Issue no 417
Grey market voice operators have been feeling the heat in the last twelve months as operators have dropped their international calling prices. Also increasingly, mainstream operators like MWeb are taking advantage of VoIP liberalisation to offer cheaper calling rates. This week it announced this service in five countries over its VSAT platform. However, new software for making IP calls from mobile phones (currently only on Nokia) threatens to rip a large gash in the hull of the major mobile operators. Russell Southwood looks at how the VoIP wars are changing as rates come down.
A number of changes have been taking place in international voice calling rates have been taking place that are changing the shape of the grey market and how VoIP voice services are offered:
- International calling rates continue to fall. For example, MTN rates from Benin to other subscribers on their network in Africa are now down to FCFA80 (US19.2 cents) a minute. MTN Benin calls to anywhere in the world are now down to FCFA120 (US28.8 cents). This “anywhere in the world” approach to charging means that the grey market operator is uncompetitive for all but the more popular destinations. In Nigeria, rates are even lower at between US16-25 cents. In the main, the increased volume of use has more than compensated for the loss of revenue through price reductions.
- Fixed and mobile international voice rates are converging. Whereas it was always assumed that mobile charged a premium for mobility, this premium is being eliminated as rates are either exactly the same or very close. For example in Sudan, calls to worldwide destinations have come down from US90 cents two years ago to US49 cents and these rates are broadly similar across the four main operators. Nevertheless, rates at this level still leave plenty of room for grey market operators who are offering calls at US10 cents a minute. Furthermore licensed VoIP service providers are coming into the market to compete at this rate (see the bottom of this story).
- If grey market operators are buying at US3-4 cents, the lower the rate charged by licensed operators, the harder it is for them to make a living because grey market operators by their nature tend to be small in order to operate “below the radar”. But it is not just the rate per minute that will decide whether someone uses a grey market operator. Most operate out of cyber-cafes using PCs and head-sets and the closer the rates come to their prices, the more people will be attracted by the convenience of using their mobile phone to make the call at a place and time they find comfortable.
But there is something on the horizon that threatens to destabilise Africa’s mobile operators. One VoIP operator Vyke is offering software that allows phone users to make IP calls from their mobile if their network is data-enabled. At present, the software only works on Nokia’s Symbian operating system but Vyke’s VP Sales – Africa says:”We are planning to extend it to a broader range of platforms. Our strategy is to be the leading mobile IP voice provider.” Last year Vyke bought Callserve, a UK based VoiP provider active in the African market.
Obviously if the Vyke user can only make calls to other Vyke subscribers then the damage to mobile operators will be limited. However, there is nothing to stop it adopting a Skype Out strategy where it charges cheaply for minutes and connects into PSTN numbers. And this is something that can be achieved fairly easily both into and out of Africa.
The limiting factors will be network quality and the cost of data. Depending on the Codex, VoIP calling can be bandwidth hungry if you want quality. Therefore it’s unclear whether the burgeoning 3G and HSDPA networks across the continent will be able to handle the traffic, particularly during peak periods. Currently charging for data on mobiles is largely on a premium basis so what you save on the call you may lose in download charges. But in those places where fixed and mobile prices have converged, it may prove to be an attractive route for “free” (cheaper) calling. Also there’s nothing to stop street vendors who currently offer mobiles for calling to upgrade their service to offer international calls.
Meanwhile in the run up to MWeb being auctioned to a new owner, the company is not resting on its haunches. It will launch a new VoIP voice service over its VSAT platform in five countries (Botswana, DRC, Angola, Sudan and Rwanda). The service will be sold using resellers who are appropriately licensed.
These resellers buy credits online from MWeb and get a billing system: in other words an operation that is not unlike that provided by the multitude of grey market voice minute sellers from outside the continent. The service promises calls for as little as US10 cents a minute and for free to other MWeb subscribers. MWeb is aiming the solution at both consumers and corporates who will buy its VSAT package with the VoIP voice service bundled in. It has bandwidth specially provisioned for the voice service to deal with quality concerns about voice over satellite.
The VSAT service is currently offered in 14 countries and it is looking at how it can expand the VoIP voice service into all of these countries. Part of this expansion will see it launch the service in East Africa using WiMAX instead of VSAT as the end-user delivery system. For any information on MWEB Africa’s VoIP service in sub-Sahara Africa, outside of South Africa, contact Pierre De Brandt or Saras Chinsamy on 00 2721 596 8238
- Nigeria's lead in Africa's telecom growth rate continued on the rise as statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission showed that the nation recorded 53,332,149 Million Active Lines on the network as at end of June 2008.This figure has pushed Nigeria's teledensity to 38.09 per cent, which translates to about 38 phones to 100 of Nigerian population of more than 140 million.
- One of Liberia's leading GSM providers, Comium has launched two sites in Weala and Salala districts in Bong County.
- Warid Uganda has crossed the 750,000 customer mark, just six months after its launch in February 2008. According to Tushar Maheshwari, the Chief Operating Officer of Warid, his company has a presence in all major cities, towns and villages, and has coverage of all main highway routes.
- Nigeria’s Globacom rolled out its services in 96 towns and villages across 23 states of the Federation.
- Vodafone Egypt announces today new roaming agreements with STC and du in the UAE. The new agreements provide Vodafone Egypt's customers with some of the lowest roaming prices, according to the company.
- In Côte d’Ivoire, the regulator (Atci) is planning to introduce a cost based method to fix interconnections prices between mobile operators (4 operational at the moment) and hopes to get the current price per minute of CFA francs 57 (US$0.13) down to CFA francs 40-45 (US$0.09-0.10) by 2009.
Information reaching the paper indicates that Globacom Telecommunication Service has received offers from The Gambia and Liberia to move its operations there. Head of Glo Gateway, Charles Odiase, disclosed that Globacom is set to acquire operating licences in the Gambia and Liberia, following offers from officials of the two countries, reports This Day.
He said that the Glo One fibre cable that will land in Lagos next year will have 15 landing stations. With operations in Benin, Ghana and Nigeria and potentially in Gambia and Liberia, it’s a case of five down and ten to go.
Odiase said the Glo Gateway was responsible for the international operations of Globacom launched in some parts of the continent. He said 95 per cent of PTOs in the country rely on Globacom's Gateway to carry their international traffic to different parts of the world, adding that Glo's international gateway has extended its prepaid roaming service to six more countries.
He emphasised that Glo had in May 2005, become the first network in Nigeria to launch Prepaid Roaming, with the service available only in the United Kingdom. But with its expansion, Nigerians can now enjoy outbound roaming service in Spain, South Africa, Belgium, Turkey, Ukraine and Algeria.
He said also that Globacom was in the process of concluding arrangements to extend the service to United States and several other European and Middle East countries.
Beleaguered Liberian GSM mobile operator Comium Liberia, owned by Comium Africa Limited and LibanCell, has revealed it is prepared to renegotiate the terms of its contract with the government, but says it does not want the previous deal it concluded with the former administration of then Liberian President Charles Taylor cancelled – as is being advised by the current administration.
The Monrovia-based Daily Observer newspaper writes that Comium Liberia is now prepared to renegotiate the tax incentives it received when it launched commercial services in 2004. Comium Liberia’s general manager Monnie Captan says the situation in the country was ‘quite precarious’ when it launched commercially and that ‘investors were not attracted to the country’.
Captan explained that as a result of the high-risk trading environment at the time, the state offered sizeable incentives to companies entering the country. However, in a review of this process, the Liberian government is now claiming its incentives were too generous and, in an escalating dispute, has reportedly threatened to revoke Comium’s concession and even to shut it down.
In September last year, the country’s telecoms regulator the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) refuted press rumours saying it planned to close down Comium after a number of statements by government officials – Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Jackson E Doe and National Investment Chairman, Richard E Tolbert – claimed that the cellco was operating in breach of Liberia’s investment and concession laws and could have its licence annulled.
The two men reportedly told a legislative hearing that Comium was illegally benefiting from ‘duty free privileges and tax holdings on spare parts’ in violation of the investment incentive contract which it signed with the government in March 2004. Captan says that Comium is keen to resolve this dispute once and for all, and is prepared to renegotiate with the government for an acceptable compromise. However, he added that Comium opposed the unilateral cancellation of its contractual agreement with the state.
Telecom Namibia wants an all-inclusive licence across the whole spectrum of telecommunications and information technology, which should be included in the new draft legislation, its Managing Director Frans Ndoroma said on Monday. It is clearly gunning for its own mobile operator’s licence.
"We should be granted a licence that unlocks the provisioning of services over the whole ICT chain. We should not be curtailed to being a fixed-line operator, as proposed in the new telecommunications bill," Ndoroma said at a press briefing to mark the 16th anniversary of the State-owned enterprise.
Telecom, the only fixed-line operator, quietly introduced its own mobile service called 'Switch' almost two years ago. The two mobile licence holders cried foul and Cabinet decided that the Switch service may only operate within the radius of towns for the time being (while a review of the position is conducted), but not across the whole country.
The services-neutral licence Telecom desires would mean that national public telecommunications services can be provided over fixed or mobile, wire line or wireless, network links, using available technology and to provide international telecommunications including the operation of international gateways.
"This philosophy is supported and in line with our Vision 2010 blueprint," Ndoroma said.
"We are entering an era of inevitable change of the legal and regulatory framework that governs our business operations and the whole of the information communication technology sector," Ndoroma added. "The telecommunications regulatory framework in Namibia is an open-ended one, placing the sector and Telecom Namibia's business in an indeterminate state."
In Ndoroma's view, the overall intention of the proposed Communications Bill does not seem to encompass the reality of converged technologies and services. Policy considerations should aim to promote and regulate convergence, technology and service-neutral licensing, as has been the trend in the southern African region.
He said the industry had evolved to such an extent that it established de facto segments, like Internet, fixed voice, mobile voice, data and network services, which segments call for recognition and should be addressed accordingly.
"Prior to determining dominance, and labelling an operator as such, the regulatory authority should establish clear criteria for deciding how a dominant player is identified and in what market segment such player is dominant. This would go a long way in creating an effectively competitive landscape and create fairness with regard to the obligation to interconnect networks, sharing infrastructure and unbundling networks."
In converting licences or issuing new licences that comply with the Bill, such licences should not be issued and granted on less favourable terms than those that currently existed, the Telecom boss demanded.
According to Telecom Egypt's Chairman Akil Beshir, the company allocated a total of LE 1.5 billion (US$285 million) for network investments in fiscal year 08. He expects that by August 2009, Internet prices will significantly decrease.
He also said that the company may sell its50% stake in Lacom, its subsidiary in Algeria, its joint venture with Orascom, in the event it does not reach an agreement with the new Algerian authorities
- Zain Group has announced that it has rebranded its entire African operations from Celtel to Zain. The move coincides with the linking of the world’s first borderless mobile service ‘One Network’ across two continents. 14 country operations across Africa will immediately rebrand to Zain. The Zain Group acquired an 85% stake Celtel International and its 14 African subsidiaries in May 2005 in a USD2.84 billion deal; by May 2007 it had increased its interest to 100%.
- In South Africa, industry regulator ICASA has issued Telkom Media with a pay-TV licence. The licence means that the Telkom Media may now operate a commercial subscription TV broadcasting service. Stated Mandla Ngcobo, CEO of Telkom Media, "Our business plan consists of a dual platform, multi-technology service that exploits the full range of convergent technologies, including IP, and will offer consumers a competitively priced spectrum of entertainment and interactive services through a single service provider."
- The Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) has called on the government to issue more 3G licences, reports local newspaper The Punch. The president of NCS, Professor Charles Uwadia, said yesterday that '3G mobile communications services provide a window of opportunities for job creation in Nigeria. Nigeria has issued 3G concessions to Glo Mobile, MTN Nigeria, Zain and Alheri Engineering, a firm owned by the Dangote Group. However, only Glo and MTN have rolled out next generation services. Nigeria’s newest mobile operator, Etisalat, has applied for a 3G licence, saying that it was central to its plans for the Nigerian market in the future.
- Orange Senegal is testing its 3G+ network (using HSDPA) in the capital city Dakar. Following successful completion of the test phase, the mobile operator will decide to extend or not the technology to the rest of its network.
Angola’s slow moving fibre roll-out took another step forward with the appointment of WFN Strategies to provide business and engineering support for the ADONES coastal cable project. It will go from the Cabinda enclave in the north to the south of the country, giving fibre access to 70% of the population who live near to the coast.
WFN will provide network design and test plan review, factory acceptance and integration testing, review of survey reports, and acceptance monitoring of marine and terrestrial installation activities of the system.
ADONES consists of 1,500 km of fibre-optic submarine cable, providing a backbone network for mobile traffic as well as broadband services covering the majority of Angola's population. It will tie into the rest of Angola’s ambitious national fibre roll-out plan.
Moroccan regulator Agence Nationale de Reglementation de Telecom (ANRT) has released its statistical report for the second quarter of 2008. According to the watchdog’s figures, total mobile telephony subscribers increased by 3.86%, or 796,000 in the three months to the end of June to 21.412 million subscribers (up 22.39% from 17.495 million a year earlier, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database). Maroc Telecom accounted for almost exactly one-third of mobile subscribers with 14.211 million at the end of the second quarter (up by 514,000 since March), with Meditel accounting for the other 7.201 million (up 282,000 on the previous quarter). The ANRT said mobile penetration reached 69.43%, up from 57.82% in June 2007.
The mobile figures do not include the sector’s newest operator Wana, despite it launching commercial mobile services on 10 June. As of the end of June, domestically-owned Wana had not reported mobile user tallies to the ANRT, so all its CDMA-based subscribers remain classified as fixed line/limited mobility. In the fixed sector (which includes limited mobility), Wana took over from Maroc Telecom as the largest provider by customers in 2Q 2008, ending the period with a share of 51.65% (1.426 million subscribers out of a total of 2.761 million), ahead of Maroc Telecom’s 48.12% and a marginal share of 0.23% for Meditel. Overall fixed subscriber growth in the quarter was 1.89%, entirely attributed to Wana. The picture is likely to change significantly when the ANRT reports third quarter statistics, however, with a large portion of Wana’s subscriber base likely to have switched from limited mobility CDMA services to a fully mobile service with national roaming.
Total internet subscribers in Morocco reached 653,591 at mid-2008 against 581,866 three months earlier, an increase of 12.33%. ADSL broadband subscribers, virtually all of which are served by Maroc Telecom, accounted for 74.7% of the total, with a further 24.3% subscribing to 3G wireless broadband services and 1% on dial-up connections. The 3G wireless broadband sector saw 82% growth since the end of March, to take the total users to 158,869 at end-June. Wana comfortably claimed the majority with 117,531 subscribers to its CDMA2000 1xEV-DO-based service, ahead of its HSDPA-based rivals Meditel (27,563 subscriptions) and Maroc Telecom (13,774). Maroc Telecom previously reported that its ADSL subscriber total remained static in the three months ended 30 June, at 482,000.
Ethiopian incumbent ETC continues to provide evidence of why Government-owned telcos are incapable of providing effective roll-out and consistent service. It has suspended Internet services in the seven towns of Oromia, Amhara and Harari regional states, as well as in Dire Dawa town.
The towns that have had Internet services temporarily suspended as of July due to “over subscription” are Shashemene, Nekempte, Jimma and Adama (Nazareth) of Oromia, Dessie and Gondar of Amhara, Harar of Harari Regional State, and the entire Dire Dawa town.
A letter that Abnet Asrat, temporary general manager of Broadband Strategic Business Unit (SBU) wrote to Amare Amsalu, chief executive officer (CEO) of ETC and copied to other offices, requested the approval of the suspension of Internet services to these areas. The reasons cited for the suspension are over subscription and a jammed bandwidth. In other words, ETC has failed to provision effectively for customers who actually want and can pay for service.
ETC has a maximum of 16 megabytes per second (mbps) link between Addis Abeba and the respective towns of Shashemene, Dessie, Dire Dawa and Adama. Harar and Gondar share the link from Dire Dawa and Bahir Dar, respectively, according to Abdurahim Ahmed, ETC corporate communication division manager.
The reason behind the selection of the mentioned towns over others is that the corporation has already reached the bandwidth limit in those towns. The recent subscription trend and feature in the towns indicate that the total average for Internet and data services for three months have shown monthly subscriptions revenue of approximately less than one million Birr US$104,000).
The resumption of the services requires upgrading of the transmission link between Addis Abeba and the regional towns. An ongoing expansion project that is expected to lead to the recommencement of Internet services in the eight towns, would cost more than 916,000 dollars, Abdurahim told Fortune. And this from a company that was supposed to have completed a national fibre backbone some years ago.
The eight towns, half of which are from Oromia, including its capital, will remain disconnected for at least three months until the ongoing internet optimization project managed by Cisco is finalized. "It is estimated to last for twelve weeks, as per the Cisco company's plan," ETC states.
Amhara Regional State has the second highest number of the towns affected. Dessie and Gondar, where people, unaware of the latest move by ETC, will also have to experience the exasperation of seeing, "The page cannot be displayed" dialogue box on their computer screens.
- On 29 July 2008, ANHRI denounced the Sudanese government's decision to block the YouTube website ( http://www.youtube.com ). Since 22 July, Internet users in Sudan have been unable to access the site, instead receiving an error message stating that the site was blocked by the regulator, the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) which blocks a wide range of sites.
- South African internet service provider (ISP) MWeb has started reselling Vodacom products. It now resells basic Vodacom contract packages, as well as some top-up options and handsets. A Mweb spokesperson said, ‘There are many businesses now playing in the converged space, and it made sense for us to do the same thing. We also do VOIP, so the only thing we did not do is mobile voice’. The ISP plans initially to target bundled packages principally at the business market.
- Google has launched its Google News service in English for Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, Uganda and Botswana. Adding customised versions of its news service allows users in these countries to search and view news in localised editions and gives publishers in these countries a new opportunity to grow their readership.
- Arvato Middle East Sales and empowerment partner TSS launched Getmo.com, an online entertainment service. They claim it is a first for South Africa – providing download services for both PC and mobile phone users. “There are more than 450,000 broadband subscribers in SA and even though that is a small proportion of the country, it is still a strong consumer base,” says Arvato SA director Jehan Mackay.
- In Uganda, Government-aided schools are to get Internet services, education minister Namirembe Bitamazire has said. Bitamazire said her ministry was seeking funds from the Uganda Communications Commission to provide rural schools with Internet connectivity at a low cost. She added that the institutions would be asked to allow the public to use the Internet at a subsidised fee after school hours.
- South Africa’s ISP, Axxess hopes to transform the WiFi hotspot market by introducing prepaid broadband vouchers that allow consumers to connect to more than 600 hotspots located around the country. The vouchers will also be an alternative payment method to using credit cards at WiFi hotspots.
Greenpeace called on the world's electronics companies Tuesday to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their products, saying toxic waste from wealthy nations' gadgets ends up being dumped in poor countries despite laws prohibiting it.
The environmental watchdog made the appeal in a new report on the electronic waste trade, which it said was spreading from Asia to West Africa — particularly Ghana, where discarded TVs and computers that contain toxic materials are being dismantled by children as young as 5.
"Unless companies eliminate all hazardous chemicals from their electronic products and take responsibility for the entire life cycle of their products, this poisonous dumping will continue," said Martin Hojsik, a Greenpeace campaigner. "Electronics companies must not allow their products to end up poisoning the poor around the world."
Many of the old computers, monitors and television sets that end up in Ghana come from the European Union, despite laws there prohibiting the export of such hazardous materials, Greenpeace said. In particular, the report cited shipments from Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands — as well as Korea.
The materials are exported as "second hand goods" and purportedly meant to be reusable. But the report, citing a EU official, said most of these goods imported into Africa are broken and cannot be used again.
In Ghana, the discarded waste is dismantled at scrap yards, where it is crushed or burned to separate plastics from more valuable metals like aluminum or copper, a process that pollutes the environment and exposes workers to toxic fumes.
A Greenpeace team visited two main waste sites in Ghana — one in the capital and another in the smaller city of Korforidua. Soil samples analyzed at Britain's University of Exeter contained phthalates, which are suspected of causing reproductive problems, and lead. The report noted that while the EU officially prohibits such exports, the United States does not.
Leading computer makers, including Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Apple Inc., have launched or expanded recycling programs in recent years. But overall, environmental groups and government regulators have said that a small percentage of electronics are actually being submitted for recycling.
Close to a 100 teachers from Government secondary and high schools in the Southwest Province of Cameroon have been drilled on new developments in Information and Communication Technology, ICT, and the science of computer. This is the subjectt of a two-week-workshop, which opened at the Multimedia Centre of Bilingual Grammar School, Molyko, Buea, Monday, July 28.
Rose Tchonta Guembou, Southwest Provincial Coordinator of Computer Science in the delegation of Secondary Education, explained that the workshop is aimed at training computer-interested teachers to use the available syllabuses of computer science to prepare students for the Cameroon General Certificate of Education, GCE, expected to take off in the 2010 session of the exams.
According to Tchonta, Computer Science was introduced in the Cameroon school curriculum in 2003, therefore it is imperative for the secondary education department to begin building a teacher pool for the subject as they look forward to 2010.
She disclosed that several measures have been put in place to ensure the effective implementation of computer science in the school curriculum. "The government has installed multi-media centres in the ten provinces of the country and has created a section for computer science in the Teacher Training College in Bambili, Northwest Province of the country," she mentioned.
Southwest Provincial Inspector of Computer Science, Arrey Njok Takang-Tabe will corroborate Tchonta; "The workshop is aimed at giving the trainees some lessons in pedagogy."
However, Tabe is not worried about the delay in the implementation of the Computer Science subject into the school curriculum in Cameroon. "The delay to institute this subject in the school curriculum stems from the fact that the government wanted to put together its human and technological resources to ensure an effective implantation," he argued.
A participant at the workshop, Florence Tata from Government Bilingual High School, GBHS, Muyuka said the workshop has enriched her skills on computer science and how to tackle questions and answers on the subject. Godlove Enjame from GBHS, Ekondo-Titi, expressed glee with the efforts being made by the powers that be, but he doubts if by 2010 his students would be able to handle the subject as they lack practical skills.
Voices of Africa
Makerere University Faculty of Computing and Information Technology [CIT] has created a Luganda version of Firefox Mozilla Internet browser which will now be accessed by more millions of people who do not understand English.
This was disclosed last Friday by the Communication officer CIT Ms Deborah Namirembe, in an interview with journalists shortly after the Minister for ICT Dr Ham Mulira opened a one day conference on ICT developments in Africa in Kampala.
Namirembe observed that Ugandans who did not understand the use of the Internet which is in English will be lucky to hook onto the Fire Fox Mozilla Internet browser and be able to surf in Luganda. She believes that will help more people access information.
- The government of Mauritius is negotiating with Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD). for the provision of low-cost personal computers. The Mauritian government's objective is to bring the price of PCs -- including the CPU (central processing unit), keyboard, screen and mouse -- below the Rs10,000 mark (USD$384). At present, the average PC costs double that price in Mauritius.
- In South Africa, Business Connexion has won a contract from the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to develop and run a change-management process to help 3500 government workers begin using Ubuntu open source software.
- According to estimates provided by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), the number of computer users in Egypt was 6.78 million in May 2007.
- Representatives of Ivoirian higher education and research institutions met on 1 August 2008 in Abidjan for a one-day workshop on the establishment of an NREN in Cote d'Ivoire. The workshop was hosted by Institut National Polytechnique Felix Houphouet Boigny.
Banking with Commercial Bank of Rwanda (bcr) has been made easier with the introduction of Internet and Short Message Service (SMS) banking facilities.
SMS banking is a service that allows the bank clients to get instant information on their bank accounts using their mobile phones while internet banking is a facility that allows the bank clients to consult their bank accounts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without queuing up in the banking halls.
Rwanda Commercial Bank (bcr), the second largest private bank with over 30% market share in the country announced introduction of the two urban facilities last week.
With the two facilities up and running, the bcr clients will have a choice to interact with their bank accounts. With Internet banking, electronic money transfer will be easy to all bcr clients in Rwanda and abroad. The two services will be available in a couple of months, according to bank officials.
"We are giving our customers a choice. They have a bouquet to choose from", the bcr head of retail banking, Gilbert Lagaillarde said at the bank headquarters in Kigali.
While unveiling the two facilities to the journalists, bcr marketing manager, Ms. Vivian Kayitesi noted that SMS banking will be accessible to all bcr clients with a mobile phone and online banking for those with a computer connected to the internet. The services will not introduce extra costs. Bcr will also facilitate its clients using SMS banking to buy MTN airtime using money on their bank accounts at no extra charges.
Asked if the bank carried out a market research to figure out how many of its clients would access the two facilities, the bank officials said that they are trying to encourage Rwandans to get used to Internet and mobile phone services. "We are encouraging many people to use internet and mobile phone services. The target is every one," Lagaillarde said.
By introducing Internet banking, the bank is paying attention to the Rwandans living abroad, who have been in need of the service. "We want to encourage the Diaspora to invest back home. This is going to help a lot of them to make decisions to invest back home", the bank's head of corporate banking, Hannington Namara said.
BCR also looks at expediting its service delivery to the clients by adding more Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and open more branches in the country.
The available figures show that, last year, bcr grew by 47% in profit registering a net profit worth Rwf3.1bn ($5.6m). The bank grew by 42% in revenue, 37% in total assets and 27% in customer deposits. Bcr is the second private largest bank in Rwanda after Banque de Kigali with over 30% market share. It is owned 80% by Actis, a UK based firm and 20% by the government of Rwanda.
East African Business Week
The 17th International AIDS Conference this week highlighted a host of innovative ways that digital media is being used to get the attention of young people and help protect them against HIV infection.
Globally, 45% of new HIV infections last year occurred among people aged between 15 and 24, according to the United Nations. Youth organisations are now turning to cellphones and the Internet to use social networking groups to spread the word about HIV and educate people about how best to protect themselves from infection.
In Peru, for example, the health department and donor agencies have lent their support to an internet portal called Punto J which offers young people a forum in which they can exchange views, give each other support and advice, and learn about HIV, homophobia and sexual health. The site is managed by young volunteers, who write the text, design the graphics and develop innovative ways to educate fellow Peruvians.
South African Thembi Ngubane described to delegates how she had created a radio diary, recording her experiences of living with HIV from when she first found out about the disease in her quest to become a mother. Her diary was produced and broadcast by US-based National Public Radio, and Ngubane has since taken her radio diary to schools in South Africa.
LoveLife consultant Trina Dasgupta highlighted the HIV awareness programme's new social networking site, which exploits SA's high cellphone penetration and cheap data charges to provide young people with a cellphone based forum in which to exchange views.
Although few South Africans have access to the internet through a computer, three-quarters of South Africans own cellphones, and an increasing proportion are able to connect to the internet, said Dasgupta. "Mobile (phone) internet access in SA is the fourth highest in the world," she said.
LoveLife's MYMsta was more than a chat site, and offered young people a way to obtain information about opportunities such as scholarships and jobs. The idea is that if young people see a future for themselves, they are more likely to protect themselves against HIV, said Dasgupta.
MYMsta was launched in June, and already had close to 6000 users in all nine provinces, she said. Users created their own profile pages, with details of their hopes, dreams and interests, and offered each other advice and support.
MYMsta also encourage users to learn more about HIV by giving them points for taking quizzes, and giving prizes each month - such as a day with a famous DJ.
Plans to set up a mobile phone manufacturing factory in Zambia faced a set back after the Malaysian backer, M.Mobile pulled out of the joint venture. The factory is due to have a unit capacity of 500,000 per year. M.Mobile Malaysia was expected to provide technical information and expertise but reportedly failed to deliver despite several requests from the Zambian company.
However, despite the set back the company says that it still expects to be able to start manufacturing within a couple of months having secured the necessary factory components from other suppliers. Zambia's Commerce Trade and Industry Minister Felix Mutati said in an interview earlier this year that, "Zambia will become the hub for exports of cell phones in the region,"
M.Mobile says that it is the world's first Muslim-owned mobile phone R&D and marketing company, in a partnership between Malaysia and China. This company is currently in operation under its parent company, Kosmo Technology which announced the acquisition of a 30% stake in M.Mobile in February 2006.
MTN Business expects 30% of its entire revenue to come from government spend in the near future, and is looking to mobile number portability (MNP) as a way to achieve this.
According to MTN Business, government is one of the largest ICT spenders in SA, with its entire annual ICT expenditure totalling about R16 billion per year.
The MTN unit says it is set to make its first billion rand in revenue government porting within the next 24 months, having already ported about 10,000 government workers to its network since the inception of MNP in November 2006.
MTN Business national sales manager for government Muzi Dlamini says, while MNP has proved to be a damp squib for most cellular operators in the consumer space, MTN is exploiting it to grab a slice of the high-end government market.
“This year, we are starting to see a return on investment,” says Dlamini, explaining that the company's involvement as technology sponsor of the first two State IT Agency (SITA) GovTech conferences, in 2006 and 2007, gave it the opportunity to canvass government clients.
“MTN was late coming into the government space and all government employees already had phones.”
He explains that Vodacom's first-to-market dominance simply gave it the upper hand. “MNP was a survival strategy for MTN and chasing it became a determined effort. MNP has proved to be the single largest factor in ensuring MTN's success in winning new government business.”
As to its value proposition, Dlamini says MTN offers customised solutions for its state clients, as well as a strategy to grow staff numbers in response to an expanding client base, to offer a steady level of service. However, he would not be drawn on specifics of MTN's government offerings, such as details of government-specific packages or contracts.
MTN Business' drive has culminated in a number of significant ”wins” since 2006, including SITA (3 000 ports in 2008), the Department of Transport and Works (900 ports in 2007), the City of Johannesburg (2 700 ports in 2007), and the Department of Land Affairs (2 600 ports in 2008).
Other deals include the Department of Science and Technology, Ekurhuleni Metro, Pikitup, the Office of the Public Protector, and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Dlamini is confident MTN Business will realise its government revenue target of R1 billion within the next two years. This includes the total number of connections multiplied by the average revenue per user, and excluding additional possible revenue resulting from areas such as value-added services, upgrades, infrastructure, VPN, APN and bandwidth.
MNP was not as successful as expected in the consumer space, with the 2007 Mobility Study (a year after the introduction of MNP) indicating only 10% of consumers across all networks were willing to port.
While MTN's MNP drive would imply lost revenue for other cellular providers, Vodacom, Cell C and Virgin Mobile would not comment on their MNP gains and losses at the time of publication.
Number Portability Company GM Clive Fagan would not confirm MTN's claimed porting successes, but says MNP has been progressing “steadily” since inception. “We port about 12,000 to 15,000 people a month,” he says, but explains he is not mandated to disclose the winners and losers in this process.
He says the main inhibitor to porting remains contract lock-ins, while the motivators are difficult to pinpoint, as the differentiation between operators, in his opinion, is “much of a muchness – there are no huge cost differentiators”.
Mozambique’s state-run telecommunications company, TDM, said on Friday it was negotiating a US$25 million loan from China for its expansion programme to the country’s rural areas.
TDM chief executive officer Joaquim de Carvalho told reporters in Maputo that the fixed line network currently covers only 82 districts of the country´s 128 districts, and it is expected that the remainder will be covered by 2010, just in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup contest in South Africa.
"We will this year sign an agreement with a Chinese funding institution to get a US$25 million cloan to expand our network to rural areas, we are also focusing our attention on expanding the optic-fibre network to provincial capitals, namely Tete, Pemba and Lichinga by the end of this year”, he said.
The government recently said it is ready to license new operators in the fixed phone network to end TDM’s monopoly in the field. Mozambique has 78,000 fixed line subscribers and 3,330,000 cellular phone subscribers.
The Action Congress (AC) has called for a thorough investigation into the sale of Nitel to Transcorp, in the wake of fresh revelations concerning the acquisition of 51 per cent stake in the telecommunications firm. AC's National Publicity Secretary Lai Mohammed said in a statement yesterday that it was alarming that Transcorp has failed to either turn around the fortunes of Nitel or repay the N74 billion loan it obtained from a consortium of banks to pay for its shares' acquisition.
"Now, according to published reports, the banks have asked to be allowed to take over Nitel as the new owners, at a time the government is pursuing a fresh privatisation arrangement for the much-bastardised telecommunications firm. This is sad," Mohammed said.
AC said the investigation it is seeking must unravel why the BPE acted unprofessionally in the privatisation of Nitel, especially as it allowed Transcorp to hold on to the firm even when it missed the payment deadline.
"If it is found out that there is complicity between the BPE and the powers that be then to sell Nitel to Transcorp at all cost, including undermining due process, then the leadership of the Bureau must be made to answer for such lapses. If, on the other hand, the BPE was under pressure to turn a blind eye when Transcorp defaulted, it must say so," he said.
- BNP Paribas Consortium emerged as the highest bidder to become adviser to the National Council for Privatisation (NCP) on the privatisation of the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) and its mobile outfit (MTEL).
- Mobinil, Egypt's largest mobile operator by subscribers, posted its sharpest single-day decline in almost three weeks, weighing on Egypt's market, after UBS lowered its price target. The Swiss bank cut its price target for Mobinil to LE 160 ($30) from LE 210, citing lower earnings forecasts and dividends paid in the year to date.
- Morocco and Spain have signed an agreement to ease e-money transfer. According to a press release of Poste Maroc, this service will be available through 1,000 offices in Morocco and 2,300 offices in Spain, where Moroccans are the largest foreign community with some 648,735 legal residents. In 2007, Moroccans living in Europe transferred $ 7.5 million to Morocco, said M. Alami, underlining that money transfer will increase in the next few years.
- Google has announced that it has taken a minority stake in Mobile Messaging Solutions, the parent company of Mobile Planet, a Nairobi-based company that specializes in the development of wireless voice & data applications for mobile devices in Kenya, with a special focus on SMS-based products and services. For example, during the 2002 & 2007 Kenyan elections, their platform provided up-to-the-minute election results -- as the results were tallied, subscribers were sent updates via SMS.
* Charles J. K. Njoroge has been appointed as the new General Director of the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).
* Nikki Popoola has joined Tata Communications as its new Sales Manager for Africa. He was previously at Gateways Communications.
* Ybrahim Youssry has been appointed as the General Director for Microsoft – West and Central Africa. He will replace Emmanuel Onyeje who will head Microsoft activities in Nigeria.
* Mostapha Laarabi is leaving as head of Gabon Telecom. He will be replaced by Noureddine Boulmene.
* 1st INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON E-COMMERCE AND INTERNET SECURITY IN EAST AFRICA
13-15th August 2008, Kenyatta international Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Information and Communication Technology has been recognised as the engine of development all over the world. ICT sector provides endless opportunities for Africa and its growth in East Africa provides even greater benefits. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) may arguably be the most powerful tool for social and economic development.
* THE AFRICAN NETWORK (TAN) CONFERENCE
16th August 2008, Accra, Ghana
The theme for TANCon Ghana 2008 is “Next Frontier in Business: Propelling Africa to New Heights”, to reflect the growing number of African entrepreneurs in business today, and to showcase to the world Africa's limitless intellectual and economic capital. This year’s attendees will include seasoned, as well as first-time entrepreneurs, business leaders, public policy leaders, venture capitalists and investment bankers interested in learning first-hand how to successfully invest in technology and in Africa. The topics that would be covered at this year’s conference will include Social Entrepreneurship, Women in African Business, Raising Capital, Entrepreneurship in Informal Sector, Infrastructure Development and Creative Partnership Strategies. Attendees will network with the big wigs in entrepreneurship, business, government policy makers and politicians.
* ITU REGIONAL CYBERSECURITY FORUM FOR EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
25-28 August 2008, Lusaka, Zambia
The purpose of the forum is to identify the main challenges faced by countries in the region in developing frameworks for cybersecurity and critical information infrastructure protection, to consider best practices, share information on development activities being undertaken by ITU as well as other entities, and review the role of various actors in promoting a culture of cybersecurity.
* 3rd CONNECTING RURAL COMMUNITIES AFRICA FORUM 2008
26th - 28th August 2008, Lilongwe, Malawi
With strong support from the industry and public sector this ICT forum will be the continent’s most important forum devoted to last mile solutions.
* 7th IWEEK ANNUAL CONFERENCE
17 - 19 September 2008, Johannesburg, South Africa
iWeek has become a critical calendar entry for everyone with a stake in the Internet sector and is the only conference endorsed by the Internet Society of South Africa (ISOC-ZA). Anyone with an interest is welcome to attend free of charge.
* First African Broadcast, Film and Convergence Conference, Kenyatta Centre, Nairobi
September 23-25, 2008
The first African, Broadcast, Film and Convergence Conference will take place at the Kenyatta Centre in Nairobi, 23-25 September 2008. It will bring together senior broadcasting executives, producers, advertising agency executives, regulators and policy-makers to discuss the challenges faced by the industry over the next five years.
Speakers lined up include: David Waweru, MD, KBC; David Maingi, CEO, Kenya Film Commission; Khalik Sherriff, COO, e.TV; Ian Fernandes, MD, Nation TV’s Digital Division; Toyin Subair, CEO, Hi-TV; Richard Bell, African Telecoms, Media and Technology Fund; Redeemer Kwame, Ghana Telecom on its IP-TV service with Indian partner WiseNet; lawyer Claudia Rinke on international rights issues; Angelo Kinyua, Big Ideas Entertainment; Kenyan producer Thump Campbell; UK’s Lucy Scher, Script Factory; Ronnie Andrews, GTV; Jeremy Nathan, DV8; Lenny Nganga, Saracen Media; Joe Otin, Steadman Group; James Boyd McFie, Business School, Strathmore University; John Sarpong, Africast; Joe Mucheru, Google; and many, many more.
* MOBILEACTIVE08 SUMMIT
13-15 October 2008, Johannesburg, South Africa
SANGONeT and MobileActive.org are pleased to announce that they will be hosting the MobileActive08 Summit. The theme of the event is “Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Technology for Social Impact”.
* CAPACITY AFRICA 2008
14-15 Oct 2008, Cape Town, South Africa
This unique event features a business-driven agenda that will address the latest market developments and opportunities and equip delegates with strategic information to enable them to grow their businesses. Dedicated networking opportunities throughout the programme will provide you with the optimum opportunity to build profitable partnerships and execute business deals.
* NORTH AFRICA COM
14-15 October 2008, Cairo, Egypt
North AfricaCom is the largest telecommunication event specifically designed for operators and telecoms professionals.
With 35 expert speakers, 700 communications professionals and a 50-stand exhibition in 2007, this event is the best opportunity for you to learn from your colleagues' experiences in other countries and find out the latest solutions that can improve your business.
* TECHNOLOGY: A PLATFORM FOR DEVELOPMENT?
30 - 31 October 2008, Chatham House, London, UK
Technology is now recognized as having the potential to transform the lives of millions in the developing world. This major international conference will seek to identify best practice for achieving the successful implementation of new technology.
* VeloCITI is Calling on all start-up ICT Entrepreneurs!
VELOCITI is aimed at young IT entrepreneurs who are running a business where the true potential is yet to be fully exploited. The business should have high growth potential and be able to become a Western Cape success story.
At the end of the project, all participants will be provided with a certificate of completion and a letter of endorsement from CITI which could form part of your business plan. The focus is for each entrepreneur to walk away with a completed business plan, financial administration tools, and a strong network.
CITI invites you to forward an application with the following:
* A detailed copy of your business profile
* The VELOciti application form
* For more information click here
Cost: This initiative is funded by Provincial Government of the Western Cape.
Applications with supporting documentation should reach CITI by Sunday, 31 August 2008 20h00, and be addressed to the Project Manager, Tamzin Martin. Pls divert queries to Tamzin on 021 409 7000
* Telkom and Absa – South Africa
Telkom has won a R1,7bn five-year deal to provide networking technologies to connect 2,548 Absa sites across South Africa. The deal is one of the biggest Telkom has signed with a corporate customer, and will boost its efforts to defend and grow its revenue by providing a wider range of services to fend off mounting competition.
If our correspondent is "off the mark" or you have factual amendments, mail them to us and we will include them in subsequent News Updates. If you'd like to contribute, write and let us know.
If you need information about a particular place or issue, just send your questions in. We are always happy to follow up on readers concerns.
News Update is a free e-letter produced by Balancing Act that covers African internet content and infrastructure developments, It goes out to government, the private sector, education and NGOs. To subscribe, send a message saying "I want to subscribe" to firstname.lastname@example.org