Issue no 661 28th June 2013

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Top story

  • There has a big upsurge in launches of online film and music platforms since user bandwidth has started to improve (see Issue 658). But many are little more than technical platforms as they lack both content in depth and do not yet have significant user traffic. Two film platforms stand out as the exception to this rule: Nigeria’s iROKO Partners and Kenya’s Buni TV. This week Russell Southwood talks to the CEO and founder of Buni TV Marie Lora-Mungai.

    In its first year Buni TV had 2 million views and 0.5 million unique visitors who watched 100,000 hours of content. 60% of the views came from Africa and 40% from elsewhere (largely from the USA and the UK). This geographic skew is very different to iROKO’s where the larger percentage is in the rest of the world, among Nigeria’s large diasporas.

    In terms of content, visitors can see 200 films in the free-to-view area and there are 500 other embedded videos such as trailers and interviews:”We want to enrich the overall content and obviously there is no bandwidth cost to embedding.” In due course there will be many more films available on a pay-for basis.

    Soon Lora-Mungai wants to offer pay-for movies but at the moment she has only working assumptions that will be tested by piloting different price levels. With the fremium model, you are subject to the “law of circles”. Imagine if you will, the outer circle is your free users and the inner circles get progressively smaller, the more you charge. Elsewhere it appears that 10% of free customers will pay something.
    It is often said by the “wise heads” that Africans don’t pay for content. On the last session of Broadcast, Film and Music Africa 2013 last week, I was moderating a session on mobile TV and asked 70 or so audience members, how many of you buy pirate DVDs? 80% or so of the audience raised their hands.

    Disclaimer: This is not a sound methodological market research survey but it does make the point - when I asked the same question over and over again to individuals during the event – that Africans buy content on a regular basis on pirated DVDs. So the only question is really what price point will produce the largest number of users and revenue?

    “The general assumption from elsewhere is that with a fremium offer 10% of the free users will pay. We’d like to make that bigger and to do so by making it make more accessible on mobile. The exact price range for users is complicated because we will be offering the content at so many prices to different markets globally.” However, the working assumption is that US$5 a month for unlimited access may turn out to be the “sweet spot”:”The prices we have in mind are just the working idea and we will firm them up in partnership with Safaricom.”
    So what sort of deal will you have in terms of the split with mobile operators?:”We’re looking for better than the existing deals out there. At present, we’re putting the channel together and the operators keep all the data revenue so there ought to be some leeway in the split of revenues. We want users to be able to pay for videos using their mobile airtime and this will be a first in Kenya. If it works well here, then we will roll it out in other countries”.”

    “We want to make it so that if anybody subscribes, they can access it wherever they are across a range of devices.” So whether you are on a smartphone, tablet or your work computer, all you will have to do is log in.

    Buni TV has Gado’s XYZ Show (it is part of the same company) for 6 months of the year to drive traffic. XYZ Show is a “Spitting Image”-style political satire show with puppets. But it has also launched a 40 episode long comedy shorts series with improvisational sketches.

    The humor both laughs at Africa itself and at how people see Africa from outside:”We wanted to experiment but do something for as little money as possible. The format is improv sketches against a white background. Some of the sketches are just one person or two people, while others are ensemble. There are some recurring characters and some one-offs.  Each clip is a sketch. I just bought African comedians together in my living room. They loved having the freedom to tackle whatever they wanted”.
    Examples of sketches include:

    - One features an American who wants to learn Swahili but makes some terrible blunders that alter the meaning of what he’s saying. Inevitably the altered meanings have sexually suggestive and romantic meanings. - See more here: 
    - A wealthy African women going to the USA and adopting a baby from a poor hillbilly family.
    - A sketch called White Saviour Inc spoofs well-meaning but patronising NGO workers coming to find themselves in Africa.
    - A female comedian spoofs a show on K24 where a middle-aged women gives sex advice. On the K24 show being spoofed, being a conservative society, the sex positions can only be illustrated with reference to two women.
    - One of Pastor Tim's Sunday Sermon's is about a naive American missionary who tries to give some of his sermons in Swahili but ends up making very creative use of the language, full of innuendo amd the

    It is just about to release another series of 40 sketches and these will look at things like the police and the behavior of people queueing in the bank:”We gave freedom to the comedians to experiment and brainstorm sketch ideas. So they are the things they want to do and say and this freedom has produced great performances”.

    To see what’s on offer, go to: www.buni.tv
    For up-to-the minute news follow us on Twitter: @BalancingActAfr
    Video briefings on:

    This week:
    TV White Spaces Briefing from Dakar event sponsored by Google and Microsoft:
    Paul Mitchell explains Microsoft's TV White Spaces pilots and why it thinks TVWS is important

    Kai Wulff on Google's TV White Spaces pilots and why they are important for developing countries

    Africa’s Tech Incubators:
    Karim Sy on the innovative projects Jokko Labs supports and the expansion of its network

    Africa’s first accelerator 88mph:
    Nikolai Barnwell - How Africa's first accelerator 88mph will to help create local content & services

    Viewing and talking about football in Africa:
    Football, TV viewers and social media:
    Gary Rathbone, Founder Sports News Africa (formerly Head of Supersports) on African TV sports watching habits and the rise of the tablet as first screen

    Premier League football agent Ayo Alli on the launch of his football social network site Gbamm!

    Computer gaming in Kenya:
    Wesley Kirinya, Leti Games on its new games and comic series based on African myths and legends

    Nathan Masyuko on the launch of Kenya's first computer games league

    New mobile online music platforms:
    Gustav Ericsson on Mdundo's ambition to become the iTunes of Africa

    A new online content platform on Intel’s Yolo phone:
    Tim Rimbui, Innovative Music on the launch of online music and audio-books platform Waabeh.com in Kenya

    Ad agency shifts to digital online spend because of Internet growth:
    Shahzad Khan, OgilvyOne on the rapid growth of the Internet in Africa and the rise in digital ad spend

    Mobile operator uses social media to hook customers:

    Shazad Khan, OgilvyOne on its Nigerian social media campaign for Airtel, Half Dollar

     

telecoms

  • The Instituto Nacional de Comunicacoes de Mocambique (INCM) has signed contracts with telcos mCel and Movitel on universal access services in 50 underserved areas.

    INCM said the contracts came within the scope of the tender for Universal Access launched in October of last year, in which Movitel, SA and Mozambique Cellular SA (mcel) were declared winners of Lot 1 (South Zone), which includes coverage of 15 locations, and Lots 2 and 3 (Central and Northern Zones), which comprise the coverage of a total of 35 locations.

    The Chairman of the Board of Directors (PCA) of INCM, Isidore Pedro da Silva, said at the time that "the signing of these two agreements consolidates the objectives of the Government to ensure communications to all citizens in the country without discrimination and put them at the service of the development of the country "through the universal service that contributes to the elimination of digital asymmetry that exists between urban and rural areas.

    These contracts will allow the cover 50 locations in 10 provinces and will benefit a population of 873 000 inhabitants. The financing is done as an allowance through the Service Fund Universal Access, a total of 217 million MT. The services to be provided include voice, data and Internet services and the implementation period is 6-12 months.

    Algerian Telecom Market Set to Become More Competitive As 3G is Introduced

    Algeria is set to become more competitive as 3G is introduced in 2013 and expected regulatory changes allow number portability and local loop unbundling, according to a new report from Pyramid Research.

    Nedjma, the only Ooredoo affiliate without 3G services, expressed high expectations from UMTS technology, and it made a substantial effort to modernize its network in order to comply with the license requirements. Equally, the other operators have been investing a lot of money to improve their infrastructure for 3G. This move will give operators more flexibility to offer data-based services such as mobile video.

  • Rwandans living in the Diaspora have started registering their roaming SIM cards online. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) said the project, which started on Tuesday, targeted MTN Rwanda subscribers.

    The telecom firm is the only local network that has roaming SIM cards, RURA said in a statement yesterday. "The move comes as a response to a request by the Diaspora to have their SIM cards registered by the regulatory body without necessarily coming back home. Our people will be able to register their SIM cards using the online registration forms on MTN website," said Francois Regis Gatarahiya, the Rura director general.

    The online registration project followed other mechanisms RURA and the telecoms have put in place to ensure that subscribers beat the July 31 deadline. The general SIM card registration exercise is targeting 6.2 million subscribers of the three telecom operators in the country, Airtel, MTN and Tigo.

    SIM cards that will not have been registered by then will be deactivated and disconnected, according to RURA, adding that 78 per cent of the subscribers had registered their SIM cards by mid this month.

  • Thirteen companies including Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat and Turkey's Turkcell have expressed interest in buying Dubai Holding's 35 percent stake in Tunisie Telecom, a government official said on Wednesday.

    The Tunisian government said last week that Dubai Holding, which owns the stake through its unit Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT), was considering selling out of the former monopoly Tunisie Telecom.

    "There are 13 companies which expressed interest in buying a 35 percent stake, including six known international companies," Ahmed ben Hussien, an official in the Ministry of Communications told Reuters.

    "Turkcell and Turk Telekom, Korea Telecom, Etisalat and two others from China," he said without giving more details. Etisalat chief executive Ahmad Julfar declined to comment. Etisalat is the largest Gulf telecom operator by market value and is the sole remaining bidder for Vivendi's 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom.

    A Turkcell source said on Tuesday the company was in the process of evaluating the opportunity, while Turk Telekom declined to comment.

    Since an uprising that toppled former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, EIT has complained to the government about strikes and workers' demands for higher pay.

    In February 2011, a month after Ben Ali's ousting, Tunisie Telecom cancelled plans to list on the Tunis and Paris stock exchanges after consultations with trade unions. Workers had threatened industrial action if there were job losses.

    Tunisia has a population of 10.5 million people and a mobile market penetration of 95 percent. Tunisie Telecom has more than 4 million mobile and 1 million fixed-line subscribers.

    Dubai Holding, the conglomerate owned by the ruler of Dubai, is among the group of companies badly hit by the financial crisis. Many of its units have had to restructure debts. But the emirate's economy is recovering thanks to a rebound in tourism, services and the property market.

  • Senegal’s Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy launched a scheme on 20 June to identify all mobile subscribers in the country, Agence Ecofin reports.

    The project will be managed by the country’s telecoms regulator, the Agence de Regulation des Telecoms et Postes (ARTP), is expected to take about a month to complete and will close on 31 July. ARTP chief executive Abu Lo is quoted as saying that Senegal has decided to adopt recommendations laid out by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – adopted in 2007 – that require domestic cellcos to identify who is using their mobile services in order to provide more reliable statistics on the market, improve security and tackle the grey market for phones.

    The CEO said that six years after adopting the decree, Senegal’s wireless service providers have failed to complete the mobile identification scheme and that enough is enough. It is understood that Orange Senegal, Tigo Senegal and Sudatel Senegal (Expresso) have deployed teams across the country to complete the process by the July deadline.

internet

  • The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) will invite bids for 4G licences by year's end. Officials with the agency expect Moroccan 4G services to go live next year.

    The decision to open up the telecom market to 4G was "a must" that came in response to consumer demands, ANRT chief Azzeddinne Al Mountassir Billah said on May 21st.

    "This is not a luxury. The aims of adopting 4G for mobile phones are firstly to maintain the growth of this sector and secondly to improve service quality," he said.

    The government also is seeking to improve broadband coverage while bridging a Morocco digital divide between urban, rural and remote areas.

    Nearly 16.5 million people, or 51 per cent of the Moroccan population, use the internet, according to ANRT figures. At the end of March, the number of people who subscribed to internet services topped 4 million, growing by nearly a quarter in a year.

    Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane last month approved the budget for the agency to pursue 4G technology.

    The arrival of 4G is just one step in a 10-year national plan to build up Morocco broadband services and make digital connections throughout the kingdom super-fast.

    "The introduction of 4G technology will be a steep change, which will meet the expectations of customers and future requirements in terms of capacity and speed,'' telecom engineer Safia Labriz told Magharebia.

    All of Morocco's telecom service providers will be scrambling to compete for the new services, Khalid Bendouah, a marketing officer for another telecom company, told Magharebia.

    "4G is vital for the big operators which want to offer their customers speed and capacity which can cope with data-intensive applications," he said.

    The country's current 3G service often is a target of complaints from young Moroccans – a big segment of the mobile phone customer base. They say that the older technology is too slow and prone to frequent disconnections.

    And in today's social and political climate, experts and young consumers agree that communication is more important than ever.

    The internet and online social networks are becoming an ideal space for young people to express themselves in total freedom, without taboos or red lines, said Brahim Qaraoui, a journalist who specialises in information technology.

    "A better connection allows internet users nowadays to react better to the questions that concern the development of society," he said.

  • Uganda's MTN says that the number of its customers using the Internet has increased more than 85% in the last 12 months leading up to June 2013.

    MTN Uganda Chief Marketing Officer, Ernst Fonternel attributed their phenomenal growth in Internet customers to 1.6 million to their expanding data footprint and deployment of LTE.

    "Since the beginning of the year, we have rolled out Wi-Fi MTN Hotspots, 21.6Mbps, 42Mbps and 4GLTE. We also provide our customers with 15MB worth of Free Internet every month and we are constantly reaching out to our customers through various activations and great device deals," Fonternel said.

    MTN is significantly investing into Internet education and as part of this initiative is hosting MTN Expos across the country.

    MTN Uganda has a planned investment of over US$70 million in 2013 to upgrade infrastructure and expand coverage to rural areas in addition to their US$80 million during 2012.

  • Airtel Kenya has announced the return of unlimited internet bundles to all its pre-paid customers in the country.

    The daily unlimited bundle will now cost Kshs. 250,the weekly unlimited bundle will cost Kshs. 1299 while the monthly unlimited bundle will cost Kshs. 3,500.Amount of data downloaded on the daily unlimited package is set at 3GB, 15GB on the weekly unlimited and30GB on the monthly unlimited.

    Access to the internet has become universal and essential for all people and offering affordable and quality internet access is key to enabling our customers achieve more in their daily lives,for both personal and business development.

    "Access to affordable quality internet is key to empowering our customers to accomplish more with every shilling they spend with us. We are delighted to introduce the unlimited internet offers to our customers as a sign of our commitment to offer affordable data services to our customers and increase data penetration in Kenya" said  Shivan Bhargava, Airtel Kenya managing director said,

    The company recently launched daily, weekly and monthly data bundles dubbed (named the Eazy blaze) that enable its customers to embrace a highly mobile way of working with high speed access to email and internet and get more of their favorite downloads, music, movies and to interact on the social media online

  • Q-KON, a South African based engineering group that provides turn-key solutions and managed network services to the African and South African telecommunications industries, has launched a HotZone internet access and distribution solution.

    The offering is primarily aimed at entrepreneurs who want to leverage off connectivity for their businesses as well as establishments that want to provide this service to patrons and guests.

    The StarLight HotZone consists of a VSAT terminal, wireless access controller with a printer and a keypad. It comes pre-configured with 4Mbps downlink speed and 512Kbps uplink speed and works on a franchise basis.

    “As the business owner you can select your profile on-line once the satellite terminal is installed and functional. Monthly base bundles and top-ups can be purchased online without call centre intervention, and allows for total freedom to operate your business according to your own requirements,” explains Juan Prinsloo, Senior Executive: Products of Q-KON.

    “Lodge owners, hotel managers and campus managers can implement the solution and enable users on the premises to start using voucher-based WiFi internet with minimal complexity. Vouchers are issued by selecting the required data package on a keypad and the voucher is printed for the guest to use,” he adds.

    Logistically, a would-be investor or franchisee in internet services needs to install a VSAT antenna with a satellite modem, access controller, voucher printer and keypad at their premises. Once the site is activated by the Q-KON Networks Operating Centre (NOC), the franchisee engages Q-KON to purchase the pre-paid data bundle using the online user portal.

    A guest can buy a voucher in any of the designated denominations which will be printed with an access code and PIN, typed into the portal page when accessing the HotZone.

    “Our intention with this solution offering is to broaden access to connectivity across the continent and to address the requirement by entrepreneurs for quick, hassle-free, reliable and cost effective connectivity. We believe we have achieved our objectives with this release,” Prinsloo continues.

  • A drive by a group of learners to have Wikipedia zero-rated seems to have run into the immovable force that is the South African mobile operators.

    In December last year, a group of Cape Town-based learners wrote an open letter to the four South African mobile operators, urging them to give their customers free mobile access to Wikipedia. According to the children, their school, Sinenjongo High School, in Joe Slovo Park, doesn’t have a library so they walk long distances to the local library, where they have to queue to access the two online computers. The school has 25 computers but use of these is limited to an hour a week per learner. Internet cafés are prohibitively expensive to be of any use to the students.

    However, according to the letter, 90% of the learners have cellphones, although airtime is expensive for those who come from low-income households. The letter concludes: “Our education system needs help, and having access to Wikipedia would make a very positive difference. Just think of the boost it will give us as students and to the whole education system of South Africa.”

    According to Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com and volunteer computer studies teacher at the school, at the time, all the mobile operators replied to the letter, saying the matter would be ‘looked into’.

    8ta pointed to the November 2012 launch of the Google Free Zone, which, among other things, allows free searches via Google and access to the first page of Web sites after that.

     “With careful selection of search words, one can access a wealth of information for free from an unlimited number of sites,” said a Telkom Mobile spokesperson in response to a request for an update for this article. “In line with other markets where it has been launched, we have noted that most users of Free Zone use the Google Search facility. We believe that, for students who have limited access to computers and/or have a limited budget for data, Free Zone provides an ideal alternative to finding information and sharing it with others.”

    The Free Zone service was to be trialled until 31 May 2013 and the spokesperson was unable to give any details about what happens after that.

    In a direct response to the learners’ letter, in January, First National Bank (FNB) announced it had launched free Wikipedia browsing for its ADSL customers between 7pm and 11pm. Unfortunately, although a step in the right direction, this doesn’t meet the learners’ needs, as it requires an ADSL connection and an FNB account.

    Giving school kids free mobile access to Wikipedia should be a priority for South Africa. It’s a sure-fire way to solve some of the enormous education challenges we face.

    Vodacom, the largest South African mobile operator, said its CSI arm, the Vodacom Foundation, was currently in consultation with several service providers on the matter. At this stage, it could not confirm or share any information on the Wikipedia initiative.

  • The ongoing case between the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) and Screamer Telecom, set to be heard today (26 June 2012) has been postponed to 11 September 2013, sources say.

    The case against Screamer, a provider of corporate wireless broadband Internet connectivity solutions, revolves around alleged unlawful use of state-owned signal distributor Sentech’s 2.6GHz band of spectrum, which resulted in the confiscation of Screamer equipment.

    The case has been ongoing since 2011.

    It was reported as far back as mid-2009 that Screamer Telecoms had been using Sentech’s 2.6GHz spectrum to provide consumers with WiMax and Wi-Fi services.

    At the time, Sentech continued to deny any current association with the Screamer, saying it discontinued its agreement with the company in January 2010.

    Further, Sentech called on Icasa to take action against the company for illegally using its spectrum.

    In May 2011, Icasa reacted to complaints and moved against Screamer, confiscating its WiMax equipment.

    However, at the time, CEO Gavin Hart rubbished the reports, saying that their network was up and running and it was business as usual.

    In April 2013, Sentech announced that it would be returing its 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum to Icasa.

    According to CEO of the state-owned signal distributor, Setumo Mohapi, the decision to do so after much consideration on how Sentech should be involved in the national broadband network plans of the Department of Communications.

    Mohapi said that Sentech concluded that the ecosystem in South Africa has changed in a fundamental way, and the fact that the cost of spectrum has grown tenfold was also a big consideration in returning the spectrum to the regulator.

computing

  • A small software developer from London, Ont., is taking on a risky and audacious new project: laptops that run on sunlight.

    WeWi Telecommunications Inc., a 15-person company, unveiled this week a solar-powered laptop designed to bypass the electricity grid. The project is aimed primarily at markets in Africa, where access to electricity can often be unreliable.

    WeWi’s founders came up with the idea in early 2012, after visiting Ghana on business.

    “We saw a need there,” said David Snir, chief executive officer of WeWi. “The electricity infrastructure was very bad. We thought something needs to be done.”

    Over the next 14 months, Snir and WeWi’s engineers designed the laptop, called Sol, which runs on a four-panel solar-charging device built into the computer’s case. It takes approximately two hours to charge the laptop’s battery, which then lasts for about eight to 10 hours. The laptop can run off the solar panels directly when exposed to sunlight, bypassing the battery.

    Snir said the first order of roughly 20,000 units, manufactured overseas, is expected to arrive in the next couple of months. He expects the laptops to sell for $250 to $300. Initially, the laptops will be sold to customers in Ghana, where WeWi already does business, selling software to manage wireless networks.

    With Sol, WeWi’s founders hope to capitalize on a variation of a trend that has played out across Africa and several other parts of the developing world in the past two decades. In some African countries, including Ghana, the land-line infrastructure is relatively poor. As a result, many Africans opted for cellphones instead. WeWi hopes Sol succeeds in Ghana and other African markets because of the appeal of a device that can bypass the country’s sometimes unreliable electricity grid.

    But the project is still a risky one. The sale of solar-powered laptops and projects aimed at offering laptops to underprivileged groups have been tried before, with mixed success. In 2010 and 2011, Samsung released a solar-powered laptop, first in Kenya and then several other markets, including the United States. These types of devices have had limited appeal, in large part because they tend to take a long time to charge, and can be fairly cumbersome.

    The engineers at WeWi hope they have addressed these issues with Sol. Although the computer feels slightly heavier than most newer laptops, it is not difficult to carry, and can fit in most backpacks. The device itself is built to be sturdy, with rubber lining on the sides and a thick outer shell. The solar panels are housed inside a case on the back of the screen lid, and are not noticeable when folded up.

    The first Sol laptops are designed to be as economical as possible, both to keep the price down and to make solar charging possible. The devices will come with a 250-gigabyte hard drive and four gigabytes of memory, as well as a suite of free office and accounting software. In time, the company hopes to build a second version of the laptop for African markets with satellite connectivity. There are also plans to build a more powerful, more expensive unit for sale in the West, where WeWi hopes to sell Sol to everyone from military purchasers to adventure travellers.

  • Matters have been made worse by a teaching fraternity locked in a bitter salary dispute, throwing the project’s implementation strategy into disarray.

    “Most teachers in primary schools are computer illiterate and cannot perform such simple tasks as downloading their payslips from the Internet. Many rural schools have serious infrastructure challenges such as lack of classrooms, desks and chairs and are off the electricity grid,” said Duncan Odhiambo, a teacher at Gungu Primary School in Homa Bay County.

    The Treasury has allocated the laptop project Sh17.4 billion. This will cater for the purchase of 1.35 million laptops for class one pupils next year, development of digital content, building teachers’ capacity and rolling out computer laboratories for class 4-8 pupils.

    Players in the telecommunications industry have also raised concerns over the manner in which the Government is going about implementing the project.

    The Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (Tespok), while lauding the project, urged the State to come clean over its deal with Microsoft International.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted the firm’s global president, Jean-Philippe Courtois, at State House early this month. It is understood that Courtois assured Uhuru that his company would develop at least five enterprises in each county to provide hardware, connectivity and software technical support in schools.

Money Transfer

  • Kenya's Safaricom has set its sights on the medium and small enterprises with the launch of Lipa Na M-PESA -- a campaign aimed at entrenching the use of its mobile payment services as the primary method of paying for goods and services.

    Lipa na M-PESA is an umbrella service for the M-PESA payment services which include: Payment of salaries, utility payments, promotional payouts, dividend payments as well as payments within the transport industry.

    The first phase of Lipa na M-PESA is anchored on an aggressive countrywide recruitment exercise targeting to enroll more than 100,000 small and medium companies by next April.

    To ensure the success of the campaign, Safaricom has simplified the registration process for the traders who will only be required to produce copies of a PIN certificate, Identification Card and trading license in order to get a till number.

    Safaricom's General Manager for Financial Services, Ms. Betty Mwangi-Thuo noted that by adopting M-PESA as a primary tool of transaction, traders will not only have ready access to more than 17 million M-PESA customers, but they will also be able to provide their customers with a safer and more convenient way of making payments.

    "By using the M-PESA payment services, traders will handle less cash and will therefore be less susceptible to risks associated with cash handling such as theft and fake currency. In addition, Lipa Na M-PESA will also help traders enhance business efficiency," said Ms. Mwangi-Thuo.

    CBK reports indicate that the country's financial inclusion levels are now at 80%, with mobile money contributing 57% of the total number of Kenyans with access to some form of formal financial platform.

  • Etisalat has launched a mobile payments wallet service in Egypt, in cooperation with MasterCard and the National Bank of Egypt.

    The newly introduced program is an early implementation of the Mobile Payment Solution that MasterCard and Egyptian Banks Company (EBC) introduced and represents the world's first ever interoprable Arabic mobile money program.

    "Flous", which means money in Arabic, will use the Etisalat mobile network and can be deployed on any mobile phone.

    The first phase of this program will allow subscribers to transfer money to anyone participating in the service using their mobile phones, and to load cash on their phones or take out cash through over 100 of Etisalat's branches and 305 of NBE's branches across Egypt.

    "In a world where smartphones and mobile browsing have become commonplace, it is only natural that mobile devices be used to conduct everyday transactions, especially with their current levels of penetration in the Egyptian market" said Eng. Saeed AlHamli, CEO, Etisalat Egypt.

  • Samuel Tembo, at the helm of the Economic Empowerment Programme at Plan Zambia, insists that tangible things are underway to ensure that some unbanked rural Zambians are reached with services enjoyed by urbanites. “We were concerned at the financial barriers that prevent the poor from accessing financial services and proving that no one is too poor to save. ‘Banking on Change’ has brought financial inclusion to an otherwise neglected sector.”

    Since time immemorial, exclusion of low income folks have persisted with mostly ‘linked’ people having easy access to finances. Half the world’s population has no access to banking services. Only one out of every five Zambians enjoys direct banking facilities. The need to bridge this financial exclusion gap has never been urgent than now.

    Tembo suggests a two-pronged approach – individuals and group savings must be rewarded with easy credit as well as financial literacy.
    In 2009, an initiative by Plan with funding from Barclays Bank helped set up award winning ‘Banking on Change.’

    Plan Zambia has since been implementing community based micro finance programmes in two operational districts of Mazabuka and Chibombo, albeit on a small scale. With a target of 10,000 people, it exceeded expectations by enlisting 12,698 of which 72 percent were female.

    Operating in 11 countries – Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Peru, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia, ‘Banking on Change’ put on the pedestal ‘savings led microfinance.’

    About 25,000 village saving groups, each with about two dozen members or over half a million individuals got basic financial services. Based on this success, Barclays Bank promised more funding.

    This year, the bank felt obliged to renew the mandate for a further three years to a tune of £10 million. The funding will go towards a holistic financial inclusion plan for young people; enhancing entrepreneurial skills, inculcating economic independence and helping them reap from own savings. Young people in Zambia and participating countries have good reasons to smile.

    Chibombo, Chadiza and Mansa districts, though poles apart will be brought closer by a shared goal; being part of the second phase of ‘Banking on Change.’ Mr.Tembo exuded excitement at the launch of the second phase, saying previous funding from Barclays helped increase the culture of savings.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Dubai Holdings' Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT) is selling its 35-percent stake - bought in 2006 for $2.25 billion - in state-owned Tunisie Telecom, the Tunisian government said on Friday.

    EIT has complained to the government since the uprising that toppled former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 about strike action and workers' demands for higher pay.

    In February 2011, a month after Ben Ali's ousting, Tunisie Telecom said it had cancelled plans to list on the Tunis and Paris stock exchanges after consultations with trade unions. Workers had threatened industrial action if there were job losses.

    Tunisia has a population of 10.5 million people and mobile penetration of 95 percent.

    Tunisie Telecom has more than four million mobile phone subscribers and one million for fixed-line services.

  • The Kenyan government’s shareholding in Telkom Kenya (Orange) is set to drop permanently to 30% following a decision by the National Treasury not to allocate any money to the ailing firm, which is jointly owned by the government and the Orange Group (formerly France Telecom-Orange). The Treasury’s stake in Telkom Kenya dropped to 30% in December after the government only paid up KES2.5 billion (USD28.7 million) of the KES4.9 billion it was expected to inject into the firm to retain its shareholding. Business Daily Africa quotes Orange Group press officer Tom Wright who commented: ‘The government of Kenya is yet to wire the money. However, the 30 June deadline is not yet over. If it pays [up] then their stake will rise to 40%, but if they do not the status quo will remain’.

  • South African media and Internet firm Naspers posted an expected 20 percent jump in annual profit on Tuesday, boosted by strong performance in its Internet businesses and a weaker rand currency.

    The company, which has stakes in Internet firms such as China's Tencent and Russia's Mail.ru, said core headline earnings per share increased to 2,216 cents from 1,850 cents last year.

    Naspers had said earnings for the year to end-March would rise by as much as 25 percent.

    The company considers core headline earnings, which exclude some one-time items, as its main measure of profit.

    Naspers' revenue grew 27 percent to 50.25 billion rand ($5 billion) and it declared a 385 cents per share dividend, from 335 cents last year.

Digital Content

  • Orange, has launched a Facebook dial service, that offers mobile access to the world's biggest social networking site to entry level customers who were not previously mobile data users.

    The service, dubbed 'Facebook Bila Net' targets Orange customers who have basic non-data enabled phones, and previously relied entirely on Internet cafes, borrowed data-enabled devices or personal computers to browse and update Facebook.

    Chief Corporate Communications Officer Maureen Sande says this service will enhance the user experience for customers who have been limited to only voice and SMS functionality on their handsets.

    "These are customers who will eventually upgrade to smartphones but, for the moment, are using basic entry level handsets. Orange will continue introducing innovative and customer centric products and solutions, targeting the varied segments in the market," she said.

    The latest quarterly statistics from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) for the second quarter of the 2012/2013 financial year (October - December 2012) show an increase in the number of overall Internet subscriptions by 11.5 percent, from 8.5 million in the previous quarter to 9.4 million, in the quarter under review. The report also indicates that mobile data/Internet subscriptions continued to dominate the Internet market, contributing 99.0 percent of the total Internet/data subscriptions.

    "Internet penetration in general has risen by 4.3 percentage points in Kenya, in the last quarter reviewed by the CCK from 36.8 percent to 41.1 percent. This indicates that the demand and subsequent uptake of Internet on the go is rising. Therefore, we sought to provide more flexible options that will allow for an even wider range of users of mobile data, unhindered by their devices," added Ms. Sande.

    Orange customers can subscribe to Facebook Bila Net by dialling *32# and choosing their preferred bundle: daily for KSh 10, weekly KSh 50 and monthly for KSh 100. This is a cost effective offering compared to KSh 1 per minute that an entry level handset user would pay to access Facebook at an Internet cafe.

    Facebook Bila Net allows users with very basic handsets, without internet connection or a data plan, to stay connected through this simple and affordable text based platform. The service has been successful in other Orange markets in Africa. In Egypt, Mobinil (the Orange affiliate) reported that more than 350,000 subscribers connected to the FaceBook dial service in the first month of its launch.

  • Ghanaian company Rancard has deployed a voice application service for mobile users, using media gateways supplied by Squire Technologies. It uses the Rancard Mobility Content Server (RMCS) and Rendezvous technologies to boost revenues by delivering targeted content from global and regional media players to mobile subscribers, based on their interests and social graph. Rancard's service has previously been in the news as it received financing from Adlevo and Intel Capital.

    Rancard operates the rancardmobility.com service delivery platform across Africa, the Middle East and parts of Europe where mobile phones provide the main source of information because of the scarcity of fixed lines and other infrastructure. The Rancard voice content platform connects with the SS7 networks of telecom operators to supply their mobile users' new services over the voice channel.

  • We want to put thousands of open education materials available on the internet and those developed by trained local teachers in Sierra Leone base on their curriculum in the hands of students and teachers mainly in communities/districts/towns/villages/chiefdoms were textbooks, electricity, internet, computers, science labs are libraries are not reliable or existing.

    Many students and teachers in the developing world like Sierra Leone lack access to basic textbooks, electricity, computers, school library and science labs. Due to this situation, students and teachers with potentials to become the next great innovators cannot fully take advantage of there potentials. The governments of these countries in most cases, lack the knowledge and resources to help the student though corruption and other political issues are sometimes the root cause.

    Sierra Leone’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education survey results of 2009 compiled by InfoDev.org indicates that the education sector’s ICT infrastructure is under-served. There are approximately 81 technical/vocational education institutes serving 5,824 students with a teaching population of 219 including university professors but only 2% of these students and teachers are computer literates. In primary and secondary schools, it’s less than 2%.

    Student enrolment rate continues to increase in primary schools, junior secondary and, senior secondary schools at an alarming rate but the total number of math, science and technology education students and teachers continues to decrease even further Sierra Leone’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education

    Many of the country’s residents are illiterate or have received very little formal education. The statistics are shocking:

    Our solution is simple and in three folds; One is to develop a “Solar Powered Open Education Library in a Box”. Two is to provide free, reliable, rugged and robust tablets to students and teachers to access, download and store the content in the library for 24/7 use anywhere. And third is to train select teachers on how to create open education content base on their local curriculum, record lectures and laboratory experiments as they are being performed and upload such content in the library for consumption by students. The server is a small, rugged, fan-less, solar optimized low power server running Linux and using a 500GB solid state Hard Drive and 4GB of RAM. It will host a web Server, Wireless AccessPoint and Internet Cache Server software. Portable solar system will double as power source for the server and charging station for tablets especially for students and teachers without electricity at home. The LED lights included with the solar will serve as lighting for students to study at night in the school library.

    The eGranary Digital Library – also known as “The Internet in a Box” – provides millions of digital educational resources to institutions lacking adequate Internet access. Mindset Network a not-for-profit organisation set up in 2002 is providing educational solutions for the formal education and health sectors in South Africa. The major difference here are; power source, power consumption of computers used, scalability and mobility access. We want to put the materials in the hands of students and teachers on tablets that will be with them 24/7 and can be used whenever they want.

    Because the server is low powered using between 10Watts and 20Watts and it being powered with solar energy and 12 volt batteries, there is no doubt it will be sustainable compared to AC powered solutions. More than 80% of our target beneficiaries are without grid power. Where its available, its not affordable and reliable. The ruggedness of the server, use of solid state hard drives and fan-less configuration reduce maintenance on the PC.

  • The Sahel, the belt of parched earth that lies between the Sahara and the tropical Africa is a vast region that practically goes unnoticed, bookended by two massive and more known ecosystems. Encompassing much of Mauritania, Mali, and Niger, the landscape is covered by parched earth and scrublands and home to the last nomadic people. But it’s also a land of globalized innovation, where youth zip around on Chinese motorbikes, carry USB keys around their necks, and play the latest hip-hop from cellphone speakers.

    When the Sahel does get attention, it’s often via unflattering media portraits talking of humanitarian crises, shadowy terrorist organizations, and impoverished development. Like most of the African continent, the Sahel has been shrouded in myth and misinformation — mainly because it is not connected to the internet, and doesn’t participate in the global network society. But nevertheless, the Sahel has its own thriving digital culture, isolated as it may be.

    In the past years, trade has inundated the Sahel with inexpensive technology. Cybercafes have sprung up throughout the capitals with used PCs arriving via Europe. But the real technological revolution has been based around something much more inconspicuous: the cellphone.

    In 2007, cheap Chinese phones made their way to the Sahel. Aside from making calls, they included a myriad of additional features like built-in cameras and hard drives. In addition, these cellphones boasted tiny speakers capable of playing back MP3s. In the past few years, the soundscape has been transformed with these cellular boomboxes with a constant barrage of music. As the first widely embraced digital device, the cellphone “hard drives” have become dynamic collections of songs.

    Cellphones don’t just play music — they can also trade it. Since most of the Sahel doesn’t have internet access, the only way to get a song is directly from a friend. Songs are shared in very literal peer-to-peer transfers, where phones are held up to one another and MP3s are sent via Bluetooth. The combination of a world without internet and mobile data devices has led to a singular network of music across the Sahel. With a little imagination, the entire map of West Africa can be seen as a metaphoric internet, the roads as fiber optic cables and the capitals as nodes of exchange.

    Not surprisingly, the bulk of the music circulating on cellphones are local, DIY creations, composed around campfires using cracked software from home PCs. Most of these songs exist only on this “local internet” and won’t be found on Google. In terms of technological egalitarianism, it’s great — there’s no financial cost to share a song. However, this network of music is essentially a digital survival of the fittest arena, where only the “best” and most popular songs survive. Limited by storage capacity and without a centralized “cloud”, if a song is not well-liked it can pretty quickly disappear.

    In addition to trading sound, cellphones can photograph and trade images. Combined with the steady proliferation of the home PC and the cybercafe (though Mali is still ranked 123rd/125 by the UN in internet takeup), a new generation has began to experiment with tools and language of visual design. Utilizing software templates and web-based montage, personal identity can be re-imagined into fantastical places and forms. Invoking the colorful and sometimes garish language of montage, digital distortions, lens flares, and pixelation, these images are informed by Western cultural objects, while liberated from the points of origin.

  • Lack of timely information on how to access markets, get better seeds and improve their farming methods are among the serious challenges holding back smallholder farmers in Tanzania.

    According to Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives, Tanzania has only 35% of its required extension officers. This has limited the growth of the agricultural sector in the country.

    Mobile telecom network, Zantel, has now partnered with the agriculture ministry and Sibesonke to launch Z-Kilimo, a move designed to help smallholders get access to vital information regarding agriculture issues.

    Farmers, will be able to access this service by dialing *149*50#.

    Dr Mshindo Msolla , acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry said last week, they have a plan to have extension officers for every village, but presently more than 7,000 villages do not have these experts.

    "For the time being, only 35% of villages have extension officers. By 2015 each village is supposed to have extension officers in line with government target," he said.

    Dr Uwe Schwarz, the CEO of Sibesonke Limited, who are providing the technology, said: "The overall target is to substantially increase farming productivity and food security in the financially sustainable way."

    In Tanzania, there are over 12,000 villages and the district councils have recruited only 7,974 extension officers. According to Dr Msolla, Tanzania has a shortage of 7,108 extension officers.

    Elaborating on Z-Kilimo, Zantel's Chief Human Resources Officer, Francis Kiaga said, Z-Kilimo is the special mobile service application for farmers, enabling them to access timely and relevant information regarding modern farming methods from their mobile phones.

    This is an SMS-based application, utilizing mobile phone capability and ubiquity to provide farmers in Tanzania access to comprehensive farming methods, Kiaga added.

    "Through this scheme, farmers even those in rural areas, can now easily gain access to vital information on how to properly manage their activities thus improve their productivity and accordingly, enhance the agricultural sector," Kiaga said.

    He added that Tanzanian farmers will now have access to first hand information pertaining agricultural crops thus help them to run their operations more productively.

  • Uganda's finance ministry says it has finalised plans to set up mobile phone alerts for the public, civil society and the media to monitor public expenditure in the next financial year to improve accountability. Social media and a dedicated website will also be used to monitor budget expenditure alongside an integrated payroll and pension system, which automatically matches public sector recruitment to wages and salaries, eliminating wastage on ghost workers, The New Vision reported. The new measures are aimed at increasing confidence in government processes. Mugambe noted that the public should be vigilant to ensure that disbursed funds accomplish the intended tasks.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Following the announcement in March 2013 to aggressively reduce Internet price plans and bundle rates, MTN SA is pleased to announce an extension of this big mobile data sale until 30 September 2013.

    “The price plan reduction has proven to be sufficiently successful and we have decided to extend these data offerings to our customers until 30 September 2013. We acknowledge that data remains an essential requirement for the continued development of the digital world,” says Serame Taukobong, Chief Marketing Officer at MTN SA.

More

  • App Promotion Summit 2013
    Accelerating your mobile application marketing strategy
    Thursday, 11th July 2013

    Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Knightsbridge, London
    The App Promotion Summit is set to tackle the most important issue for mobile app developers and publishers: how to ensure that as many people as possible know about your app.
    For more information click here:
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • MTN South Africa chief technical officer Lambo Kanagaratnam is moving to a new role at the operator. Effective immediately, he will head up its enterprise business division.

    Airtel Africa chief technology officer Eben Albertyn has taken the reins from Kanagaratnam. Albertyn was formerly chief technology officer for MTN in Cameroon and Ghana.

    Kanagaratnam takes over from Zunaid Bulbulia, formerly MTN South Africa’s chief financial officer, who had led the enterprise division since July 2012 in an acting capacity following the departure of MTN Business MD Angela Gahagan-Thomson. Bulbulia was named last month as MTN South Africa’s new CEO, taking the reins from Karel Pienaar, who has been named chief strategy officer at MTN Group.

  • Orange launches the third edition of Orange African Social Venture Prize

    Global telecommunications company Orange has launched the third Orange African Social Venture Prize (OASVP), promoting social innovations in support of development using ICT.

    Entrepreneurs aged 21 and above, or a company that has existed for less than three years, regardless of nationality, can enter the awards free of charge.

    The projects submitted must have plans to deploy their solution in at least one of the African countries where Orange operates and make innovative use of ICT to improve the living conditions of the people in those countries.

    The deadline for applications is September 20, 2013, via the Star Africa portal

    The top three projects will receive a financial grant of up to US$32,850, as well as a six month tailored mentorship provided by entrepreneurial and ICT experts.

    This year’s edition will see internet users voting online for their favourite project.

    The project voted “online favourite” will be submitted directly to the jury along with 10 other finalists pre-selected by judges.

    Forty-five of the 437 entries submitted last year for selection were from Kenya - the second highest number of applications from an individual country.