Issue no 440 6th February 2009

top story

  • African politicians see the telecoms and Internet sector as the “golden goose” in terms of being able to tax its operators. In various countries a whole raft of different taxes have turned mobile operators into Government’s most effective tax collector. But this week saw the two main Senegalese consumer organisations organise a boycott of services to protest against a 2% tax called RUTEL that falls directly on consumers.

    Along with all the other taxes they pay (including TVA/VAT), Senegalese consumers are now being asked to stump up an additional 2% across a wide range of telecommunications and Internet services. The tax is called Redevance d’utilisation des telecommunications (RUTEL) and it came into force on 1 February 2009. Law 2008-46 of 3 September 2008 put the tax on the statute book but its introduction has caused widespread anger.

    So for example, a prepaid mobile kit costs about FCFA2,120 and with TVA/VAT FCFA2,500. With the RUTEL tax on the base price it now costs FCFA2,160, giving a final price to the consumer of FCFA2,550, an increase of FCFA50. The wide range of services the tax has been slapped on includes fixed and mobile services, IP-TV services, dial-up and ADSL subscriptions, recharge cards, international roaming, leased lines and interconnection charges between operators. The latter will have the effect of charging the tax twice over to consumers, providing a real case of “double-dipping”, that bears down directly on consumers.

    The Ministry of Commerce has pointed out that a range of essentials like food and fuel have actually come down in price but its figures have been contested in the discussions taking place on Senegalese blogs. It seems that the announced reductions in price often turn into price rises later.

    As with TVA/VAT, the operators have been given the responsibility of collecting the tax and as a concession to the operators they are now freed of any taxes or customs duties on the import of mobile and fixed phones.

    In reaction to this tax raise, Senegal’s two main consumer associations, l'Association des consommateurs du Sénégal (ASCOSEN) and l'Union nationale des consommateurs du Sénégal (UNCS) have called for a boycott of the use of mobile phones today, Friday 6 February 2009. “The Senegalese state has decided, in a unilateral manner, that is peremptory and without justification to raise by more than 2% the cost of telecommunications,” the President of ASCOSEN, Momar Ndao told a press conference on Thursday. He estimated that the Government will be taking FCFA33 million a day from consumers’ pockets.

    The joint plan of action for a boycott has been organised by sending SMS messages to consumers telling them the boycott will take place and calling on them to stop all bill payment, opening new subscriptions, buying credit from 8am to 3pm and stop using their mobile from 1pm to 3pm.

    One of Senegal’s ICT sector associations, Le Rassemblement des entreprises du secteur des technologies de l'information et des télécommunications (RESTIC) issued a statement saying that it considered the boycott to be "counter-productive and unacceptable." The statement argued that:”Mobile service is not just a commodity for the majority of consumers but a necessity for most of them. This boycott will be a useless trouble to users and leave operators having to make up lost revenue.” According to RESTIC, the operators and employers were not involved in the decision to introduce the new tax and operators were already paying up to 3% on turnover as a contribution to the universal service fund Fond National de Développement de Service Universel (FNDSU). Therefore it invited the Government to rethink all taxes placed on operators.

    There have been two consumer boycotts of mobile phones in Nigeria, the first in 2003 caused a significant dent in operators’ revenues but the second several years later had much less of an impact. There was talk of a similar boycott in South Africa but it never seemed to get off the ground. The complicated way the boycott has been structured in Senegal (with different hours to boycott different services) may also mean that the impact is not as great as its promoters might hope. A similar all inclusive tax was introduced in Ghana in mid-2008.

    African Governments in the main do not have a strong record of tax collection and have turned mobile operators into their chief tax collectors. The largest proportion of Government revenues comes both from TVA/VAT collected directly from consumers and also the wide range of other taxes they pay the Government. African politicians of all stripes see the telecoms and Internet sectors as a “golden goose” that produces easy money.

    The contradiction at the heart of this taxation policy is that there is clear evidence that the more you charge consumers for communications services, the less they will use them and the more it cuts out the marginal user who really struggles to pay for these services. President Wade has been one of Africa’s most vocal politicians in calling for the closing of the digital divide. A tax policy of this kind simply widens the divide.

    For as one Senegalese blogger, Souleymane Jules Diop, wrote yesterday:”It’s not the phone that’s to blame. It’s (President) Abdoulaye Wade whose to blame.” Perhaps this boycott will make African politicians think again before they reach out to stroke “the golden goose” for more money.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa, has announced a budget proposal to reduce VAT on airtime from 22.5 % to 15%.

    - MTN Ghana (formerly Spacefon Areeba) launched its 3.5G service in Ghana on 28 January using HSDPA technology. MTN says its new network will offer a range of data-oriented services and provide for more efficient delivery of existing services such as voice, SMS, MMS, and mobile internet access. Local press were given the opportunity to experience the benefits of 3.5G in a specially-constructed phone booth.

telecoms

  • The prime minister of Morocco has approved the award of the country’s third 2G mobile licence to Wana, a subsidiary of domestic conglomerate Omnium Nord Afrique (ONA), after studying a recommendation by the National Agency of Telecommunications Regulation (ANRT). The award follows the launch of a tender by the ANRT on 30 October 2008, in accordance with its plan for the development of the telecoms sector (2004-08) and a decision by the regulator’s board in May 2008. After Wana submitted a bid by a deadline of 6 January 2009, an evaluation of its offer was made on technical and economic aspects, including commitments on infrastructure, coverage, quality of service, the diversity of product offerings and coherency of its business plan.

    The 15-year nationwide licence includes frequencies in the 1800MHz band suitable for GSM-based services, but is technology-neutral. Wana (formerly Maroc Connect) won a 3G licence in July 2006, which it added to an existing concession to offer CDMA-based services, and will join rivals Maroc Telecom and Meditel in the 2G GSM-based market. According to the ANRT, the concession winner must undertake to make a significant investment and provide innovative services to meet market expectations and contribute to the improvement of telecoms facilities in Morocco. In addition to direct financial investment, Wana must help finance the redevelopment of the frequency spectrum under a budget of MAD36 million (USD4.6 million), the regulator said in its report.

    According to GlobalComms, by the end of March 2008 Wana reported a total of 1.326 million voice and data customers, with 974,000 (nearly three-quarters) using limited mobility services. At the end of September 2008, the ANRT began classing some of Wana's subscribers as fully mobile; at that date the regulator said the operator had 261,000 mobile customers.

    Telegeography

  • Incumbent Eritrean Telecommunication Corporation Service is putting in place infrastructure facilities aimed at expanding wireless phone service in all the country's administrative regions, according to Tesfaslasie Berhane, manager of the Corporation. It will be implemented in the coming two moths, he added.

    Noting that the installation of the lines would begin in the capital Asmara so as to closely supervise and verify the effectiveness of the project, Tesfaslasie indicated that over 120,000 customers would become beneficiaries of the service thanks to the already existing facilities. He further explained that installing wireless service is cost-effective compared to the demanding task of distributing fixed telephone service.

    The manager further pointed out that the necessary equipments have already been installed in Mai-Nefhi, Ademneger, Kehawta, Haz-Haz, Maitemenai, Tsaeda-Kristian and Gejeret so as to launch the distribution of lines. Similar facilities have also been put in place in different parts of Anseba region, including Keren, Hagaz and Adi-Tekelezan.

    Moreover, Tesfaslasie stated that microwave links have been extended from Asmara to Assab, and that the distribution of a 21 km-long underground fiber has been finalized. He also outlined the major tasks accomplished in the towns of Mendefera, Barentu and Ginda as regards replacing old lines and nets with new ones.

    Regarding mobile phone service, the manger said that all the administrative regions have now access to the service, and that a number of towns in Gash-Barka region and Nacfa town have become beneficiaries of 24-hour mobile phone service thanks to the solar energy devices installed in Awla, Tessenei and Nacfa. Similar devices have also been put in place in Gelalo and Iddi, he added.

    Tesfaslasie indicated that as a result of the newly introduced equipments, the speed of Internet connection has been upgraded, and that the number of public phones has increased to over 600.

    Shaibait

  • Executive Vice-Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ernest Ndukwe, at the weekend refused to be perturbed by allegations levelled against him by a member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye, as he announced what the commission is doing this year to move the telecommunications industry forward.

    He listed several efforts the commission and the industry will embark on this year aimed at ensuring that Nigerians get the best of the telecommunications revolution and benefit from technology advancement.

    For 2009, Ndukwe said NCC is already working on the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country. "With the licensing of 3G in 2007, we are inching towards broadband acceleration. Nigeria is one of those countries where wireless applications have taken root.

    "Apart from the people that get it through their mobile infrastructure, the GSM and CDMA are doing a lot already." He said NCC has got to the stage of implementing the much talked about Accelerated Broadband Initiative, SABI.

    "We have got to the final stages of that and like what had happened in the year before, the two Ministers of Information and Communications are eager in pushing this through, so we think in the next three or four months, a lot will happen.

    "We have also given frequencies to those companies to enable them go round and do it copiously. So, by the end of the year, you will see a lot of broadband infrastructure rolled out across the country with good enough speed to make us happy. In the next few weeks, we shall be holding a forum to discuss how the speed of broadband is improved in our country. Many people are not happy with the current speed and there are bottlenecks and other and the forum is to seek a solution. I must say I have read it in the newspapers like anybody because there is no single company that has approached NCC for tariff increase," he said.

    Ndukwe said there was no iota of truth in rumours making the rounds that NCC and the operators are planning to increase tariff this year. According to him, any company that is increasing tariffs today would be shooting itself in the foot because there is too much competition in the market already. And that he will be surprised if any of the companies is contemplating increasing its tariff.

    "Our approach is to intervene with interconnect rates. So far, we have intervened two times. We intend to hire consultants to see whether we will have another reduction in interconnect rates.

    "Once that is done, we think there will be further reduction in tariffs rather than increase. I do not think there is any truth in that allegation except that some people want to use it to become popular. You know there is this populist agenda going on. When somebody wants to be popular, picks on something that is sensitive like tariffs. We at the NCC are surprised because there was neither whisper about it nor application from any operator.

    "I know some operators made some remarks because of some problems they are having with a particular local and state government, but no formal application has been made to the NCC and if such application comes, we know how to respond to it. So, as far as I am concerned, it does not have any background."

    On the impact of the currently economic meltdown on the telecom sector, Ndukwe disclosed that the NCC recently has been exchanging views on the matter and will soon hold a forum on it to find out what the impact could be because as wise as NCC could be, the people that wear the shoes more are the people that operate in the environment.

    "We did not want a situation where companies start falling like park of cards and businesses closing down because it will bring out issues like employment and things of that nature.

    " So, I cannot predict outright what the possible impact would be. We were discussing on the impact on Nigeria. I am sure it will be there, but I do not think it will be that heavy. My only argument about that is that Nigeria is not an export-oriented economy. When you look at countries with heavy manufacturing base like China, Taiwan, you would have noticed a major drop in their businesses, exporting goods. It happened to car manufacturers even last time, China could not export the kind of Christmas goods they used to export.

    "To us the biggest effect is in the oil price that has gone below what it used. So obviously, it will require us to do some cost cuttings there and become a bit innovative. It will affect the telecom industry if the buying power of the subscribers or users is reduced. It will mean the amount spent on making calls will be reduced and the revenue of the operators will go down and I hope it will not lead to laying off staff and things like that," he added.

    Daily Independent

  • Incumbent Camtel has cut the price of installation and its monthly charges monthly charges by 25%. In a press statement issued in Yaounde last week, the General Manager of CAMTEL, David Nkoto Emane said that subscribers for private homes will pay CFA 35,775 instead of CFA 47,700. Business customers representing companies, associations, financial institutions, NGOs, etc, will on their part pay CFA 89,440 instead of CFA 119,250.

    "To make subscriptions affordable for all Cameroonians, the above charges shall be payable in ten monthly instalments", the statement said, stating that penalty for non-payment of late payment of bills is henceforth fixed at CFA 1,550 instead of CFA 1,789.

    The decision to down telephone subscription rates falls within the framework of discussions CAMTEL had with the Government. In effect, on January 21, the Minister of Trade announced that CAMTEL would be reducing its rates as from this month. Reacting to popular unrest, he made the announcement after signing ten protocol agreements reducing prices of food stuff and some necessities. The reduction in subscription rates is part of this process. Customers are still waiting for the reduction of rates on calls themselves.

    Cameroon Tribune

  • - The local subsidiary of the UK’s BT Group has been awarded a full telecommunications licence in South Africa, allowing it to expand its existing range of business network services in the country. Prior to the award BT South Africa had been operating under a Value Added Network Services (VANS) licence. Keith Matthews, country manager of BT South Africa, commented: ‘The new licences will allow us to further expand our portfolio and offer a comprehensive range of networked IT services to our existing and new customers.’

    - SEACOM has announced that the first portions of deepwater cable are now resting on the seabed of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. The cable has been laid from the edge of the South African waters to Mozambique and cable laying is also proceeding in the Red Sea from Egypt towards the coast of Yemen. A third ship is currently being loaded with the remainder of SEACOM’s deepwater cable which will be deployed from India towards Africa, where these three cable segments will be joined.

    - The Zambian government has announced it will introduce unified licenses to cater to diverse telecommunications operations including mobile telephony, Internet services, satellite transmission, broadcasting and other related technologies.

internet

  • Malawi’s Zain announced the launch of a hotspot service that offers wireless Internet to enable its customers access the service where there is network coverage.

    Zain Malawi Marketing Drector, Enwell Kadango, said ‘With the hotspots, we have gone a mile further offering our customers a modem they can use on their laptops or desktop computers to access internet anywhere.’

    He added that the provision of wireless hotspots (Wi-Fi) underscores the company’s commitment to ensure that ICT can be accessed by all, whether in urban or rural areas.

    Cellular News

  • Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComsat) Managing Director, Ahmed Rufai, disclosed on Monday that the country would have to shell out $500 million to launch two satellites to replace NigComSat 1 that disintegrated less than two years after launch.

    Rufai told the Senate Public Accounts Committee that China Great Wall Industrial Company (CGWIC), the same company that built NigComSat 1 at a cost of $251 million, would also build and launch the new ones. He said NigComSat 1 was not initially built for commercial purposes but deployed in this way after mobile services took off.

    Regardless, he noted, it generated N98 million and another $456,000 as revenue, out of which N45 million was remitted to the Federation Account. The Committee wondered why the same company would be awarded another contract for NigComSat 2 and 3.

    Committee Chairman, Ahmad Lawan, expressed dissatisfaction with the explanation given by the Nigeria Satellite Commission over the missing NigComSat, which cost N40 billion.

    Rufai disclosed that out of the $251 million spent to launch NigComSat 1, $200 million was borrowed from the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of China and the balance $51 million was paid from Nigeria through appropriation.

    "The initial plan for NigComSat 1 was to use it for experimental purposes but the plan was changed because of the need to exploit the market provided by the telecommunications industry in Nigeria. "The quest to launch and operate the satellite on commercial basis led to the failure to seek to launch another satellite as back-up," he added.

    According to him, the lost satellite would be replaced by the Chinese company, based on the original contract. "But the relaunch would not take place until late 2010 or early in 2011 when all arrangements would have been put in place to that effect."

    Explanations on the insurance for NigComSat 1 were, however, not satisfactory to the Committee as it lamented the non-inclusion of the business and financial benefits to Nigeria.Rufai confirmed that only the asset was insured. He said three options were considered before the decision was taken to award the $500 million NigComSat 2 and 3 contract to the CGWIC.

    The first, the government could fund it alone; second, a consortium of Nigerian banks could guarantee loan from China; or third, NigComSat could be fully privatised and source funds from anywhere.

    Daily Independent

  • The construction of Uganda's $106m national data transmission backbone has entered its second and third stages simultaneously and a fourth stage is being planned, the ICT minister Ham Mulira said last week.

    The second phase that includes wiring up much of the country with about 1,500km of telecommunication cabling at a cost of $61m is underway and is expected to be completed just in time to join up with routes to the undersea cables on East Africa's coast in Kenya in Q2, 2009. The funds are provided through a Chinese loan to Uganda.

    Recently, Mulira appended his signature to the framework agreement on the provision of a concessional loan by the Chinese for the national data transmission backbone and e-Government project. Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Yang Jiechi represented his country.

    "The undersea cables are becoming a reality. There are now four of them instead of the one that people made a lot of noise about," Mulira said at his office recently and noted that Uganda plans to take full advantage of developments surrounding the coming undersea cables.

    It is planned that when Uganda's national data transmission backbone is completed, it will be connected to the undersea cables through Kenya's western border at Malaba and Busia.

    The first phase of Uganda's backbone, completed one year ago, included laying 183km of optical fibre cables to link Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and Bombo and to install basic e-Government infrastructure, which is currently used to link all major ministries and government departments with an enabling video telephony link among other information communication technologies.

    The second phase will see 20 districts connected to the national backbone, data and voice services rolled out on e-Government infrastructure and a government data centre set up.

    Mulira says most of the third phase had been handled by private sector. However, in addition to the cables laid by the private sector, the Government will lay more cables for redundancy and both will complement each other.

    The third phase cables that are being laid between Busia/Malaba to Jinja and between Katuna to the south-west and Kampala are an important part of the backhaul system that will connect countries like Rwanda and Burundi to the undersea cables on the East African coast.

    The planned fourth phase was, according to Mulira, brought up in consultation with Parliament. It will focus on future aspects of the backbone. At the end of the day, the second phase cabling should have also created a possible connection to Southern Sudan through Nimule border, according to project maps at the ICT Ministry.

    The New Vision

  • - Figures recently released by the Tunisian Ministry of communication technologies show that ADSL connections are expected to reach 400,000 by the end of 2009. The soaring rate of ADSL connections which has increased from 114,000 subscriptions in 2007 to 220,000 end of 2008 testifies to the boom the ICT sector is experiencing in the country. Tunisia’s Internet users are estimated at 2.8 million.

    - The readers SMS text page of The Namibian newspaper which provides an innovative way for ordinary people in Namibia to air their views, has been criticised by the Swapo Party Elders' Council. The organisation wants the newspaper to stop the publication of the messages on the basis that it creates chaos and anarchy in the country. Defendants of democracy and freedom of expression claim that “in any country, especially a developing country faced with many challenges such as Namibia, we need to encourage more people to speak out on issues, regardless of how serious or trivial these might appear, and not discourage people”.

    - The Ghana Internet Services Providers Association (GISPA) has announced that it supports the Presidents' nomination of Haruna Iddrisu for Minister of Communication. Iddrisu is a lawyer by profession. GISPA beleves he has shown a healthy grasp of the complex issues around Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Ghana. He also established a leadership role in the parliamentary process as a young lawmaker and his youthfulness is another important reason why GISPA thinks he can “stir the fast-paced and knowledge-based emerging ICT industry in Ghana”.

    - The ongoing NITEL strike which has shut off the SAT-3 cable in Nigeria has enabled Gateway Communications, a leading provider of African telecommunications services to supply additional capacity to corporate customers and Nigerian operators.

    - The ministry of Post and Information and Communication Technologies of Algeria aims to connect about 22,000 schools to Internet so as to be in tune with the technological progress. The minister pointed out that "it is of utmost importance to successfully achieve the operation," which will be carried out through several steps by the year 2013, adding that the operation is part of the major project of "e-Algeria 2013."

computing

  • Mobile operator MTC is offering students and staff members at the University of Namibia and the Polytechnic laptops at highly subsidised rates inclusive of broadband Internet access through MTC’s 3G/HSDPA network.

    Students participating in the laptop campaign need to be in good standing with their institutions and should not owe outstanding tuition or other related fees to the University or the Polytechnic.

    Dubbed “ConnectED” the programme offers to UNAM and Polytech student/staff a new Lenovo N500 Cel notebook and 3GB instant broadband units for only N$3,999 (US$402). A monthly fee of N$50 (US$5) provides an additional data allowance of 300MB.

    MTC’s Managing Director, Miguel Geraldes, said the laptop initiative is part of MTC’s ICT development plan for the education sector to equip every higher learning student with the means to improve ICT literacy and build a solid foundation for a knowledge-based society.

    “In addition to the subsidisation of laptops to students at UNAM and Polytechnic, MTC is also investing heavily in equipping each of the 1 000-plus primary schools in the country with laptops,” Geraldes stated.

    The company says the rollout plan to primary schools will be communicated in due course. The company said it continues to be a major player in sports sponsorship in the country but is gradually shifting its attention to the education sector, particularly in areas where it can make a significant and lasting impact through its core competencies, which are mobile telephony and ICT.

    The company would also continue to play a major role in sports sponsorship in the country but would gradually shift its attention to the education sector, “particularly in those areas where it can make a significant and lasting impact through its core competencies which are mobile telephony and ICT”.

    The Namibia Economist

  • Indians may soon be able to buy the ultimate in credit-crunch computing - a laptop that costs only 500 rupees (£7). The government-developed laptop is the latest in ultra-cheap engineering to emerge from the sub-continent. It is also the most ambitious attempt yet to bring the internet to the developing world and bridge the “digital divide” between rich and poor.

    India has already given the world the 100,000-rupee (£1,450) Tata Nano car and a no-frills mobile telephone that costs less than 800 rupees. The laptop that may be sold for less than the cost of a paperback book has been more than three years in the making.

    It forms part of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology, India’s new scheme to boost learning in rural areas through the Internet.

    Government officials said that a prototype of the rudimentary computer was expected within months. K. K. Pant, a government spokesman, said: “This basic computing and Internet access device will be an extremely powerful learning tool in the hands of the country’s youth.”

    The machine is the country’s answer to the American One Laptop per Child project, which set out to produce a computer for $100 (£68). That high-profile venture led by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte ran into problems after several companies, including the chip manufacturer Intel, refused to cooperate. The costing failed to take into account distribution and marketing so the final price was closer to US$200.

    Technology experts, mindful of Mr Negroponte’s experiences, have suggested that India’s plans for an even cheaper machine are unrealistic. The respected website arstechnica.com said: “Can India do it? The inner-philanthropist hopes so but the realist who buys technology says ‘No way’. ”

    The technology website said that the price of computer components was too high to make a 500-rupee laptop. Analysts at the financial management company Merrill Lynch estimated that the Negroponte laptop screen alone cost about £20. “India’s $10 price hopes appear to be nothing more than pure fantasy,” it concluded. And all this is before the costs of distribution and marketing are included.

    A government official confirmed that plans for the laptop would be outlined last week but refused to give further details. Officials had put the cost of the machine previously at about 1,000 rupees but believed that the price would come down if it was mass produced. Some critics have branded the scheme a publicity stunt timed to coincide with the forthcoming general elections. Plans to cut the price to the bone appear to hinge on domestic technology that uses low levels of power.

    The laptop is the result of cooperation between several of India’s elite technology institutions, including the Vellore Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and the Semi-conductor Laboratory that forms part of India’s Space Department. Private companies are also taking part.

    The Times

  • A proposal from India's new High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Shamma Jain, is paving the way for an Information Technology Centre for Excellence in the country in the wake of the recent agreement on the Pan African E-Network project.

    The new technology center is designed to promote entrepreneurial skills, enhance human resource capacity and facilitate transfer of technology through implementation of IT-related training programs, Jain said.

    The center follows other assistance efforts made by India through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) and the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan (SCAAP). It is also being built on the heels of an agreement on the Pan African E-Network project.

    "Thirty-two African countries including Sierra Leone have signed agreements with Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) to implement the Pan African E-Network project," Jain said when formally presenting her credentials for her new post last month to Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma.

    Koroma said the E-Network project "holds tremendous promise for revolutionizing medicine and education in the near future."

    Telemedicine will enhance health care delivery and give doctors and other medical practitioners in Sierra Leone the opportunity to send complicated cases to colleagues in India for proper diagnosis, said Sierra Leone Foreign Affairs Minister Zainab Bangura in a radio address last week. Once the E-Network is fully operational, doctors in Sierra Leone will also benefit from an hour of online medical training daily, Bangura said.

    Computerworld West Africa

  • - Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili has called on the government of India to extend its assistance to the people of Nigeria in the development of the nation's Information and communications Technology (ICT) sector while receiving the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mahesh Sachdev. The latter revealed that, two Indian companies, NIIT and APTECH have so far trained over 150,000 Nigerian graduates in ICT. "We wish an increasing role in improving ICT capacity building in Nigeria. To this end, we wish to set up IT University as well as the Centre of Excellence for IT in Nigeria” he stated

    - Makerere University in Uganda has opened a computing and information technology centre to develop local computer software. The 12,000sq metre complex valued at over $20m is expected to connect over 100 universities in 13 African countries with India in e-education.

    - Botswana based computer reseller, Davekom Investments, has signed a settlement agreement with Microsoft . As part of the agreement between Davekom and Microsoft, the reseller will work to ensure that it only distributes PCs preinstalled with licensed installations of Microsoft software.

Digital Content

  • A new website exclusively dedicated to Nigerian writers and their writings has been launched. The site, www.writerslodge-ng.com, which will contain news about writers, books, and new releases among other things, also features a library where books and excerpts from several authors can be found. The library, according to the creators of the site, is designed to serve as a searchable database for Nigerian authors and their books. Information such as Authors' names, ISBN numbers, publishers, and numbers of pages, price and other important details are available for each book in the library.

    The creators of the site, who stated that they embarked on the project as their own contribution to the literary landscape, said they hoped Nigerian writers would be able to exploit the reviews, comments, and ideas posted on it to add more value and quality to their writing. They added that the volume of material on the site would also make it an interesting stop for people who were just interested in reading.

    The site allows registered members to submit their writings-poems, short stories, etc-for other writers/readers to review and rate and comment on. The idea, the creators of the site said, was to give writers a fair idea of what readers felt about the quality of their work and allow them to make necessary corrections.

    The Daily Trust

  • A new gaming website, MyGaming was launched this week. The new website aims to serve the South African gaming community with news, reviews and multimedia, as well as a forum facilitating gaming discussions.

    As part of the launch MyGaming is giving away R10,000 worth of prizes in partnership with Wantitall which include an Xbox 360 arcade console, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Collector's Edition and 9 games of the winner’s choice.

    MyGaming’s Nic Simmonds says that although there are many gaming websites in South Africa MyGaming will bring the gaming community something different and valuable. “We will make certain that gamers always have a good reason to visit MyGaming,”

    "A firm focus is being placed on local as well as international gaming news, with as much community involvement as possible." said Simmonds.

    MyADSL

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Egyptian mobile operator, Mobinil has reported its highest every quarterly profit, but warned that growth would probably slow during 2009 as the economy remains sluggish. The firm reported fourth quarter profits of EGP 551 million (US$10.4 million), while revenues jumped by 24% to EGP 2.644 billion (US$481 million).

    The firm ended the year with 20.115 million subscribers, an increase of 33% over 2007 closing subscribers’ base.

    Global full year ARPU was EGP 46 (US$8.38) with a decline of 15% versus 2007. Fourth quarter global ARPU reached EGP 44 with a decline of 8% over the same period last year mainly driven by the change of subscriber mix as the company continues to penetrate lower market segments.

    Capital expenditure for the fourth quarter reached EGP 1.09 billion (US$198 million), and full year expenditure has reached EGP 3.17 billion (US$578 million).

    Mobinil is listed on the Cairo stock exchange (29%) - and has two main shareholders, Orascom Telecom (33.1%) and France Telecom (36.3%). The company is the largest operator in the market, and according to figures from the Mobile World database, has a market share of around 48%.

    Cellular News

  • An Accra Commercial Court is to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction to hear the suit against the sale of Ghana Telecom (GT) to UK’s telecom giant, Vodafone International. The suit was filed by Professor Agyeman Badu Akosah and five others. The issue of jurisdiction was among a seven point critical issue raised and agreed on by the three parties in the case on December 23, 2008, after the pre-trial by the court. Other issues raised included whether or not the plaintiff have any locus stand in the matter, and whether or not Articles 6 (1) (6), 10 (7), 12 and 13 (21) of the Sales Agreement contravenes the country’s constitution.

    Professor Akosah, Kossi Dede, Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, Naa Kordai Asiedu, Rodaline Imoru Ayarna and Kwame Jantua are suing the government over the sale of 70% of the shares state-owned telecom to Vodafone. They have initiated the action as Ghanaian citizens. The Attorney-General is representing the government. The six are asking the court to dissolve the enlarged Ghana Telecom, which was created to effect the sale, because no such company exists.

    They are also praying the court to restore the fiber optic network asset to the VRA, and an order for a true and faithful re-valuation of assets of GT. The case was to be heard last week, but it had to be adjourned to February 9 because the parties had not been served with copies of the seven-point issue which needs to be determined before the case is heard.

    Ghana Broadcasting Corporation

  • MTN is piloting a domestic money transfer service in South Africa using its MobileMoney system, as an added value to its customers. Customers will be able to transfer and receive money from designated MTN outlets across South Africa in a pilot project to test market acceptance prior to a possible broader rollout during 2009.

    “The development of this Money Transfer service is a joint venture between Standard Bank and MTN Banking, offering a safe and secure way for customers to send money home. The service will allow money to be sent directly to the recipient, removing the hassle and cost of locating a traditional ‘cash-out’ location such as a bank’s branch,” says Tim Lowry, MD of MTN SA.

    “Convenience for our customers has been the motivating factor in developing this service, and we have identified the stores most frequented by our customers, for the implementation of this service. This has enabled MTN to provide the service in areas typically under-serviced by the banks.”

    The person sending the money goes to a participating outlet with the cash and receives a code from the money transfer agent. He then sends the code via sms or a phone call to the recipient of this cash. The recipient then goes to his or her nearest participating outlet and produces the code in order to receive the allocated amount of money. This transaction is as simple as 1, 2, 3.

    Carefully selected outlets such as the Kosi Bay Supatrade Spar, Langa Spar in Flagstaff, the Spargs outlets in Umtata, Ncogbo, Mount Frere and Idutywa, and Multisave Baragwaneth are included in this pilot. There are currently 14 outlets linked to the service, which is not restrictive to MTN customers.

    MTN already has a significant non-urban footprint and its popular Community Payphone network could also provide a base from which to further enhance the reach for the Money Transfer customers.

    “As with the success of the Community Payphone network, we see the Money Transfer service as possibly providing increased employment opportunities whilst ensuring that even the most rural community is able to gain access to basic financial services.

    “Following technical testing of the base system for the past year, this pilot project is intended to assess the demand for such a service prior to a possible wider rollout in 2009. MTN is also actively seeking partners in the targeted distribution areas to come on board and assist in the rollout of this project, to ensure a broader accessibility to the service,” concludes Lowry.

  • Mixed expectations out of electronics and communications group Altron, and its major listed-subsidiary Altech, indicate the volatility of the current business environment and the need to generate cash, analysts say.

    Each of these companies issued trading updates today that indicate the schizophrenia of the overall electronics and IT markets during the current financial slowdown - where Altron and Altech are both heavily exposed.

    Altron owns 62% of Altech and 100% of IT group Bytes Technologies and Powertech. Altech, in turn, owns a number of subsidiaries, including Autopage Cellular, Altech Netstar, Altech Isis and its East African operations.

    The statement from Altron said basic earnings per share would tumble by between 18% and 30% for the full year that is due to end 28 February. Diluted adjusted headline earnings would drop by between 25% and 35% at the same time.

    In the 2008 full year results, the group stated its headline earnings per share had surged 33%, to 375c, and diluted headline earnings per share had risen by the same amount, to 327c per share.

    The second update was from Altech stating its adjusted headline earnings per share for the same period were expected to rise by between 10% and 19%. Last year, the group posted headline earnings per share of 511c, a rise of 23% over the 2006/7 financial year.

    Johannesburg Stock Exchange investors hit Altron's share price hard, causing it to plummet more than 9%, to R21, but only gave Altech a slight boost raising it 1%, to R51, in morning trade.

    While Altron says it and, in particular, its wholly-owned subsidiary Powertech, have been affected by the global market turmoil, Altech notes this has not been the case with its business.

    “What we are seeing here is that Altech, which has a lot of annuity income type businesses, is less vulnerable in the current market, than those that depend on high-value contracts,” says Neil Stuart-Findlay, an analyst with Investec Asset Management.

    Johannes Visser, an analyst with Regarding: Capital Management, says: “We will have to wait and see if Powertech is slowing growth down for Altron over the longer term or if it is a matter of underlying write-offs.”

    Both analysts say Powertech, which operates mainly in infrastructure development, such as laying cables, has been a victim of slowing growth in the private sector and uncertain spending by government.

    Powertech also has a high exposure to the falling copper price and that commodity has almost halved in value on the international markets, falling to around R31 000 per ton compared to about R52 000 a year ago.

    The analysts also say Altron's Bytes Technology Group is just managing to keep its head above water with the slowdown in the corporate ICT market.

    “I think Altron is trying to be conservative and reset expectations,” Stuart-Findlay says.

    “Judging Altech is also quite difficult at the moment. It has a lot of cash on hand and it is highly acquisitive and so its future will be heavily dependent on those acquisitions,” Visser says.

    ITWeb

  • - Telecel Globe, a subsidiary of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, has announced its objectives to develop the mobile network of its newly acquired Namibian subsidiary Cell One by ‘investing hundreds of millions of Namibian dollars, expanding network coverage to reach 90% to 95% of the population in one and a half years, and doubling retail presence over the next year.’

    - Orascom Telecom and Telecom Egypt have reached agreement in principle with Dubai based VTEL Holdings Ltd for the sale of Lacom. The two Egyptian companies each own 50% the Algerian second national operator (SNO), which was officially dissolved in November 2008. The Regulatory Authority of Post and Telecommunications (ARPT) will perform an audit on Lacom before authorising its sale, paying particular attention to Lacom’s non-compliance with the obligations of its licence award. Penalties will be charged for the SNO’s inability to meet the requirement to provide national coverage with its network. The level of penalties charged is likely to be decisive in determining the sale price.

    - M-Web has confirmed rumours that it will be retrenching about 7% of its staff. The number of jobs is about 66, out of about 1 000, according to its CEO, Rudi Jansen. insiders suggest that it is about M-Web focussing on its core offering as an internet service provider, and attempting to get rid of its non-core offerings.

More

  • * Thierry Savonaroye Maléyombo has been appointed as the Minister of ICT for the Central African Republic following the inauguration of a new Government.

    * Econet Wireless Kenya has announced the resignation of its CEO, Michael Foley, just six months after he took up the appointment. A terse official statement from the company said that Srinivasa Iyengar, the company’s resident director, would take over the position as company head, indicating the firm could be hunting for a new chief to direct its African operations.

    * In South Africa, Lyndall Shope-Mafole has vacated her position as Department of Communications director general with immediate effect. Shope-Mafole was one of the ANC members who have joined the new breakaway party COPE.

  • * TECHNOLOGY TIMES OUTLOOK 2009 BUSINESS SUMMIT

    24 February 2009, Muson Centre, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2009 edition of the forum under the theme, "See...very far ahead" is the second edition of the annual business summit on the ICT industry's roadmap of developments that will shape and define the broader spectrum of the Nigerian economy in 2009 and beyond.

    http://www.technologytimesng.com/outlook2009

    * 2009 3G CDMA MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA REGIONAL CONFERENCE

    18-20 March 2009, Pavilion Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

    Under the theme “Empowering Communities with 3G CDMA", operators will be talking about their challenges and success. One will present a case study on enabling mobile payments, another on tapping into Africa's broadband backhaul network, one on ways to increase ARPU with EV-DO Rev. A broadband services and another on monetizing (the economics of) low-ARPU 1X subscribers, amongst other.

    On the Friday there is a course on Backhaul Dimensioning and one on Lessons learned from EV-DO deployments in the Middle East and Africa

    http://www.3gafrica.org/graphical/CDMA-Evolution-in-Africa-Registration.asp

    * TELECOMS FRAUD AND RISK

    23rd-26th March 2009 Hilton London Tower Bridge, London, UK

    http://www.iir-events.com/IIR-Conf/page.aspx?id=17135

    * 3RD ANNUAL AFRICAN E-GOV FORUM

    24-26 March 2009, Kigali, Rwanda

    The CTO is honoured that this year the Ministry of Science and Technology, Rwanda will be hosting the 3rd Annual African e-Gov Forum. Join key ICT stakeholders in the region, including Ministers of technology, heads of e-Gov projects, civil society leaders and representatives from IT organisations; mobile operators; infrastructure providers; foundations; development and donor agencies to discuss current issues and witness success stories on e-Gov in Africa.

    For further information visit www.cto.int

    * 1ST EURO-AFRICA COOPERATION FORUM ON ICT RESEARCH

    25-26 March 2009, Brussels, Belgium

    For the first time in Europe, sub-Saharan African and European policy-makers and research organisations are being brought together to address the development of research collaborative projects in the ICT field. This 2-day event is co-organised by the European Commission (EC Directorate-General Information Society and Media) and the African Union Commission (AUC) with the support of the EuroAfriCa-ICT project, a FP7 coordination and support action aiming at enhancing ICT research cooperation between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

    http://euroafrica-ict.org/events/forum.php or email at forum@euroafrica-ict.org

    *THE WORLD WIDE WEB CONSORTIUM

    1-2 April 2009, Maputo, Mozambique

    http://www.w3.org/2008/10/MW4D_WS/

  • * EXPERT NEEDED FOR CREATION OF NEW NATIONAL NUMBERING PLAN AND FEASIBILITY STUDY OF NUMBER PORTABILITY IN SEYCHELLE

    The Danish Management company is presently searching for a team of 2 experts for the ToR: Creation of new national numbering plan & feasibility study of number portability in Seychelles.

    The application deadline is Wednesday 11th February 2009

    jml@ict.danishmanagement.dk

    * EXPERT NEEDED FOR A STUDY OF THE TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEMS OF ERITREA AND UNION OF THE COMOROS

    The Danish Management company is presently searching for a telecom/ICT expert for the ToR: A study of the Telecommunication systems of Eritrea and Union of the Comoros.

    The application deadline is Monday 9 February 2009

    jml@ict.danishmanagement.dk

    * CALL FOR PROPOSAL FOR STRENGTHENING INSTITUTIONS TO IMPROVE PUBLIC EXPENDITURE

    Funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), GDN has launched an exciting 5-year research project on 'Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability'. We would like to invite proposals from think tanks, research and policy institutions and independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit organizations based in the developing and transition world.

    The goal of the research project is to achieve institutional and individual development; jump start the production of internationally comparable micro-level information on the quality of public spending and share data with relevant stakeholders; produce templates for analysis and dissemination/communication that other organizations can adapt for their own use; and to implement a framework to shape policy debates.

    Under this Call for Proposals, GDN will sponsor up to 20 institutions over the project period to conduct detailed budget analyses of public expenditures utilize methodologies including program budgeting, benefit incidence analysis, and cost effectiveness studies and introduce research based policy alternatives

    http://www.gdnet.org/cms.php?id=grp_details&grp_id=13

  • * Africell and Nokia-Siemens - Gambia and Sierra Leone

    Nokia Siemens Networks says that it has won a follow on contract from Africell to deploy a 3GPP mobile softswitch in Gambia and Sierra Leone. With market share of 67% in Gambia and 45% in Sierra Leone, Africell is deploying Nokia Siemens Networks softswitching solution in order to meet subscriber’s growing demand and contribute to the networks’ efficiency.

    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.

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