Payment methods and logistics challenges have made e-commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa (outside South Africa) more talked about than actual. But recent players in Nigeria have shaped the way things work to meet market conditions and are having promising signs of success. Russell Southwood spoke to Jeremy Doutte, CEO, Jumia Nigeria.
Early e-commerce market entrant in Nigeria Nasper’s Kalahari.com came and went and the “told-you-so’s” said what did you expect: the number of customers was tiny. Rocket Internet start-up Jumia was launched two years in May 2012. Together Konga (invested in by Sweden’s Kinevik and Naspers) and Jumia are estimated by those who have seen the figures to have around or over 2 million customers.
Doutta (who has also worked for Jumia in Nigeria) says originally they were working on the idea of pushing the Amazon concept into Africa. But they realised early on things were going to be very different: there was not the same logistics chain as you found in developed countries; there was little or no financing; and more or less no electronic payments. They had to completely rework the model so it remains a bit galling when they hear people saying they just copied it.
”The key success factors were not here so we had to move to cash on delivery.”But the big gap in the market was the lack of quality retailing at something less than premium prices. For the average shopper, finding something they wanted might involve a long journey, at the end of which there was no guarantee the product they wanted would be in stock.
During my visit I also spoke to Rukky Ladoja, the women behind a start-up with two fashion brands in the market: Grey and Even Tribe. The mid-market brand Even Tribe sells more or less completely through Jumia’s online channel. The numbers are not huge but it has opened up a way of addressing its customers with clothes that reflect Nigerian body shapes and colours wanted, leapfrogging the less than perfect retail sector.
Jumia’s customers buy literally everything but one of the biggest categories is the very item that has been fuelling some of these changes, the mobile phone. This is followed by fashion wear. Recently it added diet supplements and “this supplier is now in the Top 15 of our suppliers in 2 weeks.”
Jumia offers its delivery service across the whole of this large country:”There are some challenges to reach everywhere but we have 16 logistics hubs and a small warehouse.” So how long does it take to get something delivered for a customer in the northern city of Kano? 2-3 days says Doutte but a customer had posted on his Facebook page that with one item the next day. Nevertheless Doutte prefers to stick to the 2-3 days delivery time.
60% of its orders come from Lagos and the rest from elsewhere. It wants to expand the volume of orders coming from elsewhere and is “planning to push the geographic spread.”
There is also an issue in terms of access to devices to do the ordering: there are more smartphones than laptops and PCs in the market. For example, according to our latest market research study, only 6% of people in Northern Nigeria have access to laptops or PCs respectively. (see www.balancingact-africa.com and go to the right-hand column to download for free the reports from this study.)
So Jumia is pushing entry-level smartphones with its own app pre-loaded. It is working with a Chinese OEM out of Dubai called Innjoo to provide low-cost smartphones direct to customers over the platform. Doutta says that there US$50 smartphones “but they are not so good” but for US$75 “you can get a very good phone with a 5 inch screen.” Until recently, orders by device origin were split 50/50 between Laptops and PCs and mobile phones. The latter has begun to creep up to 53%.
Overall, Doutta says that it plans to dramatically increase the customer experience with better trucks, better tracking and bigger warehouses. It already employs 1,200 staff directly and a contracted sales staff of 800. It puts 800 motor cycles and trucks on the road.
Doutta also has worked at Jumia Morocco so I asked him what were the key differences between it and the Nigerian market?:”Here the market is dramatically bigger and drastically under-served: there is also weak and limited offline retail. There are malls and shops everywhere in Morocco. They may not be as good as Paris or London but they’re very good. Here the retail offer is average. It’s hard to go to Shoprite on a Saturday afternoon. Nigerians like to innovate and try and are really open-minded. E-Commerce is an aspirational way of shopping.”
He says that Konga is Jumia’s main competition but that there is also a much smaller operator called OLX. It also has a sister company called Kaymu.co.ng which provides a marketplace model for retailers.
He says that there are three key things that investors or start-ups coming in from outside the continent need to understand:
1. People think it will be cheap to operate in Africa. He says everything is expensive in Lagos from the power bill he was looking at when I arrived to the monthly cost of his apartment.
2. There will be no competition. Wrong again. Konga is providing strong competition and “Africans are amazing entrepreneurs. You need to be very smart and strong (to survive). They will do amazing things”.
3. There will be lots of innovation. In fact it’s actually harder to innovate than elsewhere.
He also pointed to the dearth of good, high-quality people, something that other companies in the field also identify as a problem:”There’s the big challenge of human talent. It’s not available in large enough quantities for the size of the opportunity available.” But given the scale of the opportunity in Nigeria and elsewhere that’s a nice problem to have rather than there being no opportunity.
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 email@example.com 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
Digital Content Africa Z19 – The Mobile Deal that is keeping Africans from having more music, film and TV on their mobiles
Digital Content Africa Z16 - MTN Play Côte d’Ivoire is looking for digital content that will play well on mobile phones
Videos interviews to watch:
For breaking news, follow us on Twitter: @BalancingActAfr
With growing competition in mobile banking in the telecoms sector in Rwanda, Barthi Airtel, an Indian mobile operator, has launched a cross-border mobile money transactions within the East African region, to beef up its position as a leading telecoms.
In a statement issued here, Barthi Airtel said that it is especially looking to harmonize the mobile money platforms to allow its subscribers to send money across the border within five member countries of the East African Community (EAC) Mobile money — the use of cell phones for money transfers, payments and more sophisticated financial activities such as credit, savings, and insurance — is increasingly popular in East Africa.
Telecoms experts note that Mobile banking is another milestone in achieving a cash-lite economy, where sending and receiving money through the mobile phone is more flexible, convenient, and faster than using cash.
Experts believe that the shift to cross-border transactions by telecoms will help boost their revenues that have been facing low returns in voice revenues and fragile data that is yet to be conquered by the low cost internet usage.
Expected to be implemented soon, the Barthi Airtel’s cross- border mobile money will come as a new tool for the leading giant to shove off the competition from its rival MTN-Rwanda and Tigo Rwanda which launched the same product with their sister company in East African region.
It is said that Barthi Airtel has already received a great response from customers, including customers with family ties between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, as well as businessmen doing cross-border trade. “This is the result of deep understanding of consumer needs combined with an innovative portfolio of products including money transfers, payments, airtime reloads, cross-border transfers and bank integration,” the statement said. In march 2012, Barthi Airtel launched its operation in Rwanda in a move to expand its footprint on the African continent to 17 countries.
Ericsson was selected to manage the network from end-to-end, including OSS/BSS solutions and managed services. Airtel has also partnered with IBM in a move that will enable the telecom to offer superior customer experience in Rwanda. Rwanda is among the fastest growing telecom markets in Africa and, according to the National Statistics Institute of Rwanda, mobile penetration in the country was at 62 percent as of August 2013.
Source: Mobile Money Africa 21 October 2014
Airtel Kenya has inked a partnership with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). The partnership will allow Kenyan citizens the opportunity to pay their taxes through the Airtel Money service.
According to Airtel, it will now allow customers across the country to inquire for KRA services, generate KRA payment reference numbers and make quick payments through Airtel Money.
Airtel also revealed that customers will no longer have to walk into KRA banks to queue to pay their taxes. Airtel has also assured taxpayers, who pay taxes using Airtel Money, that their payments will be cleared, processed and credited to the KRA account in real-time. KRA services can be paid through Airtel Money for amounts up to KES 140,000 per day
The Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has ordered the country’s mobile operators to slash tariffs by more than 30% from December this year. Call rates must be reduced from a maximum USD0.23 per minute to USD0.15 under a new long
Zimbabwe's mobile regulatory authority – the Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) – has ordered all three mobile network operators to slash voice tariffs to 15 cents per minute with effect from December, down from 23 cents per minute.
A new pricing model, known as long run incremental cost (LRIC) is being implemented in favour of COSITU pricing framework.
The regulator adopted a new costing model, which is based on the long-run incremental cost methodology
This could be a relief for mobile users, who have complained that tariffs are too steep.
In an update, POTRAZ said it would, for now, leave data charges to be determined by market forces.
"The COSITU model that was used from 2004 to 2009 was designed for circuit switched circuits, has since been rendered obsolete due to technological and market developments in terms of newer services that are packet-based across the board," the authority said.
"After due consideration of the concerns raised by the consumers on tariffs being charged by operators, and representations made by operators on the same issue, the regulator adopted a new costing model, which is based on the long-run incremental cost methodology (LRIC)."
The tariff will be further adjusted to 12 cents per minute in 2015 and nine cents per minute in 2016.
The Ivorian telecoms watchdog L’Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications/TIC de Cote d’Ivoire (ARTCI) has confirmed that it is set to revoke the mobile licence held by mobile market minnow Aircom (Cafe Mobile). Reuters quotes ARTCI director general Diemeleou Bile as saying: ‘There are seven licences. We aim to cut the number of mobile operators and keep only those who are performing very well. Their case has been referred to the regulatory council for their licence to be rescinded.’ Bile also noted that a number of licences are up for renewal in 2015, which could spell trouble for underperforming operators such as Comium and LAP Green-backed GreenN, both of which occupy a less than 10% share of the market.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in May this year communications minister Bruno Kone publicly urged Comium, GreenN and Cafe Mobile to merge their operations in an effort to stay competitive, and create a stronger fourth player capable of challenging Orange, MTN and Moov. Vietnam’s Viettel Group had previously been linked with a takeover for cash-strapped Comium, although no deal materialised, and the company turned its attention to other African markets.
TeleGeography notes that Cafe Mobile’s future looked bleak in August, when the ARTCI omitted the company from its most recent quarterly statistical overview, which covered the three month period ended 31 March 2014. The cellco, which launched in April 2012 – almost twelve years after receiving its original operating concession – had amassed just 17,865 subscribers by 31 December 2013, equivalent to a meagre 0.1% market share, and its lack of progress prompted widespread speculation over the viability of its ongoing operation.
The executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr Eugene Juwah, has blamed the strings of bad loans from Nigerian banks for the collapse of several CDMA network operators in the country.
Juwah, who delivered a keynote address at the 2014 Telecom Executives and Regulator’s Roundtable organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in Lagos recently, said poor financial management occasioned by the huge loans sourced from banks led to the implosion among CDMA network operators.
He said:“The CDMA operators dying because they borrowed heavily from banks and they could not pay back.” Juwah said the operators over-borrowed, and most of the loans were effectively deployed to the growth of their networks orchestrating their eventual collapse.
LEADERSHIP had in February 2012, reported how a debt of N27 billion crippled the plans of ZOOMmobile (formerly Reltelwireless), one of the leading CDMA operators to return to full commercial operation. The operator was hindered by huge Interconnect, contractor debts and several months’ salary arrears.
The massive growth recorded in the Nigerian telecommunications space since the liberalisation of the industry which started with the return to democratic rule, has eroded as over a dozen telecommunication operating companies have virtually collapsed.
Apart from MTN, Globacom, Airtel, Etisalat and Visafone which added subscribers to their network in 2013 and 2014, most of the other telecom service providers have become inactive.
Starcomms and Reliance Telecoms (ZoomMobile) among other CDMA operators have ceased to operate their network thereby contributing nothing to the overall subscriber base in the last two years, while Multi-Links has moved away from voice telephony to wholesale data services.
Latest figures released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on its website shows that smaller telecommunication operators have disappeared as stiff competitive environment, inability to access sufficient funds, technology obsolesce, and poor management has wiped them out from the telecom field.
The fixed/fixed wireless telecom operators who did not add a single subscriber to their network throughout 2013 and 2014 include Starcomms Limited, Multilinks, Reliance Telecoms (Zoom), Intercellular Nigeria Limited, VGC Communications which is owned by MTN, MTS 1st Communications, Disc Communications, WiTEL, O’Net (Odua Telecom), Rainbownet Limited, Monarch Communications, XS Broadband (also owned b MTN) Webcom, IPNX and NITEL.
Samsung Electronics Company Ltd has announced that the company - through its global headquarters in Seoul, Korea - will donate 3,000 smartphones, worth about $1 million to support the ongoing fight against Ebola.
The smartphones, to be donated through the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA), will be used in the Humanitarian Connectivity Project, the UN's IT project that utilises mobile devices to provide humanitarian support in disaster areas.
The donated Galaxy S3 Neo smartphones will be used in 60 Ebola medical clinics in the three worst-hit African countries, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
By installing the UN's Smart Health Pro mobile application, medical staff can utilise the smartphones to treat patients and collect medical data, while quarantined patients can contact their families using the devices.
All donated smartphones will be destroyed once the virus outbreak has subsided.
Samsung is also supporting various efforts to defeat Ebola in Africa, including providing financial support for the purchase of hazmat suits in Ghana and distribution of hand sanitizers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as launching an Ebola SMS text service in South Africa.
Voice biometrics, the practice of using a person's unique voiceprint to provide security access, is gaining traction worldwide and Vodacom has now implemented this technology in South Africa.
In a first for the country, Vodacom customers can register for Voice Password via the My Vodacom app or through the customer care call centre on 111 / 082 111. Once successfully registered and the sample voiceprint has been recorded, Voice Password is ready for use. In future interactions, all that is needed is to repeat a pass-phrase for the system to verify against the recorded voice print. Access will then either be granted, or in the instance that the voice print is not recognised, the user will be informed that they have provided invalid credentials.
The non-intrusive nature of this technology, supported by deployment at some of the world’s largest enterprises, is pushing the adoption of voice biometrics into the mainstream. Research has shown that 80% of consumers view voice biometrics positively due to the secure and convenient authentication experience.
With the increasing focus on combatting identity theft and fraud, voice biometrics provide a timely solution that uses a person’s natural voice pattern to log in to their profile. It is extremely difficult to forge someone’s voice. Dialect, speaking styles, and pitch differ from person to person, making attempts to impersonate a voice or provide recordings to gain fraudulent authentication impossible due to the distinctive details of the voice print recorded at set up.
“Logging in can be a tedious experience – it’s always been a necessary but somewhat inconvenient process. Voice Password changes this and gives Vodacom customers a simpler, worry-free customer experience. It’s a great example of using technology in a win-win, increasing convenience and at the same time improving security” says Dee Nel, Managing Executive, Vodacom Customer Care.
My Vodacom app - The feature is currently available to all Android users using the My Vodacom app. Customers can download the My Vodacom app from Google Play or from the Vodacom app store. An iPhone version is due to be launched soon.
Vodacom Customer Care - Vodacom Customer Care currently offers the service to customers who have chosen English as a preferred language, with a rollout programme to all customers coming in the near future.
For more information, visit the website or call Vodacom Customer Care on 082 111.
Source: Company Press Release 16 October 2014
Libreville, Gabon, October 21st, 2014: Bharti Airtel, a telecommunications services provider with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, has unveiled a new training programme targeting to impart new technological skills to thousands of youth in Gabon in partnership with UNESCO.
The three-year initiative - dubbed ‘’Train My Generation: Gabon 5,000’’ - is the first of its kind that UNESCO has partnered with a private organisation in Sub-Saharan Africa. It aims at offering a scientific and entrepreneurial training to 5,000 of people (aged 18- 35 years) and high-school teachers in Gabon - through ICT.
Initially, cyber centres equipped with laptops and servers will be created in schools in Libreville, Port Gentil, Oyem, Franceville, Bitam and Lambaréné.
During the signing ceremony, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, welcomed the company’s Airtel’s gesture and highlighted the importance of private firms emulating the example in forging more partnerships to empower young people in the region.
"The African private sector is extremely dynamic and I am very proud today to sign the first UNESCO partnership with a company based in Africa," said Bokova.
Mr. Hervé Olivier Njapoum, the CEO of Airtel Gabon, on his part reiterated Airtel’s commitment in the development of African youth, stating that the company recognises them as a critical part of the continent’s growth agenda, if well trained.
"Through this partnership, Airtel is keen to help build knowledge, taking advantage of the expertise of one of the most important bodies of the United Nations: UNESCO. In promoting technology-based innovation and knowledge through programmes, this investment is expected to enhance the Digital Gabon Plan - which aims at countrywide digital infrastructure by 2016 - and reinforce the government’s development agenda of a wide range of e-services, potentially unlocking of SMEs growth."
The Gabonese Ambassador, Gisele Marie-Hortense Ossakedjombo Ngoua Memiaghe, welcomed the partnership, citing studies that "have shown a causal link between telecommunications development and economic development."
The 5,000 young people targeted in the programme will receive basic training in ICT during the first phase of the project, which will also provide online training to one hundred science teachers in secondary school. Teachers will use their skills to provide online assistance to 15,000 high school students preparing for their final year examination. But in view of the access to the platform used to support this educational facility, the academic support should reach a far greater number of students.
Small groups of students will learn how to develop mobile applications, manage cyber cafes and implement cooperative service centres throughout the project Train My Generation: Gabon 5000.
Source: Company Press Release 21 October 2014
Internet access in east Africa is still relatively slow and costly but a Djibouti-based technology start-up company has ambitions to help change that.
Djibouti Data Center (DDC), set up by a group of local and international investors 18 months ago, is the first data center and Internet exchange in east Africa connected to eight fiber optic cables that are part of the main Internet route from Europe to Asia.
The Internet route travels through the Mediterranean, Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean, passing by tiny Djibouti, which is sandwiched between Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia.
African Internet users have typically enjoyed little benefit from these cables passing along its coast because connectivity to them has been limited, something DDC aims to correct as it plans to expand from its home base into Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia, which are all at varying stages of Internet development.
“The Djibouti market itself may be small, but the DDC serves as a unique gateway hub to the many millions of customers in these neighboring east Africa countries,” said Anthony Voscarides, chief executive of Djibouti Data Center.
The company launched services in March 2013 in partnership with Djibouti Telecom and will connect to at least three more cables on the Europe/Asia route next year.
“Africa has historically been challenged by high Internet costs,” Voscarides, an Australian former telecoms industry executive, said.
According to The Internet Society, 15.7 percent of Kenya’s average GDP per capita is required for broadband access, compared to 6.1 percent in South Africa and less than 2 percent in most of Europe.
In Ethiopia the figure rises to 60.4 percent while in Uganda it is 31 percent in Uganda and 7.4 percent in Sudan.
Less than 2 percent of Ethiopia's 97 million population use the Internet. But Sydney-based consultants BuddeComm, in a report published last month, said the country's "broadband market is set for a boom following massive improvements in international bandwidth, national fiber backbone infrastructure and 3G mobile broadband services.”
Kenya is the biggest market in the region with Internet penetration of 39 percent, the fourth-highest in Africa, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
In terms of median download speeds, however, Kenya is ranked 105th globally, while Ethiopia is 94th, Sudan 154th, South Africa is 116th, according to the Internet Society. Madagascar is the highest ranked African country at 61.
DDC's goal is to expand into neighboring east African countries with small data centers which would then allow telecom operators, cable companies and others in those countries to access the submarine cables off Djibouti via its main data center.
Access to more cables should spread the load, reduce the impact of cable cuts or other problems in those countries and also increase capacity as Internet penetration and usage rise.
“The results are reduced latency, faster connectivity, and lower costs for network operators and Internet users in East Africa,” said Voscarides.
Latency is the time it takes for Internet data to travel from source to destination: the closer together these two points are together, the lower the latency.
Voscarides did not give estimates of how much connectivity could be improved or cost reduced.
DDC's customers include MTV, Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS) and Telkom South Africa, who can house data at DDC in Djibouti, which connects to the cables running north toward Europe and East toward Asia.
Voscarides said DDC had been "designed to not only reduce costs for operators, but to also add significant value by being a tool for carriers, content providers and other service providers to improve the efficiency, resilience and performance of their networks.”
Government regulatory policies and the deployment of new technologies could affect the timing of the company's expansion plans, he said. He did not give a timeframe for the expansion into new markets.
DDC’s customers, which also include so-called content delivery networks (CDN), do not pay high import taxes for equipment housed at the facility or need special import permits, he said.
Source: Reuters 21 October 2014
TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC) and Angola Cables have signed an IP Transit agreement to enhance regional connectivity to TSIC’s customer base along the West African coast using Angola Cables’ submarine cable assets, reports Light Reading. The enhanced regional access via Angola is aimed at greatly improving internet performance as well as reducing transport costs for global internet connectivity to Western Africa. Antonio Nunes, CEO Angola Cables, said: ‘Angola is one of the fastest developing economies on the continent and has the potential to become the leading telecoms and technology hub for Africa.’ The latest agreement with TSIC was facilitated by pre-sales and fibre consulting agency AP Telecom.
South Africans can now choose to have a tablet with Zulu-language capability, rather than an iPad, thanks to Vodacom.
SA’s largest cellular network this week launched the Smart Tab 3G, which will sell for R999 (on a prepaid deal) and was designed for the low-cost market. Its features, however, are comparable with the top brands, from the iPad to the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
This is the second low-cost device offered by Vodacom, which launched the Smart Kicka smartphone in August and sold 250 000 units in the first month. MTN, the second-largest network operator in the country, launched the low-cost MTN Steppa for R500 earlier this year.
But the savvy tablet plan from Shameel Joosub’s cellular company is part of Vodacom’s wider goal to boost revenue from data by drawing more data customers.
Targeting indigenous-language speakers is part of the grand plan to convert customers from monthly users to people who buy data on a daily basis.
According to Phil Patel, Vodacom’s chief commercial officer, 17 million people use Vodacom’s data service -fully justifying the R9-billion investment it is making to improve its network this year. And, rather than targeting the likes of Sandton and Claremont, Vodacom is prioritising rural areas and townships.
Pitching to indigenous-language markets may be a clever move. Vodacom ran “focus groups” which showed that many South Africans whose first language is not English preferred services provided in their mother tongue.
“People feel comfortable in languages other than English. While people can understand English, they may not trust it,” Patel said on Tuesday.
The company plans to add Afrikaans — the third most spoken language after Zulu and Xhosa, according to the 2011 national census — to the tablet’s language abilities in future.
Patel said the device was “a channel” to sell other services. Vodacom could also package the education syllabus digitally on the tablet as a next step.
The 7-inch-screen tablet operates on the latest Android 4.4 (KitKat) operating system, providing a familiar interface and applications for consumers who are used to brands such as Samsung that also function on Android. It weighs 275g and has front and back cameras for pictures and videos. It also has Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities. It will sell for R999 prepaid and R59 monthly on a 24-month contract. The packages come with a data allocation.
Davide Tacchino, Vodacom managing executive for terminals, said Vodacom would negotiate with manufacturers in China to lower tablet prices.
Vodacom will initially release about 20 000 tablets and aims to sell 100 000 during the first year, according to Tacchino.
“We’d like to enlarge the [tablet] market [in South Africa] by 30-40%,” he added.
By the end of June last year, more than 1.4 million tablets had been sold, compared with sales of 960 000 units by the end of 2012, according to World Wide Worx, a technology consulting firm.
Gareth Mellon, team leader for ICT at Frost & Sullivan Africa, said low-cost devices were popular for their preloaded functions, rather than the device — for instance, having high-demand applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
Mellon said MTN’s Steppa smartphone had initially attracted a lot of demand. “However, MTN didn’t have the manufacturing capability to meet the demand and there have also been some question marks over the phone’s functionality.”
MTN did not respond to questions.
Thuraya has announced its partnership with SOS Children's Villages International's Gulf Area Office to bring satellite connectivity to remote communities in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The collaboration facilitates communication between SOS Children's Villages in the CAR, helping the charitable organisation connect its programmes as well as coordinate emergency preparedness and response teams.
Thuraya's donation includes Public Calling Office units, Thuraya SatSleeves and Thuraya IP+ broadband terminals as well as Thuraya SIM cards and airtime.
More than 15 international health organizations, led by mPowering Frontline Health Workers and IntraHealth International, are coming together to share information related to this response, through webinar discussions and via an online Resource Center.
To register and for more information please click here.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has launched an Ebola information service on the popular multimedia instant communication platform WhatsApp.
The corporation said the service is in English and French languages. It will provide public health information on Ebola from the BBC, using audio, text message posts and images. Furthermore, the service would deliver Ebola-related breaking news alerts to subscribers.
Other features of the service include News About Ebola, a news and information programme broadcast twice every weekday, the focus of the programme is on the affected region of West Africa. It would also feature Ebola Infos, a twice-daily Ebola bulletin in French on BBC Afrique, and increased partnerships with other broadcasters.
Director of the World Service Group Peter Horrocks said: “This outbreak of Ebola shows no signs of abating. Myths and misinformation about Ebola are still widespread – and life-threatening. The BBC is trusted by millions of people in the affected countries, so we are stepping up our efforts to reach people with timely information, whether they’re listening to the radio, watching TV or using chat apps. We’re committed to playing our part and will continue looking at new ways to reach audiences, for example by developing programmes in local vernacular languages.”
Data journalist Raymond Joseph reports on how low-cost technology is helping African newsrooms get hold of information that they couldn't previously track
Putting old smartphones in plastic bottles in rivers to check water pollution is just one of the ways easy-to-use technology is helping investigative journalists across Africa carry out research, even on small budgets. Raymond Joseph’s feature, below, is taken from the special report on the future of journalism in the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine. You can hear him speak on Index’s expert panel at the Frontline Club on Wednesday 22 October; the event is now sold out but will be live-streamed on indexconcensorship.org. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter via #futurejournalism.
Deep in Mpumalanga province, in the far north-east of South Africa, a poorly resourced newspaper is using a combination of high and low tech solutions to make a difference in the lives of the communities it serves.
It is also pioneering a new and innovative form of journalism that not only places its readers at the centre of its coverage, but also involves them directly in the newsgathering operation.
What this small newspaper does is a lesson for bigger, more established media outlets, which are searching for new non-traditional revenue streams and which, in the age of online and digital journalism, struggle to survive and remain relevant.
The Ziwaphi community-based newspaper is distributed to communities in the Nkomazi district, situated at the epicentre of the South Africa AIDS pandemic, where there is very little access to news reporting. One of the biggest problems in the area is water contaminated with sewage. Women and young girls spend hours every day collecting water from rivers for drinking, cooking and washing, but these same rivers are also often used to dispose of human waste. As a result the E.coli count sometimes spikes, causing diarrhoea. And every few years, there is an outbreak of cholera.
Using a grant, and technology assistance from the African Media Initiative (AMI), which is spearheading the drive to embed data-driven journalism in African newsrooms, Ziwaphi is placing old smartphones submerged in clear plastic bottles in rivers in the area. Functioning as simple electron microscopes, the phones use their cameras to take regular flash-lit pictures. These photographs are then magnified and compared against images from an existing database to detect dangerous levels of E.coli. The results are delivered via SMS to residents, informing them where it’s safe to collect water.
Completing the circle, the newspaper analyses the real-time data to detect trends, and hopefully even triangulates the sources of contamination.
Once a month, Ziwaphi publishes an in-depth story based on the results, which is shared with other community papers and local radio stations in the area. The hope is the information can then empower ordinary people in the region to force the government to deliver clean water and sanitation. Ziwaphi’s readers also help gather information themselves using a mobile-based citizen reporting app which supplements the smartphone data with eyewitness stories about the impacts of the pollution, and possible sources of contamination.
“The total project only cost $20 000, including a modest salary for a year for a full-time health reporter,” says Justin Arenstein, a strategist for AMI. “But the important thing, from a media sustainability perspective, is that Ziwaphi is using the water project to build the digital backbone it will need to survive in the near future.”
Until recently Africa lagged behind the rest of the world where the internet was concerned, because of the high cost of access. But now the deployment of new undersea cables is helping bring down the cost of connectivity, especially in east and southern Africa. This has sparked an exciting new era for journalism, with an explosion of ideas and innovations that are producing “news you can use” tools. Established media is increasingly reaching out to citizens to involve them in their news-gathering and content production processes. The phone-in-a-bottle project is an example of what can be done with limited resources.
In Kenya, the Radio Group, the third largest media house, has set up Star Health, the first in a set of toolkits to help readers do easy background checks on doctors and learn whether they have ever been found guilty of malpractice. In one case a man working as a doctor turned out to be a vet.
The site, which has proved to be a big hit in a country where dodgy doctors are a major problem, also helps users locate medical specialists and their nearest health facility. It can also be used to check whether medicines are covered by the national health scheme. Importantly, the results of queries on Star Health are delivered via a premium SMS service that generates an income stream, crucial in an age when media needs to diversify revenue models away from reliance on advertising and, in some case, copy sales.
“These tools don’t replace traditional journalism, rather they augment journalistic reportage by, for example, helping readers to find out how a national story on dodgy doctors personally affects them,” says Arenstein. News must be personal and actionable and should become an important part of the media’s digital transformation strategies, he stresses.
The reality of journalism today is that, even though outlets may not have the large audiences of conventional media, anyone with a smartphone or basic digital skills has the ability to be a “publisher”.
In Nigeria, for example, the Sahara online community has over a million followers on social media, far more than many media houses. The challenge in the future will be for newsrooms to tap into these grassroots networks, but still keep citizens’ voices at their centre.
A pioneering project in Nigeria’s isolated Delta region has seen the mainstream media working with an existing citizen-reporting network, Naija Voices, to adopt remote-controlled drones fitted with cameras to monitor for environmentally destructive oil spills. The plan is to syndicate the footage to mainstream TV and newspaper partners in Lagos and Abuja. This would allow the newspapers unprecedented reach into parts of the country that had previously been largely inaccessible.
The fixed-wing drones are relatively cheap and simple to fly, but they crash from time to time. “Getting new parts, like the wings or pieces of the fuselage, would be costly and time consuming, so we’re experimenting with 3D printers to create parts onsite and on demand,” says Arenstein.
This citizen-reporting experiment builds on the work of AfricanSkyCam which for the past year has been experimenting with drones in Kenya as part of “Africa’s first newsroom-based eye-in-the-sky”. SkyCam uses drones and camera-equipped balloons to help media that cannot afford news helicopters to cover breaking news in dangerous situations or difficult to reach locations.
In South Africa, Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Reporting is using “geo journalism” and other mapping techniques to amplify its reporting and to analyse stories such as rhino poaching and canned lion hunting – breeding tame lions for wealthy trophy-hunters to shoot. Investigations help uncover trends or links to criminal syndicates and the Oxpeckers Center’s reportage is credited with promoting a recent ban on canned hunting in Botswana, and helping to shape laws on trade in rhino and other wildlife products in China and in Mozambique.
But the reality is that poorly resourced African newsrooms seldom have the in-house technology or digital skills to build new online tools.
So, AMI’s digital innovation programme and similar initiatives at Google, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and at smaller donors including the Indigo Trust are all building external support systems to help newsrooms leapfrog into a digital future.
Donors are also focusing on embedding data journalism approaches into mainstream media. They are helping journalists use publicly available digital information from sources such as censuses or government budgets to build decision-making tools to help ordinary citizens make better informed decisions on bread and butter issues affecting their lives.
Helping drive the new-tech approach is Code for Africa, a network of civic technology labs planned for countries across the continent to help drive innovation and to work with media and citizen journalist networks, to help them bridge the digital divide.
Code for South Africa (C4SA) is helping everyone, from the township-based Ziwaphi and its cholera alert project, to national media outlets, such as the Mail & Guardian and City Press.
“The media know they’re in crisis, with their advertising-based business model under threat as audiences shift online, but digital innovation is still a hard sell,” says C4SA director Adi Eyal. “Progress is painstakingly slow because many African media owners are hesitant to invest before they know how these new models will generate revenue. The result is that much of what South African newsrooms are calling home-grown data journalism is just visualisation. They’re creating very little actionable information and virtually no news tools that people can use to make decisions. The investment in a one-off project is high, so it is important that the tools that are built live on, so that newsrooms can use them to report on issues and people can act.”
Progress is painstakingly slow, but nevertheless the building blocks are slowly being put in place as the “root stock” — datasets from across Africa — is collected and collated on the African Open Data portal for both newsroom journalists and civic coders to use. The data means they can create applications and tools which will help them build communities and generate income.
C4SA is also building an “invisible” back-end infrastructure that newsrooms can help build news tools quickly and cheaply. This includes support for initiatives such as OpenAfrica that helps newsrooms digitise and extract data from source documents. C4SA has also built a series of open, machine-readable, data rich application programming interfaces (APIs) that newsrooms can easily plug into their mobile apps or websites. The APIs drive tools like WaziMap, which uses censuses, elections and other data to help journalists to dig into the make up of communities, right down to local ward level. Each of these resources is a tool not only for the media, but also for civic activists and public watchdogs, says Arenstein.
In a recent column on the future of newspapers, Ferial Haffajee, the editor of City Press, a national South African Sunday newspaper that is struggling to reinvent itself in the digital age, wrote: “Nothing is as it was. Nor are most things what they seem. We have a future, and it is tantalising.”
And you just need to look at the smartphones in a bottle and 3D-printed drones to know that this future is slowly, newsroom by newsroom, project by project, becoming a reality.
Ana Paulino, a 40-year-old street vendor in Luanda, balances plastic cans of water four times as heavy as a bowling ball on top of her head every morning and night for quarter-mile trips to the nearest well.
That’s a burden shared by many women in the capital of Angola, sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing city. The country is the continent’s second-biggest oil producer yet household running water remains only a dream for most.
Now, modern phone technology is helping ease the water collection chores in the $122 billion economy, part of advancements making inroads from Angola to Tanzania and India that enable people like Paulino to find the nearest working community taps where the public can buy water at less than 1/10th the price of what suppliers with trucks charge.
Mobile Enabled Community Services, an industry body supporting almost 800 Groupe Speciale Mobile Association operators worldwide, and aid agency Development Workshop are rolling out a program this year to locate the closest working taps, report breakdowns and pay for water at a fraction of the usual price.
That’s good news for Paulino, a mother of seven who spends 70 to 90 kwanzas (70 to 90 U.S. cents) for a container of water from private sellers because there isn’t a community tap. “It’s tiresome and disappointing to have to carry cans of water on my head every day in the 21st century,” she said.
Each 25-liter (6.6-gallon) container weighs about 28 kilograms (62 pounds) for Paulino’s eight daily journeys, an ordeal she shares with many in slums such as Sambizanga that contain two-thirds of Luanda’s residents.
With running water elusive and shortages common in the southwest African nation of 24 million, authorities estimate the country’s informal water trade at $250 million a year.
Luanda currently lacks enough water in its system to connect all homes as usage typically rises 10-fold when a family switches from community taps to internal plumbing, Development Workshop director Allan Cain said in an interview.
Now rusty pipes that often break after neglect during decades of war that ended in 2002 may become relics of the past. State-run Jornal de Angola reported in August that the government plans to spend $139 million to upgrade water distribution centers and build new reservoirs in the capital.
Helping will be the 200,000-pound ($324,000) mobile project. It has been funded by the U.K. with aims of winning matching funds from Angola to expand the program after a pilot effort in Huambo, Angola’s second-biggest city, Cain said.
Each tap has a manager with a mobile phone to collect 5 kwanzas per water can and report issues using a series of codes to a central database that plots operations in green or red dots on a map of the city. Smartphones with the capability are common even in slums, or musseques, he said.
“If you’re living in a high-density musseque, you can find where the water’s running today because if you have to walk a couple of hundred meters with a bucket on your head, you want the closest one,” Cain said.
Angola, second to Nigeria in African crude oil production with estimated output of 1.87 million barrels a day last month, has probably spent as much as $2 billion on its Water for All program since it began in 2007, according to Cain. The goal is to serve 80 percent of the urban population with a tap within 100 meters and all rural dwellers, he said.
The New York-based non-profit group mWater similarly develops open-source software to improve water, sanitation and health in six sub-Saharan African countries, India and Bangladesh.
It has a $100,000 program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Mwanza, Tanzania’s second-largest city, to map and monitor water sources for contamination, mWater Chief Executive Officer Annie Feighery said in an interview.
“It’s a turnkey app that’s as easy to use as Google docs and it’s free,” said Feighery, who’s looking for partners to bring the service to Angola. “We’re trying to help aid agencies and governments that wouldn’t be able to pay for high-quality software.”
Health workers use a mobile phone to photograph water samples left overnight in petri dishes, she said. Software detects colonies of coliform and E. coli bacteria that can tint the water.
Operator group VimpelCom is to sell its interests in operations in Burundi and Central Africa Republic (CAR) for a combined $65 million.
Its subsidiary Global Telecom Holding is to sell Telecel Globe Limited, which owns all of Burundi operator U-COM and Telecel in CAR.
It is being acquired by Econet Wireless Global Limited, a South African telecommunications group which has operations and investments in Africa, Europe, South America and around the Pacific.
Andrew Davies, VimpelCom’s CFO, said the move is a result of the group’s “Value Agenda” strategy, as part of which it has been reviewing its operations to assess their future value to the company.
Global Telecom Holding, which is 51.9 per cent owned by VimpelCom, had previously agreed to sell Telecel Globe in the first quarter of 2013, but the deal was not closed with the prospective purchaser forfeiting a deposit.
VimpelCom, which operates in 14 countries across Europe and Asia, announced a deal in September to sell its stake in Canadian operator Wind Mobile for $122 million, with the proceeds going towards the repayment of its debt.
In August it was reported that the sale of Global Telecom Holding’s 51 per cent stake in Algerian operator Djezzy to the country’s government had taken a step closer after the agreed price was deemed fair.
The Amsterdam-headquartered group’s biggest assets are its Russian number-three operator of the same name, and Wind, the third largest operator in Italy.
It saw sales and net profit plummet during Q2, with the company pinning much of the blame on a difficult economic climate, particularly in Russia and the Ukraine, and rising network costs.
Angolan banks have approved a USD260 million bank guarantee for the Angola Cables consortium, earmarked for building the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) undersea fibre-optic cable connecting the African country to Brazil, plus involvement in a joint project to roll out onward connectivity between Brazil and the US (the ‘Americas Cable’ in partnership with Google and others). IT Web Africa reported the news, which came via an Angolan presidential order issued to local press.
Also in Angolan news, Sapo.ao reported that Angola’s second largest cellco Movicel has expanded its 4G LTE network coverage to Cacuaco in Luanda province, having deployed five new LTE base stations and opened a retail outlet in the suburb. The network was launched in the capital Luanda and Cabinda in April 2012 before being expanded to other selected areas.
Spark calls for entries to Changemakers program for social entrepreneurs
Spark is calling for applicants to for the 2015 Changemakers program for social entrepreneurs that will include access to world class entrepreneurship training, and up to three years of free legal, business, graphic design web and research support.
Also as part of the package is access to quick injections of funding for their ventures.
“For our 2015 intake, we are searching for 15 founders of social start-ups in Kenya. We partner with them as they grow the impact of their project,” said Will Lutwyche, Partnerships Director at Sparks International.
To be eligible you should be the founder of a social business or organisationthat exists to help Kenyans living in poverty or have an organization in early stages making a difference for people.
The deadline for applications is November 5th, 2014!
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has settled on China's ICT engineer-turned-career diplomat Houlin Zhao as the 'safe pair of hands' to steer the organization through the next four years, taking over from Mali's Hamadoun Toure.
TMT World Congress
18 November 2014
TMT World Congress 2014 & Awards will gather the leading industry, finance and advisory executives in London on November 18 to assess the most exceptional investment strategies globally. For more information on the inaugural World Congress 2014 & Awards, visit here:
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.