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Issue no 746 27th February 2015

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  • There are well over 100 runners in the race to succeed as Africa's best and biggest online and mobile music platform. Even now there are new entrants waiting in the wings. Russell Southwood looks at why the race to the top is so hard to call.

    Only a few weeks ago a Malawian music platform called Mvelani (meaning "listen” in Chichewa) developed by Dumisani Kapanga launched to distribute and sell music from southern Africa. It has around 1,000 tracks from over 80 artists. It's relatively easy to set up a music platform but actually finding a business model is much tougher. Kapanga had not yet worked out he would charge for tracks but doubtless he will. He's also not living in Malwai but working in an international bank in Scotland.

    "I am surprised the idea hasn't been tried already but I am delighted with its success so far. The site already hosts the biggest concentration of Malawi music in the same place online and interest from artists wishing to add their tracks is growing.

    "It's my dream to cultivate the site into the largest music catalogue of its type and to have every song recorded or produced from southern African artists available for download or streaming online and on mobile,” added Kapanga. He's clearly a "fanboy” and knows his music.

    On the other end of the starting line is a mobile operator in Nigeria who is working with an international content aggregator to launch its own music service. It has the advantage of already having a large subscriber base but probably doesn't yet have local music expertise required for a demanding market like Nigeria. Money will fix some of that content expertise shortfall but will it be enough?

    The sheer number of online music platforms has come about because of two things. Firstly, in order to launch a music platform in a country, you actually need to know the artists and their current and back catalogue. Few mobile operators have that kind of expertise on call. Even the managers of those who provide music services to mobile operators do not know many of the names of the artists in their catalogue: they leave that to those who they employ locally who are often better informed.

    Secondly, musicians have found themselves losing income: whatever piracy managed to do, the steady decline of CDs on sale is finishing. Young Africans download and exchange movies and music on USB sticks. So musicians were much more willing to participate when the new music platforms came knocking.

    So at this stage it is as the Dadaists used to say:”Everyone their own football.” Each country is seeing the launch of its own platforms with francophone and lusophone African countries trailing slightly behind the trend. However, both the local and the bigger music platforms are looking to start operating in more than one country. Sune Mushendwa's Mkito.com started last year with the ambition of reaching a million users. When he told me that figure, I thought "Oh yeah, let's see where you are in a year's time.”

    Well, not quite a year later he hasn't hit the million but he reached a quite respectable 280,911 unique visitors in December 2014, with 5 months still to go. Recently he announced that he would roll-out the platform to other African countries, concentrating on local music in each case but adding a certain amount of catalogue from elsewhere in each case: the balance is currently 90% from Tanzania and 10% from Kenya.

    As a company with its headquarters in Singapore, Spice operates as a VAS aggregator and digital content company with a particular specialism in music. It launched its music service Mziiki last July targeting East Africa:”We've got quite a strong repertoire of content from that region and hence the focus on that region to begin with”.

    It has 1,500 artists signed up, 800 of whom are exclusive to Mziiki. In Tanzania, Diamond Platinumz is a brand partner:”We also have Lady JD and a lot of gospel singers from Tanzania.” It's now in the process of rolling out across Africa, starting with Southern Africa.

    Unusually, it will also soon go into offering video alongside music, something that not many of these new platforms have done. One exception is Jason Njoku's iROKO TV which has its own music platform iRKONG alongside its film and TV offering.

    There's really only two business models: advertising or user pays. A lot of services start free and get a lot of traffic but the major advertisers – with the exception of the mobile operators who can see it might be in their own interest – have been slow to come to the party. It's a shame because effectively paying for young Africans to be able to listen to music (and listen to your advertisements) would be an effective way of building brand loyalty and market share.

    Payment is tough because the mobile operators have yet to realize that tomorrow's world will require a frictionless payment channel for which they will get only a small part of the income but more data revenue.

    As an acknowledgement that device ownership has not moved as far as necessary to smartphones and feature phones, several of the mobile platforms have focused just on using SMS. South Africa's 37618 Store (powered by Bozza) is run by musician Slikour and is entirely SMS based. Mkito has added SMS to the ways in which potential users can get tracks.

    So where are the international platforms? Deezer is being offered "white label” with Tigo and Vodacom. iTunes is in South Africa and has not yet done spectacular business. The rumours that Spotify will arrive shortly are legion. And there are others but no-one has yet said that they will go into the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. The music industry is fragmented and respect for copyright is low or non-existence. Musicians survive on live concert sales and sponsorship. This may be putting off many of the internationals. It's a hard race to call….

    _______________________________________________________________
    Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act’s web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it will cover online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 32 issues and these can be viewed on this link:

    Essential reading for those in mobile VAS to anyone just interested in what African and relevant international content they can now get online. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to info@balancingact-africa.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line. Some examples of past issues below:

    Video Briefings on key African music platforms:

    Sune Mushendwa, Mkito on adding an SMS music service to its downloads and its growth since launching

    Arun Nagar on Mziiki, a music and video streaming service for African content

    Siya Metane (aka Slikour) on creating a text-based African solution to music downloading

    Michael Akindele on Solo's music offer and its new Android app

    Nkiru Balonwu, CEO, music platform Spinlet on how mobile operators take most of their revenues

    Gillian Ezra, Simfy Africa on launching a music streaming service with MTN in South Africa

    Rob Marshall on what Sony Music is doing in Africa and the new digital music platforms

    Jason Njoku, iROKO on why its online music platform iROKING will grow in Nigeria

    Tim Rimbui, Innovative Music on the launch of online music platform Waabeh.com

    Martin Nielsen on Mdundo, a mobile music platform for Kenya and East Africa

Money Transfer

  • Tanzanian cellcos Vodacom and Tigo have signed a mobile money interoperability agreement to enable their respective M-Pesa and Tigo Pesa subscribers to transfer money directly into each other's mobile wallets, in what they claim represents the first deal of its kind in Africa. Vodacom described the move as: ‘Another tangible step towards the enhancement of financial inclusion [and] the expansion of the mobile money eco-system in Tanzania.' Meanwhile, Rene Meza, managing director at Vodacom Tanzania added: ‘We expect to launch the service by the end of the year and are currently working on upgrading our M-Pesa platform which will see us invest in excess of TZS150 billion (USD80.8 million) to cater for the expected growth of users.'

    Source: Telegeography 26 February 2015

  • Paga, one of Nigeria's leading mobile payment companies, has announced the launch of a new customer transaction channel - Paga for Android in a bid to make payment more accessible for its users.

    The firm, in a statement explained that the application is available for download at Google play store. It also stated that the application designed by Paga's in-house technical team, gives users direct access to Paga services from any android device.

    In addition, with limited reliance on Internet, low data consumption and network connectivity the application, according to the firm, had been positioned to provide users with a better and faster experience.

    Commenting on the launch of Paga for Android, the Head of Consumer Business at Paga, Daniel Oparison said: "At Paga our service offerings are carefully designed to respond to our customer's pain points and this additional channel simply reinforces our commitment towards eliminating the stress of traffic, bank queues or carrying cash around.

    "Paga for Android is designed to put the power back in the hands of the consumer; by giving them the freedom to pay their bills, buy airtime, and send money to bank accounts and much more, on the go.

    "The ability to solve issues around payments unique to our region of the world, is one of the many reasons Paga continues to be the number one option for millions of Nigerians looking for simple solutions to pay and get paid.”

    Furthermore, the statement stressed that in line with the company's promise to deliver accessible payments options, the application allows users to transact with a debit card.

    They can also use the app to send money or airtime directly to contacts on their phones list; or find their nearest Paga agent, it added.

    Commenting on why Paga introduced the additional transaction channel to the market, the company's Founder/CEO, Tayo Oviosu said: "Paga for Android brings a world of convenience to the fingertips of every Nigerian with an Android phone. I am very excited about that and about the various payment innovations we plan to bring to the market.

    Source: This Day 27 February 2015

telecoms

  • MTN Congo and Airtel Congo have invested USD50 million and USD20 million, respectively, on enhancing their networks with a view to improving coverage and quality of service, Biztech Africa reports.

    As noted in TeleGeography's GlobalComms Database, Yves Castanou, director-general of the Agence de Regulation des Postes et Communications (ARPCE), revealed in April 2014 that both mobile network operators had been fined failing to adhere to legal and regulatory obligations related to performance, quality and availability of their mobile infrastructure.

    With both having committed to carrying out work to improve their networks, these projects had initially been scheduled for completion by December 2014. Now, however, Mr Castanou has confirmed that both MTN and Airtel will continue work until June 2015, following delays which had been attributed to electricity and logistics challenges. Having recently met with officials of both companies, the regulatory head noted that he had extended the deadline for work after considering requests from the cellcos, saying: ‘It's true that the operators are experiencing a couple of problems, but they are working. We postponed the deadline to June as we believe that all the work will be completed by then.'

    Source: Telegeography 23 February 2015

  • Ministry of ICT, Zimbabwe has cancelled Telecel operating licence due to failure to clear an outstanding debt of USD 137.5 million, which was initially meant for the licence fee in an agreement made in 2013. The cancellation was confirmed by the ICT Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira.

    Telecel is said to be the second largest operator in Zimbabwe with over  2.2 million subscribers against the country's total population of 11.4 million subscribers.

    According to Mandiwanzira, "Telecel has been operating without a licence since the expiry of their licence. They need to have paid US$ 137,5 million, which is the licence fee due to Government. They failed to pay, they asked for payment terms and they were granted payment terms through an agreement with the Ministry of ICTs, and they have even reneged on that agreement; therefore, the ministry, or Government, has cancelled that agreement.”

    "Effectively this means that they are operating without a licence – in fact they have not had a licence anyway. The reason why we are allowing them to operate is simply because we acknowledge that as a business, they employ Zimbabweans; they have subscribers who, if we take drastic action, will be inconvenienced,” Mandiwanzira said.

    Mandiwanzira further stressed the point that if Telecel attempts to sell off company assets, it runs the risk of said transactions being perceived as fraudulent. This is due to the operator failing to settle debt regarding the its licence.

    In December 2014, Vimplecom indirectly bought 60 percent of Telecel Zimbabwe while exiled businessman James Makamba, and politician Jane Mutasa, own the remaining stake.

    Source: Techcabal  24 February 2015

  • In a move that will increase its reach in Africa, social media site Twitter has partnered with MTN to allow cellphone users with feature phones to access the service.

    The use of feature phones, which have fewer capabilities but can access the internet, is high in Africa compared to smartphones.

    Twitter vice-president of sales for Europe Ali Jafari said in an interview on Thursday that the company had worked with mobile network providers in countries where infrastructure and access to data are "a challenge, to make Twitter a reality to people".

    MTN SA chief marketing officer Larry Annetts confirmed the partnership. He said the company was in "a technical exploratory phase" with Twitter to provide its customers using feature phones the ability to access the social media platform via SMS.

    When completed customers will receive updates from the people they follow and post tweets, Mr Annetts said.

    The collaboration was currently limited to MTN SA and "is testament to MTN's ongoing commitment to bridging the digital divide and to bring its customers into the bold new digital world," said Mr Annetts.

    Twitter has 288-million active monthly users globally. It is estimated that in SA it has 6.6-million users.

    Affordability and awareness are barriers to internet adoption in many countries in Africa. Facebook is also looking at partnerships that will provide its service for free in developing markets.

    Facebook, through partnerships with a number of mobile network operators in Africa, has launched the internet.org app, which will give subscribers free access to more than a dozen websites, including Wikipedia and Facebook. According to Facebook, more than 85% of the world's population live in areas with cellular coverage, yet only about 30% of the total population access the internet.

    Mr Jafari said Twitter was working on new products that would attract new customers who were not Twitter subscribers but were accessing it using other platforms. For example, they use search engines to access specific content or read about trending topics on Twitter.

    Twitter is also enhancing its advertising platform features for companies to promote their products on the social media network and also interact with their customers. Gordon Geldenhuys, head of social media and insights at digital agency 25AM, said a growing number of consumers were turning to social media as their first point of contact when they have a question or complaint for a brand with which they do business.

    Yet too few companies have yet started to think about social media as a customer service tool — and the result is that they are missing out on some golden opportunities to build better relationships with their customers.

    Source: BD Live  20 February 2015

  • In accordance with the process of telecommunication sector reform, the Government of the Union of the Comoros is pleased to announce a competitive selection process for a second unified telecommunication license, including mobile, fixed and internet networks and services.

    The process will be conducted by the national ICT regulatory authority, ANRTIC, with the support of the World Bank and a consortium of advisers under the fourth phase of the Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP-4).

    For more information, please contact Djinti Ahamada, focal point for the selection process, email: djinti.ahamada@anrtic.km, and/or Hervé de Villechabrolle, at Ernst and Young Corporate Finance ltd., email: herve.devillechabrolle@ae.ey.com.

  • Less than four years since launch, Ghana's Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service reached on February 19, 2015 the milestone of two million successful porting requests processed for Ghana consumers. MNP is a system which allows mobile telephony customers to move from one service provider to another whilst retaining their old mobile number.

    The mobile phone environment in Ghana shares many characteristics with other markets in Africa, such as the predominance of prepaid customers, the availability of multiple competing mobile networks, and the proportion of customers that have accounts and SIMs at more than one of the networks.

    However, Ghana's success in MNP is singular; and can be largely attributed to the initial advance preparations and rigorous testing and the collaboration amongst all the key stakeholders; National Communications Authority, Porting Access Ghana (the central MNP service provider), and the mobile network operators as well as continuous monitoring and analysis of results by NCA.

    In January 2015, over 95% of all porting requests were completed in five minutes or less, and no customer was charged to port their number.

    NCA again states its appreciation for the contribution toward the successful MNP implementation by all mobile operators and by Porting Access Ghana. We will continue to monitor and enhance this vital aspect of the consumer choice landscape.

    Source: Press Release

  • France Telecom, the majority shareholder in Telkom Kenya, has reported to its owners the loss of control over the Kenyan operation, leaving its long planned exit in the hands of the Kenyan government.

    The French firm, with a 70 per cent stake in Telkom Kenya (Orange), says in the financial report for the year ended December 2014, that disagreements with the Kenyan government — its sole partner in the business with a 30 per cent stake — has reached a critical level.

    "During the fourth quarter, due to continuing disagreements with the Government of Kenya, Orange concluded it was contractually unable to implement any solutions to the challenges facing the business without the latter's agreement. This led the group to conclude that it had lost control over the entity,” the financial report says.

    France Telecom said the phrase "loss of control” mentioned in its annual accounts meant it no longer considered itself capable of taking certain decisions own its own as the controlling shareholder.

    "Loss of control refers to the fact that Orange considers that it is unable, as a majority shareholder, to take decisions and implement by itself certain solutions to Telkom Kenya's financial difficulties,” Tom Wright, the corporate press officer at France Telecom's Paris headquarters, said.
    France Telecom says the loss of control at Telkom Kenya has forced it to change the accounting method.

    "This change in accounting method has no material impact on the 2014 net income and 83 million euros (about KSh8.5 billion) were reclassified from equity attributable to the non-controlling interests to equity attributable to the owners of the parent,” the financial report says, implying possible further erosion of the government's stake in the company.

    Disagreement between the Kenyan government and France Telecom intensified last year after the minority shareholder refused to give in to demands of Viettel Group — the Vietnamese firm that had expressed interest in acquiring a majority stake in the Kenyan company.

    Viettel had, among other things, demanded the immediate extension of all telecommunications licences held by Telkom Kenya for another 15 years.

    The Vietnamese company had also asked the Kenyan government for additional 10 per cent stake in Telkom Kenya, a demand that would have left the local shareholder with a paltry 20 per cent stake.

    France Telecom had said that a transition agreement with the new buyers would ensure smooth change of ownership and preserve the quality of service to subscribers.

    ICT secretary Fred Matiang'i had in November told the Business Daily that France Telecom's exit had created fresh opportunity for other investors, including a local IT firm and Kenyans in the diaspora to own Telkom Kenya.

    Treasury secretary Henry Rotich weighed in with the promise of a smooth transition managed by a team of experts from the Attorney-General's office, the Treasury and the ICT ministry.

    The team was to advise the government on the next steps should France Telecom fail to come up with a feasible exit plan.

    France Telecom bought the majority stake in loss-making Telkom Kenya in 2007 promising to turn around its dwindling fortunes. But the company has in the past seven years remained in the loss-making territory, costing taxpayers billions of shillings arising from non-participation in a series of cash calls.

    It has not helped that Telkom Kenya found itself in an increasingly tight operating environment dominated by the market leader Safaricom.

    Telkom Kenya has three million subscribers, compared to Airtel's 5.5 million, yuMobile's 2.2 million and Safaricom's 21.8 million, according to the latest industry statistics.

    Until November 2012, the government had a 49 per cent stake in Telkom Kenya while France Telecom held the remaining 51 per cent.

    The Kenyan government, however, ceded a nine per cent stake to France Telecom in December 2012 through a Sh30 billion debt write-off and shed another 10 per cent stake in June last year after it failed to contribute its Sh2.4 billion share in a Sh10 billion rights issue.

    This last dilution caused a public uproar, with Members of Parliament claiming that taxpayers lost at least Sh30 billion in the conversion of shareholder loans to equity.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta's government has effectively suspended privatisation of State-owned firms pending establishment of the proposed Government Investments Corporation to oversee the entire sector.

    Telkom Kenya's revenues have thinned out since August 2010 when the cost of voice calls dropped by more than 50 per cent, halving subscribers' monthly airtime budget.

    This is the reality that convinced Essar Telecom, the owners of yuMobile, to wind up operations in Kenya.

    If France Telecom gets a buyer for its stake in Telkom Kenya, it will be the second investor to pull out of Kenya in as many years. Orange also exited neighbouring Uganda last year after selling the 95 per cent stake it had in a local operation to Lebanon-based telecommunications company Africell.

    In Kenya, France Telecom said that the decision to leave had also been informed by the ICT secretary's signal that he intended to cancel a management contract that the company had with the government to manage the National Fibre Optic Infrastructure.

    Besides, Telkom Kenya has not hidden its displeasure with the way Parliament's Public Investment Committee summoned and grilled its top management over the transactions that saw the government's stake in the firm diluted from 49 per cent to 30 per cent.

    Source: Business Daily 24 February 2015

  • Globalstar Europe Satellite Services Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar Inc. and a satellite messaging and emergency notification technologies company, has announced that its SPOT Gen3 safety device has been selected to track and protect all participants in MARATHON DES SABLES 2015 (MDS), the world's most extreme running race, as well as in the MDS 2016 and 2017 races.

    Each MARATHON DES SABLES2015 participant, some 1,450 extreme athletes representing over 70 nations, will carry the latest version of SPOT from Globalstar, the SPOT Gen3.

    Now in its 30th edition, MDS is a gruelling multi-stage adventure through a highly challenging landscape in one of the world's most inhospitable climates - the Sahara desert. Being held April 3-13, MDS 2015 will see the world's toughest runners take the challenge of a lifetime, facing the most extreme terrain as they race across the sands of Morocco in temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celcius).

    Globalstar has secured an agreement with the MDS Organising Committee that will see all participants in "The Toughest Foot Race on Earth” benefit from SPOT's tracking and safety capabilities for three years, up to and including the running of MDS 2017.

     SPOT Gen3 is a rugged, pocket-sized low-priced personal GPS messenger that helps users stay connected via satellite even where there is poor or no GSM signal.

     With SPOT, MDS race organisers and emergency support services will be able to precisely track each runner's location, via a user-friendly display of GPS positions in real-time via the DREAMAP platform. If a racer gets into trouble, such as sustaining an injury, with the single press of a button, emergency services will be alerted, his or her GPS coordinates will be transmitted, and help will be rapidly dispatched to the runner's location.

    SPOT Gen3 provides off-the-grid messaging, emergency alerts, extra long battery life, and extreme GPS tracking, with track check points capable of taking place as frequently as every 2 1?2 minutes. The convenient SPOT App web-based interface allows users to easily view their SPOT messages, show their track points and monitor people or assets via a smartphone or tablet.

    SPOT devices have been used in over 3,500 rescues worldwide since Globalstar launched the technology in 2007, and they have given peace of mind to many thousands more people.

    Source: Company Press Release

  • One of the first things to strike a visitor to Malawi is the huge number of advertisements put up by mobile phone companies marketing their products.

    "Muli bwanji? (How are you?)" reads one of the huge red billboards in the local language Chichewa.

    Another colourful one shows the picture of a jet plane taking off, announcing cheaper call tariffs.

    Everywhere you look across major towns in Malawi, you will see the attempt to entice consumers - from branding on umbrellas used by street vendors to T-shirts and even vans.

    But mobile services are anything but low-priced in this country.

    In fact, a report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says on average Malawians use more than $12 (£7.70) a month on mobile phones.

    This is more than half of what an ordinary Malawian earns in a month.

    Cheapest:

        Macau, China - 0.11% of average monthly earnings
        Hong Kong, China - 0.18 % of average monthly earnings
        Denmark - 0.19% of average monthly earnings

    Most expensive:

        Malawi - 56.29% of average monthly earnings
        Madagascar - 52.55% of average monthly earnings
        Central African Republic - 51.63% of average monthly earnings

    Cheapest in Africa:

        Mauritius - 0.79% of average monthly earnings
        Tunisia - 1.62% of average monthly earnings
        Botswana - 1.64% of average monthly earnings

    Source: ITU: Measuring the Information Society Report 2014

    In neighbouring Mozambique, consumers spend just more than a quarter of their incomes using their mobile phones.

    The figure in Kenya and South Africa is significantly lower, amounting to less than 5% of average monthly earnings.

    This makes Malawi one of the most expensive countries in the world to use mobile phones.

    "We have been complaining for some time now that the rates are very high," laments a consumer in the capital, Lilongwe.

    "Now researchers have shown the evidence that indeed we are paying a lot," he says.

    In a bid to bring down the charges in the telecommunications sector, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has commissioned an independent survey to analyse market trends.

    Part of the recommendations presented by the experts is to increase competition in the sector, currently dominated by two operators.

    Marca's Ben Chisonga says the government might have to intervene to bring down the tariffs.

    "We are thinking of introducing more data players in the market," he says.

    "For the current players, we are thinking of reducing the interconnection rates, which are about four cents per minute, which we believe, is the highest in the continent."

    In 2008, a third mobile phone operator was licensed for business in Malawi, but since then it has been embroiled in a court battle with the government after delaying a roll out of services.
    A stall selling mobile phone cards in Malawi Many Malawians own two Sim cards to avoid paying extra charges when phoning another network

    Meanwhile, charges for making calls from one network to another have remained high, meaning many people prefer to have two Sim cards.

    "We know that because of this, the mobile phone penetration is not as high as the 11 million we had earlier estimated," says Mr Chitsonga.

    "It might be around two to three million."

    The lead researcher who conducted the survey on behalf of the regulator agrees with these figures.

    "Tariff discounts appear to play a far greater role in Malawi than in other countries," says Andrew Dymond, noting that more than 90% of calls are made to the same network.

    "This means that Malawian users take excessive advantage of promotional discounts which are only usable for on-net [same network] calls," he adds.

    However, it is not just the cost of mobile services that is an issue in Malawi.

    Many consumers also want the providers to give them value for their money by improving the quality of service they get.

    "There are times when the services are very bad, even the internet is very slow, so it's very frustrating," a woman in Lilongwe told me.

    "Sometimes you want to make a quick call but then you can't get through, so those are some of the things that I think they need to improve," she said.

    But in order for the services to improve, the government says it needs to upgrade existing infrastructure, especially in rural areas.

    The authorities admit this could take up to five years, meaning consumers will have to continue incurring high costs for some time to come.

    Source: BBC Worldwide 20 February 2015

  • JSE-listed telecommunications utility Telkom has been designated by Cabinet as the lead agency for a countrywide broadband roll out, says Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

internet

  • CEC Liquid Telecommunications Limited (CEC Liquid Telecom) has launched  its Fibre To The Home (FTTH) service, over which homes and businesses of all sizes can access superfast broadband with unlimited data packages.

    The FTTH Service will provide speeds of up to 100Mbps, the fastest broadband ever available in Zambia and indeed throughout Africa.

    It will provide Zambians with the Real Internet enabling businesses to use cloud-based services such as Microsoft 365, Dropbox and online backups; as well as video conferencing based on OTT services, like Skype.

    For home users, the FTTH service enables the whole family to be online at the same time using multiple devices.

    The service, which is branded Fibroniks, is initially available to around 8,000 homes and businesses in Lusaka including the areas of Rhodes Park, Northmead, Long Acres, Sunningdale and Kabulonga.

    It is being sold to end-users through ISPs which are authorised CEC Liquid Telecom Resellers.

    This year, CEC Liquid Telecom will invest around US$15 million in the FTTH build, which will continue indefinitely and is expected to reach 20,000 premises in Lusaka by year-end. Services will become available as each targeted area is connected with a likelihood that the build will extend to Copperbelt towns by the end of the year.

    An initial pilot project last year received extremely positive feedback from customers who were impressed with both the speed and reliability.

    Andrew Kapula, CEC Liquid Telecom Managing Director, said "This is a major milestone in the development of Zambia's telecoms infrastructure. We believe in the power of connectivity to change lives and will continue to invest in building a high-quality network which will enable our people and businesses to prosper.”

    Today's announcement cements CEC Liquid Telecom's position as the country's most reliable and consistent broadband provider. Last month, the company announced a US$5 million investment in building a new fibre link between Lusaka and Victoria Falls in Livingstone to provide both retail and wholesale customers with the most reliable, high-speed broadband connectivity in Southern Zambia.

    CEC Liquid Telecom is a joint venture between The Liquid Telecom Group and Copperbelt Energy Corporation PLC (CEC), a Zambian power generation, transmission and distribution company. Its nationwide fibre network is the first fully-redundant network in Zambia, providing SLAs at a level not previously experienced in the country.

    International access is through the multi-award-winning pan-African fibre and satellite networks of The Liquid Telecom Group, which connect to five different sea cables - WACS, EASSY, SEACOM, SAT3 and TEAMs.

    Source: Company Press Release

  • WINDHOEK – Bank Windhoek is scheduled to re-launch its internet banking services, iBank, in March 2015 to provide easy and convenient services to its clients when making internet banking transactions.

    The online service has been re-designed, while the navigation elements will remain in more or less the same place, to avoid confusion. The current web address also remains unchanged. A few additional functionalities, such as cancelling post-dated transactions, were also added.

    Bank Windhoek clients will now be able to make payments to any bank in Namibia or South Africa, which is registered with Namclear or Bankserv, pay third parties (eg municipal bills, Telecom accounts), transfer funds to other internal accounts, view and print account statements on all linked accounts, stop cheque payments and cancel post-dated transactions.

    Source: New Era 24 February 2015

  • Wananchi Group, the owners of pay-TV company Zuku, has increased its tariffs for light internet users by 20 percent to KES 1,199 per month, but almost halved the subscription fees for heavy users. Subscribers of Jistart package will now pay KES 1,199 instead of KES 999, while those on the R20 package will now pay KES 5,499 for a 20 Mbps service instead of the previous KES 9,999. Zuku attributed the price increases to a rise in its operating costs.

    The company last increased its web tariffs in 2012. The government has been advocating lower internet costs, especially high-speed broadband, to connect more people. The state is also targeting an increase in the sector's contribution to GDP of up to 5 percent by 2017 from the current 2.5 percent.

    Source: Telecompaper  25 February 2015

  • The International Telecommunication Union is partnering with L'Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications de Côte d'Ivoire (ARTCI) for the implementation of an IPv6 test bed.

    The test bed allows engineers to undertake IPv6 networks simulations to verify the quality of service and interoperability in different environments before deployment in corporate networks.

    It was launched in December 2014 at ARTCI headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Mr Bilé Diéméléou, ARTCI Director General presided over the launch in the presence of Mr Ali Drissa Badiel, ITU Representative for West Africa, and Mr André Apété, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Posts and ICTs.

    Welcoming the launch, Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau said the Union is committed to facilitating Member States and Sector Members undertake a smooth transition to the new IP address system. "The unlimited capacity offered by IPv6 is an opportunity for countries to offer better and increased internet connectivity, needed to enhance the growth of the digital economy,” he added.

    IPv6 is the latest and most advanced internet addressing system. It is expected to replace the current IPv4 system whose capacity of four billion IP addresses is almost exhausted. IPv6 has a capacity that exceeds 340 trillion, trillion, trillion (or 340 undecillion addresses). To give a more tangible idea of the scale, some have compared the number of available IPv6 addresses to the number of grains of sand on the planet.

    This is the first time that an IPv6 test bed has been installed in Africa by the ITU. Two similar test beds are scheduled to be implemented this year in East and Southern Africa.

    The launch of the IPv6 test bed was preceded by a week-long training session organized by ITU for telecommunication engineers drawn from Côte d'Ivoire's telecom operators, internet service providers, academia, ARTCI and the Ministry of Posts and ICTs.

    At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Busan, South Korea in 2014, Member States adopted a resolution calling on the Organization to collaborate with relevant international partners in policy review, human capacity building and research, in order to encourage Member States to transition to IPv6.

    Source: ITU Newsblog 18 February 2015

computing

  • The MTN Group and the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) have announced a partnership to boost sustainable innovation in Africa. Under the new deal, MTN will invest ZAR 15 million over the next three years in the MTN Solution Space, an innovation hub at the UCT GSB. The collaboration will combine the research strengths of the UCT GSB with MTN's technological expertise and resources to create, amongst others, mobile apps and programmes for educational, medical and economic empowerment, as well as to promote entrepreneurship and small business growth.

    The MTN Solution Space has already had successes in helping start-ups gain a foothold in the business world. It is home to social innovators like former UCT GSB MPhil student Francois Petousis who founded Lumkani, a proactive, early-warning fire detection system designed for shack dwellers. The concept won the People's Choice Award at the 2014 Global Social Venture Competition and scooped second place in two separate categories at South Africa's innovation summit.

    Source: Telecompaper 23 February 2015

Digital Content

  • In April 2014 BBC Trending covered the arrest of six bloggers and three journalists in Ethiopia. The bloggers are part of a group known as Zone 9, and are well known for campaigning around censorship and human rights issues in Ethiopia. Ten months on from their arrest, the hashtag #FreeZone9Bloggers continues to be used in the country as the trials continue.

    That's not typical - campaigning hashtags often tail off over time. This one is being kept alive by activists both inside and out of Ethiopia who are challenging the government's decision. The total number of tweets is still only in the tens of thousands, but that is enough to be noticed on the global map (Twitter does not produce an official trending topics list for Ethiopia).

    Why are they so focussed on social media? It certainly isn't the best way to reach the Ethiopian people: the internet is estimated to reach just over 1% of the population there. But it does allow them to network with the global blogging fraternity and the international media. Recently a blog began in support of the nine prisoners, and to report on the hearings. A campaign video has also been released in which complaints are raised over the conditions of Kalinto prison and Kality prison, where the bloggers are being held.

    These complaints include torture, unlawful interrogation tactics and poor living conditions. The Ethiopian Embassy in London told BBC Trending that allegations of torture and unlawful interrogation tactics are unfounded, and that they have taken a series of measures "in collaboration with stakeholders, including civil society, to improve the conditions of prisons". They say the nine individuals are charged with "undermining the constitutional order, inciting violence and advocating the use of force to overthrow the legitimate government." They are also accused of working with an organisation proscribed by the Ethiopian Parliament as a terrorist organisation. However, activists in support of the group maintain that Zone 9's actions were constitutional.

    Source: BBC  Trending  20 February 2015

  • Brian Osoro was all happy after developing an App which assisted people evade alcoblow rated road blocks in Kenya.

    The app, dubbed Alcoblow Watch was a hit, he says. It got the attention of drivers who wanted to evade police after their drinking sprees. He was so happy until one day he got a call from people he suspected to be policemen. Then fear took over him and killed all the joy the app had given him.

    "I was afraid to go to jail or rather face legal action. Plus one of my professors sent a friend of mine to tell me to take it down. At first it felt good , I mean assisting drunk drivers get away from Cops. Then I read a news article of some school kids who almost died as the school driver lost control and hit a tree,” Osoro told TechMoran.

    "The driver was drunk, I figured this could have been my younger cousin. I decided to take it down and do something more useful . It was then I saw a friend of mine who does Law flipping pages of the constitution , highlighting and placing bookmarks all over. Thats how the idea came up.”

    So Osoro decided to make the Kenyan Constitution App which has now hit close to 60,000 downloads on Google Play.

    He says the Kenyan Constitution App for Android will help Kenyans know their rights, freedoms and duties as Kenyan citizens. It allows users to search through articles ad chapters as if they were reading the constitution in print.

    "It segments the different parts of the constitution i.e Chapters , Articles etc.” Osoro says. "With the User Interface which many consider to be outstanding , I was able to represent the datasets more intuitively allowing users to know how many articles a chapter has. A user could also bookmark the last point they left and also share an excerpt to their friends via Text, social media or email.”

    On monetisation, Osoro says he hasn't thought of it yet and his app has no ads running. His present focus is to make the content more readable and accessible to the general public.

    Osoro also made an app dubbed Ratiba to allow university students check their timetables from their mobile phones so they do not miss any lectures or exams.

    Source: Techmoran 26 February 2015
     

  • This article and radio report by Bradley Campbell for The World as part of the Across Women's Lives project originally appeared on PRI.org on February 18, 2015, and is republished as part of a content-sharing agreement.

    Somalia is another country torn apart by wars.

    We've covered that in detail.

    But there's much more to the country. That's what Ugaaso Boocow wants to show. The Toronto native moved to Mogadishu recently. That's where her parents are from. But to keep in touch with her friends and family back in Canada, she started posting pictures and short videos to Instagram.

    And now, more than 47,000 people and counting are following her account. "I would post things that we didn't have in Canada, like perspiring pitchers of fruit juice, watermelon and mango, freshly squeezed lemon — the longest coastline in Africa,” she says. "Just to show that it's very much normal to be out here and to live here and to work here and to be a young women in this country.”

    Her photos are beautiful. But at first glance you don't notice the pictures also say a ton, especially ones showing a paved road or lights. "It's unbelievable the small things that I was posting that were meaningless if you were in Canada,” she says. "Why would you take a picture of a light? That's because we actually have lights here now. The roads are paved. We have buildings. They fascinated people for whatever reason.”

    Her followers span continents and countries. There's her hometown crowd in Toronto. Others in Scandinavia. More in Nigeria. She wants people to have a positive connotation to the words, Somalia, Mogadishu, and East Africa.

    She's in it for the long haul, too. Magadishu is her home. "Mogadishu has always been my home in my heart. I was not in Mogadishu for 20-some-odd years, but Mogadishu has always been, and will always be my home.”

    See the posts here and here

    Source: Global Voices Online 22 February 2015

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • HARARE - Zimbabwe's High Court has dismissed businesswoman Jane Mutasa's bid to block the sale of Empowerment Corporation (Private) Limited (EC)'s 40 percent stake in Telecel Zimbabwe (Private) Limited (Telecel), thus further muddying the investment firm's boardroom wars.

    The ruling, however, comes as the government has threatened to cancel the mobile operator's licence and EC shareholders — notably James Makamba and the Indigenous Business Women's Organisation (IBWO) founder — had already cancelled a February 20 extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to ratify the deal with Brainworks Capital Management (BCM).

    In a recent judgment, Justice David Mangota threw out Mutasa, Selpon Investments (Private) Limited (Selpon) and Magamba Echimurenga's urgent application — with costs — on the basis that there are "material disputes of fact, which need to be ventilated in a proper court action”.

    "Further evidence, which can only be adduced through a court action is required. That evidence takes the entire matter outside applications of the present nature,” he said.

    "The parties are... required to go back to the drawing board. Viva voce evidence must be called to assist the court in the determination of the authenticity or otherwise... The court is satisfied that the application cannot be conclusively dealt with in the face of material disputes, which the parties raised,” Mangota said.

    While the court's ruling has come as a hammer blow to Mutasa's quest to assert her rights and side-line Patrick Zhuwao, the development also comes as the EC managing director's brother Leo Mugabe has branded Mutasa, Makamba and fringe player Philip Chiyangwa "crooks” for swindling other shareholders.

    As well as Information and Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira's statements, Mugabe's involvement has all, but confirmed that the Telecel wars have become political.

    What is not clear, though, is whether Mangota's ruling will compel Makamba and company to reinstate the EGM as well as the BCM transaction to dispose of 80 million Telecel shares.

    On its part, EC had on February 19 cancelled the proposed EGM to transact the BCM deal.

    "...the meeting will not proceed. An appropriate notice convening any further general meeting...will be addressed and notified in the prescribed manner for the members of the company, should the need so arise,” it said in a notice listing Makamba's Kestrel Corporation, IBWO, Selpon and National Miners Association of Zimbabwe as the sole legitimate shareholders.

    While Mutasa had approached the courts to stop the $20 million transaction with BCM, Zhuwao also made some startling revelations that Telecel was "technically insolvent” and needed $300 million in recapitalisation funds.

    In his opposing affidavit, the ex-Zanu PF legislator said "audited financial statements of Telecel Zimbabwe for the year ending December 2013 show clearly that the total assets of Telecel Zimbabwe are $216 million”.

    According to Zhuwao, the mobile operator's current and non-current liabilities, were in the region of $203 million, thus leaving a net asset value (NAV) of less than $15 million, adding that "the financial position has since then significantly deteriorated to an equity (NAV) position of less than $100 000, by end of 2014”.

    In her papers, Mutasa had queried the former's locus standi in seeking to dispose off the 80 million Telecel shares — held by EC — to BCM and whether minority shareholders would get full value of their money.

    "The ... applicants stand to lose all their lifetime investment they had made in Telecel... through the 6th respondent (EC)... which has ever increasing value well in excess of $200 million and is sought to be donated or be given away for as little as $20 million,” she said.

    Source:  Daily News 26 February 2015

  • Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), the country's second largest mobile operator by subscribers, has completed the acquisition of the internet service provider (ISP) business and related assets of Burco Electronic Systems, after receiving approval from the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC).

    ‘We are excited to welcome all previous Burco customers to the TNM family, and believe the efforts of our combined teams will bring added value and greater opportunity to all our existing customers, our business partners and the country as a whole,' commented TNM managing director Willem Swart. TNM, which holds a Universal Licence allowing it to provide all types of telecoms services, is using Burco's assets to establish a new unit, known as TNM Business Services. The company says the acquisition will create ‘one of the most innovative business solution providers' in Malawi and will help its customers to ‘manage their business communications needs and simplify the complexity of their businesses'.

    Source: Telegeography 25 February 2015

  • Multisource has reportedly succeeded in its bid to acquire iBurst parent company, Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), according to a report.

    Convergence technology company Multisource has reportedly succeeded in its bid to acquire iBurst parent company, Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), according to TechCentral, citing a source.

    According to the report, the deal is pending regulatory approval.

    In September, MyBroadband reported that iBurst was in discussions with three different players regarding a possible acquisition deal, and was considering one offer made at the time.

    This was confrimed by WBS director, David Hilewitz, at the time.

    It was reported in October 2014 that Multisource was one of the companies who had put in a bid, pending a financial and operational due diligence.

    Notably, Multisource is no stranger to iBurst. In October 2013, Multisource acquired Neology, which has very close ties to iBurst.

    iBurst assets include spectrum in the 1,800MHz band, along with an established wireless network with high sites and an extensive microwave backhaul network.

    Multisource, meanwhile, focuses on the designing, building, operating, and federating of "next wave” networks.

    These networks combine radio, wireless, voice, video, and IP technologies into a single, integrated communication network, the group notes.

    Multisource could not be reached for comment.

    Source:  MyBroadband 20 February 2015

More

  • SimplePay's Chief Operating Officer Rich Tanksley has resigned from his role as COO. Rich, who joined SimplePay in June 2014 will retire into an advisory capacity as a member of the SimplePay Advisory Board.

    Rich is leaving the payments startup to head the Nigerian operations of Swiss media giant Ringier, at Pulse Nigeria

  • Anzisha Prize 2015 opens to give $75,000 to entrepreneurs in Africa

    The Anzisha Prize which has announced a call for applications today for Africa's youngest, most exciting social and business entrepreneurs under 22 years of age has also announced that the African Leadership Academy and The MasterCard Foundation have extended their sponsorship for five more years to 2020.

    The5th annual social impact program says the extension of the sponsorhisp will help accelerate the entry of millions of young Africans into viable and exciting entrepreneurship opportunities within high growth economic sectors.

    Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation said, "We have already seen the #AnzishaEffect at work through the inspirational stories and leadership of Anzisha Fellows like Laetitia Mukungu, Andrew Mupuya and Thato Kgatlhanye. They are now globally recognized and celebrated role models. We're excited about expanding our support of the Anzisha Prize so that many more young entrepreneurs in Africa can make a lasting impact in their communities and countries.”

    Applications close on April 15th, 2015, and youth from any background are encouraged to apply in either English, French, Portuguese and Arabic.

  • Africa IT & Telecom Forum 2015
    26 -27 March 2015 Abidjan

    How Africa will manage its digital transformation?
    Share the experience and success of policy makers in the development sector.
    For further information click here:

    CompTIA’s 5TH ANNUAL TRENDS IN CLOUD COMPUTING
    13-14 April 2015, Habtoor Grand Hotel, Dubai
    Welcome back to the Cloud World Forum MENA – the Middle East & North Africa’s Leading Cloud Computing event. In its 5th year, this is the only event to offer a dual Cloud agenda for both Enterprise & Telco attendees. The 4th edition was an outstanding event with 30+ visionary speakers and more than 400 attendees, 76% from the buy-side.The 2015 edition will be bigger and better. Join us and learn from the 60+  visionary speakers, leading solution providers, more topics and more interactive sessions!
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