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Issue no 758 22nd May 2015

top story

  • Africa’s e-commerce sector has now got a foothold in a wide range of countries, some obvious but many less obvious. As with m-money, it will grow in some places but not others. Russell Southwood looks at how things will change and who the winners and losers will be in the telecoms and internet sectors.

    This week I met a Kenyan entrepreneur and at the end of our meeting he called Uber to get a car to take him to his next meeting. He said that in this gridlocked city it was safer to take a car that you could get out and walk from. He was a regular user of Uber and had no complaints. The city is also covered with adverts for one of the larger e-transaction operators: you can’t say you don’t know their services exist.

    The big investors in the African e-commerce sector include: African Internet Group, Naspers (co-investors with Kinnevik in Nigeria’s Konga), Swiss-owned Ringier, Casino (a French company with e-commerce platforms in Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon) and One Media Africa (backed by Tiger Global). Naspers has been in and out of Sub-Saharan Africa in this area once already with several unsuccessful e-commerce forays. Those with long memories might remember Mocality.

    Other competitors are regionally based like South Africa’s Bid or Buy which has opened in Kenya and Middle East operator souq.com which has a large presence in Egypt. The pattern is that there will be at least one of these larger operators and one or more regional or local operators. As with pay TV, this competition actually helps give e-commerce more attention and helps grow the sector more quickly.

    The largest is probably Africa Internet Group which has a physical presence in 23 African countries and employs 5,000 people, more than some regional mobile companies. It has a portfolio of companies that includes Jumia (known as Zando in South Africa), Kaymu, Easy Taxi, hellofood, Lamudi, Carmudi, Jovago and Lendico: it will soon roll out its classifieds site Vendito. The Group has 3 shareholders with equal thirds in the company: Rocket who got the whole thing started and mobile operators MTN and Millicom.

    The motive for the two mobile operators getting involved is probably not so hard to fathom. These days most senior mobile operators have things like e-commerce, content and services on a “to-do” list and Rocket offered a more proven way of getting into the market than first-time start-ups. It is noticeable that the other major mobile operators do not have this kind of investment and stand to lose out if they do not get involved.

    The largest country spread by operator is Africa Internet Group which has 23 country operations. This is slow and fast lane Africa all over again: the dozen or so obvious markets are easy to spot (including Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). But there are some surprises for as Africa Internet Group’s Managing Director Sacha Poignonnec told me, the fastest take-up was in Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda.

    Investors put up with the difficulties found in bigger countries because the potential markets are so large (for example, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique) but smaller countries will lose out unless the pay attention to how make it easy for external and local investors to operate. Kenya and Senegal get Poignonnec’s “thumbs up” on this score because it is easy to complete the process of starting a business but Zambia also comes out surprisingly well. By contrast, although Tanzania is in that obvious places to invest group, doing business there is not that easy.

    On this basis, the investors will not go everywhere. When I spoke to Carey Eaton, CEO of One Africa Media before he was killed, he was very choosy about which countries he went into and had chosen eight that were capable of creating real markets for these kinds of services including South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. So the question for other African countries is how they create a sufficient critical mass of users to interest e-transaction investors?

    Even the seemingly ubiquitous Africa Internet Group will not go everywhere. As Poignonnec told me:”Our logic is not to roll out as many companies as possible or in as many countries as possible.” It’s not hard to see that having done its current country roll-out that the new opportunities get fewer in number.

    Another key fault line that will produce winners and losers is the method of payment. Poignonnec is clear that from the customer point of view, cash is king. Its sites may operate on the Internet but many accept cash on the doorstep when physical goods are delivered:”The main barrier to paying online is in the mind of the consumer. Cash is what they use already and seems more convenient so why say they have to pay online?...You don’t want to go against consumers. It’s a mindset change that may or may not happen”.

    He thinks that Africa’s online companies might influence a transition to e-payment but only by offering something better for not paying cash, like a price reduction. Places like Kenya are different because the mobile payment habit is much more heavily ingrained.

    In these circumstances, mobile operators benefit from increased data usage but do not get a service fee for payment transactions. They have a compelling future interest in improving all forms of e-payment – mobile and otherwise – but you don’t get the sense that they are working on the problem.

    The existence of these e-commerce operators encourages smaller start-ups outside the tech space to use them to facilitate distribution and improve revenues. Rukky Ladoja of Nigerian fashion start-up Grey has an affordable line of clothes that she sells on the Jumia platform. The absence of effective “bricks and mortar” retailers across this huge country makes e-commerce an essential channel. Fashion-based clothes and shoes at mid and high level price points are goods that do well on these platforms.

    Kenyan Diane Opoti, a fashion communications consultant who runs her own company Artemis Media made the same point about the e-commerce platforms making better “go-to-market” channels with the local spin that since Westgate terror attack high-end buyers are markedly more reluctant to go to the malls.

    She also made the point that those who will buy the cheaper clothes online are 18-25 year olds but they are unlikely to be able to afford to do so. Of course, this may change as they get older and get better jobs.

    And what will the market look like in 5-10 years time? Poignonnec told me:”The share of e-commerce may be higher than in the Western World because for example of the shortcomings in the retail sector. Online will be a significant share of business for the people we deal with like distributors, taxi drivers and hotel owners. It will shape the way they do business, not only on the Internet, making them run their businesses more efficiently. Lots of new companies will come online.”

    Internet companies and those providing e-commerce integrations should do well as the number of African start-ups and existing companies getting involved in e-commerce increases.


    Innovation in Africa is a fortnightly e-letter that covers: start-ups and investment; energy; ICT4D; 3D printing; and innovation in Africa and its cities. We have already produced 32 issues and these can be viewed here:

    Essential reading for those interested in new start-ups and innovation that will change Africa. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to info@balancingact-africa.com with Innovation in Africa in the title line. Some examples of past issues below:

    The Mother of All African Start-Ups – Africa Internet Group nurtures cash-centric e-commerce with 5,000 employees in 23 countries

    The Birth of Africa’s Francophone Start-Up Ecosystem – The realities of different cultural heritages

    3D Printing in Africa – A Slow Burn Movement with huge potential that has yet to find its growth path


    Separating Hype from Reality in the Fizzy World of Africa Start-Ups – VC4Africa survey findings


    Education entrepreneur Obinna Ukwuani, Exposure Robotics’ plans to launch the first African STEM secondary school in Nigeria

    Videos interviews to watch:
    Sacha Poingnonnec, Africa Internet Group on the challenges of running an online business in Africa

    Fernando de Sousa, Microsoft on what the business model is for TV White Spaces in Africa

    Dominic Vergine, ARM on Literacy Bridge's talking book with advice for farmers in Northern Ghana

    Candace Nkoth Bisseck on how Kaymu is connecting buyers and sellers online in Cameroon

    Dominic Vergine, ARM on Literacy Bridge's talking book with advice for farmers in Northern Ghana


    Emma Kaye, Bozza on raising GBP0.5 million its African content marketplace


    Stephen Lee on what Tigo Music (in partnership with Deezer) is doing in Africa


    GSMA's Claire Sibthorpe on a study on the gap between men and women's use of mobile phones in Africa


    Francis Dufay on breaking down the mistrust barrier to make a success of Jumia in Cote d'Ivoire


    Mohamed Diaby on hackathons, start up seed funds and online potential in Cote d'Ivoire

Money Transfer

  • BitPesa, the Kenyan digital currency exchange startup, has launched its remittance service along with new features to improve User Experience (UX) in Tanzania.

    This move will see Tanzania become the first country the startup has expanded its international money transfer service into.

    The announcement was made through, an article, on Bitpesa's official blog, which informed users of the tool that it has been made even better.

    "We've been working round the clock making BitPesa even better. Our awesome customers talk to us and shared that they use BitPesa for all of their digital financial needs. Bringing home salaries they earn from global clients, paying for goods they import and export, and sending out mobile payments to all of the people and business partners in their lives." The statement informed. "To grow alongside our customers we moved South across the map and launched in our 2nd country." It continued.

    The statement went on to further explain that anyone from any where looking to transact with someone in Tanzania can do it using Bitpesa.

    "You can now make a payment to any Tanzanian mobile money number instantly from anywhere in the world for just 3%! All major mobile money operators are included." The statement added.

    The tool has also gone further to add new features which include: Add, edit and search for your contacts right on your Pay page, calculate your payment using 7 different reference currencies and get the statuses on all your payments using our simple new dashboard.

    BitPesa launched its international money transfer in Kenya last year; In November 2014 the startup celebrated its first birthday, with goals of expanding throughout Africa. The company has slowly been working toward this goal, something that is shown by the fact that, besides its remittance product, the company operates an exchange in Kenya and Ghana.
    Source: CIO East Africa  19 May 2015

  • Seychelles has joined several African countries that have embarked on the revolutionized way of paying bills using mobile phones.

    This follows the recent launching of the ‘Mobile Wallet’ known as ‘Airtel Money’ by one of Seychelles’ telecoms providers, Airtel Seychelles.

    It allows people to store any money they have on their mobile phones to pay for goods and services without the usual direct exchange of cash, writing a cheque, transferring money from one account to another or swiping their debit or credit cards.

    This new service allows customers to use their mobiles to pay bills, send money to another person’s phone and even withdraw money; all without the need to carry any money around in their pockets or having to go to any financial services to withdraw the money.

    Airtel Money, which does not require internet or an SMS or call balance to work, can be effected through any kind of phone, from a basic one to a smartphone.

    Airtel’s Director for Airtel Money and Prepaid Sales and Distribution, Navneet Singh Mehta, explained to SNA that only Airtel Money registered customer can initiate transactions but that other network users can receive money even though they cannot make a transaction.

    "In this case, they will receive an SMS containing a password. They just have to take the password to the nearest Airtel Money Agent. The Agent will do the transaction and the money will be debited from the sender’s wallet and credited to the Agent’s wallet. Once this is done, the Agent will hand over the cash to the receiver," said Singh Mehta.

    He explained to SNA that there is a difference between an outlet like a shop that is willing to receive payment as part of Airtel money and someone who is an agent, whose role is to make a payment on behalf of a customer or top up his/her 'wallet'.

    Singh Mehta confirmed that at least 15 outlets mostly shops as well have signed settlement agreements with Airtel agreeing for them to accept payments from people registered to Airtel Money and to then claim their money from Airtel and the same amount that have agreed to be an agent.

    "We are trying to get all shops that currently sell e-fasil [top-up facility for Airtel prepaid customers] to also become money agents and accept to top-up customers wallet but as this is a new service we are still negotiating. We are also negotiating with more outlets and utility providers to also use this service and in the future we also plan to introduce this service for online payments but in Seychelles only,” said Singh Mehta.

    Airtel says there will be notices available at various outlets across the country specifying which of the Airtel Money services are available.

    Someone wishing to use Airtel Money first needs to register for the service by applying for the mobile application which requires a passport photo, an identification card and proof of address.

    Once done, the person has to dial *400# where they will be prompted to get the process started,” Singh Mehta told SNA.

    An Airtel money account can store up to five thousand Seychelles rupees [almost $400] and a small fee of less than $1 is applicable for each transaction.

    Customers will have their own personal identification number (PIN) to access their ‘virtual account’.

    Seychelles has become the 12th out of the 17 countries where Airtel operates to launch this service and it comes around 6 months after launching 4G technology in the island nation.

    Airtel Seychelles is part of global telecom services provider Bharti Airtel’s network of 20 countries across Asia and Africa in total.

    According to an article published in daily newspaper TODAY in Seychelles on Monday, the Managing Director of Airtel Seychelles, Chadian national, Amadou Dina said the company had been working on this new project for the last 18 months.

    Dina was speaking at the launching of Airtel Money at Savoy Resort and Spa, in the northern district of Beau Vallon, on the main island of Mahé on Friday last week.

    As the project involves money transfer and telecommunications other stakeholders were also involved, including the Central Bank that has issued Airtel with a license, and the department of information communications and technology (DICT).

    In 2013, the International Telecommunications Union assessed that the Indian Ocean archipelago with a population of around 90,000 people has 100 percent mobile coverage in spite of having only two telecom companies; Airtel Seychelles and Cable & Wireless Seychelles.Kokonet and Intelvision, two other local companies also provide internet services.

    The ITU reports also stated that 47 percent of the population uses the Internet, and there is 12% fixed (wired)-broadband penetration.

    Seychelles was also ranked as 2nd best in Africa and 74th worldwide in the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) 2015 compiled by the World Economic Forum.

    The ranking is based on based on the country’s capacities in the information and communication technology (ICT) sectors in comparison to 143 other countries.
    Source: Mobile Money Africa 19 May 2015

telecoms

  • THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic empowerment has summoned Telecel Zimbabwe to appear before Parliament and brief legislators on its plans to comply with the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act.

    Telecel is embroiled in a serious tussle with the government that saw the cancellation of its operating licence by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

    The High Court has, however, given Telecel a temporary reprieve to allow the company to engage the Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira over the issue.

    The committee chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena said the company had been summoned to appear before Parliament today.

    “As part of its oversight role, the above-mentioned committee is inviting Telecel Pvt Ltd board of directors, management and workers’ representatives to a meeting scheduled for Thursday 21 May 2015 at 10am in the Senate Chamber ground floor, Parliament building,” the invitation reads.

    “The purpose of the meeting is for you to brief the committee on Telecel Pvt Ltd plans to comply with the Indigenisation Act.”

    Last week, businessman Gilbert Muponda told a business meeting organised by the Black Business Forum of Zimbabwe that Telecel was granted a licence on the basis that it would incorporate everyone, including civil servants, war veterans and farmers among others, but failed to do that.

    “It came out to be a group of individuals” Muponda said. “They should be listed on the stock exchange so that the public can buy or give people with capacity. We need to give the licence to a big company to compete with Econet. It can’t be allowed to dominate the market.”

    Telecel International owns 60% of Telecel Zimbabwe, while locals, through the Empowerment Corporation, have a 40% stake in the company.
    The company has allegedly failed to pay for its operating licence, a claim Telecel disputes.
    Source: News Day 21 May 2015

  • Mobile operator Orange Bissau last week launched an ultra-high speed 3G+ mobile service in the capital Bissau, and the cities of Bafata (central region) and Gabu (east region), according to its marketing director Mauricio Mane.

    Orange intends to extend its service coverage to other major cities within the next two months, he said. Access costs for the new service are XOF250 (USD0.43) for 30MB of data (valid 24 hours), or XOF29,000 for 8GB of downloads, valid for one month.

    The cellco began testing its HSPA-based 3G+ services in February 2014, and now aims to extend the live service To help support increased data demand on the new network, Mane said: ‘Orange has invested in a fibre link to Dakar [the capital city of neighbouring Senegal] which has more than enough capacity,’ to support its needs in Guinea-Bissau.

    Ghana: Alcatel-Lucent completes fibre backbone project

    Alcatel-Lucent and Ghana’s National Information Technology Agency (NITA) have revealed the completion of the Eastern corridor rural fibre-optic backbone project.

    The Eastern corridor network, designed and deployed by Alcatel-Lucent, spans 775km and links Ghana’s north, south, and international submarine gateways via its eastern corridor. It serves major towns such as Kpando, Jasikan, Nkwanta, Bimbila, Yendi, Tamale, Gushiegu and Bawku as well as 23 smaller communities.

    The network uses Alcatel-Lucent’s optical networking platform based on the 1830 photonic service switch with 100G technology.

    According to both parties, the project signed in 2012 significantly expands communication links between Ghana’s Coastal line and Northern Boundary to Burkina Faso. The optical backbone will also improve communications links for central and regional administration offices, in support of the national ‘e-Ghana’ Program initiative.

    Alcatel-Lucent has also provided computing and storage infrastructure for two data centres including help desk infrastructure, a performance management and rating system and an e-Learning Management System. Alcatel-Lucent will continue to manage network operations for Ghana’s entire ‘e-government’ infrastructure until 2016.

    Commenting on the milestone, Daniel Jaeger, Vice-President, Alcatel-Lucent in Africa said: “Through technology and innovation this project will help change the way people live, work and communicate, providing an important platform for sustainable growth and development. Alcatel-Lucent has long-standing expertise in IP transport and we are delighted to be a part of this project to support Ghana’s government initiative in continuously improving communications services for the country. The new network will be a catalyst for change to accelerate the development of rural areas in the country. Indeed every success has its network.”
    Source: ITNews Africa 20 May 2015

  • MTN Swaziland said it will hold a world music and arts festival called MTN Bushfire from 29-31 May, with Golden Lounge full festival tickets going on sale at the All Out Africa Internet Cafe and Shak's Gables on 20 May. Over 20,000 spectators are expected at the scenic farmlands of the Malkerns Valley, to enjoy the eclectic three-day programme. MTN Bushfire reported in March that 2015 ticket sales had increased by 50 percent in comparison with previous years.
    Source: Company Press Release

internet

  • Tanzanian wireless internet provider UhuruOne has selected Alepo to provide a complete Wi-Fi solution for its pre-paid business, with a view to supporting the monetisation and management of its domestic network. Alepo will deploy authentication, authorisation and accounting (AAA) infrastructure, real-time Wi-Fi charging, policy control and pre-paid voucher management, allowing UhuruOne to offer a ‘zero-leakage experience’ to its subscriber base.

    UhuruOne was established in 2009 and claims to operate the largest seamless pre-paid Wi-Fi network in sub-Saharan Africa.
    Source: Telegeography 21 May 2015

  • INWI, the third largest telecommunications operator in Morocco, has selected Aptilo Networks and Smartcom for a major upgrade to “Wifi7dak,” INWI’s public Wi-Fi service. The upgrade will increase bandwidth, support network expansion and add new payment functionalities. 
     
    “We’re turning Wifi7dak into a true carrier-class Wi-Fi network with solutions from Aptilo and leading-edge apps from Smartcom,” said Julien Muller, Manager of Product and Services, Innovation, Strategy and Partnerships, INWI. “INWI reaffirms our commitment to customers with innovative services and a first-rate user experience.” 
     
    INWI has deployed the Aptilo Service Management Platform (SMP). Aptilo SMP provides highly scalable Wi-Fi services to increase INWI’s bandwidth capacity and support growth of the Wi-Fi network. It also allows INWI to easily integrate trusted 3GPP Wi-Fi access with SIM authentication and backhauling to the mobile core through GTP tunnels in the next phase of deployment.

    Mobile users can logon to the service using an app developed by Smartcom and available in the INWI online marketplace. The app offers the same functionality as a branded web portal (also available) while also providing INWI with valuable analytics and more granular control over the Wi-Fi service.

    Wifi7dak will be available to pre- and postpaid users who can purchase the service through vouchers and credit cards. Roaming users will also be able to use Wifi7dak, creating opportunities for customer acquisition and service expansion.

  • Customers of Olleh Rwanda Networks (ORN) will now be able to monitor their homes and offices on their phones and PCs, thanks to the introduction of new innovative products by the firm on the local market. Patrick Yoon, the ORN chief executive officer, the LTE Internet services provider, said the products include a 4G LTE CCTV security camera solution, which will make it possible for clients to remotely monitor the security of their homes, offices and businesses, like banks.

computing

  • Liquid Telecom has installed an $800 000 endpoint data protection and management solution infrastructure.

    The infrastructure, which is called CrashPlan Africa, is expected to enhance data protection and storage in the country.

    Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe managing director Wellington Makamure told NewsDay yesterday that the telecommunications company partnered with a US-based company, Code 42 in March and started deployment of data servers early this month.

    “Enterprises need help to protect and manage endpoint data,” said Makamure.

    ”The consumerisation of information technology and pervasiveness of mobile devices has meant losing control and visibility of the information created and accessed by staff using a range of mobile devices.”

    Liquid Telecom brought Code 42 technology to Zimbabwe and has data servers in Pockets Hill in Harare.

    “By partnering with Code 42, Liquid Telecom sought to get the expertise and experience of the world’s leading backup and restore provider, taking advantage of its footprint in 14 African countries to offer its customers enhanced value-added cloud services,” said Liquid Telecom in a statement.

    “This unique partnership allows Liquid Telecom to leverage its existing expertise in managed services, telecoms and local data centre operations within the region, while combining these capabilities with Code 42’s EDGE Platform technology.”

    With 35 000 clients, Code 42 has clients with international brands and these includes BBC, Google, Apple, Expedia, Harvard, Getty Images and National Geographic.

    CrashPlan Africa has been designed to move data to new devices without having to rely on IT and provides protection and un-compromised security leveraging on Liquid Telecom’s state-of-the-art data centres.
    Source: News Day 21 May 2015 Liquid Telecom has installed an $800 000 endpoint data protection and management solution infrastructure.

    The infrastructure, which is called CrashPlan Africa, is expected to enhance data protection and storage in the country.

    Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe managing director Wellington Makamure told NewsDay yesterday that the telecommunications company partnered with a US-based company, Code 42 in March and started deployment of data servers early this month.

    “Enterprises need help to protect and manage endpoint data,” said Makamure.

    ”The consumerisation of information technology and pervasiveness of mobile devices has meant losing control and visibility of the information created and accessed by staff using a range of mobile devices.”

    Liquid Telecom brought Code 42 technology to Zimbabwe and has data servers in Pockets Hill in Harare.

    “By partnering with Code 42, Liquid Telecom sought to get the expertise and experience of the world’s leading backup and restore provider, taking advantage of its footprint in 14 African countries to offer its customers enhanced value-added cloud services,” said Liquid Telecom in a statement.

    “This unique partnership allows Liquid Telecom to leverage its existing expertise in managed services, telecoms and local data centre operations within the region, while combining these capabilities with Code 42’s EDGE Platform technology.”

    With 35 000 clients, Code 42 has clients with international brands and these includes BBC, Google, Apple, Expedia, Harvard, Getty Images and National Geographic.

    CrashPlan Africa has been designed to move data to new devices without having to rely on IT and provides protection and un-compromised security leveraging on Liquid Telecom’s state-of-the-art data centres.
    Source: News Day 21 May 2015

  • South African software provider Snapt has established an independent sales and marketing arm in the United States (US) to cope with increasing demand, reporting an annual growth rate of 400 per cent to take it past 10,000 customers.

    Snapt, which was founded in South Africa in 2011 and is a provider of software-based load balancers and application delivery controllers (ADCs), said its new US arm in Atlanta, Georgia – Snapt Global – is a result of “accelerating market demand” and evidence of its “aggressive” US expansion plans.

    Snapt Global will focus on sales and marketing, while also sourcing and commercialising new and complementary ADC products to advance security, reliability and availability for forward-thinking IT organisations. Snapt’s corporate offices and engineering operations will remain in South Africa.

    The startup said it had achieved a 400 per cent annual growth rate in 2014 and is on track to exceed 1,000 per cent growth this year, having completed 10,000 successful customer installations in over 50 countries.

    “Customers around the globe increasingly choose Snapt’s virtual, software-based solutions to take ownership of their application networking, load balancing, and website security solutions,” said chief executive officer (CEO) Dave Blakey.

    “Snapt’s customers are agile IT heroes who keep their businesses online, performing efficiently, safely, and securely. Their mission is our mission.”

    Atlanta investor and Snapt advisor Scott Ryan said the company had a “relentless hunger” for developing affordable, innovative web acceleration and load balancing solutions.

    “Establishing a US presence is an important step forward in building their global business. Snapt Global will introduce additional next generation software-based ADC products in the coming months,” he said.

    Snapt’s 10,000 customers include the likes of NASA, Intel and Lego, while the company was previously funded by 4Di Capital.
    Source: Disrupt Africa 21 May 2015

  • South Africa's Hetzner's Data Centre Park in Samrand is offering ECS-licensed customers a greater choice of Internet service providers after Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) joined Hetzner's carrier-neutral facility.

    Hetzner says the data centre offers a cost-effective colocation service to allow customers to manage their own data from a secure, energy-efficient environment, MyBroadband reported. Athena Turner, marketing manager for Hetzner SA, said the data centre can operate without any external power supply, thanks to its emergency power design.
    Source: Telecompaper 20 May 2015

Digital Content

  • House music lovers are in for a treat. Leading house label GOGO Music recently launched a free mobile phone app that enables them to listen to all episodes of the trend-setting GOGO Music radio show, as well as to see the dates of the GOGO Music artists and get contact information.

    GOGO Music was established in 2001 by South African-based German producer/DJ Ralf GUM to offer a platform for innovative releases. While Ralf’s heart beats for musical deep house, GOGO Music stands for varied and intelligent club sounds with soul. The GOGO Music radio show was started in 2003. What began as a monthly show transmitted by one internet-radio rapidly became one of the most popular weekly broadcasts within the house community and beyond. The show is to date aired by more than 50 FM- and internet-stations around the globe. The GOGO Music radio show residents Ralf GUM, MAQman, Sir LSG and Themba present nothing but the finest house music in a pure, one-hour DJ mix.

    "The GOGO Music App is a tool to spread our vision of good house music,” Ralf told Music In Africa recently. “It is designed for everyone who has a mobile device with internet access, no matter where the person is based. We're aware that more people in the Northern Hemisphere are currently privileged with affordable internet-access, but are pleased to see that the app is appreciated by many in our home-base South Africa, too. The country is the undisputed hot-bed for house music to date and therefore the app hopefully helps to promote its musical vibe globally.

    “The big advantage of the app is that it enables us to reach those people who are interested in the music directly. By doing so, the aim is clearly not to compete with conventional radio, which has to serve many more functions than purely presenting music."

    Looking toward the future, Ralf continues: “Expanding the functionality of the app, for example by offering direct music sales, is a future possibility. However, this can only become viable once transaction fees for internet payments decreased drastically or once direct payments without a middle-man became reality on the net. For now the focus is simply to let music travel the world."

    The app is available as a free download from numerous app stores, including Google play and iTunes app store. Get the iOS (iPhone, iPad) version https://itunes.apple.com/fr/app/gogo-music/id977140818?l=en&mt=8 and the Android version here. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=dj.mix.monomood.gogomusic" target="_blank">here  and the Android version here.
    Source: Music in Africa 15 May 2015

  • Building a simple widget that allows people to listen to BBC content online, a team of Cape Town developers has been selected as part of the BBC development studio challenge.

    The RLabs Catchup team was chosen from a group of 12 competing South African teams which took part in the BBC development studio in South Africa in April.

    The teams participating in the two-day event worked with various technologies exploring new ways of delivering audio in a cost-efficient way to reach younger audiences. The selected idea from RLabs is based on a digital widget that can be easily placed on websites. By activating the widget, the user can hear short clips of BBC audio content.

    According to a press release sent out by the BBC, the judges felt that this idea took into consideration cost efficiency, simple navigation and working with external BBC partners.

    RLabs team leader Kurt Appolis, 25, said: “We are all so happy to have got through; we were excited from the start to take part in a BBC event. It was a great experience and we are now looking forward to the next phase of the pilot.”

    The development studio in Cape Town was organised by BBC World Service and the BBC’s digital innovations team, Connected Studio, to find the most efficient ways to distribute audio content to younger audiences.

    The BBC World Service Group Digital Development Editor and judging panellist, Dmitry Shishkin said “RLabs CatchUp offered a very simple and elegant solution that we hope will lead to an increase of digital consumption of BBC audio. We recently had a very rewarding experience with a BBC hackathon in Nairobi, where two ideas were selected to be built into a prototype. Reaching out to the local tech scenes to drive innovation on our behalf is one way of complementing our renewed digital investment into covering Africa better.”

    “We were impressed by the enthusiasm of the participating teams, the breadth and variety of the innovative ideas they generated in Cape Town,” The Head of BBC Connected Studio, Adrian Woolard, said. “We are now exploring ways of developing those concepts into innovative services that will help grow the BBC World Service audience across Africa.”

    The six-month pilot stage will include the creation of prototypes and user testing.
    Source: Memeburn 20 May 2015

  • Patenting law in Africa needs to become more effective to better support local entrepreneurs and boost growth, the continent’s innovators have said.

    Attendants at the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) event, which honours inventors from African countries, told SciDev.Net that they struggle to turn their ideas into business because of weak patenting legislation.

    Early-career entrepreneurs trying to patent their products in Africa face high legal costs, arbitrary bureaucratic processes and legislative mismatches between countries, they said.

    The IPA was awarded during a two-day event in Skhirat, Morocco, on 12 and 13 May. Among the ten finalists this year, three had weak or no intellectual property protection, says Pauline Mujawamariya, the director of the African Innovation Foundation, which looks after the prize.

    Inventors across Africa complain that the patent process is slow, costly and complicated. One stumbling block is that intellectual property rights are often territorial, and laws differ even within the same country. In Tanzania, the island region Zanzibar has different IP laws than the mainland, says MacLean Sibanda, a South African patent lawyer.

    As a result of such complications, many African innovators look beyond the continent for patent protection. Moroccan programmer Mohammed Said Abdelouahad, 23, has designed a rhythm-based app for online authentication that collects all your passwords and activates them by tapping on the screen. A personal tap is harder to crack than characters, he says.

    It took Abdelouahad six months of internet research to figure out how to file a patent in the United States, his market of choice. Eventually, he found a California-based Moroccan lawyer who filed the patent for him for a US$2,500 fee, low for a lawyer but expensive for a young African entrepreneur.

    “We are programmers, we don’t know how to draft an application, and information is not easily accessible,” says Abdelouahad.
    Read the full story here:
    Source: SciDevNet 21 May 2015

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The acquisition of WordPress theme developer WooThemes, along with its signature ecommerce product WooCommerce, by WordPress.com holding company Automattic is massively important to the South African startup space. At US$30-million, it’s a massive exit (although not the biggest in South African startup history). That’s great for its founders and investors, but the acquisition is just another example of how the local scene is developing and also offers some valuable lessons for up-and-coming startups.

    Before we get into any of that though, it’s worth getting into some of the nitty-gritty around the acquisition. According to Re/Code, sources the deal is worth US$30-million in cash and stock. At least some of the money will likely have come from the US$160-million Automattic raised last year. All 55 WooThemes staff will meanwhile be kept on, boosting Automattic’s employee complement by around 18%.

    Founded in 2008 by Marc Forrester, Magnus Jepson, and Adriaan Pienaar (who exited the business in 2013), the company initially made its name and found some success building WordPress themes. Real success though came with the launch of WooCommerce, an ecommerce plugin that in effect, turns any website running the WordPress engine into an eCommerce platform. Since launch, the plugin has seen massive revenue growth, including a period between May 2012 and May 2013 which saw it grow 458%. In fact, it’s been so successful that WooThemes was able to invest in GraphFlow, a startup which had built a predictive analytics plugin for WooCommerce users.

    That success has allowed WooThemes to grow to the 55-person company, with employees stationed in 20 locations around the globe, that it is today.

    Over the past few years, WooThemes has been one of the most visible tech companies in the South African space, grabbing plenty of headlines along the way.

    Its acquisition however comes at a time when there’s an increasing amount of interest in South African startups. At the start of this year, hardware startup iKubu was bought out by Garmin. HealthQ’s global technology LifeQ — which aims to give people the ability to “optimise and improve the condition of the human body and live intelligently” — debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year and includes the likes of former Corporate Vice President in charge of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft Dean Hachamovitch, CEO of Dakine and former Vice President of Nike Running and Chris Donnelly who is the Vice President of Global Product and Strategy at Oakley.

    Another smaller, but also sexy, investment recently saw Pienaar’s new startup Receiptful receive a US$500 000 angel round from the likes of WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of Buffer Joel Gascoigne, founder of Gyft Vinny Lingham, co-founder of Grasshopper David Hauser, Slack founder Andrew Wilkinson, Groupon SA founders Daniel Guasco and Wayne Gosling, co-founder of Jumia Nigeria Manuel Koser, WantItAll founder Justin Drennan, HealthQ co-founder Riaan Conradie.

    A US$30-million acquisition by a foreign company is likely to at least renew local interest in South African space, especially given how well-known and respected WooThemes is.

    As Peter Matthei, formerly of World of Avatar and Mxit, points out however that won’t necessarily be the case for international tech and startup scene.

    In part, that’s a side effect of the kind of company WooThemes is:

    “The majority of articles on the acquisition didn’t even mention South Africa,” Matthei told us in an email. “Perhaps that’s a side-effect of WooThemes being a distributed company that’s not married to any particular geography (much like Auttomatic itself), with employees spread across the globe”.

    Another thing worth bearing in mind, and Matthei thinks that this might actually be valuable to the local scene, is that the deal isn’t actually that big in comparison with some of the deals we see coming out Silicon Valley.

    “This isn’t a unicorn exit by international standards,” Matthei said. We need to keep some perspective about our local community’s scale compared to the overall industry scale”.

    In fact, Matthei reckons that “this exit means much more, psychologically, to entrepreneurs in South Africa than it means on any level to international observers. And, you know, that’s quite alright”.

    As well as the business lessons to be learned from the WooThemes exit, there are psychological lessons to be learned. The first, and most obvious is that success isn’t easy and doesn’t come overnight.

    Just take a look at this paragraph from Forrester’s blog post on the acquisition:

        Hard work doesn’t come without sacrifice. Late night cross-Atlantic phone calls and hangouts, constant entrepreneurial mind games, and the 24/7 responsibilities of a business owner make for a challenging work-life balance.

    Anyone who’s watched Forrester on social media over the years knows that you can add almost innumerable flights to that list.

    It’s also worth bearing in mind how important it is to see that kind of hardwork paying off. We’ve seen plenty of high profile South African tech companies generating masses of hype, before disappearing into the ether.

    “Psychologically, we needed a deal like this now,” Matthei said. “We need to be able to learn from success as much as we need to learn from failure. And to do that, we need more wins — even small-ish ones — more often! This might go a long way to restoring some balance to the Force”.

    Beyond the psychological, feel-good stuff it’s also worth remembering that WooThemes, along with WooCommerce, has been run very well as a business.

    As Matthei points out, it goes beyond just hard work resulting in rewards. It also speaks to the kind of business WooThemes is.

    “Obviously a lot can be said for the value of hard work and perseverance, but many failed startups have plenty of both”, he told us. “If our next generation of startups can aspire to be more like WooThemes and less like Google, I am absolutely convinced that we’ll have more great exits. That should kickstart a virtuous cycle: more mentorship and local role models will help shape a locally-grounded startup culture that doesn’t try to clone Silicon Valley (and its reliance on outsized bets and outsized returns), leading to more successes”.

    Another lesson worth remembering is that the really great startups earn their publicity instead of generating it themselves. WooThemes is one of the former. If it hadn’t been, then its unlikely that it would have earned a multi-million dollar exit to a company that effectively powers large portions of the web.

    And according to Matthei, there are plenty of these startups in South Africa. They are the ones “that are flying a bit under the radar, focusing on execution rather than publicity, solving problems rather than building ornate sand-castles. Like building specialised hardware like antennas and sensors. These are the tech startups we don’t hear much about, and yet they’re the ones who might exit for a few tens of millions of Dollars in the next few years”.

    “What they all seem to have in common is that they’re avoiding chasing the consumer unicorn,” Matthei added. “So I’m quite optimistic we’ll see more WooThemes-sized acquisitions and successes in the next few years”.

    One notable caveat to Matthei’s point about startups not chasing the consumer unicorn is the ecommerce space. In fact, he reckons that the next “startup to $1billion” exit in Africa is going to be an African-founded e-commerce company.

    If the signs are anything to by, he may well be right too. Things may not have looked great when Naspers was shutting down ecommerce sites in 2014, but since then Takealot’s made a string of acquisitions (thanks largely to a US$100-million boost to its war-chest from its US-based investors).

    And while the global media might not be alert to it now, WooCommerce’s importance in the WooThemes acquisition is yet another indication that some of the best ecommerce brains in the world reside in South Africa.
    Source: Memburn 21 May 2015

More

  • ICANN President & CEO Resigns to Join the Private Sector

    The  Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today announced that President and CEO Fadi Chehadé has informed the Board he will be concluding his tenure in March 2016 to move into a new career in the private sector (outside the Domain Name Industry).

    End of an era as Craig Venter steps down

    Craig Venter leaves a decidedly mixed legacy as he steps down from his leadership responsibilities in Altron and Altech.

    Craig Venter, the 52-year-old son of Altron founder Bill Venter, has quit the group after 27 years of service.

    The move was not entirely unexpected after Altron last week announced it would transition to an independent management structure and away from being a family-run business.

    But the timing may surprise many, coming so soon after last week’s announcement.

    Venter is group executive of Altron TMT, which houses the group’s technology businesses Altech and Bytes.

    Altron has described Venter’s decision to quit as the start of its transition to an “independent management structure”.

    The move is also likely to pave the way for the exit of Venter’s brother, Robbie, 55, who is group CEO, at some point in coming months or years. Robbie’s family lives abroad, and it’s understood he’s keen to spend more time with them.

    Craig Venter will step down as group executive of Altron TMT and as CEO of Altech. He will also relinquish all of his Altron directorships effective 31 July 2015.

    Altron emphasised that the Venter family will remain a “committed shareholder” and will keep its 56% shareholding.

    Venter will continue to be involved in the business, but will play more of an oversight role for the family’s investments rather than being operationally involved. This is in line with remarks he made to TechCentral last week.

    “I have dedicated my life to this business and I will remain involved in the business as part of the Venter family, to ensure the continued success of my father’s legacy. My experience, relationships and guidance will not be lost to the group,” he said in a statement.

    Venter leaves a decidedly mixed legacy at Altech.

    He led an aborted telecommunications investment strategy in East Africa that cost the Altron group dearly.

    More recently, the launch of the Altech Node — a home entertainment and automation set-top box — has proved to be a flop after the group invested tens of millions of rand in its development. Altron has said it remains committed to the Node’s development.

    Despite the challenges, the broader Altron TMT — which houses the strongly performing Bytes IT business — continues to be the biggest contributor to the group’s revenue and operating profit.

    In the statement, Robbie Venter says: “The Venter family and the Altron board are pleased to acknowledge Craig’s significant contribution to the group during the past 27 years.

    “He has dedicated most of his life to the quest of growing Altron, through Altech and Altron TMT, to the company it is today and we thank him for his leadership and loyalty over this time.”
    Source: Techcentral 21 May 2015

  • Orange launches the 2015 Orange African Social Venture Prize

    Orange  is launching the call for applications for the 5th edition of the Orange African Social Venture Prize. This initiative aims to encourage innovative start-up projects which help to accelerate development on the African continent.

    The prize will recognize three projects with grants of 10,000, 15,000 and 25,000 euros, along with six months of support from Orange experts. The first prize will also be offered a patent registration in the country of the project’s deployment.

    Internet users are also invited to vote online for their favourite project on Orange’s entertainment portal in Africa, StarAfrica.com. The winner of the “Favourite Project” will have its project submitted directly to the jury along with the other project finalists.

    Serving development by stimulating innovation

    The Orange African Social Venture Prize showcases entrepreneurs offering innovative products or services that meet the needs of Africans in fields such as health, agriculture, education, energy, industry or trade.

    Over the past four years, 2,000 projects have been submitted for the Orange African Social Venture Prize, reflecting the dynamism of African entrepreneurs and the potential of the telecommunications sector in Africa.

    Supporting African entrepreneurship

    Operating in 19 countries in Africa and the Middle East, Orange serves more than 100 million customers in the region. Given the positive impact that digital services have on peoples’ daily lives, this presence means that the Group plays a major role in Africa’s economy and future development.

    As a result, one of Orange’s main priorities is to improve connectivity, particularly in rural areas, and to introduce value-adding mobile services. The Group also supports entrepreneurs by offering a variety of support programmes, both to entrepreneurs seeking to create their own company and to mature start-ups. To achieve this, Orange is sharing its experience and know-how by offering access to its networks and platforms, and by facilitating the creation of new services by making available its Application Programming Interface (API) catalogue. In addition, the Group has created special mechanisms for acceleration or incubation such as the Orange Fab programme in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as supporting structures for financing and management. Since 2010, Orange is a partner of the CTIC Dakar incubator, a reference in Western Africa. In April 2014, the CIPME Niger incubator, which was initiated by Orange, opened its doors to start-ups in the fields of renewable energy and the environment.

    Who can enter?

    Any entrepreneur (aged 21 or over) or legal entity that has been in existence for fewer than three years may participate at no cost and with no restriction on nationality. Submitted projects must be designed to be deployed in at least one of the 17 African countries in which Orange operates and must use information and communications technology in an innovative way to help improve the living conditions of the populations in these countries. Applications are accepted from 21 May to 18 September 2015 on Orange’s pan-African web portal,www.starafrica.com.
    Source: Company Press Release

  • Connected Africa
    26–27 May 2015

    The Sandton Convention Centre
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Africa’s telecommunications sector is booming!
    Enterprises, ISP’s telcos and partners are under huge pressure to capitalise on the vast opportunities in the African market-before their competitors do.
    Connected Africa is the leading marketplace and ideas exchange for African enterprises, ISP’s telcos, government, leading consultants and solution providers.
    For more information click here:

    Broadband World Forum 2015
    20-22 October 2015
    Excel Centre, London
    Broadband World Forum is one of the world’s largest telecoms, media & technology events with over 7,800 senior executives from across the globe.
    For more information click here:

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