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Issue no 788 31st July 2015

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Money Transfer

  • Efforts to get Bitcoin off the ground in Africa received a boost this week as BitX announced it has raised $4 million in funding.

    Africa is a market ripe for Bitcoin: it's underserved by financial institutions due to the high cost of having a physical presence like ATMs, bank branches and remittance offices, according Werner van Rooyen, head of business development and growth at BitX.

    The company was founded in 2013 and runs a bitcoin exchange and provides wallets for the cryptocurrency. Its headquarters are in Singapore and it has offices South Africa, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia and Nigeria. The Series A funding round was led by South Africa's Naspers Group.

    "There's a lot of talk in finance of 'the next billion' and a big part of this next billion will come out of Africa," Werner said via email. "Bitcoin is particularly great when you have low-value payments since there isn't a fixed minimum fee that gets charged to send it."

    Another advantage for bitcoin in Africa is the high level of mobile phone penetration, Werner said. "Soon anyone will be able to download a bitcoin wallet on their Android device, transfer some bitcoin in and make payments, be it to the person sitting next to them or sitting on the other side of the world."

    Earlier this month, BitX launched a bitcoin exchange and services in Nigeria. It joins ICE3x in that market, which launched the country's first bitcoin exchange in January.

    Meanwhile, startup Bitsoko recently won a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which it will use to expand its bitcoin services from Kenya, where it's now in beta, to other countries in the region.

    "Bitsoko is building a user Bitcoin wallet and merchant payment processor that will allow people to spend Bitcoin at any merchant that currently accepts mobile money. We offer the merchants extended tools such as analytics, customer loyalty program, payroll software, and more to make their payment system easier," said Daniel Bloch, head of business development.
     
    One such merchant is Basaka, a backpack company in Sierra Leone, Bloch said. "They are our first Bitsoko powered company as we will be assisting them in accepting payments and converting their funds into Splash mobile money."

    Bitsoko is also among the 30 startups selected from 600 applicants for this year's DEMO Africa pitching event slated for Nigeria in September.

    Bitcoin's success in Africa requires three things, according to BitX's Werner: companies like BitX that continue to engage with government regulators, developers building more innovative products and uses for the cryptocurrency, and simply getting more people to start using it as a means of transacting business.

    Bitsoko's Bloch believes that in five years, there will be Bitcoin companies in every country in Africa. Key to that growth is building platforms for other developers to use, he added, and Bitsoko aims to be the platform for others to create innovative applications.
    Source: PC Advisor 29 July 2015

  • The central bank says electronic payments are expected to reach $50 billion by the end of the year as the country’s mobile money sector continues to grow in both volumes and value.

    All of the three mobile network operators in Zimbabwe – Econet, Telecel and NetOne – have mobile money platforms which the RBZ said transacted a total of $6,1 billion between 2009 to 2014.

    Bank supervision director Norman Mataruka on Monday told a conference on mobile money and digital payments that the mobile money sector had transformed the financial services sector.

    “Mobile phone technology has drastically changed the financial landscape in Zimbabwe. The mobile phone has become a critical service delivery tool and innovative access channel for the banking system,” he said.

    “Total annual electronic payments are estimated at $50 billion this year compared to total bank deposits which are currently just above $5 billion.”

    Mataruka said mobile money transactions have also helped in migrating cash flows from the informal to the formal sector of the economy.

    The central bank estimates that up to $3 billion is circulating in the informal sector while the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) puts the figure at $7,4 billion.

    Mataruka said there was need to ensure adequate laws and regulations were put in place to protect consumers of digital financial services.

    “Mobile money payment systems must function within a well-defined and regulated framework that provides for a safe and sound environment.”
    Source: New Zimbabwe 29 July 2015

  • Tigo has paid back another quarterly Tigo Pesa profit share amounting to Tsh3.314 billion ($1.8million) to its customers.

    It makes the company to be the first and only telecom company in the world to date to share its Mobile Money Trust Account profit, in the form of a quarterly distribution.

    “We are really excited to be announcing this distribution to our loyal Tigo Pesa users,” Ruan Swanepoel the Tigo Head of Mobile Financial Services said.

    Swanepoel told East African Business Week that it is the profit distribution for this year’s second quarter.  He said the payment underlines their commitment to provide financial access to their customers.

    He stressed that it is the second profit share in 2015 and the fifth since Tigo started distributing the interests generated from the Tigo Pesa Trust accounts held in major Tanzanian banks.

    “We believe that the Tigo Pesa profit share distribution in 2015 will be a welcome relief to millions of Tigo Pesa users in meeting their various financial commitments,” noted Swanepoel.

    Swanepoel said the returns to customers are calculated based on their average daily balance stored in their Tigo Pesa wallet.

    The payment amounting to Tsh3.314 billion ($1.8 million) is almost equal to what the company paid in the first quarter of 2015.

    The Tigo Pesa profit share distribution scheme is in line with the Central Bank Circular issued in February 2014.

    The company has so far paid a total of Tsh27.2 billion ($12.84 million) to Tigo Pesa users in five quarterly disbursements since the launch of the service in July 2014.

    According to him, between 2013 and 2014 alone, the company launched over 500 new network sites. He said Tigo plans to double its investment by 2017 in terms of coverage and additional capacity networks for deeper penetration in rural areas.
    Source: Business Week 27 July 2105

  • The Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenge is open to entrepreneurs and developers, between the ages of 18 and 35, who are based in Africa. Applications close on Sept. 18, and five finalists will be announced on October 12. One member from each finals team will be flown to Cape Town, South Africa, where they will pitch their idea to a panel of Barclays executives and industry experts on Nov. 3. One winning entry will be crowned Barclays Africa Innovation Challenge Winner 2015. The winning team will receive $10 000 USD in prize money and a Barclays mentor for 6 months.

    “The journey from manufacture to eventual use by a sick person may involve ten different companies, a fleet of trucks, warehouses, export and import authorities, and a wide variety of shops or dispensaries,” read a statement by Barclays Africa illustrating the challenges the problems of the modern supply chain. “At each step, the medicine is logged, registered and accounted for by a different company, into a different database. More often than not, however, these companies and databases are not linked in any way. This means that there is no single, traceable route between the manufacturer who provided the medicine and the person who uses it.”

    Though it is encouraged, potential solutions don’t have to use blockchain or distributed ledgers, the bank is open to other technologies. Successful Kenyan businessman and philanthropist Chris Kirubi was present at the launch event, and helped bring to market a "smart card" to reduce fraud and the cost of medical services in West Africa during the late 2000's.

    According to Stephen van Coller, Chief Executive of Corporate and Investment Banking at Barclays Africa, the Challenge is about improving supply chain transparency for African businesses. “The journey of a product from manufacturer to consumer is often disjointed and inefficient and there is currently a huge amount of interest in finding ways to increase the transparency of provenance, not least of which is the use of blockchain technology,” commented van Coller.

    The continent has had many difficulties with fraud and theft within its supply chains, making doing business and buying consumer goods much more costly and difficult than it should be. “Blockchain and similar technologies have substantial potential in creating transparency about the series of transactions that occur along any supply chain process.” explained van Coller.

    The challenge kicked off on July 24 at the Capital Club, a prestigious private business and social club in Nairobi, Kenya. At the event van Coller gave a speech about innovation in Africa and the potential of blockchain technology to solve some of the major problems facing the continent.

    During his speech van Coller explained that an example of innovation that addresses the issues came from Barclays London-based innovation hub. “It’s called EverLedger and empowers financial institutions and consumers in tracking the movement of diamonds through the supply chain. The solution is a permanent ledger for diamond certification and related transaction history that simplifies verification for insurance companies, owners, claimants and law enforcement.”

    EverLedger, who graduated Barclay’s European fintech startup accelerator, is now working with the large bank to bring the company’s anti-fraud solution to market. The startup’s CEO Leanne Kemp says that blockchain technology could eventually be applied to other luxury goods and supply chains in general. Bitcoin exchange Safello also graduated from the bank’s accelerator, which was done in partnership with TechStars, and is now working with Barclays to make a yet-to-be announced product using the blockchain.

    Following the speech from van Coller a panel explored the startup environment in Africa and blockchain technology in more detail. Panelists included prominent East African businessmen, the Kenyan government's Information Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiangi, and the CEO of bitcoin startup BitPesa Elizabeth Rossiello.

    Rossiello attracted a lot of attention during the panel as she is one of the few people that has experience running a bitcoin and blockchain business in Africa. The company, Bitpesa, has raised over $1 million in funding and serves as a blockchain-based remittance provider for businesses and consumers. Users of the service outside of Africa can send money to people in Kenya, Tanzania, or Uganda. The startup also operates a bitcoin exchange in those countries and Ghana.

    The Kenyan government's Information Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiangi, also gave a speech highlighting the benefits of technology, networks, and communication. He also announced that the Kenyan government would be launching an initiative to support and fund Kenyan startups, later this year. This would be the first program of its kind from the Kenyan government.

    The challenge launch, and comments by government officials, constitute the second favorable mention of blockchain and bitcoin technology from African government officials this week. The Tech Ministry of Tunisia, a nation located in North Africa, posted on several social media channels that it was looking for an intern which would conduct research on bitcoin and blockchain technology.
    Source: Brave New Coin.com 28 July 2015

telecoms

  • Dubai, UAE and Ghana, July 26, 2015 –Mobile Satellite Services operator, Thuraya Telecommunications, in partnership with Airtel Ghana, has announced its strategic launch to provide Ghanaians with 100 percent coverage through terrestrial and mobile satellite connectivity.

    Thuraya’s satellite-based solutions will help bridge the digital divide both for individuals and businesses. The unique agreement with Airtel Ghana gives people living in rural and remote areas greater and clearer access to voice and data connectivity.

    Bilal Hamoui, Chief Commercial Officer at Thuraya, said: “We are working in partnership with Airtel Ghana to make it possible for people to be connected at all times. Our voice communications and broadband services are reliable and robust, and they connect even the most remote and inaccessible places. Our technology saves and improves lives; and it can now help bring Ghanaians closer to one another, and to the outside world.
    “Thuraya is strategically positioned to support customer-oriented mobile operators such as Airtel Ghana, who are helping to extend the reach of our portfolio of satellite-based solutions.”

    Maxwell Dodd, Director of Airtel Business commenting on the partnership said, “We are proud to be the only Enterprise business solution in Ghana that offers a bouquet of services categorized under communication, connectivity and collaborative solutions. We are also proud to be the first in our market to provide dedicated enterprise solutions to homes. This is what we call, the ‘Home Business Solutions’. This is targeted at gated communities, residential clusters and apartments; university residences and high-rise buildings. We also have an extensive array of solutions for businesses and have recently partnered with Thuraya to provide Thuraya’s mobile satellite products and services across 17 countries in Africa.
    “This partnership demonstrates Airtel’s commitment to lead the market by providing cutting edge, technology-driven solutions for the benefit of its enterprise and high- value customers”.
    Source: Press Release

  • World Bank Group’s IFC, said it will invest $35 million Africell, to support the expansion and upgrade of mobile networks in Gambia, the DRC, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

    The IFC’s investment is part of a syndicated loan of $150 million, arranged by Deutsche Bank and supported by the Public Investment Corporation SOC acting on behalf of Government Employees Pension Fund, Banque Libano Francaise, EcoBank RDC and other investors.

    In a statement Ziad Dalloul, Africell’s Chairman and CEO said, “Africell is at the forefront of the mobile expansion in Africa and aims to become one of the leading telecom players in the continent. Our partnership with IFC and other international financing organizations is another milestone in Africell’s endeavor to further its social and development role in the markets it operates.”

    In May 2014, Africell acquired 100% of Orange Uganda after announcing it had announced in February that it’s Sierra Leonean operation had crossed the two million mark with over 2,250,000 active subscribers and was expecting to end 2014 with over 11 million in total active subscriber base for its African operations.

    Launched in 2001, Africell has become the leading mobile network provider in Gambia and in Sierra Leone, and is expanding rapidly in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda. The new financing will enable Africell to expand its coverage and services.
    Source: Techmoran 28 July 2015

  • Vietnam’s Viettel Group expects to launch mobile operations in Tanzania in October 2015 under the brand name Halotel, VietnamNet reports, citing Tao Duc Thang, director general of the telco’s international arm, Viettel Global. Halotel is in the ‘final phase of infrastructure construction’, and the new market entrant intends to offer both 2G and 3G connectivity from launch. Going forward, Viettel intends to deploy mobile networks in all 26 Tanzanian provinces.

    As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in October 2014 Viettel was granted a licence to build and operate a 3G mobile network in Tanzania, with chairman Manh Nguyen said to have made a pledge to invest USD1 billion in ‘telecoms and other services’.

    In related news, the article quotes Thang as saying that Viettel Global is now conducting market research in a number of other African countries, including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Swaziland, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Madagascar, with a view to expanding its African footprint even further.
    Source: Telegeography 29 July 2015

  • Mobile phone operators MTN and Orange in Guinea-Bissau have until 15 August to find solutions to the technical problems that their telecommunication services face.

    The request was made at a meeting between leaders of the National Regulatory Authority (ARN) of Guinea-Bissau and mobile network operators, MTN and Orange.

    Mobile networks have been operating at a deficit in Guinea-Bissau and there are periods in the night when its impossible to make calls, and at other times there are sudden cuts in communication.

    According to the Chairman of the ARN Board, Djibril Mané the meeting took place following work at the beginning of this year to assess the quality of service and the need for national coverage by the two telecommunications companies.

    Mané said a proposal had been delivered to the two companies on how they can offer quality services that meet people’s needs.

    The Chairman of the ARN said the two operators had promised to examine the proposals and then present a solution.

    “As you know the ARN has the power granted to it by the law. It is not only a regulatory and supervisory authority, but also promotes activities to develop the sector in Guinea-Bissau,” said Djibril Mané.
    Source: Macahub 24 July 2015

  • Airtel Gabon has selected Swedish vendor Ericsson to deploy its new LTE network, while the agreement will also see Ericsson preside over the transformation of the cellco’s existing mobile radio access and core network infrastructure.

    Airtel Madagascar has renewed its telecoms licence for ten years as of 9 July 2015, Agence Ecofin reports. Due to expire in September 2015, the concession has been extended by the Agency for Regulation of Technology and Telecommunication (ARTEC) ahead of schedule, and permits the Bharti Airtel subsidiary to continue operating 2G and 3G networks in the country, while also allowing for a future rollout of 4G services. The operator’s CEO, Maixent Bekangba, commented: ‘Airtel Madagascar … through this initiative wants to show its determination to work in the long term for connectivity of the Malagasy population.’ The price of the licence extension has not been disclosed.

internet

  • Communications regulator Icasa has asked for written submissions over the proposed acquisition of iBurst and Broadlink parent Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) by MultiSource, a company that enjoys the backing of former banking executives Michael Jordaan and Paul Harris.

    Icasa has confirmed in the most recent Government Gazette that it received an application for approval of the acquisition on 8 June. In terms of the application, MultiSource has undertaken that WBS will remain the holder of all licences issued to it by Icasa.

    The Electronic Communications Act prevents the sale or transfer of an “individual licence” without prior written permission from regulator.

    “The authority acknowledges that this application comes at a time in the sector where there are a number of transactions taking place,” Icasa said.

    These include the proposed acquisition of Neotel by Vodacom; MTN and Telkom’s radio access network sharing agreement currently before the Competition Commission; and the acquisition of Business Connexion by Telkom, also before the commission.

    Icasa has asked for written comments on the proposed MultiSource, WBS deal. Copies of submissions must also be sent to WBS, which has been given the right — as well as additional time — to respond to them.

    TechCentral reported in February that WBS had undergone a successful due diligence by MultiSource. The deal still requires the approval of both Icasa and South Africa’s competition authorities.

    WBS has access to valuable radio frequency spectrum that could be used to build a national wireless broadband network. In particular, it has access to spectrum in the 1,8GHz band that is ideally suited to building next-generation wireless broadband networks using 4G/LTE technology.

    TechCentral broke the news in October 2014 that MultiSource, a company which was once listed on the JSE, had made an offer to buy the company.

    At the time, chairman and shareholder Phumlani Moholi confirmed that MultiSource had made an offer to buy WBS, but cautioned that it was subject to a financial and technical due diligence. Moholi is a former chief technology officer at MTN and chief IT officer for the 2010 Fifa World Cup local organising committee. The value of the proposed acquisition has not been disclosed.

    WBS shareholders include Blue Label Telecoms co-CEOs Brett and Mark Levy, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Investec, the Public Investment Corp and former WBS CEO Thami Mtshali, who stepped down last August.

    InstituteX, an investment company founded by Harris, Moholi and technology entrepreneur Brandon Leigh, acquired a 66% stake in Multisource back in 2010. Leigh, who serves as MultiSource’s CEO, is the former head of Leaf Wireless, the company that distributed HTC products in South Africa until 2012.
    Source: Techcentral 22 July 2015

  • The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has disclosed that local Internet charges will go down with 300 percent following the coming in of a new Internet provider Ciba net.

    Confirming the development MACRA Director general Andrew Kumbatila said Ciba net will providing a megabytes at 200 dollars from 900 dollars.

    "When Internet first came in Malawi it was at 1900 dollars per megabyte then it was slashed down to 900 dollars and now this company will be charging us 200 dollars,this means the price of Internet will go down" said Kumbatila.

    He further said that the development will help some sectors to provide high quality Internet in the country Meanwhile the company has already set fibers from Ntchinji and Karonga to Lilongwe to insure provision of the services in all the regions of the country by September.

    A report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) revealed that on average Malawians use more than 12 dollars On mobile including Internet while In neighboring Mozambique, consumers spend more than a quarter of their incomes using their Internet. This makes Malawi one of the most expensive countries in the world to use Internet services.
    Source: Malawi 24 28 July 2015

  • The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US government’s finance institution, is investing in Kenya’s Mawingu Networks in a reported US$4 million deal.

    The move is to help Mawingu, which means ‘cloud’ in Swahili, connect millions of Kenyans to the internet for the first time, and to further expand its use of TV White Spaces technology for off-the-grid internet connectivity.

    Mawingu Networks is a solar-powered internet service provider whose aim is to provide last-mile connectivity access to areas that cannot access the internet.

    Already, Mawingu Networks has the backing of Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, USAID, Jim Forster, an angel investor and Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation.
    Source: TechLoy 27 July 2015

  • Kenya's tourism industry needs to capitalise on global online platforms to tap more visitors into the country, booking portal Jovago has said. According to Jovago, most tourists are sourcing for tour packages online, making the internet a potential game changer in recovery of Kenya's tourism industry. The company said Africa has lagged behind in the adoption of e-tourism, despite the high uptake of e-commerce and technology. Addressing journalists in Nairobi yesterday, Jovago East Africa head of marketing Nafisa Fazal said there is also need for more marketing campaigns to help the country recover from the tourism slump witnessed in the last two years due to insecurity.

computing

  • Business Connexion (BCX) has launched a pay-as-you-go service for Windows Azure Pack out of its carrier-neutral, certified tier four data centre.

    BCX is the only gold-certified Microsoft Cloud Operating System Network (COSN) partner in Africa, it says.

    The solution combines enterprise-class control and compliance with managed service and self-provisioning, providing clients with flexibility and increasing their agility in the market, notes the company.

    "There is no doubt that local markets are becoming increasingly competitive," says Jacques Loubser, BCX managing executive of converged infrastructure solutions.

    "Technology in itself is also no longer a differentiator, but has rather become an enabler. This, coupled with a need to be more innovative and agile, is driving cloud adoption across the continent and is transforming the data centre.

    "One of the biggest benefits of this solution is that it is hosted locally. It reduces latency, or the amount of time it takes for a data packet to travel from source to destination, and solves the issues around data sovereignty," says Loubser.

    According to IDC's 2015 Top 10 ICT Predictions for Africa, security concerns are rising due to the increase in mobile device, data and access methods. IDC believes this will drive governments on the continent to address cyber security legislation and look at further country-specific data protection that could require in-country presence and hosting.

    "Clients are increasingly prioritising dealing with a local partner as it creates a sense of comfort being able to deal directly with a person where the data resides. It also simplifies the support process and eliminates the need to bring an additional support partner into the fold. They are also looking to consolidate the number of vendors they deal with.

    "We are also the first COSN partner to make the self-service control panel available in Africa. Through this panel, clients that know what they want can purchase the technology they need online, simplifying the procurement process," he says. The Windows Azure Pack solution can also be deployed in the client's own data centre.
    Source: ITweb Africa 29 July 2015

  • IBM is partnering with the Kenya Education Network (KENET) to deliver advanced hands-on certification courses to faculty and students of 50 Kenyan universities over KENET’s broadband network.

    IBM has invested a sum of USD 60 million over three years to develop the next generation of technical talent in Africa. As part of the initiative, IBM is expanding the Africa Technical Academy and the company’s Africa University Programme to over 20 African countries.

    IBM said IT professionals across the continent are set to benefit with advanced skills in analytics, cloud and big data technologies which are crucial to the next phase of Africa’s economic and social development.

    In Kenya – home to IBM’s Africa Research lab and a state-of-the-art Innovation Center – IBM is partnering with the Kenya Education Network (KENET) to deliver advanced hands-on certification courses to faculty and students of 50 Kenyan universities over KENET’s broadband network. The certification courses will develop and enhance job market readiness among university students by providing the technical expertise that both employers and entrepreneurs require in order to succeed in a fast paced growth market like Kenya. The courses are available at no cost and are facilitated by both IBM online trainers and certified faculty in the participating universities.

    IBM Technical Academy runs in parallel with IBM Africa University Programme, in which 80 Universities across the continent currently participate to enhance their curriculum. These universities provide their final year students with a range of business analytics, cyber security, data management, cloud and mobile technology training via the technical role based model applied in the IBM Technical Academy. Academic staff and students are supported by IBM’s team of experts, cloud-based resources and an IBM training and information portal.

    Course are currently delivered in English. This will soon expand to French and later include other African languages.
    Source: ITNews Africa 29 July 2015

Digital Content

  • Vodacom South Africa's location-based deals app Vouchercloud has delivered almost half a billion rand in savings for local consumers in just over a year since its launch. More than two million people are now using Vouchercloud in South Africa, the operator announced. Vouchercloud is a location-enabled product that seeks out the best local deals, displays them via the mobile phone, and allows users to redeem either digital or printed vouchers at participating retailers.

    Vouchercloud has far exceeded its original target of 1 million users in South Africa by March. A total 650,000 customers have downloaded the app onto their smartphones, and approximately 170,000 customers access deals via the website monthly.  Savings are generated in three broad categories – food, fun and fashion. Over 70 percent of the vouchers redeemed are for groceries, followed by deals offered by the major clothing stores and brands. Vouchercloud is a free service, available on any mobile phone, including smartphones and feature phones.
    Source: Telecompaper 28 July 2015

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Orange SA on Tuesday said first-half sales and Ebitda fell less than analysts expected while net profit increased, amid the French telecom operator's attempts to revive profitability after years of decline.

    First-half earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization fell slightly to EUR5.81 billion ($6.44 billion) against analysts' expectations of EUR5.78 billion. Excluding exceptional items, Ebitda was flat compared with the same period last year.

    Orange said sales declined 0.6% to EUR19.56 billion in the first half, topping analysts' expectations of EUR19.39 billion. Sales in France--its largest market--were down 1.3% on a comparable basis.

    Net income for the period was EUR1.27 billion, up 75% due to the sale of its stake in the EE joint venture in the U.K. and a decrease in corporate income tax.

    Along with its rivals, Orange in France has been hurt by a mobile-service price war sparked by the arrival of a new competitor, Iliad SA, although the situation has improved in recent months as prices stabilized.

    Outside France, the group has been busy reviewing its portfolio of assets and is in exclusive talks to buy four Airtel subsidiaries in Africa, pushing further into a region the company has looked to for growth in recent years.

    "We are particularly pleased with these results which mark a return to revenue growth in the second quarter, excluding regulation, for the first time since 2011," Orange Chairman and CEO Stephane Richard said.

    The company reiterated its full year guidance of achieving Ebitda between EUR11.9 billion and EUR12.1 billion.
    Source: Marketwatch 28 July 2015

  • UAE telecom giant Etisalat said on Tuesday its net profit plunged 40 percent in the second quarter because of higher depreciation and the impact of its troubled Saudi unit Mobily.

    Etisalat posted a consolidated net profit of 1.5 billion dirhams ($409 million) in the April to June period, compared with 2.53 billion dirhams ($689 million) in the same period last year, a company statement said.

    "The decline in net profit after Federal Royalty is attributed to higher depreciation and amortisation charges, the impact of Mobily's additional provision... (and) incurring forex losses," it said.

    Consolidated revenues in the second quarter, however, rose by 6.4 percent to $3.6 billion from $3.4 billion, said the company which serves 168 million clients in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

    Etisalat's net profit in the first half of 2015 also dropped 20 percent to $1.0 billion from $1.23 billion a year ago.

    But its consolidated revenues in the first six months of the year rose 16.4 percent to $7.14 billion from $6.13 billion a year ago.

    "This quarter's 6 percent increase in revenue is an indicator that Etisalat's long-term strategy for sustainable growth in our markets is the right approach, despite the decline in profit in Quarter 2," CEO Ahmad Julfar said.

    Last year, the company's net profit surged 26 percent to $2.43 billion as Etisalat saw a hike in subscribers after acquiring a Morocco operator stake.

    The UAE government, which owns a 60 percent stake in the company, decided to open it up to foreigners for the first time in June.

    Etisalat had said the federal government had decided to allow foreign investors to buy 20 percent of the company's shares.
    Source: France24 28 July 2015

  • Convergence Partners - an investment management firm focused on the African telecommunications, media and technology sector - today announced the successful final close of its Convergence Partners Communication Infrastructure Fund (CPCIF). CPCIF, now with capital of over $200 million, retains its position as the largest fund dedicated solely to ICT infrastructure in Africa.

    CPCIF reached its final close with capital commitments from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), acting on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), and an Africa-focused fund of funds. Additional investors in the Fund include Convergence Partners (as sponsors), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the CDC Group (CDC). This diverse range of investors adds to the depth and capability of CPCIF.

     It is anticipated that CPCIF will deploy capital to portfolio investments across the African ICT infrastructure spectrum, improving access to technology as well as communication and broadband services. The Fund has a strong pipeline, notably in West Africa, where Convergence Partners is opening a local Nigerian office; enhancing the effective execution of investments and the management of portfolio company performance on the ground.

     “We believe the current fund size is well suited to the scale of infrastructure investment opportunities we are seeing across the continent, including fibre, data centres, wireless/spectrum, fintech and ICT platforms that enable e-learning and broadcast and media,” says Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners. “Access to quality ICT infrastructure is a catalyst for more competitive and efficient business operations and provides new business models for traditional industries such as financial services, healthcare, education and retail; driving sustainable growth and socio-economic development.”

    Brandon Doyle, CEO of Convergence Partners says that the demand for broadband and related services is exploding across the continent. “The Ericsson Mobility Report (2015) predicts that the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to increase the number of connected devices - machine to machine (M2M) and consumer electronics, excluding mobile phones - globally from over 6 billion devices in 2014 to more than 16 billion in 2020. Africa will follow suit. However, in order to realise this potential the continent requires reliable, ubiquitous broadband. This forms part of CPCIF’s vision and our commitment to transforming the African ICT infrastructure landscape.”

    Investments that currently form part of CPCIF include Comsol, a wireless network deployment and solutions company and FibreCo, a national long-haul network (both in South Africa) as well as Synergy Communications (SynCom), an investment platform for enterprise and wholesale communication services providers, which amalgamates fixed and wireless technologies across sub-Saharan Africa. SynCom is currently invested in two leading corporate ISPs, in Malawi (Skyband) and Mozambique (IS Mozambique).
    Source: Press Release 28 July 2105

  • Fipar-Holding (the Moroccan Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion group), FinanceCom and Orange signed the final documentation today increasing Orange’s interest in Méditel, the Moroccan telecommunications operator, in application of the agreements they signed in December 2010.

    Through this transaction, Orange has acquired an additional 9% of Méditel’s capital and benefits from the rights set out in the December 2010 agreements. As a result, Orange now holds 49% of Méditel’s share capital. The Board of Directors of Méditel will now be composed of five members proposed by Orange and four members appointed by the Moroccan shareholders. The company will now be fully consolidated in the financial statements of the Orange group.

    Created in 1999, Méditel opened up the telecoms market in Morocco in both fixed and mobile services. The operator has undertaken massive investments in its networks, which now include over 5,400 km of fiber optic cable, including 870 km in Morocco’s ten largest urban areas. In addition, Méditel will complete the overhaul of its mobile network this year, extending its 3G coverage to 95% of the population. In March 2015, the Moroccan regulator ANRT assigned one of the three 4G licenses to the operator, confirming the company’s human and technical expertise. Méditel was the first operator to launch its 4G service, in June 2015.

    With more than 13 million mobile subscribers, representing a 31% market share at the end of 2014, Méditel had 2014 revenues of 5.5 billion dirhams (503 million euros(1); growth of +7%), an EBITDA(2) of 1.86 billion dirhams (170 million euros; growth of +18%), and an operating cash flow of 720 million dirhams (66 million euros).

    The transaction, which has already received the necessary authorizations from the public authorities and the regulator, illustrates Orange’s development strategy outside Europe and supports the Group’s ambition to reinforce its presence in Africa and Middle East.
    Source: APO

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  • Nigeria’s Hotels.ng is asking developers to create an algorithm that predicts user behaviour

    Lagos-based hotel booking website, Hotels.ng is organizing a hackathon to develop a machine learning algorithm to predict users who will cancel hotel bookings.

    “Some users are more likely to cancel their bookings than others, depending on several factors/conditions,” the company said of why it is organizing the hackathon. “A person who books five different hotels in different states on the same day is likely to cancel at least four of those reservations. Or maybe not – because he’s probably booking for other people.”

    The goal is to write a machine learning algorithm that tracks users’ behaviour and makes a decision based off available data on whether a user will cancel a booking or not.

    The hackathon is holding this Saturday, August 1, 2015  at the Hotels.ng office at No. 3 Birrell Avenue, Sabo, Yaba. It starts at 9 am.

    Hotels.ng will provide participants a dataset of 5000 pieces of dummy data against which a machine learning (or any other) algorithm can be coded.

    Because this an advanced coding problem, only software developers will be able to participate (no project managers or designers needed on this one), Hotels.ng says.  Solo developers and/or team mates are invited to participate.

    Click here  get an early bird ticket to the hackathon.

  • Vodacom’s chief financial officer quits

    Ivan Dittrich, chief financial officer and executive director, has resigned from company to pursue his own interests. Ivan will step down from board with effect from 31 July 2015. Hatem Dowidar, non-executive director has resigned from Vodafone Group and will step down from board with effect from 30 September 2015. Till Streichert, currently executive director: finance of Vodacom South Africa will succeed Ivan as CFO and executive director with effect from 1 Aug 2015

  • The LINK Centre's Certificate in Telecommunications Policy, Regulation and Management starts on 20 July 2015

    •         Neo who?  What will the buyout mean for telecomms competition in SA?

    •         A new CEO or just another Hlaudi day at the SABC?

    •         The ship that sank without a trace?  Where goeth the ICT Policy Review?

    •         Queueing at the border?  Where is that digital migration exactly?

    •         Spectrum, spectrum, my kingdom for some spectrum?

    For answers to these questions, sign up for TPRM 2015.
    Even better, bring a friend or a colleague.  Make sure your organisation is empowered to get to grips with the changing face of telecommunications, broadcasting, broadband and the Internet in 2015.

    For more information, please see the attached brochure, or go to our website

    To enrol, contact Melissa Moodley on Melissa.Moodley@wits.ac.za or +27 (0) 11 717 4598 or go online

    Nairobi Innovation Week
    5 -7 August 2015
    University of Nairobi

    The Nairobi Innovation Week Committee has announced the official commencement of the registration process for the event in August, which will bring together government, academia, startups and other stakeholders for discussions under the theme “Innovate and Prosper”.
    For more information and to register vsit the website here.

    Fibre to Home Conference 2015
    20-21 October 2015

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

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

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