WeChat’s Brett Loubser on why Africa’s mobile operators have to change their attitude to OTT companies
Africa’s mobile operators and Over-The-Top (OTT) companies have moved in together but not yet worked out a way to live with each other. The mobile operators both want the love and interest OTT operators bring them. But in the main they can’t quite give up their defensive stance about what they feel should be their home. Russell Southwood talked to ex-mobile employee Brett Loubser, Head of WeChat Africa.
South African Brett Loubser has spent most of his working life in the mobile industry, both with device manufacturers (Samsung, Nokia and HTC) and nine years with MTN managing its product portfolio. He’s not an outsider from an OTT company looking in but someone who, in his own words has, “an understanding of how the operator works.”
So why doesn’t the relationship between mobile operators and OTT companies work?:”The current deals (particularly the one Facebook is offering) don’t make sustainable sense for operators. They’re building a user base for OTT providers.” When I say I think it’s second and third tier operators looking to increase subscriber numbers, he responds:”You take customers away from the number one operator. You achieve this, then what?”
He’s also critical of Internet.org for offering a platform that effectively cuts out all but selected OTT companies and content providers:”It starts to cut out participation altogether.” In effect, Facebook is creating a mini “walled garden” with its approach (see interview link below with Nicola D’Elia, Facebook for how they see their strategy.)
He makes the point that increasingly mobile operators will compete on content and service products:”Technically, mobile operators are exactly the same. Ultimately the customer decides and it will be on the uniqueness of your product option.”
“The idea of making OTT services has great appeal. If you look at trends for every operator on earth, there’s great growth in data. But operators have got to think what they do when they provide an OTT service for free...Operators have to have sustainable partnerships.”
Of course, free actually means free at the point of delivery as someone has to pick up the data access costs. As Nicola D’Elia, Facebook told us back in October last year:
“The balance of costs vary between ourselves and the operators. They can help us reach non-Facebook users and provide technical support and we can provide insights at the aggregated level.”
As a company owned by Naspers, which is so dominant in the Pay TV market, there is perhaps some kind of “zen slap” operating that they find themselves the insurgent challenger on this one. Isn’t it a case of “he would say that, wouldn’t he?”
Whilst this accusation can inevitably be raised, it’s worth seeing past it. The mobile operators need to build expensive infrastructure to make money on data, not necessarily subsidize data use to the advantage of one player.
For as the mobile operators start to lose the title of the “new incumbents”, some of the OTT players like Facebook and Google are maybe going end up with this mantle. As the world needs more than Facebook as its network function and Google as its search engine so Africa needs a more diverse set of competitive OTT players. The global big guys need to be chased by other contenders, particularly local contenders.
So are the tier one mobile operators signing up to WeChat?:”We are cautiously optimistic and positive. These are difficult conversations to have…It’s a big decision and it will take them some time.”
But when I ask whether the mobile operators bureaucratic product structure where you sell to head office and then have to sell to every opco is fit for purpose, he replies:”You’re 100% right.” But he makes the point that there is now “a sense of urgency from the operators…OTT makes sense for the first time ever.” However, it’s hard to argue with the broader point he makes:”Mobile operators are not good globally at launching in-house products in a big way.”
So what has We Chat got that Facebook hasn’t? Loubser describes it as a social communications platform rather than a networking platform. Its social feeds are designed to be private and are not available to anyone (except those you choose):”There’s a shift towards personalized messaging from social products. This type of messaging is different. It’s about going from broadcast to individualized.”
It has interesting levels of functionality including “layers for transaction” and tools to speak to business in a private way. It’s also built a relationship with Gareth Cliff’s Cliff Central, the web radio “unradio” in South Africa.
It’s currently focused on building a significant presence in South Africa and Nigeria and if that goes well, will roll out in other countries where there are high levels of smartphones.
Watch the players make the arguments by looking at the two video clip interviews below:
Brett Loubser on how WeChat Africa is both a radio station and a second screen
Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act’s web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it will cover online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 32 issues and these can be viewed on this link:
Essential reading for those in mobile VAS to anyone just interested in what African and relevant international content they can now get online. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to email@example.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line. Some examples of past issues below:
Tanzania’s Ubongo broadcasts edutainment to 7-12 year olds using an interactive multimedia strategy with TV, mobile and internet
Videos interviews to watch:
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Online money transfer service Azimo today opened its doors to recipients in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Tog in West African CFA francs for instant cash pick-up from senders across Europe.
Michael Kent, CEO of Azimo, explains that: “Together these 8 countries have a combined population of over 100 million people and GDP of US$80bn. The World Bank estimates that nearly $3bn was remitted to the region in 2012, and with more and more African migrants moving to European countries including France, Belgium, the UK and The Netherlands, the new Azimo service means more money in the hands of their families and communities back home in West Africa.”
Azimo’s online service provides a fast, safe and low-cost way to transfer money across borders, either to bank account or for cash pick-up at thousands of locations across the region. Azimo’s rates are up to 85 per cent cheaper than high street banks and traditional money transfer providers. In addition Azimo offers an exceptional exchange rate, which is currently £1 = 846.02 and €1 = 655.95*.
The service is available across the UK and Eurozone, including France, Ireland and Germany. Funds are delivered for instant cash pick-up at locations across the region while transfers direct to bank account arrive within 24 hours.
Registering to use Azimo is free and takes just a few seconds from a PC or phone using your email address or Facebook profile.
Kent believes it is important to offer hard working migrant a convenient and good value service: “As much as we’re in the money business, we’re also in the people business. We launched Azimo to help those hard-working migrants who were being ripped off by legacy players like Western Union. Today’s announcement means there’s never been a better time to send money home to your loved ones.”
In addition to Azimo’s normal low-cost services, customers will get their first transfer FREE when using promotional code AZIMOCFA.
Brussels-based WSBI (World Savings and Retail Banking Institute) and Cignifi has announced an agreement to develop and test-market an innovative mobile savings product targeted at underserved and dormant savers.
The product will be tested in partnership with Airtel Ghana and WSBI member HFC Bank Ghana. Airtel is the world's third largest mobile telecommunications company with over 305 million subscribers across 20 countries including India, where it is the largest cellular service provider. HFC Bank is a leading universal bank in Ghana whose services include commercial banking, investment banking, mortgage banking and micro-finance. The partners recently completed a pilot project that showed that mobile phone usage is an effective predictor of a consumer's savings behavior.
"We're very excited to enter the pre-commercial phase with the ongoing support of WSBI," said Jonathan Hakim, President and CEO of Cignifi. "Our pilot project clearly showed a correlation between mobile phone habits and banking behavior, and presented us with an opportunity to develop a mobile savings product specifically designed to help banks engage with and grow their customer base."
"The product that we're developing in partnership with Cignifi will help WSBI strengthen our leadership position in the use of new technology to promote financial inclusion," noted Chris de Noose, Managing Director of WSBI. "We foresee the mobile savings product becoming a direct contributor to financial inclusion in Ghana, and as a model for WSBI member banks to replicate in other markets."
Lucy Quist, Managing Director of Airtel Ghana said, "We are pleased that Airtel Money is the mobile platform of choice for this innovative concept of driving adoption for new types of mobile savings products based on subscriber behavior." She added that the strategic partnership demonstrates Airtel's leadership in developing valuable solutions and driving innovation in Ghana's mobile finance industry. "Our common aim is to provide secure connections and tailor-made value propositions."
Mr. Asare Akuffo, Managing Director of HFC Bank said, "We are delighted about this strategic partnership to develop innovative mobile savings products. The choice of HFC Bank out of the 28 commercial banks in Ghana confirms our focus on banking for small and mediums sized enterprises. We believe that this mobile savings product will help nurture a savings culture, enable the bank to engage better with Ghana's informal sector and grow our customer and deposit base."
The mobile savings product will be tested on the Airtel Ghana Mobile Money platform and will combine features of mobile and savings products. It will be designed to accept small payments and will enable customers to use Airtel's extensive network of mobile money agents to make deposits and withdrawals without needing to visit a bank branch. Airtel Ghana's customer base will be segmented using behavior-based scores, which will drive targeted marketing campaigns to drive customer acquisition and usage.
The Sub-Saharan African mobile money market earned revenues of USD 655.8 million in 2014 and this should reach USD 1.32 billion in 2019, according to research by Frost & Sullivan. The study says there has been a substantial rise in the adoption of mobile banking services, as the majority of Africans have limited access to traditional banking services, thanks to the expansion of mobile infrastructure and the availability of affordable smart devices.
Mobile money services have become central to the growth strategies of network operators. M-Pesa, for instance, contributes to over 18 percent of Safaricom's and Vodacom Tanzania's service revenues. Frost & Sullivan ICT Industry Analyst Lehlohonolo Mokenela says governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have come to realise that mobile money is key to improving the region's financial inclusion. Makonela said the governments are looking to create an enabling environment for MNOs to deliver mobile money services for the large unbanked and underbanked population.
Nonetheless, he said, the volume of mobile money transactions will be kept in check by lack of interoperability and restrictions on cross-border transactions. Concerns over the security and reliability of mobile money systems, particularly in markets with intermittent network access, will also challenge market development.
Payments made using plastic cards dipped by a fifth in 11 months to November last year as mobile phone-based payments ate into commercial banks’ business.
The latest Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that card payments plunged 18.2 per cent to Sh1.1 trillion as at the end of November, compared to Sh1.4 trillion a year earlier.
In contrast, the volume of cash sent through mobile platforms grew by a quarter to gross Sh2.1 trillion over a similar period – nearly double the value of card payments.
The Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) — the banking industry lobby — attributed the drop in payments done using cards to the growing uptake of mobile money.
“Mobile money alternatives are more convenient than cards,” said Habil Olaka, chief executive of KBA.
“When other new payment alternatives arrive, they eat into the share of existing platforms,” Mr Olaka told Business Daily. The decline in card payment volumes comes at a time when banks have migrated to issuing new generation chip-and-PIN cards from the fraud-prone magnetic stripe type.
Declining card payments at retail outlets such as supermarkets, gas stations and hotels is likely to hit the earnings of Kenyan banks given the lenders earn commissions from processing such payments.
Equity Bank, for example, rakes in an average of Sh40 million monthly in revenue from commissions on payments processing from volumes of about Sh1.8 billion every month.
The battle for the control of the lucrative retail payments now pits Kenya’s 44 commercial banks against six mobile money platforms. Data from CBK shows that there are 13.9 million payment cards in use at November last year, with debit cards accounting for 90 per cent of the total.
Statistics show that there are only 17,015 point of sale (PoS) machines in Kenya, translating to one PoS serving about 2,350 customers, limiting card usage avenues for shoppers.
Kenya has 24.9 million mobile money users who transact across six platforms — M-Pesa, MobiKash, Airtel Money, yuCash, Orange Money and Tangaza — backed by a network of more than 121,000 agents.
Mama Money, an homegrown South African startup launched today hoping to save immigrants and refugees living in South Africa up to 270 percent on their remittance when sending money to their countries.
Mama Money claims to be the world’s first social business for remittances and seeks to use the internet and cell phone technology to make sure money is sent at the lowest possible cost.
In a post by Disrupt Africa, the co-founders, Raphael Grojnowski and Mathieu Coquillon claims the company was established to compete with already established money transfer companies, using the internet at lower cost and charging a no-hidden fee on the exchange rate.
“At Mama Money, we approach things quite differently. We want to create a business that tackles a social problem, the high cost to send money home for low-income earners. As a business, rather than just being driven by profit, our model is to be profit-minimising. Also, if the entire market reduces its commission costs to our level, then we have achieved what we set out for,” they said.
Also, the business is said to focus specifically on Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa during its first phase, while offering immediate transactions, and eliminating the need for cash.
“With 1.9 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, the first phase for Mama Money is to focus on the South Africa – Zimbabwe remittance corridor,” said Coquillon.
The startup has partnered with leading Zimbabwean financial institution CABS, a subsidiary of Old Mutual, to provide remittance services on the CABS Textacash mobile banking platform.
By simply registering through a Mama Money Agent, customers are able to send money online using their cellphone to relatives’ mobile wallet accounts.
Wananchi Telecom and Epsilon have joined hands to supply outsourced network services to support the growth of its wholesale telecommunications business. This union will guarantee expansion of its network and benefit from Epsilon’s infrastructure, network intelligence and international expertise.
Epsilon has deployed a virtual point of presence (vPoP) in Telehouse East London and SmartHub Fujairah, UAE for Wananchi Telecom giving it access to more than 500 carriers and network service providers locally and internationally. This will give Wananchi Telecom’s customers efficient access to international networks and local connectivity in more than 170 countries. In addition to network infrastructure, Epsilon will provide a remote hands service for cabling, installations and PoP management.
“Network outsourcing is the fastest and most efficient way for service providers to go global and connect their customers to the rest of the world. With this partnership, Wananchi Telecom can expand its local and international presence, ensuring it delivers high-quality services to more destinations,” says Clint Collins, Regional Director, Carrier Business EMEA at Epsilon.
As part of the partnership, Epsilon will have access to Wananchi’s extensive African network footprint giving it greater local presence on the continent.
“Engineered exclusively for IP traffic, our global carrier-grade network carries internet traffic by land, sea or air for superior performance, reliability and value. The team at Epsilon understands our goals and needs in the Africa market and created a scalable solution tha meets new demand. The flexibility and scalbiliy aof an outsourced solution is critical for our long-term success and that is what Epsilon has delivered,” says Rakesh Kukreja, MD at Wananchi Business Service (WBS).
Source: Techmoran 22 January 2015
Subscribers using mobile money transfer services rose by 16.3 percent to reach 4.9 million from 4.2 million in the previous quarter.
The total number of subscribers in Zimbabwe’s telecommunication sector grew by 2.6 percent to 11.4 million in the third quarter of 2014 from 11.1 million in 2013. This is according to the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).
The authority stated, in its latest report, that Econet maintained its pole position, recording a 2.1 percent growth to 6.5 million active subscribers. Its total number of subscribers was 8.9 million.
The authority also revealed that NetOne had recorded a 13.8 percent increase to 2.7 million subscribers from 2.4 million over the same period in 2013. Its total number of subscribers was 4.3 million subscribers. Telecel recorded a decrease of 7.4 percent to 2.2 million active subscribers from 2.4 million in 2013. Telecel had a total of 4.8 million subscribers.
The authority stated that: “Due to the decline in active subscriptions, Telecel’s market share fell to 19.5 percent from 21.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014. As a result, Telecel had the smallest market share in the third quarter.”
According to the Zimbabwe Daily, Prepaid subscriptions constituted 97,5% of total active subscriptions. Telecel was the only mobile operator to register a decline in active subscriptions whereas NetOne registered the largest growth in active subscriptions to 13.8%. Telecel active subscription has shown a declining trend.
Subscribers using mobile money transfer services rose by 16.3 percent to reach 4.9 million from 4.2 million in the previous quarter. The total value of transfers and transactions on mobile money services increased by 35.8 percent to 3,2 million from 6,8 million recorded in the previous quarter.
In addition to this, the Internet penetration rate increased by 0.5 percent to reach 47.5 percent from 47 percent recorded in the previous quarter.
Zimbabwean mobile operator Telecel is once again under fire for failing to comply with the country’s empowerment laws which require local investors to own a majority stake in the company. Telecoms regulator POTRAZ is now threatening to withdraw the operator’s licence unless it moves to restructure its ownership. Telecel’s operating concession was renewed in August 2013 on the condition that it met the empowerment requirements, but the watchdog is becoming increasingly exasperated by the firm’s failure to comply, Nehanda Radio writes.
At present, 40% of Telecel is held by Empowerment Corporation (E Corp), itself comprising Kestrel (23%), IEG (18%), Indigenous Business Women’s Organisation (17%), National Miners’ Association (14%), Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (14%) and Magamba eChimurenga (14%). The remaining 60% is owned by Telecel Globe, which is part of Egypt-based Global Telecom Holding (GTH, renamed in September 2013 from Orascom Telecom Holding), itself a 51.9%-owned division of Russian-controlled, Netherlands-headquartered Vimpelcom. Vimpelcom announced in December 2014 that it was looking for a buyer for its stake in Telecel but it has so far attracted little interest.
MTN has realised many subscribers do not use all their data, says MTN SA chief marketing officer Larry Annetts. MTN promises to end the angst customers feel when their data expires unused at the end of the month.
The operator has launched Data Share, which allows MTN customers to link up and share data with up to 20 MTN numbers without incurring any connection or SIM linking fee.
MTN says the offer allows the main MTN account-holder to add and link SIM-enabled devices such as dongles, tablets and modems, and MTN numbers of their extended family and friends free of charge.
The main account-holder can then share data with these MTN numbers to make sure any unused data does not go to waste.
Chief marketing officer of MTN SA Larry Annetts says the offer has been launched because the operator realised many customers do not consume all of the data that MTN provides in their packages.
"Data Share gives customers who generally use data modestly an opportunity to share unused data with additional MTN numbers and members of their extended families who are on the MTN network, who can use it for a variety of applications, including downloading, online gaming and streaming," says Annetts.
He adds the increasing uptake of SIM-enabled devices such as tablets, dongles and modems has resulted in customers being weighed down by the administration hassle of managing numerous accounts.
Data Share aims to remove this constraint by giving customers the flexibility to share across multiple devices, says MTN.
MTN Data Share is available to Prepaid, TopUp, Postpaid and My MTNChoice customers.
Source: ITWeb 20 Janaury 2015
Airtel Gabon has become the country's first mobile operator to connect to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable, announced CEO Herve Njapoum. The connection to the cable will allow customers to gain access to very high speed internet services, good quality VoIP and fast file downloads. The CEO said the move will also help develop ICT in Gabon and digital platforms for e-health, e-commerce, e-government and so forth. The director of the national spectrum agency, Alex Bernard Bongo Ondimba, encouraged other operators to follow Airtel's example to offer customers a better user experience and to promote competition in the sector.
Vodacom Group Ltd. (VOD) said it’s been ordered to switch off all Internet and text message services in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid protests against proposed changes to the country’s electoral code.
Mobile operators and Internet Service Providers last week received orders from Congolese officials instructing them to suspend the services, the phone company said in an e-mailed response to questions today.
“The deadline for the implementation of this was midnight, and all companies complied,” according to Johannesburg-based Vodacom, a unit of Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) and the biggest provider of mobile-phone services in South Africa.
Protesters, who surrounded parliament on Monday and continued to demonstrate on Tuesday, are seeking to prevent the Senate from voting on the law, which includes requiring the world’s largest producer of cobalt to conduct its first census in about three decades before the next national elections. Opposition parties say that may delay the vote and may extend President Joseph Kabila’s 14-year rule.
Demonstrators have now suspended their protests until Jan. 26.
Vodacom had 11 million subscribers in Democratic Republic of Congo as of September and competes with Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA’s Tigo brand and India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. in the country.
Tigo has 4.2 million customers in the country, according to its website. Millicom spokesman Julian Eccles said in an e-mail that the company had also suspended services. Bharti Airtel also didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail.
Lambert Mende, a government spokesman, said two civilians and a police officer were killed Monday when security guards opened fire to stop crowds from looting shops in the capital, Kinshasa. Kabila, who came to power after his father was killed in 2001, won contested elections in 2006 and 2011 in sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country by area and is constitutionally barred from running for a third term.
The government has been battling local and foreign militias in the east for more than two decades. A civil war ended in 2003.
Stop Press: Fixed Internet has been restored in the country but mobile Internet and SMS remain unconnected.
Inveneo, a San Francisco non-profit, this week began a three-month effort to bring Internet access to 100 locations in West Africa to fight the spread of Ebola. To determine how to deploy its equipment, Inveneo turned to an unlikely group: Facebook FB +0.65%’s data-science team.
Facebook’s scientists analyzed cellular coverage and usage maps in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to find the fastest and cheapest way to extend Internet connections so that aid workers can more quickly send data to international health organizations.
The effort is part of the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative, launched last month by Inveneo to expand Internet coverage to remote Ebola treatment centers and non-governmental agencies, and has since grown into a partnership of several organizations.
Tech-industry executives say better communications could have limited the spread of the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
It took three months after the first deaths in Guinea “before anyone got word to health officials and people figured out that this was Ebola and started reacting to it,” said Chris Weasler, Facebook’s director of global connectivity. “That was really a function of poor connectivity.”
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg last fall asked Weasler to look for ways to use Facebook’s expertise establishing connections in developing countries to help fight Ebola.
The project dovetails with Internet.org, which Zuckerberg started in 2013 to extend the Internet in the developing world. Zuckerberg had preached about the economic and social benefits of the internet. Ebola created a new rationale: public health.
The Ebola outbreak shows “that the communications infrastructure is a critical piece to healthcare,” said Bruce Baikie, Inveneo’s executive director.
He said the group is sending 10 people to West Africa to bring Internet connections to 25 Ebola treatment centers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Those centers will become bases from which to extend the Internet to more remote locations where NGOs are operating. In all, about 100 new locations will get Internet connections that will appear as Wi-Fi networks.
In addition to Facebook, Cisco Systems CSCO -0.83% offered equipment and support; the effort is backed by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, started by the co-founder of Microsoft.
Andy Hickl, senior director of innovation at Allen’s company, Vulcan, said his early research last summer showed that “connectivity and communications infrastructure was just the bottleneck.”
Hickl said health officials told him they needed faster data gathering from the field. For instance, aid workers in treatment centers wrote weekly reports about new Ebola cases on pink forms, which were transported by motorbike to larger population hubs and then sent to organizations like the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
In November, Allen’s foundation donated 10,000 smartphones to enhance data collection and identify aid needs in West Africa.
Allen, who has pledged $100 million to fight Ebola, also made a commitment to help NetHope, a non-profit that helped start the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative and is aimed at boosting connectivity in the developing world.
Lauren Woodman, NetHope’s chief executive, said officials at international health organizations have been struck by the role of communications in fighting Ebola. She said they are asking “Should we be looking that as an element of infrastructure planning going forward?”
Mark Summer, founder of EveryLayer, which drew up the plans for where to place each piece of equipment, said the new connections will be used exclusively by aid workers and won’t be available to ordinary citizens. But he said the equipment could help telecom companies add better connections later. “We plan to leave the assets behind and we do hope they can be used to connect other people,” he said.
On Wednesday, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of internet.org app in Ghana in partnership with Airtel.
The partnership will enable Airtel customers in Ghana have free access to the internet for services on health, education, news, sports, and local information through the internet.org app.
“We’re launching Internet.org in Ghana, giving people on the Airtel network access to free basic internet services for education, health, jobs and communication” Zuckerberg said.
Internet.org is a non profit organization by Facebook in collaboration with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera Software, and Qualcomm setup to make affordable internet access available in parts of the world not connected.
Launched In August 2013, internet.org app has been previously launched in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Colombia
Source: Press Release
Togo Telecom has started deploying Wi-Fi hotspots in the capital city, Lome, in a project called 'Helim Zone', Agence Ecofin reports. The operator plans to install hotspots in all of the neighbourhoods of the city. A pilot launched in early January in the Deckon suburb gave users free internet access. With the end of the test service on 21 January, customers will have to pay XAF 200 for 1 hour and XAF 600 for 4 hours of use. After all of Lome is covered, the Helim Zone project will brought to other cities, and eventually to villages.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cameroon has revealed that the country’s first internet exchange points (IXPs) will be ready in the cities of Yaounde and Douala by June, writes BiztechAfrica. ICCSOFT has been selected to install the infrastructure under the supervision of the National Agency for Information and Communications Technologies (ANTIC). Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Jean Pierre Biyiti bi Essam, said that the two IXPs will help to reduce the cost of internet services in Cameroon and reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign networks. The cost of the project has not been disclosed.
“I could make many, many things with that,” said Sam Kodo, looking at a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. “Just think about it. If you fail, at least you have tried. There are a lot of people who have ideas but never try. Even if you fail, you are already one step better off in life than those who don’t even try,” said Sam Kodo.
“Just think about it. If you fail, at least you have tried. There are a lot of people who have ideas but never try. Even if you fail, you are already one step better off in life than those who don’t even try,” said Sam Kodo.
Where most people see only a phone, 23-year-old Kodo sees a combination of components that can be taken apart and used to make a PC, or a robot that plays football.
But then again, he is not like most people.
Kodo was just seven when he started building his first robot that could both circumvent obstacles and interact with people. Born and raised in Togo, his father was a physics lecturer at the University of Lomé and Kodo would enjoy many hours in the library studying formulas and equations. It was here that he just fell in love with electronics.
It didn’t take long for his parents to realise he had a talent, and both did their best to support his passion. Without access to many new parts required to build some of the things he wanted, both helped him find components he could re-use from broken-down appliances, such as old TVs.
He recalls how his mother would give him money to buy toys as a child just so he could take them apart and build his own inventions. “I want to take the opportunity to thank my mom,” he told How we made it in Africa.
“And I was also very fortunate to have my dad help me find the right parts I needed. And then I was also able to go to libraries and just educate myself.”
By the age of 15, Kodo’s robots could recognise faces and objects, speak, execute orders and even play football. And it wasn’t long before he created his first smartphone and PC.
Today Kodo is the founder of Infinite Loop, a company that locally produces low-cost personal computers for students. His miniature computers, called the Lifebook PC, are small enough to fit into a pocket, and they have to be plugged into TVs or mobile phones to turn them into a functional internet-enabled desktop PC. They are sold for a fraction of the price of other PCs in the market (under US$90) and cost around half the amount to produce.
Kodo’s work has caught the attention of international media, and last year he was named one of 12 finalists of the Anzisha Prize, an award for African entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 22.
His inspiration for creating his own PCs came from a need he identified at university. “When I went to university I realised there was a serious lack of tools to do my homework and university studies. So I decided to make my own computer so that it could help me work properly.”
This soon caught the attention of other students with similar interests. “I was fortunate enough to team up with others who had the same talent, and we created the company that is now called Infinite Loop.”
The start-up employs six people and has sold around 50 computers in Togo, which Kodo said is still their first version. “We plan to create many versions, and have many other projects for Africa too.”
Teams are everything
Kodo looks up to the likes of technology pioneers Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and makes use of some of the lessons they have learnt in their careers. For starters, he acknowledges that there is more to building a business empire than being able to produce something innovative or being a computer whizz.
“Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg might not have particularly been good businessmen or good administrators or even good at marketing, but what they did was they surrounded themselves with people who have the competencies and skills to turn their [innovations and computer skills] into a company,” he noted.
Kodo’s business partner has been his friend since childhood, and has studied commerce. He explained they have complementary skills, which they use to make joint business decisions. “When you choose a business partner, choose someone who complements you – not someone with the same skills – and someone who can add value to the business,” is his advice.
‘Be curious, do not fear failure’
According to Kodo, technology – such as mobile phones or PCs – has the ability to solve some key problems on the continent. Above all he wants his PCs to be affordable so everyone can benefit from them.
“With the computer I’ve created it’s important to remember there was a purpose behind this type of computer. It’s accessible and not expensive. Pretty much any student who’d like to purchase a computer like this can do so.”
He advises other African entrepreneurs to “be curious, enquire, learn, and always be original” in whatever they do. He added it will also be easier for them to succeed if they love what they do, and they should not let the fear of failure prevent them from starting.
“Just think about it. If you fail, at least you have tried. There are a lot of people who have ideas but never try,” Kodo commented.
“Even if you fail, you are already one step better off in life than those who don’t even try.”
The Anzisha Prize is the premier award for African entrepreneurs aged 15-22 who have developed and implemented innovative businesses or solutions that have a positive impact on their commuanities. Follow The Anzisha Prize on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
GiveITback, in partnership with Poynting and African Union Communications, has donated the first of its solar-powered computer labs to Umhloti Primary School, in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, to create a better understanding of ICT among learners.
Umhloti Primary School principal Badsha Adam says: "By exposing our learners to computers, they will learn how to actively seek information, which we believe will significantly contribute to their development and eventual competitiveness in the job market."
GiveITback is a Durban-based company that specialises in designing and installing complete computer labs for underprivileged schools. The firm claims to have completed more than 20 fully-functioning computer labs throughout the country over the past few years.
The company's solar-powered container lab holds 20 computers and one server, which are specifically developed for poor schools, as they address the lack of electrical infrastructure, building infrastructure and access to technology.
According to GiveITback, the lab is housed in a standard 12m shipping container, which is rust treated, painted and insulated against water and moisture. Being solar-powered, the lab is completely off-grid, and the solar system is designed to run for seven to eight hours before the batteries are depleted. "This will only happen if there's a complete lack of sunlight," says giveITback, adding this is highly unlikely in SA.
"This innovation holds great potential for bringing technology to schools in areas where help is needed most, to give their learners the best chance at a bright future," says Jonathan Michael, founder of giveITback. "Access to ICT is an investment in our country's future and is one of the most valuable gifts the next generation can receive."
Meanwhile, as the country struggles with an under-pressure power grid, an increasing number of solar-powered projects are coming on stream. It was reported towards the end of last year that the Department of Energy has targeted three million South African households to be powered by solar energy by 2030, as alternative sources add to the national power grid.
A total of 47 projects have been awarded 20-year contracts in the R100 billion Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
The director general of the Gambia National Library Service Authority (GNLSA) has on Tuesday informed lawmakers of the joint session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly that efforts are on track for the digitalisation of the archival materials of the Library.
Tabling the institution's activity report for the year ended 2013, before the respective committees, which is expected to be scrutinised today, Abdou Wally-Mbye, the director general of the GNLSA, said some of his staff have already undergone the training programme designed to equip them with the requisite skills needed for the realisation and sustainability of a digital library.
He disclosed that the training was organised by the British Library in collaboration with the National Centre for Arts and Culture in late 2013. "It was timely as we are currently engaged in digitalising our National collection with a view to preserving it for the upcoming generation," he added.
Wally-Mbye further informed lawmakers that the GNLSA is a semi-autonomous body public institution under the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, which was established by an Authority in 2009, by an Act of the National Assembly. The body seeks to provide a reliable, accessible and world-class library and information services geared towards transforming The Gambia into an enlightened and knowledge based society.
"In addition to a total of 84 new sets of documents received on legal deposit, our acquisitions section acquired 14,117 books this year. The great majority were books donated both for our own use and distribution to schools across the country," he added.
The GNLSA boss spoke about the importance of libraries, noting that people go to the library to study or even work on projects because of it's conducive nature, which allows face-to-face collaboration and other rare opportunities. He thus described a library as an institution that is dedicated to preserving our national memory and heritage.
Wally-Mbye further informed that the National Library used to be on high demand in recent times particularly when the University of The Gambia came. However, when the university established its own library, he said, the demand began to lower as a result of the highly and well equipped nature of the university's own.
He also cited how easy research on the internet impacted the use of libraries particularly at school levels. Despite this trend, he assured that efforts have been stepped up to engage teachers particularly at senior secondary schools' level to encourage students to be using libraries for home-works and other relevant assignments.
DG Wally-Mbye used the opportunity to dilate on the history of libraries, pointing out that over the past centuries, the emergence of new technologies has led people to predict the future or demise of memory institutions such as libraries, museums and archives. These prediction, he said, can be traced from the time of Plato, when the ancient Greek philosopher saw the advent of paper-making as heralding. Some, he said, such as the British social scientist, who in his newspaper article predicted the demise of libraries, which is predicted to be replaced by computers.
Avaya Inc a provider of solutions that enable customer and team engagement across multiple channels and devices, has announced that they are currently working with five County Governments in Kenya to enhance unified communication in counties through their solutions.
Gumaho milk app also commonly known as Milk Collection and Distribution System is a web-mobile application that empowers dairy cooperatives with data that provides them with support and inputs they need to grow their milk productions.
“We have been able to expand the market of cooperatives by linking them with people who buy milk in huge quantities,” says Walter Rwamucyo, the COO of Gumaho Ltd.
He also reveals that they plan to make the app an information sharing platform and a data center for the whole dairy industry in Rwanda.
Having started operations in September last year, Gumaho is currently working with one cooperative which has more than 2000 farmers.
“Our app has really been of help to farmers. With it, all the data they need is in their hands, they can dedicate more time to their farming activities,” says Rwamucyo.
Banks have also started showing interest due to the rich data collected and this can enable them give out cow loans to these farmers which was impossible before.
Gumaho has also embedded an accounting software that makes it easy for these cooperatives to monitor their businesses and generate reports with mobile bulk payment so as to ease payment for farmers via mobile payment platforms.
Much as there are still some challenges, Gumaho has helped farmers track their whole distribution chain, document information and make a proper market accessibility and analysis for the cooperative.
“Access to different services by farmers was tricky but now using their feature phones through SMS, they can order and get feeds, book a vet, check their balance and very soon they will even be able to ask an advance on their payment,” says Rwamucyo.
Gumaho Ltd came into existence after the Ministry of Agriculture laid out its challenges seeking ICT solutions and Gumaho picked interest in the dairy sector because it was in line with their vision and expertise.
Currently the company has a five-year plan with the first three years focusing on the national dairy market before expanding to other agriculture sectors and foreign markets.
Gumaho comprises three youths and incubated in kLab, an open innovation tech-space in Kigali.
Source: The New Times 18 January 2015
Sham Patel gave little thought to people living on the streets of Kenya’s capital until a chance encounter. Now, he gathers photos and stories to help shine a light on their lives
“So what do you do daily?” “I just walk around looking for food... I’m 72.” “And you’re still strong ey?” “Yes, and if someone would hire me, I can still work.” Photograph: Homeless of Nairobi
“I’ve lived two lives in this life.”
“I had things, now I have nothing.”
“What are you afraid of most?”
“El Niño is coming.”
“And what makes you laugh?”
This was a conversation with Daniel, a destitute man in Nairobi, Kenya, posted on the internet last August. That night, thanks to a stranger, he received a cooked meal of ugali and stew. Then came more donations of food, money, clothes, a bed and a shack for him to live in.
Here lies the power of Homeless of Nairobi, a Facebook page pricking the conscience of those who take such things for granted.
It is “a virtual home” for the homeless people of the Kenyan capital and one of the few places where they are seen, heard and dignified.
The page features photos, conversations and updates on volunteer projects, such as a group effort on Christmas day that fed about 600 people with 600 loaves of bread, 500 packets of milk, 500 bananas and about 50 bottles of soda.
They have become part of the wallpaper of this city
Not every story has a happy ending. “Today is a heartbreaking day for the Homeless Of Nairobi project,” read a post in November. “Over the past two months, we found a home for a wonderful man called Daniel... It has now come to our attention that Daniel has now left the house in favor of the streets once again. It is hard to understand why but we had told him that there is no pressure on him to stay.”
The page was launched last year by Sham Patel, 29, who was born and raised in Nairobi but spent three years as a student in Liverpool in the UK. Like many other residents, he gave little thought to people without a home until a chance encounter gave him a flash of empathy and changed his perspective.
Homeless of Nairobi
What’s in the cart? “All kinds of garbage. We will have to sort through it and find what we can use.” How long have you been on the streets? “Since 1987. This is the only life I know.” Photograph: Homeless of Nairobi
“Ever since I was young, I’ve seen homeless people on the streets of Nairobi,” he recalled this week. “They have become part of the wallpaper of this city. For a long time, I didn’t see them as people but as pests who bother people for money. We’re conditioned to think like that by an apathetic society from when we’re young. We’re pre-programmed.”
But then one rainy day, on his way to the gym, he saw some homeless people huddled under a plastic sheet. “It made me think about how I’d feel if that was me or my parents out in the rain without shelter and food. I decided then that it was time to try to make a small difference where possible so the next day I took them bread and milk and started a conversation with them and it was incredible how much they knew about life and their philosophies and belief in God was astounding.”
Patel added: “They shared the bread with me. In fact, they offered it to me first before they ate. Since then, I’ve decided to talk to and spread the stories of as many homeless people as possible with the hope that we can build a movement that will lead to finding ways to help these men, women and children that much of society and our government has discarded.”
One of his major inspirations for the format was Humans of New York, a popular website cataloguing photos, snippets and stories from the US city’s inhabitants. Patel met its founder briefly and was advised: “Just go for it.”
That food will not help me... the glue lasts longer and helps me forget where I am
Since then he has gone out day and night, gathering dozens of photos and stories, and the page has gained more than 3,000 likes on Facebook. It offers a rare insight into the pitiless conditions of the homeless in a major African city who have little social support or sympathy from the police. Some turn to drugs for escapism from hunger, pain or misery. A poignant entry on Thursday with a picture of children read:
“How much is the bottle of glue you’re sniffing?”
“We get it for about 30 shillings.”
“So why don’t you buy a small meal with that 30 shillings?”
“Because that meal will not even be enough to fill my stomach. That food will not help me when it is cold at night or when I am hungry again. The glue lasts longer and helps me forget where I am.”
According to the charity Kenya Children of Hope, in 2007 it was estimated that there were 250,000-300,000 children living and working on the streets across the country with, with more than 60,000 of them in Nairobi.
Homeless of Nairobi
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“I lost my two sons and my two daughters and my wife during post election violence. I walked from Molo to Nairobi to find help.” Did you find it? “No.” So what now? “I talk to god everyday and say two things; that I’m thankful for the little I have and that I hope I can sleep on a full stomach.” Photograph: Homeless of Nairobi
Patel said he gets a varied response from those he asks to take part. “Most of the time, the homeless people are really happy just to talk to someone and we can talk for a pretty long time. Other homeless people aren’t so friendly because of their lack of trust or because they’re high on something or the other.
We don’t just want to create a place where we dump homeless people and feed them
“But it’s been pretty mixed. There was the time I was almost robbed by three homeless people and there was another time we were chased down the street by a homeless guy who, it turns out, is a little psychotic or just really angry. But for the better part, most homeless people are very accommodating even though they do not trust the colour of my skin.”
Patel, who also runs Myrobi, a company that deals in t-shirts and marketing materials with a business partner, says he hopes to achieve “big things” with the Homeless of Nairobi project, including crowd funded projects and a homeless shelter where people can learn skills such as pottery, farming, mechanics and stitching.
“We want to have a psychiatry unit at the shelter because a lot of these homeless people have seen and endured things that human beings should not see. For example, the homeless girls being raped in town constantly.
“These people need psychiatrists to help them deal with the problems they’ve faced. We don’t just want to create a place where we dump homeless people and feed them. We want to bring them back from the brink they stand on. And their resilience proves that it is possible to do exactly that.”
Netflix has confirmed that it will be coming to South Africa as part of its global expansion plans
South Africa will be among the countries that Netflix expands to in the next two years, a spokesperson for the subscription video on demand service told MyBroadband.
The confirmation comes after Netflix informed shareholders on 21 January 2015 that it would be able to complete its international expansion strategy earlier than expected.
Netflix explained that its strategy has been to expand as fast as it can while staying profitable on a global basis.
“Progress has been so strong that we now believe we can complete our global expansion over the next two years, while staying profitable, which is earlier than we expected,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells told shareholders.
Netflix’s global expansion strategy involves “acceleration to 200 countries”, which means being available globally in just about every country in the world.
“We then intend to generate material global profits from 2017 onwards,” Hastings and Wells said.
Asked to confirm that South Africa forms part of its global expansion plans, Netflix stated that it intends to be fully global by the end of 2016.
“We have not provided details of when we plan to go where, but you can be confident South Africa is among the countries we intend to serve sometime in the next two years,” Netflix said.
Source: Mybroadband 22 January 2015
Kenyans have hit upon a novel way to vent their anger about the tear-gassing of children trying to protect their playground from development. There have been allegations on social media that the land is wanted for a nearby hotel - so following a riot police crackdown, protesters posted negative reviews of the business on sites such as TripAdvisor and Google.
National fixed line operator Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited (TTCL) has reportedly indicated that it intends to acquire the 35% stake currently owned by Indian-backed operator Airtel, thus giving the government full ownership of the telco.
According to IPPMedia, the TTCL is waiting for an official endorsement from the Parliamentary Committee for Public Accounts (PAC) before pressing ahead with an offer of TZS14 billion (USD7.56 million). TTCL CEO Kamugisha Kazaura commented: ‘The basic decision has already been reached by government to repossess the 35% stake by our co-shareholder. We request the committee to help in speeding up the process.’
Kazaura also noted that the TTCL is unable to pay the TZS25 billion debt that it currently owes the Tanzania Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TTRA) as its aging infrastructure is not attracting enough customers.
Airtel and Orange, Kenya's second and third largest mobile networks, have made the most of Safaricom's slide to gain market shares over the last quarter.
Figures from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) show that Airtel's market share increased from 15,7 percent to 16,5 per cent while Orange recorded an increment of 0,9 per cent following an increase of 9,2 per cent from the previous 8,3 per cent.
In contrast, the country's leading network operator, Safaricom, slightly took a dive but remains the leading operator in the country the reduction effects were felt.
In the report covering July to September 2014, Safaricom suffered a scare of 66,7 percent decline from 68 percent as competition for the cell phone mobile subscribers intensify in the Kenyan market.
The communications regulatory authority said in its report, a total of number of 32,7 million subscribers on the Kenyan mobile phone network had been recorded showing some increment in the number of people using cell phones.
Zimbwabwe’s Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp calls for entries
Zimbabwe’s Social Entrepreneurship bootcamp is on and now all social entrepreneurs are clled upon to submit their entries for the six-month structured bootcamp where they will gain the skills, tools and on completion may receive initial capital needed to launch a successful social enterprise.
Additionally, they will get access to local and international experts to help entrepreneurs across Zimbabwe develop a solid business model.
The bootcamp is a collaboration between a Mandela Washington Fellow with a desire to support young people working to address social issues in their communities and the U.S. Department of State.
“We seek to build sustainable and profitable social enterprises by providing social business expertise, international networks and mentorship.
“Are you an entrepreneur determined to revolutionize your industry? Are you so passionate about a social issue that you are driven to action? Is your passion so intense it has taken a life of its own? Apply for the Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and turn your passion into a sustainable enterprise!,” read the invite.
In developing countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, social enterprises have the potential to deliver critical public goods, support the public and the private sector, and create truly scalable business models. Be part of the solution!
The Intel Student Partner Program 2015 Is Open For Applications
The Intel Student Partner Program is on again, this programme that give students the opportunity to act as liaison between Intel and their universities to help the students work closely with the company as well as understand their latest technologies.
The students’ partners run hackathons on their campuses in which they’ve trained their fellow students on Android and Intel architecture; as well as helping to organize and participate in events such as the Intel Inter-University Apps Challenge, the Internet of Things Challenge, and Code for Good.
“We’re reopening applications in Kenya for university students across the country to be part of this year’s cohort of Intel Student Partners,” says the company.
To qualify for this programme, on must
Be enrolled in a full time program at a recognized university in Kenya ( recognized and registered as an institution of higher learning by the government body)
Have a grade point average of minimum B or equivalent from the university. Proof of grade average in the form of academic transcript is required.
Demonstrate that they have previously organized and led students in running or implementing a project or event that is of value to the university community. The proof for this should be provided in the form of reference letters from the organization for which they implemented the program.
Be registered members of the Intel Developer Zone (IDZ). IDZ membership will be verified by including IDZ username in the application process
If you have all this you can apply be submitting an application here. Application deadline is February 1st, 2015; and will be notified within 2 weeks of their application regarding the status of their application. The Program typically runs for one year, but Intel, at its sole discretion, may determine the end date of the Program.
AITEC East Africa ICT Summit 2015
18-19 February 2015
Kenya School Of Monetary Studies Nairobi, Kenya
Through its range of in-depth specialist Forums, AITEC East Africa 2015 will provide a unique platform for ICT professionals and managers from all sectors to gather information, contacts, and knowledge to take back to their organisations to empower them to accelerate delivery of results. In addition, the Summit will act as a clearing house to identify synergies, link initiatives, form partnerships, and avoid duplication of projects and waste of resources.
For further information click here:
CompTIA’s 5TH ANNUAL TRENDS IN CLOUD COMPUTING
13-14 April 2015, Habtoor Grand Hotel, DubaiWelcome back to the Cloud World Forum MENA – the Middle East & North Africa’s Leading Cloud Computing event. In its 5th year, this is the only event to offer a dual Cloud agenda for both Enterprise & Telco attendees. The 4th edition was an outstanding event with 30+ visionary speakers and more than 400 attendees, 76% from the buy-side.The 2015 edition will be bigger and better. Join us and learn from the 60+ visionary speakers, leading solution providers, more topics and more interactive sessions!
For further information clcik here: