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Issue no 841 26th August 2016

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Money Transfer

  • Nigeria recorded ATM transactions totalling ₦2.6 trillion in the first six months of 2016 in a major boost to the Cashless Nigeria policy hoped to make more people embrace electronic payment channels, statistics obtained by Technology Times from Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have revealed.

    At the end of June 2016, ATM transactions in Nigeria also recorded a 26.9% increase against ₦1.9 trillion during the corresponding period of 2015.

    This rising tide of cashless money adoption by Nigerians is one of the key highlights from the NBS report of electronic payment channels in the Nigerian banking sector released by the national agency responsible for development and management of official statistics in the country.

    The portion of cheque transactions recorded in first half of 2016 recorded a “significant decline” when compared to about 16% that the paper-based instrument accounted for in first half of 2015 when it recorded ₦3.2 trillion transaction.

    According to the report, financial transactions through electronic platforms rose to ₦30.5 trillion in the first half of 2016, which is about 75% higher than ₦19.3 trillion recorded in the corresponding period of 2015.

    Also, about ₦33.8 trillion was recorded as total transactions on all channels through the Nigerian banking system in the first half of 2016 with cheques accounting for ₦3.3 trillion or about 10% of the total transaction volume.
    Read the full story in Technology Times here:

  • Banking Consultant, Nana Otuo Acheampong is encouraging greater collaboration between banks and telecommunication companies offering mobile money services and reduce the unbanked population in Ghana.

    According to him, this will help banks serve customers in remote areas without having to set up physical branches which increase their costs of operations.

    Speaking to Citi Business News, the Banking consultant and Head of the Osei Tutu II Centre for Executive Education and Research said, the telcos are helping in deepening financial inclusion in Ghana, hence his call.

    “What the banks should be looking at is where are the mobile money operators of the Telcos reaching? They are reaching areas that the traditional banks’ brick and mortal branches cannot reach, so they should be welcomed with open arms by the banks as they are helping in deepening the financial inclusion process in Ghana.”

    Nana Otuo Acheampong argued that “This is what has allowed people to send money to the remotest parts of Ghana in real time as long as there is an agent who will receive the funds and give the person cash.” The Bank of Ghana has since 2015, issued two new guidelines to govern the mobile money industry in a way that gives Telcos some level of autonomy to run their mobile money platforms.

    The guidelines which are the E-Money Issuer (EMI) Guidelines and the Agent Guidelines according to the central bank, forms part of the roadmap towards a cashless society.

    The new guidelines allows Telcos to get the license directly from the regulator and go to the banks for collaboration unlike the previous which was vice visa. Though some banks are already partnering Telcos in mobile money, others are still apprehensive of the disruption the telcos threaten to bring into the industry.

    Telcos’ mobile money platforms are now going to become separate financial institutions and offer more flexible financial packages to a larger number of Ghanaians, who would not have to necessarily go to the bank to access banking services.

    But what we know is that in all these, the banks will still be the institutions where all moniess moving on the mobile money platforms would be deposited.
    SOURCE:GhanaWeb

  • The global leader in payments, Visa Inc, has said that it is in advanced discussions with leading Nigerian banks to bring its mobile payments solution, Mobile Visa (mVisa), to Nigeria and expects to roll the solution to Nigerian consumers before the end of 2016.

    mVisa is an innovative mobile payments solution that allows consumers to pay for goods by scanning a QR code on a smart phone or entering a merchant number into their phones.

    Payment goes straight from the consumer’s Visa account into the merchant’s account and provides real-time notification to both parties.

    It is completely interoperable, meaning that the consumer and the merchant do not need to be customers of the same bank.  It can also be used to enable consumers who use different mobile phones and services to interact. This brings a versatile and secure mobile money solution powered by Visa to consumers everywhere.

    The group country manager for Visa West Africa, Ade Ashaye, said, “We are excited by the prospects of mVisa for Nigeria as a mobile payment solution which brings real benefits to drive digital transformation because mVisa allows merchants to accept Visa payments without having to invest in costly point of sale hardware. It gives Nigerian consumers a reliable, secure and convenient mobile payment option.”

    The head of Retail Banking for Diamond Bank, Robert Giles, said, “We’re incredibly excited about the mVisa and its potential for our customers in Nigeria. The service enables people to engage in secure, digital commerce, and access funds more easily in their bank accounts to make everyday purchases.”

    It increases the opportunity to include more Nigerians into the formal financial system.”
    SOURCE:Leadership

  • Kenyans are borrowing between 25 and 30 million daily through the mobile-based KCB-Mpesa credit line, Safaricom and Kenya Commercial Bank have said.

    The two firms, which jointly operate the savings and micro-credit platform, said the total loans advanced so far since the launch of the service in March 2015 was Sh10.3 billion.

    Total savings currently held in the 6.4 million KCB-M-Pesa accounts have reached Sh286.1 million.

    Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore said the huge success of this mobile phone loan product highlights the value of strategic partnerships in delivering innovative solutions that are aligned to customer needs.

    “Through this platform, we have been able to contribute towards driving the financial inclusion agenda. Of great significance has been its role in providing a backup plan for our customers to free them from the fear of unforeseen events,” he said.

    KCB Group CEO Joshua Oigara said KCB-Mpesa platform leverages technological innovation to deliver financial products and services.

    “The ubiquitous mobile phone has changed the way financial services are consumed. It has made it cheaper and more convenient for account holders to access their bank accounts,” he said.

    KCB M-PESA allows registered customers to save up to Sh1 million and earn interest of up to six per cent.

    Account holders can also access up to Sh1 million in instant loans. Other mobile banking platforms such as M-shwari only give loans valued at between Sh100 and Sh20,000 depending on one’s savings, while Equitel allows users to borrow up to Sh3 million.

    M-shwari was launched in 2012 in a partnership between Safaricom and Commercial Bank of Africa, while Equitel was launched by Equity Bank in July 2015.

    According to a 2016 report by Financial Sector Deepening on financial access, about 18 per cent of the population are using mobile banking services daily.
    Source: The Start

  • Zoona, one of the leading money transfer service providers in Zambia and Malawi, raised $15 million in its second round of capital funding as it seeks to spread its operations to ten countries across Africa by 2020.

    International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, led the investment with $7.5 million while Omidyar Network doubled its investment in the second phase.

    Other investors include Accion, Patrick Pichette (former CFO at Google), Quona Capital, 4DI Capital of South Africa and Lundin Investment.

    Pichette is an advisor to the startup while Justin Stanford, co-founder and managing director at 4DI Capital holds a non-executive position on Zoona’s board.

    The startup currently has over 1.5 million subscribers and intends to grow its market base to over 30 million customers.
    Source: Press Release

telecoms

  • Mary Meeker is a partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Beyers (KPCB) who authors arguably the most widely anticipated annual internet trends report. It focuses on the giant markets of the US, Asia and Europe, but the astute observer can pick African trends that are either already established or are likely to be underway but not readily visible. Meeker is seldom wrong, as her content is overwhelmingly data driven. As the old adage goes, the data doesn’t lie.

    Every year the KPCB report highlights major trends, five of which (from 2014, 2015 and 2016) I note here as relevant to Africa:

    1.    The global adoption of smartphones is slowing, yet growth is still robust in developing markets. Watch closely as Africa and LatAm are poised to boom similar to how Asia has for the last 7-8 years, particularly as the average cost per unit declines.
     
     
    Figure 1: KPCB Internet Trends 2016

    2.    Screen time is now dominated by smartphones. Nigerians, Kenyans and South Africans spent more time viewing content on smartphones than on any other screen based device. Expect this ratio to rise rapidly as (i) content apps and platforms proliferate, (ii) the cost of devices and data falls rapidly, and (iii) smartphones penetrate market segments that don’t have other screens in the home.
     
     

    Figure 2: KPCB Internet Trends 2014

    3.    Meanwhile, in developed markets, linear broadcast media is morphing into on-demand apps as “vertical viewing” rises dramatically. Much of this is driven by social and messaging, but in developing markets the smartphone is already the primary content device.
     
     
    Figure 3: KPCB Internet Trends 2015

    4.    Video is the content queen: In developed markets the ubiquity of devices and high-speed networks, plus declining costs of memory, storage and computing power clearly indicate a different, user-driven media landscape. Almost all large social platforms have/are migrating to video led content. Average total Facebook link shares dipped below 30, image shares declined below 150 while video shares averaged between 500 and 600 (Jan to Jun 2016, source Buzzsumo). This is the primary reason Facebook has again rejigged its algorithms to favour video. Snapchat’s meteoric rise is yet another indicator.

     
    Figure 4: KPCB Internet Trends 2016

    5.    The internet is mobile: Nigeria tops the global ranking of mobile generated internet traffic, with South Africa third. This is the well-known legacy of poor infrastructure investment combined with deregulated economies creating rapid mass adoption.

     
     
    Figure 5: KPCB Internet Report 2015

    The internet trifecta
    A few years back Meeker coined the “internet trifecta” as the critical mass of content + community + commerce. It’s Holy Grail territory where theoretically just about anyone can play. It’s Facebook’s nirvana, possibly Amazon’s and Google’s too. iTunes is arguably there. Reality demands that another model is required, a very different one to the legacy producers, distributors and publishers of yore. While Silicon Valley and Zhong Guan Cun battle it out, is there anyone capable of making this a reality in Africa? Traditional information, communications and telecoms are governed by territory, which are government controlled requiring complex licensing and distribution arrangements. This makes the cost of content inaccessible to many. DStv has decent penetration across many African markets, owing primarily to live sports (football) content, but it struggles to monetise other channels meaningfully outside of SA. Netflix will be pushing water uphill for years as it imports Western content in return for an increasingly expensive dollar based subscription over thinly distributed high capacity networks. With these barriers blocking progress, it’s doomed in my opinion. That’s already been proven in SA with the failure of TMG’s VIDI and Altech’s NODE, and the jury is a very long way from deliberations on MTN’s VU and Netflix. Naspers is probably best positioned to migrate DStv subscribers to ShowMax as the former model unravels, but it won’t emerge with the dominance gifted them by the old Nationalist government. Foreign-based content distributors are unlikely to tap Africa’s potential, a heterogeneous collective of hundreds of disparate languages and cultures hungry for quality local content. The market is enormous.

    Forget apps and channels, platforms are key to unlocking the trifecta

    Three years ago radio and TV personality Gareth Cliff launched CliffCentral.com, SA’s first non-linear IP “broadcast” platform. Unfettered by regulators, territorial limitations and the BCCSA, CliffCentral launched SA’s first home-grown digital age media model. Cliff and business partner Rina Broomberg knew they were onto the right model, the only variable was sufficient capital to sustain them through the dark passages of advertiser enlightenment. CliffCentral is still in its early life stages but it could yet disrupt the radio industry. As Nevo Hadas of &Innovation wrote, “At its core, digital disruption is caused by the resetting of price due to a change in distribution models as the customer's point of purchase evolves.” Which brings me to Tuluntulu, a little known platform that is poised to pave the way to a disruptive African-led media model.

    Tuluntulu: the platform
    Technology is enabling platforms to become the new distributors and to reset the pricing model, of which the free model is best. Tuluntulu is one such platform I’ve been watching with interest, and one deserving of a great deal more attention from media and advertisers. In a nutshell it’s a smartphone app streaming a broad variety of TV and radio content across the African continent. Key is that while it adopts the form of an app it’s actually a platform aggregator where users pick and choose content. For years market commentators (me included) scoffed at the notion of long form video on a handheld device. The obvious hurdles of screen real estate, signal quality, bandwidth and cost of data just stacked the odds ridiculously high. But those tipping points have all been reached and the platform is ready to explode.

    The content
    The content is a diverse mix of local, regional and some international. Tuluntulu currently carries 26 x 24/7 TV channels and 20 radio stations broadcasting in English, French, Hausa, Portuguese, and Kiswahili. The TV genres include Entertainment, News (including Al Jazeera), Education, Documentaries, Movies, Series, Sport, eSports, Fashion, Lifestyle, Children, Comedy, Music, Shopping, Public information, Religion and French. Channels are being added all the time, and there is literally no limit to the variety and scope of content the platform can carry.

    Features
    The app displays the channels’ Twitter feed providing live user/channel interaction (second screen). The user can personalise the app by selecting favourite channels, and users can choose high or low profiles in order to save data costs or increase picture quality. Users can register directly or via Facebook, which will provide push marketing options in order to drive user engagement. Items can be shared via social media.

    The cost
    The app is free to download from the App Store and Google Play. Content is free to subscribers, placing it at a distinct advantage over subscription models. The only cost is streaming over GSM, and this is where the data barrier once reared its head. Except that Tuluntulu deploys a unique compression technology that burns as little as 50 MB per hour for video. To contextualise, that’s approximately R3,00 for a 90 minute movie on an average 2GB SA GSM mobile package. On the new Telkom Mobile FreeMe 2GB package one can watch 41 hours of streaming video. That’s insanely cheap, even by SA’s high data cost standards. And of course it’s free on wifi (unless of course you’re paying for the wifi).

    The numbers
    Tuluntulu is proving to be popular across Africa - the app has been downloaded over 460,000 times in 154 countries, the most popular being South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya. The cumulative usage numbers since launch include over 15 million screen views from more than 3 million sessions. The app has an astonishing 90% sticky rate, meaning 9/10 users return for more. The most popular channel is, somewhat surprisingly, Nollywood feature films. That’s a testament to the small screen assuming prime position in consumers’ lives.

    The business model
    This is the most exciting part as there are a multitude of monetisation options – which is especially important for advertisers and content creators. Advertisers can reach audiences with long form programming, short form advertising, sponsorship or digital messaging. Tuluntulu has a large database of users across Africa that can also be accessed for surveys. Very importantly, the platform offers a fantastic distribution opportunity for the vast quantity of video content that either can’t find a home or is lost dribbled across a multitude of social channels and individual apps. Content owners wishing to extend the reach of existing programming into the mobile space can secure a dedicated, branded 24/7 channel. Tuluntulu can assist with monetising these channels via the sale of advertising or content slots. Corporate customers can secure their very own TV channels at low cost. Communities (e.g. professional bodies) can have dedicated channels running their own content.

    The customer
    The bottom of the pyramid segment is an obvious target as they have the least access to content outside of government radio and television. The killer component is mobility – Tuluntulu turns a smartphone into a holistic mobile media device. Now curated content has a ready-made platform capable of addressing this segment with the added advantage of full digital measurement.
    But don’t mistake this as only a platform for reaching the poor. With variable compression options, the platform can carry high quality video beamed to a flat screen TV via Chromecast. This makes it the perfect platform for any content distributor wanting to reach any market segment across any territory. It also makes it the most complete media distributor unrestricted by borders, regulators and governments. Spend five minutes thinking about how impactful this platform could be outside of news, entertainment and sport. Think education, healthcare, training, agriculture, safety and security, transport, social development – the possibilities really are endless.

    Recognition and accolades
    Tuluntulu has received a number of local awards including a Frost & Sullivan Customer Value Leadership Award VOD 2015, Technology Top 100 Innovation award 2015, Best African App AppsAfrica award 2015, and was a finalist in the MTN App of the Year Awards 2015. In 2015, Tuluntulu received global recognition when selected by Unilever Foundry 50 as one of the top 50 startups in the world, and by Interbrand as a global ‘Breakthrough Brand’ in 2016.

    In summary
    Perhaps the most significant aspect of Tuluntulu’s platform is the return path capability enabling the convergence of TV and internet on a mobile device that delivers Meeker’s trifecta ideal. The ability to consume content, react to commercial messages and seamlessly transact is the big step to true digital integration. Context, relevance and timing are vital to call-to-action, while convergence is vital to seamless instant response. This is the sweet spot that advertisers would be well advised to experiment with and content purveyors would be well advised to investigate. The trove of data providing instant feedback, market intelligence and sales analytics is way beyond the means of anything marketers can currently achieve outside of their own ecosystems.
    Source: Justin McCarthy in TechCentral

  • Bitflux Communications, the Nigerian consortium which secured a national 2.3GHz spectrum licence in February 2014, has launched commercial wholesale LTE services in partnership with Alepo. ‘At Bitflux, our vision is to enhance customer experience though continuous innovation, and the launch of the wholesale LTE network is a step towards realising this vision,’ commented Bitflux’s director Biodun Omoniyi, adding: ‘With Alepo as our technology partner, we are able to offer a range of wireless services that are in tune with the demands of our customers, and that will enable us to remain a market leader in this domain.’ With Alepo’s core LTE solution and built-in affiliate management, Bitflux is able to operate as a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE), supporting multiple MVNO operations on a single hosted platform.

    A consortium of VDT Communications, BitCom Systems and Superflux International, Bitflux emerged as the winner of the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC’s) ‘Wholesale Wireless Access Service Licence’ auction in February 2014 with a bid of USD23.251 million, beating Globacom’s offer of USD23.050 million. The 30MHz block of 2.3GHz spectrum will be used to provide wholesale wireless broadband access services to ISPs and other retail telecoms service providers, which in turn will offer retail internet services to consumers. In October 2015 Bitflux revealed that its 4G LTE network was ready in ‘a controlled area in Lagos’, with services said to be live in some parts of the city.
    Source: Press Release

  • Telkom has revealed more details on what it calls wide-scale sabotage of its network, saying that 13,200 customers were affected by the outages.

    On Friday, Telkom announced a R500 000 reward for information related to “a series of acts of sabotage” across its network. At the time, it said that facilities in Midrand, Silverton, Pretoria West, Pinetown, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Makhado and Messina were all affected.

    The network has issued an update on the matter, revealing the scale of damage and repairs.

    “A total of 85 street distribution cabinets (SDCs) have been damaged in the past five days. Many of these SDCs have either been fully repaired or are partially repaired. In areas where the work is still underway, the technicians are bringing streets back online as they complete the repairs. Our teams will continue to work around the clock until the service to all the affected customers is restored,” said Jacqui O’Sullivan, Telkom Managing Executive of Communication, in a statement.

    The Telkom representative put the blame squarely at the feet of striking workers.

    “While less than 870 CWU members were on strike on Friday this thuggish behaviour has now had a significant impact on many residential and business customers.”

    Telkom explained that it was implementing a “no work, no pay” rule as well.

    “Those who have been striking consistently since 1 August have been informed they will not be paid on the 25th of this month as a manual verification to check whether they actually worked any days in August is required. We will pay any days owing to them for August by 7 September 2016 in line with the requirements of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.”
    Source: Memeburn

  • The Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) says that a 9% taxation in the proposed Communications Tax Bill before Federal lawmakers will send a wrong signals to investors in the Nigerian technology market.

        “As we all know that Nigerian telecoms subscribers are already paying tax because VAT is embedded in calls made and data consumed. If the bill sails through it would reduce the subscribers’ consumption of data and reduce length of a voice call, this will result in drop in revenue that would accrue to telecoms operators which will in turn reduce the contribution of the sector to our GDP.”

    ATCON, the pressure group of telecoms companies in the country says that the proposed law will also create disinvestment in Nigeria’s vibrant telecoms industry.

    Olusola Teniola, President of ATCON, says that indications from the National Assembly  to enact the communication tax bill  may send negative signals to the investors hoping to explore emerging broadband stakes following the success of mobile voice driven by incumbent operators in Nigeria.

    This was one of the key highlight at the Communication Service Tax Stakeholders’ Forum, organised Wednesday by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in Lagos.

    “Our policies must continue to be investment friendly. It has been established that revenue from voice is still significant and it must be stressed here that the investment that is required to deepen the penetration of Broadband in Nigeria is much greater than the one we used to provide voice telephony. In view of this, the said Communications Service Tax bill should be stepped down so as to encourage investors and make the sector more attractive for foreign direct investors”, the ATCON president told attendees at the forum.

    According to him “ATCON is working with other relevant agencies to increase the Foreign Direct Investment to the sector which is highly capital intensive. This cannot be achieved if the government is considering introducing Communications Services Tax, which will deter further investments to be made.”

    The ATCON President says the multi-billion telecoms sector investors have deepened investments and transformed every facet of the economy, hence content of the Bill will not only stifle the growth of the telecom industry but also destroy the stellar achievements of the sector since it was liberated.

    “As we all know that Nigerian telecoms subscribers are already paying tax because VAT is embedded in calls made and data consumed. If the bill sails through it would reduce the subscribers’ consumption of data and reduce length of a voice call, this will result in drop in revenue that would accrue to telecoms operators which will in turn reduce the contribution of the sector to our GDP.”

    “The Return on Investment (ROI) would be badly affected as a result of the above illustrations. Nigeria as a nation needs a lot of investible funds to build infrastructural facilities and provide employment for her teeming population and especially our growing youth. As we know that Nigeria’ telecom industry still needs circa 50,000 base stations to be able to improve on Quality of Service and to reach the un-served and underserved parts of the nation,” he adds.

    He also says that the perceived benefits of imposing Tax on telecoms subscribers are far lower than the revenue that it is going to create for the government.

    “ATCON believes any calculated actions that have potentials to stifle further contribution of the telecoms industry to our GDP must be avoided by all tiers of government in Nigeria as the perceived benefits of imposing a Communication Service tax on telecoms subscribers has the potential to erode if not destroy the achievements that have been made since the telecoms sector was liberated. We therefore advise both the House of Representatives and the Senate to discontinue with the bill,” The ATCON told the forum that attracted key players in the ICT industry.”

    Teniola explain further that communication tax  bill is “unnecessary and prohibitive”, adding that  the operators in the sectors are already faced with multiplicity of taxation and might lead to increase in unemployment, decrease in revenue accruable to government which would heighten the county’s poverty level.”

    He described the proposed bill as “a clog in the wheel of roll out of broadband services for the development of the nation-Nigeria. It means that telecommunications services would not be available in some state of the federation.”

    The ATCON president  also noted that “the high taxation takes so much away from both the telecoms operators and subscribers that little or nothing is left to run the business. If government tries to boost the economy with increased government spending, the result is stagflation (simultaneous high inflation and unemployment) instead of prosperity. The only cure for stagflation is to cut both taxes and government spending.”
    Source: Technology Times

  • The Association of Mobile Communication Device Technicians of Nigeria (AMCODET) has told Technology Times that mobile phone technicians record over N40 billion monthly transaction from the nation’s mobile economy. 

    Mr Apara Kehinde Ige, National President of AMCODET tells Technology Times in an exclusive interview in Lagos that members of the umbrella body of mobile technicians nationwide are raking growing revenue from fixing mobile phone handsets and allied devices for the nation’s growing mobile phone users.

    Though mobile technicians combining software, hardware and mobile accessories dealers continue to grow across the country, the huge potentials of that sector has not received “much attention” by telecoms operators, industry stakeholders and government, the AMCODET President says.
    Mr Apara Kehinde Ige, National President of AMCODET (left) and executive team of the association representing the interest of mobile communication device technicians across Nigeria during an exclusive interview with Technology Times Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos
    Mr Apara Kehinde Ige, National President of AMCODET (left) and executive team of the association representing the interest of mobile communication device technicians across Nigeria during an exclusive interview with Technology Times at Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos

        According to him, “we repair phones on daily basis. In Computer Village Ikeja alone, I can tell you the phone they repair here a day is more than 5,000 units.”

    According to him, there has been no deliberate attempt by mobile phone manufacturers to officially train technicians on how to repair and maintain and offer other support services on millions of mobile devices shipped daily into Nigeria.

    Apara, who was backed up by top executives of AMCODET during the interview says that as a 21st century profession in Nigeria, the job of GSM phone repair and maintenance has remained critical and important to Nigeria’s telecommunications and socio-economic development.
    Read the full story here:

internet

  • End-to-end telecommunications and networking solutions provider Saicom Voice Services has entered into a strategic partnership with SEACOM, a leading provider of internet, connectivity and cloud based services, to allow SEACOM to provide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Cloud PBX services over a white-label platform to corporate and SME customers.

    “We are looking to build long-term relationships with trusted partners and the strength of our partnerships have been key to the success of our business right from the beginning.”

    “Our strategy is to build our channel platform in order for resellers to partner with us and in turn extend their service offering to their customers with voice solutions,” says Greg de Chasteauneuf, chief technology officer at Saicom Voice Services.

    Through the partnership, SEACOM will offer voice services to its growing customer base, in addition to its existing high-speed internet access and cloud services.

    “We were looking for a voice partner that uses reliable and high-quality infrastructure, and Saicom Voice Services’ Broadsoft carrier-grade platform gave us the quality assurance that we needed. Having a full-fledged IP telephony solution completes our service offerings to customers in terms of data and voice,” says Grant Parker, head of SEACOM Business.

    “Our platform allows SEACOM to operate autonomously and to support its clients on an end-to-end basis without having to own the infrastructure. The confirmation of the strength of our channel platform is in how quickly SEACOM could sell and deliver services to their customers. They were able to deploy their VoIP and Cloud PBX offering within a couple of months as opposed to a couple of years,” adds de Chasteauneuf.

    Another factor that clinched the partnership was Saicom Voice Services’ Cloud PBX portal for customers. “The premise of our offering to our business customers is that they need to have an effortless experience when doing business with us and the Cloud PBX portal is easy to interact with, which was another criteria we had when we evaluated potential voice partners. We want to make sure that we have an outside-in approach, meaning that we look at what customers want, how they want to interact with us, and then we make it easy for them to do business with us,” says Parker.

    de Chasteauneuf adds that the company’s strong suit is its ability to deliver what is required to ensure that its channel partners’ customers experience a smooth installation and excellent service.

    With the ability of fibre to scale bandwidth, SEACOM is well positioned to offer fully-converged services that enable both data and voice, and other value-added services, on one medium. “We own the undersea fibre cable system and supply all Tier 1 internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa as well as all Tier 1 ISPs in countries where our cable system lands, including Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and now also Uganda. We may look at extending these new services into these markets in the near future,” adds Parker.

    SEACOM’s new voice offering forms part of its suite of value-add services that enable businesses to unlock the power of the internet and cloud in order to grow and support their operations. “The feedback we have received is that customers are happy with the service and impressed that the installations have gone so smoothly,” says Parker.

    Corporate and SME customers are going to reap the benefits. “SEACOM’s stature gives us added credibility in the marketplace and its fibre coverage across the country allows us to open our voice channel to all areas of South Africa,” says de Chasteauneuf. ENDS
    Source: Press Release

  • Togo’s Council of Ministers has instructed the Minister of Posts & Digital Economy, Cina Lawson, to issue a tender to award three new licences to ISPs in the West African country, according to Xinhua/News Ghana. In its report the Council explains: ’The coming of new operators will help develop competition, enhance the quality of internet services and reduce costs significantly,’ adding that the government has taken this decision ‘to support major projects currently executed so as to enhance the access and the quality of internet connection in our country’.

    Further, the Council of Ministers says it will develop plans to build a new data centre in the country, set up an internet exchange point (IXP) and construct a 140km fibre-optic network, all of which it says will ‘help pool’ the efforts of national operators Togo Telecom and Togo Cellulaire (Togocel). Meanwhile, in another bold statement of intent, Cina Lawson is expected to be given recommendations to license 4G LTE mobile services, by awarding concessions to Togocel and Moov Togo, majority owned by Maroc Telecom. No timeframe has been given on the raft of initiatives currently under discussion.
    Source: All Africa

  • WIOCC is building a large forty PoP metro network for the South African city of Johannesburg.

    Chris Wood, CEO of WIOCC, Johannesburg has told Capacity that WIOCC is building a large forty PoP (Point of Presence) metro network for the South African city of Johannesburg. This forty PoP metro network will give WIOCC access to thousands of buildings and bring them on-net and capable of delivering WIOCC’s international carrier business to their end customers doorsteps.

    The Johannesburg metro network has three core PoPs and over 39 aggregation and customer provided (CPE) PoPs making it the largest metro network in Africa.  The network covers all of the main business areas of the city. Wood said: “We are buying dark fibre from Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and that is what the 39 PoPs are being built around.  This is what we need to be doing for our customers and for their enterprise clients. We are not entering the enterprise space – we are driving traffic to our core assets and the enterprise nearer to their clients.”

    The amount of capacity used by the WIOCC consortium’s members and customers has doubled in volume in the last 12 months and he thinks that this volume of growth will grow over the next few months, probably doubling every nine months for the foreseeable future.

    Wood made it clear that this foray into metro networks was just the beginning and that they will be working on further metro networks in the near future.

    Wood made it very clear that WIOCC is not targeting the enterprise space – rather they are enabling their customers to get there. “The market is changing considerably in terms of what our customers want. So therefore, our role now is changing – the industry in Africa is becoming a lot more complex - we have to take our customers deeper into Africa. Whereas in the past our customers were looking for point-to-point bandwidth; then point-to-point bandwidth with a bit of redundancy and now its seamless protection. Moving forward they are all building more complex network solutions for their enterprise customers.”

    The Johannesburg metro network will be completed by the third quarter of this year.
    Source: Capacity Media

  • South Africa's VAST Networks has purchased the Benu Virtual Service Edge (VSE) to support growth and enhanced service experience for its Wi-Fi network, which already includes more than 2,200 hotspots in South Africa, reports IT-Online. VAST Networks will use the new virtual platform to provide customers, including ISPs and local businesses, with the opportunity to provide seamless Wi-Fi Services throughout South Africa.

computing

  • On Wednesday, local government officials held discussions with RwandaOnline Platform Limited on how to speed up adoption of online services delivered through Irembo Platform.

    Since July 2015, Rwandans have been able to apply and pay for Government services through Irembo. The platform is available online and on mobile with 32 services currently available to the public.

    On Irembo platform, citizens are able to access services such as birth registration, marriage certificate, birth certificate, land registration and transfer. The target is to have 100 services digitised by 2018.

    The one-day workshop involved all provinces and district executive secretaries, directors of finance, City of Kigali representatives, officials from the ministries of Finance, Local Government, and Youth and ICT, Rwanda Revenue Authority and RwandaOnline Platform Limited.
    Source: New Times

Digital Content

  • Kenyan farmers have a reason to smile as OLX Kenya has launched a service to help Kenyan potato farmers without smartphones or internet access sell their produce via SMS.

    The launch comes after the new OLX agriculture category that was introduced in March to get rid of middlemen that were exploiting farmers.

    The farmers will only be required to dial *887# and select their regions their. After that, OLX gets a notification and they go ahead to connect the farmers with potential buyers. Right now, the service is available only in Nyandarua and Nakuru counties but OLX is expanding to other regions soon. Around 9,000 farmers have already signed up to the service.

    Talking about the launch, OLX Country Manager, Peter Ndiang'ui said, "Potatoes form the bulk of food consumed in most urban areas. Our venture in potato farming is aimed at adding value to farmers by eliminating middlemen who have fragmented the supply-demand chain. Most of these farmers do not own smartphones. It is, for this reason, we have introduced the SMS service to target potato farmers who do not own smartphones but want to use our platform."

    He added that "Potato farming generates KES 25 billion at farm gate prices yet farmers profit margins are still negligible. By working directly with OLX, farmers will now increase profits through a shortened value chain. Our aim is to ensure farmers get value for their produce and buyers receive quality straight from the farm through OLX."

    In a quest to improve on customer relations and engagement, OLX launched a similar product in Nigeria in April. Dubbed as "Do-it-for-me", the service helps users sell their products and manage their transactions through verified 'champions'.

    Through the OLX agriculture Category, OLX Kenya is also working on helping farmers purchase fertilizers, agrochemicals, and seeds at a subsidized rate.
    Source: CIO East Africa

  • For this post, we spoke with Naspers’ Barron Ernst about the subscription video on demand market in Africa in his role as Chief Product Officer for ShowMax.

    Barron, tell us about ShowMax?

    We launched ShowMax on 19 August 2015, hitting the ground running with Africa’s largest on-demand catalogue of TV shows and movies. Over the past 12 months we’ve clocked up well over 10 million views, or more than 700 years’ worth of content if viewed back to back.

    Our team has achieved a fair amount in one year. Enabling content downloads, setting up data usage caps, putting together a cash voucher system, and implementing multiple user profiles are some of the tougher technical challenges we solved, with additional tweaks and upgrades taking place on an almost daily basis. We’ve also added support for AirPlay, Apple TV, Chromecast, the DStv Explora and more smart TVs.

    What have we learned about subscription video on demand in Africa? Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of over 1,000 people and received some interesting insights that I explore below.

    When do people watch?

    According to our stats, the peak viewing time is between 6 and 11 in the evening, reaching an absolute peak at around 8pm. Interestingly, the busiest days aren’t Friday or Saturday (we thought date night might be our killer function); instead we hit peak-couch-potato on Sundays.

    How popular is internet TV in South Africa?

    Our survey suggests that subscription video on demand (SVOD) usage is set to rapidly accelerate in South Africa. Only 35% of those surveyed currently subscribe to an internet TV service, but when asked whether they plan to be using an internet TV service within the next six months, that number rose to 65% of the respondents.

    Why do people subscribe?

    The main reason that people report using SVOD services is to access a wider range of content (39%), followed by access to the latest content (22%), and value for money (16%). Interestingly, given what we know of the binge-watching global phenomenon, only 13% listed binge-watching as the main reason for using this type of service.

    What’s most important in a service?

    When asked what aspects of an internet TV service are most important, the following factors were all ranked as “very important” by 50% or more of the respondents.

    · Good video quality (66%)

    · Value for money (61%)

    · Right payment options (55%)

    · Available on right devices (54%)

    · Product features (52%)

    · International content (50%)

    In a sense, the answers aren’t surprising, but in the context of Africa they take on extra meaning. For example, the fact that video quality came out on top obviously highlights the importance of making sure your content delivery network is up to scratch, but given the fact that many users connect via mobile in less-than-optimal conditions, it shows that a service needs to go even further to improve the user experience. In our case that’s why we’ve delivered solutions for offline viewing (downloads), dynamic streaming, bandwidth capping, and even less-obvious solutions like reducing picture file sizes when displaying content “movie posters” on mobile devices.

    What’s stopping people from subscribing?

    What’s the main reason holding people back from subscribing? The clear answer is the cost of internet access (40%) rather than a lack of understanding how to access the services (20%). 15% of people find normal TV easier to use. Somewhat surprisingly, only 9% said that they don’t subscribe because they can pirate the content illegally.

    Where is next for ShowMax?

    Our take on the state of the industry one year in is that the time is right for SVOD in Africa. Having said that, it’s by no means an easy sell or an easy ride. We firmly believe that this isn’t a game of one-size-fits-all and that localising your service, content, and partnerships is key. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cost and availability of decent internet connectivity is the biggest hurdle, but we believe there are elegant solutions, some of which we’ve already deployed and some of which are still in the works.
    Source: Naspers

  • African Twitter is back at it again with the ever trending #IfAfricaWasASchool hashtag, where we get the lowdown on the complex and hilarious dynamics of the continent, but this time in a school setting (remember #IfAfricaWasABar?).

    This fluid exchange is still flooding Twitter with witty tweets commenting on Africa’s (old) leaders, colonization, tensions between certain countries and the never ending Jollof Wars, to name a few. And further, this is just another example of how the youth from the continent and in the diaspora can flip the truth (i.e. the challenges, pain and struggle) and turn it into what we’re all laughing and talking about until the day’s end (and maybe even until tomorrow).

    It was too tough to narrow down our favorites, but have a look at what made our stomachs hurt in laughter here:
    Full Story on Okayafrica

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Government has called the National Social Security Authority to order directing the authority to focus on financing the acquisition of Telecel Zimbabwe through Zarnet, instead of attempting to usurp the deal from the state-owned technology concern.

    In confidential documents seen by The Herald Business, Government also expressed concern at the combative tone of the authority following a plethora of letters written by the authority's lawyers, which threatened to derail the deal.

    Through the Attorney General's office, Government made it clear that it was not happy with efforts to sneak in new issues in earlier agreements, which has the effect of renegotiating the agreements entered into for the acquisition of the mobile company by Zarnet. Read the full story in The Herald here: http://www.herald.co.zw/govt-calls-nssa-to-order-over-telecel-acquisition/

    Ghana to revoke Expresso’s operating licence

    Ghana’s telecoms regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), is reportedly mulling the annulment of the operating licence of cellco Expresso (Kasapa Telecom), which is 82% owned by Sudanese-based Sudatel Telecom Group (STG), domestic news source pulse.com.gh reports. Expresso Ghana has been facing significant liquidity challenges over the past three years and its inability to secure a financial investor has led to drastic drop in the number of subscribers (106,082 at 31 May 2016), equivalent to roughly 0.3% of the market at that date.

    NCA’s Director for Engineering Henry Kanor said in an interview with Accra-based Citi FM that the continued inactivity of Expresso has taken its toll on the industry stakeholders by creating a deficit in the revenue targets of the regulator and government. The official was cited as stating: ‘The status quo cannot remain the same for long, we want to make sure that customers get the best services, we want to get revenues for government and as regulator we need revenue to survive. We have triggered the regulatory processes to revoke the licence, it is a long process and I cannot say how long it will take but the process will end at a time. And I am optimistic very soon a policy statement would be made on the company.’
    SourceL Telegeography

  • The South African government is reportedly planning to reach a decision on the partial privatisation of state-owned telecoms infrastructure provider Broadband Infraco this week, TechCentral reports citing two people familiar with the matter.

    The cash-strapped company – which manages infrastructure rollouts to underserved areas on behalf of the government and has roughly 15,000km of fibre-optic cabling – has made several unsuccessful submissions to the state for funding, with its most recent appeal for ZAR243 million (USD17.7 million), in addition to a further ZAR932 million until 2019, submitted in September 2015. A potential sale process would attract bids from cellco Vodacom and fibre-optic provider Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), the news source writes.
    Source: Techcentral

More

  • AITEC’s 10th anniversary Banking & Mobile Money Conference
    30-31 August
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Showcase for the region’s leading fintech innovations.
    To mark the 10th anniversary of its Banking & Mobile Money COMESA Conference, AITEC is selecting the region’s 20 most promising and innovative fintech start-ups to demo their products and services at the conference.
    Applications to participate are invited from start-ups from throughout the COMESA region. Email brightg@aitecafrica.com.

    Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium
    6 – 8 September 2016
    Embracing capacity building opportunities in the digital era
    Nairobi is set to host ITU’s Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium (CBS-2016), the main global event for capacity development in the field of information and communication technology (ICT). The symposium will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 6 to 8 September 2016, preceded by pre-events on 5 September. The symposium is organized by ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs) and hosted by the Government of Kenya under the theme “Embracing Capacity Building Opportunities in the Digital Era”. The event brings together thought leaders from all over the world including Ministers, Directors-General of Regulatory Authorities, Heads of UN organizations, CEOs of private sector companies, representatives from universities and research institutions, human capacity building executives and other experts in ICT capacity building.
    To register please click here:

    Cashless Africa Expo
    FUTURE OF FINANCE

    NOV 23 – 24, 2016
    Lagos Oriental Hotel, Nigeria
    www.cashlessafrica.com

     

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