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Issue no 813 5th February 2016

top story

  • The African start-ups that seem to be gaining fastest traction are those that have focused on “the plumbing”: business processes that can be both enabled and made more efficient by mobile phones. Ghana’s mPedigree Network is one of those rare start-ups that has rolled out in multiple markets and is profitable. Russell Southwood talked to mPedigree Networks Bright Simons about how it works.

    mPedigree Network was launched in 2007 out of a failed technology that didn’t take off:”Through this we discovered the problem of counterfeit medicines and cases where Nigerian children had died as a result of taking these counterfeit medicines.

    Counterfeit goods are widespread in Africa. I remember a Nigerian colleague telling me that when he went to the garage, he was offered the following in descending order of cost: the genuine branded car parts, fake branded car parts and unbranded car parts. The average level of car parts counterfeiting in Sub-Saharan Africa is 25%:”Obviously there’s a direct link between car insurance and the origin of spare parts.”

    In the area of pharmaceuticals, 60% of stock may be counterfeit but this breaks down into different categories like outright copies, sub-standard products, those where the expiry date has been changed, those not registered for the market they’re sold and products that misrepresent their origins.

    But this has serious consequences for health particularly for widely used medicines like anti-malarials: in Guinea 63% of anti-malarials are fakes. Seeing an opportunity, mPedigree Network piloted a scheme for checking by mobile phone paediatric anti-fever formulations for a local Ghanaian company.

    Through providing ways of checking medicines by phone, the company then got involved in providing tracking software for sales forces, a marketing application to help companies spot sales opportunities and a loyalty programme app. Its original consumer validation app is now a “bolt-on” to other applications. Longer-term it’s looking at ways of using the data it collects to be able to identify where the next counterfeit “hot-spot” will be in a country.

    The process of validating pharmaceuticals by mobile phone has also taken the company out into other industries including: fashion (it does work for Vlisco); automotive parts; veterinary products; crops and seeds; agro-chemicals, cosmetics; consumer food; electricals (like cables); and electric components.

    The technical term for all this is serialization and the company partners with HP which bought specialist printers Indigo. The latter prints unique IDs for products and has an algorithm to produce them. Different types of unique codes are used, usually a combination of machine-readable like bar codes and things that can be read by humans.

    “In this way a company is able to track a pallet of Malerone (an anti-malarial) that left the warehouse in December 2015 and is now on the shelf in the capital of Zambia, Lusaka. There’s also a link to customs procedures. They can follow the journey of the specific batch of the product and know that it’s not a Chinese fake that has arrived via Rotterdam.”

    Not only does mPedigree Network have a spread of vertical industry markets but it is also present in 12 country markets; 10 in Africa (including Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda) and two elsewhere (India and Pakistan). Nigeria and India are its most well developed markets:”In Nigeria we have hundreds of companies as customers and there are thousands of products.”

    Country involvement goes “up and down” and it has pulled back from Bangladesh and the Middle East. It is probably the biggest provider of tracking for pharmaceuticals in Nigeria down to the pack level

    The pattern of development is that it runs a pilot to generate interest and users and once this has happened, ramps up its presence It works closely with product regulators and business associations to spread its message and believes it can reduce costs for regulators:”We’re getting 40% growth every year. We’re growing revenues and have been profitable for many years. We look to make sure we can make profits in country markets in 6 months.”

    There are three types of competitors: system integrators who provide other back-office services; multinationals like HP and IBM who have been in the space in a range of countries for some while; and other companies doing more or less the same as itself like Kezzler and Sproxil.

    African start-ups like mPedigree that focus on “the plumbing” of business processes have the potential to reach profitability more quickly, particularly when they get a solid understanding of what an industry needs.


    Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act’s web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has an e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it covers online film, music, media, social media, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 56 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 info@balancingact-africa.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line. Look at the full list of past issues  here:
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    Videos interviews to watch:
    NewGenAngels' Sean Obedih on the upcoming Africa Business Angels Forum in London

    Yann Le Beux on how CTIC supports Senegalese start-ups and who invests in them

    Jumanne Mtambalike, Buni Hub on making a 3D printer and drone from e-waste-mass production next?

    Rapelang Rabana on creating learning in bite-size chunks for web and mobile phones

    Barrett Nash, Safemotos on an app that wants to be the Uber of safe moto taxis in Kigali

    Nkiru Balonwu of mobile music platform Spinlet on the importance of featurephones to its expansion

    Obakeng Mathloko on start-up Afta Robot with its apps for taxi owners and passengers

    Julian Von Plato, PockitTV on putting video on every mobile in Africa

    Gideon Esura on eFluxz Mobile Media's launch of a comedy service in Nigeria

    Jess Williamson on Techstars Fintech accelerator programme starting in Cape Town

    Trevor Kimenye on the Kenyan social media start-up Ongair that lets business reach customers

    Alissa Orlando on making Hello Food Rwanda part of Kigali's dining culture

Money Transfer

  • Lagos, Nigeria – February 03, 2016: Terra, a mobile-first international payment network, incubated by Mahindra Comviva, today, announced the launch of Terra Pulse to help financial authorities and regulators accurately measure mobile-powered international remittances.

    Terra provides the rails for international transfers by interconnecting digital wallet service providers, foreign exchange houses and remittance companies. As a regulated entity, Terra maintains an audit trail of all inbound and outbound transactions processed by its network. Central regulators and financial reporting agencies benefit from a single view of transactions originating or leaving their respective countries, with an option to obtain a drill down view at a per corridor, partner and customer level. The reporting frequency and range of reports can be customized, based on each country’s requirements.

    Terra Pulse, additionally, exposes APIs to enable partners, in particular smaller, local remittance companies, comply with in-country reporting regulations as well as understand performance trends, without the need for additional investments in expensive reporting and analytic tools. Terra Pulse can scale to handle high volumes of transactions whilst maintaining data integrity.

    Commenting on Terra Pulse, Ambar Sur, Founder and CEO Terra, said, “In the next three years, the mobile would emerge as the dominant channel for cross-border transfers. Terra is defining the standards for mobile-powered international payments. The problem associated with data compilation is real, and no country has found a perfect solution. Terra addresses the need for a reliable data source by enforcing network-wide standards for counting, data compilation and reporting. This would go a long way towards understanding the nature and quantity of flows and maximizing the developmental impact of remittances.”

    In developing countries, migrant remittances equal US$440 billion[i], a figure three times higher than the volume of official aid flows. From a macro-perspective, cross-border transfers are vital in terms of economic stability generated by the receipt of large capital inflows as well as in terms of overall development potential.

    According to the World Bank, less than two-thirds of African countries, however, report data on remittances. For regulators, the ability to reliably track, monitor and measure remittance flows is essential to obtain meaningful insights on market trends and define appropriate growth-oriented policies for the industry. Most economies encounter several challenges in capturing and reporting remittance data, making it less reliable than other line constituents in the balance of payment accounts. Remittance data is fragmented and needs to be federated from multiple service providers, corridors and touch points. The complexity is compounded by the existence of disparate data sources, the use of proprietary data formats, the lack of standardized compilation models as well as varying levels of reporting granularity. 
    Source: Press Release

  • I wondered whether innovative mobile financial services could protect migrants and their assets - not just at the Danish border but throughout migration routes. To find out more, I rang Nando Sigona, a migration researcher at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom. Sigona jointly leads MEDMIG, an international research project that aims to produce the first large-scale study of Mediterranean migration, based on interviews with 500 migrants.

    Sigona explains that, to move money around, refugees tend to use a mixture of informal money brokers, borrowed bank accounts, hard cash and valuables such as gold or jewellery. All these systems are open to grotesque abuse by the criminals who feed off the refugee crisis, and bribery and robbery are common. Even where people have temporary access to a bank account, there are stories of people never getting their money back or being charged huge fees.

    Many refugees use an "informal Western Union [money transfer] system", often based on hawala, a traditional cross-border brokering service handled through agents and based on honour, passwords and promises, Sigona explains. In the sellers' market that is this crisis, though, brokers charge extortionate fees and sometimes money disappears altogether.

    Policies like Denmark's are likely to increase migrants' vulnerability, Sigona says. "The risks are it really pushes people more and more into the hands of unregulated systems" as people attempt to move assets underground before the authorities take them.

    But the situation could be vastly improved by transparent mobile banking services, he says. For the thousands awaiting decisions on asylum claims, mobile-based peer-to-peer banking is a pragmatic solution where formal financial systems are out of reach.

    "On the western Balkan route, the Vodafone Foundation has set up mobile Wi-Fi posts where people can connect and recharge," Sigona says. Networks such as these could support access to secure mobile banking apps and m-banking cash agents, drawing inspiration from the 255 mobile banking systems used worldwide today. [1]

    But the extent of the crisis calls for coordinated action across mobile networks, rather than piecemeal initiatives. The Humanitarian Connectivity Charter launched in 2015 by GSMA, the global trade association for the mobile industry, aims to encourage and strengthen mobile operators' capacity for responding and coordinating during crises.

    Allowing refugees to open bank accounts, as Germany plans to, is another positive step, Sigona stresses. Access to transparent financial services "will really make life easier and help people avoid exploitation and violence", he says.
    Source: Sci Dev Net 4 February 2016

telecoms

  • Ringo Mobile will launch Ringo Africa to target members of the African diaspora, numbering in the millions, who wish to stay affordably in permanent touch with their families abroad.

    Senegal is Ringo’s first international market. The company aims to have 100,000 customers by the end of the year in Senegal. It will then expand to Spain, Greece and France, which have large African communities.

    Ringo Mobile launched in summer 2015, and claims to be the first operator exclusively addressing foreigners’ phone needs. After 5 months of operations, Ringo Mobile has 26,000 customers in total, 4,800 of whom are in Senegal.
    Source: MVNO Dynamics 4 February 2016

  • The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has warned that local government agencies are threatening to shut down base transceiver stations (BTS) in a number of states if companies fail to pay multiple taxes and fees.

    BiztechAfrica quotes ALTON’s executive chairman Gbenga Adebayo as saying at a press conference that services are being affected by parties working on behalf of tax-raising bodies in the states of Ogun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Kaduna and Osun, and has warned that telecoms operators may opt to shut down sites that have been subject to local taxation.

    ‘We believe that taxes and levies should be broad-based and fairly distributed across all sectors of the economy,’ he said, adding: ‘There is therefore no justification for targeted and sometimes very high taxes on telecom operations. We are calling for a cross-sector/multi-stakeholder approach to reduce the growing burden of taxation on our industry.’
    Source: Telegeography 1 February 2016

  • Arcep invites interested parties to submit their applications for 3G and 4G spectrum in overseas markets

    Paris, 2nd February 2016

    Deadline for applications: 10 May 2016

    To bring superfast access to mobile internet services, through the deployment of 4G networks in France's overseas markets, Arcep proposed to the Government that it issue a call for applications in Guadeloupe, Guyana, Réunion Martinique, Mayotte, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy. The Government issued these calls for applications on Friday, 29 January 2016.

    The purpose of this process is to allocate spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands that remains unassigned in these overseas markets, along with still available spectrum in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz bands. These allocations will give operators the means to deploy 4G and to continue to develop their 3G networks.

    The deadline for submitting an application with Arcep has been set for 12 pm on 10 May 2016.

    This allocation procedure will satisfy several objectives.

    Arcep made careful study of the situation in each of the overseas markets to choose the most suitable allocation procedure.

    To continue to increase the availability of mobile products and services in these overseas markets, where digital connectivity services are already more expensive than in Mainland France, Arcep and the Government decided not to allocate the frequencies through an auction procedure. Applicants will therefore be scored, market by market, on five, non-financial selection criteria:

        - the project's consistency and feasibility,
        - consistency and feasibility of the business plan,
        - digital regional development considerations,
        - contribution to stimulating the market,
        - job creation and investment.

    Based on these considerations, Arcep could select a maximum four operators in each market. Depending on the location, there are currently three or four mobile operators in each of these markets.

    The licences will contain strong rollout obligations. In particular, specific obligations have been introduced for Guyana to improve coverage of the two trunk roads, RN1 and RN2.

    4G could be launched in all French overseas markets as early as 2016

    Arcep plans on completing the allocation procedure in 2016. It will issue licences to the winning operators which will then be able to roll out 4G services before the end of the year.

    On the specific matter of Réunion and Mayotte, Arcep decided to provide a framework for commercial 4G rollouts, and to set a launch date of 1 December 2016. Competition has been particularly fragile in these markets since SRR and Outremer Telecom merged in late 2014. A new operator emerged following an injunction that the Competition Authority issued to SFR-Numericable to divest itself of the Outremer Telecom mobile business.

    To maintain a lasting market structure of at least three operators, which is vital to ensuring these markets are competitive, that investments continue to increase and a more diverse selection of products and services becomes available, Arcep and the Government decided that the launch date for 4G should be postponed for several months, i.e. until 1 December 2016.
    For more information see here:
    Source: Press Release

  • Telecommunications giant, MTN, has intensified its efforts to ward off a $3.9 billion fine by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards, by hiring a former US Attorney-General Eric Holder to negotiate the fine imposed last year.

    The NCC had fined the MTN $5.2 billion for its failure to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered subscribers on its network by the August 2015 deadline and asked it to pay up by November 16, 2015. However, the fine was reviewed downwards by 25 per cent with a fresh payment deadline of December 31, 2015 after appeals by the company.

    But rather than pay the reviewed fine, MTN approached the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos a few days to the payment deadline, challenging the legality of the fine. By the time the matter came up for hearing in January, the telecoms company through its counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), sought an out-of-court settlement and requested a 60-day window to sort things out with the NCC. The court obliged him in part, adjourning the matter till March 28, 2016.

    According to the Financial Times of London, the MTN might have finally settled for former US Attorney-General Holder to help it negotiate the fine, put at 95 per cent of its annual turnover in Nigeria, because of his experience in handling such matters.

    Holder was one of President Barack Obama's longest serving cabinet members. He held office from 2009 to 2015 before returning to Washington-based corporate law firm Covington and Burling after standing down as Attorney-General in April 2015.

    "His experience as attorney-general in dealing with corporates with a lot of problems was interesting to MTN," the paper quoted someone close to the negotiations, adding that the telecom company hoped his "experience and stature could inject some balance into the equation".

    As US attorney-general, Holder presided over the biggest corporate settlements in US history. These included the $13 billion that JPMorgan Chase paid over the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis, and BP's $18 billion fine for the Horizon oil spill.

    The MTN fine is much larger than those handled by Holder in the US but it hopes that he would be able to help it make a head way in its attempt to get better deal away from the current $3.9 billion which threatens to wipe off 95 per cent of its annual earnings from its largest market with 62 million subscribers, representing 42 per cent of the group's network.

    Holder reportedly set to work with an initial visit to Abuja last month to plead with senior government officials on behalf of the telecoms company but had apparently not been able to find favour with the regulatory authority contending that the fine was computed strictly according to the regulations set out in 2011.

    The MTN appeals had been falling on deaf ears, according to the NCC sources, because the telecom company had acted in contempt of the regulatory authority's several warnings about the dire consequence of its failure to disconnect unregistered sims by the August 25, 2015 deadline.

    NCC sources also said MTN failed to respond to warnings about how unregistered sim cards were used by criminals and Boko Haram terrorists to evade surveillance. Security chiefs had been particularly incensed, they said, when a terrorist commander was captured with dozens of MTN sim cards after the deadline set last August for all telecom groups to disconnect unregistered subscribers. "At first there were lots of people who said this was a bad signal for foreign investors but when they looked into it they realised that MTN had really messed up," an official said.

    The Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, had allayed fears that the fine was punitive enough to scare away foreign investors when he said the penalty was open to favourable review. This might have encouraged the MTN to review its court option in favour of the engagement of a negotiator of Holder's status to help it find a soft landing.
    Source: This Day 4 February 2016

internet

  • SES has launched a new satellite data network called SES Plus that melds the operator’s geostationary (GEO) capabilities with those of O3b Networks’ Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites. SES Plus brings to market customized products and solutions from both satellite systems, combining GEO wide-beams and upcoming High Throughput Satellite (HTS) payloads with MEO HTS connectivity.

    SES’ first Plus product, Enterprise+ Broadband, launched across five markets in Africa this past November. The service offers up to 1 Gbps of connectivity with plug-and-play and pay-as-you-go options to ensure the service can go live quickly. SES also plans continued investments in ground infrastructure to ensure easy accessibility to space.
    Source: Satellite Today 3 February 2016

  • ACCRA, Ghana, February 4, 2016/ -- Facebook hosted a roundtable with small and medium sized enterprises from Ghana and Nigeria on Tuesday this week as part of its effort to support entrepreneurship in West Africa. The session focused on how Facebook can help small businesses reach exactly the right customers – for less money and with greater returns.

    More than 50 million small businesses around the world actively use Facebook Pages because they’re free, easy to use, and they work well on mobile. More than 2.5 million SMEs worldwide actively invest their hard-earned dollars with Facebook every month, a number that’s doubled in the past two years.

    A growing number of them are in Africa – 54% of people on Facebook in Nigeria are connected to a small or medium business. But for Facebook, this is only the start of Facebook’s potential to help small and medium sized enterprises in West Africa to thrive.

    Said Nunu Ntshingila, Head of Africa for Facebook: “Africa is home to some of the world’s most vibrant and exciting small businesses, and these enterprises are the backbone of the economy. These smaller businesses drive economic growth and create jobs that lift people to prosperity. The number one reason they succeed or fail is their ability to attract customers. As more and more people turn to smartphones and the web to discover and connect with businesses, Facebook is the best platform for African SMEs to promote their brands.”

    Nicola Mendelsohn, EMEA vice-president at Facebook Mendelsohn, said, “Technology is driving real progress. When I visit Africa, this comes to life in every conversation and with every story I hear about entrepreneurs creating jobs and solving problems with technology’s help. We’re invigorated by how Ghanaian and Nigerian SMEs are using Facebook to grow brand awareness and boost engagement with their customers. We look forward to doing more to support entrepreneurs as they build their businesses.”

    West African businesses are advertising on Facebook because it drives business objectives and sales. It’s measurable, affordable, mobile and easy to do. If an SME has a Facebook Page, it is a mobile marketer, able to post once and reach clients on desktop, mobile, any device, anywhere in the world.

    Most small businesses can easily get going for a few dollars a month with lightweight solutions that they do with one click from their page – for example, boosted posts, promoted page likes and promoted links. Some examples of small West African companies that use Facebook to tell their stores include:

    Jayosbie  in Nigeria is an online brand and retailer for fashion-forward men. “Facebook is significantly cheaper than other channels.  Actually, it's not even comparable,” says Dejuwon Isola-Osobu, founder and CEO. One recent campaign delivered 14,000 clicks for just 260$.

    Fabulosity Hair and Fabulosity Cosmetics  deliver affordable and natural hair extensions and cosmetics for women who want to look fabulous. They attribute their growth to the flexibility of Facebook advertising. Chinenye Umeh, the founder, says she loves the flexibility and affordability of Facebook, especially the fact that she can easily turn spending up and down on a month to month basis.

    Skin Gourmet Limited in Ghana is a female-led producer of organic, natural and chemical free skin care products. It reports a significant return on investment in the form of more engagement and brand awareness after posting and boosting posts on Facebook.

    Accra Good Markets in Ghana is a pop-up event for vendors to sell their products. Facebook is its only marketing channel for reaching vendors and shoppers alike and it sees tremendous results through its posting and highly targeted advertising activity on Facebook.

    Akataasia Clothing in Ghana depends on WhatsApp to connect with the customer base.

    Source:  APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Facebook.

  • According to a records obtained by The Guardian, Google is testing solar-powered drones at Spaceport America, a New Mexico facility that formerly played host to Virgin Galactic.

    The project, codenamed SkyBender, aims to test several prototype transcievers and drones using millimeter wave radio transmissions.

    Millimeter transmissions occupy the 28GHz frequency and although the range is shorter than that of current 4G technologies, the speeds are incredible.

    Theoretically milimeter wave technology can transfer multiple gigabits of data per second, up to 40 times more than current 4G LTE systems.

    Getting millimeter wave technology working from a high-flying drone is going to be a challenge, but Google is working on several potential fixes, such as a high tech antenna used phased array technology. For now, this is very much a theoretical project.

    SkyBender is part of a small Google Access team that includes Project Loon, another aerial experiment for delivering high speed internet.

    Google has permission from the FCC to continue these tests until July.

    Read the full report here:
    Source: The Guardian

  • Not long after reports about Twitter experimenting with a Timeline-Moments hybrid have surfaced, the popular microblogging platform rolled out an update which allows certain groups of users to check out groups of trending tweets and Moments in general without logging in or having a Twitter account in the first place. As the company’s spokesperson explained yesterday, Twitter wants to make popular content available to all of its visitors regardless of whether they’re logged in or not or if they’re even registered users. This isn’t surprising considering how there are over half a billion people visiting the platform every day, and given how bandwidth obviously isn’t an issue for Twitter, this seems like a pretty straightforward way for the company to grow its user base – give people some of the convenient features registered users have and after they see something they want to comment on or share, there’s a chance they’ll register on their own.

    The update is currently live for users in the US, UK, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Japan, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, South Africa, and Taiwan. Mobile users in these countries will now be able to easily discover popular stories and conversations developing on Twitter in real time when they visit the platform’s homepage, i.e. twitter.com. This will be accomplished via the already mentioned trending tweets groups. Twitter also announced that simultaneously with these changes, the aforementioned countries will now be able to access the latest version of its desktop homepage which has already been available in the US since last April. As American users already know, the refreshed homepage grants everyone the ability to explore and discover trending topics in real-time, some of which are based on their location and previous Twitter activity even if they’re not logged in. In other words, it’s cookies’ magic.

    It’s interesting to see how Twitter’s focus regarding user experience has shifted in the last 12 months. Exactly a year ago, the company was trying to come up with a way to make its microblogging platform more appealing to brand new users when it was experimenting with the Instant-Timeline feature. Today, it’s thinking about ways to pull in people who aren’t even registered yet, but are just visiting. In any case, there’s little doubt that this will only solidify Twitter’s position as one of the top news sources on the planet given how there are already tens of millions of people using the popular social network on a daily basis solely for their fix of most recent news.
    Source: Android Headlines 3 February 2016

computing

  • February 2, 2016/ -- Gemalto, a leader in digital security, has been selected as end-to-end solution provider by Gabon’s Department of Homeland Security DGDI* to supply and implement a fully integrated border and visa management system. The new scheme will strengthen national security, improve operational efficiency and enhance the traveling experience for people entering and leaving the Central African state.

    The visa management system simplifies and speeds the issuance of visas, e-Visas and resident’s permits. This suite of applications was used to create Gabon’s e-Visa portal service  in July enabling visitors to use the Internet to apply for a visa to enter the country. Once the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is delivered, the visa is issued at Libreville International Airport upon arrival.

    The solution is built around the centralized, back-office Coesys Visa and Border Management System. This supports automation of queries to databases - such as Interpol’s - that alert authorities to potential threats and risks. In addition, the Automated Border Control kiosks now offer travelers rapid, ‘self-service’ passport checks at the country’s main airport which handles around one million passengers annually.

    The Border Intelligence module uses the data mined at the border. It offers investigation tools for discovering new risk patterns, with a highly intuitive “clicking” process. Its reporting app also provides valuable information to drive tourism and prioritize national investment efforts.

    “Gemalto’s solution puts us in control of a secure and adaptable integrated border management system that is field-proven. It also helps expedite the border clearance process, cutting wait times and improving the customs experience for travelers,” said General Celestin Embinga, General Manager of DGDI, Gabon’s Department of Homeland Security. “In addition, Gemalto’s speed and commitment are tangible: our new e-Visa service was defined and implemented within 14 weeks.”

    “We take pride in helping Gabon’s authorities improve border security and traveler satisfaction,” said Ari Bouzbib, Senior Vice President of Government Programs at Gemalto. “Gemalto is delivering a unique solution which is flexible and fast to implement. We also combine local resources and international expertise in partnership with government bodies. This is precisely what is appreciated by our growing number of customers in Africa.”
    Source: APO

  • Drones are delivering contraceptives to hard-to-reach Ghanaian villages in a programme jointly funded by the United Nations (UN) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it’s so successful that other countries want it too, HuffingtonPost reported.

    Deliveries to rural Ghana that once took two days now take 30 minutes by drone, and each flight costs only $15, according to Kanyanta Sunkutu, a South African Public Health Specialist with the UN Population Fund.

    Sunkutu said he expected the pilot programme in Ghana to encounter resistance, and worried people would associate the drones with war. So the UN, in its programme materials, referred to the drones only as ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ — not drones.

    ‘We don’t want that link between war and what we are doing,’ Sunkutu told The Huffington Post in an interview. ‘But the resistance we thought we would get has not been there.’

    Less than than 20% of women in sub-Saharan Africa use modern contraceptives. In rural Africa, a flood can shut down roads for days and cut off medical supplies, making access to birth control a massive problem.

    An estimated 225 million women in developing countries around the world want to delay or stop childbearing, but don’t have reliable birth control, according to the World Health Organization. This prevents women and girls from finishing school or getting jobs. About 47,000 women die of complications from unsafe abortions each year.

    ‘We are particularly committed to exploring how our family planning efforts can meet the needs of young women and girls,’ Bill and Melinda Gates said, according to their foundation website.

    The idea to use drones for delivering birth control came from a programme in the Amazon, Sunkutu said.

    The drone operator packs a five-foot-wide drone with contraceptives and medical supplies from an urban warehouse and sends it over to places hard to reach by car. There, a local health worker meets the drone and picks up the supplies.

    Project Last Mile has been flying birth control, condoms and other medical supplies to rural areas of Ghana for several months.

    Now it’s expanding to six other African countries. The goal is to revolutionise women’s health and family planning in Africa. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have expressed an interest.
    Using drones to improve reproductive health isn’t exactly a new idea — it’s just new in Africa, according to HuffingtonPost. In June, a Dutch organisation called Women on Waves used a drone to fly abortion pills to Poland, trying to raise awareness of Poland’s restrictive abortion laws.

    Project Last Mile says it is the first to develop a long-term, sustainable programme for delivering contraceptives by drone.

    Sunkutu hopes that eventually drones will revolutionise other areas of rural African life, starting with family planning.

    ‘They can deliver ballots after elections, or exams for school,’ he said. ‘It becomes a logistics management solution for hard-to-reach areas. We’re going to use family planning as an entry and make it sustainable.’
    Source: Africa-Health 1 February 2016

  • The former chief executive officer (CEO) of Kenyan cloud startup Angani, Phares Kariuki, has co-founded another Kenyan cloud and infrastructure company, named Node Africa.

    Kariuki departed Angani last year, with the startup subsequently suffering a period of prolonged downtime that resulted in threats of legal action by disgruntled customers.

    Now, alongside co-founder Brian Muita, former Angani chief technology officer (CTO), he has returned to the sector with the launch of the self-funded Node Africa, offering bespoke cloud infrastructure to individual enterprises as appropriate for their business.

    Node Africa describes itself as the “perfect partner” with which to bring cloud computing to Kenya. The startup said its approach is not about public, private or hybrid clouds, but rather deploying cloud solutions relevant to an enterprise’s needs, regardless of provider.

    “Our team has years of experience running critical systems in Kenya and Africa as a whole. We know what it means to design highly available systems with nominal or no downtime. Our expertise also lies in building highly secure systems to safeguard from any types of breeches, both within and without the organisation,” Kariuki said.

    The Node Africa approach includes consulting, design, build, and deployment of cloud-based solutions.

    “We help organisations recoup their costs on their IT infrastructure, and increase agility whilst mitigating the risk that comes with IT infrastructure,” said Kariuki.

    “Our team has industry leading expertise when it comes to helping customers execute on their vision. We will maintain, monitor and run your infrastructure with nominal input from your team, allowing your business to focus on what it wants from IT and data.”

    He said at the core of Node Africa was information management, but the startup would also leverage its cloud infrastructure to help companies with their data requirements. Node Africa plans to build its user base in Kenya originally, before expanding across the continent.
    Source: Disrupt Africa 5 February 2016

  • Flexenclosure, a specialist developer of intelligent power management systems and pre-fabricated data centres for the ICT industry, has set up a new company in one of its key markets – Nigeria. The new company – Flexenclosure Technology Solutions – is a wholly owned subsidiary of Flexenclosure AB in Sweden and will serve Flexenclosure’s operations and growing number of customers in the West African region.  It will be headquartered in Victoria Island, Lagos, the business hub for all major telecommunications and multinational companies in Nigeria.

Digital Content

  • If you have been missing out on news because you were worried about running down your data bundle, you’re in luck because Al Jazeera Media Network has launched a new audio web app that will give you access to a live audio stream of the Al Jazeera TV broadcast.

    The service which has been launched today Thursday will help Al Jazeera reach new audiences where low Internet speeds limit access to video. The primary markets being targeted are Africa, the Middle East, and South-East Asia.

    Although the focus in the announcement seems to be on low speeds, the cost of internet even in areas where the speed has improved still keeps video content out of reach of many, so this is a welcome development.

    Ibrahim Hamid, director of Enterprise and Digital Platforms at Al Jazeera Media Network, says, “The launch of our Al Jazeera audio streaming service will give new audiences the ability to listen to the live broadcast of our English and Arabic channels. This service adds to our commitment of developing compelling digital experiences for those in areas with low-bandwidth Internet connections in markets such as Africa and South-East Asia.”

    Samir Ibrahim, director of Distribution and Sales expressed his excitement about reaching new audiences with their audio platform where low internet speeds have limited access to video.

    “The Al Jazeera brand continues to expand into the digital sphere. At Al Jazeera, we continue to explore new and innovative ways to enhance our content consumption through a variety of ways,” he said.

    “This announcement is another opportunity to strengthen our digital footprint and continue in our commitment to bringing access to Al Jazeera content across new platforms.”

    The audio service app opens in a smaller popup window and gives you the option to choose language. It also has a schedule so that you can choose to log on and listen to a particular segment at a later time.

    You can access the service at Listen Al Jazeera
    Source: PC Tech Magazine 4 February 2016

  • A Washington, D.C.-based company hopes to make a killing selling Africa-themed emojis and sticker characters dressed in traditional African attire that come with pan-African phrases customizable by users in their preferred languages.

    Afro Emoji launched its Africa-centric sticker app today, a product of Washington, D.C.-based technology company iManagement Consulting, according to a press release. The emojis and stickers are available for download on the Google Play and Apple App stores.

    With the mobile revolution taking place across Africa, the Afro Emoji team expects this form of digital communication, an African hieroglyph, to be incredibly popular, the company said in a press release.

    Abeg, what’s an emoji anyway? Emojis are small digital images or icons like smiley faces used to express ideas or emotions in electronic communication. Some are available free but people are willing to pay for them. Emojis may look simple, but they’re amazingly complex.

    With an estimated 12,500 emojis tweeted every minute, advertisers are interested in what they mean, according to Adweek.

    “Emoji usage is an evolution of how the younger mobile consumer communicates,” said Noah Brier, CEO of marketing software firm Percolate. “So it’s logical for brands to follow those conversations.”

    Emojis have been the subject of heated social media debate. In 2014, Apple’s emojis were accused of lacking racial diversity, NPR reported.

    The digital hieroglyphics convey users’ thoughts and moods by way of hearts and smiley-faced poop across dozens of platforms, according to Adweek. They usually convey positive emotions, but are one of the social Web’s most cryptic languages and are increasingly becoming a big part of the social conversation.

    Afro Emoji’s stickers can be used on Whatsapp, SMS or iMessage, Facebook/Messenger, Twitter DM, Skype, Google hangout, and BBM.

    Some of Afro Emoji’s caption sayings are well known in Africa and the diaspora, the company said, including the following:

        “Abeg no vex” (please don’t be annoyed, Nigerian pidgin English)
        “E make brain” (it makes sense)
        “My oga at the top” (my boss at the top).

    The company hopes to capitalize on the fact that mobile messaging continues to dominate electronic communication in Africa and the diaspora, according to a statement.

    The team at Afro Emoji said it identified a gap in the market for bespoke characters that represent the hundreds of millions of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.

    “We, as Africans, definitely have an idiosyncratic way of communicating with one another, and Afro Emoji is really a fun, accessible graphic depiction of that,” said Afro Emoji team leader Ayoola Daramola in a prepared statement. “We are building a modern African hieroglyph that represents us.”

    Africans love all things mobile, and 400 million-plus smartphones are expected to be in use on the continent by 2020.

    The company said it hopes the emojis will become “part of Africa’s conversation currency.” More features, characters and captions are in development.

    “Mobile is king in Africa and globally,” Daramola said. “It is the tool for communication and media consumption, so we expect the Afro Emoji to become a key component in how Africans message and chat, in much the same way as emoji stickers have become so popular in the east and west.”

    Apple was accused in 2014 of lacking racial diversity in its emoji stickers, NPR reported. Miley Cyrus, MTV and hordes of people on Twitter complained. In response, Apple introduced a new set of iPhone emojis that offered more skin-tone options than before.

    Alpesh Patel, Ugandan-Mauritian CEO of Africa-based emoji company Oju Africa, thought Apple missed the point with its skin-tone iPhone emojis.

    “Diversity is not about skin color — it’s about embracing the multiple cultures out there that have no digital representation,” he told Vice’s Motherboard.

    Afro Emoji comes with 50 free characters and in-app sticker purchases available at $1.99 for 300 stickers.
    Source: Afkinsider 5 February 2016

  • A false rumour that men in Eritrea would be legally obliged to marry at least two women went viral this week. But it's a hoax that has hit at least four countries to date, and actually began in Iraq, where it wasn't as implausible as it seems.

    When a far fetched story about enforced polygamy in Eritrea began circulating, it captured attention across the continent. But in fact similar stories - all of them false - have cropped up in a number of countries since the beginning of the year.

    And in each case, the way hoaxers spread the rumour on social media pretty much identical. Here's how it plays out.

    An "official" government document is leaked on social media, bearing a letterhead, or the signature of a supposed dignitary.

    It reads - and we're paraphrasing here - "Due to the recent troubles in our country, we are experiencing a serious shortage of men, and an abundance of woman. Men are now legally required to take at least two wives, and any that fail to do so will face strict punishment." The punishments range from life imprisonment to the death penalty.

    When a version of the falsified document appeared in Eritrea this week - as the BBC has already reported - it went viral, and was picked up by a number of news organisations as fact. Read the full story on the BBC trending site here: 

  • Rabat- Mobile calls through the free application WhatsApp have resumed following a period of restriction after Morocco’s three telecom providers blocked VoIP services through free applications.

    All of the services provided through this application, including VoIP calls made through 3G and 4G, are fully functional.

    Moroccans launched a campaign on Facebook to boycott all three Moroccan telecom providers on January 16 and 17 following the block of VoIP imposed on applications such as WhatsApp, Skype and Viber.

    Maroc Telecom, Meditel and Inwi claimed that their telecom interests have been adversely affected by customers relying on free VoIP services rather than using the call feature provided by their telecom providers, while at the same time “foreign companies have been profiting” from these Internet-based services at the expense of Morocco’s telecom companies.

    According to Article 1 of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT/DG/N° 04-04) which addresses the protocol of VoIP services, the commercial provision of VoIP services to the public can only be done by telecom operators with a license.

    In a video posted on YouTube on January 13, Moroccans expressed the importance of these VoIP services in keeping families connected with their relatives and friends abroad.

    “Any restriction on these services means a restriction of communication between the families,” said one of the interviewees.

    “The Internet is a free service that no one has the right to censor or confiscate,” said another.
    Source: Morocco World News 4 February 2016

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa's Vox Telecom has become the majority stakeholder in Everlytic, which offers bulk email and SMS services, MyBroadband reported. The Vumela Fund, which is managed by FNB and Edge Growth, will retain the minority stake it acquired in Everlytic in 2013. Everlytic will operate as a standalone business division within Vox Telecom, retaining its team of developers, creatives, and marketers.
    Source: Telecompaper 3 February 2016

  • Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has welcome the proposal of Orange, through its subsidiary Orange Côte d'Ivoire, in acquiring 100 percent the Cellcom - Liberia subsidiary.

    "We want to see this investment. We want to see you expand telecommunication services to our population and interconnectivity to our neighboring countries as well as the world," she stressed, adding that her government encourages this partnership and investment which is good for Liberia.

    The Liberian leader indicated that she expects that Orange will be good corporate citizens and do what they can as a partner to government, most especially in ensuring that employees are taken care of.

    According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the assertion when a high-level delegation of Cellcom-Liberia and Orange paid her a courtesy call.

    She hoped that both sides (Government and Orange) will work assiduously to meet the target date of February 9, 2016 to conclude the technical details of the agreement.

    For his part, the Executive Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cellcom - Liberia, Abraham Avi Zaidenberg assured the Liberian Government that as part of the new arrangement, Cellcom will ensure that all previous obligations and agreements are honored.

    Talking about future plans, Mr. Zaidenberg said, "Orange has plans to increase the number of employees in the company, increase dramatically its investment in the country, most especially the rollout of towers across the country including remote areas." He urged the cooperation of the Liberian government in achieving its objective.

    Representing Cellcom - Liberia and Orange were Mr. Zaidenberg, Chief Executive Officer, Cellcom, Mr. Avishai Marziano; Chief Executive Officer of Orange - Cote d'Ivoire, Mr. Mamadou Bamba; Senior Executive Vice President, Operations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Mr. Marc Rennard; and Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Operations in Africa and Middle East, Mr. Bruno Mettling.

    Representing the Liberian Government were the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Amara Konneh; Justice Minister, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh; Post and Telecommunications Minister, Dr. Frederick Norkeh and Minister of Information, Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe. Others are the Legal Advisor to the President, Cllr. Seward Cooper; Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority, Mrs. Elfreda Tamba; National Investment Commission's Executive Director, Mr. George Wisner; and the Chairperson of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority, Ms. Angelique Weeks.

    Orange recently announced that it has entered into a firm agreement with Cellcom Telecommunications Limited to acquire, through its subsidiary Orange Côte d'Ivoire, 100 percent of Cellcom's Liberia subsidiary.

    Orange is expected to provide its marketing expertise and world-class technical capability to further strengthen the network operator, enhance services to consumers and contribute to the economic growth of Liberia. They assured that Cellcom's funders and employees will remain involved in the business to ensure a smooth integration, support performance and continued long-standing relations with the Government of Liberia. To this, the President responded that she is contended that there is a continuity of the present leadership and management in the operation and running of company.
    Source: All Africa 4 February 2016

  • The Treasury of Kenya will acquire a further 10% stake in national telecoms operator Telkom Kenya, increasing its total shareholding in the struggling firm to 40%, under a new deal that has been negotiated as part of Orange Group’s planned exit from the country. In November last year the French company announced the signing of an agreement with African private equity firm Helios Investment Partners for the sale of its entire 70% stake in Telkom. Business Daily cites people familiar with the ongoing negotiations between the Treasury and Helios as saying that the government will not pay any money for the additional 10% stake, but instead has agreed not to exercise its pre-emptive rights to buy Orange’s 70% shareholding. The report adds that an agreement between the parties is expected to be concluded in the coming week.

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  • The Bobs 2016: Deutsche Welle starts contest on online activism

    For the 12th time, Deutsche Welle issues the call for entries to its online contest "The Bobs – Best of Online Activism." The awards honor exemplary efforts to promote online freedom of expression and civil society. DW is also awarding the Freedom of Speech Award.

    From February 4 to March 3, people around the world are invited to submit websites and online initiatives to the online activism competition in four categories and 14 languages at thebobs.com. The Bobs are highly renowned for their international focus and made unique by the scope of languages they represent.

    The Social Change category honors projects that use a range of digital advances to have a positive influence on the world and strive to improve it in areas such as education, equality, health and the environment.

    The Tech for Good category shines a spotlight on technical innovations and websites dealing with data protection, open software, online security and circumventing censorship.

    The Arts and Culture category pays tribute to artistic and cultural projects which do an exceptional job of using digital communications to convey their interpretation of socially relevant issues.

    The award in the Citizen Journalism category gives particular attention to projects and websites that take advantage of all forms of online participation.

    Additionally, DW will give out its Freedom of Speech Award for the second time. Imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi received the prize in 2015.

    "Across language and cultural barriers, we appreciate the people’s creativity and their brave work for freedom of expression and an open society," said DW Director of Programming Gerda Meuer. "This work deserves to be shared with the world."

    14 jury members from 14 countries decide on shortlist

    After March 3, an independent panel from 14 countries will evaluate the submitted projects. From the many submissions (last year there were more than 4,800) jury members will create a list of nominees. Deutsche Welle will publish a list of all the nominees on March 31. The jury will announce this year's contest winners in Berlin on May 2, just ahead of World Press Freedom Day.

    International voting determines User Award winners

    Independent of the jury, the online public will be able to vote for their favorite finalists at thebobs.com from March 31 to May 2. In the past, more than 120,000 people participated in the poll.The main prize winners will be honored at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, on June 14.
    To submit or find out more please click here

    Source: Press Release

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