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Issue no 753 17th April 2015

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  • One of the most interesting players helping provide cheap smartphones is Mozilla. With its Firefox OS it both offers a route to a much cheaper smartphone and an OS that is not the dominant “dark star”, Android. Russell Southwood spoke to Mozilla’s VP, Planning and Ecosystem Rick Fant about what it’s doing and how it will impact Africa.

    The rational for Firefox OS is that Mozilla felt that it had to follow its users on to mobile or risk losing out. Also as an organization that was “dedicated to keeping the power of the Web in people’s hands” it wanted to be able to give its users a crucial element of choice.

    ”The web is going mobile. The web on mobile has all the same advantages as on the desktop. We have to move with the users to the mobile space. We want to provide something that is open and essentially free access and provides support for multiple devices.” He stressed that Firefox OS was “open and free and respected.”

    The product of this rationale is Firefox OS 2.0 which is a web-based interface for smartphones that has “all the same properties as a desktop. Most of the components have been built from HTML and it is a rich and capable technology.”

    So how many users does this challenger mobile OS have?:”We’re an OS provider to OEMs and operators and they don’t share their numbers. But there are millions of Firefox OS users globally.” It started in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia but is now going into Africa.

    Mozilla already had an interest and a presence in Africa through both the Foundation and the company:”The web in Africa is a liberating force for addressing poverty and opening up education. What we’re doing now is an extension of work we’ve already done. We want to provide mobile as a low cost access point.

    How the process works is that Mozilla offers the Firefox OS and links mobile operators with vendors who can build extremely cheap smartphones, the likes of Alcatel Lucent (soon to merge with Nokia), ZTE and Huawei:”We say to the operator that Firefox OS is an open platform. It’s app store is open to all and you’ll not be beholden to an existing OS company. Go and talk to one of the vendors about capabilities and prices and use the OS and what the vendor has to create the consumer product you want. We enable the partners to go forward with this. We are not making smartphones.”

    So how low is the price of a low cost smartphone?:”Cherry Mobile in the Philippines has selected a model that sells for US$22. At the other end of the scale another company has the SXO which sells for at least US$600 but that’s a bit of an outlier. We try to stay with an entry level price that’s below US$150 and most are in the US$30-50 range.”

    At this price, there obviously limitations:”It’s a relatively low spec device with a 3.5” screen and a simple case. There’s no frills but it’s a modern chipset and it’s capable of running web apps like Facebook and Twitter. It might not run 4-5 at the same time as there are memory limitations. All have cameras and in the case of two of the Alcatel phones  - Fire S and Fire E - they have front cameras. They are currently 3G, not 4G”.

    “The smartphone experience is not only about communications but sharing content. We’re making sure users in emerging markets can create their own content. There’s a product called Webmaker on the desktop which we’ve transitioned to mobile. Any SME can use this template to create an app. Users will be app creators, not just web consumers”.

    “It’s going to be much more local as European and US apps are not so relevant. There might be a community of hundred rather than millions and there will be lots of small apps, not just big ones. We’ve been approached dozens of people, including music services and taxi apps asking how we can help them. There is no control point. If you can get a url of your service to the consumer, it’s a direct consumer relationship. You don’t have to go through the Apple Store or Google Play.”

    “We’re trying to promote operator billing as a standard payment mechanism. But operators in Africa are ‘old school’, wanting big percentage. We are educating operators in what has worked elsewhere. It needs to be more like 7-10%. Volume does matter. If you want to hold on to high rev shares, you will be by-passed. But we’ve not made a lot of traction in this to be honest.”

    It sees these cheap phones as targeted at two overlapping groups: for those who are new to the Internet or those who are transitioning from featurephones. It gives them apps, communications and integration features. And at this low end price, it’s hard not to see how over a 2-5 year period (depending on the market) how at least 50-80% of users will be smartphone users.

    Orange announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it would be rolling out the Orange Klif. The Orange Klif offers connectivity speeds of up to 21 Mbps, is dual SIM, and includes a two-megapixel camera and micro-SD slot. The Orange Klif is the first Firefox OS phone powered by a MediaTek processor.

    The 3G Firefox OS smartphone is exclusive to Orange and will be available from Q2 in 11 of Orange’s Africa markets, including, but not limited to, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Cameroon, Botswana, Madagascar, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Kenya, and Mauritius.

    MTN is also offering a Firefox OS phone. According to MTN, the Fire E features a 4.5-inch 960×540 display as well as a dual-core 1.2Ghz processor. The device also features 512MBs of RAM and 4GBs of expandable storage. To add to the features, the Fire E also packs in 5MP main camera and a VGA-quality front-facing camera. It sees one of the advantages of the phone is that it can be easily set up for four of the 11 official languages, namely English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and Xhosa. More broadly, Mozilla is supporting as many languages “as it humanly can and we have vibrant local communities.”

    Among 19 global operators signing up to the open web device initiative in Barcelona was Etisalat although to date they do appear to have made any Africa-specific, handset announcements.

    So why are mobile operators jumping at the Firefox OS?:”They’ve realized it’s not just about the device. It’s about data access and data at a price. Orange has bundled 6 months of web access with its phone. That’s critical to new users.”

    The world’s “zen slap” now finds the former “masters of the universe” fighting to be let back into the mobile OS space:”Mobile operators and OEMs now see Google’s mobile services as an environment where they are being pushed out. They are being made into a dumb pipe. They’re looking at an alternative with a rich ecosystem. They’re looking for the ability to customize and stay in the value chain.”

    “There is a rush of Android clones and these have some options for customization. The issue is still what Google will do next. Google might make a left rather than a right turn.” In other words, Google might the versions of its Android platforms used by clones unsupported.

    “This is more than just Mozilla pushing economics and products. It’s all about our mission – pushing the free and open web and the pivot to mobile.”

    So the next big behavior change is how wider numbers of Africans will adopt the Internet on mobile and how literacy (ability to read, functional and tech) will become more important as this transition takes place. Maybe someone will actual lydevise something that’s as popular as Facebook to provide people with simple steps, aspirational literacy on this new generation of phones?

    ______________________________________________________________

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

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

    3D Printing in Africa – A Slow Burn Movement with huge potential that has yet to find its growth path
    Separating Hype from Reality in the Fizzy World of Africa Start-Ups – VC4Africa survey findings
    Education entrepreneur Obinna Ukwuani, Exposure Robotics’ plans to launch the first African STEM secondary school in Nigeria
    Adventures in Crowdfunding African start-ups – 2 picks and some lessons

    Videos interviews to watch:
    Stephen Lee on what Tigo Music (in partnership with Deezer) is doing in Africa
    GSMA's Claire Sibthorpe on a study on the gap between men and women's use of mobile phones in Africa
    Francis Dufay on breaking down the mistrust barrier to make a success of Jumia in Cote d'Ivoire
    Mohamed Diaby on hackathons, start up seed funds and online potential in Cote d'Ivoire
    Christian Kamayou, MyAfricanStartUp on launching African Start-Up Forum to get start-ups investors
    Africa Data Challenge Winner Jelena Aleksic on using Raspberry Pi's to analyse bioinformatics data
    Fernando de Sousa, Microsoft on start-up barriers in Africa and good examples of African start-ups
    Uche Iwuchukwu on the launch of Udala Media's SVoD platform for African and Caribbean Users
    Teoman Buyan on Coca Cola's African social media and its free Wi-Fi cooler hot-spots

    To get breaking news, follow us on Twitter: @BalancingActAfr
    Balancing Act has recorded over 100 4G-LTE deployment projects in Africa
     
    Everyone knows that 4G services / LTE begun to be deployed in Africa, but few people know exactly which countries and which operators are launching or about to launch.
     
    From 1st. April 2015, Balancing Act has recorded that 99 mobile operators want to introduce, or have already officially launched 4G-LTE services in 35 African countries. On April 10, 2015, 3 operators from Benin were added to this list, "we’ve reached 102 4G operators with projects in Africa! " says Sylvain Belêtre, analyst at Balancing Act. But only 18 mobile operators have commercially launched 4G / LTE services to date, in 18 of the 54 African countries.
     
    "The number of 4G-LTE announcements across Africa is increasing monthly," says Sylvain Belêtre, adding that over the next five years, "Balancing Act expects that between 100 to 150 operators in Africa will be launching 4G-LTE services, targeting the B2B and B2C segments, mainly in large urban areas. "
     
    Read the description of the report here

Money Transfer

  • There are now 5.3 million mobile money subscribers in Zimbabwe, with the total number of transaction values rising by 80% to $1.4 billion in 2014 compared to the previous year, latest data shows.

    All of Zimbabwe's three mobile operators namely Econet, NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe - run mobile money services.

    An industry report by the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) showed on Wednesday that the total number of mobile money transfer subscriptions grew by 7.3% to reach 5.3 million during the third quarter period to the end of December compared to the previous quarter's 4.9 million subscribers.

    "The total value of transfers and transaction on mobile money services increased by 10.6% to record $445.7 million from $403.1 million recorded in the previous quarter. The number of agents also increased by 13.7% to reach 23,379 from 20,569 agents recorded in the previous quarter," reads the Potraz report.

    It also said the yearly total transaction value for 2014 increased by 81% to $1.4 billion compared to the previous contrasting period.

    Mobile money agents for 2014 increased by 14,210 new agents to reach 23,379 by the end of December.
    Source: ITWeb Africa  15 April 2015

  • Safaricom plans to completely shut down its popular money transfer service for about half a day this weekend to allow for an upgrade as it begins “the journey to bring M-Pesa home”.

    This follows at least two other recent suspensions of the service for routine maintenance by the mobile services provider in recent weeks.

    New customer registrations, personal identification number (PIN) changes and account activations will be unavailable in the 48 hours leading up to the shutdown. This includes signing up for M-Shwari and M-Kesho accounts.

    “The M-Pesa system upgrade is scheduled for Saturday April 18, 2015 at 11pm to Sunday April 19, 2015 at noon,” the company said in an advertisement placed in local dailies. “We have begun the long-awaited journey to bring M-Pesa home.”

    The mobile giant had earlier revealed plans to transfer all M-Pesa servers from Germany to Kenya by the beginning of April, promising users of the mobile money transfer service a more reliable system.

    “The new M-Pesa system is aimed at improving efficiency, stability and speed,” the advert reads.

    The installation of M-Pesa servers locally is expected to end nearly eight years of foreign hosting, which has at times been cited for delayed response to service interruptions.

    Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore had earlier said that the new M-Pesa platform was expected to be completed by the end of March.

    “We will be running a parallel network from time to time while undergoing test runs,” Mr Collymore told Business Daily in an interview last December. “Thereafter, we will have a complete switch over. We expect the new platform located here will have bigger capacity, be much faster and allow other merchants to connect directly to the platform.”
    Source: Business Daily 15 April 2015

  • Moov Togo has extended its mobile money service ‘Flooz’ to offer cross-border transactions to Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger. Launched in September 2013, Flooz allows Moov Togo users to carry out a range of financial transactions. Moov Togo is a subsidiary of Maroc Telecom following the Moroccan group’s EUR474 million (USD532.3 million) acquisition of United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Etisalat’s operations in Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger in January this year, in an intra-group deal alongside Etisalat’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Maroc Telecom. Maroc Telecom is reportedly keen to maximise data-based revenue in the region and sees mobile money as a promising segment to help achieve this.

    Last month Maroc Telecom revealed plans to invest MAD1.6 billion (USD162.49 million) in its newly acquired West African operations over the next five years, after securing an ‘interest-free four-year loan’. The operator will focus on improving the units’ Quality of Service (QoS), while also stepping up the deployment of fixed and mobile broadband networks in Benin, Central African Republic, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger and Togo.
    Source: Telegeography 14 April 2015

  • United Bank for Africa (UBA) Cameroon has emerged the winner of the prepaid innovative product of the year award at the Prepaid Summit Middle East event in Casablanca Morocco, sponsored by the electronic payment company, Visa. UBA Cameroon won the award for a cobranded Student ID Visa Prepaid concept that aims to provide students with a multi-function Visa card. The card, which serves as an ID for student, contains vital information such as the department, university year and can also be used internationally.

telecoms

  • Confusion has erupted between regulator ZICTA’s awarding of phase two of the rural communication tower project.

    Zambian president Edgar Lungu this month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China on the awarding of the tender to Huawei Technologies to execute phase two of the tower project.

    But ZICTA has said as far as it was concerned, it has not awarded the Chinese company the contract.

    Appearing before lawmakers last week, ZICTA director for Legal Services Thomas Malama said although the MoU was signed between the Zambian president and the Chinese government, ZICTA is yet to engage any contractor to do phase two. Read the full story here:

    Source: ITWeb Africa 14 April 2015

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and global telecommunications operator Orange announced a new alliance to develop innovations in mobile health (mHealth) at the Global mHealth Forum in Washington, DC.  These mHealth innovations will help treat and care for individuals in developing countries across Africa.

    “With the increasing use and decreasing cost of mobile phones, leveraging mobile phone technology to accelerate access to health information and services is a game changer,” said Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Global Health.  “USAID’s partnerships with private companies, such as Orange, enable us to have a larger impact in a cost-effective manner.”

    The first phase of these health system-strengthening programs will leverage the expertise, technology and local resources of both organizations to improve quality of care and ensure that health services are readily accessible to the public at large. Niger and other countries are currently under exploration.

    Future services will use integrated mHealth platforms and Orange mobile networks to communicate alerts and share resources around family planning and maternal health. Healthcare workers will be able to use the technology to share medical expertise, collaborate with specialists regardless of location, and improve patient care.  In addition, the public will be able to access health information via the mHealth platforms.  Orange’s global footprint, with mobile and fixed networks in 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East, will provide seamless and reliable access to these services.

    A maternal mHealth solution will provide medical practitioners access to the latest tools and medical information allowing them to monitor a mother’s pregnancy from a distance. This is particularly useful in some parts of Africa where much of the population lives in rural areas without easy access to healthcare or readily available means of transport. By using mHealth solutions, medical professionals would be able to flag potential problems early and provide the necessary care that reduces risks to mother and child.

    “There is a tremendous amount of good that mobile technology and digital innovations can bring to improve the quality of healthcare to those less fortunate,” said Thierry Zylberberg, Director, Orange Healthcare. “Together with USAID, we are creating innovative mHealth platforms that open up the opportunities for remote patient monitoring or healthcare workers to make better-informed decisions and facilitate quality care for all citizens.”

    The goal of the USAID/Orange alliance is to create a framework for easily replicating these important mobile services in a number of African countries throughout the region. In West Africa, USAID and Orange are starting to develop a regional platform with a menu of mobile applications that ministries of health, donors and NGOs could use for consumer education, health worker tools, mobile money, and data collection.
    Source: Press Release 14 April 2015

  • Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, is poised to extend its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network footprint this week, with the deployment of 200 new base transceiver stations (BTS). The development was disclosed to Capital FM by ICT cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i.

    According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Safaricom switched on its LTE network in December 2014 in Nairobi and Mombasa. In November 2014 Safaricom signed a KES14.9 billion (USD157.1 million) deal with the government to construct a national security and surveillance system, and was offered the chance to buy 4G radio spectrum as part of the agreement. The company paid USD75 million for the spectrum and is obliged to roll out 4G services countrywide within 36 months.
    Source; SAMENA News 15 April 2015

  • Cellcom's Chief Corporate Communications Strategist Dr. Kimmie Weeks has announced that Cellcom has launched a new mega discount campaign that will bring major financial relief to mobile users in Liberia. The new program offers half price rates to calls outside the Cellcom's network making calling between GSM networks more affordable and less expensive.

    To join the program subscribers only need to dial *112# FREE OF CHARGE. Once activated, subscribers will enjoy half price rates to call other networks for 5 full days. At the end of the 5 days and to carry on benefiting from the half price rates to other networks, they will just have to dial again *112# free of charge.
    Source: The Inquirer Monrovia 13 April 2015

  • The East African One Area Network initiative which seeks to reduce the cost of telecom services between partner states plus South Sudan has registered success with voice calls and now plans are underway to extend it to other services, Kenya’s Minister for ICT Fred Matiang’i said.  “Our assessment is that the One Area network has caused tremendous change. Traffic has grown 935% in the last three months after the abolition of roaming charges,” Matiangi told the Connect East Africa conference in Kwale recently. “The impact is amazing. If it was costing you Ksh30 (about 30 US cents) to roam, it now costs Ksh 10. Our estimation is that it reduces calling costs by over 60 percent.”

    Mobile operator Airtel DRC has signed international recording artist Papa Wemba as a brand ambassador in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 3 years. Papa Wemba will contribute to the "Congo my country, Airtel my network" campaign launched in June 2014. The artist, who is popular across all age groups, will take part in musical, cultural and social projects for Airtel DRC. 

internet

  • Seacom, the submarine cable operator with a network of submarine and terrestrial high speed fibre-optic cables, has completed its link from Nairobi to Kampala through Tororo.

    This continues its bid to increase capacity and uptake of its broadband services in the hinterland.

     “Last year we completed developing capacity for the delivery of services to Kampala on the back of low capacity from Nairobi. We now have our own capability to deliver services from Mombasa to Nairobi, Nairobi to Tororo border and then to Kampala,” Joseph Muriithi, Seacom Regional Manager said recently.

    He was speaking on the sidelines of the Connected East Africa ICT conference in Kenya’s Kwale coastal region. “We have lit up our own services there and we are seeing lots of improvement and uptake,” Muriithi said.

    The fibre optic firm is now able to carry some traffic to South Sudan from Kampala. “On the back of the Kampala connection, people are picking traffic from Kampala to deliver to South Sudan through the Gulu- Nimule border. It’s happening although availability is lower than it should be,” Muriithi said.

    “Rwanda and Burundi is being done on the back of the link between Kampala and Katuna, to Kigali,” he said.

    “We continue to engage so that we can reach further inland. We were delayed by regulation and frameworks but we have a firm Seacom Uganda doing proper business in the country,” Muriithi said.
    Source: Business Week 12 April 2015

  • Following its launches in Tanzania and Angola, Rocket Internet’s online retailer Jumia last week launched in Senegal, the 12th country the e-commerce site is active in.

    In a statement, Patrick Farnole, Managing Director Jumia Senegal said: “A new way of shopping was born in Senegal. Imagine a website where you can find anything you look for. You may enjoy cruising online from shop to shop, discovering our new weekly arrivals, comparing prices, brands, and find what you like at the right price. Today it is real on jumia.sn. Ordering takes 10 seconds. Pay cash on delivery at your doorstep, all around Senegal. What else would you wish for? Stay tuned, it is only the beginning.”

    With a dream of being Africa’s ‘Amazon’, Rocket Internet’s Jumia first launched in 2012 and has already successfully brought e-commerce to Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Algeria, Cameroon, Morocco, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Angola.

    With its own warehouses and delivery teams, as well as a variety of payment options including cash on delivery, credit card and mobile money, it has adapted the global megatrend for African consumers and won the trust of a large and constantly growing customer base.

    Jumia ofers everything from fashion, consumer electronics, home appliances to beauty products. Products can be purchased using a multitude of payment options including cash on delivery, mobile money transfer, PayPal or credit card.

    According to the World Economic Outlook Database by the International Monetary Fund, Senegal has a nominal GDP of $16 billion and is Africa’s 22nd largest economy having an an economic growth rate of 5 % in 2014. With a strong purchasing power, and growing interest in consumer goods, Senegal reveals itself to be a promising market. There is a steadily increasing number of Internet and Smartphone users, proving that now is an ideal time for online retail to establish itself.
    Source: Techmmoran 13 April 2015
    To see an interview with Francis Dufay, Managing Director of Jumia Cote d’Ivoire click on the link here:

  • Q-KON has recently boosted its footprint into Africa by establishing its partnership with the global Newtec Business Partner Program (bePART), and is therefore an official distributor of Newtec satcom products. Newtec is a global provider of equipment used in critical satellite-based TV distribution chains. Three years ago, Newtec launched the business partner strategy to ensure partners could access its products quickly and easily across the globe. The goal is to fulfil more business through key partnerships that will bring added value to end-users. As a Newtec certified partner, Q-KON distributes products and technologies to most of the African continent and has access to the latest developments, globally, in terms of broadband and application in broadcasting services.

    Algeria Telecom has put into operation three WIMAX stations in the Wilaya of Ain Temouchent. According to the operational management of Telecommunications (DOT) of the incumbent telecommunications, these technological equipment located in the municipalities of Ain Temouchent, El Hammam Bouhadjar Amria and can provide up to 100 Mbps, with theoretical range of 25 km. These WiMAX stations will meet the needs of businesses and individuals in this part of the country, with access to wireless broadband internet.

computing

  • Cote d'Ivoire's government has provided the first 208 computers and tablets to 32 organisations, universities and schools one month after announcing its 'One citizen, one computer plus an internet connection' project, Agence Ecofin reports.

    ICT minister Bruno Nabagne Kone said the project has already received over 4,000 registrations. The project is a key part of president Alassane Ouattara's call to equip 500,000 families with PC and internet access bundles in the next 5 years.

    The minister said the next major project will be the construction of 3,000 public internet centres in towns and villages.

    Source: Telecompaper 12 April 2015

  • Johannesburg - Falling lower down the World Economic Forum (WEF) global information and communication technology (ICT) rankings is becoming an annual occurrence for South Africa.

    The WEF this week released its Global Information Technology Report 2015 which contains its Networked Readiness Index (NRI) ranking. This ranking measures 143 economies in terms of their capacity to prepare for, use and leverage ICTs.

    The index uses factors such as the political and regulatory environment, infrastructure and digital content, usage of ICT as well as economic and social impacts to calculate the overall NRI ranking.

    And South Africa has slipped five places to 75th, meaning that it is now third in Africa behind Mauritius (45) and Seychelles (74). SA is wedged between Seychelles and the Philippines on the ranking.

    In contrast, Mauritius has been climbing up the NRI ranking. The country has leaped from position 55 in 2013 to 48 in 2014, and now position 45 this year.

    The gap between South African and other African countries is closing. Kenya, for example, has jumped six places to 86 on the index this year. Meanwhile, South Africa is also lagging far behind the top five countries on the NRI index which comprise Singapore (1), Finland (2), Sweden (3), the Netherlands (4) and Norway (5).

    “Despite a score unchanged from last year, South Africa loses five positions to settle at 75th place in this edition. The country’s overall political and business environment remains one of its strengths (31st). In contrast, the general state of ICT readiness remains very low (102nd), the result of the poor quality of ICT-related infrastructure (85th), notably the limited international
    Internet bandwidth (128th),” reads the report.

    “The cost of ICTs in South Africa is also a drag (107th). Nonetheless, individual usage has further increased with a 10-place jump to reach 68th. However, government still lags behind (105th), earning very low marks in terms of online services provided to the population (82nd). Overall, the potential of ICTs has not been fully unlocked. Their social impacts have not yet materialised, and they have not significantly improved access to basic services (101st) or facilitated citizens’ e-participation (88th),” adds the report.

    However, the report has noted that Africa’s performance overall on the index has been “particularly disappointing” as 30 countries on the continent included in the sample appear in the bottom half of the NRI rankings.

    Even Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, dropped seven places on the ranking to position 119.

    Local experts' views

    ICT experts in South Africa have weighed in with their views on South Africa’s diminishing position on the NRI ranking.

    Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of technology research company World Wide Worx, said SA is stagnating in the global ICT stakes.

    “The new rankings confirm our contention that the South African government, regulator and parastatals have put the brakes on ICT development, particularly through their failure to license spectrum that is required for high-speed mobile broadband, inability to finalise digital TV migration, and unwillingness to open up fixed-line broadband,” Goldstuck told Fin24.

    “The South African government's ability to deliver in ICT has been examined, and has been given a ‘fail’ mark. Only the continued investment by private enterprise has prevented it from falling even further down the rankings,” said Goldstuck.

    Adrian Schofield, director and vice-president of the Institute of Technology Information Professionals South Africa, also highlighted government’s failure to spark ICT development.

    “It comes as no surprise that SA is continuing to fall down the global rankings,” Schofield told Fin24.

    “The ANC government has - with few exceptions - consistently failed to grasp the opportunities arising from the adoption of technology, with the principal failure being the abysmal disaster of the move to DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) and the related lack of real broadband access for the majority of the population.
     
    “Only a complete change of attitude in the DTPS (Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services) - and the removal of the DOC (Department of Communications) from this policy arena - will reverse the trend. We have all the policies we need but we are lacking the will to implement those policies,” Schofield said.

    Source: fin24tech 15 April 2015

  • Accra — Business owners and new businesses in Ghana can now register their companies online following the launch of an e-registrar portal aimed at streamlining business registrations in the country. The main objective of the project, the Registrar General Joseph Harlley, said, was to create a more “customer friendly oriented public service delivery system,” by the provision of platforms that would allow access to government services through the use of direct access technologies such as the internet and other methods.

Digital Content

  • Launched in November last year, the African movie platform NollyLand has announced the availability of its Roku channel to audiences in the United States and Canada.

    The Roku Channel had been available since 2014 in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

    In a statement to TechMoran Dr. Ngozi Victoria Uti, NollyLand’s founder and CE said, “This is a major step for both NollyLand and Roku. NollyLand is now available to Roku users in North America to watch unlimited Nigerian, Ghanaian, and African Movies.”

    NollyLand‘s Roku Channel offers automatic bookmarking, adaptive video streaming, personalized watch lists, timeline thumbnails, advanced search features, and more. The  platform also recently launched support for Google Chromecast via their free Android App. The App allows Chromecast users to “cast” movies from NollyLand to any Chromecast equipped television via their smartphone or tablet.

    “Of course, anyone who already has a NollyLand account can login on Roku for no charge, and start enjoying their subscription or use their credits immediately” points out Dr. Uti. “And if you want to Cast, all you need is our free Android App and a Chromecast equipped TV.”

    Users can purchase a NollyLand subscription on the NollyLand website, or in Channel on Roku for a 1 Day Pass, 3 Day Pass, 30 Day Pass, or NollyLand Credits to watch movies concurrently on all devices via the NollyLand Roku Channel, NollyLand Apps for iPhone / iPad, Android, Blackberry, or even just via your laptop or desktop. One family member can be at home using Roku, another can be waiting for a flight at the Airport and watching on a smartphone.

    According to the firm which was registered in the US and Nigeria in 2011 and went live in 2014 as NollyLand Direct Ltd, Roku and Chromecast give NollyLand access to a global audience of discerning viewers who expect World Class Quality. “And that’s what we do” says Dr. Uti. “That’s our business. Anywhere in the world you happen to be, and whatever world-class device you use, NollyLand is already there streaming.”

    NollyLand competes iROKOtv, Afrinolly, Aflix, Sabona among others.
    Source: Techmoran 13 April 2015

  • Several months ago, Oyewole Kayode was in Ibadan, the ancient yet trend-setting Nigerian city located in the Yoruba-dominated southwestern part of the country. While he was there, a female friend called him and asked if they could hang out at a “very cool” place. He began a frantic search for a place the woman would love — a place that was also cheap and within his lean budget.

    “So I went online and realised there was no single platform that chronicled details of cool places and how much it was going to cost me,” Kayode said. In the end, he couldn’t hang out with the woman.

    Following this rather sad experience, he decided to create a solution by working with other individuals with similar experiences. The end product is Kaku.com.ng.

    Kaku /ka-kuh/ is from the colloquial expression suggesting being calculative or working on a budget. “Kaku.com.ng is a discovery website that allows people to locate amazing places where they can hang out with friends, family or loved ones based on their budget and preferred location,” Kayode said.

    Users can discover, review and rate various places, and also share pictures and selfies of themselves and friends having fun.

    How Kaku works

    Users will enter their preferred location (for instance, Lekki, Ikeja), their budget (3,000 naira for instance) and their preferred service, like dinner, ice cream, nightlife or whatever they are looking for.

    “They [will] get a list of places that offer that particular service, they get to see their numbers, pictures of the places, and on the average what it would cost to have a nice time there,” he said. Users will also get the address of the venues.

    For those who don’t really have a particular place in mind, they can also do a random search for a service without entering a price or location. They can also run a search of it and get more information about the place.

    Sounds like Google, huh?

    When Kayode shared how the site works, the first thing that came to mind was Google. When asked if they were trying to compete with the search-engine giant, he said while the search engine could have all the information, Kaku is more localised, centralised, easier to search, and the search results contain prices, which are not always available on Google.

    Read more: Jottr is a bold startup trying to create a new window to your web

    “We have put all this information in a central source and made it easier for users to search; also we have taken time out to find out the prices of these various places, so users can be well prepared before visiting. Users also get to see pictures without leaving the site. Basically we are offering them convenience and allowing them make informed decisions before visiting a place,” he said.

    He added that the service also allowed users to give feedback via ratings.

    “So if I go somewhere and I think their meal sucks, I can rant on the platform and in turn we can convert that feedback into a report for the various places. Users can also share memorable moments with other users,” he said.

    Information gathering and monetisation strategies

    Kayode revealed they painstakingly collated some of the data — but also confessed that they had bought some. “We also used friends in gathering data, asking them to refer places they have visited,” he said.

    He told Ventureburn that no monetisation had been implemented yet, but as the platform grows they plan to seal several discounted deals and partner with taxi companies that will transport users to places listed on the platform.

    Furthermore, he said they would open up the platform for both merchants and non-merchants to advertise on the website.

    Starting from Lagos

    It is obviously not a realistic decision to roll out nationwide and this is why Kayode said they were starting from Lagos and targeting young users who had the money to spend on leisure. The co-founders’ desired users are students, young professionals, and families.

    Even though the site currently covers only some parts in Lagos (Victoria Island, Lekki and Yaba), the team is planning to spread beyond Nigeria and extend across Africa and beyond.

    “At the moment it is Lagos, and we are focused on certain areas but the big goal is to scale this across Nigeria, Africa and other emerging economies,” Kayode said. “First, we hope users really love what we have built because our focus has always been to build something that becomes a part of people’s lives.”

    The platform officially went live last week but they hope to cover the entire country within a year, which means they will be aggressively expanding their database.

    Kayode said they received enthusiastic feedback from users at the beta stage, which is one of the reasons why they are confident the Nigerian market needs the product.

    Edge over VConnect

    VConnect is Nigeria’s largest local search engine, which also provides information on locations across Nigeria, but Kayode sees VConnect as more of a listing than discovery platform.

    “We offer superior user experience. You cannot search based on your budget on VConnect, you also cannot search based on your preferred location. Our search engine is also built to be hyper fast – it takes about 3-7 seconds to search on an average connection. So if you are looking for a restaurant in Yaba for instance, there is no way to make that kind of search on VConnect,” he said.

    Endless potential

    Kayode believes the platform has endless potential since the need to have fun, hang out and relax is inevitable. “We are working on ways to make this an enjoyable experience for them. We are also making it as cost-effective as possible,” he said.
    Source: Ventureburn 15 April 2015

  • The fantasy for Eyram Tawia began, as it has for millions of children before him, thumbing through comic books.

    "When I saw Superman fly, I'm like: 'How can I see myself doing that?' " he recalls. 

    A couple of decades later, the 31-year-old Tawia has that superpower and many more at his fingertips in his office in Accra, Ghana.

    He is the co-founder of Leti Arts, an African company that is playing a key role in building the comic and gaming industry on the continent from the ground up.  

    The centrepiece of the fledgling company is its mobile game, Africa’s Legends, and the digital comic books that will explore the stories of each of its characters.  

    At this point, it’s a simple mobile game, not dissimilar to other ubiquitous "Match 3" phone games. It is available free for Android on Google Play.

    But Africa’s Legends differs markedly from other comics and games. All of its superheroes and villains are African. 

    When Tawia was getting hooked on comics as a child, his favourite characters — from Superman to Spider-Man to Thor — were all Caucasian.
    Not much of a following

    Eventually, he began to question that.

    "Why do black superheroes struggle to be popular, even in the Marvel universe, the DC universe? They are either add-ons or they don’t have much of a following."

    Tawia says the answer became obvious to him over time. "It is because there’s no existing gaming culture in Africa."

    He met Wesley Kirinya, a fellow comic and gaming enthusiast from Kenya, online and the pair set about to change that.

    The Africa’s Legends characters are based on or inspired by folklore from across the continent.

    Characters include Ananse the West African god of wisdom, the conqueror and warrior king Shaka Zulu of South Africa and Pharoah, based on Egyptian rulers. 

    Tawia likens them to The Avengers of Africa, age-old characters fighting modern evil on the continent.
    Overcoming inferiority

    "Bringing back our girls, cleaning out the pirates on the shores [of Somalia and Kenya], pushing out greedy presidents," Tawia says. "You know, we just want to create this franchise that people will cling to."

    A big part of realizing the vision for Leti Arts is tackling a sense of inferiority that seems ingrained in many African youth.

    "When something really exciting happens, there’s always an attribution to a Western influence," says online marketing and business manager Nana Kwabena Owusu of Accra.

    “Either the person is trained outside of Africa [or] the person is schooled in Harvard, so it always feels as if you can’t really be schooled in Africa, live in Africa and do world-class things and that’s what we’re trying combat."

    Leti Arts interns Rudolf Zejlo and Robert Grayson Dzamedzi both grew up with that sense of limitation.

    A talented illustrator, Zejlo never thought his sketches would amount to anything more than a fun hobby. He couldn't imagine realizing his ambition of becoming a game developer.

    "It was my biggest dream, but I never thought it would be possible," Zejlo says.

    Then, right out of high school, he began an internship with Leti Arts and today, he and Grayson Dzamedzi are working on a child-friendy version of Africa’s Legends called Africa's Legends Scouts.
    Bright future

    Dzamedzi studied animation at college and even now, as he adds artistic shading to the hands of a miniature African superhero, he is thinking of the next step to become a game developer: learning programming.

    "The future is really bright," he says. "So bright I need spectacles to see it."

    Leti Arts is looking to the future, too, counting on recent successes — like winning a prestigious industry award, the Vodaphone Appstar, for best developed application — to bring it to bigger and better things.

    “Right now, we’re just making simple games to gain some traction,” Tawia says, but ultimately he sees his company becoming a a big player in the global gaming industry, complete with high-end games.

    “Once serious investment has been made in quality games then yes, those games will definitely be paid for.”

    Growth is already in the works as Leti Arts negotiates a presence on other platforms.

    Its biggest market is outside Africa, the diaspora and gamers who are drawn to the uniquely African superhero universe.

    But Tawia says the games and comics will always be created in Africa to inspire African kids to think big.

    “We bridge the gap by bringing all the black superheroes flying and doing all the cool stuff,” he says.

    "That then psychologically works on the mind of every kid.”
    Source: CBC News

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The preferred bidder for Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and its mobile arm (Mtel), NATCOM Consortium, has paid the 70 per cent outstanding balance of the $252,521,000 bid price for the acquisition of the assets and business units of the telecoms enterprises.

    Effectively, the consortium has paid the remaining $176,575,700 (N29,696,469,600) after an initial payment of $75,756,300 (N12, 727,058,400) being 30 percent of the bid price on January 6, 2015.

    The installment was in line with the offer letter by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), which mandated NATCOM to make an initial deposit of 30 per cent of the bid price not later than 14 days from the date of the offer letter.

    NATCOM's completion of payment for the bid price was conveyed in a statement signed by BPE's spokesman, Mr. Chigbo Anichebe. The statement confirmed that the remaining 70 per cent payment had been effected on April 2, 2015, four days ahead of the April 7, 2015 deadline for payment.

    Meanwhile, Director General of BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki had told THISDAY in an interview that selling the telecommunications assets for $252 million was the best deal for the transaction. Read the full story here:
    Source: This Day

  • Telecel, the struggling Zimbabwean mobile provider which is 60%-owned by Vimpelcom of Russia via holding company Global Telecom, has written to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) in an effort to avoid the government-enforced closure of its networks. A report from Bloomberg quotes POTRAZ acting director general Baxton Sirewu as saying: ‘We’ve been engaging quite closely with Telecel Ltd and exchanging information.’ The cellco has been discussing its position with regard to missed payments on its USD137 million licence fee, plus its ownership structure, which does not comply with Zimbabwe’s black empowerment requirement of a maximum 49% foreign ownership. The government has said it has begun moves to shut down Telecel’s service.

    While Vimpelcom and Telecel’s other shareholder, the Empowerment Corporation (E Corp) consortium, attempt to find a solution to the wireless operator’s problems, a number of potential new investors are circling as they smell the opportunity for a cheap acquisition. MTN Group of South Africa is one firm to have been linked as a prospective bidder, with some reports suggesting that a deal to take a 49% stake is close to being completed, while Unitel, the Angolan company backed by Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, is also thought to be interested in Telecel. Meanwhile, the various E Corp shareholders continue to disagree over the best way to manage their own 40% interest.
    Source: Telegeography 15 April 2015

  • Businesswoman Isabel dos Santos is firming up her interest in the telecommunications sector as she recently sent her representatives to discuss investment opportunities with government officials, Zimbabwe Independent reported. Her representatives are said to have been in the country two weeks ago and to have met senior officials from the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, according to sources. Her company, Unitel, is believed to be interested in acquiring a stake in Telecel.

    Dos Santos herself was in the country recently where she held meetings with several senior government officials, the daily said. ICT deputy minister Win Mlambo would neither confirm nor deny meeting Dos Santos' representatives. There are quite a number of investors interested in the telecoms sector, Mlambo said.

    Dos Santos is considered by Forbes magazine to be the richest woman in Africa with a fortune of over USD 3.3 billion. She has interests in a number of telecoms businesses, mainly in Portugal and Angola. According to international media reports, she has interests in Portugal where she owns close to 7 percent of oil and gas firm GalpEnergia along with Portuguese billionaire Americo Amorim, and has a controlling stake in Portuguese cable TV and telecom firm Nos SGPS. Her father is Eduardo dos Santos, the president of Angola.
    Source: Telecompaper 13 April 2015

More

  • Andela Is Accepting Applications To Its Paid 4-Year Fellowship Class in Lagos

    Andela, the talent accelerator that trains software developers and matches them with global employers has begun accepting applications to its paid, four-year, 8th fellowship class in Lagos, Nigeria.

    The class which helps applicants, mostly graduates, to master the craft of professional software development while working for leading technology companies around the globe, is a free, two-week-long Boot Camp led by senior developers from some of the world’s top engineering schools.

    Described as one of the most rigorous software development training experiences in the world, successful applicants upon their invitation to become an Andela Fellow will receive at least 1000-hours of hands-on training on HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other web and mobile software development skills.

    The four-year Andela Fellowship begins with an intensive paid three-month-long immersion training programme that culminates with the opportunity to work on client projects with top technology companies as an Andela Fellow.

    After the four-year programme, Andela Fellows would be expected to start technology companies, work directly with client companies as employees or continue to help train more competent software engineers at Andela.

    The application deadline is April 19th and shortlisted candidates will be notified by April 20th. Apply here.

    ITU Opens Applications For 2015 Young Innovation Competition

    The Young Innovation Competition, an annual event of the ITU Telecom, has opened for applications.

    ITU Telecom, the arm of ITU that organizes event and competitions, announced in a post on its website, that it is looking for young social entrepreneurs who can use technology creatively to solve a range of real-time developmental challenges.

    “The challenge will give room to young people around the world to self-empower people in their communities through entrepreneurship.” says ITU Telecom.

    Entry is exclusive to individuals from ITU member states; pretty much every country in the world. They must be between ages 18 and 30, currently running a startup or have a concept/ idea for one yet unborn.

    Two winners will be invited to join in ITU Telecom World 2015 in Budapest, Hungary in October, a higher platform where they will pitch their ideas, participate in workshops, receive seed funding, and benefit from a year of ongoing mentorship.

    Applications close, May 7th 2015. Apply here.

    Registration Opens for NASA’s Space App Challenge in Lagos, Calabar and Ilorin

    NASA has opened applications for Space Apps Nigeria 2015, its hackathon designed to bring together innovators from all backgrounds to proffer solutions to earth/space challenges. The event is scheduled to hold in Nigeria from April 16-19, 2015; in Lagos, Calabar and Ilorin.

    The international space apps challenge is an event that embraces collaborative problem solving with the goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs that are applicable to life on earth and in space.

    “The idea of a Challenge is so compelling because it acknowledges the fact that the world is facing serious challenges – and that we all have to work together to approach them. While there local hosts may offer prizes and the global award includes an opportunity to attend a NASA launch, the main challenge we focus on is enabling 48 hours of highly engaged collaboration- and discovering what we can create when that happens,” NASA says on its website.

    This year’s event presents 25 challenges that focus on areas such as earth, outer space, humans and robotics; the event will also also draw in on Women-in-Technology.

    Potential applicants may apply here
      or get more information about the event from their official website.

  • Connected Africa
    26–27 May 2015

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

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