Issue no 468 21st August 2009
Demonstrators took to the streets this week in Lome to protest at the Government’s recent closure of the country’s second cellular operator, Etisalat-owned Moov. Togo is one of Africa’s leading laggards in the liberalisation process and the closure of Moov highlights how little is changing in this small West African country compared to some of its neighbours. Russell Southwood looks at why frustrations have spilled out on to the streets.
Around 2000 demonstrators representing Moov’s 600,000 subscribers went out on to the streets of the capital Lome to protest at the closure of their service, according to a report in Ghana’s Daily Guide. Interestingly there appears to have been no media coverage of the event in Togo.
The protesters were angry that the Government were taking them for a ride by closing down Moov’s operations. They chanted slogans and carried placards, some of which read “MOOV Forever And Ever” and “Prez. Faure Get Our Phone Connections Back”.
Organizers of the protest march blamed the Togo government for the abrupt suspension of the operational license of Atlantique Telecommunications, without taking into consideration, the larger interests of its over 600,000 Togolese subscribers.
“The damage of this suspension caused to the people is too much. So the government and MOOV have to repair the damage. The suffering of the 600,000 subscribers is too much,” said the spokesman of the organizers, Guillaume Koko, who is President of Asociation pur le Bien-Etre Juvenile, the NGO which led the demonstrations.
The protesters also warned that they will continue with their protest if the government does not react favourably to their demands as one angry protester indicated, “We want our lines to be re-established, if they refuse, it will be the responsibility of the government to bear the consequences,” Adja Kodjo said.
The demonstrators ended their protests with a sit-down in protest front of the headquarters of Atlantique Telecommunications in Lome but threatened to continue with the protest next week if there is no reaction from the government and Atlantique Telecommunications to resolve the crisis.
Togo is one of the least liberalised countries on the continent with only 4 significant players in the market, two of whom are Government-owned. Incumbent Togo Telecom has a monopoly over the international gateway. Togo Cellulaire, its mobile subsidiary, was for many years the sole player in the market, and has an estimated 70% market share based on an estimated 65% population coverage.
Moov has a 30% market share based on a 70% population coverage and has been steadily eroding Togo Cellulaire’s position. It is understood that Moov has been refusing to pay for a new licence before it gets its own international gateway licence. Currently it is in the hands of the owner of its main competitor Togo Telecom, both in terms of price and quality of service. The latter is believed to have had a constant impact upon the effectiveness of its international service.
In an interview in 2007, Director of the country’s slow-moving and largely ineffectual regulator ARTP, Massima Palouki said:Togolese people’s lifestyles should improve before the state approves a contract with another telecoms operator. If the authorities, however, ask for another operator, we will call for tenders.” The entry of Moov into the market saw a 50% increase in the number of subscribers in the country. Current penetration levels are only around 15%. Evidence from elsewhere on the continent shows that further growth would be possible with more operators.
The fourth of the main players in this beleaguered country is Café Informatique. It got an international gateway licence and permission to do VoIP calling as part of a call centre project. Despite attempts by the regulator to take its licence away, it has hung on to the licence. However, it has no interconnection agreement with Togo Telecom so its share of the market is relatively small and it relies on its own infrastructure. Locally owned, it does not have financial muscle to challenge the incumbent.
There is no sign that Togo Telecom or Togo Cellulaire will be privatised, although there has been international pressure on the Government to do so as part of overall structural reforms. The problem goes right to the top. Current President Faure Gnassingbe replaced his lifetime-President father in a form of family dynasty that looks like becoming popular in francophone Africa: Bongo Pere recently having been replaced by Bongo Fils is the latest example.
Inside sources tell us that Togo Telecom is seen as a cash cow by the Government and therefore something that needs its protection. EU sanctions were imposed on Togo in part because of widespread corruption and not much appears to have changed since then.
Correction: Issue 467 - Zain vs Vodacom row in Zambia hits a raw nerve over Africa’s 3G anxieties: The Vodacom Zambia company mentioned in the Top Story last week has nothing to do with the pan-continental operator Vodacom and is not yet operating in Zambia.
- Rwandatel has signed an agreement with Belgacom International Carrier Services (Belgacom ICS) to deliver 'Instant Roaming' to its post-paid subscribers, providing reach for Voice and SMS to over 500 operators worldwide.
- Since the migration to a volume based billing system, MTN Rwanda's mobile Internet subscribers have increased from 3,000 to 30,000.
- MTC Namibia’s free 081 Night Life Promotion has generated in July 70 million minutes of calls, more than 300 million SMSes and more than 3.1 Tera Bytes in Internet usage. More than two million minutes per day were also used, peaking between 22h00 and 23h00 and again during the last hour of the free promotion between 05h00 and 06h00 every day.
Cameroon’s Fibre Saga: MTN has right to build metro network but Camtel keeps national infrastructure monopoly
The Telecommunications Regulatory Board has settled the dispute between Camtel and MTN Cameroon. Camtel continues to have a monopoly over long-distance, national infrastructure but MTN has the right to build metro fibre. The regulator ART has stopped it doing so not because it has no right to but because it failed to seek prior permission.
MTN was building a metro fibre in Douala and the Littoral region to ease congestion on communication links in the city. Camtel saw this as a breach of its monopoly rights over infrastructure.
But last week a decision taken by the General Manager of Agence de Régulation des Télécommunications (ART), Jean-Louis Beh Mengue that specified that metro fibre roll-out was different inter-urban transmission. The latter remains the monopoly right of Camtel. However, MTN was asked to stop its roll-out until it had sought permission from the regulator.
In response, MTN accepted the decision of the Agence de Régulation des Télécommunications (ART), said it was pleased that it clarified matters and brought the not-so-cordial relations between them and Camtel to an end. MTN, through itspress statement, promised to abide by the rules and to work in together with ART.
It also reiterated the need to put up the fibre infrastructure in place, stressing that it would resolve the problem of interference and increase the capacity of its network, thereby allowing subscribers to have better quality services.
Camtel may have a monopoly over national infrastructure but it has signally failed to build a national fibre backbone despite keeping prices on its SAT3 capacity the highest anywhere long the whole African section of the route. Furthermore, despite being given rights to operate the fibre on the Yaounde-Doba (in southern Chad) oil pipeline, it has failed to close the 273 kilometre gap that would have connected it to its SAT3 landing station. What is the point of having a protected monopoly if it fails to deliver?
The Government of Guinea-Bissau last week published the results of an audit it requested concerning Portugal Telecom’s (PT’s) alleged mismanagement of national fixed line operator Guine Telecom (GT) and its mobile arm Guinetel. The report concludes the Portuguese company is responsible ‘for the mismanagement of the two companies’. The investigation considered PT’s financial and technical management of GT and Guinetel, as well as the Internet service provided by Portugal Telecom since 2004.
The consultant who led the audit into technical and legal matters for the two domestic operators, Adam Sheriff, found a lack of policy concerning training of staff but more damningly, his report accused PT of not investing in the network, its access services and of not respecting the rules of management. ‘Given that PT had a management contract and was paid for it, much of the responsibility for the current situation of the two companies should be given to the PT. But we must also see that the relationship during that time, between PT and the government was not the best, was not cordial.
There was a lack of trust between the parties,’ Sheriff said, also expressing surprise that PT had not expanded either operator’s network access capabilities or services. PT left Guinea-Bissau in 2008.
Mobile calls could be slashed by a massive R1 a minute almost immediately if the industry regulator agrees with fresh legal opinion declaring that the fees can be forced down with no need for further market research.
The hefty R1,25 a minute that operators charge to switch calls between rival networks makes SA's calls among the dearest in the world.
But advocate Gilbert Marcus believes the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) is wrongly refusing to force down that interconnection fee by claiming it cannot act without conducting in-depth market research. No more studies were necessary, and it could cut the fees now, he said.
If Marcus is correct, Icasa could finally tackle the contentious issue and force the operators to drop their interconnection fees, its chairman, Paris Mashile, said yesterday. "This is very interesting," he said, and if Marcus was correct, Icasa would readily intervene.
First Icasa would need to see if the cellular operators agreed with the legal interpretation by Marcus so it could brace itself for any litigation, Mashile said. Until now, Icasa has believed it could only force down the rates after defining which operators have dominant market share -- yet it has failed to tackle that research.
The legal report was commissioned by John Holdsworth, CEO of ECN Telecommunications. He has forwarded it to Icasa urging it to restrict the operators to a far more realistic fee of 25c. The report was also sent to Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, who has already said regulatory intervention may be needed, but that Icasa had not achieved much and had failed to get to grips with the issue.
Even Alan Knott-Craig, the retired CEO of Vodacom , said the interconnection rate could drop easily to 60c if the networks wished to do that. Holdsworth said 60c was still far too expensive, but Vodacom and MTN would fight for a gradual reduction so they could adjust to the loss of income slowly. "The actual cost of terminating a call is between 10c and 25c, so 25c would give consumers a break and still let the operators make large amounts of money," he said.
MTN Uganda last week passed US5.5b to the rural communications development fund. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) director, Patrick Masambu, confirmed that they had received the money that is part of the 1% contribution from telecom firms towards the uplifting and extending ICT to the rural areas. "Telecoms usually send this money within one year after they finish their financial year," said Masambu.
The financial year for UCC like most government agencies ends in June while for most private companies, the financial year runs up to December. It now remains for the other four licensed and operating telecom companies to remit their portions. Masambu said the total value of the annual contribution from the five licensed and operating telecoms will rise to US10 bn.
MTN public relations officer, Sheila Kangwagye, confirmed that MTN had handed in the cheque. The US5.5 bn remittance by MTN broken down means that even in a very tough year, MTN was able to make US550 bn in profits.
- Telkom South Africa and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have signed a wage agreement. "In the final settlement, Telkom and CWU agreed to a 7.5 percent general salary increase and a two-year moratorium on forced retrenchments," said Telkom Group Chief Executive Reuben September.
- The Mauritius government's statistics office has reported that the number of mobile cellular subscribers went up by 11.3% to reach 1,033,300 in 2008 from 928,600 in 2007. Similarly, the number of prepaid subscribers increased by 1.3% to 969,800 in 2008 and that of mobile cellular postpaid subscribers grew by 11.0% to 63,500 in 2008. The number of fixed telephone lines was 363,400 in 2008, 0.6% higher than the 2007 figure of 361,300.
The damage done to the submarine fibre cable that provides internet service to Nigeria and other countries in West Africa SAT3 has been rectified and service restored. A BBC report last week said that the repair of the damage which was discovered 25 kilometres off the coast of Benin on a branch of the SAT-3 cable, which connects Europe to South Africa led to a restoration of service to West Africa.
The SAT-3 consortium, according to the report, sent a maintence ship from Cape Town in South Africa to repair the fault. It arrived in Cotonou in Benin late Saturday evening and carried out repairs on Sunday morning. However Suburban, which runs capacity on the network, confirmed to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that the cable was still undergoing testing with a view to carrying full traffic this week.
While it lasted, the damage which severely disrupted and knocked out service in Togo, Niger and Benin, left more than 70 percent of Nigeria without internet access causing severe problems for its banking sector, government and mobile phone networks.
Many countries had to either reroute traffic overland or use expensive satellite links to maintain connectivity. Nigeria was particularly badly hit because around 70 percent of its bandwidth is routed through neighbouring Benin. The network, run by Suburban Telecom, was set up to bypass Nigeria's principal telecoms operator, Nitel, which runs the SAT-3 branch cable which lands in Nigeria.
Shareholders in the Kenyan-Government sponsored TEAMS fibre consortium are getting different prices for their bandwidth, giving some a clear price edge over others. The variations arise from the fact that shareholders in the government-fronted cable agreed to individually negotiate and pay for the cost of onward connectivity from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates as opposed to the single price offered by rival Seacom.
Details of the TEAMS pricing were unravelled by Safaricom Chief Executive, Michael Joseph, who is also the chairman of the TEAMS board. Joseph had told journalists that TEAMS could not immediately offer fibre optic bandwidth because there is no link between Kenya and Europe.
"There is no onward connectivity between Europe and Dubai, where TEAMS ends. Rates for that connectivity are still being negotiated, and we do not anticipate that prices will drop as drastically as initially indicated or within a short time-frame," he said.
Other shareholders in the TEAMS consortium however told the Business Daily that each operator had been left to negotiate and pay for onward capacity with the owners of the global networks and many had secured significantly low pricing deals that should enable them to cut connectivity prices significantly.
The landing of the fibre optic cables in Mombasa has sparked a raging debate on the right pricing of downstream Internet and voice services. While some operators have insisted that the fibre cables offer Internet service providers enough room to significantly reduce prices, others have maintained that prices would only fall marginally.
This debate is somewhat hard to credit as wholesale bandwidth prices are now 8% of what they were formerly. Most of the arguments for keeping retail Internet prices the same or only slightly lower are specious and will fail because there are those in the market who are already moving prices down. The key question is: have they moved them down far enough?
In less than a week since the tests began, over 4 STM1s (620 mbps) was used by one customer on TEAMS. Bitange Ndemo, Information PS, said the on-going tests will be over between the August 15 and 21.
A cable cut on Seacom two days ago revealed that several businesses stood to be affected by down times if they relied on a single fibre link. Safaricom CEO Joseph said the cut has exposed the companies who did not have redundancy built into their systems and said Safaricom was currently negotiating new redundant routes within Kenya to minimise downtimes.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Rwanda are preparing for the submarine fibre optic cable connection that stretch from the East African coast to different interior destinations of the region.
New Artel, a government Information Communication Technology (ICT) company has said that it is also in talks with Seacom, the company that owns and operates a submarine fibre-optic cable connecting communication carriers in south and East Africa about the possibility of being connected to the cable.
"We are negotiating with Seacom on the possibility of getting connected once the cables reach Kigali," Francis Karemera, New Artel CEO said last week. "We don't know when the cables will reach Kigali since there is no link between Mbarara and Katuna," he added.
Karemera said that though negotiations are going on with Seacom, the government firm that offers telecommunication services in rural areas of Rwanda, is also examining other connection alternatives that will depend on the cost.
The other firms engineering the marine cable across the region include TEAMS, which is spearheaded by the Kenyan government and EASSy.
Internet Service Provider for Africa (ISPA) is also negotiating for connection. The company's Director, Yvon Kaningu told Business Times that the service will be available to clients once a contract is signed. Similarly, Khaled Makkawi, the CEO of MTN-Rwanda said that the Nyarutama-based telecommunication company will be able to tap from the cables once connections reach the border of Gatuna.
"We will have the connections through another company but only if the deal is done," he explained recently in an interview. The current status of play means that only two of the ten ISP licensed companies are in advanced stages of getting connected to the fibre optic cable.
Altech Stream Rwanda is closing in on having interim microwave connections prior to a fibre connection in three months time while Rwandatel expects to be connected by the end of this month through its sister company, Uganda Telecom (UTL).
- Tanzanian incumbent TTCL has announced this week that it is fully connected to Seacom. Other local companies already hooked to the system include TANESCO, Songo Songo Gas and Tanzanian Railways Limited, all companies that operate their own fibre netwoeks.
- AccessKenya Group has announced that it has activated its link to the Seacom fibre optic cable after two weeks of live testing. AccessKenya Group Managing Director Jonathan Somen said the connectivity to the undersea cable was the initial step towards the company’s double bandwidth upgrade program, with preparations in place to be linked to the other fibre optic cable provider TEAMS cable by September.
- West African undersea fibre-optic cable system Glo-1 has reportedly delayed its commercial launch until November, after missing previous target dates of March and May.
- Lagos, Kano, Abuja, Benin And Port Harcourt are among cities that have now been added to the list of places covered by high-capacity, IP-based services by Phase3 Telecom in continuation of the expansion and upgrade of its national communications backbone.
- Ten districts in northern Uganda will benefit from a $9.2m ICT fund provided under the second phase of the energy for rural transformation (ERT) project. The money will be channelled through Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) who will oversee the extension of last mile broadband to trading centres and remote institutions in 16 sub counties in the 10 districts. The benefiting districts include Lira, Gulu, Amolatar, Dokolo, Apac, Oyam, Pader, Kitgum, Amuru, and Adjumani.
- According to Zambia’s Minister of Communications and Transport, Geoffrey Lungwangwa who attended the 12th EASSy management committee meeting, the project is progressing well. The marine survey, which commenced on December 9, 2008, had been completed. More than 40% of the cables for the project had been manufactured and the terminal station equipment and repeaters were being manufactured.
- Linkserve Limited has emerged as Nigeria's Broadband Service Provider of the Year at the Nigerian Telecoms Awards held recently in Lagos.
Industry experts and retailers have bemoaned the influx of secondhand IT products into the Nigerian market, even as they expressed concern that its presence will continue to cripple the country's manufacturing sector. Henry Ananchi, a software specialist at Datasphir Solutions Ltd, said the proliferation of secondhand hardware especially desktops and laptops is as a result of its affordability.
He said, "one of the major problems why second-hand hardware are increasing in our market is because people are looking for cheap products instead of investing in good quality hardware products".
When Next visited the popular computer village in Lagos, the market for secondhand products seemed to be on the increase. John Nwachukwu, a secondhand phone dealer, said that there different grades of mobile phones. "There are two type of fairly used phones; there are the ones from Nigeria and the ones from London," he said. "The ones from London are of more superior quality than the new ones they sell here. Some of these new phones are refurbished in China.
“Look at this secondhand phone, the name on it is Nokia E71 and the China new phone's name is Nokia E71i. Nokia did not make any phone like this and even the size is different." Kadaisi Seye, a laptop and phone retailer, said he imports from the United States.
"My company import this laptops and phones from America," he said. "The laptops are of high standards and cheap. The difference is that we do not give any guarantee on the secondhand phone or laptop that we sell to customers but the new laptops have one year guarantee in case of problems”.
Concerns have also been raised about an increase in mobile phone and laptop theft. "Most of these fairly used phones are stolen and they are sold in the market for lesser price and since they are stolen you cannot go to any customer care company to complain in order not to be arrested", said Desmond Okoye, an IT consultant.
Tayo Philips, a customer, has no qualms about buying secondhand goods. "I do not see the harm of not buying second- hand phones," she said. "When, we are been robbed of mobile phones daily in Lagos, how many good phones can one buy? My phone was stolen two weeks ago at a bus stop at Mile 2, so that is why I'm here to buy a second-hand phone. I cannot afford to buy the kind of phone I had before."
Ananchi od Datasphir Solutions condemned the quality of secondhand products and said that customers were not getting value for their money. "The reason it's called secondhand technology is because these are goods that have one fault or several. It is cheap when bought but more expensive to maintain, one has to keep fixing it", he concluded.
Government has laid out its programme of action for ICT projects for the last four months of the year and set strict deadlines that each department will have to meet.
This follows the Medium-Term Strategy Framework, which was unveiled by minister in the presidency, Trevor Manuel, earlier this year. The programme highlights what action government will take in realising goals set out in the framework.
The framework identified the usage of ICT and science and technological innovation and development as key in its goals to improve and sustain economic growth. Vital initiatives have been allocated to key departments and strict deadlines will be monitored.
The Department of Communications (DOC) has been given the biggest responsibility in this area. It is expected to create a favourable ICT environment through digital migration and its industrial opportunities, and create a competitive market with regard to domestic and international bandwidth.
The department is expected to finalise and implement the local and digital content development strategy by December. The digital terrestrial television standard is expected to be gazetted by March 2010. The set-top box (STB) manufacturing strategy, including the ownership support scheme, is to be completed by March 2010. The Digital Dzonga STB conformance scheme will be in place and STB manufacturing will commence by March 2010, the schedule states.
The DOC will also develop a broadband policy and cost-effective funding model for the roll-out of high-speed broadband infrastructure. The draft National Broadband Policy is expected to be gazetted for public comment by September, while the final policy is expected in March 2010.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has been tasked with ensuring that institutions, which support technology development, are fully operational by November 2010. The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the National Intellectual Property Management Office (Nipmo) have been identified as the two main institutions. The TIA opened its doors in July, while Nipmo offices are still being established.
By December, the department would have to present approved business plans for the establishment of centres of competence and technology platforms in key sectors, such as alternative energy, information security and medical devices. The DST would also have to develop and implement a commercialisation strategy in support of the local electric vehicle industry. The implementation of this strategy has been set for December.
The programme states the DST would also need to continue investment to ensure SA wins the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bid, including building the Karoo Array Telescope. This forms part of plans to develop science and technology infrastructure to position SA to win the SKA bid, which will be announced in December 2012.
The Department of Health is expected to perform an audit of health ICT at all levels of the national public health system. A draft ICT audit report with recommendations is expected to be presented to the National Health Council (NHC) in October. A draft national ICT strategy for the health department will be presented to the NHC in November. The final strategy will then be adopted by the NHC in March 2010.
The department previously stated it would prioritise its ICT projects as a means of achieving its service delivery goals. It highlighted the need for strong ICT infrastructure and said it would develop an e-health strategy in its drive to improve service delivery.
As part of its revitalisation policy, the department is expected to finalise the health technology plan and strategy. The department has already embarked on a process of developing a national Electronic Health Record for all patients in public hospitals. The draft policy will be presented to the NHC and the final plan would be adopted by the NHC and incorporated into provincial health plans by March 2010.
One of India's top universities, Amity, is to offer online IT degrees and diplomas to 100,000 students on the African continent over the next five years. The 100,000 IT students will be trained at 53 learning centers in the 53 African Union countries under the Pan-African E-network project. The Pan-African e-Network project is a joint initiative of the government of India and the AU and is funded by India at an estimated cost of US$116 million.
The project, which has three components -- tele-education, tele-medicine and diplomatic communications -- is co-ordinated by the ministries of ICT wherever it has been adopted. In Uganda, the tele-education component is hosted at Makerere University's Faculty of Computing and Information Technology.
The faculty, a partner institution with Amity University, has invited applications for interested students. The courses that are on offer include a Bachelor of IT, a post-graduate diploma in IT and a diploma in IT.
Amity University will provide virtual educational services through e-learning technology and video-conferencing facilities set up at Makerere University. Makerere University, in turn, will be providing support to universities in eastern Africa.
Eligible students enrolled in various programs will be required to attend classes in the learning centers set up in each member country as part of the project. Learning centers would offer pre-defined lecture schedules available at a tele-education portal.
Experienced faculty staff will deliver the live, interactive lectures from the tele-education studio set up in India. A unique feature of the tele-education system in the project is the offline access to the lecture content.
- The National Information Technology Authority - Uganda (NITA-U) is now a reality following the signing of the bill by President Museveni in July 2009. The authority is expected to provide technical guidance for establishment and access of electronic data in government ministries. It will also set standards for the information technology equipment that is imported into the country.
- The bugeoning ICT magazine publication industry in Nigeria is set to welcome a new addition into its fold as the monthly edition of eWorld magazine enters the market next week.
- To encourage donors and volunteers, OLPC has posted some official videos on Dailymotion's video website to communicate about its mission. To watch the videos click on the following links:
- Adobe South Africa regional manager for the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean region, Andrew Lindstrom, says the company is launching a new licensing programme for high schools. Lindstrom explains that, previously, there was only one licensing model available to schools, which was a site licence and was too expensive. The old system was a R128,000 a year licence, which requires a minimum of 500 users. Now, however, there is no minimum user requirement. He says the price works out to less than 5% of the off-the-shelf version. The new licence agreement should be live in October 2009.
The world's first solar charged phone was unveiled in Kenya last week by telecommunications provider Safaricom.
Officials said the innovation is in line with the company's policy of going green at a time when electricity costs a fortune in Kenya. Branded Simu ya Solar and manufactured under partnership with ZTE, the handset is made from recycled materials and has an in-built solar panel that charges the phone using the sun's rays.
Simu ya Solar, which also comes with a conventional charger, will be retailing at all Safaricom shops and dealer channels countrywide at a price of $38 (KShs2,999). This is before the product goes regional.
Speaking during the launch of the phone, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer, Michael Joseph said the company was keen on embracing green business processes and products. He stated that Safaricom has been involved in numerous projects that advocate environmental consciousness.
He said Safaricom has embraced green practices to satisfy customers, promote positive community relations and comply with environmental regulations. The company has developed and implemented cost-effective internal processes that encourage environmental stewardship, ensuring that its products and services are in pursuit of the universal green agenda.
In this regard, the company has over 36 radio base stations that are operating on renewable energy sources, namely wind and solar, in various parts of the country.
"Solar power is definitely the way to go as it is cheap, green and renewable. This solar-charged phone will come in handy, particularly in the rural parts of the country which are without grid electricity and urban areas which are suffering power rationing," said Joseph.
"Our subscribers will now not have to take their phones to merchants for charging and wait all day for their handsets to charge in order to make calls. They can now talk all day and night, without worrying about the level of charge and charging costs," he added.
In line with its green credentials, Safaricom House, the firm's head office, is fitted with motion-sensitive light bulbs to minimize the use of electricity within the office environment. Other green initiatives within Safaricom include digital communication and paperless offices; use of reusable water bottles (dubbed Kikombe Dawama) instead of plastic throw-away tumblers; resource recycling and reuse; and a planned comprehensive Environment Management System.
East African Business Week
Africa's access to digital research resources has improved but the continent faces new challenges in its use of these resources, a report finds.
"With infrastructure and facilities steadily improving ... addressing the use of, rather than access to, electronic resources should perhaps receive greater attention," writes report author Jonathan Harle, programme officer for the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).
His report, 'Digital resources for research: a review of access and use in African universities', was published by ACU in June. It reviews studies in the area, as well as listing resources available to African universities.
While there is still "a considerable way to go" before all African universities have access to broadband and the large bandwidth that the majority of digital resources require, Harle notes that "progress is encouraging". Generally, free or affordable access is available but the material is not always used, Harle told SciDev.Net.
Poor awareness of available resources is part of the problem, says Harle. Other problems faced by institutions include difficulty gaining access to relevant sites and an inability to locate relevant, high-quality material. "The range of electronic resources now available is dizzyingly wide ... Users must be given the skills to identify and locate what they need for their work," writes Harle.
Library staff has a key role to play in this. "As information gets more complex, we increasingly need skilled people to manage it," he says. To this end, time must be invested in training staff, particularly in information and communication technology and web skills, says Harle.
He adds that developing online platforms for the publication and dissemination of local research is also important, such as the Database of African Theses and Dissertations Initiative launched in 2003 by the Association of African Universities - a project that aims to collect, manage and disseminate theses and dissertations electronically.
He says the ability of African scholars to publish and contribute information is critical to redressing the prevailing imbalance, where Africa is a consumer but not a contributor of information and knowledge.
Allied Technologies Limited (Altech), through its subsidiary Kenya Data Networks Limited (KDN), last week announced the acquisition of an 8.5% stake in the TEAMS cable costing US$11 million. The investment will give KDN a 10% voting right and an effective 8.5% equity stake in TEAMS. Altech will fund its portion of the purchase price from cash reserves.
“Africa is in the infancy stages of a sustained growth trajectory in broadband across multiple technologies, services and geographies. The acquisition of a stake in TEAMS compliments KDN’s strategy of being a cross-border, pan African network operator,” said Altech Chief Executive Officer, Craig Venter.
“Shareholders in TEAMS will be allocated cable capacity proportionate to shareholding. KDN’s stake will thus grant us access to additional bandwidth, provision for redundancy of broadband connectivity and significantly increase KDN’s service quality, all the while unlocking a wide range of additional services for the group as a whole,” said Venter
KDN, a Kenyan company 60.8% held by Altech, is a ‘carrier-of-carriers’ telecommunications operator and internet service provider, with dominant fibre and radio infrastructure throughout East Africa. It is currently the largest data network infrastructure player in the region, with an eye firmly set on broadening its reach throughout Africa. With terrestrial fibre laid in Kenya, Uganda and soon Rwanda, the acquisition of a stake in TEAMS is a perfect fit for KDN’s plans. In August 2008, KDN became the first ICT Company to construct a termination point at the Kenyan coast in anticipation of the landing of East Africa’s 3 international undersea cables. KDN’s fibre optic cable will connect the undersea cables that land in Mombasa to the rest of East Africa, creating a 5 country, fibre optic based terrestrial network linking Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.
mCel, the Mozambique based mobile operator, has reported net profit of MZN548 million (USD20.76 million) for 2008, up 58% year-on-year from MZN348 million in 2007. mCel CEO Gomes Zita said: ‘With the exception of the 2004 financial year, when net profits of MZN660 million were posted due to currency exchange gains, 2008 was our most successful term in the last five years.’
The revenues for the telco grew from MZN5.83 billion in 2007 to MZN7.09 billion in 2008. The operator’s mobile subscriber base rose by 36% to 3.1 million compared to just over 2.3 million at the end of 2007. The company estimates that its market share at the end of 2008 stood at 69%, up 3% year-on-year.
Telkom continues to redefine its business activities by making a concerted effort to finally sell Swiftnet, a division that operates electronic payments including credit card verifications and point-of-sale terminal transactions.
One hurdle facing its potential sale, however, is that the buyer must be at least 30% black-owned which eliminates some players in the telecoms and technology sectors.
Telkom says shedding Swiftnet is part of the strategic review needed to reinvent its business after disinvesting from Vodacom .
Telkom's main thrust so far has been preparatory work on mobile voice and data services of its own, providing additional business services to corporate clients, and taking those packages into other countries.
Swiftnet is for sale through a bidding process its assets including a licence to build and operate its own networks. The business was formed in 1994 and operates independent ly of Telkom.
The division's customers include banks, retailers, the gaming industry and prepaid airtime sales outlets. Its technologies are also used by fleet managers for remotely monitoring their vehicles.
Telkom will first assess potential buyers to confirm they are sufficiently black empowered to take over Swiftnet's telecoms licences, and to ensure they have sufficient cash to fund their bids.
To make sure they are serious, suitors must pay a non refundable R50000 deposit for the necessary documentation to help them decide whether to continue with their bids.
They will then have to submit a financial offer. Telkom will draw up a short list, to be judged on the size of the bid, and also on business plans for growing Swiftnet and for protecting its employees and managers.
Shedding Swiftnet has been mooted in the past, but the value of the business may have taken a knock after a legal victory last year when a high court ruled that hundreds of private telecoms operators had the legal right to build their own networks.
Since those licences are no longer a rarity, the value that bidders place on the Swiftnet licence has been eroded. Telkom has also been unsuccessful in earlier attempts to find an empowerment shareholder for Swiftnet most recently in 2006 when it launched a formal process to sell a minority stake in the business.
That also came to naught, leaving Telkom now looking to sell 100% of the division. Telkom does not break down the financial contributions or costs that Swiftnet contributes to the group.
A surge in foreign telecoms companies investment is expected after the government relaxed the rule on local ownership. The move is anticipated to inspire investor confidence.
The cap on 80 per cent local ownership is being altered to allow foreign firms to set up operations without a Kenyan partner but be provided with a three year grace period to seek one. Telecommunication rules require that a cell phone firm operating here should have at least a 5th of its shares held by a Kenyan.
This comes almost three days after it was reported that businessman Naushad Merali had sold 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in Zain Kenya, leaving Kuwaiti-based Zain Group with 95 per cent shareholding.
The Communications Commission of Kenya is said to have relaxed the rule that will enable operators with 100 per cent foreign shareholding to be licensed.
The local ownership requirement is said to be one of the major challenges to new investments. It, for instance, took longer than necessary to license Essar Telkom, then Econet Wireless as local partners were unable to raise the required equity.
The government's bid to get a second national operator was also characterised by controversy after foreign investors failed to secure local partners with necessary funding.
- Vodafone, formerly Ghana Telecom, says the evolution of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone was expected to involve a process of transformation that would result in the restructuring of the business to provide the agility and strength to be able to compete successfully for the benefit of customers and shareholders.
- Kenya’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company, Kencall, has been nominated for the non-European Call Centre of the Year Award giving a boost to the country's global image in this nascent sector. The CCF European Call Centre Awards recognise industry best practice in 20 different categories ranging from Best Use of Technology and Best Multimedia Strategy to the European Call Centre of the Year and CCF Industry Champion awards.
- Technology group Dimension Data expects to deliver a good performance for the second half of its financial year, after a third quarter where a mainly upward trend was tempered with a few downs. Pushing up the profit margin is a key goal for Didata and at the beginning of this year its margin had climbed back to 4%, with a medium-term target of 5%.
- France Telecom (FT) has once again appealed against the rejection of a bid for the remaining share in the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (MobiNil), Bloomberg reports. The move comes after the Egyptian Capital Market Authority (CMA) rebuffed FT’s third offer for the outstanding stake; the French company’s previous appeal was rejected on 4 August. A committee will rule on the appeal within 60 days. FT has also indicated it may pursue the matter through the Egyptian Supreme Court.
- Kuwait-based mobile group Zain is in talks with three major telecoms firms over the sale of all or part of its African operations, Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai reports, citing Zain CEO Dr Saad Al Barrak. Zain is currently in the midst of a strategic review and plans to hold an extraordinary general meeting on 31 August when shareholders will be asked to vote on amending its ownership restrictions, potentially allowing individual investors to hold more than a 2% stake in the company.
- MTN and India's Bharti Airtel have once again extended the period of exclusivity discussions to the end of next month. This is the second time the companies have pushed out the time frame for the deal that could see one of them becoming the third largest global mobile operator, next to China Mobile and Vodafone.
- Zain Malawi has been accused of evading import taxes after a local newspaper found that import declarations were being changed without notifying the customs officials. The Nyasa Times reported that a shipment claimed to be network switching equipment was substituted for air conditioning units, which are subject to import taxes. After the matter was raised with Zain officials they agreed that there was breach of taxation procedures and the company agreed to pay MRA MK4.7 million [around US$34,000] for the goods," said a source at a Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) office who spoke on condition of strict anonymity.
- Telecom Egypt board of directors has announced the appointment of Tarek Tantawy as the company’s new chief executive officer. The appointment is with immediate effect.
Telkom South Africa’s newly-appointed turnaround artist, Jeffery Hedberg, has been delayed from taking up his position at Multi-Links in Nigeria. Hedberg says his current situation is complicated, but declines to comment on reports that Cell C majority shareholder, Saudi Oger, was holding him to a restraint of trade agreement.
* INTERCONNECTION COURSE
24-27 August 2009, Sandton, South Africa
Good interconnection regime will help businesses boost their competitiveness in an increasingly competitive and globalised telecommunications market. This 5-day course will provide an insight into various interconnection issues including implementation, pricing models, and challenges faced by operators and regulators.
For further information about this course download the brochure here
* 4th ANNUAL CONNECTING RURAL COMMUNITIES AFRICA FORUM
25-27 August 2009, Livingstone, Zambia
The only event in Sub-Saharan Africa to look beyond ICTs and how we can bypass the infrastructure difficulties to achieve connectivity? The only event in Sub-Saharan Africa which can boast 3 full days with 30 Government Ministers and ICT Regulators from over 20 countries for you to learn from and engage with.
* Telecoms World Africa
31 August - 4 September 2009, Cape Town international Convention Centre - Cape Town
Telecoms World Africa is an established forum for the communications sector in Africa. The only one of its kind, this event provides a platform for key stakeholders to discover the opportunities for growth in Africa, and establish themselves as market leaders…
* MOZAMBIQUE NATIONAL ICT CONGRESS
17-18 September 2009, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo
* EAST AFRICAN FIBRE SUMMIT
22-23 September 2009, Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi
* BROADBAND AFRICA SUMMIT
28-29 September 2009, Dakar, Senegal
Broadband Africa is the leading conference and exhibition for the entire broadband ecosystem in Africa. This must attend event will bring the industry together to define the future of both fixed and mobile broadband. The comprehensively researched agenda will cover the most topical and timely issues, and will serve as a platform for discussion and debate at the highest level.
For more information visit the conference’s website
* INFRASTRUCTURE PARTNERSHIPS FOR AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT – CONGO DRC
6-8 October 2009, Grand Hotel, Kinshasa, Congo DRC
The Infrastructure Partnerships for African Development (iPAD) DRC 2009 conference and exhibition is a platform for sound investment and collaboration in the reconstruction of the DRC - under one roof between governments, the public sector and business.
iPAD DRC 2009 is a one-stop-shop for investigating investment opportunities in the DRC and the region, opening up a previously inaccessible but lucrative market.
MOBILE WEB AFRICA
13-14 October 2009, Johannesburg, South Africa
Coverage of one of the most important technological advances of the 21st century and the exceptionally interactive roundtable format promises to make Mobile Web Africa one of the leading events of 2009 in Africa.
Attend Mobile Web Africa and help understand how the mobile web and mobile applications can contribute to the evolution of the continent.
With capacity limited to just under 200, register your interest in attending this exclusive conference immediately. Join the unrivalled speaker faculty as well as a delegation with representation from the entire ecosystem.
* AITEC GHANA 2009
22-24 October 2009, International Conference Centre, Accra
* MMT 09 - Mobile Money Transfer
26-27 October2009, Dubai.
MMT 09 is a 'must attend' event for anyone who is serious about remittances. Over 350 mobile network operators, microfinance institutions, money transfer networks, banks and technology providers will converge at MMT 09 to discuss the best ways to make money from mobile money transfer. Nowhere else in the world will you find so many MMT project leaders all gathered in one place.
2-4 November 2009, Lagoon Conference Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos
AITEC has been commissioned to organise this leading annual ICT expo hosted by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON). This year’s theme is “Setting the Pace for Africa’s ICT Transformation”
OUTSOURCING & CONTACT CENTRES EAST AFRICA
11-12 November 2009, Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi
Now in its fourth year, this is East Africa’s leading BPO conference, gathering international outsourcing companies and buyers of outsourced services with local service providers to explore partnerships and business opportunities.
CUSTOMER SERVICE & CONTACT CENTRE WEST AFRICA
24-25 November 2009, Oriental Hotel, Lagos
* Tender for satellite networking of border posts in Niger
* Tender for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of local area networks, wireless equipment and routers in Kenya
For further information visit dg Market’s website
* Masters scholarships and doctoral research grants – Eastern and Southern Africa
IDRC is providing competitive training grants - Masters' scholarships and PhD research grants (via Nairobi University, but tenable in any University within Eastern and Southern Africa) in the field of ICT4D. The deadline is 30th September 2009
Teraco and Dark Fibre Africa – South Africa
Teraco has successfully negotiated a deal with Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) to further increase customer choice in access to high-speed telecoms infrastructure at Teraco¹s Cape Town data centre. Teraco operates the only vendor neutral data centre in South
Africa with all major carriers and service providers available for its clients. The installation of DFA brings the number of carriers available within Teraco's data centre to six.
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