A nice mobile music and video service with a handset attached – Solo launches in Nigeria and turns the business model on its head
Another made in China African handset launch would be deeply uninteresting. But the unveiling of Solo’s new handset bundled with data and content in Nigeria somehow turns the business model on its head. If you want people to use data, then you’ve you’ve got to offer them things they want. Russell Southwood talks to Solo’s Michael Akindele about how it wants to re-invent the market.
Solo’s CEO Tayo Ogundipe worked as a Nigerian for a number of the global big names in the USA and Taiwan: HTC, Sony Ericsson and Ubiquitel. But that by itself is not what makes the Solo launch interesting. For as Akindele says:”It’s not just a device. We’ve looked at the local market and are trying to create a new market.”
There are two handsets and each come with its own distinctive content bundle. The cheaper of the two devices is the S350, an Android Jelly Bean 4.1 smartphone with a 3.5” screen and dual SIM capabilities. It comes with a music service that offers the user access to 20 million songs for the life of the device. It sells for N18,500, the equivalent of US$115.
This music service has been put together by a music partner who has rights cleared access to the catalogues of the majors like Sony, Universal and Warner. But is will also include music from local Nigerian labels, South African music and African music from elsewhere on the continent.
Given the levels of piracy on the continent, the rights holder have, according to Akindele, been content to accept a licence fee per device on the basis that they get some money rather than nothing. If the targeted sales figures mentioned later come to pass, this could well be a significant sum.
The more expensive of the two phones is the S450, and Android Jelly Bean 4.2 smartphone with a 4.5” screen and dual SIM capabilities with greater memory than the cheaper model. It will retail for N29,500, the equivalent of US$183. It comes with the same music service as the cheaper model but its users have access to a premium film and TV service.
Solo is deploying 50 hotspots around Lagos and will scale that to 300-500 in 3-6 months. There will be kiosks where customers will be able to download a film to their phone in 3-6 minutes. The Kiosk will have a touch screen interface and offer free access to things like trailers and posters. The content offered will be Nollywood and international films and TV series. For the former, Solo has signed a deal with iROKO to licence its catalogue. Content is erased from the phone after 2 weeks.
The video content will have multiple price points ranging from US50 cents to US$10: the more premium, the higher the cost. On payment, it will offer multiple payment “from SMS to cards and including our own parallel monetization platform, the Solo Card, a mobile wallet solution.”
In terms of operators, Solo started with Nigeria’s data friendly operator Etisalat who agreed they would give free bundled data of 100 Mbs per month. Two weeks before the launch Airtel came on board and topped that offer by offering 500 MBs. MTN is now in discussion and may join before too long. It has compressed the music stream from 384 kbps to 64 kbps so those who are listening to music get a certain amount completely free. But it’s clear that the operators are baiting the offer to try and hook users in to regular use that they pay for.
Solo is ambitious in content terms and is looking to explore other content bundles in topics like health.
Predicting likely sales is hard but Akindele draws comparisons with other OEMs who have managed to sell 120,000 devices in a month. In what he believes could turn out to be a conservative figure, sales by year 3 are predicted to be 2 million.
The current roll-out is self-funded by the Solo team but it says it will be closing a Series A round before too long. There are also plans to roll out the concept across the continent.
New videos this week
Indra de Lanerolle on what a 12 country survey says about Africa's new Internet users
Simbarashe Mabashe on South African online film platform Wabona.com and its expansion plans, including an alliance with a Fibre To The Home provider in Zimbabwe
Chike Maduegbuna, Afrinolly on its deal with MTN to distribute this mobile content platform
Francis Mugane and Peter Gakure-Mwangi on the low cost mobile money payment system Kopo Kopo
George Kimani on his new online film and TV platform Afriflix with low prices to beat pirates
Martin Nielsen on Mdundo, a mobile music platform for Kenya and East Africa
Everything You Wanted To Know About You Tube in Africa But Were Afraid To Ask
Brett St Clair, Google on what You Tube is doing in Africa and what content is successful
Brett St Clair, Google on what kind of revenues film-makers and broadcasters can get from You Tube
Brett St Clair on Google's different Internet access initiatives, including Project Loon
Start-up video briefings this week:
Kahenya Kamunyu, Able Wireless on his low-cost Kenyan video streaming service using a Raspberry Pi
John Paul Barreto talks about Tanzanian ICT co-creation space Kinu
Delivering Rural Broadband – Models that work:
Kobus Roux, CSIR on getting rural schools connected using Wi-Fi mesh
Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India
TV White Spaces Briefing from Dakar event sponsored by Google and Microsoft:
Paul Mitchell explains Microsoft's TV White Spaces pilots and why it thinks TVWS is important
Kai Wulff on Google's TV White Spaces pilots and why they are important for developing countries
For breaking news, follow us on Twitter: @BalancingActAfr
Ethiopia's state-run Ethio Telecom said on Thursday it had picked Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the world's second largest telecom equipment maker, to roll out a high-speed 4G network across the capital Addis Ababa.
The introduction of the service is part of a $1.6 billion deal signed in July and August between the Ethiopian firm, Huawei and ZTE, China's second-biggest telecoms equipment maker, to expand mobile phone infrastructure throughout the Horn of Africa country.
"In terms of allocation, Huawei will be responsible for the expansion of 4G in Addis Ababa, including other mobile services - the 2G, 3G, IP and the like," Abdurahim Ahmed, Ethio Telecom's head of communications, told Reuters.
Abdurahim said the allocation plan was finalized on Wednesday.
"It is expected to benefit more than 400,000 subscribers. Within an eight-month period, the expansion project of Addis Ababa, including 4G, will be completed."
The deal, signed by ZTE in August and Huawei a month before, will enable Ethiopia to double subscribers to more than 50 million by 2015 and expand 3G service throughout the country. Both firms will split their work along 13 expansion areas. The contract was awarded under a long-term loan package to be paid over a 13-year period with an interest rate of "less than 1 percent", Abdurahim said.
Ethio Telecom is the only mobile operator in the country of more than 80 million people, among the last remaining countries on the continent to maintain a state monopoly in telecoms.
The government has ruled out liberalizing its telecoms sector, saying the 6 billion birr ($321 million) it generates each year is being spent on railway projects. Ethiopia plans to build 5,000 km of railway lines by 2020.
The prohibitive roaming call rates have caused discomfort among the business community and ordinary Rwandans who want to communicate with friends and relatives across the region. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency’s (Rura) and other telecom regulators in the EAC reviewed roaming call rates, meaning that when one calls someone in Uganda, for example, they are charged and the other person’s is also ‘cut’. BEN GASORE and peterson tumwebaze examine the issue
After suffering for months in silence under the burden of prohibitive roaming call rates subscribers, especially business people, and local telecoms operators are now calling for the scrapping of fees on regional calls.
Yvonne Manzi Makolo, chief marketing officer (CMO) at MTN Rwanda, said: “The increase in taxes meant rates for people calling from other countries went up by that additional amount.”
She added the situation was made worse by regulators in Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania imposing the same tax again. “When I call my suppliers, they charge me and also deduct airtime fees. This is making it hard for us to do business,” said businessman Laments Mugabo.
Calls to Uganda and Burundi previously cost RWF60, which was hiked to RWF120 to call Uganda and RWF350 for Burundi, with Kenya the only country that has not imposed high taxes to the EAC.
Enos Bukuku, EAC deputy secretary general for planning infrastructure, however said the secretariat will come up with a model that will make roaming call rates seamless by calling on the operators and governments to discuss the issue.
Around a third of the mobile phones in the African country of Niger have been cut off -- in a move aimed at cutting crime related to unregistered SIM cards.
The country's four mobile networks had around 5.4 million mobile accounts, but some 1.7 million of them were using unregistered SIM Cards.
Following a declaration last year that the user had to register their SIM Cards, all the unregistered cards were cut off at the weekend.
"From today, non-registered SIM cards can no longer be used," said Almoustapha Boubacar, director-general of the regulator on Tuesday.
The regulator has also banned the sale of pre-activated SIM cards, and will need ID documents to be produced before any SIM card can be switched-on.
Ghanaian telecoms watchdog the National Communication Authority (NCA) is reportedly planning to introduce an additional annual levy on new blocks of mobile numbers. The regulator initially assigned each of the mobile operators in the country a block of ten million numbers (code 02X) for free, and subsequently the cellcos were charged a flat rate of USD1 million for new blocks of ten million numbers (code 05X). NCA deputy director Patrick Laryea has reportedly revealed that the new regime is designed to ensure efficiency in number management, adding that the initial flat rate, which comprises of the cost of the code that comes with the block of numbers, would remain, while an annual rent would be added to motivate telcos to manage the numbers in a more responsible manner.
Further, the regulator plans to introduce different fee tiers, depending on the number of blocks the operators is requesting; for cellcos demanding numbers beyond the first 20 million, the rate will be priced at USD0.4 per number. MTN, Vodafone and Tigo have already crossed the 20 million mark, having already deployed their respective blocks of ten million numbers with 05X code, while Airtel, Glo and Expresso are yet to request a second block.
Laryea also said that the phone numbers are a national resource and the telcos are required to obey the law, which stipulates that inactive numbers should be re-assigned following the mandatory 90-day deadline. The executive said: ‘If you pay annual rent on numbers that remain inactive on your network and do not generate any revenue for you, that would be a loss to you as a telco, so you now have reason to obey the law and deactivate inactive numbers and re-assign them.’ As it stands, it is unclear if the new tax will be passed on to customers.
Swaziland's state-owned monopoly landline network, SPTC has been stripped of its regulatory role as the company continues to fight with the sole mobile network MTN over its own attempts to launch a mobile service.
A new regulator has been created by the government, the Swaziland Communications Commission, (SCC), and a government official is now running it.
The creation of the regulator had been expected, and it was apparently set up two months ago, although the news was only released last week to the local media.
The ICT Minister, Christopher Ndlangamandla has since charged the regulator with sorting out the long running dispute between SPTC and MTN over MTN's monopoly on mobile services that SPTC wants to overturn with its own mobile service.
- Telkom South Africa hopes to launch commercial fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services by the end of 2014, with ongoing trials of the service said to be returning positive results.
South Africans are set to experience the next evolution in mobile connectivity, as Internet Solutions and AlwaysOn launched the first of many carrier-grade Wi-Fi solutions at Cradlestone Mall this month.
With plans to roll-out nationwide to other key high-density retail environments within the next 12 months, as well as transport hubs like airports, carrier-grade Wi-Fi is set to revolutionise the mobile computing experience for end-users.
According to Hayden Lamberti, business unit manager: Enterprise Mobility at Internet Solutions, carrier-grade Wi-Fi has the capacity to cope with the large data volumes commonly associated with high-density public locations like malls and transport hubs, while still enabling the consumption of rich media content like video, video chat, VoIP, content sharing, social media and augmented reality.
“Users of carrier-grade Wi-Fi will be able to access rich media content, or data intensive enterprise applications while on the go, in a way that wasn't previously possible on standard public Wi-Fi. For retail environments like Cradlestone Mall, this has the potential to open up a world of immersive, interactive shopping experiences for customers, and it will also allow them to share their experiences online in the most efficient and cost effective manner. Business users, on the other hand, will benefit from a high speed, reliable connection back into the company network to conduct faster, more efficient business while on the move,” he continues.
Carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks provide a host of direct, targeted marketing opportunities for shop owners, companies and big brands within these environments.
“This is a new sponsorship and advertising opportunity, and a rich content distribution channel for marketers. As such we expect carrier-grade Wi-Fi to become fully sponsored and therefore free to the end-users,” says Lamberti.
Interest from marketers is set to make this media and content funding model a reality. “With options like paid-for content distribution, free bandwidth for clicking on landing pages, integrated online promotions, and other rich media push advertising opportunities, carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks in retail environments offer a new frontier in consumer engagement.”
The solution also has the potential to change the retail environment, as different technologies can be incorporated to engage consumers, says to Lamberti. “Promo screens can be operated on the fly and updated with real-time information when they are connected to the Internet. This has the potential to create a more interactive public environment for shoppers.”
With the experience Internet Solutions has gained through the provisioning and management of South Africa's largest public Wi-Fi network in the form of AlwaysOn Hotspots, the unique combination of the company's specialised carrier and connectivity business units, and the Wireless LAN expertise of parent company Dimension Data, Lamberti believes that the company is ideally placed to enter and pioneer the carrier-grade Wi-Fi market.
Sick of waiting around until telecommunications companies bring you a faster and cheaper Internet? Some techies believe there’s no need to wait around anymore. They have started to build their internet networks themselves, from the bottom up.
When Steve Song shows off a small, unassuming white plastic box he named the ‘Mesh Potato’, it’s obvious he’s proud of his brainchild. The Wi-Fi device “can be plugged into anything else,” the South-African and Canadian tech entrepreneur boasts, from analogue phones to laptops and weather monitoring devices.
Most impressively, the potato automatically establishes a spider web-like mesh network with other potatoes nearby, allowing even the greatest technophobes to build a mini-internet that allows free phone calls, file-sharing, and even sharing one connection to the global Internet with hundreds of other users.
Many small communities across Africa are doing just that. Armed with mesh potatoes, or tinkered-with routers, cellphones and other basic technological equipment, people are building self-sufficient and cheap communications networks, without help from companies and governments.
Or rather, as many would phrase it, without interference from companies and government. Because these days, many techies believe the biggest barrier to a better African Internet has little to do with technology, and everything with government regulation over the African airwaves - airwaves that are vital to the development of the continent’s Internet.
Most people are connected to the Internet via a central hub, over a so-called star network. When one user e-mails others, the data have to travel through this hub first before fanning out to other users. In a mesh network, people form the network instead of just using it. They send data to each other directly.
Why are airwaves so important? Experts agree that Africa’s Internet future is wireless: most future Internet data will travel over airwave frequencies, just like radio broadcasts. Using cables to connect the continent’s rural communities is way too expensive, and the majority of African Internet users already go online via cellphones.
That makes airwave frequencies, or spectrum, a precious commodity. Without access to the airwaves, you can’t build the Internet network people need. Yet spectrum is currently mostly in the hands of incumbent telecommunications companies, who see little economic incentive to extend their reach far outside the city. “For sparsely populated rural areas, there simply isn’t the economic case for mobile operators to put up towers,” Song explains.
For smaller entrepreneurs like Song, who are interested in providing access to rural communities, “getting access to wireless spectrum is a huge challenge,” Song says.
Most of the spectrum has been auctioned off years ago to the major telcos in multi-million dollar deals, and even when these companies don’t actually use the airwaves to create wireless cellphone or Internet networks outside the city, their licenses forbid small companies to pick up the slack and offer their own services.
“What’s missing is room for the small entrepreneur in providing access where it’s needed,” Song says. In South Africa, he found that “you don’t have to go very far to find the fringes of telecommunications networks. Urban centers and major highways are generally well-served, but once you step off there, access is a lot harder to find.”
It’s a catch-22: the small companies who want to build cheaper, more nimble communications networks to reach rural communities can’t afford spectrum licenses. Yet the big multinational communications operators who hold the spectrum licenses are unwilling to extend their networks to rural communities, where they can’t recoup the costs of their more expensive infrastructure, and make negligible returns on investment.
Luckily, techies like Song have found a workaround. “The opportunity that appeared to me was the potential of unlicensed spectrum” such as Wi-Fi, Song explains. In most countries, Wi-Fi is left unlicensed so that people can set up small wireless networks in cafés or office networks. Since Wi-Fi signals peter out after a few meters, communications operators don’t see the Wi-Fi frequency as a commercial threat.
But with the help of cheap, homemade ‘cantennae’ – antennae built from cans - and routers like the Mesh Potato, Wi-Fi signals can be concentrated and extended to a few kilometers. That means an entire village can connect over Wi-Fi. And by creating a daisy chain of Wi-Fi devices, such a network can also provide access to an Internet connection up to 50 kilometers away.
Dr. Michael Adeyeye, a tech entrepreneur, has set up a few of these networks already in Nigeria. “It’s very easy to deploy - you can have it up in a very short time,” he explains enthusiastically. At the University of Ilorin, Adeyeye and colleagues at Asmic Computers created a mesh network that that not only provides internet access across the campus, but also offers services for staff and students that work only on the mesh network itself, such as e-learning applications.
In a neighbourhood of the city of Ibadan, Adeyeye used mesh technology to set up a network that provides Internet access, but also functions as something more old-fashioned: a phone network that allows users to call each other for free over analogue phones. That might seem outdated, but in a country like Nigeria, where cellphone users spend an average of 16 percent of their disposable income on phone calls, mostly to reach people who live close-by, a network that routes phone calls over Wi-Fi can make a big difference.
Adeyeye says that even though most participants in the mesh network own cellphones, “when they want to talk at length, they go back to the mesh potatoes, because it’s free.”
Using a different approach, others are trying to gain access to spectrum that is licensed, but not being used. Dr. Chomora Mikeka, a physics lecturer at the University of Malawi, was able to convince the local regulator to allow him to experiment with white spaces, a lower frequency on the spectrum that is meant for TV broadcasting but little used in many countries.
He has also set up connections for a hospital and a seismology department, which now tracks data coming in from tremor monitors across the country over the Internet.
For now, Mikeka has only connected a few hundred people, but he believes that with a little luck and the regulator’s blessings, he can use the technology to extend an Internet connection to half the Malawian population in two years.
And why stop there? “This technology has huge potential, and African countries share so many similarities,” Mikeka believes. So at the recent African Internet Governance Forum, Mikeka preached the benefits of the mesh. With great success: After his talk, enthusiastic participants from across the continent announced their interest: “[People in] Uganda would like to have it done, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria—some have even already bought equipment.”
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has published draft amendments to its Universal Service and Access Obligations (USAO), including removing the demand for mobile network operators to provide millions of SIM cards to under-serviced areas.
MTN, Vodacom and Cell C were all obliged to provide 2.5 million SIM cards to the respective areas when they were awarded 1800MHz spectrum, however none have carried out the task.
There was also a requirement for the three to connect 5,000 public schools to the internet in relation to their 3G spectrum allocation. According to ICASA however, to date Vodacom has connected just 703 schools, MTN has achieved 593 schools and Cell C just 81 schools.
Neotel meanwhile had been obliged to connect 2,500 public school or further education and training colleges (FETs), but has so far has only connected 50 FETs and two public schools.
State-owned Sentech has also connected just 103 rural public schools of the 5,000 it has been asked to hook up over a period of nine years.
Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) has however connected 1,800 schools to the internet, when it was obliged to connect just 1,000.
ICASA is now saying the SIM-card and handset distribution obligations (also, not fully implemented), are “no longer relevant” having conducted extensive reviews.
“In 2010, the Authority published a draft findings document in which it was found that the Community Service Telephones (CSTs) were the only obligation that was fully completed, whereas the sim card and handset obligations were not fully completed,” ICASA said.
“The Authority conducted public hearings in 2011 based on the draft findings document. Subsequently, the Authority undertook a review process of all imposed obligations based on the findings of 2010 and found that sim-card and handset distribution obligations were no longer relevant.”
As well as completely removing the obligation of providing millions of SIM cards and thousands of handsets, any licensee asked to connect 5,000 schools will now have to connect just 1,500, while the 2,500 figure comes down to 750 and 1,000 to 300. Each licensee is however obliged to connect at least 300 during the 2013/2014 financial year. Interested parties have been given 21 days to comment.
South African mobile operator MTN has launched mobile internet cafés that will allow customers to connect and experience the smart life for free throughout the country.
MTN’s eStreet mobile internet cafés are offering subscribers a free interactive service to help and educate them about smart devices, connect digitally that will make their lives brighter and bridge the digital divide.
As smart devices are becoming part of our everyday lives and digital communications are becoming the norm, it is essential that consumers feel comfortable using these devices and are made aware of all the benefits, applications and digital platforms available.
“Through the MTN eStreet mobile internet café we are giving consumers the opportunity to not only experience the bold new digital world, but learn how it will benefit their lives, bridging the digital divide and connecting communities for the good of the country.
“The MTN eStreet mobile internet café will travel around the country, especially to the often forgotten communities outside the urban centres. The café will ensure that new and existing subscribers get the most out of our world-class network, smart technologies and online solutions,” says Brian Gouldie, Chief Marketing Officer at MTN.
The MTN eStreet cafe provides consistent connectivity and all time access, promoting online information sharing and connecting with the world, like searching for job opportunities, posting their CV’s online, accessing applications that will better their lives.
“The MTN eStreet cafes is welcoming consumers to a bold new digital world,” Gouldie concludes.
- The African Union has launched the the African Online Library on Law and Governance that will provide an online database that offers legal text and secondary literature on the continents law and governance as well as comparisons to other legal systems and judgement.
The research shows that Cloud computing uptake is about to explode in Africa’s major economies, as businesses gain confidence in both the security and reliability of the Cloud.
Key findings from the survey:
While South Africa currently leads the continent in Cloud uptake, it is about to be overtaken – dramatically – by Nigeria.
In 2013, 50% South African medium and large businesses are using Cloud services; while a slightly lower proportion – 48% – are using the Cloud in Kenya. Nigeria lag’s substantially behind, with only 36% of businesses there currently using the Cloud.
A significant 44% of Nigerian businesses say they will embrace the Cloud in the coming year, bringing the total in that country to 80% by the end of 2014. This compares to 24% of organisations in Kenya and only 16% in South Africa saying they will be taking up Cloud.
The survey showed that 57% of decision-makers across the three countries had high confidence in the security of the Cloud, while a further 34% were neutral – meaning they would wait and see, but were not negatively disposed towards it. Only 1 in 10 respondents did not trust security in the Cloud.
Cisco has also released the key findings of the third annual Cisco Global Cloud Index. Cisco forecasts that global cloud traffic, the fastest growing component of data centre traffic, is expected to grow 4.5-fold from 1.2 zettabytes of annual traffic in 2012 to 5.3 zettabytes by 2017.
The Index also forecasts that through 2017, the Middle East and Africa will have the highest cloud traffic growth rate.
- Nigeria - Zamfara State Universal Basic Education Board in partnership with Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, has introduced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in public primary schools across the state. chairman of the board, Murtala Adamu Jangebe, said the state government is disturbed about the computer literacy level among the teachers and primary schools pupils, and that already, ICT centers have been established and equipped in the primary schools.
Convergence Partners - an investment management firm focused on the telecommunications, media and technology sector in Africa - has announced the launch of the Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund (CPCIF), the only infrastructure fund that is dedicated solely to the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Africa. With a first close of $145 million, it is one of the largest African based infrastructure funds, notwithstanding its single sector focus.
CPCIF, which has a targeted final close of $250 million, aims to invest in communications infrastructure and related services and technologies across sub-Saharan Africa. It expects to generate significant returns for investors, while also enabling ICT- driven socio-economic development. CPCIF reached its first close with capital commitments from the following investors: Convergence Partners (as sponsors), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the CDC Group (CDC).
“As specialist ICT investors and innovators, Convergence Partners is dedicated to accelerating investment capital, digital access and ICT infrastructure development on the continent,” says Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners. “As a result, we focus strongly on initiatives that increase the availability of communications, broadband services and new technology offerings to African people. The launch of this Fund will enable us to achieve these objectives on a greater scale.”
CPCIF will invest across sub-Saharan Africa, with no single country or region expected to dominate in terms of capital allocation. CPCIF will look to deploy capital in both regional and in-country opportunities.
The African ICT sector has seen significant growth and acts as a catalyst for economic development. According to a recent McKinsey report, increased use of the Internet in Africa could result in a contribution of $300 billion a year to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. However, the infrastructure to enable such increased use remains significantly underdeveloped.
Brandon Doyle, CEO of Convergence Partners, says: “Based on World Bank data, we estimate that there is an ICT infrastructure deficit of $20 billion a year in Africa. The evolution of the ICT landscape, with its increasing focus on shared, open access models, provides significant investment opportunity for a specialised infrastructure fund.”
South Africa based Vodacom has raised its stake in Vodacom Tanzania from 65% to 82.2% for a payment of ZAR2.5 billion (US$250 million).
It's making the purchase of the additional 17.2% stake indirectly via the purchase of a 49% in another company, Cavalry Holdings that owns 35% of the Tanzanian mobile network operator.
Vodacom Tanzania has been in existence since 1999 and now has just over 10 million customers. The country's mobile penetration rate is only 57 percent.
The transaction is expected to close before the end of the financial year‚ subject to the fulfilment of conditions.
Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri has resumed its $4.2 billion (R43bn) damages claim against MTN Group, Africa’s largest telecommunications firm, this time in the South Gauteng High Court, where it filed papers earlier this week.
The lawsuit was a continuation of the legal process that it initiated and abandoned in the US, Turkcell said yesterday.
It is alleging wrongful and intentional interference by six defendants, including MTN Group, MTN International Mauritius, MTN Limited and MTN International. Former executives Phuthuma Nhleko and Irene Charnley are listed as the fifth and sixth defendants.
Turkcell is also claiming, in alternative to the first claim, that MTN engaged in corruption and bribery. “Turkcell was awarded Iran’s first private GSM licence in 2004 but was unlawfully prevented from receiving the licence. Iran entered into a licence agreement with MTN. Information received by Turkcell indicates that our company’s exclusion, and the signing of the licence agreement with MTN, was a consequence of MTN’s illegal acts, including bribery and corruption in 2004 and 2005. Turkcell was made aware of the situation in late 2011 and acted promptly,” it said.
The action could further distract MTN, which has battled tough trading conditions and upheaval in its executive ranks during the year. MTN said it noted reports that Turkcell had filed the suit but at this stage was unable to comment further because it had not received or viewed the court papers.
“Although we don’t have the details of the case, MTN continues to believe that there is no legal merit to Turkcell’s claim and will accordingly oppose it,” the company said.
The amount sought does not come close to even a quarter of MTN’s R365bn market cap at yesterday’s closing price, but the lawsuit is likely to create reputational damage. The stock rose 0.94 percent to R196.98.
Five months ago, Turkcell dropped the case in the US after a Supreme Court ruling barred foreign companies from suing in its courts over disputes emanating from abroad. The ruling was without prejudice to the merits of Turkcell’s case and it promised to re-file elsewhere.
Turkcell may have better success in South Africa. Grant Herholdt, a director at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, said: “In terms of South African law, a court will have jurisdiction over a matter if the defendant ‘resides’ within its jurisdiction. If the company’s main business is carried on in a particular jurisdiction, it will be deemed to reside within that jurisdiction.”
The case is unlikely to be heard next year. Eric van den Berg, a partner at Fasken Martineau, the law firm representing Turkcell, said a trial date would be set depending on the process “but definitely not before the end of next year”. A plea would be due in about two months, Van den Berg said.
In the summons, Turkcell claims a valid contract was in place between the Turkcell Consortium and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Iran after the consortium was selected as the successful bidder for Iran’s first private licence for a GSM network, and paid the necessary fees.
Nhleko and Charnley, acting alone and or in concert, alternatively other representatives of MTN, interfered in the contract “with intention of inducing the Iranian government to prevent the first and second plaintiffs from receiving the GSM licence and to award it instead to a consortium of which the second defendant would be a part”.
Turkcell alleges MTN used “existing relationships with the South African minister of defence, the South African president and the South African ambassador to Iran with the aim of exerting influence over individuals and the Iranian government to cause the latter to renege on its commitments to the first and second plaintiffs”.
Zimbabwe does not have a legal framework that governs mobile banking services, opening up the sector to unacceptable practices, a Bankers Association of Zimbabwe official said on Friday.
BAZ president George Guvamatanga told participants at the presentation of results of a survey on the banking sector by a local publishing house that there is a proliferation of banking services that are not properly regulated.
“We are promoting unacceptable practices,” Guvamatanga said.
Zimbabwe’s three mobile phone network operators, Econet, Telecel and NetOne all run mobile money transfer services with the approval of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Econet, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator, has gone further to launch a savings facility which allows subscribers to hold accounts under its Ecosave service, which is linked to Steward Bank, an institution it wholly owns.
Users can save as little as a dollar on their accounts. Its money transfer service, Ecocash, has over three million subscribers and has handled transactions worth over $2 billion since it was launched in August 2011.
Analysts say none of these services are covered by the Banking Act, adding that the central bank used its discretion to approve them.
“My view is that we do not make clear and straight forward policies. Most of the policies and guidelines give a lot of discretion to the regulator…we need to reduce discretion and implement clear cut policies that are backed by legislation, this will minimise misinterpretation and policy reversals,” said Guvamatanga.
Critics of the banks have, however, accused them of failing to innovate and seeking to use the law to gain protection from technology firms which are encroaching into financial services.
Paga Mobile Payment Services has said it recorded 4.4 million transactions valued at N47 billion in the last two years as more Nigerians embrace the cashless policy.
Also, the firm rewarded, Murphy Ishichie, who emerged its one millionth customer with a cash prize of N100, 000 in Lagos. Commenting on the feat achieved by the mobile payment firm, Chief Executive Officer, Paga, Tayo Oviosu, described the one million users mark in two years as fantastic.
Oviosu said: “Knowing that every minute 12 Nigerians get their payment problems solved using Paga excites our team. It has taken teamwork and partnership to get here. I am grateful to our over 160-person team, our investors who believed in us and provided the funding to execute our plans, our agents who are the lifeblood of Paga, and our business partners.
He noted the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria to his firm. The Paga boss however pointed out that the continued growth and success of the industry was hinged on the ability of all stakeholders to work together.
On his part, the Co-founder of Paga, Jay Alabraba, said achieving the one million users’ market reflects the significant growth prospect for mobile payment in Nigeria.
Alabraba said the goal of the firm was also to deliver low cost banking services to Nigerians.
Also, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Mobile Payment Operators (ALMPO), Dara Owolabi, congratulated Paga over the feat it achieved, saying that it showed that Nigerians were ready and eager to adopt new payment channels.
Lagos. November 21, 2013: Nigerians that can prove they suffered damage from “an unlawful processing operation” of their private data by an organisation may soon heave a sigh of relief as they will receive compensations under a major data protection plan underway by government.
Under several identity programmes, the private information of Nigerians collected for needs ranging from banking, mobile telephony, electoral, national ID card, among other needs now reside with several public and private sector organisations who have become custodians of sensitive biometric information of the citizenry.
The plan also enables Nigerians have greater say in who collects their private data and what they are used for under a government programme to regulate and protect vital information of the citizens amid growing Internet penetration in the country to guarantee that “personal data must be processed fairly and lawfully.”
Under several identity programmes, the private information of Nigerians collected for needs ranging from banking, mobile telephony, electoral, national ID card, among other needs now reside with several public and private sector organisations who have become custodians of sensitive biometric information of the citizenry.
The Federal Government appears set to ensure greater safeguard for private information of Nigerians and will require organisations holding private of Nigerian to appoint a Data Security Officer (DSO), the equivalent of an in-house gatekeeper for organisations to maintain data protection compliance, among other stringent protection and regulatory measures.
The government plan will cover broad personal data seen as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (“data subject”); information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.”
Law enforcement and security agencies will be excluded from plan as the “Guidelines does not cover the processing of personal data processing operations concerning public security, defence, national security and the activities of the nation in areas of criminal law”, according to government.
The plan is the initiative of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the National IT Policy implementing agency, which has unveiled the Draft Guidelines on Data Protection obtained by TECHNOLOGY TIMES that mandates government and private organisations to comply with measures to safeguard vital private information of Nigerians in their custody.
NITDA says the document serves as “guides on the processing of information relating to identifiable individuals (Personal Data), including the obtaining, holding, use or disclosure of such information to protected such information from inappropriate access, use, and disclosure.”
A young social entrepreneur from Kenya might have solved one of the conundrums of the Facebook generation - how to stop social media getting in the way of studying.
Joel Mwale, a 20-year-old who never completed his own education, has realised the answer is to stop trying to push social media away, and instead embrace it.
More than one million people around the world seem to agree with him, because in the five weeks since his website Gigavia.com went live, they have signed up as users.
Teachers and schools have always faced the problem of stopping students using social media in class, seeing it as a distraction.
But they also know that teenagers are addicted to chatting to each other online.
His website allows schools and teachers to be part of it, so you can sign into class-specific areas of the site where academic materials can be shared.
There is a personal library section where you can share books at a class level, and there is a section for mentoring.
This is all on the same site which you can also use for all the usual personal social media chats and sharing with friends.
Although he wants his idea to be taken up in East Africa, his ambition is global.
Screengrab from the Gigavia website More than 50% of Gigavia users so far come from the US
His website has been developed with a team of international software developers.
The proof of its success is not only the staggeringly quick take-up by users, but also that they come from around the world.
More than 50% of users so far come from the US, and other countries like Turkey and South Africa have been quicker to sign on than Kenyans.
Rainwater for school fees?
Mr Mwale arrives on foot for our interview in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, after someone drove into the back of his car in a traffic accident.
Walking through the streets carrying a simple bag with his laptop, you would never guess that the unassuming young man in a checked shirt and canvas shoes has rubbed shoulders with former US President Bill Clinton and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
His extraordinary personal story started aged 14, when he along with others from his village near Kitale, a town in western Kenya, were struck down by dysentery from unclean drinking water.
In the local hospital, the people in the beds on either side of him died, and he thought "something has got to be done".
So he dug a borehole to reach clean water, designed a pump using an old bicycle wheel, and provided clean water for his neighbours.
Drinking water formed the basis of his first commercial venture.
When he did not have enough money for school fees, he collected rainwater from the gutters of a local milk factory, purified it, bottled it and sold it to local people during the dry season.
However, he never went back to school, and sold his "SkyDrop" water company last year for $500,000 (£307,000) to an Israeli investor.
This success brought him international recognition, a spell in the African Leadership Academy, a place on the Forbes list of "30 under 30: Africa's Best Young Entrepreneurs" and meetings with some of the top players in Silicon Valley in California.
It was there, while in a meeting with Zuckerberg that the founder of Facebook said something that made Mwale sit up. "In the next two years a start-up is going to come up and it's going to grow from zero to 200 million users in two years," he said.
Mwale says he was sitting there listening and he thought:"Wow! I'm definitely going to be that person."
It is this confidence and determination that belies his softly spoken voice; when he sets his mind to something he believes he can achieve it.
"What I've learnt is that to be successful you've got to be determined, you've got to work hard, and if you do so the world will give you a standing ovation. If you dedicate 100% of your efforts into something it will definitely succeed."
The mixture of the social and the entrepreneurial, which marked his first successful venture with SkyDrop, is central to his internet platform.
A teacher writes on a blackboard during a class at a school in Kenya - Archive shot Teachers and pupils could sign into Gigavia while in class and share material
It is free for users - although schools with more than 100 pupils signed up will have to start paying - but he also expects it to be financially successful in the future.
"I came from nothing, we had no money, and I always wanted to be rich when I was young. I want to help people improve their lives, but I'm also an entrepreneur who wants to succeed." And he seems to be succeeding with Gigavia.
The website has not been promoted in any way, it has not been officially launched, yet has gained more than a million users through word of mouth alone.
It is a simple website which looks similar to Facebook in its layout, but with the added sections for mentoring, school assignments, teachers and schools.
It is this combination of education and social media that Mr Mwale hopes is going to transform the way young people use social media.
"We are connecting education and social media together in a meaningful way."
And he is aiming high - he wants 150 million people to be using his website by March 2014.
"The reality is I started from a very low background, now I'm where I am, and I think that anyone else could do the same thing," he says.
"You've just got to remain focussed, and work hard, and never give up."
Founded by three university friends, MyMusic.com.ng is an ambitious startup aiming to be the major online distribution channel for Nigerian music. The new digital service is focused on providing an easy and affordable way for music fans to access their favorite songs, which are often hard to find in one place.
"We have no single source of aggregated Nigerian music of African origin," says Tola Ogunsola, chief executive and co-founder of MyMusic. "So Africa is missing on the world map in terms of musical content -- so the potential is huge."
MyMusic is designed to work similarly to other digital music stores, such as iTunes. But its payment options are largely catered to deal with the characteristics of the Nigerian market, which is mainly a cash only society.
Mobile phone users can select the song they want to download and pay instantly for it using their credit. Songs cost 50 naira, or about 31 U.S. cents.
"When users click the pay by mobile button, the download is automatically initiated on their mobile phones and the fee is deducted from their mobile credit," explains co-founder Damola Taiwo, who is also the startup's chief operating officer.
Nigeria, Africa's second biggest economy, is one of the biggest and fastest growing mobile markets in the continent, with more than 100 million active subscribers.
It's this market that the young entrepreneurs behind MyMusic hope to tap, filling a musical void for the country's cell phone users.
"Mobile holds the biggest potential for us," says Taiwo, adding that more than 40 million phones in Nigeria are connected to the web.
"The majority of these users have their mobile phones as their only connection to the internet and any form of technology."
Computer users can also download songs via the pay by mobile method -- entering their phone number on MyMusic's website -- on top of the standard credit card and PayPal payment methods.
In developed economies, most people began using the internet on their computers. However, in Africa, online usage is being propelled forward by mobile phones.
“Africa is special because we are leapfrogging, but the needs and the demands [of users] are pretty much the same,” said Brett St Clair, Google’s head of new products for sub-Saharan Africa.
In an interview with How we made it in Africa, St Clair said Google used to think it needed to build specific African solutions for the users on the continent.
“Essentially what we really looked at was SMS solutions, and the only reason why we looked at SMS solutions is because there wasn’t that penetration of smartphones or internet-connected devices [that is seen in developed countries]. Our entire business is based on the internet. So we started looking at how we can build SMS-based services to try and tap into a non-internet world. And it’s very difficult to scale. We haven’t seen any major success,” he explained.
“We have sunsetted quite a few of the programmes. We tried Gmail SMS – we thought that would be really exciting – but because of the nature of the SMS protocol it’s very difficult to try do email at scale. When I say scale, we are interested in not just a couple of hundred thousand people doing it, but hundreds of millions of people doing it,” he continued. “So what we are focusing on now is bringing the services we know people want [to Africa].”
According to St Clair, a lot of Africa’s online activity started with social media and online entertainment. He said there is a huge appetite for YouTube in Africa, in which Google is investing heavily. However, the problem is that the networks are not fast enough and the data is not cheap enough.
“We have said, let’s rather build a low bandwidth YouTube so that people with an entry level internet device can connect to it and that can operate literally at a modem speed,” he explained.
Google Apps catering for African SMEs
Google Apps offers cloud-based services where all data is backed up online. St Clair said a lot of schools and businesses in Africa use this service, rather than some of the Windows services.
“Where we are seeing a lot of traction is helping businesses in Africa that don’t necessarily have the means or expertise or the money to invest in servers and skill sets to deploy this IT infrastructure – when all they need [for Google Apps] is internet access whether it comes off mobile or desktop. So we are seeing a huge adoption of these kind of cloud services.”
However, he added that the usage of these Google Apps in Africa is not where it should be, purely because of the cost of data in Africa.
Translating African languages
St Clair pointed out that there are over 2,100 different dialects in Africa, and few of these languages are catered for on the web.
“We are really excited about language because, essentially, why should everyone be forced to read the internet in English?”
He added that as Google tries to attract the next 5bn users, a major challenge will be literacy. “So let’s try make it as easy as possible to at least be able to read it in your own language. Let’s use voice services that can speak to you in your own language. It’s about translating the web and it’s also about translation services.”
With Google Voice Search users can speak their queries into their mobile phones. The service currently supports the South African languages of Zulu, Afrikaans and South African English.
“There are challenges with the [tongue] click [in African languages]; how the computer understands the different types of clicks. So that’s a very interesting space to be working in to try and unlock that. But because we are going into a world of wearable devices, the user interface is changing dramatically. And I think we are going to see a huge acceleration in voice recognition and command systems,” said St Clair.
Africa is a massive continent which, in recent years, has seen a lot of investment in infrastructure, with the construction of new roads and residential, industrial and commercial areas. Maps can become outdated quickly and St Clair said he thinks Google’s “biggest win” is with Google Map Maker which is now available across the whole of Africa. This allows users to contribute to mapping the world and documenting new developments.
Google is also slowly introducing Google Street View to Africa. “We are lighting up Street View. We lit up South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana and we are trying to do as many countries – to provide Street View data to the consumer. Okay, it does require broadband and it does require smartphones, but we are also seeing that it is happening,” St Clair said. “And as the price [of data] comes down it will accelerate.”
Pathfinder International is exploiting mobile technology to address youth sexual and reproductive health in Mozambique and Ethiopia.
Text messages and stories are being used to provide young people with information about their health and where to get services.
The USAID-funded project mCenas!, which means 'mobile scenes' started in Mozambique and is the country's first ever text messaging campaign that delivers information and stories about sex and contraception to young people.
HIV and reproductive health
This innovative programme could have a big impact in breaking down barriers for young people who want to access services, such as family planning or HIV testing and treatment.
And this is particularly important when it comes to combating HIV as 40% of new HIV infections occur in young people aged 15-24.
Julie Mellin, Link Up lead for GYCA, a consortium global policy partner, said: "Ensuring young people, especially those living with or affected by HIV, have access to comprehensive sexuality education and family planning information increases positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Text messaging is a great way to make it easier for young people to access vital information without fear or embarrassment."
- Mozambique's Vodacom has launched a credit facility that lets prepay customers dip into a small debt on their account balances.
- Morocco based Inwi has deployed a SIM based Facebook messaging application supplied by Gemalto.
GISPA re-elects Mr. Ernest Brown as President
Mr. Ernest Brown was re-elected at the association's general meeting held at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel last Thursday, November 21.
At the same event, Mr. Alexander Sulzberger was also re-elected as a member to the GISPA board.
Three new members; Richard Densu of MTN, George Gabla of Internet Solutions Ltd and Emmanuel Adjei of Airtel were also elected to the board.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Brown renewed his desire to continue to work to improve the outlook of the association by putting in place a restructuring exercise to make it more vibrant and improve its advocacy for the consumer.
He also said the new board will embark on a yearly publication of internet statistics to determine the actual contribution of its members to economy of Ghana.
Mr. Brown further cautioned that the new increases in Value Added Tax (VAT) rates had the tendency of increasing prices of internet services in the country.
He therefore urged the government to consider giving tax rebates to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to make up for the VAT increases.
The Ghana Internet Services Providers Association (GISPA, www.gispa.org.gh), is a professional, non-profit trade association representing the interests of local ISPs and other internet providers.
The strength of the association rests on its ability to be truly representative of the Ghanaian internet industry as a whole. GISPA currently has twenty (24) members.
The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!
At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced. We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event. Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
You can find the SMW Lagos schedule click here