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Issue no 798 9th October 2015

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  • Registering the SIM cards of Africa’s mobile phone owners has been a real headache for operators. They know they have to abide by the law but the processes of registration can seem like an enormous distraction from real business. Russell Southwood talked to Nadeem Juma of E-KYC about its experience of helping mobile operators speed up the process.

    I give you Sim registration as a tale of two cities: Kigali and Dar es Salaam. A week ago I was in Kigali and needed to get a new SIM card. The mobile operator’s sales outlet had a number of people waiting in clumps around the service tills and when a gap opened up, someone would push in front of the others. As indeed I was forced to do after being too polite for far too long. The whole process from end to end took me 25 minutes.

    A month ago I was in Dar es Salaam and the difference could not have been more striking. I went to another major mobile operator to get a SIM and was asked to sit down at a table. The person responsible for registration did everything on a tablet, including taking a picture of me and my passport. The whole process took under seven minutes. It was only later that I discovered that the automated registration process was being delivered by AIM Group’s E-KYC, which has been working with Airtel, Vodacom and Tigo.

    Registration is time-consuming for customer staff who could be concentrating on selling customers new products and services. Furthermore it almost always leads to a decrease in the number of phone subscribers: some of these losses are simply people who were only using their phones irregularly but many are people who can't be bothered to queue up and wait to register their second and third SIMs. Anything that can speed up the process has to be a blessing for both the mobile operator and the customer.

    The idea for E-KYC came in the aftermath of the Westgate Mall killings in Kenya:”There was a crackdown on operators (there) because the regulator was not able to track the ownership of the phones used in the incident.” Similar pressures began to exert themselves in Tanzania.

    “The first mobile operator we talked to was Vodacom…it was very excited but it explained to us that because it did not see registration as a competitive advantage, it would go ahead if we could do two things. Firstly, get regulatory approval from TCRA and secondly get all the operators on a single platform.”

    Having received a letter of no objection from TCRA in 13 October, it the approached the other two major operators with a proposal to do a pilot with 50-100 agents per operator:”We would make the investment and they would help us integrate it with their systems.” The first pilot was done with Vodacom and was in Juma’s words “a instant success”. Agents started calling the operator saying that they wanted to join the scheme.

    ”From the initial pilot there were learnings. The user interface needed to be adapted. We also needed to add a fallback for when connectivity was down and so that it instantly registered when connectivity came back up.”

    Also when they implemented it for Tigo, they were able to add a dashboard that showed in real time where registrations were being done and how many of them. This information allowed the operator to make decisions about how it deployed its customer service and marketing resources. They were also able to collect a small amount of socio-demographic information, more of which later.

    So a registration process that used to take anywhere between 48 hours to 7 days to complete with the activation of the new line was now able to take between 5-7 minutes for 80% of registrations. The balance have tended to be when there has been no connectivity and these are now completed in a maximum of 24 hours.

    So what did this mean in terms of registration throughput? Under the old manual system, a shop would do 40-50 registrations a day but with E-KYC they were able to do 100-150. A small agent might do 5-10 a day with the old manual system but was now able to do 20-30:”The operators were able to reduce the number of dud agents and overall get agents to do more registrations.”

    Operators have to sample data to ensure accuracy and found that they were now achieving 93% accuracy. The balance had issues flowing from the lack of physical addresses, a problem common to most African countries.

    Now E-KYC’s Juma is looking to turn this success in one country into a wider business success:”We’ll have an exhibition stand at AfricaCom with a full demo kit with an operating back end. Operators can come in and play with the system and pick up our learnings. It’s not a hard sell.” He wants to be able to add two more international operators by next year. Pilots and integrations take between 6-9 months.

    The data collection that I mentioned earlier can be used for both validating mobile loans and for mobile marketing. AIM Group is a digital agency and has with the permission of the operator they work with used the socio-demographic data alongside aggregated user behavior. For example, based on this data, Vodacom did a marketing campaign for a Coke Studios season.

    If mobile operators are to meet their new challenges as incumbents, it’s time they became a lot smarter. The E-KYC process demonstrates that it’s possible for them to up their game.



    Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act’s web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has an e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it covers online film, music, media, social media, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 49 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 with Digital Content Africa in the title line. Look at the full list of of past issues here:

    Videos interviews to watch:

    Layne Fletcher, Yum Deliveries on growing the Kenyan market for food deliveries of all types

    Stuart Campo on the innovation work UNICEF is doing to improve services for women and children
    Doreen Kessey, Ubongo on making edutainment content for phones, TV and web
    Layne Fletcher, Yum Deliveries on growing the Kenyan market for online food deliveries of all types
    Tanzanian VoD start-up Tango TV founder Victor Joseph on streaming local movies to your TV
    Nnenna Nwakanma on Africa's Data Revolution and Open Government for citizens
    Daniel Asare-Kyei on how esoko's price information gets Ghanaian farmers more money for their crops
    Uche Ariolu on his online food start-up Foodstantly for both meals and bulk purchases
    Robin Raskin, Living in Digital Times on 3 emerging personal technologies relevant to Africa
    African Entrepreneurship - Why Culture Matters with Rebecca Enonchong and Michael Ike
    Katrin Macmillan on an outdoor Internet facility in Nigeria based on Sugata Mitra's ideas's Ryan Dingley on his online audio radio start-up and its pan-African expansion plans
    William Bird on using Commotion Wi-Fi mesh software to provide free Internet South African cties
    Andrew Rudge, Reach Trust on expanding the mobile reach of its African ed & health service
    Joel Macharia on his start-up Abacus that will allow Kenyans to trade shares online


Money Transfer

  • Telecommunications giant, Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) - Ghana, has debunked claims that its Mobile Money platform has been turned into a milking cow, thus shortchanging Ghanaians.

    MTN Mobile Money's Senior Commercial Manager, Eli Hini, during a visit to The Chronicle yesterday denied any wrong doing on the part of MTN, explaining that what the outfit was doing was rather sanitizing and systematizing transactions on the platform.

    Last week, The Chronicle reported that some MTN Mobile Money subscribers were seriously worried and displeased about the way and manner the telecommunication giant had been blocking their accounts without prior prompting.

    According to some of the customers, per the report which was published on October 1, 2015, their mobile money wallets had been blocked for well over a month and that, all efforts to get them unblocked had proved futile.

    Answering a question to that effect, Mr. Hini disclosed that the blocked accounts belonged to individuals who wrongfully received deposits in their wallets and were unwilling to refund them to the original intended recipients.

    He indicated that when issues of such nature arise, what MTN does is to contact the wrongful recipients of the money and cordially impress upon them to return the money. Failure to cooperate, he said, would warrant the blocking of the said wallet, in order to prevent the wrongly received money from being withdrawn.

    Explaining how the Mobile Money system works, Mr. Hini mentioned that the process begins with a customer registering or requesting for a Mobile Money wallet. What would happen immediately after that, according to him, would be to load the wallet to commence transaction.

    He also pointed out that unregistered customers could also transact business on the mobile money platform, using the token system. He said all that would be required from that person would be for him to identify himself or herself to the agent as an unregistered customer.
     "This type of transaction is called non-wallet transaction or token transaction and for this type of transaction, you just tell the agent how much you want to send. The agent will transact from his or her phone and then you will be required at some stage to provide a pin. And the agent by the training, should hand over the phone to the customer to enter his or her own 4 digit pin," he revealed.

    Once the agent completes the transactions, Mr. Hini told The Chronicle, he or she then provides the customer the system generated number called the token, which he would use during withdrawal.

    The prescribed process, notwithstanding, MTN, he revealed, had noticed a worrying trend which if not halted, would collapse the Mobile Money business. This has got to do with non-registered customers disguising themselves as registered subscribers to transact business on the platform.

    He said this sort of transaction was having a telling effect on the operation of the company, which needed immediate redress.

    Also, he said as a result of these sort of transactions, MTN as a company was having huge issues of reversals, adding that "reversing the transactions requires a lot of effort and time.

    So we said that since this was also harming the business, it was time to clamp down on it, because first of all it is not a permitted business transaction and now it is creating problems."

    System-wise, he stated the trend should have been restricted, "but agents are educated to understand these things and take the necessary steps,... so if you go to our agent, you cannot come putting money on the wireless, under the disguise of wireless transfer."
    Source: The Chronicle 8 October 2015

  • Mobile phone payments hit a record high in August, underlining Kenya's rising status as a global leader in mobile money.

    The value of mobile transactions grew by a fifth to Sh248.15 billion compared to Sh206.72 billion in August last year, fresh data from the Central Bank shows. Month-on-month, the value was 3.9 per cent higher compared with Sh238.86 billion in July.

    The data suggests mobile money transactions tripled compared to card payments in eight months through August.

    About Sh1.81 trillion was transacted, an increase of 18.3 per cent or Sh250 billion over Sh1.53 trillion in the first eight months of last year.

    Plastic card payments, on the other hand, rose by 5.7 per cent year-on-year in August to Sh884.74 billion from Sh836.96 billion a year earlier.

    Cash transactions through the mobile infrastructure over the eight-month period rose by 21.02 per cent to 706.66 million transactions.

    Transactions through plastic cards fell by the same margin, dropping by a fifth to 151.22 million from 190.19 million a year previously, underscoring the rising popularity of mobile money.

    The data shows that about Sh7.44 billion passed through mobile phones daily on average over the review period.

    The number of agents reached 136,042 in August, this year, from 124,708 a year ago, meaning the value of transaction per subscriber over the eight months averaged about Sh66,3913.

    “Mobile payments are now easier to make and more commonly used in Nairobi than in advanced cities like London or New York,” Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales said in its Economic Insight report for Africa released on Tuesday.

    Subscriptions to mobile money transfer services reached 27.7 million in June, latest data by the Communications Authority shows, a 7.9 per cent growth over a year before.

    Safaricom's M-Pesa controlled 77.04 per cent of the subscribers as at June with 21.34 million subscribers on its network.

    The popularity of the mobile money platforms has seen commercial banks increasingly deploy technologies that allow transfer of cash from bank accounts to M-Pesa accounts of third parties.

    Under the previous arrangement, a customer could only transfer cash her bank account to her M-Pesa wallet.

    Safaricom has already obtained approval from the Central Bank to increase charges for transfer of cash from bank accounts to third party M-Pesa wallets from December 1.

    “We have written to our partner Banks and Financial Institutions notifying these charges,” Safaricom's director for corporate affairs Stephen Chege said on August 26. "This is a new service, and not a revision of any existing charges."
    Source: The Star

  • Malta, 06 October 2015: Swish Payments, an international mPOS service provider, today announced that it has been granted principal membership for merchant acquiring by Visa Europe. Swish’s Visa membership complements the provider’s MasterCard membership, which was secured in January 2015. As a licensed financial institution with full Visa and MasterCard membership, Swish will now be able to acquire merchant accounts and process Visa and MasterCard transactions for merchants across Europe, beginning with an mPOS pilot to be launched in Malta later this year.

    The mPOS provider’s agreements with Visa and MasterCard will reduce its direct acquiring costs and accelerate the merchant boarding process, providing Swish with a strong competitive position for creating new business in Europe. Without the need for an external acquiring bank to acquire merchant accounts, Swish is uniquely positioned to partner with non-bank organisations such as Telecommunications Companies, Payment Service Providers, Mobile Network Operators and others looking to deploy an end-to-end mobile commerce platform.

    “We are absolutely delighted to have reached this stage of our project. Nonetheless, this is just the start, and the organisation is now fully committed to go live with its first acquiring project in Malta in the very near future.” commented Steve Grech, CEO of Swish Payments.
    Source: Company Press Release


  • South Africa’s Dream Mobile has launched its latest affordable smart feature phone, the Dream Chat.

    Dream Mobile, a startup based in Cape Town, has set before it the one goal of providing affordable technology to Africa to facilitate Internet access for everyone. Co-founder Reza Handley-Namavar says: “We want to drive internet access across the African continent because access to the Internet and to information should be for everyone, not just reserved for the elite.”

    The Dream Chat phone comes in at just R299, with all the features users would expect from a smartphone and made it possible in a feature phone, at a fraction of the price. These features include:

    * Internet HTML mobile browser (Opera mini, Chrome, Facebook etc);
    * Bluetooth;
    * SMS and MMS;
    * Dual SIM card with Dual Standby;
    * 1,8 inches QVGA Screen;
    * T-flash card reader/MICRO SD up to 8GB;
    * Digital camera for photos and videos;
    * Support for MP3, MP4, Bluetooth;
    * Long-range battery; and
    * Stereo FM radio.

    “The Dream Chat phone has been created to be user friendly while still meeting the basic needs of our customers: making calls, browsing the Internet, playing music and taking pictures,” Handley-Namavar says.
    “This phone has been a long time coming and has a lot of people to thank for its creation.

    “I have worked to develop ways to drive affordable Internet access to all since 2010 when I was a varsity student waiting in line to use a computer at the University of the Western Cape. Now I can say, our amazing team of South-Africans and internationals have worked countless hours, night and day, to produce devices that are practical, highly functional, and immensely stylish, that answers this problem at prices that everyone can afford.”
    Source: IT Inline 8 October 2015

  • The mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa contributed more than US$100 billion to the region’s economy last year, according to a new GSMA study published at the ‘Mobile 360 Series – Africa’ conference being held in Cape Town this week. The new study, ‘The Mobile Economy – Sub-Saharan Africa 2015’, finds that the US$102 billion economic contribution in 2014 was equivalent to 5.7 per cent of the region’s GDP1. Mobile operators directly contributed US$31 billion, representing 1.7 per cent of GDP. This economic contribution is set to increase over the coming years as mobile operators continue to extend connectivity to unconnected populations across the region and roll out new mobile broadband networks and services. The industry is forecast to contribute US$160 billion in value to the region by 2020, equivalent to 8 per cent of expected GDP by this point.

    “The mobile industry remains a key driver of economic growth and employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, making a vital contribution given the population growth and high unemployment levels seen in many countries in the region,” said Alex Sinclair, Acting Director General and Chief Technology Officer at the GSMA. “Despite revenue and margin pressures, local mobile operators continue to invest heavily to extend network coverage to serve unconnected communities and accelerate the migration to high-speed 3G/4G mobile broadband networks. Mobile technology is also playing a central role in Sub-Saharan Africa by addressing a range of socio-economic challenges, particularly digital and financial inclusion, and enabling access to vital services such as education and healthcare.”

    It is forecast that there will be 386 million unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of this year, equivalent to 41 per cent of the region’s population. The region’s subscriber base has grown by 13 per cent a year (CAGR), on average, during the first half of this decade (2010 to 2015), growing at more than twice the rate of the global average (6 per cent) during this period. The region overtook Latin America in 2014 to become the world’s third-largest mobile subscriber market, behind only Asia Pacific and Europe. The number of unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to surpass half a billion (518 million) by 2020, representing almost one in two (49 per cent) of the region’s population by this point.

    Total mobile connections2 in Sub-Saharan Africa are on track to reach 722 million by year-end. Mobile broadband (3G/4G) will account for almost a quarter of connections this year, but will increase to 57 per cent by 2020, driven by expanding mobile broadband network coverage and falling device costs. Commercial 3G networks have been launched in 41 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa as of June 2015, while 4G networks have been launched in 23 countries. Investment in these high-speed networks is resulting in a corresponding growth in consumers using their devices to access the internet; almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the Sub-Saharan African population will be using the mobile internet this year, a figure forecast to rise to 37 per cent by 2020. Mobile is seen as the primary means of accessing the internet in a region where fixed-line infrastructure is severely limited.

    The increasing availability of mobile broadband networks, alongside the introduction of affordable mobile data tariffs and falling device prices, has led to a surge in smartphone use. The smartphone adoption rate has doubled over the last two years and now accounts for one in five connections, though this is still half the global adoption average (40 per cent). It is predicted that regional smartphone connections3 will reach 540 million by 2020, accounting for half of total connections by that point. The report notes that the average selling price (ASP) of smartphones has fallen significantly in most regional markets, with an increasing number of models now available in the sub-US$100 price range.

    In 2014, the mobile ecosystem directly employed approximately 2 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority working in the distribution and retail sectors and approximately 325,000 employed by mobile operators. A further 2.4 million jobs were indirectly supported as result of the demand generated by the mobile sector, bringing the total to 4.4 million. It is forecast that the industry will grow to support more than 6 million jobs by 2020. The mobile ecosystem also made a contribution to the public finances of the region’s governments via general taxation of approximately US$15 billion in 2014.

    Mobile operators in the region invested US$9 billion in network infrastructure development in 2014, a 16 per cent increase on the amount invested in 2013. The ongoing investment in mobile broadband networks will see capital investments reach US$13.6 billion by 2020.

    The report highlights how mobile operators are working on innovative solutions to expand network coverage to underserved populations in rural and geographically remote areas, and to tackle the barriers to mobile phone adoption, including affordability and digital literacy. It also indicates that mobile operators, governments and international development organisations have been working on a range of mobile-based solutions to address a variety of social challenges in the region, many of which arise from lack of access to essential services, such as basic education and health.

    “Mobile is having a hugely positive and transformative impact across Sub-Sahara Africa, but future progress will depend on governments working with the industry to provide a regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation,” added Alex Sinclair.
    Source: Press Release 8 October 2015

  • The National Authority for Regulation of ICT (Autorite Nationale de regulation des TIC, ANRTIC) has awarded Comoros’ second telecoms licence to Madagascan operator Telecom Malagasy (Telma), thus removing the long-held monopoly of incumbent Comores Telecom (ComTel). Announcing the concession winner on 1 October, ANRTIC disclosed that Telma bid KMF7.010 billion (USD16 million) for the concession while its sole rival for the licence, Mauritius Telecom, offered just KMF3.931 billion. Meanwhile, Agence Ecofin notes that the licence is valid for 15 years and will allow Telma to provide fixed and mobile (2G, 3G, 4G) services to the public upon full payment.

    Telma offers fixed and mobile services in Madagascar, while former Comorian monopoly ComTel launched the first GSM and ADSL networks in the country in October 2003 and April 2007, respectively – the operator has since remained the sole provider of wireless and fixed services in Comoros.
    Source: Telegeography 5 October 2015

  • Government could soon assume State-owned telecommunications firm TelOne’s legacy debts amounting to US$330 million amid indications various cabinet committees have okayed the plan, businessdigest has established.

    The legacy loans amounting to US$330 million were inherited after the unbundling of the then Postal and Telecommunications Corporation (PTC). PTC was unbundled into TelOne, NetOne and Zimpost.

    In a statement accompanying the financial results for the half-year ended June 30, TelOne said the removal of the debt from the balance sheet would allow the company to access loans at reasonable rates. Sources said government was warming up to the idea of assuming TelOne’s debt.

    “Government is warming up to the idea. It has gone past various stages of cabinet committees. But Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa will have to make the final call,” a cabinet minister said.

    TelOne wants to raise funds to turn the company into a competitive player in the sector. It has a US$98 million modernisation project but is yet to put in a final order with leading Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer, Huawei. Management said although price benchmarking was on an annual basis, the project has already begun such as the fibre optic roll out and the ADSL.

    TelOne CEO Chipo Mtasa told journalists in the capital last month that government, the company’s shareholder, was talking to financiers for the project. TelOne’s finance cost stood out US$7,2 million in the interim to June 30. In the full year to December, the company paid US$19 million in finance charges.

    TelOne has non-current liabilities of US$100 million. Of this figure, US$53 million is interest-bearing. In the half-year to June, TelOne’s current liabilities stood at US$475 million. Of this figure, US$330 million was interest-bearing. Total assets stood at US$412 million as at June. The telecommunications firm cut staff salaries by 15% in a bid to align its business’ operating model to productivity and lower operating costs.

    Management said salary cuts were part of a broader strategy to lower operating costs by 20% and align staff costs to 32% of revenues. She said salary cuts began in August.

    TelOne’s peers in the telecommunications sector also pursued the same route. Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile network operator, also cut staff salaries by 35% across the board starting in July. The cuts were effected at Econet’s subsidiaries — Steward Bank, Mutare Bottling and Liquid Telecom.

    TelOne has redefined itself into a modern ICT company, which is offering converged telecommunication services and products under three main brands — Broadband, Satellite and Voice.

    The company posted an operating profit of US$1,6 million in the six months to June 30 despite a fall in revenue.

    Revenue was down 9% to US$69 million from US$76 million in the same period last year. Costs of sales were US$37 million from US$42 million. Administrative expenses were down to US$32 million from US$33 million last year. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Debt Assumption Act, signed into law on July 27, paved the way for the government to take liability of an estimated US$1,35 billion debts incurred by the RBZ before December 31 2008.

    A bill for the assumption of the debt would need to be tabled in parliament.
    Source: Zimbabwe 2 October 2015

  • BICS, has announced a step forward in its innovative fraud protection solution, FraudGuard, by extending the crowdsourcing platform to incorporate protection against roaming fraud for its MNO Partners. Roaming fraud is a growing problem that costs the industry over six billion USD per year worldwide and can be responsible for huge revenue losses to telecoms operators anywhere in the world.  FraudGuard identifies over 100 new threats to carriers daily and has already saved operators millions of dollars in revenues, blocking over 500 million fraudulent call attempts across 800 telcos within the first two years of operation.


  • Tigo has entered into partnership with UhuruOne, a local wireless internet service provider to expand 4G mobile network rollout in the country. The uniqueness of this partnership is that it creates one of Africa's first ever Data Virtual Network Operators (DVNO), allowing UhuruOne to expand its wireless broadband data service nationwide.

    DVNO means that UhuruOne will share both capacity and network resources with Tigo's 4G LTE data network enabling its customers to use their data enabled devices to access super-fast 4G speed.

    Commenting on the partnership Tigo General Manager said: "This is the first of its kind in Africa, and Tigo is pleased to work with a pioneering operator UhuruOne. The 4G technology launch is part of Tigo and UhuruOne's commitment to continue improving the quality and coverage of its network and bring world class products and services to Tanzanians."

    The Executive Chairman of UhuruOne, Rajabu Katunda said that he sees in a couple of months a villager surfing the net using UhuruOne 4G, hospitals entering the world of e-health using UhuruOne4G, a fisherman on a boat in the lake surfing the net using UhuruOne 4G, students accessing digital libraries.

    "The future I see for Tanzania is a future where connectivity is available and affordable for all and I see UhuruOne bridging this gap.

    We have seen Africa leap frog technologically, and UhuruOne has been innovating in the internet space since 2009, as a founding member of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance we are all for sharing, and this spectrum sharing between ourselves and Tigo is a match made in heaven," he said.

    In another development, Tigo subscribers in Dar es Salaam can now enjoy the fastest internet connection following expansion of the company's 4G LTE service to the entire city.
    Source: Tanzania Daily News 8 October 2015

  • Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has rolled out LTE internet service for mobile phones in Zimbabwe, ITWeb reported. In 2013, Econet became the seventh mobile operator in Africa to offer LTE connectivity although it was only restricted to accessibility through modems.

    The LTE service has until now been available at all of Zimbabwe's airports and the CBDs of Harare and Bulawayo as well as in the resort town of Victoria Falls. Expansion of the service to mobile phones marks a new development for the company as it enhances its revenues from the data segment.
    Source: Telecompaper 6 October 2015

  • Facebook has partnered with Eutelsat, to launch a new satellite that is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa as part of its initiative.

    Making the announcement through his Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg CEO Facebook, said, "I'm excited to announce our first project to deliver internet from space. As part of our efforts to connect the world, we're partnering with Eutelsat to launch a satellite into orbit that will connect millions of people."

    The AMOS-6 satellite, owned by Spacecom, Mr. Zuckerberg said that the satellite was under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. "We're going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite," he added. AMOS-6, to be located at 4 West orbital postion, will be the satellite backbone for Eutelsat and Facebook's major operation to provide satellite communication services in Sub Sahara Africa using AMOS-6's entire Ka-band capacity. Their new initiative leverages satellite technologies to increase the number of African citizens online.

    Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky and connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient.

    "This is just one of the innovations we're working on to achieve our mission with Connectivity changes lives and communities. We're going to keep working to connect the entire world -- even if that means looking beyond our planet," said Mr. Zuckerberg.

    The capacity is optimised for community and Direct-to-User Internet access using affordable, off-the-shelf customer equipment. According to the terms of the agreement, the capacity will be shared between Eutelsat and Facebook.

    Using state of the art satellite technology, Eutelsat and Facebook will each deploy Internet services designed to relieve pent-up demand for connectivity from the many users in Africa beyond range of fixed and mobile terrestrial networks.

    Satellite networks are well suited to economically connecting people in low to medium density population areas and the high throughput satellite architecture of AMOS-6 is expected to contribute to additional gains in cost efficiency.

    The capacity will enable Eutelsat to step up its broadband activity in Sub-Saharan Africa that was initiated using Ku-band satellites to serve professional users.
    Source: CIO East Africa 6 October 2015


    French telco group Orange hopes to play a larger role in Africa’s booming markets by funding Afrostream, a video-on-demand service that showcases African, African-American and African-Caribbean films and TV series, Variety reports.

    Afrostream’s primary target audience is black viewers, but it aims to showcase content that can cross over to general audiences.

    Investment by Orange Digital Ventures, a corporate fund, will allow Afrostream to accelerate development of its service in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and South America, according to PCTech.

    Dubbed “the Netflix of Africa” by Ebony, Afrostream is already available in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, ( It offers family programs, cartoons, concerts and documentaries in addition to films and TV series.

    Orange wants to take advantage of its presence in African and European countries with large African diaspora populations. In collaborating with the Afrostream start-up, Orange can provide expertise in networks, distribution and payments, PCTech reported.

    The Afrostream subscription video on demand service is priced at $8 per month and $70 per year, according to Variety.

    “The future of television is mobile,” said Tonjé Bakang, Afrostream CEO. “With this strategic investment from Orange, Afrostream now brings together the best of the mobile Internet and the best of African content.”

    “African American movies and series keep punching high numbers but they are seldom distributed overseas, which is an anomaly considering that the community of Africans and Afro descendants represents 1.2 billion people around the world, so our goal is to fill that void,” Bakang added.

    “In the next 10 years, smartphones are going to become the first window there,” Bakang said. “Orange is currently the biggest telco operator in Africa and they’re about to launch 4G in the territory so establishing a solid basis and investing in content there is key.”

    In addition to funding from Orange, Afrostream has been supported by Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley seed accelerator, PCTech reports. It also received funding from TheFamily, Cross Culture Ventures I L.P. and ACE & Company, according to Variety.

    Bakang said he expects to launch Afrostream in the U.K. and English-speaking countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. Brazil is considered a promising market for Afrostream.

    The video-on-demand service has bought Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse” and Sky Living’s “Venus vs. Mars,” among others.
    Source: Afkinsider 7 October 2015 

    To see an interview with Tonje Bakang of Afrostream, click on the link here.

    Below : Balancing Act's market report on VoD and Africa, updated Sept. 2015.


  • The government has moved to set up a regulatory framework for remotely piloted aircraft, popularly referred to as 'drones,' following investor interest to establish the world's first drone airport (drone port) in the country beginning next year.

    Last month, Norman Foster, a renowned British architect, expressed interest by his firm, Foster + Partners, alongside business partners to build the world's first drone port in the country to facilitate transport of urgent medical supplies and electronic parts to remote parts of the region using drones.

    In their proposal, the investors said, beginning next year, they intend to begin construction of three drone ports, which will take about four years to complete.

    To facilitate the planned development, Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) is in the process of drafting regulations that will soon be submitted to Cabinet for approval and to be made operational by 2016.

    The authority found it important to have the framework in place to guide further developments in the technology, which is fast becoming popular, as well as other aspects such as port construction.

    RCAA public relations officer Tonny Barigye told The New Times that the overall aim was to ensure that the uptake of the technology was done in a secure, safe and efficient manner.

    "As soon as the regulations are in force, Rwanda will be able to regulate any projects related to remotely piloted aircraft systems including and not limited to drone operations and all infrastructure required," Barigye said.

    The process involves consultations with stakeholders in the aviation industry and is also guided by the international civil aviation guidelines.

    Foster's firm is looking at a facility that will not only be used by Rwanda, but the region as well, with plans of expansion to the entire continent.
    Read the full story here.

  • Software development startup AhadooTec won the Ethiopian leg of the Seedstars World competition in Addis Ababa yesterday for Fidel, its e-learning and school management system.

    AhadooTec will now progress to the global Seedstars World final in Geneva, Switzerland next year to compete for up to US$500,000 in equity investment.

    The Ethiopian leg – which came after African heats already took place in Mozambique, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast,Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya – was hosted at iceaddis.

    AhadooTec was named the regional winner, with Fidel recognised for its new approach to managing schools and learning. Founder Eskinder Mamo said the team was excited to have won, and that it was a great motivation for the team to keep on working towards its vision.

    Winsol Green Power Engineering, with its solar charger for mobile phones and homes, came second, while Locally, a platform to help people discover local businesses, came third.

    The event saw 11 startups pitch in front of a jury including Etalem Engeda, chief executive officer (CEO) of the UNDP Entrepreneurship Development Centre, and Marcello Schermer, regional manager for Africa at Seedstars World.

    Seedstars Addis Ababa also featured speaker Anne-Beatrice Bullinger from the Swiss Embassy in Ethiopia, who opened the event and welcomed all the guests. The local ambassador of Seedstars World Markos Lemma, co-founder of iceaddis, organised the event with Seedstars World’s local partners.

    The next stop on the Seedstars World tour is Luanda, Angola on October 28.
    Source: Disrupt Africa 9 October 2015

Digital Content

  • Nairobi — Powered by caffeine and adrenalin, hundreds of Kenyan and Canadian geeks will compete over Skype in a 28-hour 'hackathon' to develop apps to improve rural Kenyans' health, farms and access to education.

    Hackathons are marathon brainstorming sessions where computer programmers get together to write software.

    The Nov. 20-22 Poverty Hackathon will be the first international development-focused virtual hackathon - taking place on two continents simultaneously, the organisers say.

    "While it's not common for hackathons to have virtual teams working together, we think it's a core component of actually making impact," said Canadian Danielle Thé, who set up the charity Devs Without Borders in Toronto earlier this year.

    "While people want to help, our concepts of what the major problems or roadblocks are for individuals in other countries could be very biased," said Thé, 26.

    New technologies brought by outsiders often fail because the donors don't understand the local context, such as whether there are teachers to show children how to use donated laptops or how to protect valuable solar panels from theft.

    Devs Without Borders is partnering with iHub, the best-known incubator for the east African nation's blossoming technology community, to ensure the geeks don't make this mistake.

    "It's about understanding who is going to use the application and the exact scenario in which they will use it," said John Paul Karijo, iHub's community manager. "You have to think... about... the human being at the centre of the problem."

    A panel of judges will choose a winning idea for testing in January by the Toronto-based charity Free the Children, which has education, healthcare and agriculture projects in 18 remote villages in Kenya's Maasai Mara region.

    "What's really unique about it (the hackathon) is it's specifically going to be developing SMS app technology," said Toronto-based Sarah MacIndoe, Free The Children's director of international programmes.

    The focus on implementation is what attracted iHub. "In the past we've had experiences where solutions from hackathons just remain hackathon solutions," said Karijo.

    'Hackathon' teams will work together writing code for apps that could provide information on maternal health and first aid, or encourage families to send their daughters to school.

    Facebook's, recently renamed Free Basics, partners with local mobile phone providers to give users free access to online services like the encyclopedia Wikipedia, job listings and health information, as well as Facebook.

    The project, launched in Zambia in 2013 and extended to more than a dozen other countries, has brought more than 9 million people online, Facebook says.

    Google is spending millions of dollars on satellites, high-altitude balloons and drones to extend internet access to an estimated 4.5 billion unwired people around the world.

    "There is really a space for developers around the world to provide more services for individuals that are going to be on the internet for the first time in the next couple of years," said Thé.

    Kenya is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, known for its pioneering Mpesa mobile money transfer application.

    The Maasai and Kipsigis people that Free the Children work with in the Maasai Mara are already familiar with SMS-based apps, using them for mobile banking and money transfers, MacIndoe said.

    One Toronto participant will be Francine Navarro, a 24-year-old software developer who visited Free the Children's projects in Kenya three years ago.

    Startled on that trip by a girl asking if there was female genital mutilation in Canada, Navarro began thinking about the role technology can play in improving women's rights - for example enabling women to blog about injustices they experience.

    "Technology can become a force for social change," she said.
    Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation 6 October 2015

  • JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – 05 October, 2015 – Samsung Electronics South Africa’s partnership with onTV-Media gives Samsung Smart TV and Smartphone users access to Africa’s first and only lifestyle app, free of charge.

    The onTV-Media app is available on the “Preferred Bar” of the Samsung TV app store with an active broadband connection through the SmartHub (which comes standard with all Samsung Smart TVs*).

    Samsung is always looking for fresh ways to add value to our consumers and enhance their overall entertainment experience. We believe that this exclusive, free access to Africa’s first lifestyle app is a great benefit that adds to the multiple advantages of owning a Samsung Smart TV,” said Matthew Thackrah, Deputy Managing Director and Head of Consumer Electronics at Samsung Electronics SA.

    The onTV-Media app is the first of its kind in Africa. It provides content through a range of digital magazines across the lifestyle spectrum, with subjects including design and decor, motoring, architecture, fine dining and travel. Weather updates and information on the latest cinema releases is also available, as well as Video on Demand. The app is continually being developed to provide users with enhanced lifestyle content.

    Stefaan Rietoff, CEO and founder of onTV-Media, said, “As the unparalleled industry leader in Smart TVs, Samsung was our preferred choice of partner to bring our app to life. It is regularly updated with new features to keep pace with Samsung’s amazing technology and to offer users an exceptional service. We are in the process of building an ‘e commerce’ section for users to transact with their chosen service providers. We are also bringing more premium brands and retailers on board, including Etihad Airways and Jaguar, Land Rover, to further add to the consumer experience with quality content and services.”

    Portals linking to premium estates (gated communities) across South Africa – including Steyn City – are also under development. The app will provide residents with useful information and notifications including levy statements and updates, for a holistic ecosystem to complement the range of Samsung Smart TVs.

    “As leaders in innovation, Samsung is constantly uncovering new ways to improve the overall experience for our Smart TV users. The onTV premier lifestyle app provides connected users with a fresh way to receive the latest lifestyle content, and we will continue to add to our offering in line with our vision,” concluded Thackrah.
    Source: Technobok 6 October 2015

  • SES S.A. (NYSE Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG), a world-leading satellite operator with a fleet of over 50 geostationary satellites, today announced a multi-year contract with Softwire Digital Solutions who will be utilising SES capacity to implement countrywide e-learning solutions in Nigeria.

    Softwire Digital Solutions, a provider of IT and capacity building services in Nigeria, has been chosen by the Nigerian Government as one of several to implement a number of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects, with the aim to bridge the digital and information gap that exists in the rural areas of Nigeria and provide more e-learning facilities to the underserved areas. Softwire will be utilising capacity on SES’s NSS-10 satellite for the deployment of this ICT project, under the financing of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).

    “We are proud to be associated with SES, as they have the expertise and the technical know-how to help us achieve our goals in Nigeria,” commented Dalo Edetanlen, CEO Softwire Digital Solutions Limited. “Our partnership ensures that we will deliver quality service to our clients, particularly the USPF.  We hope to leverage this relationship to expand our business and become one of the leading ISPs in the country,” Edetanlen concluded.

    “Many governments and public institutions on the continent have already begun to develop broadband policies to address this digital inequality, but again are hindered by costs, infrastructure and inaccessible, non-urban populations. Satellites have vast coverage and a reach that’s undaunted by mountain, desert, jungle or savannah. Digital communications and broadband Internet are increasingly important to Nigeria and the continent’s social and economic development. Our satellite broadband technology is able to deliver a wide range of services across Nigeria’s non-urban population, to help drive growth and knowledge transfer,” added Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou, Senior Vice President, SES Commercial in Africa.
    Source: Company Press Release

  • South Africa leads in mobile application downloads in the sub-Saharan Africa market as consumers in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya race to catch up, says an international organisation.

    The GSM Association (GSMA) revealed in its 'Mobile Economy Report for Sub-Saharan Africa 2015' report - which was released in Cape Town this week - that as mobile broadband penetration increases, consumers are turning to mobile apps.

    "Social networking and instant messaging apps from global internet players are very popular among smartphone users in the region," the GSMA said.

    According to market tracker App Annie, WhatsApp is the top downloaded application in SA, followed by Facebook Messenger, Facebook and Instagram.

    However, the growth in smartphones has spurred a local industry that is racing to build relevant applications.

    "There is growing interest from local consumers in home-grown apps. Several popular local apps have originated from South Africa and Nigeria, and are now gaining traction in other countries in the region," said the GSMA.

    As more people use applications, the GSMA expects e-commerce in sub-Saharan Africa to expand rapidly.

    "Mobile commerce will be central to the evolution of the digital commerce market in Sub-Saharan Africa, as the majority of internet users in the region will access the web through mobile devices."

    Mobile operators and brick and mortar retailers in SA have moved to take advantage of the expansion of mobile e-commerce or m-commerce.

    Vodacom and MTN are promoting their mobile money platforms and retailers such as Shoprite, Pick n Pay and Massmart-owned Game and Makro are actively pushing consumers to use their e-commerce enabled platforms.

    While mobile is expected to connect 518 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020, the GSMA warned that significant barriers to adoption still exist.

    "Despite the significant progress, six out of ten people in the region will still be unconnected by 2020, with sub-Saharan Africa continuing to lag well behind the global average."
    Source: Fin24

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Paga, arguably Nigeria’s leading mobile payments company, has completed a $13 million Series B financing round. The financing was supported by Adlevo Capital, Omidyar Network, Acumen Fund, Capricorn Investment Group and Goodwell West Africa. Co-Founder and CEO of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman, is also interested in joining the list of investors.

    Founded in 2009, Paga allows users deposit money in bank accounts in Nigeria, pay bills, and top-up airtime from their mobile phones. With its service offerings tailored to suit SMEs, Paga is rather popular among merchants looking to sell their goods and services online and collect debit card or mobile money payments securely.

    “We are very excited about Paga. When Adlevo first invested in Paga in 2012 the company had processed only about 270,000 transactions totaling just over $15 million in value. The company has experienced an impressive compounded annual growth rate of about 150% since Adlevo invested – today, having processed over 17 million transactions worth over a billion dollars”, said Folabi Esan, Managing Partner at Adlevo Capital.

    Paga has over 3,600 SME clients and 3.4 million users for payments; offering its services through a network of over 8,850 agents across Nigeria.

    Commenting on the investment deal, founder and CEO of Paga – Tayo Oviosu, had this to say: “Our recent financing will help us continue to build towards our vision and support the strengthening of our agent network. Of course, we must continue to innovate on our payment offerings for small and medium enterprises and consumers. In addition, through our agent network today, we already offer more physical service points than all the bank branches in Nigeria put together, so we are actively working on partnerships with banks to offer our agent network for use by their customers”.

    “Effectively, Paga agents will act as human ATMs and bring significant convenience to customers of the banks who need to deposit or withdraw cash from their bank accounts without traveling far or waiting in long lines. This will support the banks in achieving their critical goal of truly reaching the mass market.”
    Source: TechPoint

  • A new mobile phone network service, Lacell Private Limited, which has been awarded a license to operate in Malawi has paid Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) $1.1 million (K600 million) for the licence and spectrum, also said it is set to create 1 000 jobs.

    Macra board chairperson Alisha Makawa presents the licence to Sattar (R) on Monday

    Macra board chair Alissa Makawa handing over the licence to Lacell Board Chair Sattar

    Lacell board chair Farook Sattar said the newly licensed mobile phone network operator is thanking Malawi government for "conducive environment" to award a mobile licence to the company so that the consumers have choices on the market.

    Sattar said Lacell has already invested $150 million (about K84 billion at the current exchange rate) and was ready to roll out its services.

    Macra officially handed over the licence to Lacell on Monday evening at Protea Ryalls Hotel in Blantyre, making Lacell the fourth mobile company to be licenced after operational TNM and Airtel, and Celcom, which was licenced, but is yet to roll out.

    Sattar said his company is committed to invest significant sums to enhance telecommunications potential for Malawi and that Lacell will bring "significant value and innovations" to the consumers of Malawi.

    He pledged to roll out the network next year and that quality of service will not be compromised.

    Sattar also promised that Lacell will introduce new services even to the rural masses for the social economic development of the country.

    Macra director general Godfrey Itaye said the investment was commendable, adding the amount Lacell paid for the licence and spectrum in foreign currency was a big boost to the country's economy.
    Source: Naysar Times 6 October 2015

  • Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has announced that it will own 24% of the shares of Helios Towers Africa (HTA) following a shareholding reorganisation. The reshuffle will see MIC exchange its shares in HTA’s tower companies in Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania for shares in the parent company. In its statement, MIC noted that the transaction will simplify the share ownership structure of HTA, adding that there will be no change to access to commercially sensitive information.

    HTA acquired a portfolio of 2,450 MIC towers in the three nations mentioned above through its various units via a leaseback deal in 2010, with MIC retaining a minority stake in the local tower companies. Through the current deal, MIC will exchange its holdings in these subsidiaries for a 24% stake in HTA.
    Source: Telegeography 9 Ocotber 2015


  • Applications have opened for the African Rethink Awards

    My African StartUp is now accepting applications for The African Rethink Awards. The award is aimed at developing African entrepreneurs to become experts and gain international recognition.

    100 shortlisted startups will be invited to Paris for the African Rethink Awards where they will pitch to an audience of political and economic decision-makers and stakeholders from all around the world.

    The event, hosted by French think-tank Planetworkshops, is part of a nine day event dedicated to African economies and tagged the Land of African Business (LAB).

    The Land of African Business event will hold from the 2nd to the 11th of December 2015 and will conclude with the granting of 3 awards to three startups selected from a pool of 100 startups invited to present the vision behind their enterprises. The award categories are Grand Prize, Diaspora Award and Award for Women’s Entrepreneurship.

    €10,000 goes to the grand prize winner and €5,000 each goes to the Diaspora Award winner and the winner of the Award for Women’s Entrepreneurship.

    Applications for the African Rethink Awards is open to any startup founded by an African in Africa or Diaspora that is focused on solving problems – either social, environmental, economic or any other problems Africans have to deal with.

    The deadline for applications is 10th October, 2015.

    Muzinda Hub launches business plan competition

    Zimbabwean incubator Muzinda Hub has launched its inaugural business plan competition, asking entrepreneurs with web or app based product ideas to apply for the chance to have their solutions developed.

    Through the business plan competition, Muzinda Hub is targeting entrepreneurs with outstanding ideas which are at the concept or prototype stage.

    10 shortlisted applicants will be selected to pitch to a panel of judges during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November, with five of the competitors to have their products developed by Muzinda Hub; while Johannesburg-based Ubuntu Equity will provide business support.

    According to manager of Muzinda Hub Tendai Mashingaidze, the cost of development is often what hinders entrepreneurs in launching their products to market, and is an area in which the software development oriented incubator hub can be of impact.

    “Development costs are arguably the biggest cost for tech startups on the continent and we believe that this is the space where Muzinda can add value, by providing pro-bono development hours as in this case with our annual business plan competition, and also affordable development costs to the startup community,” Mashingaidze says.

    “We felt it important that the final pitches are done within the Global Entrepreneurship Week in order to cement the importance of development houses such as ours to support tech entrepreneurship on the continent.”

    Ideas submitted must be at the concept or very early prototyping stage, must display a clear profit objective, and scalability of the business on the continent.

    Submissions are open until October 30 October, and can be made online here.

  • Fibre to Home Conference 2015
    20-21 October 2015

    Kigali Rwanda
    "Despite the abundance of sub-sea cables linking Africa to the rest of the world, most African countries still struggle with a lack of basic broadband services" says Juanita Clark, FTTH Council Africa CEO. "We need to collaborate, as a continent, to ensure regulatory challenges are addressed – minimising barriers to entry for high-speed fibre networks."
    Topic and White Paper submissions close on Friday, 31 July. Submit yours by emailing
    Broadband is a significant technological development, providing users with fast, always-on access to new services, applications and content. Over the past decade broadband connectivity in Africa has significantly increased due to demand. Today governments across Africa recognise that broadband is more than just an infrastructure. It is a mission critical technology that can fundamentally restructure an economy. The topic of broadband deserves intensive focus and extensive dialogue’.
    Register online at here.
    For more information visit 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.

    AfricaCom / AfricaCast / TV Connect Africa 2015
    17-19 November 2015
    Cape Town, South Africa

    The largest annual meeting of ICT, telecoms and broadcast professionals for Africa. A 'must attend'. AfricaCom welcomes the re-launch of the AfricaCast event as TV Connect Africa. About 8000 participants. Balancing Act CEO will attend, email us to set up a meeting. Organiser: Informa - See more here.


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