Issue no 441 13th February 2009

top story

  • Expresso is Sudatel’s international arm and it plans to move from four African operations to having an additional eight operations in its next financial year. Its strategy is focused on CDMA which it believes will deliver profitability through “minimum CAPEX, maximum OPEX”. Russell Southwood spoke this week to the President of the Sudatel Group, Emad Ahmed.

    Q: How did the idea of Sudatel running an international group arise?

    After the fifth public share subscription in 2005, Sudatel raised a lot of money, US$400 million. At this point the Board decided to look at for opportunities outside of Sudan. It also sold its mobile subsidiary Mobitel to MTC (now Zain) and this raised US$1.3 billion.

    Q: Which countries are you operating in?

    Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal and Nigeria. We launched one month ago in Senegal. Chinguitel was also a new launch and operates in 800 mghz with CDMA. In Ghana and Nigeria we acquired a percentage of existing operations, respectively Kasapa and Intercellular. Unfortunately we bid and lost in Rwanda and Mali but there will be other opportunities.

    In Mauritania we have 300,000 subscribers and are targeting acquiring 30% of the market this year and in the following year. In Senegal we are the third operating company and are targeting a 20-25% market share. We’ve managed to avoid a price war and during the three weeks of the soft launch with our CDMA network, we got 40,000 customers.

    Ghana is tough. If we succeed in maintaining our existing position (400,000 subscribers), it will be good. In Nigeria, there are a lot of players and I think in five years we will have something less than 10%.

    Q: What’s the scale of your ambition?

    There is no exact limit but in 2009/2010 we want to have eight additional operations. Our strategy is different (from other operators) because we will always focus on minimum CAPEX and maximum OPEX. We’re targeting profitability. CDMA licences are very cheap. CDMA also offers better coverage (in terms of numbers of base stations) and capacity and is generally better than GSM. We get the opportunity to get frequency at a lower cost.

    Our main domain is Central and West Africa and not North or South Africa. Up until 2012, we’ll only be looking at opportunities in Africa.

    Q: You’ve made a choice to adopt CDMA but will you look at GSM operations?

    We chose CDMA as a differentiating factor from other operators in the region. All the technologies will converge with LTE or at some later point. Most vendors are prepared to converge CDMA and GSM through LTE.

    Q: How many years do you think that process will take?

    Three to five years.

    Q: You have a mixture of mobile only and fixed and mobile companies. What services do you want to be offering?

    We have a lot of old legacy telecoms systems. Fortunately with recent technology, especially with CDMA, the future is convergent so we can provide all services. So we’re in the business of being in all of those services. We’re not going to go into WiMAX but we’re doing it in Nigeria as it was already planned.

    Q: Will you do Triple Play?

    This is exactly what we will be doing. Here in Sudan we offer both mobile and fixed broadband. The mobile service we call Mobile DSL (MDSL) and we deliver it through CDMA 2000 (via EVDO) and UMTS. We are ready for Triple Play. We have video streaming and mobile TV under test. We’re testing both DVB-H and 3G for mobile TV.

    Q: Which vendors are you using?

    We have good relations with all of the vendors and have a good vendor financing programme. We use Huawei, ZTE, Nokia Siemens Networks, Ericsson and Alcatel Lucent. We also have a relationship with Motorola in Nigeria.

    Q: How do you get your international bandwidth in your territories outside Sudan?

    We’re still reliant on our competitors, particularly in Senegal (with Sonatel) and Ghana (with Vodafone-owned Ghana Telecom). We are seeking to find other investors who are building an additional route. We’re particularly keen to join any group who can realise this type of project. But up until this point we have made no commitments. On the existing cable in West Africa (SAT3), the remaining capacity is very minimal.

    Q: What’s the turnover of the company?

    We’re a little bit above US$1 billion.

    Q: Who are your majority shareholders?

    The Government of Sudan has 21% but there are 10,000 shareholders. It includes most of the local banks, regional banks from the Gulf, QTel, Etisalat, Arabsat and a Gulf finance company.

    We came out of a programme of privatisation in 1993. The Government used to own 67% but it is already programmed to divest itself of the (final) 21%.

    Q: Will you be affected by the global crisis?

    Everybody is affected by the crisis but the effect is minimal. The countries we are in are not strongly tied to the international system so the effect (on our customers) is indirect.

    Q: But will it affect your ability to raise investment capital?

    One of the things we planned doing in 2009 with our planned expansion into new operations was to have a sixth public subscription offer. But the stock markets are not prepared to do this so it’s been delayed. It was supposed to raise a lot of money, up to US$500 million. This is one impact of lower oil prices that has affected us but we are going forward anyway, targeting opportunities with minimum CAPEX and maximum OPEX. Most opportunities will need up to US$50 million and that covers both the licence and the network.

    Second mobile operator in Southern Sudan NOW set to launch

    NOW (Network of the World), Southern Sudan’s second mobile operator has attracted 15,000 subscribers since its soft launch last December and is set to do a full launch shortly. The company is a Lebanese investment and is operated by MDC, a management company.

    Competition is hotting up in the south as all of the larger networks (Sudani, MTN and Zain) have now got operations there. The first operator to start in the south was Gemtel which is thought to have around 40,000 subscribers.

    NOW has currently got 4 of the South’s 10 states covered including the capital Juba and plans to roll out in two more states shortly. Coverage is largely in each State’s capital.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The residents of Hagaz town in Eritrea have got now access to mobile phone service. Previously, they used to travel for 24 km to access telephone service in Keren, thus compelling them to waste considerable amount of money and time.

    - Zimbabwean GSM operator Econet Wireless is aiming to increase its network capacity beyond its previously announced target of 1.2 million subscriber lines by the end of this year, reports IT News Africa. Econet’s corporate communications manager, Rangarirai Mberi, said that the company is working closely with its technical partners including Ericsson and ZTE to complete the current phase of expansion, whilst ‘work is already under way for further expansion to drive capacity beyond this level.’

    - Kenyan consumers will welcome the country’s second M-money product as soon as next week as Zain lays ground to enter the market. Sources at Zain told Business Daily that the service dubbed Zap is now ready and top officials of the Kuwaiti-owned firm are expected to jet into the country anytime for its official launch.

    - Psitek has launched the GPRS-Based Point-of-Sale Terminal Launches in South Africa. Dubbed, Timpa, the POS works wirelessly via GPRS with a SIM card, and features a built-in antenna, printer and rechargeable battery, making it a portable all-in-one POS terminal.

telecoms

  • Côte d'Ivoire has expelled the local head of MTN, Africa's biggest mobile company, after he was caught up in an alleged attempt to extort nearly $130,000 from the company, MTN and local officials said last Tuesday.

    According to the Interior Ministry, a secretary of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo duped MTN CEO Aimable Mpore into paying FCFA65.5-million, supposedly so Gbagbo could provide an ambulance to treat victims of a food poisoning outbreak.

    A spokesperson for Gbagbo's presidency told state television last week that the secretary had been arrested after the incident was uncovered.

    However, the ministry said Mpore had discredited Côte d'Ivoire's institutions by recording the payment in company accounts as a "gift to the head of state" and gave him five days from last Thursday to leave the country.

    "As a consequence of this incident, Ivory Coast CEO Aimable Mpore has had to leave the country after being asked to do so by the government of the Republic of Ivory Coast," MTN said in a statement on Tuesday.

    The Interior Ministry said Mpore had initially rejected a request for money from the secretary but, after receiving a second letter on presidency-headed paper, had made the payment.

    In its statement, MTN apologised to Gbagbo but said it still had confidence in Mpore, a Rwandan, who the company said was the victim of the "identity fraud", not an accomplice in it.

    Reuters

  • Safaricom is adopting a new strategy offering clients all their services in a single bundle at a discount as opposed to subscribing for them one by one. The strategy, which has also been adopted by Telkom Kenya, involves offering Internet broadband, video and voice with its target being corporate and mid-sized firms.

    “The converged services is part of our ongoing strategy to increase our revenues on top of our traditional voice market and also offer platforms to our clients that can help them to reduce costs and increase efficiency” said Michael Joseph, the CEO of Safaricom. Joseph said the integrated service is expected to increase the share of revenues coming from Internet business from 13 per cent to 20 per cent.

    By adopting this strategy, Safaricom is taking the battle for this market segment close to Telkom Kenya, which is also pursuing the same strategy by focusing on the converged services other than the voice market. Currently, it is charging the lowest tariffs on calls made within its network. Orange charges Sh1 per minute compared to Sh3 per minute by Zain on-net on selected calls and Sh8 per minute by Safaricom. Under its converged services, Telkom Kenya has Wimax frequencies capacity, giving it advantage over competitors.

    “ With limited frequency capacity of seven megahertz we have, we can only look at between 10 - 15 per cent of the market share of offering fixed Internet using Wimax technology,” said Joseph. However, he noted that the company is soon putting into use another frequency that should boost their service delivery.

    Business Daily

  • Zimbabwe’s regulator POTRAZ is inviting operators to apply for upgrading of licences to offer new services. Potraz director general engineer Charles Sibanda told journalists that the new licences would enable operators to offer such services as voice over Internet protocol (Voip) and 3G. With Morgan Tsvangirai installed as Prime Minister, perhaps the Zimbabwean telecoms market will begin to take off again as the economy begins to receive some attention.

    He said due to current regulations, Potraz could not accommodate new players in the mobile and fixed telecommunications sector. He said Potraz had cleared a number of frequencies in preparation for the launch of the new services.

    "It is the authority's hope that once the operators roll out these new services, market penetration will increase, resulting in economies of scale which ultimately should result in a general reduction of tariffs," he said.

    Sibanda said players could also apply for licences to offer Voip under the Internet access provider (AIP) licences. 3G service is a step up from second generation technology, currently being offered by mobile players in Zimbabwe.

    It allows mobile phone users to have access to much more than just voice calls and messaging, giving them access to enhanced services, including video calls, broadband wireless data and high speed Internet access.

    On tariffs, Sibanda said operators could adjust the charges downwards if the costs permitted. He said current tariffs approved by the authority were cost-based and had been compared with those in the region varying between US$0.15 and US$0.32.

    "The cost of goods and services in Zimbabwe is considerably higher in hard currency than what is offered in the region," he said. "In spite of our unique service, the tariffs approved by the authority for each operator are very comparable to the region."

    Subscribers to the country's three mobile telephone providers have, however, registered complaints over the tariffs averaging US$0.25, which they felt were highly exorbitant.

    Concerns have also been registered on the shortage of low value recharge cards and short window periods. Sibanda said the authority had since asked the operators to review their window periods.

    The Herald

  • Telecom Namibia has warned that its customers are being targeted by fraudsters posing as employees of our company, telling them that they have been "overcharged" and a refund on their telephone account needed to be paid to them.

    Such attempts to dupe Telecom Namibia customers have been reported in several towns in the Karas, Hardap and Erongo regions, according to Oiva Angula, Senior Manager for Corporate Communications and Public Relations.

    "In all incidences, the mysterious callers requested the unsuspecting customers for their bank account details, claiming that Telecom Namibia has had a 'problem' with its billing system and has thus 'overcharged' them. The fraudsters promise to refund them as soon they get the bank details," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

    "Telecom Namibia does not do refunds on customer accounts without a physical visit by the customer to one of our Teleshops where customers are required to complete a credit refund form. Fraud over telephone, SMS and e-mail has unfortunately become a reality in this information age. These criminals have no conscience and will go full speed in trying all sorts of tricks to rip off any member of the public," Angula cautioned.

    "We advise all our customers to be careful not to divulge any confidential information to unknown persons masquerading as Telecom Namibia employees. Customers who will be approached in such a way are encouraged to capture the number of the calling party and report such a case to Telecom Namibia immediately for further investigation."

    The Namibian

  • - The chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ahmed Joda, has inaugurated Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) to protect and promote the interest of telecom consumers, including persons with disability and the elderly in Nigeria.

    - Hardly two months after its launch, Lotto Rwanda, has fallen out with its GPRS provider, Rwandatel for having failed to provide coverage. According to Lotto's Chief Executive Officer Phillip Brizoua, our server is now at the MTN Centre from where it will be configured and by the end of next week people can again start buying tickets by SMS.

    - Haruna Iddrisu, Minister-Nominee for Communications said expedite action on the implementation of mobile number portability (MNP) to empower consumers to make better choice of mobile phone services.

    - Vodafone has begun making voluntary redundancies at Ghanaian incumbent Ghana Telecom, in which it recently acquired a majority 70% stake. According to the operator, a significant number of staff have expressed their desire to end their contracts with Ghana Telecom if offered suitable severance packages. In parallel, a hearing of the legal addresses of parties in the Ghana Telecom (GT)/ Vodafone International suit has been fixed on March 16. The Fast Track High Court (Commercial Division) has therefore ordered plaintiffs within 14 days to file their addresses.

    - Workers at Nigeria’s “lame duck” incumbent Nitel protested again in Lagos at continuous delay in the payment of their salary arrears and allowances.

    - In what it describes as a bid to block the influx of cheap European- and Asian-manufactured mobile handsets and promote local manufacturers, the Zambian government has increased taxes by 10 percent on foreign-manufactured handsets. It remains to be seen how increasing the price of handsets helps consumers.

    - During a press conference related to the programmen e-Algeria-2013, Hamid Bessalah, the Algerian Ministry of Post and ICT has revealed that the privatisation of Algerie Telecom has been put on hold and that 3G is not a priority.

internet

  • Kenyan ISP Swift Global is franchising its branches to make its operations lean as it races to maintain its market share in the increasingly competitive market. It will franchise its three branches including Mombassa, Kisumu and Malindi with its nerve centre being the Nairobi branch.

    Competition in the Internet space in Kenya has intensified with the entry of the four mobile operators and others like Access Kenya and Wananchi targeting household customers. This move has put further pressure on traditional ISPs like Swift Global.

    Through franchising Swift global expects to cut down on operational costs by about 20 per cent as well as spread its reach without incurring additional expansion expenses. Swift Global also forecasts that it will increase its market share by 40 per cent due to the franchising deals.

    Business Daily

  • An Internet service provider, Ringo, has taken the challenge to connect as many Cameroonians as possible through its "fourth generation technology".

    It announced this during a press conference organised in the conference hall of the company's premises in Douala, January 30. Responding on how this challenge was going to be overcome, given that some towns have no electricity, Stephane Franco, Ringo Technical Director, said through partnership with stakeholders, the Internet would be taken to homes, restaurants and meeting halls in the remotest areas, thanks to their technology.

    He said the company, which is barely three months old, intends to concentrate on improving services in Yaounde and Douala where it had already recruited 5000 subscribers.

    When the services would have been improved, he said, the company would expand its services to the ten regions. He added that the technology of Ringo, a Cameroonian company with European and American financial backing, designed and produced by the Chinese, can function in the remote areas.

    Presenting the different offers, Cyril Kemayou, Ringo Marketing Director, said they have a modem that costs FCFA 49,000 with a dynamic network. He used the opportunity to present the new product which consists of a Bindi Box and a USB mobile modem that is more personalised which costs FCFA 35,000.

    With a computer, the user can access the Internet anywhere. The Bindi Box, from its size has a guarantee period during which problems encountered with it can be solved or the box changed completely.

    One of the company’s innovations has been a price slash. Instead of surfing the net at FCFA 10 per minute, clients can now surf at FCFA 5 per minute. Equally, the recharge cards have been broken down to FCFA 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 25,000.

    These innovations, Kemayou argued, fall in line with meeting the needs of clients who are mostly students. He said Ringo is one of the rare companies that have a customer-after-sales centre.

    Cameroon Tribune

  • iBurst has cut the prices of its WiMax products, a move that will take effect this month. The company's high-speed broadband offering, since its launch last year, has been criticised by industry players as too expensive. The WiMax offering has traditionally been targeted at the small to medium market.

    “iBurst has witnessed a marked uptake of broadband services by SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises). The growth of our country is largely dependent on the growth of the SMME sector and from a telecommunications perspective, we will do everything we can to support that,” says Steve Briggs, executive head of the commercial division at iBurst.

    The offering is available in three packages: broadband, assured premium (uncontended) and assured standard (low contention). iBurst has not yet released the new figures, but the service at 512Kbps shared with 5GB of bandwidth would have cost R855. With a 1Mbps line at the same shaping, the service used to cost R992 a month.

    “As a network-agnostic provider, iBurst is able to recommend and sell products tailored to the unique needs of any organisation,” adds Briggs. iBurst WiMax is available on a month-to-month or 24-month contract with the hardware charges being included in all 24-month contracts. The company says customers signing a new 24-month contract between February and April will not have to pay the installation fee.

    ITWeb

  • - Comium Group Holding announced that Comium Data has been selected by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) in the Republic of Rwanda as the winner of a new Broadband Wireless Internet license. This move delivers on Comium Data’s vision to be the leading operator in Africa in the provision of Broadband Wireless Internet using the WiMAX standard. This license marks Comium Data’s 11th license awarded, with footprint encompassing East and West Africa, together with an operation in Lebanon.

    - About 250 Information and Communications Technology companies (ICT) have been short listed by Galaxy Backbone, after an open bid to participate in in the provision of 1-GOV.net programme aimed at providing bandwidth and ICT infrastructure and services to ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

    - The East African Community (EAC) wants to improve the efficiency of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) in managing information and extending its reach and visibility across the globe. The EAC has, therefore, invited bids from competent firms to develop and host the LVBC secretariat website.

    - South Africa’s Internet service provider (ISP) Web Africa has sold a 30% stake to the Smartcom consortium, specialised distributors of pre-paid and contract voice and data services in the mobile environment. According to Matthew Tagg, MD of Web Africa, the agreement offers the ISP the opportunity to launch its own network, enabling a higher level of service.

computing

  • The upgrading of information technology and telecommunications system will be one of projects South Africa will fund to the tune of R5 billion to fight crime.

    Following the country’s budget statement on Wednesday, South Africa’s Treasury said enhanced use of technology was key to fighting the scourge.

    “The fight against crime is drawing on the work of the criminal justice sector review. Efforts to overhaul the forensic and investigative capacity of the police are under way, together with enhanced use of available technology,” said the Treasury.

    “A further R5.4 billion is allocated to interventions aimed at improving criminal justice services, the creation of an integrated fingerprint and DNA database, improving detective capacity, upgrading IT and telecommunications systems and increasing the number of police officials from 183,000 last year to over 204,000 in 2011/12.”

    Meanwhile, the Treasury hailed South African for paying their taxes, having taken advantage of such methods as e-filing where corporate and individuals can pay their taxes online.

    “It is gratifying to note that there has again been excellent progress in expanding the number of registered taxpayers. In view of progress in implifying the tax return process and the waiver of the annual filing requirement for qualifying taxpayers, it is proposed that the current Standard Income Tax on Employees system should be discontinued by 2010. We appreciate that the administrative reforms, the adjustment to efiling arrangements and the construction of more effective communication channels between SARS and individual taxpayers are huge reform projects, on the one hand, and sources of numerous personal inconveniences, on the other.”

    ITnews Africa

  • Federal Civil servants have been gnashing their teeth as the implementation of government's e-payment programme locked their salaries in bank vaults. An investigation by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) showed that majority of civil servants had been unable to draw their January salaries, which government paid more than one week ago.

    President Umaru Yar'Adua directed last year that payments from funds of the Federal Government be made electronically. A treasury circular, Reference No TRY/A8 & B8/2008 was consequently issued on October 22, 2008, prescribing a broad guideline for the implementation of the e-payment.

    Following the presidential directive, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation held discussions with ministries, departments and agencies of government where detailed implementation plan was mapped out.

    The e-payment regime covers all payments with particular emphasis to payments to contractors and consultants and to service providers like the PHCN. It also covers all payments to government workers and to other government agencies like the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

    The implementation plan also prescribed that mandates to effect payment must reach the paying banks within 72 hours after approval for payment had been given by the accounting officer in each of the ministries, departments or agencies. On the contrary, however, mandates given by accounting officers of many of the government's agencies had not been effected more than one week after.

    Reacting to the delay, a union affiliated to the NLC said that it held a meeting on February 3 as anxiety grew over the development. The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), said the non-payment of the January salaries of workers gave cause for worry.

    Its Secretary, David Decker, said in a statement that while AUPCTRE was not opposed to e-payment, the non-payment of January salaries had subjected workers to enormous hardship and social dislocation.

    "Non-payment of January salaries days after the end of the month offend Section 15 of the Labour Act which provides periodicity of payment of wages which in the Federal Civil Service should not exceed one month," he said.

    The union called on the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Accountant-General of the Federation to urgently intervene by paying the January salary without further delay.

    Leadership

  • The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has quietly shut the door on small-scale OLPC deployments, preferring to focus on large-scale installations only. The move is a serious blow to many already-existing projects in countries such as South Africa which were built around the programme in order to get OLPCs into schools.

    Morgan Collett reports on his Feeding the Penguins blog that the news came via a leaked email on the Grassroots mailing list. The Change the World programme allowed users to buy 100 or 1,000 XOs for the school of their choice.

    Ending the programme is “a blow to future small deployments in South Africa, as we have over 600 XOs deployed in South Africa through this program with more that were planned,” says Collett.

    Tectonic

  • - Financial services provider Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) goes live on the Temenos T24 core banking software provided by Swiss integrated core banking systems company Temenos. T24 replaces the bank’s previous core banking system, which had been in place for over 10 years, and allows KCB to provide customers with such services as ARC Internet Banking (ARC IB).

    - The admission of Information Technology Association of Nigeria, (ITAN) into World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) is expected to open up new opportunities for the Nigerian IT and Services industry in the area of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), partnerships, networking, granting and wide ranging research and development possibilities across WITSA domain.

    - Phase One of the Pan African e-Network Telemedicine Project at the Nyangabwe Hospital is complete: the connection of the satellite to India. Speaking at the commissioning of the project, which is sponsored by the Indian government, the Minister of Communication, Science and Technology, Mrs Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said it was a welcome development, which would help develop Botswana.

Digital Content

  • Instant messaging giant MXit cements its place as Africa’s most powerful youth mobile social network by exceeding 11 million users and becoming the number one method of communicating with youth. “Being able to connect to the Internet from a mobile phone is critical in a world that is relying more-and-more on not merely existing online, but also engaging actively.

    MXit transcends international borders, race and financial barriers and allows users to relate to one another in a manner that is based on friendship, networking and even learning,” says Juan du Toit, marketing manager for MXit.

    According to the company, the global market for mobile internet will increase from 578 million users in 2008 to over 1,712 million in 2013. This is a whopping growth of 196%. Of the eight global regions, Africa and the Middle East will see the second largest increase in mobile internet users (414%).

    “We are happy with our growth, but our target is firmly set on becoming one of the biggest instant messaging mobile networks in the world and the preferred mobile social network for communicating with young people in Africa and globally,” says Du Toit, marketing manager for MXit.

    The company has its sights set on increasing its footprint in Africa and Asia and has already attracted more than 1.2 million Indonesian users. International NGOs and learning institutions are aligning with the platform to communicate educational, environmental and social corporate investment initiatives - and if you consider that 86% of the 19 to 24 year market in South Africa alone has a mobile phone, or that 53% of the population is under 24, it makes complete sense.

    “It isn’t rocket science, for us it’s simply understanding the mobile environment and the opportunity and providing something that will excite our users,” explains Du Toit. “Initially, there was a need to establish a fun and fresh platform where MXit users could communicate cheaply. Africa, and especially South Africa, has some of the most expensive mobile rates in the world, but with MXit there is just about no charge for sending messages.”

    There are in excess of 3 billion mobile users globally, and according to Nielsen/NetRating, the next billion are expected to use their mobile phones to access the internet for the first time. Social networking platforms grew by 47% in the year ending April 2008. According to Juniper Research, the value of the user generated content market will grow from USD$1.1 billion in 2007 to USD$7.3 billion in 2013.

    The company is rolling out a series of products that will enhance its usability and increase its penetration into the global market. This includes MXit for BlackBerry and iPhone, as well as the ability to synchronise its network by adding other popular instant messaging contacts such as ICQ, MSN and Yahoo messenger to the MXit profile.

  • A privately owned local mobile software solution company on Thursday announced it developed a new comprehensive mobile directory plus another 11 mobile softwares for use by Mobile users in Ethiopia.

    The Super Page software provides information on any company in the country any mobile holder can easily access, apart from 11 other Ethiopic softwares produced to serve specific purposes, Bimyam Gebre Egziabher who developed the softwares told reporters at the Alpha University College, where he teaches technology.

    The Ethiopian Calendar software-one of the Ethiopiac softwares, is an application that contains Ethiopian calendar with Ethiopian fonts with the intention of adding many features; Date Converter enables users to convert date from Gregorian to Ethiopian and vise versa.

    Public holidays tells exactly on which date will Ethiopian public holidays (which are more than ten) will be celebrated, thereby avoiding confusion, Biniyam explained, adding this application works for more than 10,000 years.

    According to Binyam the software also includes, Day of the Week this application takes Ethiopian day, month and year and tells whether that date is Monday, Tuesday etc; The Orthodox Holidays software is specially designed for Orthodox Christians in that it helps on which day a given orthodox holiday will be, or was, celebrated including the days fasting seasons will start/was started.

    Sentence Construction is a game application especially for children with two main advantages- to teach children how to construct a sentence from the given Words.

    Sentence helps children to know about their country historical places, cultures etc.

    Embassies Information contains the phone and fax numbers of all embassies and foreign mission offices in Ethiopia; Dialing Codes contains the dialing codes to other countries of the world; Special Numbers helps users with call numbers for public services like the Police, Fire Fighters, and Hospitals. Thus 991 is for police-like in The US-940 for reporting cases of sexual harassment and 938 for traffic police and others.

    What's more, Investment Opportunity software contains information about investment opportunities in Ethiopia as well as Know Ethiopia software introduces Ethiopia's tourism wealth, historical places, cultures to the world.

    Binyam said his company has on preparation to bring to the market in affordable price soon.

    Daily Monitor

  • A salon in Nairobi: MyC4.com helps raise capital for small and medium sized businesses. February 12, 2009: When Nancy Gathua was looking for capital to invest in her printing business located in Nairobi’s city centre, she did not approach commercial banks or microfinance institutions for a loan.

    Instead, she posted her request for a Sh250,000 loan in a Website, MyC4.com, which raises capital for small and medium sized businesses in Africa.

    Only 18-months-old, the Internet-based investment vehicle designed for the developing world is already creating a buzz in Africa and Europe as it seeks social investors to assist small businesses that rarely get or have a hard time getting access to credit.

    “We did not want to talk about it until we could prove it can work,” says Mr Mads Kjaer, the CEO and founder of MyC4.com. “It takes time to build trust.”

    Already in seven African countries with investors from 83 countries, MyC4.com has provided loans to 4,000 businesses, 1,250 of them from Kenya. It sources for African investors locally and in the diaspora.

    Mr Kjaer says the Website gives investors an opportunity to make money while helping African entrepreneurs build their businesses.

    How does it work? Mr Kjaer asks people to think of E-Bay, a Website that allows people to upload goods for sale and then the buyers have to bid for them. MyC4 is built along the same concept, the only difference being that it deals with money.

    Business Daily

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • New entrant into the Kenyan mobile market, Econet Wireless (trading as Yu) has secured the Sh 35 billion (US$450 million) loan necessary to fund its network rollout. The deal had been delayed by two months after Econet reported difficulties finding credit during the current global economic downturn.

    The move comes just a few days after the company's Managing Director unexpectedly resigned. Micheal Foley resigned last Tuesday “to protect his integrity in the midst of a tightening in the company’s liquidity caused by delay in securing credit.” It was reported by local media that suppliers were getting impatient with difficulties in getting bills paid on time.

    Acting MD of Econet Wireless Kenya, Srinivasa Iyengar, told the Business Daily Africa newspaper that the network operator expects to commence operation in Mombasa next week and is in talks to sign a network sharing contract with one of the incumbent operators.

    Econet is thought to have signed around 60,000 subscribers since its launch in Nairobi last November, and is aiming to secure three million users in the next three years.

    Last year, Econet Wireless International (EWI) sold a 49% stake in the company to India's Essar Communications Holdings (ECHL). The companies said that the move would significantly benefit Econet Wireless Kenya (EWK), which is 70% owned by EWI, from a rollout as well as product offering perspective.

    Figures from the Mobile World database subscriber database reports that Safaricom is the market leader with a market share of 82.3% with Celtel coming in at 17.6%. Telkom Kenya (Orange) has just started a "mobile" type service. The country itself has a population penetration level of 36%.

    The regulator has recently announced that it will make a second attempt at launching mobile number portability - which traditionally benefits new entrants into markets.

    Business Daily

  • If you have the cash and the nerve a recession can be a great time to make some relatively cheap strategic acquisitions - and Telecom Egypt (by far and away the biggest fixed line operator in any Arab country) is on the buying trail as incumbent telco seeks to ameliorate the effects of over-dependence on its home market.

    The chairman of Telecom Egypt, Akil Beshir, says, "The company faces market saturation at home. We need to look elsewhere for growth and we could spend at least US$1 billion on an acquisition in the Middle East or North Africa."

    Beshir added, "Telecom Egypt is underleveraged and should take advantage of the opportunities and lower asset prices created by the global financial crisis. That said, the crisis is a double-edged sword. From one side it makes more assets available at more attractive prices but on the other side you have to be careful about the future of any of those assets."

    Even though it is the country's monopoly fixed-line telecoms services provider, Akil Beshir is concerned about the future of the telco as more and more Egyptians opt to sign-up with mobile operators and what used to be guaranteed income from well-heeled tourists declines as the credit crunch bites ever harder.

    Asked to forecast revenue growth for 2009, Beshir declined, saying "it is too early and the picture is far from clear". He did however talk about Telecom Egypt's expansion plans. Referring to potential acquisition targets he said, "We have three preferences. We are looking in the Middle East and North Africa region. We are looking at existing operation rather than greenfield start-up. And, last but by no means least, we are looking at an integrated fixed and mobile operation. Such a company would be the ideal target for us."

    Telecom TV

  • Zambian President Rupiah Banda on Monday defended government over allegations there was some improper handling of the partial sale of ZAMTEL, the state owned telecommunications giant.

    Banda told journalists at Lusaka International Airport on Monday just before departure for Tanzania on an official visit that the public needs to give the minister of transport and communications a chance to explain her side of the story.

    The minister in question, Dora Siliya, has been heavily criticised for apparently ignoring legal advice from the office of the Attorney General on the procedure of selling the company. ZAMTEL has faced numerous financial problems, prompting government to begin a process to find an equity partner to help manage the commercially viable company.

    However, the decision by the minister to engage a private company from the Cayman Islands to carry out an evaluation of ZAMTEL’s assets before finding it an equity partner at a cost of US$2 million has raised concern.

    The private firm was selected without following normal government procedure and Siliya went ahead to sign an agreement with the evaluation company against the advice of the Attorney General.

    There have been allegations that have so far not been denied by government that one of Banda’s sons is involved in brokering the deal between government and the Cayman Islands based firm. But Banda said he was not involved in any of his son’s business dealings, and urged the public to allow the minister to make a statement on the matter before condemning her.

    APA

  • National Treasury has allotted state-owned Sentech R360 million for the coming financial year, a slim R10 million increase from last year's budget.

    According to the department's budget, the state-owned enterprise will be given R260 million for completing its part in the digital migration of TV services. An additional R100 million has been allocated to the company to complete its 2010 Soccer World Cup projects.

    At last year's national budget, officials noted that government had little faith in the company's ability to manage its finances, resulting in a 44% budget cut from the R646 million allocated in the 2007/8 financial year, to R350 million budgeted for 2008/9.

    Sentech's financial woes have long been in the media spotlight. Despite a marginal turnaround in the company's financial statements, in its latest annual report, the Department of Communications (DOC) has decided to initiate a corporate governance review of Sentech in the coming financial year.

    According to the national expenditure report for the DOC, state-owned enterprises like Sentech are being closely monitored. “Board complements of all public entities are monitored continually, and reports on members' terms of office have been submitted to the departmental executive committee.”

    The DOC's report openly admits Sentech has been problematic, saying it still faces a number of challenges; not the least being its financial difficulties. Last year, Sentech expressed a need to find other sources of income, over and above state contribution to the company, but it is bound by the Public Finance Management Act.

    “Sentech faces a number of challenges in its attempts to meet these objectives. Finding the appropriate funding model for the business to ensure financial sustainability is a key challenge,” explained the report in yesterday's national expenditure document.

    The DOC is also concerned that Sentech does not have a healthy enough cash reserve.

    Sentech has been vocal about its financial trouble. Last year the company issued a warning to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications, saying it has a shortfall of R95 million for digital TV migration.

    The national signal distributor has been pleading for more funds for at least four years. Its latest annual report shows that if its funding shortfalls are not made good soon, it will be unable to meet some of the timelines government has set for it. The annual report also shows Sentech has been unable to resolve the poor relationship that exists between it and National Treasury.

    It is unclear exactly how much of the allocated budget for 2008/9 Sentech received. However, Sentech cannot be pleased with the current projection for the medium-term. The company had not responded to queries at the time of publication.

    Included in the R260 million for the 2008/9 financial year are some funds expected to allow Sentech to cover increased expenses during the dual illumination period. Sentech will receive a total of R330 million over the medium-term to cover those costs.

    However, according to Sentech's annual report, the company needs in the region of R917 million to cover the costs of running both analogue and digital broadcasting signals.

    The only financial request by Sentech that treasury has met is the R300 million over the next three years for last mile satellite services for the 2010 World Cup. Sentech will be Telkom's backup service provider, if something should go wrong with the company's last mile access to stadiums during the much anticipated event.

    ITWeb

  • - Business Connexion Group increased revenue by 10,3% to R2,2 billion in the six months ended 30 November 2008 as the group’s revitalisation programme continued to gain momentum. Growth in comparable operating expenditure was contained to 1,5%, with operating profit increasing 16% to R48,7 million. The group’s operating margin increased from 2,1% for the first half of the previous year to 2,2% this year.

More

  • * NET*ONE, managing director, Reward Kangai, has been appointed as the new chairman of the Telecommunications Association of Zimbabwe.

  • * 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.

    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

    *THE WORLD WIDE WEB CONSORTIUM

    1-2 April 2009, Maputo, Mozambique

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

  • * SPEAKERS FOR CONFERENCE NEEDED - MAURITIUS

    The Danish Management is looking for speakers for a conference on effective use of ICT for disaster Management to be held in Mauritius.

    The application deadline is Monday 16th February 2009

    jml@dictm.dk

  • * SimbaNET and Aperto - Tanzania

    Aperto Networks has announced that SimbaNET, a pan-African service provider, has selected its PacketMAX platform for new WiMAX deployments in Tanzania. The deployment in Tanzania will be the largest WiMAX network in that country. SimbaNET is deploying PacketMAX 5000 base stations and PacketMAX 100 subscriber units in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania, before expanding to other regions. The network will operate in the 3.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands and will initially provide high-speed wireless data and voice to corporate and SME customers. Support will also be expanded later for residential and small commercial use.

    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 info@balancingact-africa.com

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