Issue no 494 5th March 2010
One of Africa’s smallest countries is pioneering the use of a carriers’ consortium to develop its national fibre backbone and international links with help from the World Bank. Burundi Backbone Systems will oversee the development of a 1,200 kms backbone and several new international fibre links connecting the country to its neighbours in the next 18 months.
The consortium brings together as shareholders the four main fixed and mobile operators (incumbent Onatel; Leo, formerly U-Com, part of Telecel Globe; Africell, owned by V-Tel and Palestinian Paltel; and Econet) and an ISP (CBI Net). The two main mobile players are Onamob, the incumbent’s mobile subsidiary, with an estimated 600,000 subscribers and Leo with 400,000 subscribers.
The D-Gs and CEOs of the shareholders make up the Board of the Consortium and will appoint the senior management team. David Easum, formerly of Telecel Globe, has been appointed as Interim CEO.
The World Bank contibution to the capital project means that it will provide coverage throughout the country, laid alongside road routes, with 26 different nodes. It will be 18 months before the network is materially complete. However, before that date, the important international fibre link to the Rwandan border post will be completed.
This has been the primary reason that the operators have got involved in the project. Currently all international traffic goes via satellite, with a small element via microwave to Rwanda. Currently operators paying between US$2,500-3,000 per mbps per month. The Consortium will not actually sell bandwidth as this will be done by the participating shareholders.
The headline international price is likely to be between US$1,000-1,500 but some of the partners may get capacity at nearer to US$500. Two of the shareholders – Onatel and Leo – have shares in EASSy (through WIOCC) and also have shares in its inland vehicle, the East African Backbone System. These shareholdings will form part of the two companies’ equity in the consortium. National fibre prices will not be distance-based.
There are potentially five international border crossing links. There will be two connections with Rwanda in the North and in the North West of the country one or two connections to DRC. Finally in the North-East, close to one of the Rwanda connections, is another connection to a fibre ring in Tanzania.
Meanwhile on the other side of the continent, Maroc Telecom is filling in a crucial cross-border fibre link between Morocco and Mauritania. This move forms part of a broader two-stage project with the aim of linking Maroc Telecom's African operations together (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Gabon) and to provide them with onwards international capacity (via the Mediterranean fibre cables).
The first stage of the project (being rolled out) is to connect Mauritania to Morocco via a terrestrial fibre link. Maroc Telecom is currently rolling out a link from Laayoune in the south of Morocco to Nouakchott the capital of Mauritania. This link is 60% completed and will be ready for use by the end of this year. The length of this link is about 3,000km (over 2,000 km in Morocco and about 700 km in Mauritania).
The second stage of the project is to extend this link to Burkina Faso via Mali. This is still at the feasibility study stage. This may all form part of Maroc Telecom’s broader strategy of making further acquisitions in Africa and will almost certainly give them cheaper capacity than is currently available via SAT3 in either Dakar or Abidjan.
Vodafone says that it has signed a non-equity cooperation deal with Libyan state owned mobile network, Almadar Aljadid (Al-Madar) to offer Vodafone branded services in the North African country.
Under the terms of this agreement, Almadar Aljadid will have exclusive access to Vodafone's range of products, devices and services in Libya. In addition, Vodafone will be able to use Almadar Aljadid's network to offer its customers a range of services, which utilise 'home' network capabilities as well as extended coverage within Libya.
The partnership will also enable multinational companies located outside Libya and with local operations to meet their needs for unified communications, centralised customer care and Vodafone services using Almadar Aljadid network.
Commenting on the agreement, Colin MacDougall, Vodafone Partner Markets director for Africa and the Middle East, said: "We are delighted to partner with Almadar Aljadid in order to better serve our business customers' communications requirements as they look to grow their operations in Libya."
According to figures from the Mobile World, Libyana is the dominant operator with 83% of the market, followed by Al-Madar. The country has a population penetration level of 134%.
The Algerian government has denied that it is trying to force Egypt's Orascom Telecom Holding to leave the country and says the ongoing dispute with the company is solely over taxes. The company has been disputing a US$597 million tax demand that the government imposed on its local mobile network, Djezzy. The dispute covers the the tax years 2005, 2006 and 2007.
"All the government wants is that the company pays the taxes due," Finance Minister Karim Djoudi told reporters in Algiers. "We are not pressurizing Orascom to leave the country. They are willing to pay."
Relations between Algeria and Egypt have also been strained following football violence following a football match last November.
The finance minister's comments are "positive," Sally Gerges, a telecommunications analyst at Beltone Financial, a Cairo-based investment bank, told Bloomberg News. "It removes some uncertainty regarding the future of this operation and specifically regarding the reassessed taxes."
Pending appeal, Orascom Telecom is not required to pay the full amount of the tax demand. In order to file its appeal, however, Algerian law required the company to pay 20% of the taxes and penalties alleged to be owing, approximately US$120 million. The amount paid will be recoverable if the appeal is successful.
The parent company also has US$257 million of dividends from the Algerian subsidiary frozen until the tax dispute is resolved.
Mobile telephone providers say majority of their subscribers are not identified.
The deadline for the identification of telephone numbers has come and gone. But mobile telephone users are still seen around their operators to be identified. Statistics from the different telephone operators in Cameroon indicate that a majority of their clients have not been identified. While waiting for the official telephone identification date to be extended, mobile operators have decided to continue with the identification of their subscribers. However, information from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (initiator of the identification of telephone numbers) indicates that nothing has been said about extending the date of telephone identification.
CAMTEL authorities say a majority of their clients came only towards the deadline of 28 February to identify their numbers. As such, not up to 50 per cent of their subscribers have been identified. Statistics indicate that 41 per cent of the 500,000 CAMTEL subscribers have identified their numbers. At CAMTEL, identification of telephone numbers will continue and even if a subscriber's number is blocked, it will be reinstated when that person identifies his/her number. The identification of new CAMTEL numbers is automatic at the point of purchase. The procedure is the same for other mobile telephone operators. A mobile operator like MTN Cameroon, say four months was not enough to identify their subscribers given that they are over 4.5 million in number. As of 20 February, statistics from MINPOSTEL indicate that 1.8 million MTN clients have identified their numbers while 2.5 million Orange users have been identified.
An MTN authority that opts for anonymity says effective identification of phone numbers did not take place in the month of December and January due to the end of year festivities and the African Nations Cup that took place respectively. People were preoccupied with feasting and watching football and not to identify their phone numbers. As such, people effectively identified their MTN phone numbers during the month of November and February. MTN officials say they need more time to go through the identification procedure for their interest is not to block the lines of their subscribers but to be sure that the company knows everybody in the network. Before now, some 1000 clients were identified each day at the 13 identification sites specified by MTN. With the decentralization of the process, some 500 mobile identification crews are in all the nooks and crannies of the country identifying MTN mobile users. This has increased the identification number from 1000 to 25,000 per day, the official said.
Malawi’s third licensed mobile operator, Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN), which intends to provide services under the G-Mobile banner, has been awarded an extension to its network rollout deadline by the country’s telecoms regulator, Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA). The cellco has now been given until 12 April 2010 to deploy a mobile network or face losing its licence.
As reported by CommsUpdate, GAIN’s director, Limbani Kalilani, admitted late last year that the company would not be able to meet the original deadline of 31 December 2009 as stipulated by its licence. The company requested an extension from MACRA, stating it would make up for the delay by combining rollout phases outlined by the concession. Meanwhile, South African news source
Bizcommunity.com reports that Beryl Capital and Telecoms has engaged Telkom South Africa to operate and manage GAIN. Beryl signed a USD90 million partnership deal with GAIN in July 2009 for the supply, installation and commissioning of the cellco’s wireless infrastructure.
- The vice chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Joseph Akaagerger, has called on the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA) to revisit its award criteria for 2010. According to Akaagerger, who was in Spain recently during the GSMA organized Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, though unaware of the criteria, he was expecting that given the development Nigeria has made in the past 10 years, the nation deserves to be recognized in that aspect.
- Telecom users in Hoima district in Uganda have been advised to report telecom firms that charge clients unlawful fees. "You have a solution and recourse of action in case service providers ask for more fees than expected. "If this happens, let us know because it is your right to be charged fairly," Fred Okot, an official of the Uganda Communications Commission, said.
- Nigeria’s National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement (NESREA) Agency has given telecommunication operators in the country up to May 24 this year to submit comprehensive audit reports of their mast and base stations located in all corners of the country.
Kigali Wireless Broadband (WiBro), a wireless Internet technology developed by a South Korean Telecom (KT) for the Rwandan government is showing progress, RDB's Deputy CEO in charge of IT, Patrick Nyirishema told Business Times.
The project launched last year, will help internet users in Kigali enjoy uninterrupted data connectivity and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.
Following its official launch in December with also a trial period of three months, Nyirishema said that this is the beginning of the third month of the trial and it is early to call how impressive the connection will be but he revealed that so far so good.
"At the end of this month (March) we will have a full report on how the connection will be uninterrupted. As of now the testing is going on quit very well," Nyirishema said.
The technology will cater for data, voice and video transmission plus other value added services that the market may require.
Nyirishema also revealed that RDB-IT issued out a limited number of modems for free during the trial period and by the end of this month they will go commercial.
Government is targeting to have over 4 million Rwandans gain access to high speed Internet within the next two to three years, partly facilitated by the Rwf4.5 billion WiBro project.
KT was also contracted by the government to build the Kigali Metropolitan Network (KMN) which was launched the same time with Kigali WiBro.
KMN (Fibre Optic cable) is a large computer network that spans the metropolitan area. It also provides Internet connectivity for Local Area Networks (LANs) in a metropolitan region, and connects them to wider area networks like the Internet.
The KMN is going to increase broadband availability to more than 700 Rwandan institutions including schools, health-care centres and local government administrative centres.
The New Times
The past few months have been a rollercoaster ride for ADSL consumers and service providers alike, with new and more affordable offerings appearing on a weekly and even daily basis. While ADSL consumers have had a virtual ADSL bandwidth feast, ISPs have had a hard time keeping up with all the developments.
A few prominent industry players have raised doubts about the strategy and business models behind some of the low cost ADSL offerings which emerged, questioning the sustainability and service levels associated with these offerings. Some of the ‘low cost’ ADSL ISPs have now hit back, saying that their strategy of going below cost are paying off.
WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe, the company behind G-Connect’s R14.50 ADSL service, says that the response from consumers has been overwhelmingly positive. “The G-Connect product reached the 10 000 new sign-up mark in less than three months which includes the December holidays,” said van der Merwe.
Greg Payne, sales director at Afrihost, says that they have also seen significant growth since they launched their R29 per GB ADSL data offering. “Afrihost is very pleased that the response from consumers and SME's has exceeded our initial forecasts,” said Payne.
Sainet MD Bianca Petersen also reports that sales have been very strong, and that the response from consumers has exceeded their expectations.
Many questions have been raised about the low-cost ADSL business models, with critics saying that launching services with either no margin or below cost, with the aim of building a large user base and then realizing savings because of economies of scale,is risky at best.
Afrihost however says that it is working out well for them. Payne explained that they decided to sell bandwidth below cost in the hope that word of mouth would result in significant growth, which in turn will mean bulk discounts from their upstream provider.
“We are pleased to report that this strategy has paid off and we are now making a sustainable margin at R29 per GB and this will become our new standard pricing into the future,” says Payne. "The R29 price point is not an unrealistic expectation and is here to stay. The R14.50 special that we are running is exactly that, a special, and we will only offer this when we are able to. Afrihost has been in business for close to 10 years and is here to stay.”
Van der Merwe is also confident of the G-Connect strategy, but warns against poor service levels. “Only if the low-cost model in its entirety is implemented correctly will it work. Many companies have paved the road to success with such a strategy, but a company with low prices and poor services will not survive,” said Van der Merwe.
“The break-even volumes relevant to a low-cost model are relatively low due to a different activity composition and the success in targeting market segments must be very innovative and effective,” van der Merwe continued. “G-Connect focuses on only a few consumer segments; we deliver the basic product and strive to provide one benefit better than rivals do; and we back everyday low prices with super efficient operations to keep costs down.”
Petersen also says that she believes that Sainet’s business model is sustainable, but adds that any ISP must be able to adapt as “many externalities can influence this new business model”.
Van der Merwe also dismissed the notion that low cost services are accompanied by poor service levels. “G-Connect’s uptime for the past month was 99.96%,” said Van der Merwe.
“In my opinion support is the most critical issue when it comes to sustainability of business models. G-Connect aims to be the best in terms of customer support. If we have an unhappy customer, we will always make a high level personal call to that customer. Our current average hold time for the last month was 20.35 seconds while the resolution turnaround time was an average of 4 minutes,” said the WirelessG CEO.
Payne indicated that consumers can expect a lot more innovation and affordable broadband offerings from Afrihost. “We are on a drive to bring down broadband prices in South Africa while making an honest margin.”
Further good news is that the G-Connect R14 per GB ADSL special will be extended for another 6 months and therefore come to an end in September 2010.
“As a result of constant innovation, we plan to announce a new model for broadband where this kind of pricing structure will become part of the ordinary value proposition offered by G-Connect,” said Van der Merwe.
“We also look forward to contributing in developing cutting edge models and providing in-flight broadband to the consumers in the nearby future. G-Connect reacts to the changes in the environment. We listen to the needs of our consumers and our partners.” Mybroadband
Kopernik connects NGOs with providers of technologies developed specifically for developing nations - like these adjustable eyeglasses - and then allows donors to contribute directly to projects.
One of the key factors in running a successful charity is helping the donors feel as connected as possible to the communities they're assisting, and see the difference they can help create. It's part of the feel-good cycle and evidence that the money is going to good use - which is why this is such a fascinating idea: The Kopernik is a next-gen online charity initiative that lets you choose exactly which projects and technologies you wish to put your money towards, then shows you the results in video form as projects are completed. It's also quite an amazing repository of emerging survival and sustainable living technology - from self-adjustable eyeglasses to clean drinking water devices and much more.
The Kopernik's mission statement is to "connect breakthrough technologies with the people who need them the most" - but that's only telling part of the story. The Kopernik website effectively aims to link technology producers with potential distribution organizations, and finance the buying of the actual technology through donations.
So, let's say you're an non-governmental organization (NGO) that wants to distribute super-cheap eyeglasses that can be adjusted to suit any prescription - like the ones we wrote about early in 2009. The Kopernik would allow you to sign up and register a project - let's say, delivering 4,000 pairs of self-adjustable glasses to needy folk in Sri Lanka.
The donated funds can only cover the purchase of the items you're delivering - your organization has to foot the bill to get them where they're needed, and all travel and personnel costs. Furthermore, you're not allowed to give the technology away - rather, you have to look at it as a kickstart for a potentially sustainable business that can sell the technology at locally appropriate prices.
As a donor, you're able to look through a list of dozens of such projects and put your money directly into the ones that interest you the most, whether it's delivering water-purifying Life Straws, solar-rechargeable digital hearing aids or getting solar study lanterns to students in Nigeria.
It's an interesting model and a very direct approach to philanthropy. We wish Kopernik all the best in developing a successful portal.
- Kenya’s Wananchi (with its Zuku brand) has 14,000 Pay-TV subscribers and will be launching a DTH satellite service and a Triple Play offer (June 2010) in Nairobi. Coincidentally, Senegal’s Sonatel will also launch a Triple Play service in the same month.
- After the "digital cities", administrations, services and several other economic sectors, the Tunisian architecture is joining the digital era thanks to www.Archi-mag.com , Tunisia's first online architecture magazine.
- Gistcaster is a new microblogging platform from Nigeria. Gistcaster joins the fray to compete for the dominance with other microblogging platforms like Kukurooku, Naijapulse, Gatorpeeps and Qiqima.
- Alcatel-Lucent and Kenya Data Networks (KDN), the leading data communications carrier in Kenya and one of the largest in Africa, have expanded their existing relationship by offering KDN’s small- and medium-sized enterprise customers flexible, secure Internet services. “Our objective is to deliver a wide range of beneficial, easy-to-use Internet services to our business customers,” said Kai Wulff, CEO of KDN and Group Executive of Altech East and Central Africa. “Alcatel-Lucent is providing us with a cost-effective corporate solution that will enable us to offer our customers innovative services with the highest quality standards.”
E-government will be renewed and handled with more vigour, because of its future importance to service delivery, says deputy public service and administration minister Roy Padayachie.
He spoke to ITWeb after a Parliamentary media briefing by the governance and administration cluster of ministries.
Padayachie said this new vigour and importance being accorded to e-government was in line with president Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address.
“These programmes are being finalised and I expect we will see some more solid movement in the coming months. This includes the turnaround strategy for the State IT Agency, which should be finalised within a month,” he said.
In the briefing, it was stated that the Department of Public Service and Administration has begun a process within national and provincial government. This would create awareness on progress made with respect to the next phase of e-government implementation; build a common understanding of what needs to be done as part of the next-generation e-government implementation; garner support for the proposed next steps; and, ultimately, secure commitment to realising the collective vision of enabling e-government and, by so doing, ensure service improvement and better government.
The statement went on to say that following several national and provincial consultative meetings, an agreement was reached on a proposal to develop a prototype of a transversal e-government platform.
“The platform would be transactional in nature, and would automate and enable the six pro-poor services that straddle the social and justice cluster. These services are: application to register birth, application for an identity document, application for foster care grant, application for an old age pension, application for a maintenance order, and application to give notice of death,” the statement says.
However, no answers were provided to exactly how this “transversal system” would be built, operated, or if it was separate from programmes currently under way at the Department of Home Affairs. Also, no idea of budgets or costs was given.
The Bank of Ghana (BOG) and the ARB Apex Bank have been urged to, as a matter of urgency, accelerate the computerisation of Rural and Community Banks (RCB's) in the Country to facilitate their operations.
The Regional Coordinator of Trias Ghana, Mr. Rex Asanga, made the call when his outfit donated 78 computers, printers and other accessories valued at 50,017.71 Ghana Cedis, to 12 Rural/Community Banks (RCBs) operating in the three Northern Regions.
Trias Ghana is an NGO working to build the capacity of RCBs in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions, and to support them in micro-financing.
Mr. Asanga stated that there was the need for the BOG and Apex Bank to fast track the computerization programme of the RCBs which had been budgeted for under the Millennium Challenge pact.
He noted that most RCBs upon hearing news about the computerization of banks decided to employ staff and prepared data waiting for the process to start, but which had not yet been done.
In a related development, the Board Chairman of the BESSFA Rural Bank in the Garu-Tempane District of the Upper East Region, Mr. Solomon Atiga, has expressed concern about the delay in the establishment of the computerization process of rural banks as promised by the BOG and Apex Bank, saying that it was undermining the performance of rural banks.
Speaking at the 18th Annual General Meeting of the Bank held in Garu recently, Mr Atiga stated that in this modern era of technological advancement, rural banks were still using manual methods to perform duties and said it did not augur well for the effective delivery of services to customers.
He indicated that the bank chalked some level of successes and said deposits increased from 1,854,589 in 2007 to 2, 665,482 in 2008.
He said the bank was to streamline its strategies in giving out credit, adding that it would embark on a campaign to sensitize loan beneficiaries so as to improve credit delivery and utilization.
"Under the programme, beneficiaries would form groups and would be taken through some educational modules before they are granted loans", he explained.
Mr. Atiga indicated that the Management of the bank was constructing a premises in Bawku at the cost of 300,000 Ghana cedis to be used as an agency.
Mr. Sulley Agholisi, President of the North-Eastern Chapter of the Rural and Community Banks, appealed to shareholders of the bank to re-evaluate and increase their share holdings to increase the capital base of the Bank.
He noted with concern that the floating of shares had become a problem in all the 12 rural and community banks operating in the three Northern Regions, and called on the sons and daughters of the area to patronize shares floated by rural Banks.
South Africa-based Information Technology giant Integr8 IT has entered into negotiations with a local company to invest in the country's information technology sector this year.
Integr8 IT co-owner and founder Mr Rob Sussman said the company's strategy to expand to the rest of Africa is to go with local equity partners and make empowerment a key component to invest back into businesses and people.
"We think Zimbabwe is going to be a very good area for us, we are discussing with one of our clients to potentially open offices in Zimbabwe and I think the opportunity is great.
"Now we want to go into Zimbabwe's ICT industry when everyone else is getting out. We want to buck that trend," said Mr Sussman.
Intentions by the ICT company to invest in Zimbabwe through partnering with locals confirms the impartiality of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act that seeks to cede 51 percent shareholding in all foreign companies to locals.
Companies have been asked to submit their proposed indigenisation structures amid fears that the regulations would slow down foreign direct investment into the country.
Impala Platinum Mines, a holding company of Zimbabwe Platinum Mines and Arcelor Mittal SA who are bidding for a 60 percent stake in the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, are some of the companies that have openly expressed concerns over the indigenisation law.
The Integr8 Group has come out in support of indigenisation saying they will partner locals, making empowerment a key component.
Integr8 Group's objective is to have partners in every African region. The group is operational in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana and they have opened offices with local partners.
Integr8 Group was founded in 2001 at a time when companies were exiting rather than investing in the African technology sector.
Nine years later, the firm has grown organically into the largest private ICT company on the continent and they are aiming to take the group's solutions to the public sector.
The group plans to offer hosted services such as cloud computing, XaaS (anything as a service) and Web 2.0 services to the public sector.
Other projects in the pipeline include a shared services nerve centre for Government with a 24/7 call centre, support uptime, feedback and application monitoring.
Integr8's objective is actually to provide hosted services in South Africa and the rest of Africa for local companies to use local services, thereby keeping revenues in their country.
"We will use those hosted services locally to attract international investments. We want international companies to use South Africa and African hosted services", said Mr Sussman.
Currently, most hosted services are provided by American firms and African players cannot compete due to bandwidth constraints.
However, this is set to change with the laying of several fibre optic cables across the continent.
Mr Sussman said the public sector has historically been exposed to very poor service.
The Integr8 team sees the African continent as a land of opportunity.
Most recently, Integr8 Group signed a massive US$6,8 billion joint venture agreement with Mahindra Satyam, one of the largest ICT companies in India, guaranteeing a strategic partnership in infrastructure and managed services.
- InfoDev and the World Bank’s Finance, Economic and Urban Development (FEU) department are working together to advance the Information and Communication Technology for development (ICT4D) agenda in the area of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and Spatial data infrastructure (SDI). Dubbed Spatial Data Infrastructure for Millennium Development Goals (SDI4MDGs), the project will provide Technical assistance to two developing countries, Jordan and Uganda, on how they can use GIS/SDI for monitoring development outcomes with specific focus on the monitoring and achievement of MDGs.
- A cooperation agreement has been signed between the Tunis Federation of Social Solidarity and Microsoft Company. Under the agreement, Microsoft will grant the federation a financial donation amounting to 85,000 dollars, so as to implement a training and guidance program for the certification of ICT skills. 40 university graduates in different scientific branches, mostly in software development, will benefit from this agreement.
South Africa's MTN and Telkom have made advances for State-owned mobile and fixed telecommunications companies NetOne and TelOne, respectively, Government sources confirmed this week.
MTN and Telkom's separate interests in the State firms had since last year been a subject of speculation, but Government sources have confirmed the cash-rich South African firms are eyeing the local entities.
These two are among a handful of foreign firms that have reportedly expressed interest to buy some of the Government's stake in the companies and inject a dose of fresh capital.
NetOne has struggled with funding to expand its network and introduce new services as competition increases, while TelOne has failed to replace some outdated infrastructure or connect more subscribers.
NetOne, the first mobile company to be awarded a licence, has become the smallest, after Econet and Telecel, while TelOne has struggled despite its monopoly.
A senior Government official confirmed that MTN and Telkom had made formal bids for the troubled State telecommunications firms.
He said Government was in the process of considering the bids, adding that the investors' proposals would soon be presented to Cabinet.
"Several firms have expressed interest in NetOne (and TelOne) and we are in the process of conducting a due diligence on these bids. They will soon be presented to Cabinet before we choose the winner. Yes, MTN and Telkom are some of the companies that have expressed interest in the companies (NetOne and TelOne," said the source.
MTN is a growing pan-African mobile phone operator that has been expanding its footprint across the continent and the Middle East.
Telkom is a private company in which the South African government holds a 38 percent stake. It is estimated to be worth R97 billion.
Despite NetOne being the oldest and initially the largest of the country's three mobile phone operators, it has fallen behind in the last few years to become the smallest with only 500 000 subscribers.
Efforts to get comment on progress pertaining to the deal from NetOne managing director Mr Reward Kangai were not successful as he was said to be in meetings.
However, Mr Kangai early last year said capitalising the firm would require about US$200 million and that the company was valued at US$500 million in 2006.
On the other hand, TelOne had not responded to questions sent to it by Herald Business at the time of going to print.
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is the country's biggest mobile phone operator with just over three million subscribers while Telecel is now the second biggest with about 600 000 subscribers.
TelOne has failed to overhaul most of its old infrastructure and connect more subscribers despite being the country's sole fixed phone operator and presently has only 386 000 subscribers countrywide.
About 50 percent of the fixed phone operator's total subscribers are in Harare and 17 percent are in the rural areas, according to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.
Government plans to dispose of some of its interest in State enterprises and parastatals in the oil sector, air transport and railways, particularly in loss-making and under-performing entities.
Telkom Kenya is expected to make a major move in the market that could see it make a multi-billion forex swap or wrap up a refinancing arrangement.
Players in the process said a deal was still in the discussion stages but is set to mature in the coming quarter. The decision on the Sh8 billion facility was initially expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2010.
In essence, the telecommunications firm is seeking to convert its hard currency exposure into shilling liability given that the bulk of its earnings are in the domestic currency. That effectively shields it from forex fluctuations which have cost a number of Kenyan companies dearly.
Standard Chartered is steering the process. Its regional head of capital markets Salmon Kitololo told the Nation that one option on the table was arranging a forex swap. The matter has been subject of consultation including with Telkom majority shareholder, France Telecom.
Originally, the Sh8 billion was a six-month bridging loan later refinanced by the shareholders of the firm, who include Alcazar Capital, forcing a cancellation of a second leg of financing. That meant translating the indebtedness into euros.
If the promoters settle for local banks, arrangement may come in form of a syndicated loan or a corporate bond issue. Standard Chartered has previously handled huge corporate debt instruments including the Kenya Power and Lighting Company five-year Sh7 billion as the mandated lead arranger.
This was the first underwritten (by the bank) shilling-denominated bond locally. "We were committing ourselves to give the participants the comfort," said Mr Kitololo. The firm also played a similar role in the MTN Uganda $100 million syndicated loan facility.
Much recently, Standard Chartered was involved in the oil market Total Sh4.6 billion-syndicated loan facility meant to finance the takeover of the Chevron Kenya assets. Previously, the corporate finance division was run out of London before relocating to Nairobi.
LAP Green Network, which owns 62 per cent of Uganda Telecom Ltd, is planning to make the final plunge to obtain a stake in Zamtel, the Zambian government-owned telecom operator.
LAP Green is one of four companies - along with Angola's Unitel/Angola Cables, Russia's Altimo Holdings/VimpelCom and Bharat Sanchar Nigam of India - that have reached the final bidding stage to take 75 per cent of the struggling operator, which is badly in need of recapitalisation.
The government is seeking to offload the company "by the end of the first quarter" of the year, after the company's failure to live with big boys Zain who, at 2.3 million (75 per cent of market share) dominate the industry, and the other operator MTN, which has quickly overtaken Zamtel's figure of 200,000 subscribers.
On top of this, Zamtel's balance sheet is a worry; the company is heavily indebted to the tune of $125 million, carries an annual operating deficit of $17 million and has an unsettled workforce that is wary of losing jobs once the company is privatised.
These liabilities might turn out to be a thorny issue for the new owners to offset, but LAP Green chief commercial officer Hans Paulsen says the company is not worried by this.
Mr Paulsen told The East-African that LAP Green is after Zamtel's potential rather than its indebtedness.
"We know it's indebted, but those things can be sorted out."
LAP Green recently bought 80 per cent of Southern Sudan operator Gemtel for a yet to be disclosed amount.
The firm is backed by the Libyan government through its investment arm Libyan African Investment Portfolio.
The company's telecom interests include controlling stakes in Uganda Telecom and Rwandatel of Rwanda, as well as a 60 per cent stake in Sonitel and Sahelcom of Niger and Cote D'Ivoire and Ambitel GreenN of Sierra Leone.
Late last year, the Libyans signed a $300 million financing agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to fund their investments, but officials also suggest that up to $5 billion is available for LAP Green to acquire and finance more operations that will bring it at par with the continent's telecom giants.
This is a tall order for a group whose total subscriber numbers stand at a measly 4.5 million, compared with more than 100 million for MTN, Zain's 70 million or even Vodacom's 36 million.
In terms of growing its subscriber base across the continent, Zamtel does not present a quick fix for LAP Green.
But as a business model, it fits in well with LAP Green's other operations.
For instance, its flagship operation Uganda Telecom has less than three million subscribers - it trails MTN and Zain in mobile subscriber numbers but it remains the market leader in the landlines, Internet and data market, products where Zamtel also has an edge over its competitors - in fact, Zamtel has a monopoly on fixed lines and international gateway.
This monopoly has frustrated other operators in pursuit of growing Internet, fixed lines and access to the international gateway.
Zambia's mobile penetration remains at 33 per cent in a population of 12.2 million people.
The East African
The National Council on Privatisation's delay in issuing a confirmation letter to the preferred bidder in the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), almost three weeks after the financial bids were opened and a winner declared, has been blamed on Acting President Goodluck Jonathan's tight schedule occasioned by President Umaru Yar'Adua's ill-health.
Mr. Yar'Adua's poor health has kept him out of office since last year. The president had been abroad for about 94 days in search of medical attention in Saudi Arabia, and has not been seen in public in the last one week of his "return" to the country.
In his absence, his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, who also the chairs the privatisation council, took over the mantle of leadership combining his functions as Vice President and Acting President.
The Acting President is now too busy to urgently attend to matters relating to the privatisation council.
The spokesperson for the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Joe Anichebe, told NEXT in a telephone interview that, "Ordinarily, it is not supposed to take such a long time. But, the present situation is peculiar, as the Acting President has been very busy with other official state matters as a result of the current political crisis in the country."
Mr. Anichebe denied that the delay had something to do with recent reports alleging that the exercise lacked transparency, and questioning the integrity of the bid process.
NEXT gathered yesterday that the Council, which was earlier scheduled to meet on Monday to ratify the result, had to reschedule the meeting at the last minute to suit the Acting President's schedule for him to be in attendance. March 9 has been fixed as the new date for the meeting.
Last week, Taiwo Osipitan, the acting chairperson of the Technical Committee of the Council, and Christopher Anyanwu, the BPE's Director General, recommended that the bid result be ratified and the preferred winner issued with a confirmation letter.
According to them, the transactions followed a "very transparent bid process" which was in accordance with best practices and standards obtainable in the international community."
One bidder in the exercise, Brymedia West Africa Limited, is, however, hopeful that it will own NITEL.
It came third in the exercise and Brymedia's expectation is based on the possibilities that the Council will nullify the bid or that the New Generation Consortium will be unable to raise the $2.5billion it bid for the acquisition, thereby paving the way for it to acquire the national carrier.
Adrian Wood, the chief executive officer of Brymedia West Africa Limited told NEXT in a telephone interview on Tuesday, "Although, the technical committee last week told the council to accept the bid of the preferred bidder, that does not mean that the council would approve the bid. No approval has been made yet, so we are still watching the process."
Brymedia's expectations are also hinged on its conviction that NITEL was over-priced at $2.5billion.
"Obviously, they bid a lot of money; the preferred bidder bided almost five times the amount that we bid. I don't know how much work they did in viewing the project but if they are willing to spend that amount, good luck to them," Mr. Wood argued
"It is very important to put money into the project. Don't forget that the amount that is bided is all going to the BPE. It does not add to employing the people, supplying the infrastructure, to set up any facilities, does not provide customer care service etc."
As far as the consortium is concerned, NITEL's worth is the $551 million it is willing to pay.
"Yes, when we originally, thought about it and did a lot of due diligence, I think you know that we have lots of experience in the Nigerian telecom industry from our pedigrees working with MTN Nigeria, we have six former executives from MTN Nigeria on our team and also from Zain Nigeria.
"So, we did a lot of due diligence and we had industry information and other information that the BPE made available. When we put all that together and spoke to our investors we thought that the realm of the range was about $550million and that we would really, would start to get nervous if we were bidding over $600million.
"There were so many risks with the project, so much of the market has been absorb by existing operators, so we figured what we bided was fair enough."
Mr. Wood also said his company's partnership with Telecom New Zealand International Ltd remains intact.
- The pre-hearing date for the Competition Tribunal case against Telkom has still not been set and is likely to face another delay. The reason for this delay, according to the Competition Tribunal, is that Telkom needs to file its response to the complaint before a date can be set for the hearing. It had until 28 February to file the necessary papers, but failed to do so.
- Credibility of Kenya's economic data is set to come into sharp with the launch of a new consumer price index that has a downward bias for measuring the cost of living. Food now accounts for only 36.04 per cent of the CPI (a select basket of goods and services used to track price movements) - down from 50.2 per cent in the old basket.
The new CPI also comes with new items including airtime, cellular phones, boda boda fares and parking charges for a total of 12 up from 10.
- South African mobile operator Cell C has clammed up on a possible deal to sell its national network of base stations to mitigate crippling debt. Reports indicate the company is discussions with two international businesses: American Tower Corp and Eaton Telecom. However, Cell C will not confirm whether it has decided to sell its infrastructure to generate a financial cushion.
- Mobile provider Econet is making attempts to block any possible sale of Zain Nigeria to Bharti Airtel of India. According to Bloomberg, CEO of Econet, Strive Masiyiwa says his company has the first option to buy the stake acquired by Zain. Econet owns 5 percent of Zain Nigeria, which is 65 percent held by Bahrain-based Zain. Zain is in talks to sell its African operations to Bharti for $10.7 billion.
- South Africa IT company, Faritec will proceed with a rights offer to raise the R60 million it needs to keep operating. The company said late last year that it needed to raise R60 million to implement its turnaround and growth strategies, pay creditors and cover working capital. Faritec is targeting a return to profitability this year, after being hammered by the global recession that hit the world in late 2008.
In Malawi, companies have for so long relied on radio and newspapers, and lately television to advertise employment opportunities to job seekers.
But in this era when the internet is fast becoming one of the most powerful communications engine across the globe, a local firm, Migro Careers has introduced Malawi’s first online career junction.
Started operations in October last year, www.migrocareers.com, is an advertising company specializing in online job advertising and is open to both public and private corporation, according to director Jones Miri.
He told Nyasa Times in an interview the business was established after discovering there was no company in Malawi that is engaged on electronic job advertising through the internet.
He observed as local companies only relied on daily papers and radio the process of filling vacant posts was far too long and expensive for job seekers as applicants submit their CVs through the post in form of hard copies.
“Now job applicants will be able to apply online the same moment an advert appears on the website,” stated Miri.
He added companies will also be able to receive applications instantly and employers will be able to do short listing of CVs within a short period of time.
“The core nature of our business is linking job seekers and employers. Hence efficiency and offering best services to our clients is our main focus.
“Operations are 24 hours every week so as to give much opportunity to employers and job seekers. Even if they [employers] want to fill a vacant position within a day, this should be possible.”
Based in Balaka, the firm observes job seekers will benefit a lot through the website as job hunting on the internet is far much cheaper, easier and efficient.
He further disclosed the business targets colleges and universities as potential markets because it is where new job seekers come from, thereby assuring employers will be able to get a wide variety of candidates from which they will be able to short list.
“There are many students every year who are finishing their studies and are always looking for a job,” noted Miri.
Though the business is the first of its kind and considering the fact that IT services in the country are not 100 percent available, especially in rural areas, the firm believes through government’s plans of bringing internet to rural areas, people in the villages will also be able to look for jobs easily and efficiently.
“We’re very positive of our services because now the government is on a major campaign to improve telecommunication and IT services in rural areas.
“This will enable job seekers to hunt jobs both in towns and rural areas through their cell phones and internet cafés,” said Miri optimistically.
Admitting print media are their major competitors as many companies advertise vacancies in newspapers, Miri conversely indicated research shows the existing system is slow and favours only people who stay in towns.
As technology is permeating every sector of life, creating unimaginable transformations, the marriage institution should not be left out. And that could be why a frontline internet services provider, iWay Africa recently introduced a website which provides the opportunity for couples who have not tied their nuptial knots to have a celebrity wedding worth over N4m.
So, for couples who either economic downturn or other constraints had denied tying a memorable nuptial nut, the way to go is www.NaMyWedding.com and with a dint of luck, may have one of the celebrated weddings in town.
NaMyWedding.com is a wedding planning and community website, an initiative of iWayAfrica limited, which tends to provide help to people having financial constraints to a good wedding and as well encourage interaction among married people.
General manager, iWayAfrica Nigeria limited, Mr John Ugbe who unveiled the idea at an elaborate media launch in Lagos last week, said "we have taken a look at issues around planning a wedding here in Nigeria and find out that we are in a peculiar country, where tribal and religious issues come into play, and we decided to provide a platform to enable people interact and get information about their wedding."
"With the hectic lifestyle in Nigeria and little access to information, planning a wedding is really difficult, not all couples can afford a wedding planner and even if they could, finding one becomes a problem to them.
NaMyWedding.com is coming as a one stop wedding planning and community website that takes care of all these logistics and it will also help the prospective couples plan their own dream wedding at the click of a button."
According to him, the idea is to make marriage institution a memorable and enjoyable one irrespective of one's location, background or religious inclination, since every bride and groom want to have the most memorable and beautiful wedding day and also achieve same within a budget.
With the introduction of NaMyWedding.com, he said such challenges of planning for a wedding will be taken care of, as it is going to answer the question of finding the best wedding fashion providers, read reviews on the new trends, creating a free wedding website and share pictures on namywedding.com with their families and friends.
To launch the website, the iWayAfric's manager said namywedding.com is partnering with the leading wedding vendors and they are giving away free, a Dream wedding valued at over N4million.
- Newest entrant into Africa's most robust telecoms market, the Nigerian telecommunications sector, Etisalat said it plans growing it present over 2.6 million subscribers' base to 4 million this year even as it is investing some $700 million into network expansion this year.
- Tigo Rwanda has increased talking-time on the 300 airtime voucher card from three minutes to 30 minutes, targeting students and low income earners in a promotion that will last for a month.
- The Kenya National Examinations Council plans to use an innovative system to make it easier, faster and cheaper for candidates to get their results. Candidates who subscribe to the short message service (SMS) will be texted their results immediately after the official release.
- Alcatel-Lucent has announced that Mauritius Telecom, an Orange/FT Group partner and fixed and mobile telecommunications operator in Mauritius, has deployed interactive mobile multimedia services powered by Alcatel-Lucent Mobile Interactive TV (MiTV).
Phuthuma Nhleko, the CEO of South Africa based MTN Group has announced that he will be stepping down from the joint roles of CEO and President at the start of July. He will however remain on the board of directors until March 2011.
- The CDMA Development Group has appointed Philip Chukwueke as Regional Director of Africa. Chukwueke comes from being Executive Officer at Communications Towers in Nigeria, a role he held from 2005.
DIGITAL AFRICA SUMMIT
9-11 March 2010, Munyonyo Resort, Lake Victoria, Kampala,Uganda
This year's 8th Annual Digital Africa Summit is set to be Africa’s premier ICT business summit, creating more opportunities for learning, partnerships and business, with ICT’s, telephony and broadband being globally recognized as a prerequisite for social and economic development the opportunity to engage positive change has never been greater.
Africa’s ICT sector is the fastest growing globally with mobile and broadband penetration rates set to continue to rise and with lower cost high speed broadband now a reality companies must prepare and build solid foundations allowing them to take advantage of
the opportunities, that this exciting industry and continent has to offer. Thus, the challenges to win in this new and dynamic environment are enormous making focus, speed, cooperation and ongoing innovation imperative to its many members.
For further information visit
SECOND GLOBAL CONFERENCE MICROFINANCE AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES
10-11 March 2010, Marrakech, Morocco
New technology represents a key driver for the evolution of the microfinance sector: its use could result in doubling the number of microentrepreneurs, beneficiaries of microfinance, to 300 million worldwide.
Moreover, in Morocco the microfinance market already appears promising for providers of technology solutions attracted to the sector. In this context, PlaNet Finance is co-organising with the Banque Populaire Group and Sogeti the 2nd international conference on the theme “Which models are best placed to increase access to financial services for the unbanked?
CIO SUMMIT 2010 – “FROM PRESSURE TO PERFORMANCE
16-17 March 2010, Johannesburg's Emperors Palace, South Africa
4th ANNUAL E-GOV AFRICA FORUM 2010
23-25 March 2010, Maputo, Mozambique
At a time when ICTs are defining the way the world lives and conducts business, it is important for African governments to evolve themselves to meet the demands of changing trends in order to deliver effective services and to improve the quality of life of their citizenry. This also requires the formation of Public Private Peoples Partnerships to be geared towards achieving developmental goals through the application of ICTs to governance (e-governance/e-government), electoral processes (e-democracy), food and nutrition (e-agriculture), health delivery (e-health/telemedicine), learning and capacity development (e-education) and trade (e-commerce), among others.
For further information on the conference visit the CTO’s website
CRASA 13TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – “BETTER REGULATION FOR SADC ICT MARKET’
25-26 March 2010, Continental Hotel, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
The theme of the AGM have been chosen as it is being recognised that it has been more than two decades since the first ICT regulator was established in the region. We recognise the fact that regulation is essential to achieve the goals of the public policy and therefore better regulation is to be considered in SADC so as to improve the policymaking process.
As we drive towards greater competition, credibility and welfare of SADC citizens, we should recognise the critical need for high quality regulation and regulation that is only used whenever appropriate.
In this regard, the Secretariat in coordination the NetTel@Africa is coordinating a training workshop prior to the AGM on the “Southern Africa Impact Assessment Training Workshop II” This is a follow up workshop on the same theme that was held in Dares Salam Tanzania in September 2009. The workshop will be held from 22 to 24 March 2010 at Elephant Hills Continental Hotel.
SATCOM 2010 AFRICA
12-15 April 2010, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa
SatCom Africa 2010 is Africa's only satellite exhibition conference. SatCom Africa 2010 gives you an executive business experience where you meet real decision makers, a content driven and networking focused agenda and new business, new markets, new opportunities.
TMT FINANCE AND INVESTMENT MIDDLE EAST 2010
26-27 April 2010, Sharq Village Hotel, Doha, Qatar.
The TMT Finance and Investment Middle East 2010 Conference and Awards Ceremony is the premier networking hub for executives of telecom operators, technology providers, investors, financiers and advisers active in mature and emerging markets of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Now in its fourth year, the conference takes place again this year in Doha with support from Qtel, Booz&Co and Clifford Chance. The event features an outstanding academy of expert speakers from across the region and internationally debating opportunities in M&A, strategy, wireless broadband, financing, mobile payments and cloud computing.
AITEC BANKING & MOBILE MONEY WEST AFRICA
11-12 May 2010, Lagos, Nigeria
Technology presents great opportunities for the financial sector to extend reach, improve service and reduce costs. However, in the drive to implement the very best that technology vendors have to offer, the focal point of the banking process is often forgotten – the customer.
AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa 2010 will therefore focus on the customer experience in relation to all technology implementation and services, challenging suppliers and bankers alike to evaluate their systems in the light of customer needs and preferences.
For further information on the conference visit AITEC’s website
NOG-11 AND AfriNIC-12 MEETINGS
23 May-4 June, 2010, Kigali, Rwanda
The African Network Operators' Group (AfNOG) and the African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) are pleased to announce that the 11th AfNOG Meeting and the AfriNIC-12 Meeting which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda during May & June 2010. The jointly organised two-week events include the AfNOG Workshop on Network Technology (offering advanced training in a week-long hands-on workshop), several full-day Advanced Tutorials, a one-day AfNOG Meeting, and a two-day AfriNIC Meeting. In addition, several side meetings and workshops will be hosted in collaboration with other organizations. Further details are available at the AfNOGand AfriNIC websites
* Extended Term Consulting (ETC) Assignment: Task Manager, Mobile Applications Laboratories
From 2010-2012, infoDev will implement an ambitious program entitled “Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy”. This program, jointly organized by infoDev, the Government of Finland and Nokia, will undertake a range of activities including establishing regional mobile applications laboratories; linking mobile entrepreneurs via a social networking initiative; using business incubation initiatives to stimulate small business creation; assisting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to seek new markets overseas; ensuring that SMEs have appropriate access to finance (A2F); starting international working groups for ICT and agribusiness entrepreneurs and incubators; and creating resources for project leaders to incorporate ICTs and innovation systems into agriculture development projects.
The deadline to apply is March 19, 2010.
* Regional Director - Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office IDRC
The Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa is the focal point of IDRC’s presence and management in the region. Reporting to the Vice-President for Corporate Strategy and Regional Management, you will represent IDRC in the region, provide regional intelligence, coordinate the scientific and technical delivery of IDRC’s programming in a matrix environment, lead a multidisciplinary team of professionals, and manage the regional office. You will also play a key role in ensuring the coherence and relevance of IDRC’s programming in the region. Current IDRC Program Areas are as follows: Agriculture and Environment; Information and Communication Technologies for Development; Innovation, Policy and Science; Research for Health Equity; and Social and Economic Policy.
Application deadline is 12th March 2010.
For further information visit IDRC’s website
* Mobile Money Fundamentals Certificate Training Course , MMF 101
10 March 2010 - Lagos Civic Centre,Ozumba Mbadiwe,Victoria Island.
Basic fundamentals trainings which covers all the broad areas of MMT and in-depth covering of Agency development and management. It also includes showcasing of technologies by providers to a very compact select group. Providers can indicate interest to showcase tech or book a tech specific presentation slot. The media will also be well represented with confirmed attendance from other West African Region for this inaugural training. N25,000 per Delegate
Azur and Redknee - Gabon
Redknee, a provider of billing and charging software and solutions, has received a new contract for an extended implementation of its converged billing and airtime-selling solutions by Gabon’s newest mobile operator, USAN Gabon (Azur). Azur is a subsidiary of Bintel, which is registered in Dubai but headquartered in Bahrain, and has a focus on emerging markets, with subsidiaries in the Central African Republic, Somaliland, Gabon and The Republic of the Congo, and it also holds a majority stake in Swiss-based firm Telesonique.
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