheaper services to citizens’.

  • Four years ago, when Daniel Chiwinga and Kondwani Chimatiro met in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) lecture room at Mzuzu University, in the northern part of Malawi, they had no idea that they would be starting a journey that could turn into their life's work.

    The two young men, one from Kasungu and another from Lilongwe in the central districts of Malawi, have now developed a search engine they are calling ‘C-Finder’, spurred by the knowledge they have gained over the years that they have been studying.

    The search engine will prioritise information from Malawi when a user conducts a search, delivering relevant, local content first. Chimatiro says Malawi lags behind in ICT development. He feels those working in the sector need to be looking at Malawi in terms of what is needed as a country.

    “But first of all, for us (Malawians) to achieve what we need, in development, socially, technologically, we need information,” he says. Adding that this is why they came with an idea on how best they can deliver information to people, and how people can access information.

    He says they thought that the only way to deliver information is to centralise all Malawian information, that cuts across a wide range of disciplines like history, literature and more.

    “This is why we devised a search engine with a central hub for that information; all Malawians can be able to access that information from the central repository. The idea is to provide information to Malawians since information in Malawi is difficult to access,” says Chimatiro.

    His colleague Chiwinga agrees with him: “In Africa and Malawi in particular, many people do not access technology because it is expensive and we want to come up with ways of developing low cost technology so that everybody can be able to afford.”

    Chiwinga said the other thing is that a lot of information in Malawi which is being provided by Malawians themselves cannot be found on the internet. He says this is because nobody has put that information on the internet.

    “We have a lot of information concerning Malawi which is in hard copy so we want to digitalise that information so that it would be in soft copy and then we put it on C-finder so that other people can find that information by using C-finder search engine,” explains Chiwinga.

    He says anyone who is in the ICT sector must take up the responsibility of loading important information on the internet.

    Chiwinga said the difference between C-Finder and other search engines is that theirs is focusing on Malawi information. “For example if you search for a word ‘admission’ on Google it is going to bring you a lot of universities that are offering certain programmes but if you write admission on C-finder it is going to bring you universities and colleges from Malawi,” he says.

    He adds that then C-Finder will reduce the ‘hunting ground’ for those looking for information where as when one uses Google they are going to be overwhelmed with the amount of results that will appear.

    The other thing, Chimatiro says is that Malawian results on Google may be ranked very far because you can find over thousands and thousands of results but with C-Finder the search for terms about Malawi will be indexed at first.

    At the moment when one search for something, like ‘Gregory Gondwe’ using C-Finder handful results appear which is in contrast with thousands of results that will appear when using Google. Chimatiro says this is because at the moment C-Finder lacks enough space.

    “Currently we have got very small database which is handling limited information, but as we go on and with resources permitting we will handle almost all information in the world as well as Google is doing,” he says.

    The two university finalists say they are currently working on trying to increase space so that they can index more information about Malawi, so that once anyone searches for information they can get a lot of results.

internet

  • Nairobi — Millions of people in Africa and the Middle East will be able to benefit from free, unlimited access to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia through their mobile phone, starting later this year.

    The scheme targets the region's 70 million customers of the mobile network provider Orange, who will be given free access to Wikipedia on their internet-enabled 'smart' phones.

    The deal struck between Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia, will allow Orange customers to read and download information from Wikipedia without the usual data usage charges.

    "Price is a strong barrier to people accessing the Internet, particularly in Africa," said Vanessa Clarke, spokesperson for Orange.

    But the project will face several challenges, according to local experts. Catherine Ngahu, chair of the Kenya ICT Board, said few people in the region own a 'smart' phone that can connect to the internet.

    "Although there is increasing ownership of smart phones, there is still a large number of people who cannot afford them," she told SciDev.Net. "In order to widen reach, Orange should consider marketing lower cost smart phones."

    Michael Njuku of the Kenya Revenue Authority said obstacles will range from low quality mobile handsets people own to a network provider's ability to handle the increased Internet traffic as customers try to access Wikipedia, sometimes millions at a time.

    "Governments in Africa must also do more to ensure that poor quality counterfeit gadgets are not imported into their countries," he said.

    Clarke said the scheme will be rolled out in mid-2012, initially in about eight countries, and by December some 20 countries will benefit.

    She said between seven and 15 per cent of Orange customers in Africa and the Middle East currently have phones that access the Internet, but the company plans to increase the proportion to 50 per cent by 2015.

    Kul Wadhwa, Head of Mobile and Business Development at the Wikimedia Foundation, said he expects the scheme to encourage more people in Africa to read, contribute and download information from Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia is the world's largest online encyclopaedia, maintained by a global community of volunteers. It contains explanations of many scientific terms and issues, and some have suggested it could be used to share scientific knowledge.

    More mobile network operators are expected to follow suit in the coming months, according to Wadhwa.

  • The hearing of the case regarding censorship of pornographic websites in Tunisia has been postponed to February 22nd, confirmed Olivia Gré, director of the Tunisian chapter of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

    Last year, a lawsuit was filed by three Tunisian lawyers, who found free access to pornographic websites in Tunisia to be dangerous to children and corrosive of Islamic values. The court's decision sided with the lawyers, yet the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) appealed the ruling on May 26th. On August 11th, 2011, the appeal was denied, but the ATI delayed implementing the decision, pleading technical and financial limitations.

    They appealed the decision again, to Tunisia's Supreme Court, prolonging the legal debate as to the acceptable extent of internet freedom.

    The ongoing trial has been handled with a good deal of discretion. During the February 1st hearing, reporters were not allowed to enter the courtroom, and afterward the ATI refrained from announcing the precise date of the subsequent hearing.

    Censorship of internet pornography is not new to Tunisia. Until the evening of January 13th, when Tunisia's ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali delivered his famous speech declaring that he would order an end to Internet filtering, access to pornographic websites was blocked in the country.

    On February 3rd, RSF released a statement, entitled "Internet Filtering: Risks to Stepping Backwards," in which it argued that blocking porn sites in Tunisia could mark a prelude to the return of old censorship practices of the previous regime. The statement recommended that internet providers promote tools of parental control.

    However, the statement maintained, imposing an automated filtering system would not prevent Tunisians from accessing pornographic websites since they "are perfectly aware of different techniques to deal with censorship."

  • The delays being experienced at Mombasa port and border points might end when an online cargo clearance system goes live later this year. The first phase of the National Single Window System is set to be implemented in December.

    It will also save the sector billions of shillings lost in the long and tedious clearance processes, said retired major general Joseph Kibwana, chairman of the Kenya Trade Network Agency. The agency was created to oversee the implementation of the system.

    "For a long time, the cumbersome trade processes have led to perennial congestion, delays in cargo clearance and long truck queues at the port of Mombasa and airports," he said,

    The system will create a platform for submission, receipt and processing of trade related cargo clearance documentation.

    The electronic platform will be the sole entry point for lodging trade transaction documents and will integrate over 24 government agencies including Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services and Kenya Ports Authority.

    Phase one will automate cargo documentation processes by integrating the systems of all the key stakeholders involved in cargo clearance in the public and private sectors.

    Phase two will involve integration of the single window system with the national payments system via a national payment gateway to ensure an end to end electronic solution in trade logistics, planned to be operational by mid next year.

    "The system will also solve the chronic problem of corruption and be the solution to the lengthy, manual and uncoordinated trade processes," Mr Kibwana told participants at a workshop for stakeholders at Whitesands Beach Resort.

    "At the moment, we are continuing with sensitisation campaigns among stakeholders to update them on the progres," said Mr Alex Kabuga, Kentrade CEO.

computing

  • biNu, a content rich, social networking platform optimized for mobile feature phones and low-end smartphones, today announced a partnership with Worldreader to deliver digital books to biNu users. The partnership provides a new distribution channel for Worldreader – a social enterprise whose mission is to transform reading in the developing world so that people can transform their lives.

    Worldreader makes digital books available to all in the developing world. The organization identifies schools, trains teachers, works with communities and local officials, partners with local and international publishers and other top-tier companies to bring e-books to under-served families in the developing world. By providing access to digital books, Worldreader empowers children and families to rise out of poverty.

    “Long-term, technology will help create a real culture of reading in parts of the world where that’s not been possible before,” said Worldreader co-founder Colin McElwee. “Mobile phones are central to technological and educational development in countries in Sub Saharan Africa– especially in rural areas, where there is little to no infrastructure.”

    biNu’s patented technology utilizes cloud computing to create a virtual smartphone experience that provides instant discovery, switching and sharing of apps, within a social network and messaging platform. biNu is 10x faster and 10x more efficient on data usage than standard mobile browsers and is an obvious choice for anyone looking to fully utilize their mobile phone – particularly in emerging economies where mobile phones are the primary Internet access device. The beta version of the Worldreader App for biNu is available immediately and gives biNu users instant access to a cloud-based library of digital books from local and international authors.

    “Worldreader improves the lives of millions of people in the developing world,” said Gour Lentell, CEO for biNu. “I am pleased we are able to extend their coverage and I hope biNu will play a part in their overall success.”

    With this announcement, biNu joins other Worldreader’s other forward-thinking partners like Amazon.com, Penguin Young Readers Group, and USAID.  Said Worldreader CEO David Risher, “Together with the some of world’s best-known organizations, Worldreader and our partners are bringing books to all.”

    Worldreader  is a not-for-profit organization whose aim is to put a library of books within reach of every family on the planet, using electronic book technology. Worldreader has established e-reader programs in schools in Ghana and Kenya, and Uganda with plans to expand throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

  • A newly-released United Nations report has revealed that West Africa is facing a significant increase in waste generated by electronic equipment which poses mounting health and environmental risks.

    About 85 per cent of the waste produced in the region comes from domestic consumption, the report revealed. However, the problem is further exacerbated by industrialised countries importing used equipment which often proves to be unsuitable for re-use and end up being discarded, it added.

    "Effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa and other parts of the world is an important part of the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy", said Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

    The report assessed the situation over two years in five countries - Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria - and found that they produce between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tonnes of domestic e-waste each year, which can have a negative impact in the environment and increase the risk of health issues.

    As for waste coming from other countries, the report notes that the United Kingdom is the dominant exporting country to Africa for both new and used electrical and electronic equipment, followed by France and Germany.

    According to UNEP, although the use of electrical and electronic equipment is still low in Africa compared to other regions, it is growing at a staggering pace as more people start using mobile phones and personal computers.

    The report, which was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and partners, also documents the economic and environmental potential of building a resource recovery and waste management system for electronic waste, along with the risks of continuing on the present course.

    "We can grow Africa's economies, generate decent employment and safeguard the environment by supporting sustainable e-waste management and recovering the valuable metals and other resources locked inside products that end up as e-waste," Steiner said, adding that the report provides various strategies to limit damages and provide economic opportunities, something that is crucial for long-term sustainability.

    "E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream world-wide and a key waste stream under the Basel Convention," said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention. The convention's secretariat is administered by UNEP.

    "Dealing with electronic and electrical equipment properly presents a serious environmental and health challenge for many countries, yet also offers a potentially significant opportunity to create green businesses and green jobs," he added.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Warid Congo SA, the leading telecommunication operator in Congo, has announced the launch of Warid Mobicash across its network. This offer is based on the Mobile Money technology from Mobicash.

    Warid MobiCash 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. The resulting mobile payment platform provides a powerful set of tools for efficient, effective, secure, and accessible mobile payment services.

    Warid MobiCash customers can make secure cashless transactions. All phones can make payments using Warid MobiCash no matter what phone model or network operator. Due to its simplicity, Warid MobiCash mobile payment has wide appeal, is easy to deploy and open to everyone – there are no complicated software downloads necessary and no restrictions to enrolment.

    P2P transfers alone, which typically end with a recipient converting e-money back to cash, are not enough to deliver on our vision of a cash-free ecosystem. Instead, Warid MobiCash position itself as “Much more than Money Transfer” and typically promote some combination of various services such as money transfer, airtime top-up, bill payments, and merchant payments. By doing so, Warid MobiCash provides consumers with options to use their electronic money rather than instantly converting it back into cash and can be termed as a “national payment instrument”.

    Commenting on the launch, Mr. Michel Elame, CEO of Warid Congo S.A, said, “The launch of Warid Mobicash is a true revolution on the Congolese market; we believed in it, and we did it! This new service is open to all Congolese and accessible through any local mobile network operator. The launch of Warid Mobicash confirms yet again, the status of Warid Congo as an innovator. We believe that this new born will strengthen our brand as well as our position on the market. So, “Make it happen” will not just remain as a simple slogan, but a true vision of our company striving to satisfy the users by always offering them exciting innovative services”.

  • The landscape of e-banking services in Nigeria is set to witness a major shift as two leading companies in banking and telecom sectors of the economy, FirstBank of Nigeria Plc (FirstBank) and Airtel Networks Limited have agreed to combine their strengths to provide seamless mobile money services to millions of Nigerians.
     
    Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two companies recently in Lagos, the two companies promised to combine their strengths to provide secure, convenient and user-friendly mobile banking services to unbanked people throughout via mobile phones.
     
    Mobile banking is the use of mobile phones to remotely access bank accounts, primarily for account inquiry, mobile transfer, retail payments, micro insurance, savings remittances, mobile top-up, utility bill payments and government collections among others.
     
    In his speech, The Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Rajan Swaroop, said, "Partnering First Bank to bring mobile financial services to all corners of country further demonstrates Airtel's commitment to Nigeria and supports the concept of borderless mobile telecoms services across the country.
     
    “Indeed, we are excited to partner with one of the biggest financial institutions in the country. This partnership will, without a doubt, assist us in realizing our vision of empowering more Nigerians with innovative and affordable mobile financial services. At Airtel Nigeria, we are committed to creating value propositions that will delight, enrich and benefit our customers regardless of their income level and location.”
     
    Commenting on the initiative, FirstBank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Bisi Onasanya said mobile banking is hinged on three planks which are defined in terms of financial inclusion for the unbanked and the underbanked, person to person transaction in terms of sending and receiving money as well as retail payment for the purchase of goods and services. He added that “With over 600 branches and thousands of business partner outlets in strategic proximity to the people, coupled with over 1,500 ATMs including cash deposit ATMs, cardless and biometric ATMs, over 5million active accounts and more than 1,200 Point of Sale terminals, FirstBank has always been at the forefront of innovative financial services solutions.
     
    In addition to the mobile money services, Onasanya said FirstBank has in place a world-class IT infrastructure to drive its e-payment services across transaction touch points. These services, according to him, include: Internet banking services, FirstOnline, FirstBank Visa Gold Credit Card, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale Terminals (POS) FirstBank MasterCard, FirstBank Classic Card, FirstBank Naira MasterCard and Cash Deposit ATMs amongst others.
     
    The Group Managing Director further assured that FirstBank will continue to lead the innovation drive in mobile banking through progressive and robust upgrades that will enable mobile money customers perform actions such as salary lodgement, pension and other types of payments and disbursements. Onasanya further affirmed that with a rich heritage, dependability and innovative dynamism, FirstBank is naturally the best partner for any telecom company to provide this novel initiative.
     
    The mobile money initiative, an integral part of the broad objectives of the FSS 20:2020 was conceived by the Central Bank of Nigeria because of its critical nature to achieving a “cashless society which is fundamental to the nation’s goal of becoming one of the top 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020.

  • The theme of this year’s AITEC Banking & Mobile Money Conference is “Showcasing the region’s banking and mobile payment innovation successes”. The intention is to use this the region’s leading annual banking event as a platform to promote the region’s exciting new payments innovations and technologies to the numerous industry delegates that will be attending from throughout the world.

    To give the region’s innovators and software developers a prominent profile at the event, AITEC has introduced two special features: An Innovator Showcase in the exhibition and an Innovator Fast-track Theatre in the conference. The Innovator Showcase will provide emerging enterprises with new innovations for the banking and payments sector with low-cost demo areas to promote their products and services to potential customers, partners and investors. And in the Innovator Fast-track Theatre they will be given an opportunity to make product presentations to attract further interest.

    Announcing these special features at the event, Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC Africa, emphasised the importance of nurturing and promoting the region’s emerging ICT innovators. “We have a unique opportunity to build on the hype of the M-PESA success story to develop a world-class payments innovation industry in East Africa and AITEC is fully behind this growing specialised industry, which have the potential to give us a real eadge in the world market. This is why we are sponsoring the NaiPay industry association initiative to promote co-operation, high standards and wider knowledge in the industry, as well as using our annual Banking & Mobile Money Conference to promote emerging enterprises in this space.”

    The Showcase and the Fast-track Theatre will be organised in partnership with NaiPay, mLab, iHub, Digital Age Institute and the Kenya ICT Board.

  • South African mobile services company Oltio has been nominated in the "best mobile money innovation" category at the annual GSMA Global Mobile Awards for its payD platform, which turns a user's mobile phone into a remote point-of-sale device.

    Oltio is a joint venture company between pan-African mobile network operator MTN and Standard Bank.

    Through the payD platform, launched in August, consumers can purchase products and services online and use their debit cards to pay for the purchase while making use of their mobile phones to enter their PINs.

    The technology is also used by Oltio parent company MTN for its Eazi Recharge pre-paid airtime top-up service, which already has over 110000 users.

    "Just being nominated is an honour for us," Oltio head of new business development Dave Parratt said in a statement this week. "It is recognition that our commitment to innovation and in particular, making e-commerce accessible to more South Africans, is paying off."

    He added that the company believed that payD had the ability to fundamentally change how consumers conduct online transactions, with more than 170 merchants who make use of the platform.

Digital Content

  • Mariana Diouh, is a Mozambican migrant domestic worker in Johannesburg. She has just received a phone call from her elderly grandmother in a village close to Xai Xai, Mozambique. Their farm produced very little and they do not have enough food to feed Mariana’s three young nieces, Mariana’s younger sister and her sickly father. The drought was severe and they cultivated little; the family has barely survived, and the food that Mariana sends back home on a monthly basis is what they have been surviving on. The village food seller has increased the price of the basic foodstuffs and it is too costly for the family to make the journey to the bigger town of Xai Xai.

    The urgency of the situation prompts Mariana’s grandmother to make this expensive international call – something that is considered an unnecessary luxury. Mariana understands the urgency of the situation as her father must get food if his medication is to work. But how can she get food to the family quickly?

    Mariana is concerned, as she does not have free time for another week and will not beable to get to the shops until then, and even so, the journey into town is costly and tedious.  She also needs to have extra money to organise and pay for the transportation of the parcel to her family in Xai Xai. Sometimes the coach driver does not take her parcels and she also never knows how much ‘hawala‘ he will ask her for taking the parcels (every time he wants a different amount as he says he is risking his job taking the parcels without the companies approval). This worries Mariana, but using the crossborder taxi driver also has its risks: sometimes the goods are confiscated at the border crossing because the taxi driver refuses to pay the required custom duties but more recently, she has heard of taxi drivers being held up at gunpoint and all of their goods being stolen.

    She talks to the neighbour’s Zimbabwean domestic worker, Nkosi, who tells her about a company: moWoza, mo for mobile and Woza – a Zulu word meaning running.

    Nkosi’s friend is an agent and she helped Nkosi become a registered account holder and within ten minutes complete her first purchase, with her family receiving the parcel after three days. moWoza offers a product range that includes basic foodstuffs, and a guaranteed service. Through SMS messages, moWoza notifies the family that a parcel needs to be collected. Once it is collection, moWoza confirms with the customer that the transaction is complete. Mariana agrees with Nkosi that moWoza’s service is good.

    Mariana sends an SMS to Nkosi’s friend, the moWoza’s agent, who agrees to come later to register Mariana and help her with her first purchase. Mariana notices that the moWoza service is fast, secure, and very cost-effective – it is no more expensive than if she had done this all herself. Soon, the agent is also showing Mariana how to connect onto the World Wide Web through her mobile phone. The agent explains that Mariana will be able to order moWoza products directly through her mobile phone.

    The possibilities seem endless for Mariana; she can open a bank account, become an agent and even learn how to download information from the World Wide Web. Ah, she reflects she can show her nieces at home how to use mobile internet…

  • Price-monitoring computer software that will produce monthly updates of staple food prices is being developed for East and Central African countries. The tool is under development at the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), whose headquarters are in Uganda.

    It is expected to increase competition and resilience to price volatility, and will begin with the monitoring of prices of maize, the major regional staple food.

    Michael Waithaka, manager of the Policy Analysis and Advocacy Programme at ASARECA, told SciDev.Net: "We will be giving monthly updates of food prices and balances. We will also be trying out a forecasting model, so that we can be more prepared, but this may take some time to adapt adequately."

    The monitoring tool, to be launched imminently, will use food price indices generated by each country's bureau of statistics every month.

    The information gathered by ASARECA through its networks in ten East African countries will be amalgamated, analysed and distributed to the governments of all the relevant countries to create price awareness.

    It is hoped the data generated will help to enable the flow of food from surplus to deficit areas, and from markets where the prices are low to where prices are high, thus reducing food shortages.

    However, observers have pointed out that the lack of integrated regional markets also needs to be addressed for food security to improve, as high price volatility is associated with the weak integration of food markets.

    High food prices have had a negative effect on trade for the African continent, a net food importer that spends about US$20 billion annually on food imports, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

    For instance, according to FAO statistics, 45 per cent of rice and 85 per cent of wheat consumed in Africa is imported. Waithaka warned that the tool will not be the sole solution for food price volatility as causes vary.

    Since 2010, the East and Central African region has suffered volatile food prices because of a combination of global causes and region-specific factors. Export bans were the most prominent trade policy measures in 2011.

    Joseph Karugia, the coordinator of the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System for Eastern and Central Africa, said: "In the 1970s and 1980s we complained about low prices, but now that they are high we continue to complain. A regional response would be an opportunity to address the food price crisis."

    High food prices, he added, would prompt exploitation of regional diversity and facilitate regional trade with priority actions, including removal of export bans, elimination of non-tariff barriers and upgrading infrastructure of main regional trade corridors.

    Godfrey Asea, head plant breeder of the cereals research programme at Uganda's National Crops Resources Research Institute, said the tool will equip farmers, traders and consumers with market information for decision making.

    The key remaining problems would be how accessible the information is — and adequate infrastructure so that food can move from areas of surplus to areas of deficit, he concluded.

  • While Facebook access has been the preserve of those with Internet access or a data plan, France Telecom Orange plans to bring a simple version of the social network to mobile phone users across Africa.

    Facebook via USSD will offer users of even the most basic phones access to key elements of the social network, such as status updates and friend requests.
    While Facebook access has been the preserve of those with Internet access or a data plan, France Telecom Orange plans to bring a simple version of the social network to mobile phone users across Africa.

    The service will be based on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD). Orange says it forms part of its strategy to provide mobile access to services to the “widest possible range” of customers and to open up digital services in emerging markets. USSD is commonly used in Africa for call-back services and accessing account information. The technology is found in all GSM mobile devices to send information across a 2G network.

    “As USSD is familiar in the region, and as there is no barrier in terms of handset requirements, even users with older or very basic handsets will be able to stay in touch with their family and friends on Facebook through a simple and affordable text-based service,” says the company.

    The service was initially launched by Orange in Egypt at the end of last year for Mobinil customers. The operator says 350 000 customers connected to Facebook via USSD in the first month. Orange is now taking the service to Côte d'Ivoire this month, and it says it will extend it to other African countries in which it operates throughout the year.

    Orange is confident the service will garner over a million users in its first year, many of whom it anticipates will be using social networking for the first time. The USSD service will let users search for friends, accept and deny friend requests, update statuses and comment on and like other friends' statuses.

    Explaining how the Facebook service works, Orange says: “No special applications are required to use Facebook via USSD. Customers only need to type a specific code into their phone to open a Facebook via USSD session and enter a PIN code to access the service securely.” Customers can choose between four pricing options, namely per session (10 to 20 minutes), daily, weekly and monthly. Orange says exact bundles and tariffs will be confirmed by each country as the service comes to market.

More

  • Orange Announces Community Innovations Awards for Young Developers

    Orange Uganda is providing a platform on which young student developers can exploit their talent and show case their innovations. Orange will support mobile applications that benefit communities where we operate, focusing on the areas below:

       1. Agriculture
       2. Health
       3. Education

    Application should be made by finalist students to enter the competetion. The entry should be endorsed by the project supervisor to authenticate ownership of the mobile application.

    Submit your entry by 25th May 2012 to  ciawards@orange.co.ug. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and stand a chance to win:

       1. 1st prize: 10 million shillings towards the application pilot and internship for 12 months
       2. 2nd prize: 5 million shillings worth of support towards the deployment of the application and internship for 12 months
       3. 3rd prize: internship for 6 months
       4. an android phone for each qualifying app

    Selection criteria

    The winning application will be selected by a panel of experts based on the following criteria:

       1. best innovation
       2. will improve/ support communities
       3. practical and easy to deploy into a live environment
       4. has economical potential

    Each entry should have:

       1. A full presentation on the application highlighting how it will benefit the community
       2. demonstration of how it works
       3. Phased planning of how it will be implemented

    The wining application will be announced at the Orange Community Innovations award ceremony, date to be announced.

Issue no 592 17th February 2012

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Top story

  • All too often the news is about what China or India are doing to expand into Africa. This week saw a Japanese company Hitachi Data Systems buy South Africa based IT company Shoden Data Systems. Isabelle Gross spoke to Tony Read, COO of Hitachi Data System UK, Ireland and Sub-Sahara Africa about the acquisition of Shoden Data Systems and what it means for a Japanese global company to expand its footprint in Africa.

    Shoden Data Systems is a long-time South African provider of data centre technology both in its home country and into Sub-Saharan Africa and it has been working for many years with Hitachi Data System. Shoden Data Systems designs, provisions, deploys and supports products and technologies that simplify and optimise data centres used by banks, telecommunication companies and retail companies. Its offering includes data storage solutions including solid state disks (SSD) for faster access to information, software to assist and improve server virtualisation and data protection solutions. Shoden Data Systems has a good market share in South Africa and has managed to expanded its footprint further in Sub-Sahara Africa by supporting its existing customer base’s roll out of services in other African countries.

    According to Tony Reid, the two companies have become very close business partners over the years to the extent that 75% of Shoden Data Systems’ activities are Hitachi related. As the partnership between the two companies was getting stronger, it was a logical step forward to tie the knot between the two of them. Hitachi Data System will carry on providing equipment and resources while Shoden with its good understanding of the Southern African markets (South Africa and other countries in Southern Africa) will provide the routes to market. Shoden and Hitachi have also expanded their activities into Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and other SADC countries and the plan is to continue developing their activities in these countries.

    The acquisition of Shoden is a first in Africa for Hitachi Data System. For the large conglomerate with a global footprint, this acquisition represent a rather small drop in the sea but as Tony Read explains Hitachi has been investing for a while in emerging markets like China and Brazil and as time goes by they have been seeing good growth potential in South Africa and some other Sub-Sahara African countries.

    He is confident that the acquisition will be a success and will further strengthen Hitachi’s footprint in the region. When asked if Hitachi has any plans to move directly in the data centre business, Tony Read replies that this is not on the roadmap in the short term. He believes that going into this segment requires some other core qualities and he adds further that as African countries’ economies developed they will be more large organisations that will be looking for “in-house” data centre facilities rather then outsourcing the service.

    In Tony Read’s opinion, the data centre market in Africa has a good future. There are emerging solutions like cloud services that could make IT services more readily available to use by businesses. In Africa, enterprises are less well equipped when it comes to IT hardware and software and a business model based on a pay per use basis to access software and IT services would actually make sense and drive further the penetration of ICT services.

    Sooner rather than later, more telecoms operators will offer clouds services too and this is where Hitachi/Shoden will come in with the backend solutions and support. He believes that Africa has been pretty innovative in particular in the way that mobile telephones are used to carry out banking, transfer and payment services for example and so more innovations of this kind can be expected to develop.

    Of course the expected growth in the data centre business will not easily materialise if some nagging bottleneck issues are not dealt with. Tony Reid reckons that power as well as network bandwidth are still causing problems. There is also still a skill gap but it is shrinking fast in some countries and in particular in South Africa. 

    For now Shoden will carry on trading under the Shoden brand name in South Africa and in the other African countries where the company is doing business and depending on how things move forward it might later rebrand as Hitachi. As foreign investors are seeing potential growth opportunities in Africa more and more attractive compared to developed markets, it can be expected that more acquisitions of this nature will take place in Africa as the ICT market gets more mature and more diversified.

    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:

    Data centres and managed services

    Jonathan Tawiah, CEO, Ostec on providing managed services in West Africa


    Le Cloud en Afrique selon Hedera Tech (en francais)

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel on data centres in Benin

    Services that drive data centre use - M-Money

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on how Uganda’s Lake Victoria fishermen and the truckers who buy from them use m-money services

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay on the up-take and use of Z-Pesa in Tanzania

    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on integrating other day-to-day tools into into its m-money platform ELMA

    Correction:  In the story in last week’s issue about low-end social networking site Eskimi, we got our Baltic countries mixed up. Eskimi is a Lithuanian, not a Latvian country. Also other social media sites without a high profile in Africa include Pinterest and Spotify. Please also note the launch of the continent’s own Zing.

telecoms

  • Etisalat wants to acquire a licence in Libya or invest in one of the North African country's existing operators, its chairman told Reuters last week.

    Libya has two state mobile operators, Madar and Libyana, while another government-linked firm Lap Green Networks is active in several African countries including Uganda and Ivory Coast.

    "We have shown to the Libyan government our interest [in] the possibility to participate in the development of the telecoms market in Libya, either by a new licence or even by operating or investing in one of the existing mobile licences," Mohammad Omran said on the sidelines of an event in Tripoli.

    Etisalat bid for Libya's third mobile licence in 2009, but the licence was never awarded.

  • Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE should explain to Mobinil shareholders why it may sell part of its stake to France Telecom SA after rejecting a higher bid in 2009, Egypt’s markets regulator said.

    France Telecom said it reached a preliminary agreement to buy most of Orascom Telecom Media’s stake in their Mobinil venture at 202.5 Egyptian pounds ($33.56) a share. The same offer will be made to minority investors in the Egyptian Co. for Mobile Services, also known as Mobinil. That’s 42.5 pounds less than an offer by France Telecom in 2009 that Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, headed by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, blocked in court.

    Orascom Telecom Media should explain the agreement with France Telecom to its shareholders and those of Mobinil, the Cairo-based Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority said in a statement on its website today. France Telecom made the 2009 bid before Sawiris spun off Orascom Telecom Media from Orascom Telecom Holding.

    France Telecom owns about 71 percent of Mobinil Telecom Co., which controls Mobinil, and Orascom Telecom Media owns the rest. Orascom Telecom Media also holds a 20 percent direct stake in Mobinil, while about 29 percent is traded on the Egyptian Exchange. The shares jumped 10 percent today to 151.67 pounds, valuing the company at 15.2 billion Egyptian pounds.

    Sawiris opposed France Telecom’s 2009 bid because he said it offered minority shareholders in Mobinil less than the 273 pound price tag set by an international arbitration court for his stake in Mobinil Telecom, the holding company.

    Mobinil must appoint an independent adviser to assess France Telecom’s latest bid, the regulator said today.

  • Nokia plans to make Nairobi its global hub for research and investment for the India, Middle East and Africa region.

    The move is a big win for the country which will serve as a nerve centre for Nokia’s global research activities, bringing together application developers, businesses and software engineering eco-system from around the world.

    The company has research facilities in 13 locations worldwide, and Nairobi will be its nerve centre.

    The Nairobi Nokia Research Center (NRC) located at the Nairobi Business Park along Ngong Road previously served the African region only.

     “There is advanced development happening in Kenya. It is part of the reason why I am here. I am not visiting the 54 countries in Africa. I am only visiting Kenya and South Africa,” said Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop. He was speaking during a round-table meeting with the technology community in Kenya held at the iHub Nairobi, in what is his first visit to Africa.

    He highlighted the unique position of Kenya as a technology leader in the region, and said that the country’s track record in innovation informed the decision. The news comes at a time when Nokia has been in the midst of a global restructuring.

  • Burkina Faso has slapped three telecoms operators with more than $5 million in penalties for poor service, a regulatory official said Friday.

    "We decided to impose financial sanctions against the three mobile operators for their failure to comply with terms," said Bako Mathurin, the president of Burkina Faso's regulatory authority ARCEP.

    He added that the three companies--Telmob, Airtel and Telecel Faso--had two weeks to pay the combined total of 2.706 billion CFA francs ($5.36 million).

    Click here to find out more!Government officials and consumer groups regularly take the telecom operators to task for poor Internet service, as well as problems with calls and text messaging.

    But that hasn't stopped the government from recently awarding all three companies 3G licenses for XOF1.5 billion each.

    Telmob, a subsidiary of Morocco's Onatel, and the largest of the three telecoms with 3.5 million of Burkina Faso's 8 million mobile subscribers, was hit Friday with the largest penalty, at XOF1.086 billion.

    Airtel, owned by India's Bharti Airtel Ltd., was fined XOF894 million and locally owned Telecel Faso XOF724 million.

    The regulator has plans to allow a fourth operator into the Burkina Faso telecoms market.

  • Global wireless technology company, Qualcomm, announced on Thursday that Nairobi will be its regional business centre within the Sub-Saharan region. Qualcomm, whose offices span 75 countries, made the decision in response to the rapidly growing mobile market in Africa, which has been termed as the second largest mobile market in the world after Asia.

    "Qualcomm's new Nairobi office allows us to maintain close proximity to the people, governments and important industry events that are driving the regional telecommunications industry forward," said Billy Owino, Qualcomm's Director of Business Development in East Africa, during announcement of the company's new offices at a media briefing in Nairobi.

    According to Mr Owino, Qualcomm's presence in Nairobi is part of its long-term commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa, and will "continue to invest in strategic research and development.

  • Parliament has adopted the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulations, 2011 (L.I. 2006) to give backing to SIM card registration in the country. The Legislation provides that with effect from Saturday, March 3,2012, no SIM card can be used if not duly registered.

    Consequently, no mobile network operator shall be able to activate a SIM card for a new customer without it having been registered. In addition, existing subscribers who have either not registered their SIM cards or whose earlier registrations are invalid are required to re-register, failing which their SIM cards will be de-activated.

    This was contained in a statement issued in Accra on Thursday by the Director-General of National Communications Authority (NCA).

    It explained that the statement was to highlight the issue of the mandatory requirement that any SIM card in use must be registered by the deadline of March 3, 2012 after which any unregistered SIM card cannot be in use.

    The statement said on July 1, 2010, Ghana embarked on a SIM Card Registration Exercise which required users of mobile telephony services to register their SIM cards.

    The exercise was to run for a full year from July 1, 2010 to June 30 2011 at the end of which any SIM card that remained unregistered would be deactivated.

    At the end of that period, nearly all SIM cards in use had been registered. However, it quickly became evident that quite a

    number of subscribers had not followed the due process for the registration therefore, their registrations could not be validated.

    While some of the reasons for invalid registrations could be traced to the quality of subscriber information provided, others could be attributed to human error in the registration process, or plain deception on the part of subscribers and registration agents alike.

    At the time, the NCA announced the need for time to allow for invalid registrations to be corrected and indicated the Authority's resolve to ensuring that the exercise achieved a thoroughly sanitised and complete register.

  • Telkom will appear before the competition tribunal on Wednesday, in a case which may see the company go bust, SABC news reported on Tuesday.

    The Competition Commission has asked the tribunal to find Telkom guilty of excessive pricing and abuse of the market and wants the company to be fined R3.5 billion, the broadcaster said.

    Eight years ago, an investigation by the commission found that Telkom was guilty of charging excessive prices to smaller independent companies - which relied on the company's network infrastructure to provide data services like the internet and SMS.

    The commission also found that Telkom was discriminating against the independent service providers in that its charges were less for companies affiliated to it. The proposed R3.5 billion penalty has raised a few eyebrows, SABC reported.

    "Any fine of R3.5 billion is very big for any company in South Africa to pay and you could have a problem where the company's survival at stake," Mike Schussler, director of Economists.co.za, was quoted as saying.

    "When you look at that kind of fine in a company that's really got declining revenues, if you really look at it, it's really going to be difficult for it to survive under that sort of fine and I think we need to get the balance right between competition and the ability of a company to carry on."

    Telkom is expected to centre its argument around this when it takes the stand on Wednesday, SABC said.

    The company is expected to first argue for the case against it to be dismissed, failing which the penalty against it should be symbolic rather than punitive in nature.

  • Swaziland’s minister of ICT Winnie Magagula has publicly called for an end to the on-going hostilities between national telecoms regulator the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (which is also the incumbent telco) and the country’s sole wireless operator MTN Swaziland. Magagula told the Times of Swaziland that she hopes that the dispute – which relates to SPTC’s attempts to launch fixed-wireless services under the ‘One’ brand name – can be solved in the boardroom rather than the courtroom, arguing that the two entities cannot do without one another as they are ‘joined at the hip’. MTN believes that One contravenes the long-standing Joint Venture Agreement that forbids SPTC from competing with it, but SPTC maintains that it faces financial collapse if it abandoned the fixed-wireless initiative, on account of the substantial sum already invested in it.

    During a tour of MTN’s facilities this week, Magagula told board members and staff: ‘I have to see to it that there is harmony between the two companies. There is no way that the government can sit back and watch the fight. Swazi MTN is a child of SPTC and therefore there is no way you can run away from each other. You are a creature of statutes. You are stuck together. I also told SPTC the same thing. I urge you to harmonise your relationship. We have to move out of court corridors and to the boardroom. I urge MTN and SPTC to rekindle the relationship that existed from 1997. Once you harmonise you will give cheaper services to citizens’.

  • Four years ago, when Daniel Chiwinga and Kondwani Chimatiro met in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) lecture room at Mzuzu University, in the northern part of Malawi, they had no idea that they would be starting a journey that could turn into their life's work.

    The two young men, one from Kasungu and another from Lilongwe in the central districts of Malawi, have now developed a search engine they are calling ‘C-Finder’, spurred by the knowledge they have gained over the years that they have been studying.

    The search engine will prioritise information from Malawi when a user conducts a search, delivering relevant, local content first. Chimatiro says Malawi lags behind in ICT development. He feels those working in the sector need to be looking at Malawi in terms of what is needed as a country.

    “But first of all, for us (Malawians) to achieve what we need, in development, socially, technologically, we need information,” he says. Adding that this is why they came with an idea on how best they can deliver information to people, and how people can access information.

    He says they thought that the only way to deliver information is to centralise all Malawian information, that cuts across a wide range of disciplines like history, literature and more.

    “This is why we devised a search engine with a central hub for that information; all Malawians can be able to access that information from the central repository. The idea is to provide information to Malawians since information in Malawi is difficult to access,” says Chimatiro.

    His colleague Chiwinga agrees with him: “In Africa and Malawi in particular, many people do not access technology because it is expensive and we want to come up with ways of developing low cost technology so that everybody can be able to afford.”

    Chiwinga said the other thing is that a lot of information in Malawi which is being provided by Malawians themselves cannot be found on the internet. He says this is because nobody has put that information on the internet.

    “We have a lot of information concerning Malawi which is in hard copy so we want to digitalise that information so that it would be in soft copy and then we put it on C-finder so that other people can find that information by using C-finder search engine,” explains Chiwinga.

    He says anyone who is in the ICT sector must take up the responsibility of loading important information on the internet.

    Chiwinga said the difference between C-Finder and other search engines is that theirs is focusing on Malawi information. “For example if you search for a word ‘admission’ on Google it is going to bring you a lot of universities that are offering certain programmes but if you write admission on C-finder it is going to bring you universities and colleges from Malawi,” he says.

    He adds that then C-Finder will reduce the ‘hunting ground’ for those looking for information where as when one uses Google they are going to be overwhelmed with the amount of results that will appear.

    The other thing, Chimatiro says is that Malawian results on Google may be ranked very far because you can find over thousands and thousands of results but with C-Finder the search for terms about Malawi will be indexed at first.

    At the moment when one search for something, like ‘Gregory Gondwe’ using C-Finder handful results appear which is in contrast with thousands of results that will appear when using Google. Chimatiro says this is because at the moment C-Finder lacks enough space.

    “Currently we have got very small database which is handling limited information, but as we go on and with resources permitting we will handle almost all information in the world as well as Google is doing,” he says.

    The two university finalists say they are currently working on trying to increase space so that they can index more information about Malawi, so that once anyone searches for information they can get a lot of results.

internet

  • Nairobi — Millions of people in Africa and the Middle East will be able to benefit from free, unlimited access to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia through their mobile phone, starting later this year.

    The scheme targets the region's 70 million customers of the mobile network provider Orange, who will be given free access to Wikipedia on their internet-enabled 'smart' phones.

    The deal struck between Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia, will allow Orange customers to read and download information from Wikipedia without the usual data usage charges.

    "Price is a strong barrier to people accessing the Internet, particularly in Africa," said Vanessa Clarke, spokesperson for Orange.

    But the project will face several challenges, according to local experts. Catherine Ngahu, chair of the Kenya ICT Board, said few people in the region own a 'smart' phone that can connect to the internet.

    "Although there is increasing ownership of smart phones, there is still a large number of people who cannot afford them," she told SciDev.Net. "In order to widen reach, Orange should consider marketing lower cost smart phones."

    Michael Njuku of the Kenya Revenue Authority said obstacles will range from low quality mobile handsets people own to a network provider's ability to handle the increased Internet traffic as customers try to access Wikipedia, sometimes millions at a time.

    "Governments in Africa must also do more to ensure that poor quality counterfeit gadgets are not imported into their countries," he said.

    Clarke said the scheme will be rolled out in mid-2012, initially in about eight countries, and by December some 20 countries will benefit.

    She said between seven and 15 per cent of Orange customers in Africa and the Middle East currently have phones that access the Internet, but the company plans to increase the proportion to 50 per cent by 2015.

    Kul Wadhwa, Head of Mobile and Business Development at the Wikimedia Foundation, said he expects the scheme to encourage more people in Africa to read, contribute and download information from Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia is the world's largest online encyclopaedia, maintained by a global community of volunteers. It contains explanations of many scientific terms and issues, and some have suggested it could be used to share scientific knowledge.

    More mobile network operators are expected to follow suit in the coming months, according to Wadhwa.

  • The hearing of the case regarding censorship of pornographic websites in Tunisia has been postponed to February 22nd, confirmed Olivia Gré, director of the Tunisian chapter of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

    Last year, a lawsuit was filed by three Tunisian lawyers, who found free access to pornographic websites in Tunisia to be dangerous to children and corrosive of Islamic values. The court's decision sided with the lawyers, yet the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) appealed the ruling on May 26th. On August 11th, 2011, the appeal was denied, but the ATI delayed implementing the decision, pleading technical and financial limitations.

    They appealed the decision again, to Tunisia's Supreme Court, prolonging the legal debate as to the acceptable extent of internet freedom.

    The ongoing trial has been handled with a good deal of discretion. During the February 1st hearing, reporters were not allowed to enter the courtroom, and afterward the ATI refrained from announcing the precise date of the subsequent hearing.

    Censorship of internet pornography is not new to Tunisia. Until the evening of January 13th, when Tunisia's ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali delivered his famous speech declaring that he would order an end to Internet filtering, access to pornographic websites was blocked in the country.

    On February 3rd, RSF released a statement, entitled "Internet Filtering: Risks to Stepping Backwards," in which it argued that blocking porn sites in Tunisia could mark a prelude to the return of old censorship practices of the previous regime. The statement recommended that internet providers promote tools of parental control.

    However, the statement maintained, imposing an automated filtering system would not prevent Tunisians from accessing pornographic websites since they "are perfectly aware of different techniques to deal with censorship."

  • The delays being experienced at Mombasa port and border points might end when an online cargo clearance system goes live later this year. The first phase of the National Single Window System is set to be implemented in December.

    It will also save the sector billions of shillings lost in the long and tedious clearance processes, said retired major general Joseph Kibwana, chairman of the Kenya Trade Network Agency. The agency was created to oversee the implementation of the system.

    "For a long time, the cumbersome trade processes have led to perennial congestion, delays in cargo clearance and long truck queues at the port of Mombasa and airports," he said,

    The system will create a platform for submission, receipt and processing of trade related cargo clearance documentation.

    The electronic platform will be the sole entry point for lodging trade transaction documents and will integrate over 24 government agencies including Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services and Kenya Ports Authority.

    Phase one will automate cargo documentation processes by integrating the systems of all the key stakeholders involved in cargo clearance in the public and private sectors.

    Phase two will involve integration of the single window system with the national payments system via a national payment gateway to ensure an end to end electronic solution in trade logistics, planned to be operational by mid next year.

    "The system will also solve the chronic problem of corruption and be the solution to the lengthy, manual and uncoordinated trade processes," Mr Kibwana told participants at a workshop for stakeholders at Whitesands Beach Resort.

    "At the moment, we are continuing with sensitisation campaigns among stakeholders to update them on the progres," said Mr Alex Kabuga, Kentrade CEO.

computing

  • biNu, a content rich, social networking platform optimized for mobile feature phones and low-end smartphones, today announced a partnership with Worldreader to deliver digital books to biNu users. The partnership provides a new distribution channel for Worldreader – a social enterprise whose mission is to transform reading in the developing world so that people can transform their lives.

    Worldreader makes digital books available to all in the developing world. The organization identifies schools, trains teachers, works with communities and local officials, partners with local and international publishers and other top-tier companies to bring e-books to under-served families in the developing world. By providing access to digital books, Worldreader empowers children and families to rise out of poverty.

    “Long-term, technology will help create a real culture of reading in parts of the world where that’s not been possible before,” said Worldreader co-founder Colin McElwee. “Mobile phones are central to technological and educational development in countries in Sub Saharan Africa– especially in rural areas, where there is little to no infrastructure.”

    biNu’s patented technology utilizes cloud computing to create a virtual smartphone experience that provides instant discovery, switching and sharing of apps, within a social network and messaging platform. biNu is 10x faster and 10x more efficient on data usage than standard mobile browsers and is an obvious choice for anyone looking to fully utilize their mobile phone – particularly in emerging economies where mobile phones are the primary Internet access device. The beta version of the Worldreader App for biNu is available immediately and gives biNu users instant access to a cloud-based library of digital books from local and international authors.

    “Worldreader improves the lives of millions of people in the developing world,” said Gour Lentell, CEO for biNu. “I am pleased we are able to extend their coverage and I hope biNu will play a part in their overall success.”

    With this announcement, biNu joins other Worldreader’s other forward-thinking partners like Amazon.com, Penguin Young Readers Group, and USAID.  Said Worldreader CEO David Risher, “Together with the some of world’s best-known organizations, Worldreader and our partners are bringing books to all.”

    Worldreader  is a not-for-profit organization whose aim is to put a library of books within reach of every family on the planet, using electronic book technology. Worldreader has established e-reader programs in schools in Ghana and Kenya, and Uganda with plans to expand throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

  • A newly-released United Nations report has revealed that West Africa is facing a significant increase in waste generated by electronic equipment which poses mounting health and environmental risks.

    About 85 per cent of the waste produced in the region comes from domestic consumption, the report revealed. However, the problem is further exacerbated by industrialised countries importing used equipment which often proves to be unsuitable for re-use and end up being discarded, it added.

    "Effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa and other parts of the world is an important part of the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy", said Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

    The report assessed the situation over two years in five countries - Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria - and found that they produce between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tonnes of domestic e-waste each year, which can have a negative impact in the environment and increase the risk of health issues.

    As for waste coming from other countries, the report notes that the United Kingdom is the dominant exporting country to Africa for both new and used electrical and electronic equipment, followed by France and Germany.

    According to UNEP, although the use of electrical and electronic equipment is still low in Africa compared to other regions, it is growing at a staggering pace as more people start using mobile phones and personal computers.

    The report, which was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and partners, also documents the economic and environmental potential of building a resource recovery and waste management system for electronic waste, along with the risks of continuing on the present course.

    "We can grow Africa's economies, generate decent employment and safeguard the environment by supporting sustainable e-waste management and recovering the valuable metals and other resources locked inside products that end up as e-waste," Steiner said, adding that the report provides various strategies to limit damages and provide economic opportunities, something that is crucial for long-term sustainability.

    "E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream world-wide and a key waste stream under the Basel Convention," said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention. The convention's secretariat is administered by UNEP.

    "Dealing with electronic and electrical equipment properly presents a serious environmental and health challenge for many countries, yet also offers a potentially significant opportunity to create green businesses and green jobs," he added.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Warid Congo SA, the leading telecommunication operator in Congo, has announced the launch of Warid Mobicash across its network. This offer is based on the Mobile Money technology from Mobicash.

    Warid MobiCash 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. The resulting mobile payment platform provides a powerful set of tools for efficient, effective, secure, and accessible mobile payment services.

    Warid MobiCash customers can make secure cashless transactions. All phones can make payments using Warid MobiCash no matter what phone model or network operator. Due to its simplicity, Warid MobiCash mobile payment has wide appeal, is easy to deploy and open to everyone – there are no complicated software downloads necessary and no restrictions to enrolment.

    P2P transfers alone, which typically end with a recipient converting e-money back to cash, are not enough to deliver on our vision of a cash-free ecosystem. Instead, Warid MobiCash position itself as “Much more than Money Transfer” and typically promote some combination of various services such as money transfer, airtime top-up, bill payments, and merchant payments. By doing so, Warid MobiCash provides consumers with options to use their electronic money rather than instantly converting it back into cash and can be termed as a “national payment instrument”.

    Commenting on the launch, Mr. Michel Elame, CEO of Warid Congo S.A, said, “The launch of Warid Mobicash is a true revolution on the Congolese market; we believed in it, and we did it! This new service is open to all Congolese and accessible through any local mobile network operator. The launch of Warid Mobicash confirms yet again, the status of Warid Congo as an innovator. We believe that this new born will strengthen our brand as well as our position on the market. So, “Make it happen” will not just remain as a simple slogan, but a true vision of our company striving to satisfy the users by always offering them exciting innovative services”.

  • The landscape of e-banking services in Nigeria is set to witness a major shift as two leading companies in banking and telecom sectors of the economy, FirstBank of Nigeria Plc (FirstBank) and Airtel Networks Limited have agreed to combine their strengths to provide seamless mobile money services to millions of Nigerians.
     
    Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two companies recently in Lagos, the two companies promised to combine their strengths to provide secure, convenient and user-friendly mobile banking services to unbanked people throughout via mobile phones.
     
    Mobile banking is the use of mobile phones to remotely access bank accounts, primarily for account inquiry, mobile transfer, retail payments, micro insurance, savings remittances, mobile top-up, utility bill payments and government collections among others.
     
    In his speech, The Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Rajan Swaroop, said, "Partnering First Bank to bring mobile financial services to all corners of country further demonstrates Airtel's commitment to Nigeria and supports the concept of borderless mobile telecoms services across the country.
     
    “Indeed, we are excited to partner with one of the biggest financial institutions in the country. This partnership will, without a doubt, assist us in realizing our vision of empowering more Nigerians with innovative and affordable mobile financial services. At Airtel Nigeria, we are committed to creating value propositions that will delight, enrich and benefit our customers regardless of their income level and location.”
     
    Commenting on the initiative, FirstBank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Bisi Onasanya said mobile banking is hinged on three planks which are defined in terms of financial inclusion for the unbanked and the underbanked, person to person transaction in terms of sending and receiving money as well as retail payment for the purchase of goods and services. He added that “With over 600 branches and thousands of business partner outlets in strategic proximity to the people, coupled with over 1,500 ATMs including cash deposit ATMs, cardless and biometric ATMs, over 5million active accounts and more than 1,200 Point of Sale terminals, FirstBank has always been at the forefront of innovative financial services solutions.
     
    In addition to the mobile money services, Onasanya said FirstBank has in place a world-class IT infrastructure to drive its e-payment services across transaction touch points. These services, according to him, include: Internet banking services, FirstOnline, FirstBank Visa Gold Credit Card, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale Terminals (POS) FirstBank MasterCard, FirstBank Classic Card, FirstBank Naira MasterCard and Cash Deposit ATMs amongst others.
     
    The Group Managing Director further assured that FirstBank will continue to lead the innovation drive in mobile banking through progressive and robust upgrades that will enable mobile money customers perform actions such as salary lodgement, pension and other types of payments and disbursements. Onasanya further affirmed that with a rich heritage, dependability and innovative dynamism, FirstBank is naturally the best partner for any telecom company to provide this novel initiative.
     
    The mobile money initiative, an integral part of the broad objectives of the FSS 20:2020 was conceived by the Central Bank of Nigeria because of its critical nature to achieving a “cashless society which is fundamental to the nation’s goal of becoming one of the top 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020.

  • The theme of this year’s AITEC Banking & Mobile Money Conference is “Showcasing the region’s banking and mobile payment innovation successes”. The intention is to use this the region’s leading annual banking event as a platform to promote the region’s exciting new payments innovations and technologies to the numerous industry delegates that will be attending from throughout the world.

    To give the region’s innovators and software developers a prominent profile at the event, AITEC has introduced two special features: An Innovator Showcase in the exhibition and an Innovator Fast-track Theatre in the conference. The Innovator Showcase will provide emerging enterprises with new innovations for the banking and payments sector with low-cost demo areas to promote their products and services to potential customers, partners and investors. And in the Innovator Fast-track Theatre they will be given an opportunity to make product presentations to attract further interest.

    Announcing these special features at the event, Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC Africa, emphasised the importance of nurturing and promoting the region’s emerging ICT innovators. “We have a unique opportunity to build on the hype of the M-PESA success story to develop a world-class payments innovation industry in East Africa and AITEC is fully behind this growing specialised industry, which have the potential to give us a real eadge in the world market. This is why we are sponsoring the NaiPay industry association initiative to promote co-operation, high standards and wider knowledge in the industry, as well as using our annual Banking & Mobile Money Conference to promote emerging enterprises in this space.”

    The Showcase and the Fast-track Theatre will be organised in partnership with NaiPay, mLab, iHub, Digital Age Institute and the Kenya ICT Board.

  • South African mobile services company Oltio has been nominated in the "best mobile money innovation" category at the annual GSMA Global Mobile Awards for its payD platform, which turns a user's mobile phone into a remote point-of-sale device.

    Oltio is a joint venture company between pan-African mobile network operator MTN and Standard Bank.

    Through the payD platform, launched in August, consumers can purchase products and services online and use their debit cards to pay for the purchase while making use of their mobile phones to enter their PINs.

    The technology is also used by Oltio parent company MTN for its Eazi Recharge pre-paid airtime top-up service, which already has over 110000 users.

    "Just being nominated is an honour for us," Oltio head of new business development Dave Parratt said in a statement this week. "It is recognition that our commitment to innovation and in particular, making e-commerce accessible to more South Africans, is paying off."

    He added that the company believed that payD had the ability to fundamentally change how consumers conduct online transactions, with more than 170 merchants who make use of the platform.

Digital Content

  • Mariana Diouh, is a Mozambican migrant domestic worker in Johannesburg. She has just received a phone call from her elderly grandmother in a village close to Xai Xai, Mozambique. Their farm produced very little and they do not have enough food to feed Mariana’s three young nieces, Mariana’s younger sister and her sickly father. The drought was severe and they cultivated little; the family has barely survived, and the food that Mariana sends back home on a monthly basis is what they have been surviving on. The village food seller has increased the price of the basic foodstuffs and it is too costly for the family to make the journey to the bigger town of Xai Xai.

    The urgency of the situation prompts Mariana’s grandmother to make this expensive international call – something that is considered an unnecessary luxury. Mariana understands the urgency of the situation as her father must get food if his medication is to work. But how can she get food to the family quickly?

    Mariana is concerned, as she does not have free time for another week and will not beable to get to the shops until then, and even so, the journey into town is costly and tedious.  She also needs to have extra money to organise and pay for the transportation of the parcel to her family in Xai Xai. Sometimes the coach driver does not take her parcels and she also never knows how much ‘hawala‘ he will ask her for taking the parcels (every time he wants a different amount as he says he is risking his job taking the parcels without the companies approval). This worries Mariana, but using the crossborder taxi driver also has its risks: sometimes the goods are confiscated at the border crossing because the taxi driver refuses to pay the required custom duties but more recently, she has heard of taxi drivers being held up at gunpoint and all of their goods being stolen.

    She talks to the neighbour’s Zimbabwean domestic worker, Nkosi, who tells her about a company: moWoza, mo for mobile and Woza – a Zulu word meaning running.

    Nkosi’s friend is an agent and she helped Nkosi become a registered account holder and within ten minutes complete her first purchase, with her family receiving the parcel after three days. moWoza offers a product range that includes basic foodstuffs, and a guaranteed service. Through SMS messages, moWoza notifies the family that a parcel needs to be collected. Once it is collection, moWoza confirms with the customer that the transaction is complete. Mariana agrees with Nkosi that moWoza’s service is good.

    Mariana sends an SMS to Nkosi’s friend, the moWoza’s agent, who agrees to come later to register Mariana and help her with her first purchase. Mariana notices that the moWoza service is fast, secure, and very cost-effective – it is no more expensive than if she had done this all herself. Soon, the agent is also showing Mariana how to connect onto the World Wide Web through her mobile phone. The agent explains that Mariana will be able to order moWoza products directly through her mobile phone.

    The possibilities seem endless for Mariana; she can open a bank account, become an agent and even learn how to download information from the World Wide Web. Ah, she reflects she can show her nieces at home how to use mobile internet…

  • Price-monitoring computer software that will produce monthly updates of staple food prices is being developed for East and Central African countries. The tool is under development at the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), whose headquarters are in Uganda.

    It is expected to increase competition and resilience to price volatility, and will begin with the monitoring of prices of maize, the major regional staple food.

    Michael Waithaka, manager of the Policy Analysis and Advocacy Programme at ASARECA, told SciDev.Net: "We will be giving monthly updates of food prices and balances. We will also be trying out a forecasting model, so that we can be more prepared, but this may take some time to adapt adequately."

    The monitoring tool, to be launched imminently, will use food price indices generated by each country's bureau of statistics every month.

    The information gathered by ASARECA through its networks in ten East African countries will be amalgamated, analysed and distributed to the governments of all the relevant countries to create price awareness.

    It is hoped the data generated will help to enable the flow of food from surplus to deficit areas, and from markets where the prices are low to where prices are high, thus reducing food shortages.

    However, observers have pointed out that the lack of integrated regional markets also needs to be addressed for food security to improve, as high price volatility is associated with the weak integration of food markets.

    High food prices have had a negative effect on trade for the African continent, a net food importer that spends about US$20 billion annually on food imports, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

    For instance, according to FAO statistics, 45 per cent of rice and 85 per cent of wheat consumed in Africa is imported. Waithaka warned that the tool will not be the sole solution for food price volatility as causes vary.

    Since 2010, the East and Central African region has suffered volatile food prices because of a combination of global causes and region-specific factors. Export bans were the most prominent trade policy measures in 2011.

    Joseph Karugia, the coordinator of the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System for Eastern and Central Africa, said: "In the 1970s and 1980s we complained about low prices, but now that they are high we continue to complain. A regional response would be an opportunity to address the food price crisis."

    High food prices, he added, would prompt exploitation of regional diversity and facilitate regional trade with priority actions, including removal of export bans, elimination of non-tariff barriers and upgrading infrastructure of main regional trade corridors.

    Godfrey Asea, head plant breeder of the cereals research programme at Uganda's National Crops Resources Research Institute, said the tool will equip farmers, traders and consumers with market information for decision making.

    The key remaining problems would be how accessible the information is — and adequate infrastructure so that food can move from areas of surplus to areas of deficit, he concluded.

  • While Facebook access has been the preserve of those with Internet access or a data plan, France Telecom Orange plans to bring a simple version of the social network to mobile phone users across Africa.

    Facebook via USSD will offer users of even the most basic phones access to key elements of the social network, such as status updates and friend requests.
    While Facebook access has been the preserve of those with Internet access or a data plan, France Telecom Orange plans to bring a simple version of the social network to mobile phone users across Africa.

    The service will be based on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD). Orange says it forms part of its strategy to provide mobile access to services to the “widest possible range” of customers and to open up digital services in emerging markets. USSD is commonly used in Africa for call-back services and accessing account information. The technology is found in all GSM mobile devices to send information across a 2G network.

    “As USSD is familiar in the region, and as there is no barrier in terms of handset requirements, even users with older or very basic handsets will be able to stay in touch with their family and friends on Facebook through a simple and affordable text-based service,” says the company.

    The service was initially launched by Orange in Egypt at the end of last year for Mobinil customers. The operator says 350 000 customers connected to Facebook via USSD in the first month. Orange is now taking the service to Côte d'Ivoire this month, and it says it will extend it to other African countries in which it operates throughout the year.

    Orange is confident the service will garner over a million users in its first year, many of whom it anticipates will be using social networking for the first time. The USSD service will let users search for friends, accept and deny friend requests, update statuses and comment on and like other friends' statuses.

    Explaining how the Facebook service works, Orange says: “No special applications are required to use Facebook via USSD. Customers only need to type a specific code into their phone to open a Facebook via USSD session and enter a PIN code to access the service securely.” Customers can choose between four pricing options, namely per session (10 to 20 minutes), daily, weekly and monthly. Orange says exact bundles and tariffs will be confirmed by each country as the service comes to market.

More

  • Orange Announces Community Innovations Awards for Young Developers

    Orange Uganda is providing a platform on which young student developers can exploit their talent and show case their innovations. Orange will support mobile applications that benefit communities where we operate, focusing on the areas below:

       1. Agriculture
       2. Health
       3. Education

    Application should be made by finalist students to enter the competetion. The entry should be endorsed by the project supervisor to authenticate ownership of the mobile application.

    Submit your entry by 25th May 2012 to  ciawards@orange.co.ug. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and stand a chance to win:

       1. 1st prize: 10 million shillings towards the application pilot and internship for 12 months
       2. 2nd prize: 5 million shillings worth of support towards the deployment of the application and internship for 12 months
       3. 3rd prize: internship for 6 months
       4. an android phone for each qualifying app

    Selection criteria

    The winning application will be selected by a panel of experts based on the following criteria:

       1. best innovation
       2. will improve/ support communities
       3. practical and easy to deploy into a live environment
       4. has economical potential

    Each entry should have:

       1. A full presentation on the application highlighting how it will benefit the community
       2. demonstration of how it works
       3. Phased planning of how it will be implemented

    The wining application will be announced at the Orange Community Innovations award ceremony, date to be announced.

Issue no 592 17th February 2012

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Top story

  • All too often the news is about what China or India are doing to expand into Africa. This week saw a Japanese company Hitachi Data Systems buy South Africa based IT company Shoden Data Systems. Isabelle Gross spoke to Tony Read, COO of Hitachi Data System UK, Ireland and Sub-Sahara Africa about the acquisition of Shoden Data Systems and what it means for a Japanese global company to expand its footprint in Africa.

    Shoden Data Systems is a long-time South African provider of data centre technology both in its home country and into Sub-Saharan Africa and it has been working for many years with Hitachi Data System. Shoden Data Systems designs, provisions, deploys and supports products and technologies that simplify and optimise data centres used by banks, telecommunication companies and retail companies. Its offering includes data storage solutions including solid state disks (SSD) for faster access to information, software to assist and improve server virtualisation and data protection solutions. Shoden Data Systems has a good market share in South Africa and has managed to expanded its footprint further in Sub-Sahara Africa by supporting its existing customer base’s roll out of services in other African countries.

    According to Tony Reid, the two companies have become very close business partners over the years to the extent that 75% of Shoden Data Systems’ activities are Hitachi related. As the partnership between the two companies was getting stronger, it was a logical step forward to tie the knot between the two of them. Hitachi Data System will carry on providing equipment and resources while Shoden with its good understanding of the Southern African markets (South Africa and other countries in Southern Africa) will provide the routes to market. Shoden and Hitachi have also expanded their activities into Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and other SADC countries and the plan is to continue developing their activities in these countries.

    The acquisition of Shoden is a first in Africa for Hitachi Data System. For the large conglomerate with a global footprint, this acquisition represent a rather small drop in the sea but as Tony Read explains Hitachi has been investing for a while in emerging markets like China and Brazil and as time goes by they have been seeing good growth potential in South Africa and some other Sub-Sahara African countries.

    He is confident that the acquisition will be a success and will further strengthen Hitachi’s footprint in the region. When asked if Hitachi has any plans to move directly in the data centre business, Tony Read replies that this is not on the roadmap in the short term. He believes that going into this segment requires some other core qualities and he adds further that as African countries’ economies developed they will be more large organisations that will be looking for “in-house” data centre facilities rather then outsourcing the service.

    In Tony Read’s opinion, the data centre market in Africa has a good future. There are emerging solutions like cloud services that could make IT services more readily available to use by businesses. In Africa, enterprises are less well equipped when it comes to IT hardware and software and a business model based on a pay per use basis to access software and IT services would actually make sense and drive further the penetration of ICT services.

    Sooner rather than later, more telecoms operators will offer clouds services too and this is where Hitachi/Shoden will come in with the backend solutions and support. He believes that Africa has been pretty innovative in particular in the way that mobile telephones are used to carry out banking, transfer and payment services for example and so more innovations of this kind can be expected to develop.

    Of course the expected growth in the data centre business will not easily materialise if some nagging bottleneck issues are not dealt with. Tony Reid reckons that power as well as network bandwidth are still causing problems. There is also still a skill gap but it is shrinking fast in some countries and in particular in South Africa. 

    For now Shoden will carry on trading under the Shoden brand name in South Africa and in the other African countries where the company is doing business and depending on how things move forward it might later rebrand as Hitachi. As foreign investors are seeing potential growth opportunities in Africa more and more attractive compared to developed markets, it can be expected that more acquisitions of this nature will take place in Africa as the ICT market gets more mature and more diversified.

    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:

    Data centres and managed services

    Jonathan Tawiah, CEO, Ostec on providing managed services in West Africa


    Le Cloud en Afrique selon Hedera Tech (en francais)

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel on data centres in Benin

    Services that drive data centre use - M-Money

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on how Uganda’s Lake Victoria fishermen and the truckers who buy from them use m-money services

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay on the up-take and use of Z-Pesa in Tanzania

    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on integrating other day-to-day tools into into its m-money platform ELMA

    Correction:  In the story in last week’s issue about low-end social networking site Eskimi, we got our Baltic countries mixed up. Eskimi is a Lithuanian, not a Latvian country. Also other social media sites without a high profile in Africa include Pinterest and Spotify. Please also note the launch of the continent’s own Zing.

telecoms

  • Etisalat wants to acquire a licence in Libya or invest in one of the North African country's existing operators, its chairman told Reuters last week.

    Libya has two state mobile operators, Madar and Libyana, while another government-linked firm Lap Green Networks is active in several African countries including Uganda and Ivory Coast.

    "We have shown to the Libyan government our interest [in] the possibility to participate in the development of the telecoms market in Libya, either by a new licence or even by operating or investing in one of the existing mobile licences," Mohammad Omran said on the sidelines of an event in Tripoli.

    Etisalat bid for Libya's third mobile licence in 2009, but the licence was never awarded.

  • Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE should explain to Mobinil shareholders why it may sell part of its stake to France Telecom SA after rejecting a higher bid in 2009, Egypt’s markets regulator said.

    France Telecom said it reached a preliminary agreement to buy most of Orascom Telecom Media’s stake in their Mobinil venture at 202.5 Egyptian pounds ($33.56) a share. The same offer will be made to minority investors in the Egyptian Co. for Mobile Services, also known as Mobinil. That’s 42.5 pounds less than an offer by France Telecom in 2009 that Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, headed by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, blocked in court.

    Orascom Telecom Media should explain the agreement with France Telecom to its shareholders and those of Mobinil, the Cairo-based Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority said in a statement on its website today. France Telecom made the 2009 bid before Sawiris spun off Orascom Telecom Media from Orascom Telecom Holding.

    France Telecom owns about 71 percent of Mobinil Telecom Co., which controls Mobinil, and Orascom Telecom Media owns the rest. Orascom Telecom Media also holds a 20 percent direct stake in Mobinil, while about 29 percent is traded on the Egyptian Exchange. The shares jumped 10 percent today to 151.67 pounds, valuing the company at 15.2 billion Egyptian pounds.

    Sawiris opposed France Telecom’s 2009 bid because he said it offered minority shareholders in Mobinil less than the 273 pound price tag set by an international arbitration court for his stake in Mobinil Telecom, the holding company.

    Mobinil must appoint an independent adviser to assess France Telecom’s latest bid, the regulator said today.

  • Nokia plans to make Nairobi its global hub for research and investment for the India, Middle East and Africa region.

    The move is a big win for the country which will serve as a nerve centre for Nokia’s global research activities, bringing together application developers, businesses and software engineering eco-system from around the world.

    The company has research facilities in 13 locations worldwide, and Nairobi will be its nerve centre.

    The Nairobi Nokia Research Center (NRC) located at the Nairobi Business Park along Ngong Road previously served the African region only.

     “There is advanced development happening in Kenya. It is part of the reason why I am here. I am not visiting the 54 countries in Africa. I am only visiting Kenya and South Africa,” said Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop. He was speaking during a round-table meeting with the technology community in Kenya held at the iHub Nairobi, in what is his first visit to Africa.

    He highlighted the unique position of Kenya as a technology leader in the region, and said that the country’s track record in innovation informed the decision. The news comes at a time when Nokia has been in the midst of a global restructuring.

  • Burkina Faso has slapped three telecoms operators with more than $5 million in penalties for poor service, a regulatory official said Friday.

    "We decided to impose financial sanctions against the three mobile operators for their failure to comply with terms," said Bako Mathurin, the president of Burkina Faso's regulatory authority ARCEP.

    He added that the three companies--Telmob, Airtel and Telecel Faso--had two weeks to pay the combined total of 2.706 billion CFA francs ($5.36 million).

    Click here to find out more!Government officials and consumer groups regularly take the telecom operators to task for poor Internet service, as well as problems with calls and text messaging.

    But that hasn't stopped the government from recently awarding all three companies 3G licenses for XOF1.5 billion each.

    Telmob, a subsidiary of Morocco's Onatel, and the largest of the three telecoms with 3.5 million of Burkina Faso's 8 million mobile subscribers, was hit Friday with the largest penalty, at XOF1.086 billion.

    Airtel, owned by India's Bharti Airtel Ltd., was fined XOF894 million and locally owned Telecel Faso XOF724 million.

    The regulator has plans to allow a fourth operator into the Burkina Faso telecoms market.

  • Global wireless technology company, Qualcomm, announced on Thursday that Nairobi will be its regional business centre within the Sub-Saharan region. Qualcomm, whose offices span 75 countries, made the decision in response to the rapidly growing mobile market in Africa, which has been termed as the second largest mobile market in the world after Asia.

    "Qualcomm's new Nairobi office allows us to maintain close proximity to the people, governments and important industry events that are driving the regional telecommunications industry forward," said Billy Owino, Qualcomm's Director of Business Development in East Africa, during announcement of the company's new offices at a media briefing in Nairobi.

    According to Mr Owino, Qualcomm's presence in Nairobi is part of its long-term commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa, and will "continue to invest in strategic research and development.

  • Parliament has adopted the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulations, 2011 (L.I. 2006) to give backing to SIM card registration in the country. The Legislation provides that with effect from Saturday, March 3,2012, no SIM card can be used if not duly registered.

    Consequently, no mobile network operator shall be able to activate a SIM card for a new customer without it having been registered. In addition, existing subscribers who have either not registered their SIM cards or whose earlier registrations are invalid are required to re-register, failing which their SIM cards will be de-activated.

    This was contained in a statement issued in Accra on Thursday by the Director-General of National Communications Authority (NCA).

    It explained that the statement was to highlight the issue of the mandatory requirement that any SIM card in use must be registered by the deadline of March 3, 2012 after which any unregistered SIM card cannot be in use.

    The statement said on July 1, 2010, Ghana embarked on a SIM Card Registration Exercise which required users of mobile telephony services to register their SIM cards.

    The exercise was to run for a full year from July 1, 2010 to June 30 2011 at the end of which any SIM card that remained unregistered would be deactivated.

    At the end of that period, nearly all SIM cards in use had been registered. However, it quickly became evident that quite a

    number of subscribers had not followed the due process for the registration therefore, their registrations could not be validated.

    While some of the reasons for invalid registrations could be traced to the quality of subscriber information provided, others could be attributed to human error in the registration process, or plain deception on the part of subscribers and registration agents alike.

    At the time, the NCA announced the need for time to allow for invalid registrations to be corrected and indicated the Authority's resolve to ensuring that the exercise achieved a thoroughly sanitised and complete register.

  • Telkom will appear before the competition tribunal on Wednesday, in a case which may see the company go bust, SABC news reported on Tuesday.

    The Competition Commission has asked the tribunal to find Telkom guilty of excessive pricing and abuse of the market and wants the company to be fined R3.5 billion, the broadcaster said.

    Eight years ago, an investigation by the commission found that Telkom was guilty of charging excessive prices to smaller independent companies - which relied on the company's network infrastructure to provide data services like the internet and SMS.

    The commission also found that Telkom was discriminating against the independent service providers in that its charges were less for companies affiliated to it. The proposed R3.5 billion penalty has raised a few eyebrows, SABC reported.

    "Any fine of R3.5 billion is very big for any company in South Africa to pay and you could have a problem where the company's survival at stake," Mike Schussler, director of Economists.co.za, was quoted as saying.

    "When you look at that kind of fine in a company that's really got declining revenues, if you really look at it, it's really going to be difficult for it to survive under that sort of fine and I think we need to get the balance right between competition and the ability of a company to carry on."

    Telkom is expected to centre its argument around this when it takes the stand on Wednesday, SABC said.

    The company is expected to first argue for the case against it to be dismissed, failing which the penalty against it should be symbolic rather than punitive in nature.

  • Swaziland’s minister of ICT Winnie Magagula has publicly called for an end to the on-going hostilities between national telecoms regulator the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (which is also the incumbent telco) and the country’s sole wireless operator MTN Swaziland. Magagula told the Times of Swaziland that she hopes that the dispute – which relates to SPTC’s attempts to launch fixed-wireless services under the ‘One’ brand name – can be solved in the boardroom rather than the courtroom, arguing that the two entities cannot do without one another as they are ‘joined at the hip’. MTN believes that One contravenes the long-standing Joint Venture Agreement that forbids SPTC from competing with it, but SPTC maintains that it faces financial collapse if it abandoned the fixed-wireless initiative, on account of the substantial sum already invested in it.

    During a tour of MTN’s facilities this week, Magagula told board members and staff: ‘I have to see to it that there is harmony between the two companies. There is no way that the government can sit back and watch the fight. Swazi MTN is a child of SPTC and therefore there is no way you can run away from each other. You are a creature of statutes. You are stuck together. I also told SPTC the same thing. I urge you to harmonise your relationship. We have to move out of court corridors and to the boardroom. I urge MTN and SPTC to rekindle the relationship that existed from 1997. Once you harmonise you will give cheaper services to citizens’.

  • Four years ago, when Daniel Chiwinga and Kondwani Chimatiro met in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) lecture room at Mzuzu University, in the northern part of Malawi, they had no idea that they would be starting a journey that could turn into their life's work.

    The two young men, one from Kasungu and another from Lilongwe in the central districts of Malawi, have now developed a search engine they are calling ‘C-Finder’, spurred by the knowledge they have gained over the years that they have been studying.

    The search engine will prioritise information from Malawi when a user conducts a search, delivering relevant, local content first. Chimatiro says Malawi lags behind in ICT development. He feels those working in the sector need to be looking at Malawi in terms of what is needed as a country.

    “But first of all, for us (Malawians) to achieve what we need, in development, socially, technologically, we need information,” he says. Adding that this is why they came with an idea on how best they can deliver information to people, and how people can access information.

    He says they thought that the only way to deliver information is to centralise all Malawian information, that cuts across a wide range of disciplines like history, literature and more.

    “This is why we devised a search engine with a central hub for that information; all Malawians can be able to access that information from the central repository. The idea is to provide information to Malawians since information in Malawi is difficult to access,” says Chimatiro.

    His colleague Chiwinga agrees with him: “In Africa and Malawi in particular, many people do not access technology because it is expensive and we want to come up with ways of developing low cost technology so that everybody can be able to afford.”

    Chiwinga said the other thing is that a lot of information in Malawi which is being provided by Malawians themselves cannot be found on the internet. He says this is because nobody has put that information on the internet.

    “We have a lot of information concerning Malawi which is in hard copy so we want to digitalise that information so that it would be in soft copy and then we put it on C-finder so that other people can find that information by using C-finder search engine,” explains Chiwinga.

    He says anyone who is in the ICT sector must take up the responsibility of loading important information on the internet.

    Chiwinga said the difference between C-Finder and other search engines is that theirs is focusing on Malawi information. “For example if you search for a word ‘admission’ on Google it is going to bring you a lot of universities that are offering certain programmes but if you write admission on C-finder it is going to bring you universities and colleges from Malawi,” he says.

    He adds that then C-Finder will reduce the ‘hunting ground’ for those looking for information where as when one uses Google they are going to be overwhelmed with the amount of results that will appear.

    The other thing, Chimatiro says is that Malawian results on Google may be ranked very far because you can find over thousands and thousands of results but with C-Finder the search for terms about Malawi will be indexed at first.

    At the moment when one search for something, like ‘Gregory Gondwe’ using C-Finder handful results appear which is in contrast with thousands of results that will appear when using Google. Chimatiro says this is because at the moment C-Finder lacks enough space.

    “Currently we have got very small database which is handling limited information, but as we go on and with resources permitting we will handle almost all information in the world as well as Google is doing,” he says.

    The two university finalists say they are currently working on trying to increase space so that they can index more information about Malawi, so that once anyone searches for information they can get a lot of results.

internet

  • Nairobi — Millions of people in Africa and the Middle East will be able to benefit from free, unlimited access to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia through their mobile phone, starting later this year.

    The scheme targets the region's 70 million customers of the mobile network provider Orange, who will be given free access to Wikipedia on their internet-enabled 'smart' phones.

    The deal struck between Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia, will allow Orange customers to read and download information from Wikipedia without the usual data usage charges.

    "Price is a strong barrier to people accessing the Internet, particularly in Africa," said Vanessa Clarke, spokesperson for Orange.

    But the project will face several challenges, according to local experts. Catherine Ngahu, chair of the Kenya ICT Board, said few people in the region own a 'smart' phone that can connect to the internet.

    "Although there is increasing ownership of smart phones, there is still a large number of people who cannot afford them," she told SciDev.Net. "In order to widen reach, Orange should consider marketing lower cost smart phones."

    Michael Njuku of the Kenya Revenue Authority said obstacles will range from low quality mobile handsets people own to a network provider's ability to handle the increased Internet traffic as customers try to access Wikipedia, sometimes millions at a time.

    "Governments in Africa must also do more to ensure that poor quality counterfeit gadgets are not imported into their countries," he said.

    Clarke said the scheme will be rolled out in mid-2012, initially in about eight countries, and by December some 20 countries will benefit.

    She said between seven and 15 per cent of Orange customers in Africa and the Middle East currently have phones that access the Internet, but the company plans to increase the proportion to 50 per cent by 2015.

    Kul Wadhwa, Head of Mobile and Business Development at the Wikimedia Foundation, said he expects the scheme to encourage more people in Africa to read, contribute and download information from Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia is the world's largest online encyclopaedia, maintained by a global community of volunteers. It contains explanations of many scientific terms and issues, and some have suggested it could be used to share scientific knowledge.

    More mobile network operators are expected to follow suit in the coming months, according to Wadhwa.

  • The hearing of the case regarding censorship of pornographic websites in Tunisia has been postponed to February 22nd, confirmed Olivia Gré, director of the Tunisian chapter of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

    Last year, a lawsuit was filed by three Tunisian lawyers, who found free access to pornographic websites in Tunisia to be dangerous to children and corrosive of Islamic values. The court's decision sided with the lawyers, yet the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) appealed the ruling on May 26th. On August 11th, 2011, the appeal was denied, but the ATI delayed implementing the decision, pleading technical and financial limitations.

    They appealed the decision again, to Tunisia's Supreme Court, prolonging the legal debate as to the acceptable extent of internet freedom.

    The ongoing trial has been handled with a good deal of discretion. During the February 1st hearing, reporters were not allowed to enter the courtroom, and afterward the ATI refrained from announcing the precise date of the subsequent hearing.

    Censorship of internet pornography is not new to Tunisia. Until the evening of January 13th, when Tunisia's ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali delivered his famous speech declaring that he would order an end to Internet filtering, access to pornographic websites was blocked in the country.

    On February 3rd, RSF released a statement, entitled "Internet Filtering: Risks to Stepping Backwards," in which it argued that blocking porn sites in Tunisia could mark a prelude to the return of old censorship practices of the previous regime. The statement recommended that internet providers promote tools of parental control.

    However, the statement maintained, imposing an automated filtering system would not prevent Tunisians from accessing pornographic websites since they "are perfectly aware of different techniques to deal with censorship."

  • The delays being experienced at Mombasa port and border points might end when an online cargo clearance system goes live later this year. The first phase of the National Single Window System is set to be implemented in December.

    It will also save the sector billions of shillings lost in the long and tedious clearance processes, said retired major general Joseph Kibwana, chairman of the Kenya Trade Network Agency. The agency was created to oversee the implementation of the system.

    "For a long time, the cumbersome trade processes have led to perennial congestion, delays in cargo clearance and long truck queues at the port of Mombasa and airports," he said,

    The system will create a platform for submission, receipt and processing of trade related cargo clearance documentation.

    The electronic platform will be the sole entry point for lodging trade transaction documents and will integrate over 24 government agencies including Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services and Kenya Ports Authority.

    Phase one will automate cargo documentation processes by integrating the systems of all the key stakeholders involved in cargo clearance in the public and private sectors.

    Phase two will involve integration of the single window system with the national payments system via a national payment gateway to ensure an end to end electronic solution in trade logistics, planned to be operational by mid next year.

    "The system will also solve the chronic problem of corruption and be the solution to the lengthy, manual and uncoordinated trade processes," Mr Kibwana told participants at a workshop for stakeholders at Whitesands Beach Resort.

    "At the moment, we are continuing with sensitisation campaigns among stakeholders to update them on the progres," said Mr Alex Kabuga, Kentrade CEO.

computing

  • biNu, a content rich, social networking platform optimized for mobile feature phones and low-end smartphones, today announced a partnership with Worldreader to deliver digital books to biNu users. The partnership provides a new distribution channel for Worldreader – a social enterprise whose mission is to transform reading in the developing world so that people can transform their lives.

    Worldreader makes digital books available to all in the developing world. The organization identifies schools, trains teachers, works with communities and local officials, partners with local and international publishers and other top-tier companies to bring e-books to under-served families in the developing world. By providing access to digital books, Worldreader empowers children and families to rise out of poverty.

    “Long-term, technology will help create a real culture of reading in parts of the world where that’s not been possible before,” said Worldreader co-founder Colin McElwee. “Mobile phones are central to technological and educational development in countries in Sub Saharan Africa– especially in rural areas, where there is little to no infrastructure.”

    biNu’s patented technology utilizes cloud computing to create a virtual smartphone experience that provides instant discovery, switching and sharing of apps, within a social network and messaging platform. biNu is 10x faster and 10x more efficient on data usage than standard mobile browsers and is an obvious choice for anyone looking to fully utilize their mobile phone – particularly in emerging economies where mobile phones are the primary Internet access device. The beta version of the Worldreader App for biNu is available immediately and gives biNu users instant access to a cloud-based library of digital books from local and international authors.

    “Worldreader improves the lives of millions of people in the developing world,” said Gour Lentell, CEO for biNu. “I am pleased we are able to extend their coverage and I hope biNu will play a part in their overall success.”

    With this announcement, biNu joins other Worldreader’s other forward-thinking partners like Amazon.com, Penguin Young Readers Group, and USAID.  Said Worldreader CEO David Risher, “Together with the some of world’s best-known organizations, Worldreader and our partners are bringing books to all.”

    Worldreader  is a not-for-profit organization whose aim is to put a library of books within reach of every family on the planet, using electronic book technology. Worldreader has established e-reader programs in schools in Ghana and Kenya, and Uganda with plans to expand throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

  • A newly-released United Nations report has revealed that West Africa is facing a significant increase in waste generated by electronic equipment which poses mounting health and environmental risks.

    About 85 per cent of the waste produced in the region comes from domestic consumption, the report revealed. However, the problem is further exacerbated by industrialised countries importing used equipment which often proves to be unsuitable for re-use and end up being discarded, it added.

    "Effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa and other parts of the world is an important part of the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy", said Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

    The report assessed the situation over two years in five countries - Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria - and found that they produce between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tonnes of domestic e-waste each year, which can have a negative impact in the environment and increase the risk of health issues.

    As for waste coming from other countries, the report notes that the United Kingdom is the dominant exporting country to Africa for both new and used electrical and electronic equipment, followed by France and Germany.

    According to UNEP, although the use of electrical and electronic equipment is still low in Africa compared to other regions, it is growing at a staggering pace as more people start using mobile phones and personal computers.

    The report, which was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and partners, also documents the economic and environmental potential of building a resource recovery and waste management system for electronic waste, along with the risks of continuing on the present course.

    "We can grow Africa's economies, generate decent employment and safeguard the environment by supporting sustainable e-waste management and recovering the valuable metals and other resources locked inside products that end up as e-waste," Steiner said, adding that the report provides various strategies to limit damages and provide economic opportunities, something that is crucial for long-term sustainability.

    "E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream world-wide and a key waste stream under the Basel Convention," said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention. The convention's secretariat is administered by UNEP.

    "Dealing with electronic and electrical equipment properly presents a serious environmental and health challenge for many countries, yet also offers a potentially significant opportunity to create green businesses and green jobs," he added.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Warid Congo SA, the leading telecommunication operator in Congo, has announced the launch of Warid Mobicash across its network. This offer is based on the Mobile Money technology from Mobicash.

    Warid MobiCash 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. The resulting mobile payment platform provides a powerful set of tools for efficient, effective, secure, and accessible mobile payment services.

    Warid MobiCash customers can make secure cashless transactions. All phones can make payments using Warid MobiCash no matter what phone model or network operator. Due to its simplicity, Warid MobiCash mobile payment has wide appeal, is easy to deploy and open to everyone – there are no complicated software downloads necessary and no restrictions to enrolment.

    P2P transfers alone, which typically end with a recipient converting e-money back to cash, are not enough to deliver on our vision of a cash-free ecosystem. Instead, Warid MobiCash position itself as “Much more than Money Transfer” and typically promote some combination of various services such as money transfer, airtime top-up, bill payments, and merchant payments. By doing so, Warid MobiCash provides consumers with options to use their electronic money rather than instantly converting it back into cash and can be termed as a “national payment instrument”.

    Commenting on the launch, Mr. Michel Elame, CEO of Warid Congo S.A, said, “The launch of Warid Mobicash is a true revolution on the Congolese market; we believed in it, and we did it! This new service is open to all Congolese and accessible through any local mobile network operator. The launch of Warid Mobicash confirms yet again, the status of Warid Congo as an innovator. We believe that this new born will strengthen our brand as well as our position on the market. So, “Make it happen” will not just remain as a simple slogan, but a true vision of our company striving to satisfy the users by always offering them exciting innovative services”.

  • The landscape of e-banking services in Nigeria is set to witness a major shift as two leading companies in banking and telecom sectors of the economy, FirstBank of Nigeria Plc (FirstBank) and Airtel Networks Limited have agreed to combine their strengths to provide seamless mobile money services to millions of Nigerians.
     
    Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two companies recently in Lagos, the two companies promised to combine their strengths to provide secure, convenient and user-friendly mobile banking services to unbanked people throughout via mobile phones.
     
    Mobile banking is the use of mobile phones to remotely access bank accounts, primarily for account inquiry, mobile transfer, retail payments, micro insurance, savings remittances, mobile top-up, utility bill payments and government collections among others.
     
    In his speech, The Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Rajan Swaroop, said, "Partnering First Bank to bring mobile financial services to all corners of country further demonstrates Airtel's commitment to Nigeria and supports the concept of borderless mobile telecoms services across the country.
     
    “Indeed, we are excited to partner with one of the biggest financial institutions in the country. This partnership will, without a doubt, assist us in realizing our vision of empowering more Nigerians with innovative and affordable mobile financial services. At Airtel Nigeria, we are committed to creating value propositions that will delight, enrich and benefit our customers regardless of their income level and location.”
     
    Commenting on the initiative, FirstBank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Bisi Onasanya said mobile banking is hinged on three planks which are defined in terms of financial inclusion for the unbanked and the underbanked, person to person transaction in terms of sending and receiving money as well as retail payment for the purchase of goods and services. He added that “With over 600 branches and thousands of business partner outlets in strategic proximity to the people, coupled with over 1,500 ATMs including cash deposit ATMs, cardless and biometric ATMs, over 5million active accounts and more than 1,200 Point of Sale terminals, FirstBank has always been at the forefront of innovative financial services solutions.
     
    In addition to the mobile money services, Onasanya said FirstBank has in place a world-class IT infrastructure to drive its e-payment services across transaction touch points. These services, according to him, include: Internet banking services, FirstOnline, FirstBank Visa Gold Credit Card, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale Terminals (POS) FirstBank MasterCard, FirstBank Classic Card, FirstBank Naira MasterCard and Cash Deposit ATMs amongst others.
     
    The Group Managing Director further assured that FirstBank will continue to lead the innovation drive in mobile banking through progressive and robust upgrades that will enable mobile money customers perform actions such as salary lodgement, pension and other types of payments and disbursements. Onasanya further affirmed that with a rich heritage, dependability and innovative dynamism, FirstBank is naturally the best partner for any telecom company to provide this novel initiative.
     
    The mobile money initiative, an integral part of the broad objectives of the FSS 20:2020 was conceived by the Central Bank of Nigeria because of its critical nature to achieving a “cashless society which is fundamental to the nation’s goal of becoming one of the top 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020.

  • The theme of this year’s AITEC Banking & Mobile Money Conference is “Showcasing the region’s banking and mobile payment innovation successes”. The intention is to use this the region’s leading annual banking event as a platform to promote the region’s exciting new payments innovations and technologies to the numerous industry delegates that will be attending from throughout the world.

    To give the region’s innovators and software developers a prominent profile at the event, AITEC has introduced two special features: An Innovator Showcase in the exhibition and an Innovator Fast-track Theatre in the conference. The Innovator Showcase will provide emerging enterprises with new innovations for the banking and payments sector with low-cost demo areas to promote their products and services to potential customers, partners and investors. And in the Innovator Fast-track Theatre they will be given an opportunity to make product presentations to attract further interest.

    Announcing these special features at the event, Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC Africa, emphasised the importance of nurturing and promoting the region’s emerging ICT innovators. “We have a unique opportunity to build on the hype of the M-PESA success story to develop a world-class payments innovation industry in East Africa and AITEC is fully behind this growing specialised industry, which have the potential to give us a real eadge in the world market. This is why we are sponsoring the NaiPay industry association initiative to promote co-operation, high standards and wider knowledge in the industry, as well as using our annual Banking & Mobile Money Conference to promote emerging enterprises in this space.”

    The Showcase and the Fast-track Theatre will be organised in partnership with NaiPay, mLab, iHub, Digital Age Institute and the Kenya ICT Board.

  • South African mobile services company Oltio has been nominated in the "best mobile money innovation" category at the annual GSMA Global Mobile Awards for its payD platform, which turns a user's mobile phone into a remote point-of-sale device.

    Oltio is a joint venture company between pan-African mobile network operator MTN and Standard Bank.

    Through the payD platform, launched in August, consumers can purchase products and services online and use their debit cards to pay for the purchase while making use of their mobile phones to enter their PINs.

    The technology is also used by Oltio parent company MTN for its Eazi Recharge pre-paid airtime top-up service, which already has over 110000 users.

    "Just being nominated is an honour for us," Oltio head of new business development Dave Parratt said in a statement this week. "It is recognition that our commitment to innovation and in particular, making e-commerce accessible to more South Africans, is paying off."

    He added that the company believed that payD had the ability to fundamentally change how consumers conduct online transactions, with more than 170 merchants who make use of the platform.

Digital Content

  • Mariana Diouh, is a Mozambican migrant domestic worker in Johannesburg. She has just received a phone call from her elderly grandmother in a village close to Xai Xai, Mozambique. Their farm produced very little and they do not have enough food to feed Mariana’s three young nieces, Mariana’s younger sister and her sickly father. The drought was severe and they cultivated little; the family has barely survived, and the food that Mariana sends back home on a monthly basis is what they have been surviving on. The village food seller has increased the price of the basic foodstuffs and it is too costly for the family to make the journey to the bigger town of Xai Xai.

    The urgency of the situation prompts Mariana’s grandmother to make this expensive international call – something that is considered an unnecessary luxury. Mariana understands the urgency of the situation as her father must get food if his medication is to work. But how can she get food to the family quickly?

    Mariana is concerned, as she does not have free time for another week and will not beable to get to the shops until then, and even so, the journey into town is costly and tedious.  She also needs to have extra money to organise and pay for the transportation of the parcel to her family in Xai Xai. Sometimes the coach driver does not take her parcels and she also never knows how much ‘hawala‘ he will ask her for taking the parcels (every time he wants a different amount as he says he is risking his job taking the parcels without the companies approval). This worries Mariana, but using the crossborder taxi driver also has its risks: sometimes the goods are confiscated at the border crossing because the taxi driver refuses to pay the required custom duties but more recently, she has heard of taxi drivers being held up at gunpoint and all of their goods being stolen.

    She talks to the neighbour’s Zimbabwean domestic worker, Nkosi, who tells her about a company: moWoza, mo for mobile and Woza – a Zulu word meaning running.

    Nkosi’s friend is an agent and she helped Nkosi become a registered account holder and within ten minutes complete her first purchase, with her family receiving the parcel after three days. moWoza offers a product range that includes basic foodstuffs, and a guaranteed service. Through SMS messages, moWoza notifies the family that a parcel needs to be collected. Once it is collection, moWoza confirms with the customer that the transaction is complete. Mariana agrees with Nkosi that moWoza’s service is good.

    Mariana sends an SMS to Nkosi’s friend, the moWoza’s agent, who agrees to come later to register Mariana and help her with her first purchase. Mariana notices that the moWoza service is fast, secure, and very cost-effective – it is no more expensive than if she had done this all herself. Soon, the agent is also showing Mariana how to connect onto the World Wide Web through her mobile phone. The agent explains that Mariana will be able to order moWoza products directly through her mobile phone.

    The possibilities seem endless for Mariana; she can open a bank account, become an agent and even learn how to download information from the World Wide Web. Ah, she reflects she can show her nieces at home how to use mobile internet…

  • Price-monitoring computer software that will produce monthly updates of staple food prices is being developed for East and Central African countries. The tool is under development at the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), whose headquarters are in Uganda.

    It is expected to increase competition and resilience to price volatility, and will begin with the monitoring of prices of maize, the major regional staple food.

    Michael Waithaka, manager of the Policy Analysis and Advocacy Programme at ASARECA, told SciDev.Net: "We will be giving monthly updates of food prices and balances. We will also be trying out a forecasting model, so that we can be more prepared, but this may take some time to adapt adequately."

    The monitoring tool, to be launched imminently, will use food price indices generated by each country's bureau of statistics every month.

    The information gathered by ASARECA through its networks in ten East African countries will be amalgamated, analysed and distributed to the governments of all the relevant countries to create price awareness.

    It is hoped the data generated will help to enable the flow of food from surplus to deficit areas, and from markets where the prices are low to where prices are high, thus reducing food shortages.

    However, observers have pointed out that the lack of integrated regional markets also needs to be addressed for food security to improve, as high price volatility is associated with the weak integration of food markets.

    High food prices have had a negative effect on trade for the African continent, a net food importer that spends about US$20 billion annually on food imports, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

    For instance, according to FAO statistics, 45 per cent of rice and 85 per cent of wheat consumed in Africa is imported. Waithaka warned that the tool will not be the sole solution for food price volatility as causes vary.

    Since 2010, the East and Central African region has suffered volatile food prices because of a combination of global causes and region-specific factors. Export bans were the most prominent trade policy measures in 2011.

    Joseph Karugia, the coordinator of the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System for Eastern and Central Africa, said: "In the 1970s and 1980s we complained about low prices, but now that they are high we continue to complain. A regional response would be an opportunity to address the food price crisis."

    High food prices, he added, would prompt exploitation of regional diversity and facilitate regional trade with priority actions, including removal of export bans, elimination of non-tariff barriers and upgrading infrastructure of main regional trade corridors.

    Godfrey Asea, head plant breeder of the cereals research programme at Uganda's National Crops Resources Research Institute, said the tool will equip farmers, traders and consumers with market information for decision making.

    The key remaining problems would be how accessible the information is — and adequate infrastructure so that food can move from areas of surplus to areas of deficit, he concluded.

  • While Facebook access has been the preserve of those with Internet access or a data plan, France Telecom Orange plans to bring a simple version of the social network to mobile phone users across Africa.

    Facebook via USSD will offer users of even the most basic phones access to key elements of the social network, such as status updates and friend requests.
    While Facebook access has been the preserve of those with Internet access or a data plan, France Telecom Orange plans to bring a simple version of the social network to mobile phone users across Africa.

    The service will be based on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD). Orange says it forms part of its strategy to provide mobile access to services to the “widest possible range” of customers and to open up digital services in emerging markets. USSD is commonly used in Africa for call-back services and accessing account information. The technology is found in all GSM mobile devices to send information across a 2G network.

    “As USSD is familiar in the region, and as there is no barrier in terms of handset requirements, even users with older or very basic handsets will be able to stay in touch with their family and friends on Facebook through a simple and affordable text-based service,” says the company.

    The service was initially launched by Orange in Egypt at the end of last year for Mobinil customers. The operator says 350 000 customers connected to Facebook via USSD in the first month. Orange is now taking the service to Côte d'Ivoire this month, and it says it will extend it to other African countries in which it operates throughout the year.

    Orange is confident the service will garner over a million users in its first year, many of whom it anticipates will be using social networking for the first time. The USSD service will let users search for friends, accept and deny friend requests, update statuses and comment on and like other friends' statuses.

    Explaining how the Facebook service works, Orange says: “No special applications are required to use Facebook via USSD. Customers only need to type a specific code into their phone to open a Facebook via USSD session and enter a PIN code to access the service securely.” Customers can choose between four pricing options, namely per session (10 to 20 minutes), daily, weekly and monthly. Orange says exact bundles and tariffs will be confirmed by each country as the service comes to market.

More

  • Orange Announces Community Innovations Awards for Young Developers

    Orange Uganda is providing a platform on which young student developers can exploit their talent and show case their innovations. Orange will support mobile applications that benefit communities where we operate, focusing on the areas below:

       1. Agriculture
       2. Health
       3. Education

    Application should be made by finalist students to enter the competetion. The entry should be endorsed by the project supervisor to authenticate ownership of the mobile application.

    Submit your entry by 25th May 2012 to  ciawards@orange.co.ug. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and stand a chance to win:

       1. 1st prize: 10 million shillings towards the application pilot and internship for 12 months
       2. 2nd prize: 5 million shillings worth of support towards the deployment of the application and internship for 12 months
       3. 3rd prize: internship for 6 months
       4. an android phone for each qualifying app

    Selection criteria

    The winning application will be selected by a panel of experts based on the following criteria:

       1. best innovation
       2. will improve/ support communities
       3. practical and easy to deploy into a live environment
       4. has economical potential

    Each entry should have:

       1. A full presentation on the application highlighting how it will benefit the community
       2. demonstration of how it works
       3. Phased planning of how it will be implemented

    The wining application will be announced at the Orange Community Innovations award ceremony, date to be announced.

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