Issue no 562 8th July 2011

top story

  • Beyond donor-funded web services and apps, new online commercial services are beginning to set up and attract traffic. Some like Eat Out in Kenya are generating actual revenues and have ambitious expansion plans, both geographically and with new online services. Unable to afford large marketing budgets, it has forged alliances with old print media. Russell Southwood talked to Mikul Shah, Managing Director, Eat Out.

    Q: Where did you get the idea for Eat Out?

    A: I was familiar with Top Table and London Eating from living in the UK. Eating out is primarily based on word of mouth. Restaurants don’t get much Return On Investment on print advertising. You don’t know how your money’s worked for you.

    Q: How did you get started and how does it work?

    A: We did a pilot with young restaurant owners who we knew would get the idea. It quickly worked without any SEO or search engine marketing and quickly captured the market.

    It works like Top Table but there is no integration with restaurant booking systems. We make the booking confirmation to the user by either SMS or e-mail but the booking with the restaurant is a manual process. There are no automated booking systems. We want to become start integrating with the Point of Sale systems but most are not online and those that are have too many different systems.

    The system is very simple because a lot of people are scared off from filling in a form and we’re not taking credit card information. But we get a tremendous response to our 10% off offers where you have to ring a special number.

    Q: How did you start collaborating with print partners?

    A: Our focus was web-based because we didn’t have the money to market the product so we thought let’s focus on keeping users booking through us. After a while, because we had all this information on restaurants, we thought we should turn our attention to print.

    We identified suitable print partners and offered them chef and restaurant reviews and shared ad revenues generated by these sections. It did a lot for the magazines and raised our profile. The print partners are free publications include Kenya Concierge (which goes into hotel rooms) and Buzz.

    Q: What’s the business model?

    A: We offer a two-tier service to restaurants. For US$1,000 a year, they get our booking service and banner advertising. There are 200 of these premium restaurants. Then for US$200 a year you get listed and have your telephone number: there just over 200 restaurants in this category.

    Q: Are you on mobile phones?

    A: We have recently launched a mobile site which is available on the following platforms: Blackberry, iPhone, Android and Samsung’s Bada. It’s not expensive and each website is launched by the app.

    We’re going to do an East Africa-wide app and we’re targeting iPhone and Android for that. We’re also talking about a “white label” version of the application for the mobile operators. There’s a huge war between operators on data use. We’re in negotiation with Safaricom and they’ve just put Eat Out on their portal.

    Q: Do you have other services?

    A: We also do Flicks Cinema Guide and have other products in line. One of our new products is Eat In where you can order restaurant food to be delivered. We will take payment and pay after a week or a month depending on the volume of orders, taking a 10% commission. We’re putting up the three largest shopping centres that have food courts. Lots of clients asked for this service. After that we want to add hospitality including hotels, lodges and accommodation. There is US$1 billion in tourism and we believe it would be easy to tap into a small amount.

    Q: You’ve attracted investment?

    A: Eat Out attracted a lot of attention from venture capital companies. After some discussion with two of them, we sold a 20% interest in the company to a Dutch company called Africa Media Ventures. This sale valued the company at US$1 million and our turnover in the last 12 months has been US$150,000.

    Q: What’s the traffic like on the site?

    A: We get 100,000 page views and 50,000 visits a month. In 2010 we actually booked 12,000 seats excluding parties above 20 seats. The mobile site has only just been launched so use is still in the hundreds but at the end of July we will start marketing it.

    Q: Who are your competitors?

    A: We don’t have competitors online really but I guess Yellow Pages and Mocality are our biggest competitors online.

    Q: Is there more potential for expansion?

    A: There is additional restaurant list potential because we believe so far we only have 75% penetration. We want to go to Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda and we’re talking to print partners there.

    Q: What other sites are there in Kenya?

    Dealfish is now one of the most popular online sites in Kenya and there a lot of other classified players. There are a few property sites and South Africa’s Bid or Buy (the equivalent of eBay) has opened in Kenya. There used to be lots of Groupon-style sites but only two have survived, Rupu and Zetu. I don’t think the market is big enough for this kind of product. There is some hype but it’s inflating real potential.

     


    This week on Balancing Act’s Web TV Channel:

    Remy Nweke, blogger, ICT Realms Online
    on the three big issues facing Nigeria, one which is the digital transition.

    Francis Ebuehi, Country Manager, Dealfish West Africa on the its online classifieds site

    David Afugani, Chief Marketing Officer, RLG on its Made in Ghana mobile handsets

    Nigel Waller, CEO and founder of Movirtu on the Cloud Phone and low-income and rural users

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

     

telecoms

  • Mobile Number Portability (MNP) comes into effect in Ghana, bringing another revolution into the country’s already dynamic telecoms industry.

    On Thursday June 30, 2011, Parliament adopted the report of the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation on the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Regulations 2011, Legislative Instrument (LI) 1994, and by that action, MNP received the legal backing to begin.

    MNP is a process that allows a mobile subscriber who for any reason chooses to change from the existing provider to a competitor to do so and still keep his or her favourite mobile number including the code.

    Porting is a process that allows subscribers on network ‘A’ to move to network ‘B’ without having to be assigned a new number. This development is likely to make Ghana’s telecoms sector which industry players have described as ‘extremely competitive’ even more competitive. And this competition has been cited to have led to innovation in the sector.

    Initially, MNP was scheduled to have started on July 1, 2011, but was postponed to July 7, because July 1 was a public holiday.

    The system to be implemented in Ghana, according to Mr. Joshua K. Peprah, Director, Regulatory Administration at the NCA is “recipient network driven”. What this means, he says, is that the network that the subscriber is switching to is the one to initiate the move. “The subscriber only has to go to the recipient network, or the network he or she wants to switch to and the switch is initiated at that point.”

    He said the donor network or the network provider the subscriber is switching from would only have to accept or reject with reasons.

    According to the NCA there are only few reasons for rejecting porting. These are: number not being active on the donor network – that is the network that a subscriber is moving away from. Fraud having been reported; phone reported stolen; not enough of the ID items matching with the request.

    The request to port to a different operator may not be rejected in the case of debt still owed to the donor network, according to the NCA.

    It also says the donor network is obliged to refund any unused portion of deposit that the customer paid to it, after subtracting unpaid bills and usage that has not yet been billed, especially in the case of post-paid customers. Prepaid subscribers however, would lose their credit if they switch to another provider before they have exhausted their calling credit, the NCA says.

    The porting or switching to a new provider, according to the NCA, can be done within 24 hours of the request. It is however, not clear who the biggest gainers would be among the country’s five mobile operators. Six companies are licensed to operate in Ghana – these are MTN, Vodafone, Tigo, Airtel, Expresso and Globacom. But Globacom is yet to start operations.

    Even though, some subscribers are excited about the prospects, and have indicated their desire to port, service quality, price and what other value added services the providers offer are likely to determine which network the largest number of subscribers would move to.

    Some mobile subscribers on Facebook have written on their pages that they would port. One person however, wrote on the Facebook page: “A friend’s description of MNP is moving from one crappy network to anoter”.

    The steps to porting are simple. A subscriber who wants to port would have to go to the recipient operator or provider that he or she wants to switch to with the phone. Subscriber must have a valid ID card to be able to initiate the process, because ownership of the phone would be verified, it is important that one uses the same ID card that one used to register the phone.

    The recipient network would initiate all the necessary processes and a new SIM card would be provided to the subscriber, provided there are no valid reasons as outlined by the NCA for the donor network to reject the porting request.

    Porting should have cost the subscriber $2.5 but some of the providers, have offered to absorb cost.

  • Egypt's revolution has not dimmed Telecom Egypt's ambition to push further into mobile phone services and the company aims to secure a mobile virtual network licence towards the end of the year, its chairman said.

    The mostly state-owned landline monopoly is relying, for now, on data services to offset lower fixed-line income and has also been trying to establish a mobile operation to boost longer-term growth prospects.

    Telecom Egypt owns a 45 percent stake in Vodafone's Egyptian mobile venture but does not have management control and only consolidates part of the profits from that business.

    Analysts have played down the prospect the army-backed government overseeing the country since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February will take major decisions affecting the telecom sector without a stronger popular mandate.

    But Telecom Egypt chairman Akil Beshir said it was in talks with the national telecoms regulator over an MVNO licence.

    "Many people do not expect this government to take a major decision like introducing an MVNO, but we keep working on it," he told Reuters in an interview, adding a decision to grant the licence could come towards the end of the year.

    Beshir said his goal was to transform the 80-percent state-owned company into a "total telecom service provider" and that meant pushing into mobile services as a priority.

    Vodafone Egypt and Mobinil dominate the mobile market, followed by Etisalat Misr.

    Telecom Egypt offered, a year ago, to buy out Vodafone's 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt but the two sides could not agree on a price and Beshir said there were no talks over a buyout for the time being.

    "So, MVNO would be a good way of leveraging the partnership," he said, indicating Vodafone could collaborate on the MVNO if it felt the service was not competing directly with its own.

    Reuters
  • Microfone Telecom Nigeria, an initiative of the Nigerian Capital Development Fund, is looking to take over the operations of fixed line incumbent Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), after the latest attempt to sell the ailing telco was cancelled last month. Local newspaper The Punch reports that Microfone has submitted a letter of intent to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to assume the operations of NITEL, stating that it wishes ‘to provide services to the very poor but hardworking Nigerians in the remotest parts of the country.’ The letter continues: ‘We hereby request that you [the BPE] consider transferring NITEL to Nigerians via Microfone Telecom Nigeria Limited for the benefit of the grass roots, the poor and underserved majority of Nigerians. We have a solution-driven approach and ability to resolve the current NITEL ailments within a short time that will benefit the company and further prepare it for sale to any future prospective and serious buyer.’ Microfone added that it is prepared to offer the BPE a management and transformation contract that includes financing the development of NITEL and the sale of the company at the end of the contract period.

    The latest attempt to privatise NITEL was cancelled last month when the reserve bidder, British Virgin Islands-based Omen International, failed to meet the deadline to pay a bid security. Omen was invited to re-register its interest in buying NITEL in March 2011, after preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications repeatedly missed the payment deadlines for its bid of USD2.5 billion. Omen offered USD956.9 million during the latest attempt to privatise the company, held in February 2010. The government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year. The BPE is now reportedly considering other options for NITEL, including setting a minimum price and offering it to the remaining bidders, as well as liquidating the struggling company, or restarting the whole bidding process again.

    Telegeography
  • Essar Telecoms yuMobile has welcomed a proposals for a common system facilitating mobile money transfers across networks. The proposal is part of the recommendation by a task force set up by the PMs office to look into mobile telephony improvement in Kenya.

    A common transfer system will mean that a subscriber of any mobile network will be able to send and receive money via their mobiles to and from any other network.

    "It is our desire to give our subscribers the very best in services and one way of doing that is to ensure that we eliminate any blockages that hinder consumers from making choices that suit their needs" says Madhur Taneja, yuMobile Country Manager. A shared money transfer system will offer convenience and flexibility to users.

    Nairobi Star
  • - According to its Chief Executive Officer, Rajan Swaroop, Airtel Networks Nigeria has spent US$1 billion (about N150 billion) on network expansion and facility upgrade in the country. He further said “"we have made significant investment and are still making as we seek to strengthen the network we inherited, make it more robust and expand coverage especially to the rural communities”.

    - Egypt’s largest mobile operator Mobinil is yet to finalise an agreement with Telecom Egypt over the costs of the company’s wholesale services. Mobinil is looking to bolster its services in the country and has repeatedly said the agreement would help spur greater customer services to its users in the country.

    - Airtel Nigeria and the Cross River state government have agreed on a deal that will see the company provide integrated telecommunications solutions to the area. The agreement is the first of its kind in Nigeria’s telecoms sector.

    - Ghana is bidding to host the International Telecommunications Union (ITU’s) regional testing centre which will be used to determine the quality of telecommunications gadgets that enter the West African sub region. But right on Ghana’s heels is neighbour, Nigeria, which is also bidding to host the centre.

    - According to a press release from the Department of Communication of South Africa, at midnight on the 30th of June 2011 the following numbers of registered SIM cards from different MCO’s had been registered: Cell C had 99, 99% of contracts and 97 % of prepaid subscribers registered, MTN had 99, 5% of contracts and 97% of prepaid subscribers registered and Vodacom had 98,98 % of contracts and 95,12% of prepaid subscribers registered.

internet

  • Government needs to make it easier for telecommunications operators to build infrastructure, especially fibre-optic networks, as red tape and conflicting requirements are slowing the ability of companies to build broadband networks.

    Howard Earley, chief operating officer at Dimension Data subsidiary Plessey, says receiving the necessary environmental approvals and permits from municipalities and the department of water affairs to build fibre networks is becoming a big issue.

    “There’s not a uniform environmental standard from one metro to the next and no uniform mechanism from the department of water affairs,” Earley says.

    Earley says that although it’s important for regulations to protect the environment, new and uniform rules are needed to guide fibre projects. Plessey is responsible in large part for the Vodacom, MTN and Neotel fibre build between Johannesburg and Durban and Earley says the project has been delayed because of outstanding licences from water affairs. “The consortium can’t get them and until they do that link can’t be used for the purpose it was intended.”

    Different rules from municipalities have also slowed progress. “If you get to a bridge, one guy will say hang it under the bridge, while the next will say they want in-road trenching, and so it carries on, so there is no universal approach.”

    Earley says the country would be “much better served” if there was one standard which operators were expected to adhere to.

    Even within big metros, there are sometimes conflicting requirements, he says. “It would be very good if there was one overall body that decided on the standards and what was required and who the issuing party would be in terms of giving you the licence to operate.”

    One way this could happen is if one central government department took ownership of the issue, though Earley admits this could take time. He feels it’s an issue the department of communications should deal with in its forthcoming broadband strategy document. “If we could just get the bigger metros to agree [on standards], that would be first prize.”

    Elsewhere in Africa, environmental impact approvals are not nearly as stringent as they are in SA, but Earley thinks that in many of these markets the rules are too lax. “There should be some minimum requirements.”

    TechCentral
  • Access to high-speed internet in Zimbabwe continues to be prohibitive partly due to charges levied by operators but the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) says the recent surge in competition should see costs dramatically going down.

    Responding to inquiries from Standard Business, Potraz deputy director general Alfred Marisa said the reduction of costs is also a function of competition, as there is need for a number of companies to sell bandwidth.

    "In our case, one other consideration is that we are a landlocked country, hence in order to access the undersea cable we have to incur extra costs of leasing capacity from operators in countries with a coast line to connect to the undersea cable," he said.

    PowerTel was the first company to provide access to the undersea cable through Botswana and has recently established another link to the Seacom through Mozambique.

    Marisa said due to competition brought about by Ecoweb, a subsidiary of Econet Wireless and sourcing of cheaper bandwidth from Seacom, Powertel had already on two occasions reduced its bandwidth charges.

    "With TelOne recently connecting to the undersea cable, we expect an increase in competition which should drive bandwidth costs further down," he said.

    Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, Sam Kundishora said although Zimbabwe has a high-speed link through undersea cable connecting via Mutare-Beira, the challenge lies with lack of feeders.

    "The major challenge we are facing is that there are no feeders into the high-speed link in terms of last mile connectivity, and this is consequently restricting the link to certain areas," said Kundishora, adding that the country had high-speed internet access in excess of one gigabyte per second.

  • The Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank has approved three projects totaling US$92 million to boost ICT infrastructure and access to better services in three African countries. Burkina Faso, Guinea and The Gambia received grants of US$23 million, US$ 34 million and US$35 million respectively, as part of a US$300 million West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP) as endorsed by the Board on January 20, 2011.

    According to Boutheina Guermazi, one of the two Task Team Leaders with Mavis Ampah, "the three nations currently have some of the highest connectivity costs in the world, and are among the few countries in West Africa which are not connected to the global network of broadband optical fiber infrastructure".

    The Gambia and Guinea, as smaller coastal states are often seen as unattractive investment opportunities and consequently by-passed by private submarine cable consortia, he added. Burkina Faso, as a landlocked country, has always depended on the cooperation of its neighbors for international access, often at high and uncompetitive prices. The projects will help usher in major infrastructural revolution in these countries.

    "Addressing connectivity gaps and deployment of broadband networks in The Gambia, Guinea and Burkina Faso will stimulate investment and economic growth in the three countries and will accelerate the realization of an integrated regional ICT market", said Mavis Ampah.

    The projects' development objectives are to contribute to increasing the geographical reach of broadband networks and to reducing the costs of communications services in each of the territories of The Gambia, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

    The projects are designed to encourage and support private sector investment using catalytic financing and PPP arrangements to minimize public investment.

    The projects recognize that the creation of pro-competitive enabling environments is a prerequisite for affordable connectivity. The projects therefore focus on fostering an enabling environment in the sector by facilitating liberalization, open and non-discriminatory access to capacity, as well as building capacity of regulators to ensure that fair rules of competition apply in the sector, emphasized the Task Team Leaders.

    "This is truly a unique opportunity to transform the lives of average citizens by providing better and affordable basic services through the use of ICT", said Boutheina Guermazi.

  • - Indications emerged that Nigeria may have to postpone the launch of its second earth observation satellite, NigeriaSat-2 and one other, NigeriaSat-X, scheduled for this week. The postponement according to National Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA, sources was due to logistics and technical reasons.

    - The landing station that will host the ACE submarine fibre cable is currently being built at the Lumley beach in Freetown in Sierra Leone. Work on the landing station is expected to be completed in September 2011.

    - The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (WASPA) is not tendering or planning to tender for the contract to be the service provider responsible for maintaining South Africa’s ‘do not contact’ (DNC) registry. That’s according to Leon Perlman, chairman of WASPA.

    - Ecobank, the pan-African Bank has launched an internet based cash management application targeted at corporate clients to enable them make multi financial transactions. Dubbed, “Ecobank Omni Electronic Banking Platform”, the capital management solution provides reliable, real-time, single access and covers the complete cash cycle.

    - SkyVision Global Networks Ltd., a leading global provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic systems has announced that it has been chosen as broadband fiber connectivity solution provider for Starcomms , Nigeria’s leading telecommunications company and provider of 3G services and triple-play. SkyVision’s end-to-end solution is based on the SkyVision PoP located in Lagos and connected to international submarine cables on the coasts of Nigeria. 

computing

  • Tech Mahindra, a global systems integrator and business transformation consulting company, plans to establish its Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) operations in Nigeria.

    The company hopes that by establishing their headquarters in Nigeria, the West African country will serve as a gateway to other African markets.

    Tech Mahindra’s President of Corporate Affairs and Business Services Group Sujit Baksi says the company plans to increase its African footprint after two years of Nigerian operations.

    Baksi adds that over the last two years, the firm has partnered with a number of leading telecom operators in Nigeria, including MTN and Multi-Links and also recently won a lucrative Bharti Airtel Africa deal to set up Airtel’s BPO operations in seven countries.

    “We are extremely excited to be a part of the growing market in Africa. We have already helped our customers in Africa reduce their operating costs and generate new revenue streams. Tech Mahindra has recruited over a thousand local employees in Nigeria and it is our strategy to nurture local talent for effectively executing our BPO operations,” says Baksi.

    IT News Africa
  • South Africa's Dimension Data (DiData) has acquired US enterprise cloud company OpSource for an undisclosed sum, as part of its efforts to accelerate and expand its cloud computing service offerings.

    The move will see DiData creating a centralised cloud solutions business unit, of which OpSource will form part. The unit will report directly to Dimension Data CEO Brett Dawson.

    OpSource provides expertise and automation technology to operate high-availability, business-critical cloud computing and hosting environments to over 600 enterprises, service providers and software-as-a-service independent software vendors.

    It employs 150 people and is headquartered in Santa Clara, California with operations in Virginia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and India.

    "Market readiness for cloud services is being enabled by technology maturation, along with clients' needs for more flexible services-centric, IT sourcing options," Dawson said in a statement this week. "Our decision to accelerate our focus on cloud services aligns to our long-standing strategy to become a services-led business."

    Over the past few years, Dimension Data has been building cloud-related skills and capabilities in the areas of virtualisation, data centre and storage, managed services and hosting, and IT outsourcing - all critical to enabling cloud architectures for clients.

    "OpSource brings a rich set of services, a sound cloud architecture, and extensive experience in cloud services that will meet immediate client needs - in addition to a cloud infrastructure which supports development and growth in this space," said Dawson. "We believe OpSource provides us with an accelerated time-to-market as their infrastructure and services are well-established and tested."

    According to OpSource co-founder and CEO Treb Ryan, mapping a migration path and architectural design for cloud is complex and requires in-depth understanding of an organisation's entire IT infrastructure, architecture, and relative interdependencies and risks.

    "An understanding of IT integration across disparate multi-technology, multi-geography, IT environments is critical to evolving toward cloud-based architectures," he said. "We believe that as part of Dimension Data, OpSource will be better able to capitalise on the global cloud computing market opportunity.

    "We're thrilled to be a part of the Dimension Data family."

    In July 2010, Japan's Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), a leading global telecoms provider, acquired Dimension Data for approximately £2.1-billion, leading to its delisting from the JSE.

  • Knowledge of computers is to become compulsory for students aspiring to join the government's tertiary training institutions.

    A baseline survey conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education in the 47 mid-level colleges in the country shows that 80 per cent of students, lecturers and administrators in the institutions are not computer proficient.

    The survey further notes that studies in computers will be offered during the first year of learning, regardless of the course that one will be pursuing in colleges.

    "A curriculum is to be developed for all entry level students to ensure they acquire good foundation computer skills," the government report says, adding that where already offered, the curriculum is to be revised.

    This means that more than 18,000 students currently enrolled in the institutions that include polytechnics, university colleges, technical training institutes and institutes of technology may undergo refresher courses in computers.

    Findings from the baseline indicate that the institutions do not have a formal computers policy. Of the few institutions, only a fifth have developed computers work plans and have made budget allocations.

    Although a high level of confidence has been registered in the relevance of existing computers policies, respondents cast doubt on institutional capacity for policy implementation.

    "The ministry will explore globally recognised options or other internationally certifiable computer courses that are aligned to the job market and for which students will earn additional certifications," the report says.

    The findings that are yet to be made official to the colleges say the curriculum is not in-step with job market requirements.

    Lecturers are aware of the potential of computers to enrich teaching practices, but have neither the skills nor the access to computers to integrate the new tools and methodologies in curriculum.

    The survey was conducted starting last year and the aim was to assess computer proficiency in the colleges at a time that Kenya is working towards becoming a middle income economy and eventually a knowledge society by implementing its developmental blueprint -- Vision 2030.

    In the new order, course schedules will be reviewed to allow for the acquisition of computer skills. "Additional attention needs to be given to ensure that adequate time is built into class schedules to accommodate this," says the report.

    The registered frequency of use of computers in teaching practice was rated poorly. "This is partly due to low computer (knowledge) among lecturers since the art of teaching and learning through and with computers is largely driven by individuals rather than institutional policy."

    The report therefore recommends a review in the curriculum at the teacher training institutions.

    Access to tools and resources at the institutions should also be planned. "The complexity of integrating computers in education demands careful planning and execution," says the report.

    Specialised computer skills are required in the work place for production and communication, and are seen as an essential complement to traditional content knowledge, in courses such as engineering, science, and accounting.

    This, according to the report calls for systemic collection and analysis of data on the level of computers use in the institutions.

    Most of the students expressed concerns that both the curriculum and assessment systems were outmoded.

    Secondary school leavers who do not proceed to university directly join the colleges for two year craft courses or three year diploma (technician) courses.

    And primary school leavers who do not join secondary school may join the many youth polytechnics which are also considered tertiary institutions.

    National polytechnics, technical teachers colleges, institutes of technology, technical training institutes, industrial training centres, youth polytechnics, vocational training centres and other private commercial colleges shall be affected by this new plan.

    There has been an upgrading of the institutions to universities of technology but there is also the upgrading of youth polytechnics to technical institutions.

    The Nation
  • - The Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) has announced moves to acquire the 3 Dimensional, 3D, Geological Modeling to tackle the incidences of collapsing buildings as well undertake other geological events in the country.

    - Kenyan MPs who make technical appearances in Parliament will now be caught and exposed following plans to launch a multimedia system that will facilitate a roll call. The gadget is part of a modern IT system which will also be used for electronic voting in the National Assembly.

    - Facts emerged that President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the creation of the Ministry of Information Technology ( IT).

    - Lenovo considers Africa to be the emerging market that will generate the most sizeable proportion of its future growth. In part, that is because many of the 900 million people on the continent have a voracious appetite for technology, in the belief that it is a crucial tool for development. There are, therefore, millions of first time buyers looking for products that are rugged and reliable. Lenovo is seen as such a brand.

    - Zinox Computers has launched examinations preparatory computers as a platform to assist Nigerian students in tertiary institutions to perform well in their academics.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa's MTN has said that it will support plans by the Rwandan government to float its 10 percent stake in MTN Rwanda onto the local stock market, ending speculation that MTN might try to buy the stake instead.

    The government previously said that it wanted to sell the stake, and that it is also seeking to boost its newly opened stock exchange by floating state-owned companies on it.

    "We have not made a final decision on how to structure our shares. But we would wish the public to own what they have done in Rwanda," Shauket Fakie, MTN Group Executive in charge of business risk management told Business Times last week.

    The government would have needed approval from MTN, as the (55%) majority shareholder, to float its stake on the stock market.

    The country currently has three mobile networks, and the Mobile World analysts estimate their market shares at: MTN (53%); Rwandatel (33%) and Tigo (14%)

    Business Times
  • Mobile telephony in Kenya has lost the shine to attract investments owing to major cut in tariffs, Telkom Kenya CEO Mickael Ghossein has said. The company which has announced plans to inject Sh8 billion this year to build infrastructure for improving its network in addition to Sh7 billion invested in 2010, says it does not expect immediate returns on the investment.

    With uncertainties in the market and increasing global cost of doing business it is pushing hopes of return on their investments to between five to eight years. "We keep on investing but the returns are not assured, expectations for 2011 are worse," said Ghossein in an interview.

    Telkom has been in the forefront of lobbying for a stop to further reduction in mobile interconnection rates. "Voice has become more or less free. globally, there are big hopes in data," he said adding the roll out of its 3G next month will boost its share in the data market. Telkom has also postponed plans to launch its triple play technology which would have seen it add cable TV to its voice and data offering.

    Ghossein says this would call for money to be put in IPTV (Internet Protocol television) a system through which Internet television services are delivered but they are short of money to do it "This country has big potential, but with low revenues there is no enough money to invest back," adding lack of content was also an issue.

    According to CCK figures, Orange managed to increase its GSM service subscriber numbers by almost a million between October and December to get 8.5 market share. It is targeting to 2.8 million subscribers by the end of this year and hoping to take the second position -currently held by Airtel - in the next two years.

    Nairobi Star
  • Zambia’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has issued an unconditional final authorisation for the creation of a joint venture between Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) and Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Limited of Mauritius. According to the Zambia Times, under the terms of the approval, a new company – CEC Liquid Telecommunications – will be created, with the joint venture expected to be a 50/50 split between the two partner companies. Both CEC and Liquid are expected to invest a combined USD30 million in the venture.

    Despite CEC already being operational in the fibre-optic sector, and holding a market share of around 40%, the CCPC said that it did not envisage the deal raising any competition concerns, with the watchdog’s director of consumer and public relations Brian Lingela noting: ‘The board held that no market player was likely to be removed from the market as a result of the joint venture, as Liquid Telecoms had no known presence in Zambia.’

    Telegeography
  • iBurst Africa is a wireless data provider established by its current founder and CEO, Thami Mtshali, to offer superior connectivity solutions to consumers and businesses on the African continent.

    iBurst Africa has established operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Ghana and intends to launch its services in newly independent, South Sudan.

    iBurst, which was established in April 2005, has invested heavily in the South African market but is seeing a higher return on investment in the DRC. To date the central African country is its most lucrative market on the continent.

    “The DRC has a population of about 80 million people. It’s a very good market for iBurst Africa,” says Mtshali.

    “The DRC remains one of our company’s most profitable markets.”

    When asked if iBurst Africa will ever be Africa’s leading data provider – Mtshali confidently points to his company’s success in the DRC as an indication of things to come.

    Mtshali recalls a time in 2006 when he had to drive from Kinshasa in the DRC to Congo Brazzaville in order to send a 2MG file.

    “Today the same place has a lot of broadband services. There’s been a substantial growth in Africa within the entire broadband space,” says Mtshali.

    Mtshali did however state that starting an ISP business on the continent could be daunting due to regulatory and language barriers.

    “To conduct a business in Mozambique I have to know how to speak Portuguese, and then as soon as I enter the DRC I have to speak Belgian French. It can get confusing,” says Mtshali.

    Apart from language barriers, African businesses also grapple with outdated and unwritten laws.

    “Some of the licenses are written in the country’s native language and require shareholders agreements be written in a similar language,” says Mtshali.

    In some countries, company laws are less stringent. “For example in the DRC, iBurst Africa did not have to issue a shareholders certificate, however we were charged for other business activities including billboard advertising, transfer of money, importing and exporting duties”.

    While in Nigeria Mtshali says he struggled to get reliable Internet connectivity. He even had to resort to using a competitor’s connection in order to watch a YouTube video.

    Inspite of the numerous challenges faced by African business people, Mtshali is adamant that the best strategy for a successful entry into Africa is to understand the risks and “Just do it!”

    IT News Africa
  • - In Zimbabwe, troubled Renaissance Financial Holdings Limited has been provisionally barred from disposing of its 30 percent stake in Africa First Renaissance Corporation Limited - until it clears a US$5,7million debt to Econet Wireless.

    - Egyptian fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt (TE) has reported that between 1 January 2011 and 31 May 2011 it lost some EGP85.56 million (USD14.36 million) stemming from network related damages and thefts that occurred in the wake of the country’s civil unrest at the start of the year. According to Ahram Online, the telco said that losses relating to fixed assets stood at EGP62.76 million in the first quarter of the year, representing 0.45% of total net fixed assets at end-March 2011, while from 1 April to 31 May copper and fibre-optic cable losses due to theft or damage totalled EGP22.81 million.

Digital Content

  • Tech4Africa, one of the continent’s most prominent web and emerging technology conferences, has launched an initiative called Ignite, which will provide leading African startups with the opportunity to pitch their products to a carefully curated panel of Angel investors, mentors and business leaders.

    Startups selected to partake in the Tech4africa Ignite pitches will be given five minutes to showcase their products, with the opportunity to gain not only potential investors but also invaluable exposure to the wider Tech4Africa audience of thought leaders, decision makers, journalists, influential people and potential recruits.

    From the initial applications, a select group of the most innovative startups will be chosen. This group will each be asked to present a working prototype of their product in front of the judging panel at Tech4Africa. The presentations will take place in the main auditorium at the conference, which runs from 27 to 28 October 2011.

    Gareth Knight, the Managing Director of Tech4Africa, motivated the case for a competition like Ignite by using a number of high profile examples of startups who had gone onto greater success because of presentations they had made at tech conferences:

    “Twitter, FourSquare and Gowalla ‘broke’ in the US market, through their pitch stand demonstrations at SXSW,” he said, referring to the interactive component of the film, interactive and music festival, South by South West, held annually in Austin, Texas.

    Knight went on to speak about the motives behind Tech4Africa’s decision to launch the Ignite initiative saying, “Our DNA is: engage, inspire, enable and innovate and it is for this reason that we decided to launch Ignite to highlight amazing ideas and allow African startups to use Tech4Africa as a platform to enable them to gain valuable press exposure and early stage investment.”

    From the top eight presentations, a winner will be chosen. Although there is no formal prize, the winner will be given the chance to present their product to the entire Tech4Africa audience. They will also receive valuable exposure and profiling through the Tech4Africa website and Tech4Africa.tv.

    The names which will appear on the judging panel have yet to be released, although Tech4Africa are stressing the high calibre of the speakers who will be appearing at this year’s conference.

    The keynote addressees include Josh Spear, one of the youngest and most respected digital marketing strategists in the world, and Herman Chinery-Hesse, sometimes referred to as ‘The Bill Gates of Africa’. Spear and Chinery-Hesse join African and international thought leaders from organisations like Amazon, Hewlett Packard, Johns Hopkins University and Mozilla, amongst others.

    The deadline for Ignite submissions is 31 August and the finalists will be announced in the first week of September.

    Memeburn
  • BlackBerry is the most desirable handset among teenagers and tertiary-level students in SA, but they aren’t using the devices to make voice calls.

    A new study from London-based research firm MobileYouth shows that one in two students in SA wants a BlackBerry.

    SA’s online student community business, Student Village, was one of the local companies to conduct research for the final report. Managing partner Marc Kornberger says that although Android is growing in popularity in the youth market, the most desired phone remains the BlackBerry.

    The report suggests that handset manufacturers that will enjoy the most success with younger consumers will be the ones that can offer compelling alternatives to BlackBerry’s messenger service, BBM. The report says use of SMS will fall 20% in the next three years as more and more young people move to data-based messaging applications.

    Kornberger says part of the reason for BlackBerry’s popularity can be attributed to a shift in the way youngsters communicate. “Gone are the days of making voice calls,” he says. “Students now communicate with friends via social networks and chat services.”

    Student Village’s research shows students use their phones mainly for accessing Facebook and other social media. “Facebook sees the most prevalent use,” says Kornberger. “Students are also using their handsets to surf the Internet and SMS. The third most common handset use is listening to music and radio. Voice ranks very low down on the list.”

    Not only did MobileYouth find that seven out of ten students are already using a smartphone, but that by next year a staggering 15m young South Africans will be using smartphones of some description.

    The report also provides insights into how youngsters would like to receive marketing messages on their mobile phones. “We asked students what their preferred medium is for marketing messages. Some agencies would tell you that short codes and 2D codes are the best approaches. They’d be wrong,” says Kornberger.

    “Almost 63% of students said they favoured SMS over any other method,” says Kornberger. “Across the board, the least-preferred method was short codes where you have to SMS a number to get something back.”

    He says the youth expects three things from marketing: it needs to be easy, trusted, and cheap or free. “Short codes don’t work because they’re considered unnecessarily difficult, students don’t trust short-code services with their details, they don’t like the cost involved, and they are worried they’ll be subscribed to a paid service if they respond to a short code.”

    According to Student Village’s research, Facebook is the second most popular method for receiving marketing information, with instant messaging MXit coming in third. 

    TechCentral

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Mobile operator, MTC Namibia, has announced that it is in the process of extending its coverage to areas that are not covered countrywide. Currently, MTC network performance coverage is 90 percent in terms of geographical location while the actual population covered is 64 percent. MTC recently finalized strategic plans with all 13 Regional Governors to identify areas that are not covered in their regions.

    - In Kenya, mobile operator, yu, has launched the lowest cross-network SMS rate in the market. Its subscribers can now send text messages to other local networks for 50 cents. Its competitors, Airtel charge Sh1 while Safaricom and Telkom charge Sh2 for messages across networks.

    - MTN and airtime remittance services provider, TransferTo, have teamed up to offer international mobile top-up services to customers across borders via TransferTo’s global network. The service is available through various channels, please click here, or via sending partners in countries such as the UK, the US, Canada, France, Spain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

More

  • - Arthur Kouassi Aloco has been appointed at the head the telecoms regulator, the Agence des télécommunications de Côte d’Ivoire (ATCI). He used to be head of regulation at Côte d’Ivoire Telecom, the national incumbent.

  • Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    30 July- 1 August 2011, Nairobi, Kenya

    Conference convened by the ATU
    Summary: Convener:ATU/Sponsor
    For more information visit here:

    Connecting Rural Communities Africa Forum
    Date: 24-26 August 2011, Kilimanjaro Hotel Kempinski, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, in conjunction with the Tanzanian Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology and the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority will be holding the sixth annual Connecting Rural Communities Africa Forum. With a milieu of ICT organisations such as Ericsson and Helios Towers Nigeria, the event promises to be an engaging forum in identifying regulatory, technical, financial and social challenges in providing connectivity in Africa.
    For more information visit here:

    Nigeria Com
    September 20 - September 21, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    For more information visit here:

    North Africa Com
    October 11 - October 12, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit
    2011 and Connected Home World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most comprehensive CDN event ever. We are pleased to announce our partnership with BT Wholesale as the host operator and those already confirmed to the stellar line up which willinclude over 80 speakers.
    For more information visit here:

    Africa Com
    November 9 - November 10, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:
    or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

  • BE A PARTNER IN WORLD 2011’s “IDEAS CONNECT THE WORLD”
     
    The opportunity: An open innovation competition

    Technology can do amazing things: It can change the way we live, how we do business, how we interact with the world and with each other.

    Technological innovation could transform the way your organization is perceived and how it communicates. This is your chance to learn how social media and new technologies can help your organisation to achieve its aims more efficiently, and engage its stakeholders more effectively.

    World 2011’s open innovation competition will connect you to digital talent. Together, through a guided process of collaboration, you will develop new connected products to help your organization achieve its aims more effectively, raise the brand visibility and engage wider audiences.

    ITU Telecom World 2011

    ITU Telecom World is 40 years old this year and to celebrate, there are some changes in the style and the format of the event.

    Connecting more global citizens will offer considerable commercial and social opportunities. From 24-27 October, thousands of influential private and public sector players will congregate in Geneva to make sure the right frameworks are in place to connect the world.

    World 2011 will provide a neutral platform for a global dynamic debate that will encompass a diverse range of global stakeholders.

    This debate would not be complete without digital innovators. World 2011 will deliver competitions designed to help organizations like yours to use connected technologies in innovative ways to make the world a better place.

     How does it work?
    Are you working for a NFP that is attempted to alleviate issues relevant to the UN's Millennium Development Goals:
    • alleviating poverty and hunger (including smart agriculture)
    • improving education for all
    • addressing gender inequality
    • access to health care
    • environmental sustainability
    ....or  addressing universal accessibility challenges?

    If so, you could benefit from this opportunity.
    The competition will run on the new World 2011 web platform, please click here to view:

    We will help you identify a core challenge and write your brief. The brief will be posted online and digital talent will be invited to submit seed responses. We will filter talent and engage you in the selection process. You and your selected developer will attend a training workshop where you will meet and learn from other NFPs and their partner developers. Through a process of pitching and peer feedback, ideas will become prototypes for products that answer your identified need.

  • Glo 1 and Julius Berger Construction - Nigeria
    Construction giant, Julius Berger has signed on to Glo 1 International submarine cable. By the terms of the contract, Glo 1 will provide Julius Berger communication infrastructure and services to meet the construction company's growing domestic and international connectivity needs. Giving details of the deal, Globacom's Group Chief Operating Officer (GCOO), Mohamed Jameel, said Glo 1 would provide the client international private leased circuit to connect their Abuja Headquarters to Julius Berger Wiesbaden, Germany, to ensure seamless data and voice communication between the Nigerian office and Julius Berger office in Germany.

    4G African and Volubill - Cameroon

    Volubill has announced that 4G Africa, a Swiss company operating in sub Saharan Africa has completed the first phase of a WiMAX network deployment in Cameroon which includes the implementation of Volubill's products. The 4G Africa project operates an integrated subscriber management system containing AAA, service policy management and real-time convergent billing capability, based on Volubill's commercial solution, and self-developed front-end applications for CRM, customer self-care and point-of-sales. The team has already implemented several WiMAX networks and has operational experience from running a WiMAX operator in Europe before.

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