For Africa’s digital economy to work, it desperately needs an effective payments system that can handle micro payments and with transaction costs that are reasonable. Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative has partnered with payments provider Skrill to offer an answer. Russell Southwood spoke to Nilesh Pandya, SVP Emerging Markets, Skrill and Frank McCosker, General Manager, Affordable Access and Smart Financing Africa Initiatives.
Owned by private equity company CBC, Skrill has been operating since 2001 in the online payments space. It has partnered with Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative to launch its e-commerce platform in Africa: the product has been designed in such a way that it will both meet African requirements and lower transaction costs.
The platform is designed to bring hundreds global internet brands to the African digital consumer for the first time: it has 180,000 merchants on its platform globally.
Through the platform, users will now be able to use their mobile wallets and digital currency to buy from Africa’s online merchants, including iROKOtv, Spinlet, and a range of social gaming providers – all at a fraction of the cost of a typical online transaction. It can also be used to send international remittances more cost effectively.
Skrill works from an online portal (branded by the operator) that allows the user to create a mobile wallet and to fill it. Access to the portal is free with the data charges being picked up by the operator. Customers can make payments for transactions using a simple PIN number to validate the transaction. The merchant is charged a 20% fee by Skrill per transaction, part of which it pays part to the mobile operator.
Although this is still high (and higher than some credit card charges), it is nonetheless lower than the 50% mobile operators charge for USSD airtime billing. And on its international remittance transfers, it only charges 5% to the customer making the transfer.
Nilesh Pandaya, Skrill stresses the benefit to mobile operators of getting customers to use data for a wider range of everyday things to replace falling voice revenues. It has already signed a partnership with MTN, been integrated into MPesa and has several other operator announcements in the pipeline. The MPesa service has not yet been marketed but has already done 5 million euros in authorized transfers.
From Microsoft’s point of view, the initiative is a mix of soft and hard purposes. The portal gives the user access to its One Drive product that has all the MSOffice software for free. Skrill is also integrated into its Skype offering and can be paid for using Skrill. At the softer level, there is also a virtual library of useful materials and services including commodity prices, feed prices and weather.
Skrill may turn out to be an answer rather than the answer to Africa’s payments pain barrier but something that unlocks digital payments is as good a start as we’re going to get. More and better will follow as the mobile operators get the hang of content and services and people paying for them…
Correction: In the Top Story in our last issue, we said that there are 66,000 Netflix subscribers in South Africa. After some discussion with those who responded that this figure was incorrect, with their help, we’ve reached the conclusion the figure is more likely to be 10-12,000. However, this still remains an extremely large number of people using a service that is not yet available in South Africa ☺
Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act’s web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it will cover online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 20 issues and these can be viewed on this link:
Essential reading for those in mobile VAS to anyone just interested in what African and relevant international content they can now get online. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with Digital Content Africa in the title line. Some examples of past issues below:
Digital Content Africa Z24: The South African TV announcer who runs a fashion blog from Moscow which she is going to turn into a business
Videos interviews to watch:
Pascal Schmitz, iBiskop on overcoming the three barriers to downloading: bandwidth, price & piracy
Orange Madagascar has signed an agreement with the country's urban, regional and national bus operators to allow passengers to pay their fare by using the Mobile Money service, Agence Ecofin reports.
The same platform can be used by the transport companies to pay for fuel and other services at Total service stations, pay salaries and buy phone credit. Orange could also provide the Mobile Money service to the government to transfer subsidies to bus operators to keep prices stable despite the increase in fuel prices.
Developed together with a local start-up Dynamic Data Systems, the partnership is the first in an anticipated series of partnerships Safaricom will be pursuing with local developers and start-ups.
"We strive to be the first to market with pioneering products that help transform the lives of our customers but we are aware that we cannot innovate alone. Our partnership with Dynamic Data Systems signals our increasing commitment to build capacity in the local start-up community," Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said.
M-Ledger provides an easily accessible accounting service for users by allowing them to view and manage all their past transactions on a single view from their mobile phone.
Modelled on traditional ledgers as used in the accounting profession, the solution provides historical data on past transactions as well as providing the option to extract the data in spreadsheet form.
The application also has a universal search functionality allowing users search for Paybill and Lipa na M-PESA till numbers.
M-Ledger was one of 18 applications developed during the inaugural 2013 Safaricom Appwiz Competition which is aimed at building and nurturing mobile tech start-ups that build innovative, relevant and attractive solutions for Kenyan consumers and enterprises.
Participants in the competition were also provided with skills training in business planning, marketing, quality product development and financial management as part of the incubation period of the program.
"We launched the competition with the long-term intention of creating the foundation for a vibrant m-economy that is locally-driven. Today's partnership cements the commitment we are making to continued partnerships to deliver that vision," Collymore noted.
In two weeks, Safaricom will be hosting the second edition of its Appwiz Awards that recognize commercially viable projects developed by local firms.
M-Ledger will be available from the Safaricom Appstore to M-PESA customers who use Android-based mobile phones.
The application already has already over 35,000 downloads.
Source: Capital FM 18 November 2014
Access Bank Plc and Airtel Nigeria Limited have gone into a partnership to introduce a mobile money service known as Access Money.
The service allows customers to perform simple, secure and instant financial transactions using their mobile phones.
With the service, customers on the mobile network can send and receive money, make deposits and withdrawals, pay their utility bills and buy airtime for their lines.
In addition, it provides the ability for customers to receive money through agents nationwide or through cardless withdrawals from any Access Bank ATM machine.
Speaking at the launch of the product in Lagos yesterday, Group Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe said: “Through Access Money, we will be providing financial access to more and more people and small businesses; creating an easier channel for the distribution of financial aid; and also making it easier for government to receive taxes and deliver welfare payments.”
According to him, Access Bank and Airtel agreed to introduce the platform into Nigeria’s financial landscape in line with the financial inclusion initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“It is something that reaches new groups of people and helps them to build and grow the success stories of tomorrow. And it’s something we are proud to champion,” he added.
On his part, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya said his organization, as an innovative operator in the telecoms market was strategic in partnering Access Bank in order to create an enabling avenue for millions of Nigerians to gain financial inclusion.
“With Access money powered by Airtel, millions of Nigerians will be able to make purchases, pay for services and receive payments by the touch of a simple button on their phones,” added.
“We are indeed proud of our partnership with Access Bank and hope that many Nigerians will take advantage of this product,” he said.
To deposit money into the Access Money, customers were advised to visit any authorised agents, any Access Bank.
“Customers will receive confirmation or notifications SMS for transactions performed. The service is also aimed at promoting financial inclusion for those with no access to formal financial services.
“This collaboration between Airtel and Access Bank will deepen financial inclusion and bring more Nigerians into the formal financial system. This will serve to support CBN’s financial inclusion target of 80 per cent of Nigerians by 2020,” Wigwe added.
Telecel Zimbabwe said it has entered into voice roaming agreements with seven countries for its prepaid customers and 58 data roaming deals for its postpaid customers. Telecel roaming services were previously available for postpaid subscribers only. The mobile operator said roaming agreements for prepaid subscribers had been concluded with among others South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi. Telecel has already over 360 roaming agreements for its postpaid customers, which previously did not include data services. The company expects to add more international data roaming partners soon.
MTN is giving a free 12-month subscription to simfy Africa to all subscribers who purchase a Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact.
This will give them quick and easy access to streamed music.
With simfy Africa, users can get access to a number of benefits including offline usage, the ability to synch their account automatically so that playlists and favourites are instantly available, access the radio, receive the latest
recommendations and get a tailored ‘My Music’ section.
Larry Annetts, chief marketing officer of MTN South Africa, says the offer makes sense in the current technology landscape where consumers want to access music on the move.
“This is an incredible value proposition and unlike anything else on the market. Music streaming is the current trend in music services globally. Across the world, and now in South Africa, music lovers are enjoying the quick and easy
access to music that only a streaming service can provide.
“At MTN, we are proud to bring value added services that are relevant to the needs of our customers. We believe that our world class network will provide a seamless experience for users who will benefit from this proposition,” says Annetts.
In June 2014, simfy Africa was the first streaming service in South Africa to announce a partnership with a mobile operator when it launched its exclusive partnership with MTN.
A competitive monthly simfy Africa product also remains on sale via MTN, with a 14-day free trial enabling everyone to sample the simfy Africa library of over 27-million songs. MTN customers can then get a month’s access for R49.00.
The latest simfy Africa platform, currently available to all customers, has been strategically and specifically updated for the African environment. With the recent “buy back” of simfy Africa from its German partner, simfy Africa now operates as a truly independent entity focused on the African market. This major step has greatly improved the company’s ability to innovate.
Simfy Africa CEO Davin Mole comments: “Simfy Africa separated from simfy Germany in early 2014 as the companies were organically moving in opposite directions. We are working on localization of features and conservative use of data that is clearly not a concern in Europe. It was important for us as a company to be focused on African consumers. The fact simfy Africa is now independent and 100% locally based means we can do just that.”
Vodafone and Afrimax Group - a 4G LTE telecommunications operator in sub-Saharan Africa - jointly announced a strategic framework agreement to cooperate and explore opportunities for Partner Market agreements in the region. Vodafone has also announced a Partner Market agreement in Uganda with Afrimax.
Under the non-equity framework agreement, Vodafone and Afrimax will explore potential Partner Market opportunities in a variety of territories in sub-Saharan Africa.
Under the Partner Market agreement in Uganda, the two companies will offer customers voice and data products and services using the ‘Vodafone Uganda’ brand. Vodafone’s multinational corporate customers will benefit from the addition of Uganda to their existing contracts for international managed services.
The framework agreement will complement Vodacom Group’s operations in South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and Mozambique and has been agreed in conjunction with Vodacom Group.
Source: Press Release
The government of Ghana is reportedly planning to scrap the 20% import duty on mobile, cellular and satellite telephone handsets, which was passed by parliament in mid-2013, BizTech Africa reports. Minister of Finance Seth Terkper stated that the new proposal, which has yet to be presented to parliament for approval, will help increase the country’s smartphone penetration, which currently stands at 15%, while also assisting the government in its policy of bridging the country’s ‘digital divide’.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill that re-introduced the 20% import duty was enacted in July 2013. Previously, in 2008 the government removed import duties on mobile handsets in order to encourage usage, although the Finance Committee argued that the move did not yield the projected results, since the price of handsets actually increased over the period.
The new amendment bill also seeks to create a better environment for local handset manufacturers to compete in the telecoms market, in addition to raising an estimated GHS49.8 million (USD24.14 million) for the treasury’s coffers.
Egypt’s mobile app users are predominantly young: 75% of adult mobile apps users in Egypt are younger than 34 years of age
A new Arab Advisors Group survey of Egypt’s mobile application users was concluded in November 2014. The survey revealed that young dominate the ranks of mobile app users in Egypt. The survey further reveals that around a 30% of Egypt’s mobile app users are not aware of the operating system of their smartphone.
A new major survey of the Mobile application users in Egypt was concluded by the Arab Advisors Group in November 2014. Based on Arab Advisors' multiple surveys and research, Arab Advisors Group estimates that mobile app users constitute some 29% of total cellular users in Egypt.
The survey report, "Mobile Apps Use in Egypt 2014" was released on November 5, 2014 and provides the results of a major comprehensive Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI) survey of Mobile apps use in Egypt. The survey probes the respondents’ adoption and habits of using smartphone applications including messaging, calling, gaming, social media, news, religious, and video applications. The survey was conducted based on the demographic breakdown in Egypt for the Egyptian population above 15 years old. The report has 90 pages and 67 exhibits.
Respondents were called through randomly generated numbers. The survey results encompass answers from 701 respondents that passed rigorous quality control checks. Quality control was conducted by the Arab Advisors Group’s team and included randomly re-calling respondents for authenticity and double checking their answers on a selected list of questions. The survey yields a confidence level of 99% with a margin of error of less than 5%.
“The survey revealed high popularity of social media applications in Egypt; 92.6% of mobile app users reported using them, while 86.4% of mobile app users reported using messaging applications. The survey also revealed a decrease in SMS usage due to messaging applications. 87% of mobile app users reported sending SMS messages before messaging applications compared to 58.6% of mobile app users who still send SMS messages.” Mr. Omar Ja’abari, Arab Advisors Group Senior Research Analyst, noted.
Source: Press Release
MTN Uganda will compensate data customers who have lost money through the multiple data activations they experienced over the last few months, Brian Gouldie, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda, said.
"We learnt of the problem our data customers have been facing and we have for the last ten days been fully engaged to identify the problem. MTN has grown by 50 per cent year in year out and the volumes of transactions have increased, and that's why we have to upgrade the system to support our customers' needs," he told journalists at MTN towers in Kampala.
The monetary value of the data activations is not known, and neither is the compensation package. Data services are increasingly becoming a strong revenue base for telecom companies as internet penetration continues to deepen in the country, although the money from the voice services is still higher.
Gouldie attributed the system instability to the large customer base the company is handling. MTN, the biggest telecom firm in terms of subscribers, boasts of about 10.3m customers, with 3.4m of these being data users, the company noted.
Gouldie said that at the moment the company will halt launching of new products until the system is stabilised fully. Between June and July, data customers experienced a range of degraded services, which ranged from multiple data bundle activation failures, leading to multiple charges, delayed data bundle loading, failed activation, and inaccurate data bundle billing, among others. Disgruntled customers vented their anger on such social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
About 7,800 of the 3.4m data subscribers had been affected by the data system instability, the company noted. Customers that have been affected by the system lapse are encouraged to contact the customer care data help lines or the nearest service centres countrywide to have their issue dealt with on a case by- case basis.
Subscribers of Telecommunication firm Expresso can now make calls to MTN following the decision of the latter to restore services to Expresso.
MTN on November 1, 2014 alerted its subscribers through a text message of its decision to block calls from Expresso due to the latter’s indebtedness.
Shortly after that, Airtel also blocked calls from its network to Expresso over similar concerns.
The National Communication Authority, NCA has since intervened to resolve the impasse between Expresso and the two telecommunication companies.
It is, however, unclear what exactly might have necessitated the latest move by MTN.
MTN has over 13 million subscribers on its network while Expresso has about 124,000 subscribers, according to figures released in August by the National Communication Authority.
Nigeria’s telecoms industry’s regulator the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has announced a clampdown on Owntel Communications. According to the NCC, the company was providing telecommunications services without an operational license.
The ban was announced by the Salisu Abdul-led NCC enforcement team that visited the office of Owntel. The team confiscated some of its equipment as evidence for illegal operation.
Prior to the ban, Owntel offered vehicle tracking telecommunications services in addition to sales and installation of fixed and mobile telecommunication terminals. NCC described the company’s operations as illegal and is defrauding the Nigerian government.
The company installs communication equipment such as CCTV Camera, GSM terminal, Routers and Internet Modems, including Walkie Talkie and other mobile devices. Nigerian law stipulated that to provide such services requires an operational license from the NCC.
Abdul said: “Owntel is providing telecommunication services, especially vehicle tracking services, which involve network and data services that require licence, yet it is operating without any licence.”
NCC said on October 8 it warned Owntel and informed it of implications of its action. “We gave them time to respond to begin the process of registration, but the company bluntly disregarded the warning and continued in the illegal business,” Abdul said.
The latest Ericsson Mobility Report launched yesterday (Wednesday) revealed that proliferation of mobile technology continues to grow at a rapid pace. According to the report, Africa has topped 880 million in mobile subscriptions for Q3 2014, whilst 90 per cent of the world’s population over six years old is predicted to have a mobile phone by 2020.
Wale Goodluck, Corporate Service Executive for MTN Nigeria has announced the network’s commitment towards improving its quality of service (QoS). He said this at the recently held 76th Telecoms Consumer Parliament organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Lagos.
Telkom has revealed that it has stopped its roll-out of fibre-to-the-home in Parkview and Parkhurst
“We have stopped our fibre roll-out into Parkview and Parkhurst,” the head of Telkom’s retail and consumer division, Attila Vitai, told media at a launch event for the network operator’s LTE Advanced (LTE-A) services in Parkview today.
This doesn’t mean that Telkom isn’t rolling out any fibre to the areas, Vitai added, just that it no longer has plans to offer its own fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network there.
“We’ve rolled out fibre to our exchanges,” Vitai said, explaining that they wouldn’t be able to offer LTE-A services without fibre backhaul to its wireless network sites.
Telkom’s revelation comes after the two affluent suburbs announced that they had entered into deals with other fibre network players to build networks in the area.
Vumatel recently announced that the first homes in Parkhurst had been connected to its network, while Parkview announced that Dark Fibre Africa would be building its fibre network.
Brian Armstrong, group chief operating officer at Telkom, said that they see LTE and FTTH as complementary products.
“Parkview and Parkhurst were on our network roll-out map two years ago, but there were market developments and we had to respond to them,” Armstrong said to explain why they stopped their FTTH deployments in the suburbs.
Telkom Internet accounts on Vumatel, DFA
Asked whether Telkom would offer Internet packages on top of Vumatel and Dark Fibre Africa’s networks in Parkhurst and Parkview, Vitai said that they are open to the idea.
He added that the company was already in discussions to offer its retail services on these third-party networks.
Queried about why they decided to roll out LTE-A in Parkview and Parkhurst first, Armstrong said it was because they believe in competing vigorously.
“And if this is where the competition is, this is where we will be,” Armstrong said.
Liquid Telecom has unveiled its progress in laying Fibre To The Home over which it is providing homes and small businesses with unlimited data packages and 100Mbps, the fastest broadband ever available in Africa.
The service has already gone live in Zambia through various retail outlets; and in Zimbabwe via retail ISP ZOL Zimbabwe, part of the Liquid Telecom Group.
Plans are now underway to launch FTTH on a wholesale and retail basis in Kenya, Rwanda and two further countries early next year.
At a press conference held today, Liquid Telecom’s CEO Nic Rudnick revealed that the company is laying more than 100km of new fibre every week. He said that Liquid Telecom’s goal is to deliver The Real Internet into Africa by setting the highest possible standards for internet access with the fastest available broadband speeds and widest penetration across the continent.
Rudnick, who was recently named as one of the 100 most influential people in the global telecoms industry, outlined the four requirements needed for FTTH to work in Africa:
· International connectivity at a reasonable price – provided by subsea cables.
· Terrestrial backbone networks bringing capacity inland – Liquid Telecom has spent more than five years building what is now Africa’s largest fibre network spanning more than 18,000km across borders and connecting to all the subsea cables.
· Fibre rings around towns – Liquid Telecom’s fibre network includes fibre rings around the major towns and cities in DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as a regional fibre ring around the whole of East Africa. The rings enable Liquid Telecom to guarantee uptime as traffic can be rerouted in the event of a fibre cut so that service is not interrupted. Liquid Telecom builds its own fibre branches both within and outside the rings to provide FTTH.
· GPON FTTH technology – Liquid Telecom has proved that GPON technology is the most suitable FTTH technology for the African market.
Liquid’s FTTH service enables super-fast links to the Internet, giving smaller businesses the same speeds as large corporations, and enabling the use of cloud-based services such as Microsoft 365, Dropbox and online backups - as well as video conferencing based on OTT services, like Skype.
For home users, Liquid’s FTTH service now enables the whole family to be online at once using multiple devices. The packages are available without a data cap, so the usage is unlimited at all times.
Nic Rudnick said: “Our FTTH service has made accessing streamed, high-definition media via the Internet a reality for homes and small businesses in some of the remotest parts of Africa. As a household or business in Africa, you cannot really benefit from global Internet services unless you have a high-speed fibre connection in addition to a mobile device.”
He continued: “We are an ambitious and innovative organisation determined to continue investing and improving telecoms in Africa because we believe that every individual has the right to be connected.”
Source: Company Press Release
Schools in Liberia have been closed since July as the country has confronted a deadly Ebola outbreak that, so far, has killed nearly 3,000 people.
With 1.4 million school-aged children currently without access to education, tech developer Rumie is hoping to help kids continue their schooling by sending 200 low-cost tablets to Liberia. It's a relatively small number. But the people behind the Rumie Initiative believe that those 200 tablets could help as many as 2,000 people.
Rumie is part of an effort to bring digital education to Liberia. Cellcom, one of the country's major wireless providers, is working to provide learning tools on mobile devices, free of data charges, according to Forbes. Global literacy nonprofit Worldreader has also made an app that Liberian children can use to read electronic textbooks.
Rumie is set to launch a $10,000 Indiegogo campaign on Monday to send the tablets to Liberia. For $50, a child will get a tablet that comes loaded with educational games and textbooks. While the tablets aren't necessarily state-of-the-art, what's important is that they're simple to use and cheap.
"Affordability is the most important thing," Tariq Fancy, the founder and CEO of Rumie, told Mashable.
"Once you present the community with something that's cheaper, better, faster than the existing alternative, they'll go straight to that."
"Once you present the community with something that's cheaper, better, faster than the existing alternative, they'll go straight to that."
While about 69% of Liberians have access to mobile phones, just 50% have mobile web connectivity, according to the Forbes report. But Rumie insists that its tablets have a place in the Ebola-stricken country because the devices come loaded with age-appropriate education content that doesn't require a constant Internet connection.
There will be challenges, of course, like making sure kids have access to power to charge the tablets, but students can update learning content by connecting to the Internet just once a month, Fancy said.
The education system in Liberia was already shaky even before the Ebola outbreak: The country's civil war didn't end until 2003, and a stable learning environment wasn't possible until then.
Back in July, Rumie sent some of its low-cost tablets to Camp for Peace, a Liberian education organization. The tablets were supposed to be used as part of a rehabilitation program for former child soldiers, but the devices arrived right as classrooms in Liberia shuttered. Students ended up using the tablets to learn math, science and English.
According to the company, the education program using the tablets eventually grew to reach hundreds of children in the area.
"It was not intended to be a response to Ebola," Fancy said. "That just happened. The portable nature actually adds a lot of value in situations like this."
He added that 100% of all donations go toward getting Liberian kids tablets. The startup is backed by investors who are covering the overhead.
While the initial campaign is a response to Ebola in Liberia, Fancy said that he hopes to expand into other regions and causes. For example, girls in high-conflict countries where education for females is controversial could learn at home, he said.
Source: Mashable 20 November 2014
Focus Softnet, a global ERP and software solutions development company, has announced that it has signed Future Kenya as their new partner in Kenya. According to the terms of the partnership agreement, Future Kenya will sell, deploy and support Focus Softnet’s entire range of enterprise and vertical-specific solutions as well as offer a full range of services to customers across Kenya.
Eight million people use MTN Uganda, making it the country's undisputed mobile telecom giant. According to Chimpreports.com, customers have grumbled for years about unreasonable extra charges and unexplained reductions in service. For a long time, these complaints fell on deaf ears.
Earlier this month, however, Ugandans decided to pool their influence and launch a hashtag campaign against MTN.
Justus Amanya, a local journalist, told reporters:
This week starting tomorrow 17th Nov 2014, we are going to officially hand in our dissatisfaction note and complaint to the Minister of ICT Hon George William Nyombi Thembo at his office on Parliament Avenue,” announced Justus Amanya who is leading efforts to pressure government to crack down on MTN’s “undemocratic and 24/7 robbery.
A staff blogger at Willappsug, a technology blog, summarised MTN customers’ anger as follows:
It is believed that Uganda is falling victim to multinational corporations who are now controlling politicians, media, government officials and pattern of consumption thus the misconduct of such big brands.
Ugandans who have always complained about the country’s leading Telecom Company, MTN Uganda, of charging their humble customers abnormal rates and unjustifiably deducting their airtime and internet bundles through Justus Amanya who is leading the protests for the government to crack down on MTN’s undemocratic exploitation have come out to say “This week, we are going to officially hand in our dissatisfaction note and complaint to the Minister of ICT Hon George William Nyombi Thembo at his office on Parliament Avenue.”
Qwenga, a blogger and public relations professional, noted the horrible publicity this campaign makes for MTN:
Cameroon has become the seventh African country to begin using the Calculator 28, a program that calculates female ovulation to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies. The Calculator 28 can be used via mobile phone or as a kit.
Belinda Yayin was just 15 years old when she got pregnant last year. She said she wasn’t prepared to have a baby or the stigma that comes with being an unwed schoolgirl.
"I don't even want to remember what happened. I gave birth and, two days after, I was sent back home with no follow up of what was happening to my child. The child got sick and passed away. I am almost traumatized because of this act," said Yayin.
Belinda is one of the estimated 222 million women in developing countries the World Health Organization said would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.
Tackling the issue, Gabonese-born Paul Franck Indjendjet Gondjout came up with a new tool to help women better understand their bodies and fertility.
Paul Franck Indjendjet Gondjout in Yaounde, November 14 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka for VOA)Paul Franck Indjendjet Gondjout in Yaounde, November 14 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka for VOA)
"Forty percent of girls and women don't know how to calculate their menstrual cycle. And, also, a third of women have their first babies before they are 18 years old," said Gondjout.
He developed the Calculator 28 to pinpoint ovulation - the fertile time in a woman’s monthly cycle.
"People who use our application have to send a message with the date of last menstruation and the duration and they will receive the date of next menstruation, the fertile period and the date of ovulation," he said.
Gynecologist Tumasang Florence of the Yaounde Central Hospital said this tool can have a huge impact in Africa, where there is great need to give women more information about, and control of, their bodies.
She said Africa has serious family planning problems: a majority of women do not even know what a menstrual cycle is and 40 percent of those who do know are not capable of remembering the last date of their menses - leading to unwanted pregnancies.
While Calculator 28 is SMS-based, it can also be distributed as a kit that can show women without mobile phones how to calculate their menstrual cycle and receive information on their fertile and unsafe periods for sexual intercourse.
Gondjout said his project is off to a good start, but he’d like to raise the funds to distribute this Africa-wide.
"This appliance is already open [in use] in Gabon, in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and we hope in the near time it will be all over Africa. We need money to create the physical kits to give in the rural area. We need money to give these tools to the population," he said.
Women are not the only ones interested in Calculator 28. So are some men.
Eugene Paul Ndama said he did not plan four of his wife's nine pregnancies and he wishes they had such a tool. He said Calculator 28 could be a blessing for many schools and communities, helping young people prevent pregnancy before they are ready to handle it.
Gondjout said that as U.N. member states begin to prepare their post-Millennium Development next year, more focus should be on family planning. He notes a recent U.N. report shows that, without a better strategy, 40 percent of the 2 billion children to be born in Africa before 2035 would come from unwanted pregnancies.
AfriLeaks, an anonymous whistleblowing platform for Africa, is set to launch at the end of November. DW takes a look at how the platform will work and the push for open data in Africa.
The anonymous whistleblowing platform AfriLeaks, will be launched at the end of November. But unlike the longer established Wikileaks, the Africa version won't release secret information directly to the public, according to Khadija Sharife of the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) - the organization that will host the platform.
"[AfriLeaks will] provide a secure tool for connectivity between the whistleblowers and the media who then investigate the substance and character of the leak," she told DW.
Whereas the aim of Wikileaks has been to publish and disclose information, AfriLeaks will be there to provide leads for stories to media and research organizations. The new platform will allow whistleblowers to choose the media or research organization to which they want to send the information.
AfriLeaks is just one of many initiatives aiming to make whistleblowing easier on a continent plagued by corruption and a lack of transparency. In February, WildLeaks, an online platform for reporting poaching and wildlife crimes was launched.
19 of the 36 "reliable" leaks WildLeaks has received came from Africa, says Andrea Costra
"In certain countries, [corrupt] people are able to control the police, are able to control corrupted parts of the security agencies," Andrea Crosta, founder of WildLeaks, told DW in an interview. "It's a very risky business to report, unless you have an anonymous way to do."
WildLeaks is a global platform, but more than half of the "significant leaks and leads received so far came from Africa," says Crosta. And some of the leaks contain important information on influential government officers or politicians, he adds.
But whistleblowing platforms can be abused. "Leaked information is rarely without motive and agenda," says ANCIR's Sherife.
This information could be used to misrepresent circumstances and undermine the credibility of the media house that reports it, so "verification is the difference between being useful and being used," she adds.
However, verifying the facts in most African countries can be challenging because the data isn't that reliable, according to Africa Check editor Julian Rademeyer. Africa Check is a fact-checking website that was set up by the Agence France Presse Foundation and the Department of Journalism at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. The free service monitors claims made by politicians and institutions, and checks whether there is evidence to support them.
"We have done a number of reports where the data is lacking, or the data is problematic - we then point that out," says Rademeyer. "And that's the other side of the project. There's a campaign for more open data and better data."
Initiatives like Africa Check, WildLeaks and AfriLeak show that Africans want more transparency.
"There are growing signs of people pushing for more access to information," he adds.
Earlier this year, the African Development Bank launched an open data platform for 20 African countries. Three years ago, the Kenyan government launched its own open data initiative.
AfriLeaks will launch at the end of November after the first dozen media houses have been trained on dealing with the information, according to Khadija Sherife from the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR).
Any "credible media house" is welcome to participate following evaluation and training by the ANCIR, she says.
In a first for Africa, Namibians will cast their ballots electronically in this month’s presidential and legislative polls, the election commission said Friday.
Over a million voters, or just about half of the nation’s 2,3m people, are due to vote on 28 November.
“I think it’s a big achievement for Namibia and the African continent at large,” Nontemba Tjipueja, chair of the Electoral Commission of Namibia said.
She said the voting machines, imported from India, will help improve accuracy, speed up counting, eliminate human interference and cut down on spoiled ballots.
“Results will come through the same day just after the closing of the polls,” she said, adding that final results will be announced within 24 hours.
In previous elections results took up to five days to be released.
“There will not be spoiled or rejected votes this time around. Every vote will count,” she said.
During the last vote in 2009, the electoral commission counted 12 000 spoiled ballots — equivalent to one seat in the national assembly. “It will be different this time around,” she said.
The poll body is confident of a glitch-free vote having had dry runs of the machines in recent months at three local government special elections, including one in a district of Namibia’s capital Windhoek on Friday.
Despite previous fears of possible technical problems by some opposition groups, Tjipueja said all the political parties had agreed to the use of the touch screen machines.
There are nine presidential hopefuls, but the real race will be between the ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo) party candidate Hage Geingob, and the main opposition leader Hidipo Hamutenya of the Rally for Democracy and Progress.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba is not eligible to seek re-election as he has served the limit of two-five year terms.
Geingob was the country’s premier for 12 years from 1990 to 2002.
Swapo, still liked by many for its role in winning the country’s independence in 1990, is expected to win the vote easily.
But the party has been tainted by a series of corruption scandals and persistently high inequality, prompting the emergence of populist party the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters. — Sapa
Listening to 17-year-old Feleile Naberwa pitching mobile games developed by Code Clubbers, you want to stop and ask her what her master’s degree thesis was all about. This high school student leaves you with a strong belief that Rwanda’s Vision 2020 goes beyond strategic papers and that it is indeed achievable.
A teenage team of 15 has created four mobile games and crafted a new word they hope will make it to the Oxford Dictionary, EDUFUNICATION, meaning adding fun to education.
“Reading a book is very hard for many, particularly African children. We can’t afford to miss out on learning because of such bottlenecks. That is what motivated us to do this,” Naberwa said.
He went on to say that his team wants to turn round education in Rwanda and the continent. Although listening to them pitch ideas gives you an impression that they have just flown in from New York City, California or Miami; they are simply from down the block in Kigali. In fact they are from Lycée de Kigali with coding lessons from HEHE Labs, a local startup itself.
If you are a parent wondering how your kids can improve their mathematics or thinking processes, you will love their “BeSmart” game.
BeSmart is a fun education game which trains children to think faster, develop their minds and learn subjects like mathematics and know general knowledge in an easy and fun way. BeSmart has a very cartoonish design. It has two in-built play modes which are Trivia and Number shoot out.
Trivia is a play mode which aims to teach kids about general knowledge and it is translated into three languages, English, Kinyarwanda and French, to meet the different needs of the players.
In Trivia, you will find questions like who is the president of a certain country. How many letters are in a certain word, what the highest mountain in Africa is called and many others.
Number shoot out: This is a very mathematics based play mode, which mainly asks questions about multiplication, addition, subtraction and division. Number shoot out is made in a way that the questions get harder as the player continues to play, and its design is very child-friendly.
Their second game, SEKA, helps children develop a good memory; to have quick and relevant thinking about anything and sharpen their mind for innovative ideas but parents will also find it relevant.
IHEMA, the third game, is a fun game made for the purpose of teaching kids English, Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili. This is made possible through its very creative design and way of working.
IHEMA has a purpose of increasing the number of children, who love, know and speak Kinyarwanda. You may perhaps want to ask: who wants to learn Kinyarwanda? Well, Code Clubbers has seen potential already in the Diaspora community of which they say many can’t speak the mother tongue. But before we are done with Kinyarwanda, they have also integrated Kiswahili making it an East African game further proving that young Rwandans are also paying attention to regional integration.
FORA comes fourth. A Kinyarwanda game with a mission of preserving the Rwandan culture. “It will help children know more about their culture and language wherever they are, in an easy and fun way” says one of the Code Clubbers.
Source: The New Times 16 November 2014
Orange has launched its Orange Radio application in South Africa. The App is compatible with iOS and Android devices, acts as an aggregator (integrated with Deezer), providing users with free access to thousands of radio stations and shows.
The App catalogue features over 20,000 radio stations and 5,000 podcasts, which are sorted by continent, country and genres such as music, sports, news, etc.
Orange Horizons CEO Sèbastien Crozier said: “The way in which the world is accessing digital content – whether it is video, music or even radio – is changing. Consumers are looking for easy access to personalized content on demand.”
He said that online players and telecommunications must be current and be wary of the latest trends in consumer consumption and ensure they are able to provide content along these lines.
Users are provided with a unique experience, which enables them to identify their favorite radio stations and shows, and even search for and download their favorite tracks. The application is already available in 70 countries, with
worldwide coverage targeted by 2015.
Following the launch of the application car manufacturing giant Renault has signed an agreement to include the application in all of its connected cars, through integration in the R&Go applications embedded in the new Twingo.
“Travellers will no longer need to alter their radio frequency every few hundred kilometres – Orange Radio provides constant and free access to the radio station of your choice via a bandwidth, 3G, 4G or Wifi connection, regardless of your position on the map.
“Orange is excited about the launch of the application in South Africa, as Africa is a key market for Orange in terms of the development and growth of our brand. The aim is to include as many high-quality, local radio stations as possible,” says Crozier.
Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), the country’s second largest mobile operator by subscribers, has revealed in an announcement on its website that it is currently involved in negotiations to acquire the internet service provider (ISP) business and related assets of Burco Electronic Systems, subject to the completion of applicable regulatory reviews and approvals. TNM said it believes that the acquisition would enable it to establish and deliver a broad range of telecoms services to its business customers, as well as provide enhanced services to Burco’s existing subscribers. TNM, which holds a Universal Licence allowing it provide all types of telecoms services, plans to use the assets to establish a new unit, known as TNM Business Services Division.
TNM claims that the planned acquisition of the Burco assets will represent only a small portion of its USD25 million infrastructure investment budget for 2014. ‘Although the transaction will not be significant in the context of the overall TNM infrastructure investments, the outcome of these negotiations may affect the future share price … shareholders are therefore advised accordingly to exercise caution in dealing in their shares in the company until a further announcement is made,’ the statement said. The mobile operator has submitted the required application to the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) and has informed the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and the Malawi Stock Exchange (MSE) of the developments.
Tigo Ghana has started work on a USD 3.2 million overhead fibre-optic cable project. The project is part of efforts to boost customer experience in the Western and Ashanti regions. According to Tigo Ghana, it is expected to end indiscriminate fibre cuts by illegal miners, road contractors and property developers which is affecting its network quality and user experience particularly in both regions.
Tigo Ghana recorded about 51 cable cuts every month between the Ashanti and Western regions and this is mainly due to the operations of illegal mine workers and on-going road expansion projects in both regions. The project is in three phases and will cover a 360-km stretch from Dunkwa through to Kumasi. It involves putting up some 4, 600 concrete poles and will be completed by February 2015.
“Apart from spending millions annually to replace these cables, the impact on customer and user experience is damaging to say the least,” said Obafemi Banigbe, Chief Operations Officer for Tigo Ghana.
He explained:”Putting the cables on overhead concrete poles would stop people from digging them out in the ground and this will boost network quality, improve Customer and user experience and also increase Tigo’s coverage footprints in both the Ashanti and Western regions. Both consumers and businesses will get value for money and see a massive improvement in service delivery”, he added.
The project is in 3 phases and will cover a 360 kilometre stretch from Dunkwa through to Kumasi.It involves putting up some 4,600 concrete poles and will be completed by February 2015.
Source: ITNews Africa 19 November 2014
Bharti Airtel appoints Dr. Titus Naikuni as Chairman, Airtel Kenya
Bharti Airtel, a telecommunications services provider with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, has announced the appointment of Dr. Titus Naikuni as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Airtel Kenya.
Dr. Naikuni, holds a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nairobi. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Management Development Programme and was awarded a Doctor of Science Engineering by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, an honorary award in recognition of his contribution to development.
Digital Migration and Spectrum Management Forum – Africa 2014
25th -27th November 2014
Johannesburg, South Africa
A high-level industry conference, this conference will bring together key stakeholders across the broadcasting, telecoms, broadband and associated industries to assess the latest developments in spectrum technology, applications, standard, services and platforms and the relevance to Africa.
Please click here to access the event website and to register your participation at this event.
SA's Mxit, codeX partner to enrich ICT skills
Mxit, the South African mobile social network, has partnered with codeX and is offering three bursaries to the value of R25,000 each to young Mxit users for the next intake, in February 2015.
codeX is a new incubator focused on breeding highly skilled software developers to fuel South Africa's technology ecosystem. This new apprenticeship programme trains young, talented minds to build real software products, and is supplemental to tertiary coding and programming training.
Very little coding experience is required to get in; codeX is looking for determined and creative problem solvers with a demonstrated passion for building things.
codeX was created by tech journalist and TV producer, Elizabeth Gould, former CEO of First National Bank and investor Michael Jordaan, and serial entrepreneur and engineer Dave Weber. They soon added agile coach Cara Turner to the team.
"I travel all across the continent interviewing the companies building Africa's digital future, and the most common thing they ask is if I know any developers for them to hire," says Gould, codeX CEO, who also serves as Bloomberg TV Africa's tech correspondent. "Nothing excites me more than giving more awesome young brains the opportunity to build careers in one of the main engines driving the continent's growth."
The programme actively recruits from youth leadership programmes, STEM schools, and computer training centers. The team is also focused on improving the wider gender disparity in tech.
Applications are now open and applicants can apply through the Mpower Sponsorship app on Mxit (download Mxit at m.mxit.com) or they can apply through the codeX website - applicants must be aged 18 – 24 and have an active Mxit profile to be considered.