Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 602 27th April 2012

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Top story

  • Tanzania is making big strides in rolling out its national backbone and connecting to all of its neighbours. Also at the beginning of April this year, it dropped its bandwidth prices and amended its multi-drop access to make it cheaper. Local operators are pleased about these developments but would like to see rates come down further. Russell Southwood spoke to Peter Nogota, Head, NICTBB about what’s been happening.

    When completed, NICTBB will represent a total investment of US$200 million, US$170 million of which will have come from a concessionary Chinese loan and US$30 million from the Tanzanian Government.

    The project is being built in three phases: the first phase is the northern ring which connects Singida and Arusha and this has been completed. The second phase is completing the southern ring which will connect Mtware, where oil has been discovered. The third phase is building the western side of the western ring from Tunduma to Biharamulo. The second phase is completed and testing and will come on stream in the next 20 days.

    In addition, the national backbone is so close to all its neighbours borders that it will add much need additional connections for those countries, giving them additional redundancy in event of cuts. Malawi is already connected at Kasumulo through MTN and Airtel. Zambia is connected at Tunduma by Zamtel and Burundi is connected at Kabanga through Ucom. Rwanda has completed a connection at Rusumo with RDB and Rwandatel.

    The three not yet connected are Uganda, Kenya (three parts still to do) and Mozambique (where there are still 371 kms to complete). With the exception of a fibre link to Rwanda, all the other cross-border links above are microwave.

    Overall performance on the network is acknowledged by the operators with whom we discussed it to be good. However, all sides concede that the usual problems of cuts due to road construction and vandalism exist and operators are concerned when there are cuts at the speed of repair. Ngota says that it is investing in programmes to raise public awareness and sensitise them to the importance of not cutting the fibre because they think it’s copper.

    On its charges for STM1s-STM64’s, it has since 1 April dropped its prices by 35% since 1 April this year. When we asked Ngota whether there would be further price cuts, he told us:”Let’s see the market response. I’d like to do tariff revisions on IRUs. All operators want to increase their capacity on the basis of the new rates.

    But what about the small operators who might not be able to afford an STM1?”We’re looking at how best to accommodate the ISPs at the lower level. It should be possible to create a shared tariff between several ISPs on a single STM1.” And what about the vexed question of the charges for multi-dropping along a route bought? “This will now cost, for example, 20% (per drop) of the STM1 you have bought.”

    There have been concerns expressed about the governance of NICTBB given its closeness to the former incumbent TTCL but Ngota is clear about its role:”The structure is working OK. There is 100% account separation. TTCL is the overall manager but there is fair play and transparency with equal rights and access for all operators. TTCL has the expertise and the coverage and complements us on the last mile. Most operators are buying their last mile through TTCL.”

    The Government’s overall e-strategy is to use the fibre backbone to get the population close to connectivity. The Universal Communications Access Fund will be used to implement connections to villages and connect the County offices. The e-Government agency is using the backbone to connect a number of Government organisations and offer them things like teleconferencing. NICTBB is also in discussions with broadcasters about how to use its capacity to deliver digital television across the country. Finally, the Government is looking at how best to address last mile connectivity.

    In the private sector, there is a consortium between Tigo, Airtel and Zantel that is putting up metronets in the larger cities.

    To get higher levels of take-up across the country – for individuals, corporates and the Government – the operators we spoke to are convinced prices need to come down more and that the multi-dropping charges need to be lower. As one told us:”It’s amazing the backbone’s there but we need to see the rates come down by at least half again, particularly if we are to get demand moving in a range of places across the country. It’s our responsibility to figure how to get the take-up of the services but the wholesale has to be at the right price to make it work.”

     

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • The Senate Committee on Privatisation on Tuesday, rejected plans to liquidate the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL) and its mobile arm, Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTEL).

    The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Gbenga Obadara (ACN-Ogun), made the announcement at an interactive session with officials of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).

    The committee chairman frowned at the attitude of some Federal Government agencies whom he observed, had contributed to the collapse of the companies by refusing to settle their indebtedness to the companies.

    He promised that the committee would ensure that all government agencies, indebted to NITEL settled their debts, without further delay. Obadara said the committee would also tour all NITEL offices in the country to determine the exact value of the companies, which the BPE had put at between N80 billion and N90 billion as at 2009.

    He expressed displeasure at government's plans to liquidate the companies without making effort to find out their values. "Nobody is telling us the worth of NITEL; we are only told how much NITEL owes. We should understand that it is all about protecting government's enterprises.

    "The condition of NITEL is not as bad as people portray. We have the option of making MTEL work; we could get credible people to run it. We are not impressed about the term 'guided liquidation' because the same executive has masterminded the liquidation of most of the privatised companies since its inception in 2001," he said.

    The Chairman, Technical Committee on Privatisation, Atedo Peterside, put NITEL/MTEL's liabilities at N351. 21 billion. Peterside was summoned by the committee alongside the Director General of the BPE, Ms Bolanle Onagoruwa, over the planned liquidation. The N35 billion debt owed NITEL he said, would be difficult to recover because the last bill paid to NITEL was paid about five years ago, adding that most of the companies indebted to the company had folded up.

    Peterside also told the committee that the only way the enterprises could attract investors was to liquidate them. "It is only through liquidation that investors can show interest. In that case, liquidators would take responsibilities for the debt owed creditors.

    "No potential investor will indicate interest in a business that will put creditors on their necks. "

  • Angolan telecom mobile operator Movicel has launched Africa's first commercial LTE network in the country's capital, Luanda. The LTE network, built with technology from Chinese telecom equipment markers ZTE and Huawei, is designed to enable up to 120M bps Internet access. LTE is still being piloted by Africa's largest mobile operator, MTN, in South Africa, making Angola the first country in Africa to have a commercial LTE network. As part of the project, ZTE will also provide LTE equipment for key markets across the country.

    China's work with Angola to launch the first LTE network in the region is a sign of how China is helping African countries develop the telecom sector in exchange for natural resources, and of Chinese telecom companies' dominance in the African mobile market. In Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, China has spent millions of dollars to develop communication infrastructure in exchange for licenses in extractive industries and construction.

    "China has penetrated Africa's telecom sector because of the combination of money and technology," said Edith Mwale, telecom analyst at Africa Center for ICT Development.

    As in many other countries in Africa, ZTE is expected to start marketing smartphones on the Angolan market to enable as many people as possible to own handsets for data in addition to voice services.

  • The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA has slammed a N5 million fine on MTN for reopening its base station in EFAB Estate, Mbora District, Abuja sealed last week.

    Director, Inspection and Enforcement of NESREA, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, who led a NESREA Team of Inspection and Enforcement Officials to reseal the premises, insisted that the base station must remain shut for violating Environmental Laws and falling short on the regulation on 10 metres set back from the residential area.

    Soyombo said that MTN would also pay a daily fine of fifty thousand naira for as long as the offence persists. "No one is bigger than the law. MTN must be made to operate by the rules and regulations."

    The said base station according to NESERA defied an earlier removal order from FCDA development control.

    Following numerous complaints from angry residents, NESREA investigated the base station and shut it down two weeks ago when it was found to be only 1.2 metres from the nearest house. Moreover, residents in the area insisted that the operators had been warned as far back in 2009 not to erect on that site which they ignored, a statement from NESERA noted.

    Soyombo said that "apart from the five million naira, we are going to press charges against MTN for acting outside the confines of the law and also for illegally removing a seal which was put by NESREA. That is a criminal offence against the Federal Republic of Nigeria".

  • Safaricom Kenya and Bharti Airtel are set to form an agreement that will enable the two giants to lay a fiber network. The move is designed to cut costs associated with the involvement of third parties whom they rely on for their internet.

    Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, told the Business Daily that the company initiated talks with other mobile operators including Telkom Kenya and Essar, but only Airtel took up the bid. About the fiber he added: “We are going to roll out the fibre in the coming financial year; it will involve partnering with other mobile operators.”

    “Safaricom and Airtel have a long standing Tower Sharing Agreement and we have similar agreements with Telkom Kenya and Essar. Therefore, collaborating in fibre optic network deployment is an extension of this and will ensure that operators minimise costs while avoiding duplication.”

    The increase in cheaper smart phones, such as IDEOS and other tablets, has resulted in a data surge, where users need wireless internet. As such Kenya’s Communications Commission (CCK) says that this has seen the mobile operators upgrade their networks to better and high-speed wireless services.

    Collymore added, “We have mentioned in the past that the strategy remains one of “in filling” which means that we focus on building fibre in the areas that have no infrastructure whilst avoiding unnecessary duplication.”

  • Tanzanian government will soon investigate and report back to the national assembly about the stands of ownership of the local mobile phone operator MIC Tanzania Ltd, Tigo.

    This comes following the pressure from some members of Parliament who wanted to know why Tigo Tanzania Ltd is wholly owned by foreigners which is contrary to the laws of the country specifically EPOCA Act of 2010.

    During the question and answer parliamentary session in Dodoma last week, the Kigoma North Member of Parliament for Chadema, Mr. Zitto Kabwe had wanted to know why the local telecommunication company Tigo Tanzania Ltd was wholly owned by foreigners contrary to the laws of the land.

    Mr. Zitto said that he was surprised to note that while other telecommunication companies were having the local share ownership Tigo Tanzania Ltd was enjoying a 100 percent foreign ownership a thing that contradicts with the requirement of the laws in the country.

    Zitto, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Parastatal Organizations Accounts Committee (POAC) said that he was also surprised to see that the said telecommunication company was not even listed at the Dar es salaam stock exchange market (DSE).

    The outspoken MP, who is also the deputy leader of the opposition camp in the National Assembly noted that until 2005 the government had shares in Tigo and that the government decided to cancel its call option on the business contentiously.

    In February 2006, after buying out its minority shareholders, the Luxembourg-based pan-African mobile operator Millicom International Cellular announced to take a full control of three of its African-based Mobile operators including MIC Tanzania limited.

    In Tanzania a US$1.332 million deal enables Millicom to acquire the remaining 16% stake it did not already own after the cellco's minority shareholders agreed to cancel their call option on the business. Since then Millicom is the full controller of the company.

    He noted, "allowing the company to operate while being fully owned by a foreign company or companies is against the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010."

    Following this pressure, the government has promised to scrutinize and report back to the coming law maker's assembly which will be held in Dodoma in August for further step.

    I would like to take this opportunity and assure all the members of the parliament that the government will investigate and report back to this assembly on the ownership status of the mobile phone company, Tigo Tanzania Ltd," said the acting head of government business in the house, Samuel Sitta.

    Sitta, who is also Minister for East African Cooperation and Member of Parliament for Urambo Constituency in Tabora via CCM, told the National Assembly last week that they will need time to look into the matter and get back to the August house on the same.

    "We will take time to study the matter critically and come back with actual findings in August; he said Minister Sitta and adding "It seems that the legislator has a point on this."

    He told the parliament that the government needs to work for it extensively because it seemed that the whole issue shrouded in controversies.

    Earlier, the Deputy Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Mr Charles Kitwanga, noted that the EPOCA does not make it mandatory for all mobile phone companies to list at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.

    "It is not every telecommunication company that can be listed at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, authorities have to discuss and approve which should be listed and which should not," said Mr Kitwanga.

    On the other hand, Mr Said Amour Arfi (Mpanda Urban-Chadema) wondered why the process of selling Zain Tanzania company shares to become Airtel Tanzania Ltd was not channeled through the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, saying that it was against EPOCA.

    Responding to the question, Mr Kitwanga said that the government still maintains a 40 per cent stake in Airtel Tanzania Limited that was carried forward from Zain Tanzania.

    "The government's 40 per cent shares have remained intact despite the change in the company's name, so when the appropriate time for the government to sale its shares comes, we will do so in accordance with the country's laws," he added.

    Quoted by local media recently, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mr. Mustafa Mkulo said that the government cannot sale its shares from the second largest mobile operator in the country, Airtel because there is no need to do so.

    "I would like to take this opportunity to let you knows that our 40 percent shares which the government own to Airtel, will not be sold," said the finance minister without further elaboration.

    Other mobile phone operators which have local ownership in the country include Vodacom and Zantel Tanzania.

internet

  • A new report by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) illustrates how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are aiding citizen participation in Uganda, but also points to the challenges that need to be overcome for these technologies to have a wider impact on governance.

    The report reviews various ICT tools being used to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in Uganda.

    It examines the utility and shortcomings of these tools, the challenges they face, and the factors contributing to their success.

    Furthermore, it offers suggestions for improving the utility, reach, and, hopefully, the success of initiatives that utilise ICT to improve citizen participation.

    Based on the 24 ICT tools assessed, seven main categories of uses of tools were identified: Information provision; Election monitoring; Lobbying and activism; Voter registration; Elections reporting; Citizen policing; and Civic participation in the post-election period.

    Innovations especially with mobile telephony and interactive mapping have showcased how ICT can help improve transparency and accountability in the delivery of public services. In the run up to Uganda’s 2011 general elections, ICT tools were used broadly, for campaigning, tallying results, monitoring the actions of political groups and the electoral body, for civic education, and for activism. The tools included mobile phones, automated calls, and crowd sourcing platforms, radio and television, as well as social media. They contributed to transparency of the polls – but probably not to voter turn-out.

    However, the most immediate challenge to the adoption of these tools is that few Ugandans are embracing them. In Uganda, market penetration for voice stands at 45% with a population coverage of close to 100%. Mobile accounts for more than 90% of new connections, with 910,000 new subscribers being added each year. While this is providing a solid base in terms of numbers of those who can use the ICT, the figures do not tell the whole story. For example, studies show that nearly half of mobile phone subscribers own at least two SIM cards. Moreover, even among the phone-owning class, for many usage beyond voice (and, well, Facebook and radio) remains limited.

    And there are yet more challenges. Limitations such as the cost of accessing and using the ICT, language barriers and low literacy levels mainly for the internet and mobile based platforms - as well as minimal attention by government to boosting usage of ICT in governance all hinder the effective use of these tools. This study finds that it is therefore crucial for organisations using ICT for participation and democracy to carry out extensive assessments before deploying the technology, to work with others rather than duplicate efforts, to create awareness and capacity among users, and to continuously assess the impacts the ICT initiatives are creating.

  • Participants at the NGOs Forum on Monday passed a resolution condemning the blocking of a number of online Gambian newspapers.

    Participants said the continuous blocking of online newspapers and blogs by the government of Yahya Jammeh constitutes an infringement on the rights of Gambians to access information.

    “We the participants at the NGOs Forum are deeply concerned at the blocking of many online media and information websites denying thereby alternative sources of information to the Gambia public,” they said in the resolution.

    The resolution comes amid dedicated efforts spearheaded by JollofNews over the building of an Internet firewall by the Gambia government with no legal basis.

    With regard to the murder of Journalist Deyda Hydara in December 2004 by unidentified gunmen and the disappearance of Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh of Daily Observer, the resolution recommended to the African Commission to put pressure on the Gambia government to reveal the whereabouts of Mr Manneh and to conduct an independent and impartial enquiry into the murder of the Deyda Hydara.”

  • A Tunisian group claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous - the international cyber-activist collective- has announced a new operation called "Stop AMAR 404â-' against recent measures to enhance internet security.

    Government official's concerns about the security of the websites of Tunisian Interim Government ministries have increased, especially after recent cyber-attacks targeting the Tunisian Prime Minister's email account and the official website of the Ministry of Justice.

    The government's budget for 2012, presented by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to the Constituent Assembly on April 5th, focused on improving internet security by including funding for hiring new experts at the Ministry of the Interior.

    Anonymous called for a protest on Avenue Habib Bourguiba on May 1st, against what they called, "internet censorship."

    The government's decision to hire new internet security experts at the Ministry of Interior has alarmed Anonymous activists. "The decision threatens internet freedom, it will monitor all actions on the internet, emails, social networks, searches, absolutely everything. It will give full powers to the government to have a totalitarian control over your confidential information online. The (internet) commission will probably recognize you more than your friends and family. The commission says their aim is to formally protect against cyber crime at a national level. But the term "cyber crime" is deliberately vague. It may refer to protections for the government, its scandals, leaks and similar cases. The government has the same reasons to censor as Ben Ali. It will be basically used to hunt you down if you criticize, especially Ennahda," anonymous announced.

    According to a video released by anonymous, people must mobilize against internet censorship in the planned May day rallies to oppose "internet censorship, the restriction of freedom of expression, the monitoring of all online activities" and to protest against the "loss of freedoms and civil rights and the possible loss of internet connections for those who violate the new rules."

  • Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Media Communication Centre (MCC), the company that publishes The Reporter, has asked Ethio-Telecom for an explanation but has not yet received a response.

    “Website blocking is not new in Ethiopia but a leading independent newspaper’s site has never previously been affected,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Tests carried out by the OpenNet Initiative in 2008 and 2009 showed that certain outspoken or opposition sites based abroad were the target of filtering, but this is the first time a newspaper such as The Reporter has been targeted.”

    The Reporter’s site normally has upward of 30,000 visitors a day, more than five times the number of readers of the print version. “Has The Reporter’s site been blocked to prevent the dissemination of sensitive articles,” Reporters Without Borders asked.

computing

  • What is International Girls in ICT Day?

    International Girls’ in ICT Day is an initiative backed by ITU Member States in Plenipotentiary Resolution 70 (Guadalajara, 2010) to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of information and communication technologies (ICTs). International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in April every year. This year, International Girls in ICT day was held on 26 April 2012.

    Who organizes Girls in ICT Day events?

    Ministries of Communication, Education, National Regulatory Authorities, private sector companies, academic institutions, relevant UN agencies and NGOs can organize local, national or regional events on 26 April 2012. The ITU Secretary General has encouraged all ITU Member States and Sector Members to consider organizing a national or local event on 26 April 2012 in his World Telecommunication Information Society Day letter and its Call for Action. See the Secretary General’s Circular Letter and Call for Action here:

    If interested countries would like to see how one country organized their first Girls in ICT Day event last year, here is a video about the Republic of Serbia’s 2011 event. Information about Serbia’s experience is posted on the ITU Girls in ICT Portal as well under the Events section.

    Why do we need a Girls in ICT Day?

    Globally, it is estimated that the world shortfall in skilled ICT professionals exceeds two million. Despite the obvious benefits, many girls never even consider a career in ICTs.

    The ICT sector remains a growing sector for employment, and a key economic factor underpinning both national and international development in both developed and developing countries. Many countries and regions are predicting a shortage of qualified staff with math, science, engineering and computing skills to meet the growing demand.

    At the same time, many companies are looking to increase the number of women in the sector.

    This means that highly qualified women in technical fields have significant opportunities available to them in both developed and developing countries. The need for qualified professionals in developing countries worldwide should come as no surprise, considering the rate of ICT growth in developing countries. The BDT Thematic Report: A Bright Future in ICTs: Opportunities for a New Generation of Women includes more information and will be published soon on the Girls in ICT Portal.

  • The award winning Tunisian blog Nawaat, in partnership with Tunisian Ministère de la Jeunesse et des Sports & Canal France Internationale (CFI), has launched a new project in Tunisia to create citizen journalism clubs in youth centres. Six local citizen media collectives have been started in Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Bizerte, Makther, Gafsa, and Gebili – all located in Tunisia’s interior and south. These citizen journalism collectives will allow people to use the computers of the youth centers and disseminate news and views through six platforms.

    The goal is to have a national network of alternative and citizen media, using simple blogging platforms, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts as the collectives’ technical support. The project embodies the heart of grassroots journalism: decentralizing information by helping local citizen journalists create their own regional content through a network covering issues directly relating to local residents.

    The project kicked off by hosting a total of six training sessions – one in each city – at the local and regional youth centers. Ten representatives from each city attended each of the training sessions, which are taught by both Nawaat bloggers and Canal France Internationale (CFI) journalists. The average age of participants is 17. At the trainings, 60 participants learned how to write different types of articles and how to use appropriate angles in reporting.

    Following the first cycle of training, with adequate tools available, all six groups have set up their respective blogs.

    Nawaat plans to create a national platform to aggregate all the blogs and consolidate the network by the end of April, and to have a total of 15 clubs by the end of 2012. We will share more information about this project in the future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MasterCard has partnered with local mobile-centric financial services company Oltio to bring MasterCard Mobile to the South African market, expanding the platform for online shopping in the country.

    MasterCard Mobile lets MasterCard and Maestro cardholders make online purchases using their mobile phones. Consumers can use the platform to make secure online purchases with their PIN-based debit, cheque or credit cards by linking these to their mobile phones.

    "It's a convenient and cost-effective payment mechanism that doesn't require customers to open yet another bank account," Oltio CEO Terry Timson said in a statement last week.

    To use the service, cardholders must select the MasterCard Mobile option on participating e-commerce sites. First-time users will be prompted to register their cards and their mobile phone numbers on a secure site.

    Thereafter, the cardholder's mobile phone number is used to initiate payments, which the cardholder authorises by entering their PINs into their mobile phones.

  • Zimbabwe telco Econet Wireless has reported a 24% increase in full-year revenues in its financial year to end-February 2012. Sales rose to USD611.1 million, up from USD493.5 million the previous year, driven by a 16% increase in subscriber numbers to 6.41 million. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) climbed from USD242.7 million to USD290.9 million, while net profits were up 18% at USD165.7 million.

    Econet has confirmed that it is currently in the final stages of concluding a syndicated USD307 million loan from a group of international banks to help fund its continued network expansion and upgrade programme. The operator says it has invested USD614 million in its Zimbabwe operations over the last three years, including USD184 million in the most recent twelve-month period. Econet Wireless controls almost two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s mobile market, competing with Vimpelcom/Orascom subsidiary Telecel and state-owned firm NetOne.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • MTN Rwanda internet subscribers are set to benefit from the operator's decision to cut its data prices. The company announced on Monday that it had slashed data prices by half the current price for both post-paid and top-up users as it seeks to consolidate its leadership position amidst growing competition.

    In a statement, which outlines the new tariff structure, MTN said that on the 250Mb package, prices were reduced to Rwf3,000 from Rwf6,000. Prices on the 5Gb were reduced from Rwf30,000 to Rwf15,000 while on the 500Mb package, the price dropped from Rwf10,000 to Rwf5,000. The new tariffs are available on MTN Internet (3.75G) and MTN Hotspot (Wi-Fi), the company said.

Digital Content

  • Frommer’s Unlimited has teamed up with South African travel technology company, Tourism Radio, in a move that is set to revolutionise the world of mobile travel guides.

    Frommer’s has been a trusted source of travel guides for more than 50 years, and its partnership with Tourism Radio will see the company firmly establish itself in the mobile space with the next generation of travel guides. Tourism Radio’s unique mobile technology seamlessly blends Frommer’s travel content with Tourism Radio audio clips, which automatically play as the user enters their location.

    The initial partnership launch will see the release of audio and text travel guides to a number of popular travel destinations around the world. This includes comprehensive guides to the top tourist cities of New York, London and Paris. Destination information will include Frommer’s recommended restaurant, attraction, nightlife, shopping and hotel picks, highlighting how to travel smart and experience each city as a local. The guides can be downloaded as standalone applications for Android and iPhone, or accessed through the Tourism Radio travel application, Hummba.

    Tourism Radio founder and CEO Mark Allewell says, “We like to think of our partnership with Frommer’s as serendipity on steroids. Travellers will now be able to easily access an unprecedented amount of quality travel information, directly from their mobile phones. We’re also delighted to partner with one of the world’s oldest and most respected travel companies, and we look forward to producing guides that cater for every traveller’s needs.”

    "Offering Frommer's travel information through Tourism Radio's intelligent mobile audio guides is an exciting new way for travelers to access our expert travel advice at the right time in the right place, said Craig Schickler, Director of E-Business Development, Frommer’s Unlimited. We are happy to be working with Tourism Radio and together helping shape memorable experiences for travelers around the globe."

    From launch until the 1st of May, the audio travel guides from across the globe will be free for download, after which, they will range in price from US$0.99 to US$4.99, depending on the amount of travel content they contain. A selection of free, lite guides, to several popular destinations around the world, will also be available for download. These give travellers the opportunity to sample the content before committing to the purchase of a full guide.

  • Chris Haye Onanuga, the man at the center of the purported hijacking of the judges’ verdict for the Miss Liberia 2011/2012 crown, said he had to step in to avoid confusion because the judges were “ignorant” of the rules and regulations governing the pageant, which was created by the organizer, CT.Com.

    Onanuga said the panel of judges, headed by Maxine Menson of Ghana (an Executive Producer of the ECOWAS Peace Pageant and Consultant to the Miss Ghana Beauty Pageant), failed to follow the rules and regulation of Miss Liberia 2011/2012.

    “In order to move away from the archaic situation where judges only decide the winner, we decided that the public would have a voice. Therefore, we gave 40% of the decision making to the public to select their choice via SMS. And at the event, we as organizers decided to give the judges 60% say, according to the rules of the Pageant,” Mr. Onunaga explained. “Therefore, on the night of the contest, judges had 60% say, while the public opinion through voting counted for 40%.

    “At the close of the pageant, it became apparent that the judges wanted to reject the public opinion voting. Instead of taking 60%, the judges wanted to have 100% say in the final results, which is against the rules. This is where we as organizers refused because we could not accept that the judges should have 100% say and ignore the views of public opinion,” Onanuga stated.

    The chief organizer of the pageant further stated that owing to the judges’ refusal to include the public’s grading (40%) of the queens’ actual event performances (60%), he and his staff tabulated the scores, including the SMS voting scores and the judges’ scores, and announced the results.

    “There have been concerns about why we as organizers announced the result; [but] this is what happened: the judges handed the final scores to Desmond Elliot (a Nigerian actor), [as] all of us believed that the judges had tabulated both the SMS voting as well as their [scores]. After Mr. Elliot announced the second and third winners, he refused to announce the [first place] winner owing to the crowd’s agitation and the presence of about 30 police officers.

    “When the judges were then asked to announce the winners as is traditionally the case in Liberia, they too refused. At this point, we did final tabulation, which included both the judges’ and the SMS voting scores, and announced the results.”

  • A media blackout is being enforced by the military junta in Guinea-Bissau that staged a coup d'état on April 12, 2012.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) source in the country reported that on the day of the coup, the coup makers forced all the media houses to close down.

    The source said that in the evening of the same day, the soldiers seized a camera belonging to the local team of RTP-Africa, a Portuguese broadcaster after issuing death threats to them. The owner of privately-owned online news website, Ditadura de Consense, was reportedly tortured by the soldiers.

    This latest censorship has worsened the already repressive media environment in Guinea-Bissau. Journalists in the country have been practicing self-censorship as a result of harsh treatment meted out to them by security forces and powerful individuals with connections to drug barons.

    Apart from the climate of fear, the media in Guinea-Bissau have endured and operated under very dire economic and political conditions. There are only about five newspapers and few radio and television stations including the state- run Radio Televisao de Guinea-Bissau (RTGB).

  • The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) has launched an online marketing campaign called 'Conservation Destination' to showcase remarkable conservation stories about Namibia, and inspire locals to make contributions.

    NTB spokesperson Maggy Mbako said in a media statement issued on Tuesday that the campaign will run until June 1 this year.

    The 'Conservation Destination' campaign was launched last Sunday to coincide with World Earth Day.

    As part of the campaign, the NTB has invited online users to use Facebook and Twitter to interact with four conservation ambassadors, being Dara the Damara Tern, Chase the Cheetah, Roger the Rhino and Holden the Golden Mole.

    NTB has worked with four conservation organisations - the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management (NACOMA) project, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), the Save the Rhino Trust and the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) to bring these characters to life.

    Throughout the campaign, the ambassadors will 'tweet' and post information about real-life threats facing their survival, and also spread the word about conservation success stories taking place in Namibia.

    "We hope to engage Namibians of all ages with this campaign, and alert them to the work being done in their own country - and then give them a chance to visit it themselves," said Mbako. She said Facebook was the best medium to do this since over 150,000 Namibians make use of the social media network.

    NaDEET Director Viktoria Keding said the campaign is a great and engaging way to communicate the wonders and challenges facing conservation and the environment in Namibia."We are extremely excited about promoting environmental education and NaDEET through Holden, our Golden Mole," said Keding.

More

  • Safaricom: Collymore appointed to UN global board

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, announced the appointment of Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore to the UN Global Compact Board.

    The UN Global Compact is a voluntary initiative aimed at recognizing businesses committed to adopting sustainable and socially-responsible policies.

    “As Safaricom, we feel it is important for companies to report on their operations from a holistic perspective and to report on their sustainability credentials. Corporate governance and ethics are a key factor that underpins a company’s reputation.” said Collymore

    Last year, Collymore made a presentation on an initiative “Every Woman, Every Child,” before the UN General Assembly.

    He highlighted Safaricom’s commitment to improve maternal health and reducing child mortality by mobile technology.

    He added: “In Kenya we have one doctor for every 10,000 patients. Bearing in mind that we have more than 25 million mobile phones and less than 450 hospitals, it goes without saying that mobile technology should be used to create effective solutions for our healthcare challenges. We realize that as a telecommunications company, the use of mobile technology for health purposes can revolutionize society’s ability to deliver access and use health information to promote health, fight disease and respond to medical emergencies.”

    Diego Gutierrez appointed as Tigo Tanzania’s new General Manager (Tanzania)

    Mobile operator Tigo has appointed Diego Gutierrez as the General Manager for its operations in Tanzania. As per the company Gutierrez has 12 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, and has been working with the organisation for the past two and a half years as the Consumer/ Deputy General Manager.

    Gutierrez replaces Marcelo Aleman who has been appointed as General Manager of MIC’s operations in El Salvador. He said that he is very pleased to have been promoted to General Manager of Tigo Tanzania.

    He added that he is proud to be heading a healthy business with a strong brand and enormous potential for growth as they offer new services to the market such as Tigo Pesa and Tigo Internet, which are proving to be very popular with their customers.

    New CEO for Broadband Infraco

    Puleng Sejanamane has been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of telecommunication provider Broadband Infraco, the Department of Public Enterprises said on Wednesday.

    Sejanamane has also been appointed as an ex officio member of the Board of Broadband Infraco (Infraco). She is a former chief marketing and sales officer at Broadband Infraco. She had also worked at MTN SA from August 2008 to 2011.

Issue no. 128 26 April 2012

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  • Established in Cape Town, Film Afrika Worldwide is launching an office in Los Angeles to be headed up by CEO David Wicht. David started out as a writer and director and made Windprints with Sean Bean and John Hurt in 1990, so the move will allow him to focus more on developing original material with American partners. “In addition to facilitating productions shooting in South Africa, we will be developing original material with US partners for filming in South Africa,” says David. Balancing Act looks at the potential impact of this move.
        
     Film Afrika has produced over 50 films and television series since independence in 1995. The company is also one of South Africa's most established production companies and one of the big three along with Moonlighting Films and Out of Africa Entertainment. Not forgetting Kalahari Pictures, who made Dredd and District 9.

     Film Afrika specialises in raising local finance and providing a complete location facilitation and co-production service to international producers. Film Afrika films throughout South Africa, including neighbouring countries Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It also services films further afield in places such as Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles.
        
    CEO David Wicht said, “After years of working with all the major studios and independents, I’m looking forward to being closer at hand and being immediately accessible to producers seeking to shoot or collaborate with South Africa. The presence of an LA office means I can engage directly with production partners and facilitate the workflow from South Africa, resulting in a faster turnaround and the ability to give a first-hand account of shooting in South Africa.”

    Light, wildlife, landscapes and convenience of location — within a few hours' drive of Cape Town or Johannesburg — are the keys to South Africa's moviemaking appeal. There is also a cost issue. Cast and crew are cheaper than it would be in Europe and the USA and what looks like a $50 million US production could be done for less than half that figure.

    David’s move to Hollywood builds on the success of recent projects like Chronicle, which topped the American box office earlier this year after shooting in Cape Town with Film Afrika.

    “Chronicle was set in Seattle but shot in South Africa, beating out competitors such as Vancouver and Eastern Europe,” says David. “The success and look of film, which utilized the state-of-the-art Cape Town Film Studios, has generated a lot of interest in filming in South Africa. Similarly, The Department of Trade and Industry’s decision to remove the cap on the rebate, and raise the rebate percentage for serviced films, has been a terrific boost to South Africa and has made the country extremely attractive as a partner and destination.” He's referring to the DTI's recent decision to raise the cash back rebate from 15 to 20%. David adds that South Africa’s burgeoning post-production and VFX facilities are another selling point he’ll be promoting.

    Film Afrika’s South Africa headquarters will provide all the production, budgeting and logistic support for films and TV series arising through the LA office. Film Afrika’s track record of producing major international film projects in Southern Africa includes the Emmy-winning productions Gettysburg and America: The Story of Us, the Emmy-nominated No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Endgame, and the upcoming miniseries Labyrinth, for Tandem Communications and Scott Free Films.
        
    Film Afrika is currently in production on Videovision Entertainment’s much anticipated adaptation of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, with Anant Singh as producer  and Film Afrika’s Vlokkie Gordon returning to her roots as a line producer. “We were very honoured to be entrusted with the management of such a prestigious and iconic story,” says David.
        
    The move should have a positive impact on South Africa’s film industry, potentially opening doors to further co-production and distribution deals. The big advantage is essentially relational. Ignorance and poor telecoms remain an issue for American producers and distributors willing to expand their arms to Africa.

     Above all, the time difference and travel distance between America and Africa has always worked against closer relationships, but having such a high level South African producer based in Los Angeles means that there's now someone a phone call away, who's available during their normal office hours, and who can come in and explain the possibilities of shooting in South Africa face-to-face. Film Afrika's team has strong existing relationships over there, but it should  allow those to be taken to a deeper level and hopefully allow Film Afrika to be consulted much earlier in the development process.

     As far as we know, Film Afrika is the first of the big three to open a USA branch, so it's definitely a USP for them, although Kalahari Pictures is run by an American, Michael Murphy, who now lives in South Africa and goes back to the USA regularly. The striking contract is with Nollywood, which has yet to make these kinds of international connections and Nigeria is not an easy place for international film locations.

    For more information, visit here:


    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Helen Kuun, Indigenous Film Distribution on the African films she wants to distribute

    Jeremy Nathan, CEO, DV8 on its new crime series for MNet, Mshika-Shika and its feature film, Layla Fourie, directed by Pia Marias with Pandora Films

    Deon Maas, Meerkat Productions on its latest film, Punk in Africa

    Bertil van Vugt, Manager, Africa Interactive
    on its series, Spark Africa

    Cajetan Boy, film-maker and script-writer on the importance of script-writing in Kenya

    Kennedy Odhiambo on the online Africa Slum Journal

    Chiaka Orjiako, Editor, FilmBizAfrica on giving a face to African film

    Kenyan film-maker Atieno Odenyo on her new documentary project Nusu Nusu

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Communications, African Media Initiative on its new mobile news apps incubator

  • Comedy in Ghana just got finer as one of the craziest and most creative movie production houses in Africa, ‘Talents United’ brings you ‘Azonto Boys’, a film written and directed by Kobi Rana.

    It is amazing how a simple day in typical Accra fishing community becomes so complicated and extremely funny with intense suspense that refreshes the audience emotions from the opening to end credits. Film enthusiasts who have seen ‘Kiss Me If U Can’, ‘2bad’ and ‘Hotel Babylon’ testify that the young multi-talented actor, writer and director is always unique and excellent in storytelling.

    For the first time, after working with some of the most popular names in the African cinema, Kobi Rana gives opportunities to new and talented actors in this new movie. To mention but a few, Bismark Odoi, Leo Mensah, Kaf Jr, Pendor Borkum and Cindy Sesa. The movie also featured popular faces.

    ‘Azonto Boys’ was shot on locations in Accra in English, Pidgin, Twi and Ga, the movie dwells on the lives of the poor and the rich, the gap, the swap and what men and women do for sex and money. Get ready to laugh your stress off.

  • Movies aimed at African American moviegoers are typically the province of bigger-budget comedies and dramas — the kinds of stories told by Tyler Perry or produced by Screen Gems. But this weekend, two independently financed productions are courting that same audience. The two films — “Life, Love, Soul” and “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day” — couldn’t be more dissimilar.

    The first film is a small, self-distributed drama about fatherhood and family, a passion project from first-time filmmaker Noel Calloway with a cast of newcomers. The second movie, a kidnapping drama starring Blair Underwood, was produced and is being released by Codeblack Entertainment, the company behind last year’s Kevin Hart concert movie, “Laugh at My Pain,” which grossed more than $7.7 million in domestic release.

    Yet the two productions both hope to draw moviegoers that their filmmakers feel are hungry for content and can be reached without expensive national television advertising.

    “It is a very, very underserved audience,” Jeff Clanagan, the president and chief executive of Codeblack, said of African American patrons, whom he estimated would make up more than 90% of the film's audience.

    Calloway’s path to the screen was not easy. He wrote the “Life, Love, Soul” script in 1997, soon after graduating from high school in Harlem. “At my graduation, I looked out at the audience and saw mostly mothers and grandmothers,” Calloway said. He struggled raising money to finance his tale of a young man raised by a single mother who has to move in with his estranged father, and his lead investor pulled out halfway through filming in 2007. Calloway, who himself was raised by a single mother, wasn’t able to resume production for two years and only now has brought the movie to theaters; the film is opening in a handful of markets across the country.

    “Woman Thou Art Loosed” is a sequel of sorts to the 2004 movie of the same name, based on the novel by Dallas minister T.D. Jakes, who serves as an executive producer on the new film. The movie will premiere in about 100 screens in more than a dozen cities nationally.

    While Clanagan said the film could struggle generating big returns in some markets, he was optimistic “Woman Thou Art Loosed” will do well in Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington. “Our target audience is not going to see ‘The Three Stooges,’” he said of 20th Century Fox’s wide-release comedy.

    Like “Life, Love, Soul,” Clanagan is using very targeted marketing to reach African American ticket buyers, relying heavily on word-of-mouth screenings and social media. “We’re not buying a lot of network television shows, but we did buy ads on VH1’s ‘Basketball Wives,’” Clanagan said of the cable television reality series.

    Calloway hopes his film can find a broader audience. “It isn’t a black story,” the filmmaker said. “It’s about people, it’s about family, it’s about overcoming challenges.”

  • The 19th New York African Film Festival kicks off Wednesday, with a wide selection of films exploring ideas of home and homeland. Guest host Viviana Hurtado speaks with the festival's founder Mahen Bonetti, and documentary filmmaker Laura Gamse, who is showing her film The Creators about South African artists.

    This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Viviana Hurtado. Michel Martin is away visiting member station WRVO in Oswego, New York.

    Coming up, we continue to celebrate National Poetry Month with a creative tweet from a listener who would like to write a poem a day.

    But first, the 19th New York African Film Festival kicks off today by turning the lens on films from the continent with the theme, "21st Century: The Homecoming." The documentaries, features and art house offerings explore notions of home and homeland, and the woman behind the extravaganza is Mahen Bonetti. She joins me now. And filmmaker Laura Gamse is showing her film, "The Creators." She's with us, as well.

    HURTADO: Mahen, I watched some of the films and am really blown away by the range. What do the choice of movies in this festival say about African cinema today?

    BONETTI: I feel that it shows the vibrancy and also the production that is coming out of the continent as a result of technology and also the DIY spirit of a generation that has come of age. And they're telling their stories and they're giving a face and a voice to Africa, which is my motivation. This was why I started the festival, so there's a generation who has come of age now who are basically working and walking in stride with us.

    HURTADO: The festival is also marking 100 years of South Africa's African National Congress Party by showing a number of films about the country. Laura Gamse, I loved your film, "The Creators," which looks at South Africa's complicated political history through the perspectives of different artists. Tell us about it.

    GAMSE:
    We wanted to look at the way in which these artists expressed their reality through their own craft, so there's the graffiti artist, Faith47. There's the opera singer, Mthetho Mapoyi, the Afro blues artist, Ongx Mona, the hip-hop, you know, B-boy, breakdancer, Emile Jansen.

    These artists who work in these various different crafts all came to creatively direct their segments of the film and we juxtaposed them together in the final piece, which looks at the historical oppression and censorship of the arts during Apartheid and the ways in which artists have maneuvered around censorship during Apartheid and being able to still spread messages of empowerment and come together and nowadays address social issues in current South Africa, modern South Africa.

    HURTADO: You mentioned Mthetho Mapoyi, the self-taught opera singer. Let's hear a clip of him.

    MTHETHO MAPOYI: (Singing in Foreign Language).

    When my father left, I was around about four years old. I grew up listening to opera music when my father lived. Yeah. My mother gave me these CDs and then I started to sing with the CDs and then I found myself singing "Santa Lucia."

    (Singing in Foreign Language).

    HURTADO: He had quite a story. How did you find him for the film?

    GAMSE: I had heard so many rumors about him, but I had not met him, so I drove to Hermanus, which is about three hours out, and went to the township where I had heard he was from and got out on the street with my cinematographer and we were just asking everyone, do you know Mthetho, the opera singer? And he actually has a scar down his cheek, which we had heard about. This was another rumor that was just kind of going around town about him, that he had a scar stretching the length from his temple down to his throat. And so we would tell people about this and ask them if they knew this guy, and after about an hour we met his friend's sister who introduced us to him.

    And it was incredible to hear his story from his perspective after hearing all of the rumors and realizing that it was true and, actually, the scar had come from a fight that had stemmed from a little - some of the jealousy of his success because he comes from a township that has extremely high unemployment and the fact that he was able to teach himself Italian and mimic Pavarotti so beautifully and bring all of the emotion of the hardships of his youth into that. I think it really spoke to people when he sang on the street.

    HURTADO: The film developed out of your college thesis and you hadn't been to South Africa before filming. What was it like trying to make a film there?

    GAMSE: You know, I studied South Africa for years before I went, writing my thesis and just out of general interest in protest art and countercultural arts during the anti-Apartheid protests. And, when I got there, I realized that I knew nothing after all of my reading and writing on South Africa. I really just was so surprised and appalled by the great polarity of wealth and just how close people lived. You know, you could live in a mansion and be 10 minutes away from someone who lives in a shack.

    And the realities of that - I can tell you about it, but the realities are just so much more visceral when you're actually there, of course. And so that's one of the reasons I wanted to make a film about it, to bring people into that.

    HURTADO: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Viviana Hurtato. We're speaking with the New York African Film Festival's founder and executive director, Mahen Bonetti, and Laura Gamse, director of "The Creators," a documentary about artists in South Africa.

    Mahen, on to a West African film now, "Relentless," by Andy Amadi Okoroafor, charts the loneliness of Obi, a peacekeeper who returns to Lagos after the war in Sierra Leone. It deals with the consequences of war on the psyche of contemporary Africans. Here's a clip.

    (SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "RELENTLESS")

    UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sierra Leone and Liberia are actually branches of the same tree. You know, but what beats my imagination is with all the European companies and the Middle East cashing in on the war, what makes us Africans murder our neighbors - cut off people's arms, turn our children into murderers and rapists.

    UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:
    What is African about that? Diamonds? It must have been terrible for you.

    UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Please. I'm a child of the Biafran War.

    HURTADO:
    The director has said that the film's ambition is to explore Africa beyond the news. How does it do that?

    BONETTI: This is generational in the 21st century, coming back to the theme of the notion of home and homeland. They have nothing to grab onto, you know? But at the same time they're unconsciously drawing from the past to create something new and very modern. What Andy's trying to say is that, you know, it's a limbo state almost, you know, because it's an uphill battle. But Africa, this century is really ours. I really feel that 20 years from now most of us will be going back there looking for work. It's a change that's taking place, despite everything we've gone through.

    HURTADO:
    And Laura, from your observations, how do filmmakers address the negatives of contemporary African life while also challenging assumptions that Africa is only about conflict?

    GAMSE:
    I love Mahen's positivity and her energy when it comes to this question.

    (SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

    GAMSE: And it just reminds me of the fact that when you struggle for so long against some barrier and then the barrier is removed, the momentum from that struggle pushes you forward that much faster, it makes you so much stronger. And I really saw this with the Africans that I met in South Africa and in my travels throughout Africa. And I think Mahen's right - that this will only lead to good things in the future. And as the world collectively comes to understand that Africa is a three-dimensional continent, I think we'll come to a place where hopefully more people will travel there and more Africans will get a chance to travel around the world and there will just be that much greater dialogue.

    HURTADO:
    Nigeria's movie industry, Nollywood, churns out thousands of films a year which are generally known for their cheap production, melodramatic acting and over-the-top plots. But Mahen, is "Relentless" an indication that Nigerian film is developing beyond this?

    BONETTI:
    They're the most populous, first of all, in the continent. So I mean it's admirable that that industry was built from within, you know, that you had the Francophone and the sort of art-house movie directors who turned their doors(ph) down at this video production. And now everyone is emulating the Nigerians. And most filmmakers who are smart are trying to find this, how do you know meld the two, the art-house and the popular cinema, because they want to tap into that audience on the continent.

    Coming back to the - people like Andy, you have a generation that we call it alternative Nollywood, who are going to branch out from that, you know, that genre and find other ways to still retain something of the popular cinema but also, you know, higher production value, better quality, sound, acting, lighting. So Andy does not consider himself a Nollywood director, by the way, but he's made a film that does appeal to an audience, a segment of the population there. Yeah.

    HURTADO:
    And if you can't attend the film festival, how easy is it for these films to gain wider release in America?

    BONETTI:
    Well, there's this, you know, this DIY spirit that these kids have. Some of them just, you know, they have their own websites and then there are more independent New York producers and distributors who are looking at these directors and who even meet with them when we have the festival each year. And so it's picking up, but they're not necessarily waiting for that to happen as well.

    HURTADO:
    How about you, Laura?

    GAMSE:
    It's definitely been difficult for the creators. We've been on a year-long film festival run and I've had distributors tell me everything from, you know, now's not a good year for Africa - African films, we don't want to see that this year. Or, you know, if someone doesn't get eaten in your film, we can't get it on TV.

    GAMSE:
    So it hasn't been easy and it kind of hurts a little bit when you want to tell a film that has a little bit more subtlety than someone getting eaten. But it's true that the DIY factor does come through in the end and actually have made probably, not that I've made any money at all on the film, but the most that has come through for the artist - and 75 percent of the profits go to the artist - has been through educational sales. So universities are buying the film from me personally without the middleman of a distributor. And also individuals can go to the website, buy it. If you want to find the film, you can find the film and unfortunately it probably won't be on HBO anytime soon but there are definite ways to get it if you simply just look online.

    HURTADO:
    Laura Gamse is the director of "The Creators," a documentary about artists in South Africa. Mahen Bonetti is the New York African Film Festival's executive director and founder.

  • South African Charlie Vundla scooped Best Director and his debut, film noir thriller How 2 Steal 2 Million, was named Best Film at the eight Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), held 22 April 2012, at The Expo Centre, Eko Hotel & Suite in Lagos, Nigeria. South African actress Terry Pheto was named Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, which also won Best Achievement in Editing (Garreth Fradgely). With four awards, How 2 Steal 2 Million was the most awarded film on the night.
     
    Nigeria’s Benin-set historical epic Adesuwa was a close second with three awards, for Costume Design, Visual Effects, and Best Nigerian Film.
     
    South Africa’s crime drama State of Violence won Best Film in an African Language and Best Achievement in Sound.
     
    Man on Ground, a Nigerian/South African xenophobia-themed coproduction, won the Special Jury Award – given for only the third time since the inception of AMAA – and Best Supporting Actor for South African Fana Mokoena.
     
    Nigeria’s Rita Dominic was named Best Actress for her role in Kenyan film Shattered, while Ghanaian Majid Michel won Best Actor for his role in Somewhere in Africa.

    Danny Glover’s Toussaint Louverture was named Best Diaspora Film.

    Nigeria was the most awarded country on the night, receiving 12 awards, followed closely by South Africa with 10.
     
    AMAA received 328 entries from across Africa in 2012, up from 220 in 2011. Dr. Asantewa Olantunji, director of programming of The Pan African Film Festival, headed this year's jury, which included June Giavanni, programmer for Planet Africa at The Toronto International Film Festival; Keith Shiri, founder and film curator at the London festival, Africa at The Pictures; Dorothee Wenner, a curator at The Berlin Film Festival; Shaibu Husseini, an actor, dancer and The Nigerian Guardian arts journalist; Steve Ayorinde, editor-in-chief of The Daily Mirror; Ayoko Babu, executive director of The Pan African Film Festival; Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi, a film scholar and critic; and directors Berni Goldblat and John Akomfrah, OBE.
     
    As the jury statement said, “This year may prove to be the beginning of a new era for AMAA. Not only did AMAAwitness an unprecedented number of film submissions, from more countries throughout the African continent and its Diaspora, it also witnessed a remarkable increase in the quality of the films submitted. From their technical qualities to the acting and directing, the 2012 film slate is most impressive. Indeed, for the jury, the task of selecting the  “Best” in each category has been challenging. The competition in most categories was very strong and our decisions reflect much thought and debate. The jury is also impressed by the quality and diversity of the storylines of the films presented. The decolonization of African films and images is well underway. As never before, we see films that tell real stories: inspired by, reflective of and crafted by the people, by whom and for whom they were made.”
     
    Some of the biggest names from black Hollywood were at The AMAAs, including Emmy winner and Golden Globe nominee Lynn Whitfield (The JosephineBaker Story and Without a Trace); Morris Chestnut (American Horror Story, Boyz in the Hood); Rockmond Dunbar (Prison Break, Sons of Anarchy) and Maya Gilbert (General Hospital, Days of Our Lives).
     
    Heroes star Jimmy Jean-Louis hosted the prestigious awards, which included performancesfrom Asa, 2Face Idibia and Senegal’s Viviane Ndour.

    Only films produced and released between December 2010 and December 2011 were eligible.

    All the nominees, with winners in bold:
    AMAA 2011 PRIZE FOR BEST FILM
    1.  State Of Violence - South Africa
    2.  Adesuwa  - Nigeria
    3.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    4.  Rugged Priest - Kenya
    5.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    6.  Ties That Bind - Ghana
    7.  Man On Ground - South Africa/Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST SHORT FILM
    1. Jamaa – Uganda
    2. Look Again – Kenya
    3. Maffe Tiga – Guinea
    4. Braids On Bald Head – Nigeria
    5. Hidden Life – South Africa
    6. Mwansa The Great - Zimbabwe
    7. Chumo – Tanzania
    8. The Young Smoker - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY
    1.  African Election – Nigeria/Germany

    2.  Beyond The Deadly Pit – Rwanda
    3.  Awa Ogbe: An African Adventure – Algeria
    4.  Dear Mandela – South Africa
    5.  White& Black; Crime And Colour – Tanzania
    6.  The Niger Delta Struggle – Ghana
    7.  There Is Nothing Wrong With My Uncle –Nigeria
    8.  How Much Is Too Much – Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIASPORA FEATURE
    1.  Toussaint Louverture – Senegal/Guadalupe

    2.  Ghett'a Life - Jamaica
    3.  High Chicago - Canada
    4.  Elza - Guadalupe
    5.  Better Mus' Come - Jamaica
    6.  Kinyanrwanda - USA

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIASPORA DOCUMENTARY

    1.  The Education Of Auma Obama - Germany
    2.  White Wash - USA
    3.  Almendron Mi Corazon - Guadalupe
    4.  All Me: The Life And Times Of Winfred Hubert - USA

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIASPORA (SHORT FILM)
    1.  John Doe - USA
    2.  White Sugar In A Black Pot -USA
    3.  The Lost One -USA

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ANIMATION
    1.  The Legend on Ngong Hills – Kenya

    2.  Oba - Nigeria
    3.  Climate Change is Real – Kenya
    4.  Egu – South Africa
    5.  Nauliza - Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST FILM BY AN AFRICAN LIVING ABROAD
    1.  Mystery Of Birds – USA/Nigeria
    2.  Housemates – UK/Nigeria
    3.  Ben Kross – Italy/Nigeria
    4.  Paparazzi Eye In The Dark – USA/Nigeria/Ghana

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN
    1.  Somewhere in Africa - Ghana
    2.   Phone Swap – Nigeria
    3.   Otelo Burning – South Africa
    4.   Adesuwa - Nigeria
    5.   How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

    1.  The Captain Of Nakara - Kenya
    2.  Adesuwa – Nigeria
    3.  Rugged Priest -Kenya
    4.  Somewhere In Africa - Ghana
    5.  Queen's Desire - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKE-UP

    1.  Rugged Priest - Kenya
    2.  State Research Bureau - Uganda
    3.  Adesuwa - Nigeria
    4.  Somewhere In Africa - Ghana
    5.  Shattered – Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUNDTRACK
    1.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    2.  Alero’s Symphony – Nigeria
    3.  Adesuwa - Nigeria
    4.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    5.  Somewhere In Africa – Ghana

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
    1.  Behind The Mask - Nigeria
    2.  Somewhere In Africa - Ghana
    3.  Adesuwa – Nigeria
    4.  State Research Bureau - Uganda
    5.  Otelo Burning – South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND
    1.  State Of Violence – South Africa
    2.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    3.  How To Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    4.  Man On Ground - South Africa/Nigeria
    5.  Algiers Murder - South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

    1.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    2.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    3.  Rugged Priest - Kenya
    4.  Masquerades - Ghana
    5.  Man On Ground – South Africa/Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN EDITING
    1.  Algiers Murder - South Africa
    2.  Man On Ground - South Africa/Nigeria
    3.  Unwanted Guest – Nigeria
    4.  How 2 Steal 2 Million- South Africa
    5.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    6. Alero’s Symphony - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SCREENPLAY
    1.  Ties That Bind – Ghana

    2.  Mr & Mrs - Nigeria
    3.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    4.  Otelo Burning –South Africa
    5.  Unwanted Guest -Nigeria
    6.  Two Brides And A Baby - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST NIGERIAN FILM
    1.  Unwanted Guest -Nigeria
    2.  Family On Fire - Nigeria
    3.  Alero’s Symphony - Nigeria
    4.  Adesuwa – Nigeria
    5.  Phone Swap – Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST FILM IN AN AFRICAN LANGUAGE

    1.  Chumo - Tanzania
    2.  State Of Violence - South Africa
    3.  Family On Fire - Nigeria
    4.  Otelo Burning - South Africa
    5.  Asoni - Cameroon

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST CHILD ACTOR
    1.  Rahim Banda (Behind The Mask) - Nigeria
    2.  Tshepang Mohlomi  (Otelo Burning) – South Africa
    3.  Reginna Danies (Bank Job) - Nigeria
    4.  Benjamin Abemigisha (Jamaa) - Uganda
    5.  Rachel Nduhukire (Jamaa) - Uganda
    6.  Ayinla O. Abdulaheem (ZR-7) - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST YOUNG/PROMISING ACTOR

    1.  Neo Ntatleno (State Of Violence) – South Africa
    2.  Ivie Okujaye (Alero’s Symphony) – Nigeria
    3.  Iyobosa Olaye (Adesuwa) – Nigeria
    4.  Martha Ankomah (Somewhere In Africa) - Ghana
    5.  Thomas Gumede (Otelo Burning) – South Africa
    6.  Sihle Xaba (Otelo Burning) – South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

    1.  Rapulana Seiphemo (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa
    2.  Fana Mokoena (Man On Ground) – South Africa/Nigeria
    3.  Hafiz Oyetoro (Phone Swap) - Nigeria
    4.  Okechukwu Uzoesi (Two Brides And A Baby) - Nigeria
    5.  Godfrey Theobejane (48) - Nigeria
    6.  Lwanda Jawar (Rugged Priest) – Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
    1.  Terry Pheto (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa

    2.  Ebbe Bassey (Ties That Bind) - Ghana
    3.  Empress Njamah (Bank Job) - Nigeria
    4.  Ngozi Ezeonu (Adesuwa) - Nigeria
    5.  Thelma Okoduwa (Mr & Mrs) - Nigeria
    6.  Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (Ties That Bind) - Ghana

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
    1.  Menzi Ngubane (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa
    2.  Majid Michel (Somewhere In Africa) – Ghana
    3.  Chet Anekwe (Unwanted Guest) - Nigeria
    4.  Jafta Mamabolo (Otelo Burning) – South Africa
    5.  Karabo Lance (48) - South Africa
    6.  Wale Ojo (Phone Swap) - Nigeria
    7.  Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Man On Ground) – Nigeria/South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

    1.   Nse Ikpe Etim (Mr & Mrs) - Nigeria
    2.  Yvonne Okoro (Single Six) - Ghana
    3.  Ama K. Abebrese (Ties That Bind) - Ghana
    4.  Rita Dominic (Shattered) – Nigeria
    5.  Uche Jombo (Damage) - Nigeria
    6.  Millicent Makheido (48) – Nigeria
    7.  Kudzai Sevenzo-Nyarai (Playing Warriors) - Zimbabwe

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIRECTOR
    1.  Lancelot Oduwa Imaseun (Adesuwa) - Nigeria
    2.  Leila Djansi (Ties That Bind) - Ghana
    3.  Bob Nyanja (Rugged Priest) - Kenya
    4.  Charlie Vundla (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa
    5.  Khalo Matabane (State Of Violence) – South Africa
    6.  Akin Omotoso (Man On Ground) – South Africa/Nigeria
    7.  Sara Bletcher (Otelo Burning) – South Africa

    SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
    Man on Ground - South Africa/Nigeria

    For more information, visit here: 

  • Nollywood superstars Patience Ozokwor and Desmond Elliot touchdown in Nairobi on Wednesday to grace the official launch of the new Africa Magic channels on DStv.

    The thespians are brand ambassadors for the channels, given their years on-screen in the Africa-wide loved Nigerian flicks.

    Both stars have been to Nairobi several times, and they will be joined by compatriot IK who is the current host of the annual Big Brother reality show.

    DStv introduced five new channels this week, namely AfricaMagic, AfricaMagic Movies, AfricaMagic Entertainment, AfricaMagic Movies 1 and AfricaMagic World.

    Though Africa Magic and Africa Magic Plus were previously available, all the channels have been re-organized into eight, including the language specific AfricaMagic Hausa, AfricaMagic Yoruba and AfricaMagic Swahili.

    The new channels are expected to open up the continent's entertainment offering in terms of music videos, documentaries, talk-shows, indigenous programmes and sitcoms among others.

    It is hoped that the Kenyan film industry, which has a potential worth billions of shillings will benefit from these channels, which will only showcase African programming.

    Nollywood and South African films dominate the channels, but Kenyan programmes like Changes and Mashariki Mix have been coming up significantly.

    A lot more Kenyan music videos and Kenyan actors in Nigerian series can be seen.

    The launch of the new channels will take place at a swanky event at a Nairobi hotel on Thursday.

  • The TV programme you can expect to hear everyone talking about for the next few months is the inaugural series of Masterchef SA. Rebecca Davis spoke to director Donald Clarke.

    If you’re not watching Masterchef SA yet, you’d better start soon. We’re two episodes into the 18-part series, which means many weeks of conversations you’ll be excluded from if you don’t jump on the bandwagon now. South Africans with access to satellite TV will already be familiar with the international franchise, which has been going for 22 years. Masterchef USA, UK and Australia are the shows which have received most global attention, but countries all over the world now have their own versions, from Israel to Malaysia.

    Now it’s South Africa’s turn. MNet’s channel head Pierre Cloete spent time scouring the markets around the world for the channel’s next big thing, and came back convinced that Masterchef was the answer, based on its phenomenal success in Australia. Director Donald Clarke says the channel took some convincing, since a cooking show in prime time has never previously been attempted on South African TV. But Cloete was persuasive enough to get his way, and Masterchef SA’s first episode aired a fortnight ago.

    The show’s premise is simple: to find the best amateur cook in South Africa. The “amateur” part is important – individuals are not permitted to enter if they have any kind of professional relationship with cooking. Each week, contestants battle it out against each other to produce the most delicious and interesting dishes, often only using limited ingredients, under time pressure and sometimes in competition with professional chefs. For the cook who prevails, however, the rewards are worthwhile: the largest prize ever awarded on a South African reality show, with a total value of R8-million, and the coveted position of head chef at Montecasino’s MondoVino restaurant.

    The task of judging who will be the winner falls to three prominent South African chefs: Benny Masekwameng, who previously held the post at MondoVino, Andrew Atkinson, who is the executive chef at Piccolo Moda at The Michaelangelo in Sandton, and Peter Goffe-Wood, previously food editor at GQ Magazine and now owner of the Kitchen Cowboys Cooking School in Cape Town.

    It’s fair to say that South Africa doesn’t yet have a culture of celebrity chefs in the model of the UK’s Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver. As far as household names go in this country, Ina Paarman and Reuben are about as far as we go – the former largely on the basis of her product range and the latter due to his TV advertisements for Robertson’s spices. As such, it’s unsurprising that some of the judge’s names may not be familiar. Clarke explains the process of selecting the chefs who would judge was a rigorous one.

    “We made a list of the top 200 chefs in the country and worked our way through it,” he says. “We were looking for a range of things, from their palates to how well they worked on screen and the compatibility between different individuals. Then it also came down to their schedules – Reuben, for instance, was too busy.” The show will undoubtedly raise the profiles of Masekwameng, Atkinson and Goffe-Wood, but Clarke has bigger ambitions. He hopes the show will “turn food into rock ’n roll”, and give the audience an education along the way.

    Masterchef SA, Clarke says, will be quite different from any other country’s version. “There’s no real set format to the show, only ingredients that you make your own dish out of,” he explains, before apologising for the cooking metaphor. “We’re at pains to make this an authentically South African show, and to take ordinary people and place them on a pedestal.” For this reason, the show’s producers deliberately chose not to select the kind of wacky, zany, oddball contestants one often finds on competitive reality TV shows. “We wanted characters who remind them of people they know, their families, their co-workers,” Clarke says.

    Their biggest challenge is likely to be the South African audience’s “self-loathing for South African products,” he believes. Some of this was already evident in social media responses to the show’s first two episodes, with viewers either complaining that the show was too similar to the overseas versions, or just inferior. “It’s tough re-versioning an overseas show for a local audience,” he admits.

    But if anyone is suited to the challenge, it’s Clarke, who is an old hand at the business of reality TV. He previously directed the likes of Fear Factor India, Big Brother Nigeria and Survivor South Africa. Which has been his favourite?

    “Actually I’d have to say Masterchef SA,” he responds. “It represents a kind of evolution from really competitive reality shows, with their antagonism and dependence on interpersonal relationships. Masterchef has a much warmer tone – more friendly and feel-good.” He believes South African audiences are likely to warm to this aspect of the show. “When you put South Africans in a competitive environment, they tend to bond immediately. Which is kind of nauseating when you’re a director looking for drama,” he laughs. What sets Masterchef aside, Clarke maintains, is that its goal is not humiliation of the contestants, but celebration.

    There are many people who maintain that reality TV is inherently exploitative, placing people under highly stressful conditions in the hope of a blowout. What’s his response? Clarke pauses. “It’s true,” he says eventually. “Reality TV is about creating a context for drama. You cast people and you put them on a collision course in terms of action.” But, he maintains, a responsible producer will be aware of this element and manage it carefully. He gives an example from the filming of Masterchef SA, where he says his production team sat down with a contestant who was taking extreme strain to determine whether it was their wish to continue with the filming. “This is someone’s life,” he says. “We’re not going to play with it.”

    From the advent of reality TV, there have been constant complaints that what is presented as “real” is actually far from it: that situations are manipulated, lines given and rehearsed, and conditions onscreen far from representative of the reality off-screen. How much of reality TV is actually real?

    “All of it,” Clarke laughs, not altogether convincingly. He admits that they stage elements of reality shows like Survivor in terms of entrances and exits and contestants’ positioning. But he is adamant that “nothing we do affects the outcome of the competition, or we lose our credibility”. The interesting thing about the process, Clarke says, is that by the end of a series’ filming, contestants have become similar to amateur actors: they are so accustomed to playing to the camera they do it instinctively, speaking in full sentences, knowing where to turn to grab the camera’s most flattering angle, and so forth. “Psychologically, the context does affect them,” Clarke says. “Shows like Survivor are essentially a social experiment.”

    Are there any types of reality TV shows he would refuse to direct? Clarke considers the question. “Anything with children,” he settles on, “and anything which is essentially damaging.” In the episodes of Masterchef SA we’ve seen so far, the most harmful fate to befall contestants has been ending up with egg on their face (literally) from not having beaten egg-yolks stiffly enough. No damage here, it seems. Just a lot of intense chopping.

  • Start of April, SES S.A. announced that the SES-4 satellite is now fully operational and ready for service at the orbital location of 338 degrees East.

    SES-4 was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board an ILS Proton Breeze M booster on February 15th, 2012. SES-4 replaces the NSS-7 satellite at 338 degrees East longitude and provides replacement as well as incremental capacity at this well-established SES orbital slot over the Atlantic Ocean.

    SES-4 is a 20-kilowatt satellite manufactured on the flight-proven Space Systems/Loral 1300 platform, with 52 C-band and 72 Ku-band transponders. It has C-band beams serving the eastern hemisphere of Europe and Africa and providing full coverage of the Americas, plus a global C-band beam to support mobile and maritime customers. Four high-power, regional Ku-band beams provide service to Europe, the Middle East, and West Africa, as well as North and South America, with extensive channel switching capability between C- and Ku-band transponders for enhanced connectivity. The satellite is designed to deliver services for 15 years or more.

       Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES, stated: “We are delighted to see the 50th spacecraft in the global SES fleet go live and congratulate the technical teams involved for the successful bringing into operation of this important addition to our fleet. SES-4 offers state-of-the-art transmission capacity to SES customers across three continents and for a wide array of applications, including video distribution with DTH power-levels, VSAT, government and maritime services.”

  • The 9th edition of the biennial conference of Africa broadcasters, Africast will focus on issues relating to content. The event is billed to provide a networking environment for providers, distributors and marketers of broadcast content and equipment targeting the emerging African market with the practitioners, policy makers, advisers, administrators and end-users.

    Africast 2012 with the theme ‘Content Rules!’ will also provide an atmosphere of deep examination, reflection and discussion of broadcast issues by high profile key speakers with real expertise in the area of broadcast content in a digital environment.

    Explaining the rationale for choosing the theme, director general of National Broadcasting Commission, Yomi Bolarinwa in an interview said that in  the broadcast industry, content is key.

    “If you look at it a thousand times you will come up with content. If you want to democratize it, content is key because you did not buy a television set just because it is good-looking, you bought TV set because of what you are going to watch which is content.”

    Bolarinwa expressed worry that today’s content is short of quality so it has become(s) imperative to invite stakeholders in the sector to proffer solution to the problem.

    “Today you get all manner of content that are unwholesome. You get dancing, and imagine the kind of dance.”

    He stressed that broadcasting which should be cultural medium, is for example not delivering the right education for the Nigerian children about their culture.

    “Do you like the way women are being portrayed on musicals and some of our local content where everything end up in one Babalawo or one mosque or one Alfa,” he asked. “Is that our way of life; is that what we are portraying? Content is the king. You know the driving force behind transition is that we now have opportunity to have more channels. What kinds of content should we provide? Are we prepared for these challenges?”

    The director general added that today, broadcasters due to convergence can operate on several platforms but may not have been made ready for this.

    He said broadcasters must be prepared for this because there are relevant content and there are irrelevant content.

    Africast 2012 is expected to also provide a market environment for manufacturers, distributors and marketers of digital broadcast equipment targeting the emerging digitized African market. It will also provide the unique opportunity of Master Classes to smoothen Africa’s transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting by training its army of producers, directors, engineers and camera persons on production in a digital environment.

    On Nigeria’s readiness to migrate to digital platform, the NBC DG stated that government policy is required, expressing optimism that the white paper on transition from analogue to digital broadcasting will be approved before the end of April so that adequate infrastructure will be put in place to catalyze the process.

  • THEMA *, which specializes in the distribution of ethnic TV channels, is pleased to announce an agreement with Virgin France for the distribution of 47 channels. Within the framework of its new quadruple play offer (Telephony- Broadband- TV- Mobile) the 1st MVNO of the French market, broadcasts 47 "ethnic" TV channels addressing the main foreign communities from Arabic countries, Africa, Germany, Comoros islands, Turkey, Russia and Greece.

    “Le Bouquet Africain” (known as) “Basique” (€6,90/month): 9 TV channels from the major French-Speaking African national broadcasters.
     
    “ Le Bouquet Africain” (known as) “Premium”(€9,90/month): 15 TV channels: “Le Bouquet Africain Basique” + 6 private TV channels. More information on here:

    The ORTC, (€6,90/month), public broadcaster of Comoros islands. It is a general entertaining with programs for the whole family. More information on here:

     “Digiturk” package (€23,90/month) with all Turkish Premiere Football League, wide range of movies and entertainment show thanks to LigTV, TurkMax, ShowTurk and IzTV, PowerTurk, SkyTurk.

    Arabic packages: A selection of TV channels with the best of music, movies, entertainment and religion available thanks to 3 packages:

    Arabesque package (€9,90/month), 4 channels: Hikayat, Hikayat Zaman, Iqraa TV and MBC
    Arabesque premium package (14,90€/month), the Arabesque package + Aflam 1, Aflam 2, and ART Cinéma.

    Rotana package (€9,90/month), 6 channels: Rotana Cinema, Rotana Clip, Rotana Khalijiya, Rotana Zaman, Rotana Musica  and Al Resalah.

    Russian Package (€7,90/month), 4 TV channels with the best of entertainment, movies, music and documentaries: Channel 1 Russia, Dom Kino, Muzica Pervoyo, Vremya.

    “Le Bouquet Allemand” (€8,90/month), 6 privates channels gives the best of information, entertainment, youth and music from Germany: RTL, ProSieben, Sat 1, n-tv, Super RTL, KidsCo. More information here: 

    Antenna 1 (€4,90/ month), the international version of the leading Greek TV channel.

    Moreover Virgin also broadcasts the music channel C Music TV (that features the world's greatest classical performers, as they have never been seen before, and exclusively showcases the very latest music-videos from classical star across the globe) and the lifestyle TV channel Fashion TV, part of THEMA’s portfolio.

    *Thema, for more information click here:  Contacts: marianne@thematv.com

  • A campaign to get more Namibians to pay their television licences has led to the NBC collecting N$15.9 million in licence fees last year, 16 per cent more than it did the previous year. However, the national broadcaster didn't meet the target of N$18 million it had set for itself.

    "It will probably be tomorrow's headlines - 'NBC misses target. DG's bonus compromised'," Albertus Aochamub, director general of the NBC, said tongue-in-cheek last week at the ceremony to announce the prize winners of the broadcaster's TV licence competition.

    Aochamub is eligible for a performance bonus of 30 per cent of annual salary if he meets the targets set by the board.

    Despite not reaching the N$18-million level, Aochamub said the NBC still made significant progress in collecting licence fees.

    "Namibians are willing and eager to pay their licences. We must just make it easier for them to do so," he said.

    Licence fees have the potential of generating N$40 million a year for the NBC. However, efficient collection still faces serious challenges, especially on the technical front, Aochamub said.

    The NBC also needs to ask itself how cost effective its collection measures are, he said. Currently, it costs the NBC 33c for every N$1 it collects in licence fees.

    Aochamub furthermore said the NBC is looking for international benchmarks to find out how successful it is when it comes to collecting licence fees.

    At the moment, the NBC collects about 20 per cent of what is due to it. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), on the other hand, collects between 40 per cent and 45 per cent.

    "We have a lot of work to do if we want to get to 50 per cent," Aochamub said.

    He said the NBC needs to be able to get real-time data. When a person pays his licence, it should register on the NBC's system immediately, not a week later. The NBC also needs to move away from a system where licences are bought manually, as this creates the temptation for officials to use the cash for others purposes.

    The NBC is making progress on these issues, Aochamub said.

    The broadcaster is also looking at increasing TV licence fees, he said. The last time the NBC did so, was in 2001.

    Aochamub said he knows this is a controversial option, but added that the running costs of the NBC haven't stayed stagnant.

    Higher fees would create an expectation from viewers for better content, though, he said - more movies, more local dramas, more sport. But for that, the NBC needs more money.

    "The public is going to have to meet us halfway," Aochamub said.

  • As part of part of M-Net exciting plans for the expansion of the popular AfricaMagic channels, MultiChoice wishes to advise DStv subscribers that M-Net Africa (Channel 102) will be swapped with a brand new channel -- AfricaMagic Entertainment (Channel 128) on DStv.

    To facilitate this change M-Net Africa (Channel 102) was switched off air on Sunday at 23:59 and the new channel AfricaMagic Entertainment (Channel 128) was launched yesterday at 18:00 CAT.

    Subscribers in Southern Africa will see the three channels from April 16 with the flagship AfricaMagic channel now focused into a family themed channel, along with a dedicated AfricaMagic Movies channel, formerly AfricaMagic Plus.

    Rounding off the trio is a brand new channel AfricaMagic Entertainment which will serve as the home for all M-Net's glittering and original African productions from East, West and Central Africa.

    With AfricaMagic Entertainment becoming the home of M-Net's original productions which were previously on the M-Net Africa channel, this channel will thus replace M-Net Africa on the DStv bouquet as part of the channel re-organisation.

    The AfricaMagic channels therefore become home to a wide range of African content while the M-Net channel (Channel 101) will focus predominantly on international movies and series.

    M-Net Africa managing director Biola Alabi said: "It makes business sense to listen to your consumers when they express their needs and this is what we've done. 2012 is going to be a flagship year for AfricaMagic.

    "We want it to be remembered as the year African viewers pushed forward a revolution in television, making African content the star of African screens!"

    Below is what to expect from the three channels.

    AfricaMagic (Family):

    A "family friendly" African entertainment channel with programming that can be watched and enjoyed by everyone in your home!

    AfricaMagic will feature family-focused movies, series, sitcoms and documentaries that you can watch with your parents or your children.

    This will ensure that no one in your home will miss out on great African entertainment! AfricaMagic is available on DStv Compact, Compact Plus and Premium (Channel 114).

    AfricaMagic Movies

    A channel for movie audiences who want to celebrate the vibrant legacies and traditions of Africa!

    From African heritage to village life, this 24-hour dedicated movie channel tells stories that relate to Africa's rich history and cultural legacy from traditional practices to rural society.

    Look out for familiar faces from Nollywood and established African film icons.

    AfricaMagic Movies is available on DStv Family, Compact, Compact Plus and Premium packages (Channel 115, formerly AfricaMagic Plus).

    AfricaMagic Entertainment

    A brand-new, stylish African entertainment channel for the bold viewer who wants to watch the best African TV programming available!

    This 24-hour channel is dedicated to glossy soaps, glam drama series, glitzy lifestyle shows, great comedy, grade-A movies, gorgeous talk-show queens and gripping reality TV . . . all made in Africa for Africa!

    The channel is home to some of Africa's biggest and most popular productions including Tinsel, Jacob's Cross, Big Brother Africa, Changes, Mashariki Mix, 53 Extra, Jara, Moments with Mo, The Patricia Show and Comedy Club. AfricaMagic Entertainment is available on DStv Premium (Channel 128).

    And in a special sneak peek, M-Net has also announced that later in the year it will launch Africa- Magic Movies 1 into Southern Africa as well. This will be an urban movie channel for the fan who wants to see Africa's hottest stars in the latest contemporary and modern African movies.

  • In the bruising roller-coaster ride to digital migration in Kenya and across Africa, Multichoice may well have established first-mover advantage with the introduction of its GoTV service that is currently being offered to residents of Nairobi and its environs. The GoTV service launched last year in Kenya is offering 21 digital TV channels including the local free to air stations to subscribers who buy a decoder at Sh6255 and offers a glimpse into what the post-migration TV landscape might look at. Felix Kyengo, the general manager of GoTV, a sister brand to DsTV that Multichoice also runs, explained to Star Tech how the service works.

    Kindly explain how GOtv is transmitted to Kenyan households?

    The GOtv service is received via satellite and re-transmitted from Kenya using a digital terrestrial transmitter located at the KBC transmission site/s. It is received in exactly the same manner that viewers receive KBC’s terrestrial analogue transmission services – the difference is that a decoder or converter is needed to convert the digital signals back into analogue, so that people are able to view. The decoder or converter is generally referred to as a Set Top Box (STB) – connoting placement on top of a TV set.

    Since its launch, what sort of growth have you seen?

    Since the launch of the GOtv last year in September, it has experienced a modest uptake of the service. We believe that as soon as consumers get to know more about it will take off phenomenally.

    At its launch, it was indicated that under the DVB-T2 technology, frequencies could yield at least 20 channels each. You are currently offering 21 channels on GoTV. Does this mean you are only utilizing one frequency and if so which one?

    Yes we are currently utilizing one frequency. We are using a frequency that MultiChoice Kenya used historically, which is part of the partnership basis between the KBC and MultiChoice Africa Limited, when it provided an analogue terrestrial rebroadcasting service, which, due to operational reasons and the available technology at the time, became unviable and was suspended a while back.

    How do GoTV, Multichoice and KBC fit in with Signet, the signal distributor? Is GOtv running on signet infrastructure?

    As you may be aware, MultiChoice Kenya is a joint venture between KBC and MultiChoice Africa Limited. MultiChoice Kenya is the premier subscriber management services (“sms”) provider in the Kenyan pay TV market with over 15 years’ experience. KBC, through Signet, is the pioneer digital signal distributor in Kenya. It is only natural that a symbiotic relationship should result between GOtv, the pioneer DTT pay TV service, MultiChoice Kenya, the premier sms provider, and the shareholders of MultiChoice Kenya, the KBC and MultiChoice Africa.

    What is the current reach of GOtv. Can Kenyans access it countrywide?

    GOtv is currently limited to parts of Nairobi. As soon as additional DTT infrastructure is rolled out, the service will no doubt be made available in other parts of the country.

    What is the current reach of DVB-T2 infrastructure in the country?

    To our knowledge it is still limited to Nairobi, but will soon be laid out to other parts of the country. Also, CCK had licensed another signal distributor, in addition to Signet, whose DVB-T2 infrastructure is also being rolled out throughout the country.

    How soon should we expect to see enhanced content on GOtv above and beyond what is already offered?

    As soon as additional networks are commissioned and available.

    If one discontinues to pay for the GOtv service (Sh585 per month after the first three months) will they still be able to access FTA channels like NTV, Citizen, KBC, etc using your box?

    It is important to appreciate that GOtv is a pay TV service. In terms thereof it offers paid for channels as well as FTA channels as an additional service to subscribers – and currently these channels are 21 at a cost of Sh585 per month. In order to encourage take up of this new service, we are heavily subsidizing decoders. As these are pay TV decoders required for the reception of pay TV services, it is imperative that we are able to recoup the investments we are making both in terms of the content, encryption, network services, subscriber management and customer hardware (decoder and antenna). This imperative would not be realized if such a pay TV decoder allowed free to air channels to be viewed without any subscription paid.

    Do you see a standard platform being agreed upon for set top boxes in the country or do you expect rival platforms to compete each with their own set top box?

    Both Government and the CCK have already decided on a DVB-T2 standard for Kenya. The CCK, like many other regulators in other jurisdictions, is concerned about dumping of old technology in Kenya – which is why it already has strict decoder conformance requirements which go with its “type approval” requirements for all STB’s. This already sets minimum standards and is in line with international best practice. It is important that one does not confuse functionality with a standard – a free to air decoder does not require a conditional access system or encryption, as this functionality is wasted on such. However, a pay TV service requires an encryption and a conditional access system. Essentially, it is important that authorities should avoid mandating high level technological standards. Specifications should not add features which go beyond the primary function of, for instance the free-to-air DTT STB - which is the conversion of a digital signal so that it can be viewed on an analogue television set. The CCK and government have recognized this distinction and are acting accordingly.

    What about radio and internet? What are their potential under the DVB-T2 technology? Do we expect to see digital radio through GOtv at some point in the future?

    DVB-T2 as a technology is miles ahead in catering for radio and internet. As an advanced digital standard, these are both technically possible. However, we do not really see the market/commercial potential for internet via decoders for a variety of reasons – one, you have a huge market penetration of mobile telephony devices that support internet, why would anyone want to get their internet fixed at home on a largely social device – a TV/decoder; two, internet on the TV or decoder may pose challenges for families in terms of which or who would take precedence, i.e. whether it is TV or internet or parents or children surfing the internet, etcetera; third, there are numerous platforms that provide both radio and internet, but not that many that provide a truly multi-channel TV experience. Services such as GOtv, at least initially and when the availability of frequencies is at a premium, should really focus on providing quality television channels previously unavailable on the terrestrial platform. As a result, there are currently no audio channels on GOtv.

    Anything else you can add?

    It is important to appreciate the role that services like GOtv play in assisting the digitization efforts of both the regulator and government. Suchservices provide new content not available on FTA, incentivising consumers to purchase set top boxes and migrate to DTT. This creates consumer awareness of DTT, spurs consumer appetite for DTT services, and stimulates consumer take up of DTT services. The take up of DTT services, whether FTA or pay TV, will help the country to attain critical mass of DTT users necessary for analogue switch off and the release of the digital dividend.

  • The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is deeply concerned about the increased attacks against journalists in northern region following the arrest of TV journalist in Las Anod town of Sool region in Northern Somalia.

    Mohamed Shaqale, reporter for Somalisat TV, was arrested on 19 April by Somaliland police in armoured vehicle in the centre of Las Anod, and was immediately taken to CID headquarters where he was reportedly interrogated and currently being detained. The police did not state reason behind the arrest.

    "Somaliland authorities in Sool region have accustomed to arrest, intimidate and question journalists owing to their journalistic work," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

    On 22 March 2011, Mohamed Shaqale was attacked in Las Anod by Somaliland soldiers for filing reports that the Somaliland army deemed contrary to their forces. Shaqale went into hiding in Las Anod but his laptop computer, camera and recorders were confiscated. His house was in this month searched by police.

    "We call for the immediate release of Mohamed Shaqale as there is no lawful reason for his arrest and detention". Added Osman.

  • Charges against a TV boss who screened the French film Persepolis should be dropped by the Tunisian authorities, Amnesty International said ahead of the resumption of his trial.

    The trial of Nabil Karoui, the owner of the Nessma TV channel, is expected to restart on Thursday after it was adjourned in January.

    He faces charges of "violating sacred values" and "disturbing the public order" after his station broadcast the animated film, which has been criticized as blasphemous because of a scene which shows a representation of God.

    If convicted, Nabil Karoui faces up to three years in prison.

    "At a time when we are looking to the Tunisian government to set an example by enshrining full respect for human rights in the country's new constitution, it is disturbing to see this trial continuing," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    "Prosecuting and convicting people on the basis of the peaceful expression of their views, even if some might find them offensive, is totally unacceptable and not what we would expect from the new Tunisia. It's reminiscent of the violations of the ousted Ben Ali government and must stop."

    Nabil Karoui has been charged under Article 48 of the old Press Code and Article 121(3) of the Penal Code relating to spreading information "that can harm public order or good morals."

    Persepolis, an award-winning film on Iran's 1979 revolution told from the perspective of a young girl, provoked angry reactions when Nessma TV aired a version translated into Tunisian dialect in October 2011 .

    The home of Nabil Karoui was firebombed on 14 October following a protest outside the Nessma TV offices in central Tunis. Salafist activists are believed to have carried out the attack. He filed a complaint but to date Amnesty International is not aware that anyone has been held to account.

  • After years of rigorous debate, the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) has finally issued the final draft minimum standard for the set-top box decoders that will be used to receive digital terrestrial television signals in SA. The draft spec outlines a basic receiver that does not include a return path for interactivity.
    The draft spec, which was published yesterday for public comment, is a key step in SA’s move from analogue to digital terrestrial television and comes ahead of the planned switch-on of digital broadcasts in September 2012. The public has 30 days in which to respond to the draft spec, shorter than the normal 60 days granted by the SABS.

    The shorter period is as a result of the urgency of getting the final standard in place.
    South Africans wishing to continue receiving terrestrial television broadcasts after analogue broadcasts are switched off — which should happen by mid-2015 to meet a deadline imposed by the International Telecommunication Union — will have to purchase a set-top box.
    The road to digital TV in SA has been long and tortuous, not least because of government’s decision to consider an alternative standard based on technology from Brazil and Japan after the country had already agreed to use the first-generation of the European standard, known as DVB-T. Government eventually decided to settle on a more modern version of the European system, known as DVB-T2.

    The SABS minimum specification does not preclude manufacturers from building additional features into the set-top boxes but merely sets base standards with which they must comply.

    The draft spec includes an access control mechanism to prevent subsidised decoders from being used outside SA. It does this through secure over-the-air software and a bootstrap loader; a mechanism to prevent set-top boxes from functioning in non-SA digital TV networks; and a control system that will allow “mass messaging”. It does not, however, contain any mention of an encryption scheme, which had been favoured previously by government, suggesting plans to encrypt digital broadcasts have been abandoned.

    Among other things, the draft spec proposes a low-cost, low-maintenance unit that provides basic functionality, including an electronic programme guide that provides details of available services.

    Although the draft standard applies to free-to-air set-top box decoders only, any other set-top box decoder that is capable of receiving free-to-air digital channels should ensure the audio and video services and over-the-air applications are displayed fully, without any alteration or hindrance.

    The decoders will be capable of receiving both standard- and high-definition (up to 1080p) broadcasts — with support for widescreen broadcasts — and must specifically ignore all services originating from non-terrestrial digital services. It’s unlikely, however, that SA broadcasters will offer highly bandwidth-intensive 1080p channels.

    Widescreen high-definition broadcasts will be “down-converted” to standard definition for television sets that don’t support it and displayed in a 16:9 “letterbox” format on 4:3 displays. The decoder will allow viewers to display the material in a letterbox format within a 4:3 frame or perform a 4:3 “centre cut-out” on the broadcast material and present this full-frame within the 4:3 display.
    An on-graphics plane and on-screen display information will use the 4:3 aspect ratio, regardless of the video aspect ratio.

    According to the draft spec, the decoder must be able to receive audio signals of up to 5.1 surround sound and output at least two-channel PCM stereo.
    In terms of outputs, the decoder will offer a composite video output port on an RCA socket and an HDMI port. There’s also a single USB port (for “future use”) in the draft spec.

    The decoder will also feature an “RF bypass” system so that consumers can continue to watch analogue broadcasts during the “dual-illumination” period when both analogue and digital television will coexist in SA.

    The draft spec says SA will use MPEG-4 coding for video and will use 8MHz channel spacing in the VHF and UHF bands and will be capable of receiving broadcasts in chunks of spectrum from 174MHz to 862MHz. The MHEG-5 standard will be used to provide interactive services, including teletext-like services.

    All eleven of SA’s official languages will be supported on the decoder and offer subtitles if these are made available by a broadcaster.

    The set-top box will have a minimum of 64MB of flash memory and 256MB of RAM, the draft spec says. The memory specification has been chosen to allow for the lowest component price, it says.

    The unit will draw a maximum of 10W of electricity during normal operation, 6W when in active standby and 3W when in passive standby. Its front panel will have “P+” and “P-” programme selector buttons, “V+” and “V-” volume buttons and a standby/on button.

    Though the decoder will have PIN-based parental controls to block age-restricted content, the draft spec notes that the PIN can be reset by restoring factory settings. The factory default setting will have parental control disabled. No doubt, it won’t take tech-savvy SA youngsters long to figure out this workaround.

  • When an Egyptian court fined former president Hosni Mubarak and two aides a total of 90 million dollars for cutting mobile and Internet services during protests that led to his ouster, it indicated the value placed on communication services in this Arab country.

    The 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011 was largely organised by groups creatively using social networking websites like Facebook and Internet radio. The fines were handed down three months later.

    "In Egypt, if you want to start an ordinary radio station, the government demands a lot of licenses and money," Youssef Mohamed, campaign and activities coordinator at the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA), told IPS. "Mubarak's National Democratic Party controlled everything, but the Internet offered more freedom."

    EDA, a youth NGO aimed at fostering a culture of political participation, had, by 2009, established its online community-run radio station, Elma7rosa, to disseminate views gathered through community reporting, on subjects like freedom of speech, democracy, tolerance and human rights.

    "In terms of Internet radio before the revolution there was Elma7rosa, and also Radio Horytna and Radio Bokra," said Mohamed. "The relative freedom on the Internet allowed online radio stations to emerge as the voice of a new generation fighting for its place in society."

    Radio Horytna, established in 2007 by a group of young journalists as Egypt's first Internet radio, was first on the scene during the 18-day revolt, providing uncensored news and taking controversial topics head on.

    "We were open 24 hours during the revolution. We set up a tent in Tahrir Square so that those documenting the events could give us material to publish online," Mostafa Fathi, editor-in-chief of Radio Horytna, told IPS.

    "They tried to control our material, but we resisted," recalls Fathi. "They would threaten us if we published material that wasn't to their liking and they arrested one of our reporters, Mohammed Al Arabi, while he was covering a protest."

    Fathi said Radio Horytna managed to stay afloat "because we have a lot of partnerships with Egyptian and International non-government organisations (NGOs)."
    Since the spring of 2011, the EDA has been expanding its role, conducting audio training to raise awareness on being active citizens and evaluate platforms of election candidates.

    Prominent figures at EDA include Esraa Abdel Fattah, 29, who rose to prominence in 2008 as a co-founder of a Facebook group to support industrial workers. EDA's editor-in-chief, Bassem Samir, is a prominent blogger who faced detention on several occasions.

    "EDA's 'Political Academy' is a programme about democracy where we teach the youth how to vote, their rights as citizens, how to be a politician, form a political party or join parliament," Mohamed told IPS. "Another project that we initiated, 'Free Egyptian', offers training to women on how to participate in political life."

    Radio is seen as an important means of fostering community participation. Radio Horytna runs an array of workshops on tolerance between Christians and Muslims.

     "We recently started a project called 'Reporter' where we gathered ten young people from all over Egypt and taught them how to use the new media tools and how to work as a digital journalist," adds Fathi.

    "Independent media is very important because it gives young people the opportunity to publish, create and broadcast their own programmes. We offer an alternative to traditional outlets like Al Masry Al Youm where it's very difficult to get published," Fathi said.

    Banat wa Bass (Girls Only), which became the region's first online radio station catering to the issues of Arab women when it was established in April 2008, now has a fan base of nearly five million listeners across the Arab world.
    "On a daily basis, women in Egypt face a lot of harassment, violence and gender inequality," editor-in-chief of Banat wa Bass, Amani Eltunsi, explained in an interview with IPS.

    "Arab media and movies always portray women as being weak and it's important to counter this by showing the positive side of Arab women, which also empowers us," Eltunsi said.

    "On one occasion, national security wanted to know what we were doing. I told them that I was running an Internet radio station. They didn't understand so I showed them the website and they told me that I can't talk about politics, sex or religion," adds Eltunsi.

    "Unlike bloggers whose material is archived online, Internet radio stations have more freedom because the officials can't access us easily or know who our listeners are," Eltunsi said.

     Last March, Reporters sans Frontières moved Egypt from its 'Internet enemies' list to countries 'under surveillance' due to the success of the country's uprisings.

    "Before and after the revolution there was a lot of monitoring. The military council investigated us and many lives were lost. We are using our voices for Egypt. This means that we'll do more and pay more if it means freedom," adds Mohamed.

    Citizen journalists and community media played a leading role in producing and disseminating news during the Arab uprisings as the expansion of digital technology provided innovative ways of expressing freedom.

    Well before the wave of pro-democracy uprisings swept the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Arab activists were harnessing the power of new media to circumvent the stifling of dissent by authoritarian regimes. Within MENA, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to have laws regulating Internet activities.

  • - Ghana: Nadia Buari and Bimbo Manuel Dazzle in 'Heroes and Zeros'

    One of the finest faces ever to have made it out of the Gold Coast, Nadia Buari has added another feather to her cap as she gave a good account of herself beyond many people's expectation in a new movie, Heroes and Zeros.

    Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Niji Akanji, Heroes and Zeros have been described as one of the best works to come out of this part of the world in recent times.

    According to Niji, Nadia was very professional on set and remains the best of her contemporary that he has ever worked with. "Nadia was very professional, I was impressed. She delivered on her character like never before. If you ask her, she would tell you that she was challenged beyond limit on the job".

    The Takoradie born mulatto screen goddess who is presently in United States was in Lagos months back for 28 days shooting the movie.

    Heroes and Zeros is the story of the destructive pursuance of Tonia (Nadia Bhuari) by Amos Fele (Bimbo Manuel). Ten years ago, Amos Fele was a wealthy celebrity director in the Nigerian film industry. Now he lives in a ramshackle flat, doing occasional low-paying TV Commercials for nameless products.

    He's a daily comic relief on the local soccer practice pitch, because, though he's already 45 years old, he nurses a new insane dream of making it into the dollar-soaked world of international soccer!

    His joyless marriage to Tinuke, a junior bank worker, is crumbling fast, especially after the death of their only child. A boost to his sagging spirit comes when a big-budget French-Nigerian film project appoints him as director. Suddenly, the Press begins to (re)celebrate him. Top actors and producers begin to call him up.

    To his wife's distress, Fele also quickly re-establishes his wane reputation as a first-class womanizer.

    Fele's new rise coincides with that of Dibu Ijele as Yellow Journalism's new enfant terrible. Dibu is a Reporter with Naija Scene, a weekly tabloid. The paper's new Board of Directors, with its eyes on profit, supports Dibu's theory that the only way to beat the competition is to scoop and sell dirt about anyone with a famous face or name. Dibu's editor, Ayoade Alisa, an urbane fellow, tries to fight him and the Board.

    Fele becomes obsessed with Tonia, a ravishing beauty and lead actress of the Nigerian-French film project. Ignoring the warnings of his best friend, Nnamdi, a psychology professor, Fele pursues his obsession with Tonia to its tragic conclusion: losing his new job, ending his marriage and ending up in a mental hospital. Unknown to him, Tonia and her sister, Bisola have something up their sleeves.

    Other members of cast are: Olu Jacobs, Tina Mba, Akin Lewis, Funsho Adeolu, Norbert Young, Linda Ejiofor, Gabriel Afolayan, Jude Urhorra, Brigette Cherile and others.

    - Last week's coup in Guinea-Bissau, in which Prime Minister Carlos Gomez Junior and Interim President Raimundo Pereira were arrested, has been followed by grave violations of the right to information, including threats to journalists, a news blackout and media censorship. “The 12 April military coup has led to serious restrictions on the freedom to report news and information, although this is vital at times of political unrest, Reporters Without Borders said. “A news blackout, in which all radio and TV stations were closed, has been followed by military control of media content. We hope that the return to political and institutional normality promised by the ruling junta will result in full restoration of media activity.” (Source: RWB).

  • - More local content: Namibia and Zimbabwe sign broadcast MoU

    Content development - covering news, current affairs and culture – and knowledge exchange is to form the basis of a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

    Telling African stories in their own tongue is key to the cooperation between the two television networks, according to Albertus Aochamub, director general, NBC, who says ZBC and NBC will learn from each other in training and cooperation ventures.

    "It is always assumed that we run to the big broadcasters such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), but we believe that there is a lot that we can learn from each other," he is quoted as saying by New Era.

    The two countries, he said, will tell stories of Africa 'on the move', and share those positive narratives with other countries in Southern Africa.

    Happison Muchechetere, group chief executive of ZBC, said the MoU is the culmination of a many exchanges between the NBC and the ZBC.

    He said through the agreement, the two broadcasting institutions would exchange knowledge in order to build a future Africa. He also hoped the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA), of which Aochamub is the president, would help facilitate similar memorandums of understanding between other member states.

     

    - Tax incentives of up to 22.5% to encourage TV production in South Africa are to be announced soon by the government, according to a UK based publication.

    South Africa's Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) is finalising documents to introduce a new foreign production rebate of 20%, rising to 22.5% if the programme is also post produced in the country, reports Broadcast. The rebate will be offered to those producers who have not already met the co-production status criteria that provides a 25% tax break. In addition, 25% credit will be offered for South African post production work on any television programme, reports the trade journal.

    Local producers have reportedly been advised that the scheme will be unveiled to further encourage TV production to the country, although there has been no comment yet from the DTI.
    The news follows the announcement last month that the UK is to introduce a tax credit scheme for TV production and animation companies in a bid to keep creative talent in Britain.

Issue no. 128 26 April 2012

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  • Established in Cape Town, Film Afrika Worldwide is launching an office in Los Angeles to be headed up by CEO David Wicht. David started out as a writer and director and made Windprints with Sean Bean and John Hurt in 1990, so the move will allow him to focus more on developing original material with American partners. “In addition to facilitating productions shooting in South Africa, we will be developing original material with US partners for filming in South Africa,” says David. Balancing Act looks at the potential impact of this move.
        
     Film Afrika has produced over 50 films and television series since independence in 1995. The company is also one of South Africa's most established production companies and one of the big three along with Moonlighting Films and Out of Africa Entertainment. Not forgetting Kalahari Pictures, who made Dredd and District 9.

     Film Afrika specialises in raising local finance and providing a complete location facilitation and co-production service to international producers. Film Afrika films throughout South Africa, including neighbouring countries Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It also services films further afield in places such as Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles.
        
    CEO David Wicht said, “After years of working with all the major studios and independents, I’m looking forward to being closer at hand and being immediately accessible to producers seeking to shoot or collaborate with South Africa. The presence of an LA office means I can engage directly with production partners and facilitate the workflow from South Africa, resulting in a faster turnaround and the ability to give a first-hand account of shooting in South Africa.”

    Light, wildlife, landscapes and convenience of location — within a few hours' drive of Cape Town or Johannesburg — are the keys to South Africa's moviemaking appeal. There is also a cost issue. Cast and crew are cheaper than it would be in Europe and the USA and what looks like a $50 million US production could be done for less than half that figure.

    David’s move to Hollywood builds on the success of recent projects like Chronicle, which topped the American box office earlier this year after shooting in Cape Town with Film Afrika.

    “Chronicle was set in Seattle but shot in South Africa, beating out competitors such as Vancouver and Eastern Europe,” says David. “The success and look of film, which utilized the state-of-the-art Cape Town Film Studios, has generated a lot of interest in filming in South Africa. Similarly, The Department of Trade and Industry’s decision to remove the cap on the rebate, and raise the rebate percentage for serviced films, has been a terrific boost to South Africa and has made the country extremely attractive as a partner and destination.” He's referring to the DTI's recent decision to raise the cash back rebate from 15 to 20%. David adds that South Africa’s burgeoning post-production and VFX facilities are another selling point he’ll be promoting.

    Film Afrika’s South Africa headquarters will provide all the production, budgeting and logistic support for films and TV series arising through the LA office. Film Afrika’s track record of producing major international film projects in Southern Africa includes the Emmy-winning productions Gettysburg and America: The Story of Us, the Emmy-nominated No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Endgame, and the upcoming miniseries Labyrinth, for Tandem Communications and Scott Free Films.
        
    Film Afrika is currently in production on Videovision Entertainment’s much anticipated adaptation of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, with Anant Singh as producer  and Film Afrika’s Vlokkie Gordon returning to her roots as a line producer. “We were very honoured to be entrusted with the management of such a prestigious and iconic story,” says David.
        
    The move should have a positive impact on South Africa’s film industry, potentially opening doors to further co-production and distribution deals. The big advantage is essentially relational. Ignorance and poor telecoms remain an issue for American producers and distributors willing to expand their arms to Africa.

     Above all, the time difference and travel distance between America and Africa has always worked against closer relationships, but having such a high level South African producer based in Los Angeles means that there's now someone a phone call away, who's available during their normal office hours, and who can come in and explain the possibilities of shooting in South Africa face-to-face. Film Afrika's team has strong existing relationships over there, but it should  allow those to be taken to a deeper level and hopefully allow Film Afrika to be consulted much earlier in the development process.

     As far as we know, Film Afrika is the first of the big three to open a USA branch, so it's definitely a USP for them, although Kalahari Pictures is run by an American, Michael Murphy, who now lives in South Africa and goes back to the USA regularly. The striking contract is with Nollywood, which has yet to make these kinds of international connections and Nigeria is not an easy place for international film locations.

    For more information, visit here:


    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Helen Kuun, Indigenous Film Distribution on the African films she wants to distribute

    Jeremy Nathan, CEO, DV8 on its new crime series for MNet, Mshika-Shika and its feature film, Layla Fourie, directed by Pia Marias with Pandora Films

    Deon Maas, Meerkat Productions on its latest film, Punk in Africa

    Bertil van Vugt, Manager, Africa Interactive
    on its series, Spark Africa

    Cajetan Boy, film-maker and script-writer on the importance of script-writing in Kenya

    Kennedy Odhiambo on the online Africa Slum Journal

    Chiaka Orjiako, Editor, FilmBizAfrica on giving a face to African film

    Kenyan film-maker Atieno Odenyo on her new documentary project Nusu Nusu

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Communications, African Media Initiative on its new mobile news apps incubator

  • Comedy in Ghana just got finer as one of the craziest and most creative movie production houses in Africa, ‘Talents United’ brings you ‘Azonto Boys’, a film written and directed by Kobi Rana.

    It is amazing how a simple day in typical Accra fishing community becomes so complicated and extremely funny with intense suspense that refreshes the audience emotions from the opening to end credits. Film enthusiasts who have seen ‘Kiss Me If U Can’, ‘2bad’ and ‘Hotel Babylon’ testify that the young multi-talented actor, writer and director is always unique and excellent in storytelling.

    For the first time, after working with some of the most popular names in the African cinema, Kobi Rana gives opportunities to new and talented actors in this new movie. To mention but a few, Bismark Odoi, Leo Mensah, Kaf Jr, Pendor Borkum and Cindy Sesa. The movie also featured popular faces.

    ‘Azonto Boys’ was shot on locations in Accra in English, Pidgin, Twi and Ga, the movie dwells on the lives of the poor and the rich, the gap, the swap and what men and women do for sex and money. Get ready to laugh your stress off.

  • Movies aimed at African American moviegoers are typically the province of bigger-budget comedies and dramas — the kinds of stories told by Tyler Perry or produced by Screen Gems. But this weekend, two independently financed productions are courting that same audience. The two films — “Life, Love, Soul” and “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day” — couldn’t be more dissimilar.

    The first film is a small, self-distributed drama about fatherhood and family, a passion project from first-time filmmaker Noel Calloway with a cast of newcomers. The second movie, a kidnapping drama starring Blair Underwood, was produced and is being released by Codeblack Entertainment, the company behind last year’s Kevin Hart concert movie, “Laugh at My Pain,” which grossed more than $7.7 million in domestic release.

    Yet the two productions both hope to draw moviegoers that their filmmakers feel are hungry for content and can be reached without expensive national television advertising.

    “It is a very, very underserved audience,” Jeff Clanagan, the president and chief executive of Codeblack, said of African American patrons, whom he estimated would make up more than 90% of the film's audience.

    Calloway’s path to the screen was not easy. He wrote the “Life, Love, Soul” script in 1997, soon after graduating from high school in Harlem. “At my graduation, I looked out at the audience and saw mostly mothers and grandmothers,” Calloway said. He struggled raising money to finance his tale of a young man raised by a single mother who has to move in with his estranged father, and his lead investor pulled out halfway through filming in 2007. Calloway, who himself was raised by a single mother, wasn’t able to resume production for two years and only now has brought the movie to theaters; the film is opening in a handful of markets across the country.

    “Woman Thou Art Loosed” is a sequel of sorts to the 2004 movie of the same name, based on the novel by Dallas minister T.D. Jakes, who serves as an executive producer on the new film. The movie will premiere in about 100 screens in more than a dozen cities nationally.

    While Clanagan said the film could struggle generating big returns in some markets, he was optimistic “Woman Thou Art Loosed” will do well in Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington. “Our target audience is not going to see ‘The Three Stooges,’” he said of 20th Century Fox’s wide-release comedy.

    Like “Life, Love, Soul,” Clanagan is using very targeted marketing to reach African American ticket buyers, relying heavily on word-of-mouth screenings and social media. “We’re not buying a lot of network television shows, but we did buy ads on VH1’s ‘Basketball Wives,’” Clanagan said of the cable television reality series.

    Calloway hopes his film can find a broader audience. “It isn’t a black story,” the filmmaker said. “It’s about people, it’s about family, it’s about overcoming challenges.”

  • The 19th New York African Film Festival kicks off Wednesday, with a wide selection of films exploring ideas of home and homeland. Guest host Viviana Hurtado speaks with the festival's founder Mahen Bonetti, and documentary filmmaker Laura Gamse, who is showing her film The Creators about South African artists.

    This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Viviana Hurtado. Michel Martin is away visiting member station WRVO in Oswego, New York.

    Coming up, we continue to celebrate National Poetry Month with a creative tweet from a listener who would like to write a poem a day.

    But first, the 19th New York African Film Festival kicks off today by turning the lens on films from the continent with the theme, "21st Century: The Homecoming." The documentaries, features and art house offerings explore notions of home and homeland, and the woman behind the extravaganza is Mahen Bonetti. She joins me now. And filmmaker Laura Gamse is showing her film, "The Creators." She's with us, as well.

    HURTADO: Mahen, I watched some of the films and am really blown away by the range. What do the choice of movies in this festival say about African cinema today?

    BONETTI: I feel that it shows the vibrancy and also the production that is coming out of the continent as a result of technology and also the DIY spirit of a generation that has come of age. And they're telling their stories and they're giving a face and a voice to Africa, which is my motivation. This was why I started the festival, so there's a generation who has come of age now who are basically working and walking in stride with us.

    HURTADO: The festival is also marking 100 years of South Africa's African National Congress Party by showing a number of films about the country. Laura Gamse, I loved your film, "The Creators," which looks at South Africa's complicated political history through the perspectives of different artists. Tell us about it.

    GAMSE:
    We wanted to look at the way in which these artists expressed their reality through their own craft, so there's the graffiti artist, Faith47. There's the opera singer, Mthetho Mapoyi, the Afro blues artist, Ongx Mona, the hip-hop, you know, B-boy, breakdancer, Emile Jansen.

    These artists who work in these various different crafts all came to creatively direct their segments of the film and we juxtaposed them together in the final piece, which looks at the historical oppression and censorship of the arts during Apartheid and the ways in which artists have maneuvered around censorship during Apartheid and being able to still spread messages of empowerment and come together and nowadays address social issues in current South Africa, modern South Africa.

    HURTADO: You mentioned Mthetho Mapoyi, the self-taught opera singer. Let's hear a clip of him.

    MTHETHO MAPOYI: (Singing in Foreign Language).

    When my father left, I was around about four years old. I grew up listening to opera music when my father lived. Yeah. My mother gave me these CDs and then I started to sing with the CDs and then I found myself singing "Santa Lucia."

    (Singing in Foreign Language).

    HURTADO: He had quite a story. How did you find him for the film?

    GAMSE: I had heard so many rumors about him, but I had not met him, so I drove to Hermanus, which is about three hours out, and went to the township where I had heard he was from and got out on the street with my cinematographer and we were just asking everyone, do you know Mthetho, the opera singer? And he actually has a scar down his cheek, which we had heard about. This was another rumor that was just kind of going around town about him, that he had a scar stretching the length from his temple down to his throat. And so we would tell people about this and ask them if they knew this guy, and after about an hour we met his friend's sister who introduced us to him.

    And it was incredible to hear his story from his perspective after hearing all of the rumors and realizing that it was true and, actually, the scar had come from a fight that had stemmed from a little - some of the jealousy of his success because he comes from a township that has extremely high unemployment and the fact that he was able to teach himself Italian and mimic Pavarotti so beautifully and bring all of the emotion of the hardships of his youth into that. I think it really spoke to people when he sang on the street.

    HURTADO: The film developed out of your college thesis and you hadn't been to South Africa before filming. What was it like trying to make a film there?

    GAMSE: You know, I studied South Africa for years before I went, writing my thesis and just out of general interest in protest art and countercultural arts during the anti-Apartheid protests. And, when I got there, I realized that I knew nothing after all of my reading and writing on South Africa. I really just was so surprised and appalled by the great polarity of wealth and just how close people lived. You know, you could live in a mansion and be 10 minutes away from someone who lives in a shack.

    And the realities of that - I can tell you about it, but the realities are just so much more visceral when you're actually there, of course. And so that's one of the reasons I wanted to make a film about it, to bring people into that.

    HURTADO: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Viviana Hurtato. We're speaking with the New York African Film Festival's founder and executive director, Mahen Bonetti, and Laura Gamse, director of "The Creators," a documentary about artists in South Africa.

    Mahen, on to a West African film now, "Relentless," by Andy Amadi Okoroafor, charts the loneliness of Obi, a peacekeeper who returns to Lagos after the war in Sierra Leone. It deals with the consequences of war on the psyche of contemporary Africans. Here's a clip.

    (SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "RELENTLESS")

    UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sierra Leone and Liberia are actually branches of the same tree. You know, but what beats my imagination is with all the European companies and the Middle East cashing in on the war, what makes us Africans murder our neighbors - cut off people's arms, turn our children into murderers and rapists.

    UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:
    What is African about that? Diamonds? It must have been terrible for you.

    UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Please. I'm a child of the Biafran War.

    HURTADO:
    The director has said that the film's ambition is to explore Africa beyond the news. How does it do that?

    BONETTI: This is generational in the 21st century, coming back to the theme of the notion of home and homeland. They have nothing to grab onto, you know? But at the same time they're unconsciously drawing from the past to create something new and very modern. What Andy's trying to say is that, you know, it's a limbo state almost, you know, because it's an uphill battle. But Africa, this century is really ours. I really feel that 20 years from now most of us will be going back there looking for work. It's a change that's taking place, despite everything we've gone through.

    HURTADO:
    And Laura, from your observations, how do filmmakers address the negatives of contemporary African life while also challenging assumptions that Africa is only about conflict?

    GAMSE:
    I love Mahen's positivity and her energy when it comes to this question.

    (SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

    GAMSE: And it just reminds me of the fact that when you struggle for so long against some barrier and then the barrier is removed, the momentum from that struggle pushes you forward that much faster, it makes you so much stronger. And I really saw this with the Africans that I met in South Africa and in my travels throughout Africa. And I think Mahen's right - that this will only lead to good things in the future. And as the world collectively comes to understand that Africa is a three-dimensional continent, I think we'll come to a place where hopefully more people will travel there and more Africans will get a chance to travel around the world and there will just be that much greater dialogue.

    HURTADO:
    Nigeria's movie industry, Nollywood, churns out thousands of films a year which are generally known for their cheap production, melodramatic acting and over-the-top plots. But Mahen, is "Relentless" an indication that Nigerian film is developing beyond this?

    BONETTI:
    They're the most populous, first of all, in the continent. So I mean it's admirable that that industry was built from within, you know, that you had the Francophone and the sort of art-house movie directors who turned their doors(ph) down at this video production. And now everyone is emulating the Nigerians. And most filmmakers who are smart are trying to find this, how do you know meld the two, the art-house and the popular cinema, because they want to tap into that audience on the continent.

    Coming back to the - people like Andy, you have a generation that we call it alternative Nollywood, who are going to branch out from that, you know, that genre and find other ways to still retain something of the popular cinema but also, you know, higher production value, better quality, sound, acting, lighting. So Andy does not consider himself a Nollywood director, by the way, but he's made a film that does appeal to an audience, a segment of the population there. Yeah.

    HURTADO:
    And if you can't attend the film festival, how easy is it for these films to gain wider release in America?

    BONETTI:
    Well, there's this, you know, this DIY spirit that these kids have. Some of them just, you know, they have their own websites and then there are more independent New York producers and distributors who are looking at these directors and who even meet with them when we have the festival each year. And so it's picking up, but they're not necessarily waiting for that to happen as well.

    HURTADO:
    How about you, Laura?

    GAMSE:
    It's definitely been difficult for the creators. We've been on a year-long film festival run and I've had distributors tell me everything from, you know, now's not a good year for Africa - African films, we don't want to see that this year. Or, you know, if someone doesn't get eaten in your film, we can't get it on TV.

    GAMSE:
    So it hasn't been easy and it kind of hurts a little bit when you want to tell a film that has a little bit more subtlety than someone getting eaten. But it's true that the DIY factor does come through in the end and actually have made probably, not that I've made any money at all on the film, but the most that has come through for the artist - and 75 percent of the profits go to the artist - has been through educational sales. So universities are buying the film from me personally without the middleman of a distributor. And also individuals can go to the website, buy it. If you want to find the film, you can find the film and unfortunately it probably won't be on HBO anytime soon but there are definite ways to get it if you simply just look online.

    HURTADO:
    Laura Gamse is the director of "The Creators," a documentary about artists in South Africa. Mahen Bonetti is the New York African Film Festival's executive director and founder.

  • South African Charlie Vundla scooped Best Director and his debut, film noir thriller How 2 Steal 2 Million, was named Best Film at the eight Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), held 22 April 2012, at The Expo Centre, Eko Hotel & Suite in Lagos, Nigeria. South African actress Terry Pheto was named Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, which also won Best Achievement in Editing (Garreth Fradgely). With four awards, How 2 Steal 2 Million was the most awarded film on the night.
     
    Nigeria’s Benin-set historical epic Adesuwa was a close second with three awards, for Costume Design, Visual Effects, and Best Nigerian Film.
     
    South Africa’s crime drama State of Violence won Best Film in an African Language and Best Achievement in Sound.
     
    Man on Ground, a Nigerian/South African xenophobia-themed coproduction, won the Special Jury Award – given for only the third time since the inception of AMAA – and Best Supporting Actor for South African Fana Mokoena.
     
    Nigeria’s Rita Dominic was named Best Actress for her role in Kenyan film Shattered, while Ghanaian Majid Michel won Best Actor for his role in Somewhere in Africa.

    Danny Glover’s Toussaint Louverture was named Best Diaspora Film.

    Nigeria was the most awarded country on the night, receiving 12 awards, followed closely by South Africa with 10.
     
    AMAA received 328 entries from across Africa in 2012, up from 220 in 2011. Dr. Asantewa Olantunji, director of programming of The Pan African Film Festival, headed this year's jury, which included June Giavanni, programmer for Planet Africa at The Toronto International Film Festival; Keith Shiri, founder and film curator at the London festival, Africa at The Pictures; Dorothee Wenner, a curator at The Berlin Film Festival; Shaibu Husseini, an actor, dancer and The Nigerian Guardian arts journalist; Steve Ayorinde, editor-in-chief of The Daily Mirror; Ayoko Babu, executive director of The Pan African Film Festival; Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi, a film scholar and critic; and directors Berni Goldblat and John Akomfrah, OBE.
     
    As the jury statement said, “This year may prove to be the beginning of a new era for AMAA. Not only did AMAAwitness an unprecedented number of film submissions, from more countries throughout the African continent and its Diaspora, it also witnessed a remarkable increase in the quality of the films submitted. From their technical qualities to the acting and directing, the 2012 film slate is most impressive. Indeed, for the jury, the task of selecting the  “Best” in each category has been challenging. The competition in most categories was very strong and our decisions reflect much thought and debate. The jury is also impressed by the quality and diversity of the storylines of the films presented. The decolonization of African films and images is well underway. As never before, we see films that tell real stories: inspired by, reflective of and crafted by the people, by whom and for whom they were made.”
     
    Some of the biggest names from black Hollywood were at The AMAAs, including Emmy winner and Golden Globe nominee Lynn Whitfield (The JosephineBaker Story and Without a Trace); Morris Chestnut (American Horror Story, Boyz in the Hood); Rockmond Dunbar (Prison Break, Sons of Anarchy) and Maya Gilbert (General Hospital, Days of Our Lives).
     
    Heroes star Jimmy Jean-Louis hosted the prestigious awards, which included performancesfrom Asa, 2Face Idibia and Senegal’s Viviane Ndour.

    Only films produced and released between December 2010 and December 2011 were eligible.

    All the nominees, with winners in bold:
    AMAA 2011 PRIZE FOR BEST FILM
    1.  State Of Violence - South Africa
    2.  Adesuwa  - Nigeria
    3.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    4.  Rugged Priest - Kenya
    5.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    6.  Ties That Bind - Ghana
    7.  Man On Ground - South Africa/Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST SHORT FILM
    1. Jamaa – Uganda
    2. Look Again – Kenya
    3. Maffe Tiga – Guinea
    4. Braids On Bald Head – Nigeria
    5. Hidden Life – South Africa
    6. Mwansa The Great - Zimbabwe
    7. Chumo – Tanzania
    8. The Young Smoker - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY
    1.  African Election – Nigeria/Germany

    2.  Beyond The Deadly Pit – Rwanda
    3.  Awa Ogbe: An African Adventure – Algeria
    4.  Dear Mandela – South Africa
    5.  White& Black; Crime And Colour – Tanzania
    6.  The Niger Delta Struggle – Ghana
    7.  There Is Nothing Wrong With My Uncle –Nigeria
    8.  How Much Is Too Much – Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIASPORA FEATURE
    1.  Toussaint Louverture – Senegal/Guadalupe

    2.  Ghett'a Life - Jamaica
    3.  High Chicago - Canada
    4.  Elza - Guadalupe
    5.  Better Mus' Come - Jamaica
    6.  Kinyanrwanda - USA

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIASPORA DOCUMENTARY

    1.  The Education Of Auma Obama - Germany
    2.  White Wash - USA
    3.  Almendron Mi Corazon - Guadalupe
    4.  All Me: The Life And Times Of Winfred Hubert - USA

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIASPORA (SHORT FILM)
    1.  John Doe - USA
    2.  White Sugar In A Black Pot -USA
    3.  The Lost One -USA

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ANIMATION
    1.  The Legend on Ngong Hills – Kenya

    2.  Oba - Nigeria
    3.  Climate Change is Real – Kenya
    4.  Egu – South Africa
    5.  Nauliza - Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST FILM BY AN AFRICAN LIVING ABROAD
    1.  Mystery Of Birds – USA/Nigeria
    2.  Housemates – UK/Nigeria
    3.  Ben Kross – Italy/Nigeria
    4.  Paparazzi Eye In The Dark – USA/Nigeria/Ghana

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN
    1.  Somewhere in Africa - Ghana
    2.   Phone Swap – Nigeria
    3.   Otelo Burning – South Africa
    4.   Adesuwa - Nigeria
    5.   How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

    1.  The Captain Of Nakara - Kenya
    2.  Adesuwa – Nigeria
    3.  Rugged Priest -Kenya
    4.  Somewhere In Africa - Ghana
    5.  Queen's Desire - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKE-UP

    1.  Rugged Priest - Kenya
    2.  State Research Bureau - Uganda
    3.  Adesuwa - Nigeria
    4.  Somewhere In Africa - Ghana
    5.  Shattered – Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUNDTRACK
    1.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    2.  Alero’s Symphony – Nigeria
    3.  Adesuwa - Nigeria
    4.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    5.  Somewhere In Africa – Ghana

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
    1.  Behind The Mask - Nigeria
    2.  Somewhere In Africa - Ghana
    3.  Adesuwa – Nigeria
    4.  State Research Bureau - Uganda
    5.  Otelo Burning – South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND
    1.  State Of Violence – South Africa
    2.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    3.  How To Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    4.  Man On Ground - South Africa/Nigeria
    5.  Algiers Murder - South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

    1.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    2.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    3.  Rugged Priest - Kenya
    4.  Masquerades - Ghana
    5.  Man On Ground – South Africa/Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN EDITING
    1.  Algiers Murder - South Africa
    2.  Man On Ground - South Africa/Nigeria
    3.  Unwanted Guest – Nigeria
    4.  How 2 Steal 2 Million- South Africa
    5.  Otelo Burning – South Africa
    6. Alero’s Symphony - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SCREENPLAY
    1.  Ties That Bind – Ghana

    2.  Mr & Mrs - Nigeria
    3.  How 2 Steal 2 Million - South Africa
    4.  Otelo Burning –South Africa
    5.  Unwanted Guest -Nigeria
    6.  Two Brides And A Baby - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST NIGERIAN FILM
    1.  Unwanted Guest -Nigeria
    2.  Family On Fire - Nigeria
    3.  Alero’s Symphony - Nigeria
    4.  Adesuwa – Nigeria
    5.  Phone Swap – Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST FILM IN AN AFRICAN LANGUAGE

    1.  Chumo - Tanzania
    2.  State Of Violence - South Africa
    3.  Family On Fire - Nigeria
    4.  Otelo Burning - South Africa
    5.  Asoni - Cameroon

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST CHILD ACTOR
    1.  Rahim Banda (Behind The Mask) - Nigeria
    2.  Tshepang Mohlomi  (Otelo Burning) – South Africa
    3.  Reginna Danies (Bank Job) - Nigeria
    4.  Benjamin Abemigisha (Jamaa) - Uganda
    5.  Rachel Nduhukire (Jamaa) - Uganda
    6.  Ayinla O. Abdulaheem (ZR-7) - Nigeria

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST YOUNG/PROMISING ACTOR

    1.  Neo Ntatleno (State Of Violence) – South Africa
    2.  Ivie Okujaye (Alero’s Symphony) – Nigeria
    3.  Iyobosa Olaye (Adesuwa) – Nigeria
    4.  Martha Ankomah (Somewhere In Africa) - Ghana
    5.  Thomas Gumede (Otelo Burning) – South Africa
    6.  Sihle Xaba (Otelo Burning) – South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

    1.  Rapulana Seiphemo (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa
    2.  Fana Mokoena (Man On Ground) – South Africa/Nigeria
    3.  Hafiz Oyetoro (Phone Swap) - Nigeria
    4.  Okechukwu Uzoesi (Two Brides And A Baby) - Nigeria
    5.  Godfrey Theobejane (48) - Nigeria
    6.  Lwanda Jawar (Rugged Priest) – Kenya

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
    1.  Terry Pheto (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa

    2.  Ebbe Bassey (Ties That Bind) - Ghana
    3.  Empress Njamah (Bank Job) - Nigeria
    4.  Ngozi Ezeonu (Adesuwa) - Nigeria
    5.  Thelma Okoduwa (Mr & Mrs) - Nigeria
    6.  Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (Ties That Bind) - Ghana

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
    1.  Menzi Ngubane (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa
    2.  Majid Michel (Somewhere In Africa) – Ghana
    3.  Chet Anekwe (Unwanted Guest) - Nigeria
    4.  Jafta Mamabolo (Otelo Burning) – South Africa
    5.  Karabo Lance (48) - South Africa
    6.  Wale Ojo (Phone Swap) - Nigeria
    7.  Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Man On Ground) – Nigeria/South Africa

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

    1.   Nse Ikpe Etim (Mr & Mrs) - Nigeria
    2.  Yvonne Okoro (Single Six) - Ghana
    3.  Ama K. Abebrese (Ties That Bind) - Ghana
    4.  Rita Dominic (Shattered) – Nigeria
    5.  Uche Jombo (Damage) - Nigeria
    6.  Millicent Makheido (48) – Nigeria
    7.  Kudzai Sevenzo-Nyarai (Playing Warriors) - Zimbabwe

    AMAA 2012 PRIZE FOR BEST DIRECTOR
    1.  Lancelot Oduwa Imaseun (Adesuwa) - Nigeria
    2.  Leila Djansi (Ties That Bind) - Ghana
    3.  Bob Nyanja (Rugged Priest) - Kenya
    4.  Charlie Vundla (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa
    5.  Khalo Matabane (State Of Violence) – South Africa
    6.  Akin Omotoso (Man On Ground) – South Africa/Nigeria
    7.  Sara Bletcher (Otelo Burning) – South Africa

    SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
    Man on Ground - South Africa/Nigeria

    For more information, visit here: 

  • Nollywood superstars Patience Ozokwor and Desmond Elliot touchdown in Nairobi on Wednesday to grace the official launch of the new Africa Magic channels on DStv.

    The thespians are brand ambassadors for the channels, given their years on-screen in the Africa-wide loved Nigerian flicks.

    Both stars have been to Nairobi several times, and they will be joined by compatriot IK who is the current host of the annual Big Brother reality show.

    DStv introduced five new channels this week, namely AfricaMagic, AfricaMagic Movies, AfricaMagic Entertainment, AfricaMagic Movies 1 and AfricaMagic World.

    Though Africa Magic and Africa Magic Plus were previously available, all the channels have been re-organized into eight, including the language specific AfricaMagic Hausa, AfricaMagic Yoruba and AfricaMagic Swahili.

    The new channels are expected to open up the continent's entertainment offering in terms of music videos, documentaries, talk-shows, indigenous programmes and sitcoms among others.

    It is hoped that the Kenyan film industry, which has a potential worth billions of shillings will benefit from these channels, which will only showcase African programming.

    Nollywood and South African films dominate the channels, but Kenyan programmes like Changes and Mashariki Mix have been coming up significantly.

    A lot more Kenyan music videos and Kenyan actors in Nigerian series can be seen.

    The launch of the new channels will take place at a swanky event at a Nairobi hotel on Thursday.

  • The TV programme you can expect to hear everyone talking about for the next few months is the inaugural series of Masterchef SA. Rebecca Davis spoke to director Donald Clarke.

    If you’re not watching Masterchef SA yet, you’d better start soon. We’re two episodes into the 18-part series, which means many weeks of conversations you’ll be excluded from if you don’t jump on the bandwagon now. South Africans with access to satellite TV will already be familiar with the international franchise, which has been going for 22 years. Masterchef USA, UK and Australia are the shows which have received most global attention, but countries all over the world now have their own versions, from Israel to Malaysia.

    Now it’s South Africa’s turn. MNet’s channel head Pierre Cloete spent time scouring the markets around the world for the channel’s next big thing, and came back convinced that Masterchef was the answer, based on its phenomenal success in Australia. Director Donald Clarke says the channel took some convincing, since a cooking show in prime time has never previously been attempted on South African TV. But Cloete was persuasive enough to get his way, and Masterchef SA’s first episode aired a fortnight ago.

    The show’s premise is simple: to find the best amateur cook in South Africa. The “amateur” part is important – individuals are not permitted to enter if they have any kind of professional relationship with cooking. Each week, contestants battle it out against each other to produce the most delicious and interesting dishes, often only using limited ingredients, under time pressure and sometimes in competition with professional chefs. For the cook who prevails, however, the rewards are worthwhile: the largest prize ever awarded on a South African reality show, with a total value of R8-million, and the coveted position of head chef at Montecasino’s MondoVino restaurant.

    The task of judging who will be the winner falls to three prominent South African chefs: Benny Masekwameng, who previously held the post at MondoVino, Andrew Atkinson, who is the executive chef at Piccolo Moda at The Michaelangelo in Sandton, and Peter Goffe-Wood, previously food editor at GQ Magazine and now owner of the Kitchen Cowboys Cooking School in Cape Town.

    It’s fair to say that South Africa doesn’t yet have a culture of celebrity chefs in the model of the UK’s Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver. As far as household names go in this country, Ina Paarman and Reuben are about as far as we go – the former largely on the basis of her product range and the latter due to his TV advertisements for Robertson’s spices. As such, it’s unsurprising that some of the judge’s names may not be familiar. Clarke explains the process of selecting the chefs who would judge was a rigorous one.

    “We made a list of the top 200 chefs in the country and worked our way through it,” he says. “We were looking for a range of things, from their palates to how well they worked on screen and the compatibility between different individuals. Then it also came down to their schedules – Reuben, for instance, was too busy.” The show will undoubtedly raise the profiles of Masekwameng, Atkinson and Goffe-Wood, but Clarke has bigger ambitions. He hopes the show will “turn food into rock ’n roll”, and give the audience an education along the way.

    Masterchef SA, Clarke says, will be quite different from any other country’s version. “There’s no real set format to the show, only ingredients that you make your own dish out of,” he explains, before apologising for the cooking metaphor. “We’re at pains to make this an authentically South African show, and to take ordinary people and place them on a pedestal.” For this reason, the show’s producers deliberately chose not to select the kind of wacky, zany, oddball contestants one often finds on competitive reality TV shows. “We wanted characters who remind them of people they know, their families, their co-workers,” Clarke says.

    Their biggest challenge is likely to be the South African audience’s “self-loathing for South African products,” he believes. Some of this was already evident in social media responses to the show’s first two episodes, with viewers either complaining that the show was too similar to the overseas versions, or just inferior. “It’s tough re-versioning an overseas show for a local audience,” he admits.

    But if anyone is suited to the challenge, it’s Clarke, who is an old hand at the business of reality TV. He previously directed the likes of Fear Factor India, Big Brother Nigeria and Survivor South Africa. Which has been his favourite?

    “Actually I’d have to say Masterchef SA,” he responds. “It represents a kind of evolution from really competitive reality shows, with their antagonism and dependence on interpersonal relationships. Masterchef has a much warmer tone – more friendly and feel-good.” He believes South African audiences are likely to warm to this aspect of the show. “When you put South Africans in a competitive environment, they tend to bond immediately. Which is kind of nauseating when you’re a director looking for drama,” he laughs. What sets Masterchef aside, Clarke maintains, is that its goal is not humiliation of the contestants, but celebration.

    There are many people who maintain that reality TV is inherently exploitative, placing people under highly stressful conditions in the hope of a blowout. What’s his response? Clarke pauses. “It’s true,” he says eventually. “Reality TV is about creating a context for drama. You cast people and you put them on a collision course in terms of action.” But, he maintains, a responsible producer will be aware of this element and manage it carefully. He gives an example from the filming of Masterchef SA, where he says his production team sat down with a contestant who was taking extreme strain to determine whether it was their wish to continue with the filming. “This is someone’s life,” he says. “We’re not going to play with it.”

    From the advent of reality TV, there have been constant complaints that what is presented as “real” is actually far from it: that situations are manipulated, lines given and rehearsed, and conditions onscreen far from representative of the reality off-screen. How much of reality TV is actually real?

    “All of it,” Clarke laughs, not altogether convincingly. He admits that they stage elements of reality shows like Survivor in terms of entrances and exits and contestants’ positioning. But he is adamant that “nothing we do affects the outcome of the competition, or we lose our credibility”. The interesting thing about the process, Clarke says, is that by the end of a series’ filming, contestants have become similar to amateur actors: they are so accustomed to playing to the camera they do it instinctively, speaking in full sentences, knowing where to turn to grab the camera’s most flattering angle, and so forth. “Psychologically, the context does affect them,” Clarke says. “Shows like Survivor are essentially a social experiment.”

    Are there any types of reality TV shows he would refuse to direct? Clarke considers the question. “Anything with children,” he settles on, “and anything which is essentially damaging.” In the episodes of Masterchef SA we’ve seen so far, the most harmful fate to befall contestants has been ending up with egg on their face (literally) from not having beaten egg-yolks stiffly enough. No damage here, it seems. Just a lot of intense chopping.

  • Start of April, SES S.A. announced that the SES-4 satellite is now fully operational and ready for service at the orbital location of 338 degrees East.

    SES-4 was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board an ILS Proton Breeze M booster on February 15th, 2012. SES-4 replaces the NSS-7 satellite at 338 degrees East longitude and provides replacement as well as incremental capacity at this well-established SES orbital slot over the Atlantic Ocean.

    SES-4 is a 20-kilowatt satellite manufactured on the flight-proven Space Systems/Loral 1300 platform, with 52 C-band and 72 Ku-band transponders. It has C-band beams serving the eastern hemisphere of Europe and Africa and providing full coverage of the Americas, plus a global C-band beam to support mobile and maritime customers. Four high-power, regional Ku-band beams provide service to Europe, the Middle East, and West Africa, as well as North and South America, with extensive channel switching capability between C- and Ku-band transponders for enhanced connectivity. The satellite is designed to deliver services for 15 years or more.

       Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES, stated: “We are delighted to see the 50th spacecraft in the global SES fleet go live and congratulate the technical teams involved for the successful bringing into operation of this important addition to our fleet. SES-4 offers state-of-the-art transmission capacity to SES customers across three continents and for a wide array of applications, including video distribution with DTH power-levels, VSAT, government and maritime services.”

  • The 9th edition of the biennial conference of Africa broadcasters, Africast will focus on issues relating to content. The event is billed to provide a networking environment for providers, distributors and marketers of broadcast content and equipment targeting the emerging African market with the practitioners, policy makers, advisers, administrators and end-users.

    Africast 2012 with the theme ‘Content Rules!’ will also provide an atmosphere of deep examination, reflection and discussion of broadcast issues by high profile key speakers with real expertise in the area of broadcast content in a digital environment.

    Explaining the rationale for choosing the theme, director general of National Broadcasting Commission, Yomi Bolarinwa in an interview said that in  the broadcast industry, content is key.

    “If you look at it a thousand times you will come up with content. If you want to democratize it, content is key because you did not buy a television set just because it is good-looking, you bought TV set because of what you are going to watch which is content.”

    Bolarinwa expressed worry that today’s content is short of quality so it has become(s) imperative to invite stakeholders in the sector to proffer solution to the problem.

    “Today you get all manner of content that are unwholesome. You get dancing, and imagine the kind of dance.”

    He stressed that broadcasting which should be cultural medium, is for example not delivering the right education for the Nigerian children about their culture.

    “Do you like the way women are being portrayed on musicals and some of our local content where everything end up in one Babalawo or one mosque or one Alfa,” he asked. “Is that our way of life; is that what we are portraying? Content is the king. You know the driving force behind transition is that we now have opportunity to have more channels. What kinds of content should we provide? Are we prepared for these challenges?”

    The director general added that today, broadcasters due to convergence can operate on several platforms but may not have been made ready for this.

    He said broadcasters must be prepared for this because there are relevant content and there are irrelevant content.

    Africast 2012 is expected to also provide a market environment for manufacturers, distributors and marketers of digital broadcast equipment targeting the emerging digitized African market. It will also provide the unique opportunity of Master Classes to smoothen Africa’s transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting by training its army of producers, directors, engineers and camera persons on production in a digital environment.

    On Nigeria’s readiness to migrate to digital platform, the NBC DG stated that government policy is required, expressing optimism that the white paper on transition from analogue to digital broadcasting will be approved before the end of April so that adequate infrastructure will be put in place to catalyze the process.

  • THEMA *, which specializes in the distribution of ethnic TV channels, is pleased to announce an agreement with Virgin France for the distribution of 47 channels. Within the framework of its new quadruple play offer (Telephony- Broadband- TV- Mobile) the 1st MVNO of the French market, broadcasts 47 "ethnic" TV channels addressing the main foreign communities from Arabic countries, Africa, Germany, Comoros islands, Turkey, Russia and Greece.

    “Le Bouquet Africain” (known as) “Basique” (€6,90/month): 9 TV channels from the major French-Speaking African national broadcasters.
     
    “ Le Bouquet Africain” (known as) “Premium”(€9,90/month): 15 TV channels: “Le Bouquet Africain Basique” + 6 private TV channels. More information on here:

    The ORTC, (€6,90/month), public broadcaster of Comoros islands. It is a general entertaining with programs for the whole family. More information on here:

     “Digiturk” package (€23,90/month) with all Turkish Premiere Football League, wide range of movies and entertainment show thanks to LigTV, TurkMax, ShowTurk and IzTV, PowerTurk, SkyTurk.

    Arabic packages: A selection of TV channels with the best of music, movies, entertainment and religion available thanks to 3 packages:

    Arabesque package (€9,90/month), 4 channels: Hikayat, Hikayat Zaman, Iqraa TV and MBC
    Arabesque premium package (14,90€/month), the Arabesque package + Aflam 1, Aflam 2, and ART Cinéma.

    Rotana package (€9,90/month), 6 channels: Rotana Cinema, Rotana Clip, Rotana Khalijiya, Rotana Zaman, Rotana Musica  and Al Resalah.

    Russian Package (€7,90/month), 4 TV channels with the best of entertainment, movies, music and documentaries: Channel 1 Russia, Dom Kino, Muzica Pervoyo, Vremya.

    “Le Bouquet Allemand” (€8,90/month), 6 privates channels gives the best of information, entertainment, youth and music from Germany: RTL, ProSieben, Sat 1, n-tv, Super RTL, KidsCo. More information here: 

    Antenna 1 (€4,90/ month), the international version of the leading Greek TV channel.

    Moreover Virgin also broadcasts the music channel C Music TV (that features the world's greatest classical performers, as they have never been seen before, and exclusively showcases the very latest music-videos from classical star across the globe) and the lifestyle TV channel Fashion TV, part of THEMA’s portfolio.

    *Thema, for more information click here:  Contacts: marianne@thematv.com

  • A campaign to get more Namibians to pay their television licences has led to the NBC collecting N$15.9 million in licence fees last year, 16 per cent more than it did the previous year. However, the national broadcaster didn't meet the target of N$18 million it had set for itself.

    "It will probably be tomorrow's headlines - 'NBC misses target. DG's bonus compromised'," Albertus Aochamub, director general of the NBC, said tongue-in-cheek last week at the ceremony to announce the prize winners of the broadcaster's TV licence competition.

    Aochamub is eligible for a performance bonus of 30 per cent of annual salary if he meets the targets set by the board.

    Despite not reaching the N$18-million level, Aochamub said the NBC still made significant progress in collecting licence fees.

    "Namibians are willing and eager to pay their licences. We must just make it easier for them to do so," he said.

    Licence fees have the potential of generating N$40 million a year for the NBC. However, efficient collection still faces serious challenges, especially on the technical front, Aochamub said.

    The NBC also needs to ask itself how cost effective its collection measures are, he said. Currently, it costs the NBC 33c for every N$1 it collects in licence fees.

    Aochamub furthermore said the NBC is looking for international benchmarks to find out how successful it is when it comes to collecting licence fees.

    At the moment, the NBC collects about 20 per cent of what is due to it. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), on the other hand, collects between 40 per cent and 45 per cent.

    "We have a lot of work to do if we want to get to 50 per cent," Aochamub said.

    He said the NBC needs to be able to get real-time data. When a person pays his licence, it should register on the NBC's system immediately, not a week later. The NBC also needs to move away from a system where licences are bought manually, as this creates the temptation for officials to use the cash for others purposes.

    The NBC is making progress on these issues, Aochamub said.

    The broadcaster is also looking at increasing TV licence fees, he said. The last time the NBC did so, was in 2001.

    Aochamub said he knows this is a controversial option, but added that the running costs of the NBC haven't stayed stagnant.

    Higher fees would create an expectation from viewers for better content, though, he said - more movies, more local dramas, more sport. But for that, the NBC needs more money.

    "The public is going to have to meet us halfway," Aochamub said.

  • As part of part of M-Net exciting plans for the expansion of the popular AfricaMagic channels, MultiChoice wishes to advise DStv subscribers that M-Net Africa (Channel 102) will be swapped with a brand new channel -- AfricaMagic Entertainment (Channel 128) on DStv.

    To facilitate this change M-Net Africa (Channel 102) was switched off air on Sunday at 23:59 and the new channel AfricaMagic Entertainment (Channel 128) was launched yesterday at 18:00 CAT.

    Subscribers in Southern Africa will see the three channels from April 16 with the flagship AfricaMagic channel now focused into a family themed channel, along with a dedicated AfricaMagic Movies channel, formerly AfricaMagic Plus.

    Rounding off the trio is a brand new channel AfricaMagic Entertainment which will serve as the home for all M-Net's glittering and original African productions from East, West and Central Africa.

    With AfricaMagic Entertainment becoming the home of M-Net's original productions which were previously on the M-Net Africa channel, this channel will thus replace M-Net Africa on the DStv bouquet as part of the channel re-organisation.

    The AfricaMagic channels therefore become home to a wide range of African content while the M-Net channel (Channel 101) will focus predominantly on international movies and series.

    M-Net Africa managing director Biola Alabi said: "It makes business sense to listen to your consumers when they express their needs and this is what we've done. 2012 is going to be a flagship year for AfricaMagic.

    "We want it to be remembered as the year African viewers pushed forward a revolution in television, making African content the star of African screens!"

    Below is what to expect from the three channels.

    AfricaMagic (Family):

    A "family friendly" African entertainment channel with programming that can be watched and enjoyed by everyone in your home!

    AfricaMagic will feature family-focused movies, series, sitcoms and documentaries that you can watch with your parents or your children.

    This will ensure that no one in your home will miss out on great African entertainment! AfricaMagic is available on DStv Compact, Compact Plus and Premium (Channel 114).

    AfricaMagic Movies

    A channel for movie audiences who want to celebrate the vibrant legacies and traditions of Africa!

    From African heritage to village life, this 24-hour dedicated movie channel tells stories that relate to Africa's rich history and cultural legacy from traditional practices to rural society.

    Look out for familiar faces from Nollywood and established African film icons.

    AfricaMagic Movies is available on DStv Family, Compact, Compact Plus and Premium packages (Channel 115, formerly AfricaMagic Plus).

    AfricaMagic Entertainment

    A brand-new, stylish African entertainment channel for the bold viewer who wants to watch the best African TV programming available!

    This 24-hour channel is dedicated to glossy soaps, glam drama series, glitzy lifestyle shows, great comedy, grade-A movies, gorgeous talk-show queens and gripping reality TV . . . all made in Africa for Africa!

    The channel is home to some of Africa's biggest and most popular productions including Tinsel, Jacob's Cross, Big Brother Africa, Changes, Mashariki Mix, 53 Extra, Jara, Moments with Mo, The Patricia Show and Comedy Club. AfricaMagic Entertainment is available on DStv Premium (Channel 128).

    And in a special sneak peek, M-Net has also announced that later in the year it will launch Africa- Magic Movies 1 into Southern Africa as well. This will be an urban movie channel for the fan who wants to see Africa's hottest stars in the latest contemporary and modern African movies.

  • In the bruising roller-coaster ride to digital migration in Kenya and across Africa, Multichoice may well have established first-mover advantage with the introduction of its GoTV service that is currently being offered to residents of Nairobi and its environs. The GoTV service launched last year in Kenya is offering 21 digital TV channels including the local free to air stations to subscribers who buy a decoder at Sh6255 and offers a glimpse into what the post-migration TV landscape might look at. Felix Kyengo, the general manager of GoTV, a sister brand to DsTV that Multichoice also runs, explained to Star Tech how the service works.

    Kindly explain how GOtv is transmitted to Kenyan households?

    The GOtv service is received via satellite and re-transmitted from Kenya using a digital terrestrial transmitter located at the KBC transmission site/s. It is received in exactly the same manner that viewers receive KBC’s terrestrial analogue transmission services – the difference is that a decoder or converter is needed to convert the digital signals back into analogue, so that people are able to view. The decoder or converter is generally referred to as a Set Top Box (STB) – connoting placement on top of a TV set.

    Since its launch, what sort of growth have you seen?

    Since the launch of the GOtv last year in September, it has experienced a modest uptake of the service. We believe that as soon as consumers get to know more about it will take off phenomenally.

    At its launch, it was indicated that under the DVB-T2 technology, frequencies could yield at least 20 channels each. You are currently offering 21 channels on GoTV. Does this mean you are only utilizing one frequency and if so which one?

    Yes we are currently utilizing one frequency. We are using a frequency that MultiChoice Kenya used historically, which is part of the partnership basis between the KBC and MultiChoice Africa Limited, when it provided an analogue terrestrial rebroadcasting service, which, due to operational reasons and the available technology at the time, became unviable and was suspended a while back.

    How do GoTV, Multichoice and KBC fit in with Signet, the signal distributor? Is GOtv running on signet infrastructure?

    As you may be aware, MultiChoice Kenya is a joint venture between KBC and MultiChoice Africa Limited. MultiChoice Kenya is the premier subscriber management services (“sms”) provider in the Kenyan pay TV market with over 15 years’ experience. KBC, through Signet, is the pioneer digital signal distributor in Kenya. It is only natural that a symbiotic relationship should result between GOtv, the pioneer DTT pay TV service, MultiChoice Kenya, the premier sms provider, and the shareholders of MultiChoice Kenya, the KBC and MultiChoice Africa.

    What is the current reach of GOtv. Can Kenyans access it countrywide?

    GOtv is currently limited to parts of Nairobi. As soon as additional DTT infrastructure is rolled out, the service will no doubt be made available in other parts of the country.

    What is the current reach of DVB-T2 infrastructure in the country?

    To our knowledge it is still limited to Nairobi, but will soon be laid out to other parts of the country. Also, CCK had licensed another signal distributor, in addition to Signet, whose DVB-T2 infrastructure is also being rolled out throughout the country.

    How soon should we expect to see enhanced content on GOtv above and beyond what is already offered?

    As soon as additional networks are commissioned and available.

    If one discontinues to pay for the GOtv service (Sh585 per month after the first three months) will they still be able to access FTA channels like NTV, Citizen, KBC, etc using your box?

    It is important to appreciate that GOtv is a pay TV service. In terms thereof it offers paid for channels as well as FTA channels as an additional service to subscribers – and currently these channels are 21 at a cost of Sh585 per month. In order to encourage take up of this new service, we are heavily subsidizing decoders. As these are pay TV decoders required for the reception of pay TV services, it is imperative that we are able to recoup the investments we are making both in terms of the content, encryption, network services, subscriber management and customer hardware (decoder and antenna). This imperative would not be realized if such a pay TV decoder allowed free to air channels to be viewed without any subscription paid.

    Do you see a standard platform being agreed upon for set top boxes in the country or do you expect rival platforms to compete each with their own set top box?

    Both Government and the CCK have already decided on a DVB-T2 standard for Kenya. The CCK, like many other regulators in other jurisdictions, is concerned about dumping of old technology in Kenya – which is why it already has strict decoder conformance requirements which go with its “type approval” requirements for all STB’s. This already sets minimum standards and is in line with international best practice. It is important that one does not confuse functionality with a standard – a free to air decoder does not require a conditional access system or encryption, as this functionality is wasted on such. However, a pay TV service requires an encryption and a conditional access system. Essentially, it is important that authorities should avoid mandating high level technological standards. Specifications should not add features which go beyond the primary function of, for instance the free-to-air DTT STB - which is the conversion of a digital signal so that it can be viewed on an analogue television set. The CCK and government have recognized this distinction and are acting accordingly.

    What about radio and internet? What are their potential under the DVB-T2 technology? Do we expect to see digital radio through GOtv at some point in the future?

    DVB-T2 as a technology is miles ahead in catering for radio and internet. As an advanced digital standard, these are both technically possible. However, we do not really see the market/commercial potential for internet via decoders for a variety of reasons – one, you have a huge market penetration of mobile telephony devices that support internet, why would anyone want to get their internet fixed at home on a largely social device – a TV/decoder; two, internet on the TV or decoder may pose challenges for families in terms of which or who would take precedence, i.e. whether it is TV or internet or parents or children surfing the internet, etcetera; third, there are numerous platforms that provide both radio and internet, but not that many that provide a truly multi-channel TV experience. Services such as GOtv, at least initially and when the availability of frequencies is at a premium, should really focus on providing quality television channels previously unavailable on the terrestrial platform. As a result, there are currently no audio channels on GOtv.

    Anything else you can add?

    It is important to appreciate the role that services like GOtv play in assisting the digitization efforts of both the regulator and government. Suchservices provide new content not available on FTA, incentivising consumers to purchase set top boxes and migrate to DTT. This creates consumer awareness of DTT, spurs consumer appetite for DTT services, and stimulates consumer take up of DTT services. The take up of DTT services, whether FTA or pay TV, will help the country to attain critical mass of DTT users necessary for analogue switch off and the release of the digital dividend.

  • The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is deeply concerned about the increased attacks against journalists in northern region following the arrest of TV journalist in Las Anod town of Sool region in Northern Somalia.

    Mohamed Shaqale, reporter for Somalisat TV, was arrested on 19 April by Somaliland police in armoured vehicle in the centre of Las Anod, and was immediately taken to CID headquarters where he was reportedly interrogated and currently being detained. The police did not state reason behind the arrest.

    "Somaliland authorities in Sool region have accustomed to arrest, intimidate and question journalists owing to their journalistic work," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

    On 22 March 2011, Mohamed Shaqale was attacked in Las Anod by Somaliland soldiers for filing reports that the Somaliland army deemed contrary to their forces. Shaqale went into hiding in Las Anod but his laptop computer, camera and recorders were confiscated. His house was in this month searched by police.

    "We call for the immediate release of Mohamed Shaqale as there is no lawful reason for his arrest and detention". Added Osman.

  • Charges against a TV boss who screened the French film Persepolis should be dropped by the Tunisian authorities, Amnesty International said ahead of the resumption of his trial.

    The trial of Nabil Karoui, the owner of the Nessma TV channel, is expected to restart on Thursday after it was adjourned in January.

    He faces charges of "violating sacred values" and "disturbing the public order" after his station broadcast the animated film, which has been criticized as blasphemous because of a scene which shows a representation of God.

    If convicted, Nabil Karoui faces up to three years in prison.

    "At a time when we are looking to the Tunisian government to set an example by enshrining full respect for human rights in the country's new constitution, it is disturbing to see this trial continuing," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    "Prosecuting and convicting people on the basis of the peaceful expression of their views, even if some might find them offensive, is totally unacceptable and not what we would expect from the new Tunisia. It's reminiscent of the violations of the ousted Ben Ali government and must stop."

    Nabil Karoui has been charged under Article 48 of the old Press Code and Article 121(3) of the Penal Code relating to spreading information "that can harm public order or good morals."

    Persepolis, an award-winning film on Iran's 1979 revolution told from the perspective of a young girl, provoked angry reactions when Nessma TV aired a version translated into Tunisian dialect in October 2011 .

    The home of Nabil Karoui was firebombed on 14 October following a protest outside the Nessma TV offices in central Tunis. Salafist activists are believed to have carried out the attack. He filed a complaint but to date Amnesty International is not aware that anyone has been held to account.

  • After years of rigorous debate, the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) has finally issued the final draft minimum standard for the set-top box decoders that will be used to receive digital terrestrial television signals in SA. The draft spec outlines a basic receiver that does not include a return path for interactivity.
    The draft spec, which was published yesterday for public comment, is a key step in SA’s move from analogue to digital terrestrial television and comes ahead of the planned switch-on of digital broadcasts in September 2012. The public has 30 days in which to respond to the draft spec, shorter than the normal 60 days granted by the SABS.

    The shorter period is as a result of the urgency of getting the final standard in place.
    South Africans wishing to continue receiving terrestrial television broadcasts after analogue broadcasts are switched off — which should happen by mid-2015 to meet a deadline imposed by the International Telecommunication Union — will have to purchase a set-top box.
    The road to digital TV in SA has been long and tortuous, not least because of government’s decision to consider an alternative standard based on technology from Brazil and Japan after the country had already agreed to use the first-generation of the European standard, known as DVB-T. Government eventually decided to settle on a more modern version of the European system, known as DVB-T2.

    The SABS minimum specification does not preclude manufacturers from building additional features into the set-top boxes but merely sets base standards with which they must comply.

    The draft spec includes an access control mechanism to prevent subsidised decoders from being used outside SA. It does this through secure over-the-air software and a bootstrap loader; a mechanism to prevent set-top boxes from functioning in non-SA digital TV networks; and a control system that will allow “mass messaging”. It does not, however, contain any mention of an encryption scheme, which had been favoured previously by government, suggesting plans to encrypt digital broadcasts have been abandoned.

    Among other things, the draft spec proposes a low-cost, low-maintenance unit that provides basic functionality, including an electronic programme guide that provides details of available services.

    Although the draft standard applies to free-to-air set-top box decoders only, any other set-top box decoder that is capable of receiving free-to-air digital channels should ensure the audio and video services and over-the-air applications are displayed fully, without any alteration or hindrance.

    The decoders will be capable of receiving both standard- and high-definition (up to 1080p) broadcasts — with support for widescreen broadcasts — and must specifically ignore all services originating from non-terrestrial digital services. It’s unlikely, however, that SA broadcasters will offer highly bandwidth-intensive 1080p channels.

    Widescreen high-definition broadcasts will be “down-converted” to standard definition for television sets that don’t support it and displayed in a 16:9 “letterbox” format on 4:3 displays. The decoder will allow viewers to display the material in a letterbox format within a 4:3 frame or perform a 4:3 “centre cut-out” on the broadcast material and present this full-frame within the 4:3 display.
    An on-graphics plane and on-screen display information will use the 4:3 aspect ratio, regardless of the video aspect ratio.

    According to the draft spec, the decoder must be able to receive audio signals of up to 5.1 surround sound and output at least two-channel PCM stereo.
    In terms of outputs, the decoder will offer a composite video output port on an RCA socket and an HDMI port. There’s also a single USB port (for “future use”) in the draft spec.

    The decoder will also feature an “RF bypass” system so that consumers can continue to watch analogue broadcasts during the “dual-illumination” period when both analogue and digital television will coexist in SA.

    The draft spec says SA will use MPEG-4 coding for video and will use 8MHz channel spacing in the VHF and UHF bands and will be capable of receiving broadcasts in chunks of spectrum from 174MHz to 862MHz. The MHEG-5 standard will be used to provide interactive services, including teletext-like services.

    All eleven of SA’s official languages will be supported on the decoder and offer subtitles if these are made available by a broadcaster.

    The set-top box will have a minimum of 64MB of flash memory and 256MB of RAM, the draft spec says. The memory specification has been chosen to allow for the lowest component price, it says.

    The unit will draw a maximum of 10W of electricity during normal operation, 6W when in active standby and 3W when in passive standby. Its front panel will have “P+” and “P-” programme selector buttons, “V+” and “V-” volume buttons and a standby/on button.

    Though the decoder will have PIN-based parental controls to block age-restricted content, the draft spec notes that the PIN can be reset by restoring factory settings. The factory default setting will have parental control disabled. No doubt, it won’t take tech-savvy SA youngsters long to figure out this workaround.

  • When an Egyptian court fined former president Hosni Mubarak and two aides a total of 90 million dollars for cutting mobile and Internet services during protests that led to his ouster, it indicated the value placed on communication services in this Arab country.

    The 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011 was largely organised by groups creatively using social networking websites like Facebook and Internet radio. The fines were handed down three months later.

    "In Egypt, if you want to start an ordinary radio station, the government demands a lot of licenses and money," Youssef Mohamed, campaign and activities coordinator at the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA), told IPS. "Mubarak's National Democratic Party controlled everything, but the Internet offered more freedom."

    EDA, a youth NGO aimed at fostering a culture of political participation, had, by 2009, established its online community-run radio station, Elma7rosa, to disseminate views gathered through community reporting, on subjects like freedom of speech, democracy, tolerance and human rights.

    "In terms of Internet radio before the revolution there was Elma7rosa, and also Radio Horytna and Radio Bokra," said Mohamed. "The relative freedom on the Internet allowed online radio stations to emerge as the voice of a new generation fighting for its place in society."

    Radio Horytna, established in 2007 by a group of young journalists as Egypt's first Internet radio, was first on the scene during the 18-day revolt, providing uncensored news and taking controversial topics head on.

    "We were open 24 hours during the revolution. We set up a tent in Tahrir Square so that those documenting the events could give us material to publish online," Mostafa Fathi, editor-in-chief of Radio Horytna, told IPS.

    "They tried to control our material, but we resisted," recalls Fathi. "They would threaten us if we published material that wasn't to their liking and they arrested one of our reporters, Mohammed Al Arabi, while he was covering a protest."

    Fathi said Radio Horytna managed to stay afloat "because we have a lot of partnerships with Egyptian and International non-government organisations (NGOs)."
    Since the spring of 2011, the EDA has been expanding its role, conducting audio training to raise awareness on being active citizens and evaluate platforms of election candidates.

    Prominent figures at EDA include Esraa Abdel Fattah, 29, who rose to prominence in 2008 as a co-founder of a Facebook group to support industrial workers. EDA's editor-in-chief, Bassem Samir, is a prominent blogger who faced detention on several occasions.

    "EDA's 'Political Academy' is a programme about democracy where we teach the youth how to vote, their rights as citizens, how to be a politician, form a political party or join parliament," Mohamed told IPS. "Another project that we initiated, 'Free Egyptian', offers training to women on how to participate in political life."

    Radio is seen as an important means of fostering community participation. Radio Horytna runs an array of workshops on tolerance between Christians and Muslims.

     "We recently started a project called 'Reporter' where we gathered ten young people from all over Egypt and taught them how to use the new media tools and how to work as a digital journalist," adds Fathi.

    "Independent media is very important because it gives young people the opportunity to publish, create and broadcast their own programmes. We offer an alternative to traditional outlets like Al Masry Al Youm where it's very difficult to get published," Fathi said.

    Banat wa Bass (Girls Only), which became the region's first online radio station catering to the issues of Arab women when it was established in April 2008, now has a fan base of nearly five million listeners across the Arab world.
    "On a daily basis, women in Egypt face a lot of harassment, violence and gender inequality," editor-in-chief of Banat wa Bass, Amani Eltunsi, explained in an interview with IPS.

    "Arab media and movies always portray women as being weak and it's important to counter this by showing the positive side of Arab women, which also empowers us," Eltunsi said.

    "On one occasion, national security wanted to know what we were doing. I told them that I was running an Internet radio station. They didn't understand so I showed them the website and they told me that I can't talk about politics, sex or religion," adds Eltunsi.

    "Unlike bloggers whose material is archived online, Internet radio stations have more freedom because the officials can't access us easily or know who our listeners are," Eltunsi said.

     Last March, Reporters sans Frontières moved Egypt from its 'Internet enemies' list to countries 'under surveillance' due to the success of the country's uprisings.

    "Before and after the revolution there was a lot of monitoring. The military council investigated us and many lives were lost. We are using our voices for Egypt. This means that we'll do more and pay more if it means freedom," adds Mohamed.

    Citizen journalists and community media played a leading role in producing and disseminating news during the Arab uprisings as the expansion of digital technology provided innovative ways of expressing freedom.

    Well before the wave of pro-democracy uprisings swept the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Arab activists were harnessing the power of new media to circumvent the stifling of dissent by authoritarian regimes. Within MENA, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to have laws regulating Internet activities.

  • - Ghana: Nadia Buari and Bimbo Manuel Dazzle in 'Heroes and Zeros'

    One of the finest faces ever to have made it out of the Gold Coast, Nadia Buari has added another feather to her cap as she gave a good account of herself beyond many people's expectation in a new movie, Heroes and Zeros.

    Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Niji Akanji, Heroes and Zeros have been described as one of the best works to come out of this part of the world in recent times.

    According to Niji, Nadia was very professional on set and remains the best of her contemporary that he has ever worked with. "Nadia was very professional, I was impressed. She delivered on her character like never before. If you ask her, she would tell you that she was challenged beyond limit on the job".

    The Takoradie born mulatto screen goddess who is presently in United States was in Lagos months back for 28 days shooting the movie.

    Heroes and Zeros is the story of the destructive pursuance of Tonia (Nadia Bhuari) by Amos Fele (Bimbo Manuel). Ten years ago, Amos Fele was a wealthy celebrity director in the Nigerian film industry. Now he lives in a ramshackle flat, doing occasional low-paying TV Commercials for nameless products.

    He's a daily comic relief on the local soccer practice pitch, because, though he's already 45 years old, he nurses a new insane dream of making it into the dollar-soaked world of international soccer!

    His joyless marriage to Tinuke, a junior bank worker, is crumbling fast, especially after the death of their only child. A boost to his sagging spirit comes when a big-budget French-Nigerian film project appoints him as director. Suddenly, the Press begins to (re)celebrate him. Top actors and producers begin to call him up.

    To his wife's distress, Fele also quickly re-establishes his wane reputation as a first-class womanizer.

    Fele's new rise coincides with that of Dibu Ijele as Yellow Journalism's new enfant terrible. Dibu is a Reporter with Naija Scene, a weekly tabloid. The paper's new Board of Directors, with its eyes on profit, supports Dibu's theory that the only way to beat the competition is to scoop and sell dirt about anyone with a famous face or name. Dibu's editor, Ayoade Alisa, an urbane fellow, tries to fight him and the Board.

    Fele becomes obsessed with Tonia, a ravishing beauty and lead actress of the Nigerian-French film project. Ignoring the warnings of his best friend, Nnamdi, a psychology professor, Fele pursues his obsession with Tonia to its tragic conclusion: losing his new job, ending his marriage and ending up in a mental hospital. Unknown to him, Tonia and her sister, Bisola have something up their sleeves.

    Other members of cast are: Olu Jacobs, Tina Mba, Akin Lewis, Funsho Adeolu, Norbert Young, Linda Ejiofor, Gabriel Afolayan, Jude Urhorra, Brigette Cherile and others.

    - Last week's coup in Guinea-Bissau, in which Prime Minister Carlos Gomez Junior and Interim President Raimundo Pereira were arrested, has been followed by grave violations of the right to information, including threats to journalists, a news blackout and media censorship. “The 12 April military coup has led to serious restrictions on the freedom to report news and information, although this is vital at times of political unrest, Reporters Without Borders said. “A news blackout, in which all radio and TV stations were closed, has been followed by military control of media content. We hope that the return to political and institutional normality promised by the ruling junta will result in full restoration of media activity.” (Source: RWB).

  • - More local content: Namibia and Zimbabwe sign broadcast MoU

    Content development - covering news, current affairs and culture – and knowledge exchange is to form the basis of a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

    Telling African stories in their own tongue is key to the cooperation between the two television networks, according to Albertus Aochamub, director general, NBC, who says ZBC and NBC will learn from each other in training and cooperation ventures.

    "It is always assumed that we run to the big broadcasters such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), but we believe that there is a lot that we can learn from each other," he is quoted as saying by New Era.

    The two countries, he said, will tell stories of Africa 'on the move', and share those positive narratives with other countries in Southern Africa.

    Happison Muchechetere, group chief executive of ZBC, said the MoU is the culmination of a many exchanges between the NBC and the ZBC.

    He said through the agreement, the two broadcasting institutions would exchange knowledge in order to build a future Africa. He also hoped the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA), of which Aochamub is the president, would help facilitate similar memorandums of understanding between other member states.

     

    - Tax incentives of up to 22.5% to encourage TV production in South Africa are to be announced soon by the government, according to a UK based publication.

    South Africa's Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) is finalising documents to introduce a new foreign production rebate of 20%, rising to 22.5% if the programme is also post produced in the country, reports Broadcast. The rebate will be offered to those producers who have not already met the co-production status criteria that provides a 25% tax break. In addition, 25% credit will be offered for South African post production work on any television programme, reports the trade journal.

    Local producers have reportedly been advised that the scheme will be unveiled to further encourage TV production to the country, although there has been no comment yet from the DTI.
    The news follows the announcement last month that the UK is to introduce a tax credit scheme for TV production and animation companies in a bid to keep creative talent in Britain.

Issue no 601 20th April 2012

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Top story

  • Profitable online business models are hard to come by in Africa because although the number of Internet users has shot up, it’s still hard to get a critical mass of regular users and make money from what they do. Russell Southwood talks to Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media about its forthcoming launch of Mimiboard.

    Johan Nel used to work for South African media giant Naspers and woke up one day to realize that he had ideas and that he wanted to become an online entrepreneur. So he sold his house to raise the initial capital to launch Umuntu Media:”I started purely because there was a huge gap for proper local content and someone needed to fill it.” Having put up his own initial capital, Nel found a Dutch VC group eVentures, who have put in seed money first and then second round funding in September 2011.

    His first move was to launch two country portals, iNamibia and iZambia. “I wanted to provide something more than uni-directional news so we offer things like houses for sale, job, accommodation booking, etc. We employed local teams with a support structure based in Cape Town. The content is a combination of bought-in and self-developed.” Each local team pursues advertising opportunities and the sales are then closed by the support team in Cape Town.

    It now has eight of these country portals (having added Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana) and a ninth, Tanzania, will be added in May. Umuntu Media has 100,000 Facebook fans and gets 200,000 visits per month across its network of sites. Its first site, the Namibian one, reaches 35,000 out of the 120,000 online users in the country and is the second largest site in Namibia.

    Its latest product will launch on 15 May is a virtual pinboard called Mimiboard (Mimi means me in Swahili):”We’ve learned that we need to be better at connecting with audiences on the ground and creating communities. There’s a need to create a platform for that and it needs to be open, stand-alone and solve this same need for engagement for all publishers, not just for ourselves.”

    It offers media owners – whether they run radio or TV stations or newspapers, a virtual notice board at any level from the national to the very local neighbourhood. Listeners or readers can add notes using SMS, smartphones (initially Android), tablets, PCs or laptops:”It’s aimed at creating communities who want to talk and trade together.”

    The Mimiboards are embedded on the media owners website and it allows them to have live, SMS speed reactions to news, talk shows and all kinds of programming and articles:”Our strategy is to launch with media companies who will promote it to their audiences.” It will launch in Namibia with a radio and a TV station and a radio station and newspaper group in South Africa:”People trust media brands and they are launching it as their own product.”

    The interesting twist (which we’ve already seen used as a promotional tool in the growth of social media network Eskimi) is a virtual currency that in this case is called Mimibucks:”Publishing is an interesting space. New monetization models have to be prepared as the traditional banner advert is probably a dying business model. We looked at Ten Cents in China and MXit realized that there needed to be micropayments incorporated from the start.”

    The virtual currency allows Mimiboard to work on a freemium model. The virtual notices are free to post and read but if you “flip” the notes and want to add details like more words or photos, you have to pay the equivalent in Mimibucks of R0.9 cents. You top up your Mimibucks by sending an SMS message. The media owners and Umuntu Media will do a revenue share on the turnover of Mimibucks on their site.

    The usual pattern of online content development across emerging markets has been that the big international brands like Facebook, You Tube and Twitter establish market dominance but these are then followed by a combination of less well-known international variants and local versions, often in vernacular languages. Mimiboard seems to fit this pattern and have a business model that’s a bit like online classifieds. So watch this space….

    •    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • Lap Green Networks, the Libyan Investment Authority's international telecommunications arm, has lost a bid for interim relief in the reversal of its acquisition of a stake in Zambia Telecommunication Co. (Zamtel).

    The shares were bought in 2010 at a cost of US$257 million. The previous Zambian government sold Zamtel to Lap Green Networks in 2010 after failing to recapitalize the company.

    But the current government of President Michael Sata constituted a Commission of Inquiry to investigate how the company was sold. The inquiry produced a report that showed irregularities in the manner in which the company was sold.

  • Fee calls within the Yu mobile network helped the operator to add more than half a million customers between September and December last year. The smallest mobile company in the country now has 2.2 million customers, a 36.8 per cent growth in the four months up from 1.6 million subscribers as at September.

    This was the largest percentage jump in new subscriptions compared to the same period the previous year where the operator only attracted 46, 000 new subscribers.

    Faced with severe voice competition, Yu in July 2011 launched free calls tariff between 6 am and 6 pm everyday and if the Communications Commission of Kenya statistics is anything to go by, the strategy seems to be working. By offering free calls, the company aims to grow its subscriber base which it hopes will make it profitable in the long run.

    Safaricom, the biggest operator, gained 741, 000 new subscribers for the period between September and December 2011, a 4 percentage growth.

    Orange gained 144, 000 new subscriptions from 16, 000 the previous period while Airtel attracted 100, 000 new subscriptions from 557, 000 in the previous period.

    As a whole, CCK says there were 28.08 million mobile phone subscriptions in Kenya up from 26.4 million recorded during the previous period, a 6 per cent growth.

    "The increase in mobile subscriptions is an indication of operators' determination to continue growing their subscriber base through tactful marketing approaches as a strategy towards customer acquisition," the report says.

    The period saw Safaricom and Airtel lossing some market share. Safaricom's market share dropped to 66.6 per cent, down from 67.7 per cent while Airtel share dropped to 15.2 per cent down from 15.7 recorded during the previous period. Orange recorded 10.3 per cent from 10.4 per cent while Yu's share went up to 7.9 per cent from 6.2 per cent recorded during the previous period .

  • Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries, but its economy continues to grow at close to 4% per year. Mobile penetration is less than half the African average, which means there is excellent growth potential once the market moves beyond the duopoly held by Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain) and Telecom Networks Malawi (TNM).

    A third mobile operator, G-Mobile was licensed in 2008 but the rollout of the new network has experienced delays and the operator is fighting against the revocation of its licence in the courts. A fourth licence was awarded to Celcom in 2011 with services expected to be launched in 2012.

    To introduce more competition to the market, the government has followed in the footsteps of several of its neighbours and introduce a converged licensing regime which now allows the two fixed-line operators, Malawi Telecommunications (MTL) and Access Communications (ACL) to enter the mobile market as well. Both are already operating CDMA-based fixed-wireless networks which support full mobility and broadband access using EV-DO technology.

  • The Special Investigative Committee of the Liberian Senate setup to probe the controversial imposition of US$14 cents on all inbound by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) Tuesday, April 17, 2012 released its final report and recommendations to the Plenary of the Liberian Senate. The Plenary of the Liberian Senate is the highest decision making body of the Liberian Senate. According to the report, the US$14 cents imposed on the inbound calls has no economic effect on local GSM subscribers.

    The Special Investigative Committee was setup recently by the Senate Pro- Tempore, Gbezohngar Findley to probe the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) over the controversial imposition of the US$14 cents charged on all in-bound calls. The investigation was prompted by public outcry from GSM companies as to whether the US$14 cents would affect local GSM subscribers.

    However, briefing the Plenary of the Liberian Senate, the head of the Special Investigative Committee Maryland County Senator John Ballout said local subscribers will not be affected by the extra tax of US$14cents. He pointed out that the US$14cents will also boost government's revenue generation in the communication sector as well encourage expansion.

    At the same time, the Ballout's Committee recommended to the Senate Plenary that the LTA be mandated to ensure that the extra US$14 cents does not affect local subscribers by inflicting price of local calls. He further recommended that all money collected by the LTA on the 14 cents be deposited into the government consolidated revenue account at the Ministry of Finance.

    The Maryland County lawmaker noted that it was unthinkable for the LTA's intention to use the revenue at its (LTA) own discretion. "What we disagree on is the fact that they have intended to use the extra US$14 cents at their discretion in building its institutional capacity. The Senate has no intent to stop whatever institutional capacity building the LTA wants to embark on, but it should be done through the budgetary process like every other government agency," he added.

internet

  • Teraco Data Environments, a vendor neutral data centre provider, recently announced the launch of NAPAfrica, South Africa’s first open, free and public peering facility. Teraco Managing Director, Lex van Wyk says, the aim is to make peering simple and open to everyone. “The definition of peering implies settlement-free interconnection, and while the concept isn’t new, we are just bringing it to life for the first time in South Africa.”
     
    Historically, Internet Exchange Points (IXP’s) provide layer 2 fabric to allow peers to exchange traffic, over private peering sessions at a single point. While NAPAfrica offers a bi-lateral peering model, the company advocates open peering through their nationally located route servers. “Multi-lateral peering is unique to NAPAfrica in South Africa and offers customers access to an immediately visible and ever growing network of peers with just one peering agreement,” says Van Wyk.
     
    Andrew Owens, Teraco’s Head of IT, explains the difference between traditional IXP’s and the NAPAfrica offering, “Typical IXP’s facilitate only bi-lateral or private peering, which in many cases does not fit the “settlement-free” model. NAPAfrica is a neutral exchange, housed in a neutral facility offering free, open peering without multiple peering agreements.
     
    In a bi-lateral environment, 150 bi-lateral peers means 150 agreements and configurations whereas the same number of multi-lateral peers means one agreement and one configuration.”
     
    Instead of having to establish, manage and maintain individual peering sessions with each exchange participant, peers at NAPAfrica have the option of creating only one peering session with the route servers. The route servers will re-advertise all routes advertised by each participant to all other participants. This means instant peering with all current and future participants with one technical configuration.
     
    Addressing the obvious question of system failure, Owens says that two route servers have been installed at each location to mitigate this risk. “The servers operate on completely independent platforms and run different software entirely. In the unlikely event that one system is affected by a bug or vulnerability, our peers will already be connected to our second platform which is unlikely to suffer from the same vulnerabilities.”
     
    From a security point of view, NAPAfrica runs prefix filtering on all route servers, based on lookups in multiple Internet Routing Registries. This ensures that all advertised prefixes are owned by the respective company. “This process, complimented by the filtering option available to individual peers maintains the integrity of the environment,” concludes Owens.
     
    One of the main challenges in the peering environment is the legal and administrative resources required to manage the numerous bi-lateral peering agreements required in a typical exchange model. The establishing of such agreements, and management and maintenance thereof is a substantial drain on resourcing and not always possible in companies, regardless of size.
     
    Van Wyk says that open peering and the cost saving involved will eventually impact the price of connectivity in South Africa lowering bandwidth costs. “Free, open peering will decrease the cost of internet transit and ensure complete simplification of the process.”

  • When an Egyptian court fined former president Hosni Mubarak and two aides a total of 90 million dollars for cutting mobile and Internet services during protests that led to his ouster, it indicated the value placed on communication services in this Arab country.

    The 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011 was largely organised by groups creatively using social networking websites like Facebook and Internet radio. The fines were handed down three months later.

    "In Egypt, if you want to start an ordinary radio station, the government demands a lot of licenses and money," Youssef Mohamed, campaign and activities coordinator at the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA), told IPS. "Mubarak's National Democratic Party controlled everything, but the Internet offered more freedom."

    EDA, a youth NGO aimed at fostering a culture of political participation, had, by 2009, established its online community-run radio station, Elma7rosa, to disseminate views gathered through community reporting, on subjects like freedom of speech, democracy, tolerance and human rights.

    "In terms of Internet radio before the revolution there was Elma7rosa, and also Radio Horytna and Radio Bokra," said Mohamed. "The relative freedom on the Internet allowed online radio stations to emerge as the voice of a new generation fighting for its place in society."

    Radio Horytna, established in 2007 by a group of young journalists as Egypt's first Internet radio, was first on the scene during the 18-day revolt, providing uncensored news and taking controversial topics head on.

    "We were open 24 hours during the revolution. We set up a tent in Tahrir Square so that those documenting the events could give us material to publish online," Mostafa Fathi, editor-in-chief of Radio Horytna, told IPS.

    "They tried to control our material, but we resisted," recalls Fathi. "They would threaten us if we published material that wasn't to their liking and they arrested one of our reporters, Mohammed Al Arabi, while he was covering a protest."

    Fathi said Radio Horytna managed to stay afloat "because we have a lot of partnerships with Egyptian and International non-government organisations (NGOs)."

    Since the spring of 2011, the EDA has been expanding its role, conducting audio training to raise awareness on being active citizens and evaluate platforms of election candidates.

    Prominent figures at EDA include Esraa Abdel Fattah, 29, who rose to prominence in 2008 as a co-founder of a Facebook group to support industrial workers. EDA's editor-in-chief, Bassem Samir, is a prominent blogger who faced detention on several occasions.

    "EDA's 'Political Academy' is a programme about democracy where we teach the youth how to vote, their rights as citizens, how to be a politician, form a political party or join parliament," Mohamed told IPS. "Another project that we initiated, 'Free Egyptian', offers training to women on how to participate in political life."

    Radio is seen as an important means of fostering community participation. Radio Horytna runs an array of workshops on tolerance between Christians and Muslims.

    "We recently started a project called 'Reporter' where we gathered ten young people from all over Egypt and taught them how to use the new media tools and how to work as a digital journalist," adds Fathi.

    "Independent media is very important because it gives young people the opportunity to publish, create and broadcast their own programmes. We offer an alternative to traditional outlets like Al Masry Al Youm where it's very difficult to get published," Fathi said.

    Banat wa Bass (Girls Only), which became the region's first online radio station catering to the issues of Arab women when it was established in April 2008, now has a fan base of nearly five million listeners across the Arab world.

    "On a daily basis, women in Egypt face a lot of harassment, violence and gender inequality," editor-in-chief of Banat wa Bass, Amani Eltunsi, explained in an interview with IPS.

    "Arab media and movies always portray women as being weak and it's important to counter this by showing the positive side of Arab women, which also empowers us," Eltunsi said.

    "On one occasion, national security wanted to know what we were doing. I told them that I was running an Internet radio station. They didn't understand so I showed them the website and they told me that I can't talk about politics, sex or religion," adds Eltunsi.

    "Unlike bloggers whose material is archived online, Internet radio stations have more freedom because the officials can't access us easily or know who our listeners are," Eltunsi said.

    Last March, Reporters sans Frontières moved Egypt from its 'Internet enemies' list to countries 'under surveillance' due to the success of the country's uprisings.

    "Before and after the revolution there was a lot of monitoring. The military council investigated us and many lives were lost. We are using our voices for Egypt. This means that we'll do more and pay more if it means freedom," adds Mohamed.

    Citizen journalists and community media played a leading role in producing and disseminating news during the Arab uprisings as the expansion of digital technology provided innovative ways of expressing freedom.

    Well before the wave of pro-democracy uprisings swept the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Arab activists were harnessing the power of new media to circumvent the stifling of dissent by authoritarian regimes. Within MENA, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to have laws regulating Internet activities.

  • For 25 years Yacouba Sawadogo, a small-scale farmer in Mali, has been working to stop the process of desertification in the Sahel region of western Africa. During  the 1970s and 1980s the Sahel, a semi-arid area along the southern edge of the Sahara desert that stretches from Senegal’s Atlantic coast to the Ethiopian highlands, experienced severe droughts that left the land baron.

    For years farmers like Sawadogo have been adapting numerous innovations to re-green the Sahel. In 2010 the Web Alliance for Regreening in Africa (W4RA) was established to increase access to communication technology so that farmers in the region can share their innovations with one another.

    The program, which lasts through 2012, partners with Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam  and the Africa Regreening Initiative to increase the means of communication between farmers. With only 5.7 percent of the population in Africa having internet access, the program helps provide web based and mobile phone based communication technology to small scale farmers in the Sahel.

    W4RA also trains large numbers of farming communities to use computers and phones.  And the program uses radios to transmit information about agriculture. Chris Reij, who works on the Africa Regreening Initiative and is the author of “Investing in Trees to Mitigate Climate Change” featured in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, says that increasing communication between farmers will help them adapt better farming practices.

    “In this region, tens of thousands of hectares of land that was completely unproductive has been made productive again thanks to the techniques of Yacouba,” he said of the small-scale farmer from Mali. Sharing such techniques through communication technology will help with food security in the region and “play an increasingly vital role in reducing poverty and conflict,” according to W4RA.

  • Internet Service Provider (ISP) Afrihost announced on Wednesday that their capped ADSL subscribers will get more value for money, with higher data allowances for the same price.

    “A Bronze client who pays R29pm for 1GB will now receive 2GB for the same amount. A Platinum product user with a 100GB account for R950pm will now get 120GB of data without paying a single cent more – bringing prices down to below R8 per GB,” said Afrihost director, Greg Payne.

    AfriGamer clients that pay R299pm for 20GB will now have 35GB of regular data to use in addition to their zero-rated gaming bandwidth.

    “This is arguably the biggest change to Afrihost’s ADSL Packages since we revolutionised the market back in 2009 by pioneering R29 per GB – a time when the industry norm was around 3 times higher,” said Payne.

    The revised packages are available immediately on Afrihost’s website and will come into effect for all existing clients on capped ADSL products on 1 May.

    Afrihost added that it will also be re-evaluating both their regular and business uncapped packages. “Though no official figures are available, they will at minimum match competitor rates,” said Payne.

  • A new major survey of Internet users in Egypt was conducted by the Arab Advisors Group in February 2012. The survey revealed that around 22.4% of Internet users in the country use e-commerce services to buy products or services or pay their bills online. The Arab Advisors Group conservatively estimates the number of these users to be around 2.8 million, which is around 3.4% of the total population in Egypt.

    Electronics are the most popular products bought online, followed by software, while airline tickets booking and website subscriptions are the top services paid for online.

    The survey report, "Egypt Internet users and e-commerce survey 2012" was released on March 26, 2012 and provides the results of a major comprehensive online survey of Internet users in Egypt. The survey probed the patterns and trends of Internet use in Egypt including online and video gaming, mobile Internet, e-commerce, online banking (e-banking) and e-government. The report has 85 pages and 101 exhibits.

    Respondents were randomly targeted by receiving an email shot in their inbox in cooperation with Egypt's major ISP, TE Data. Moreover, TE Data also promoted the survey through their presence on Facebook. The survey results encompass answers from 856 respondents that passed rigorous quality control checks. Quality control was conducted by Arab Advisors Group's team and included checking email addresses for authenticity and built-in question redundancy to filter out non-serious respondents. The survey was conducted on the general Internet population, including both genders and all age groups across Egypt. The online survey yields a confidence level of 99% with a margin of error of less than 5%.

computing

  • Old Mutual has donated computer software valued at N$20 000 to Delta Secondary School in Windhoek. The contribution is the company's way of thanking learners for achieving good result in 2011. About ten best performing schools have received items from Old Mutual. Dr. Lemmer Senior Secondary School and Romanus Kampungu Senior School will receive their donations during the course of this week.

    Executive Manager, Retail Mass Market of Old Mutual, Martha Murorua, was proud to hand over the donation. "At Old Mutual, we believe that our responsibility as a corporate citizen encompasses fostering and cultivating opportunity for the future leaders of our country."

    The desire to foster leadership has resulted in the formation of a strategic partnership between Old Mutual and the Ministry of Education to promote excellence in education in Namibia.

    The company's continuous efforts as a private sector player are aimed at building a core of leaders for Namibia, said Murorua.

    "By addressing the pressing needs of education in our country, we believe that our time and money invested will contribute to delivering the necessary skill the industry requires and enhance our competitiveness as a nation," she said.

    Old Mutual will invest over N$1 million in Education Excellence Awards over three years.

    "Education is truly the foundation of crafting skilled men and women for our nation and we are steadfast in addressing the shortcoming faced by the schools throughout Namibia," said Cavin Nyambe, the Director of Examinations in the Ministry of Education in his address.

    "The significant contributions made have provided schools with the necessary tools and equipment to assist both teachers and learners in enhancing and executing projects timeously," Nyambe added.

    "The ministry of education sincerely extends its gratitude to Old Mutual for their continuous support and commitment in improving our ducational standards throughout Namibia," he concluded.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IHS, a telecommunications infrastructure provider, with headquarters in Nigeria and operations across Africa, has invested USD 8 million to upgrade its Network Operations Centre (NOC) in Lagos. The upgrade allows IHS to offer state-of-the-art infrastructure management and professional services and site monitoring systems to mobile network operators in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and other neighbouring countries in West Africa.
     
    Issam Darwish, CEO, IHS said:
    “The investment in the NOC marks a new chapter for IHS, and reaffirms our commitment to Africa. It will allow us to implement our regional growth plan by expanding our reach and providing the additional higher value services that regional operators are currently seeking. It will also let us deliver more value for our customers by creating significant cost synergies.
     
    With the eventual evolution of 4G in Africa and the surge in mobile traffic, operators will be looking to differentiate their services by offering the best customer experience. Tower management will play an important behind the scenes role in this and our investment in NOC underscores that IHS is well positioned for the imminent arrival of 4G.”
     
    The NOC will provide a range of comprehensive professional tower management services to network operators while leveraging cost and value synergies.  These services include a holistic approach to tower utilisation with the aim of turning every base station and tower into its own profit and loss centre; green power management; preventative and corrective maintenance of all devices and procedures on site; minimising site down time closer to zero; and a new approach to customer service management. The NOC will enable IHS to operate its proprietary and customer infrastructure more efficiently, enhancing its regional service delivery and competitiveness.
     
    William Saad, Group Chief Technology Officer, IHS, added:“The NOC development, with an initial capacity for 5,000 sites, gives us the ability to monitor networks in real time and respond accordingly. Many operators achieve on average 98% uptime on their own sites, which results in estimated annual revenue losses of $7,000-$10,000 per site. The current 1,000 sites managed by the NOC have an availability of over 99.9%, vastly reducing operators’ revenue loss by minimising their downtime.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Openweb has launched a new 10Mbps uncapped ADSL product at R1,649 per month. This announcement follows the company’s reduction in 1Mbps uncapped ADSL rates earlier this week.

    -  Zimbabwe’s Aquiva Wireless has launched commercial voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services. Acquiva reports that it has signed an interconnect agreement with Econet Wireless, and is seeking similar agreements with cellular operators Telecel and NetOne, and fixed line incumbent TelOne.

Digital Content

  • I have no doubt that social media would play and is playing a significant role in Ghana’s Election 2012. As a keen follower of political debates and analysis on various social media platforms, my conviction of the role of social media in this years election is deep-seated, positive and insurmountable.

    I believe that social media has opened a new wave of opportunity for citiziens, politicians and civil society organisations to engage in an open, transparent and dialogical discussions that are relevant to the entrenchment of our democratic values and aspirations.

    Particularly, I would like to share some insight about Facebook and how it is becoming an inevitable tool in our public debate and discourses in Ghana. Socialbaker, a social media analytic company estimates that Ghana’s Facebook user base is reaching 1,211,760 and grew by 92,300 in the last six months.This means that there is a slight increase of over 150,000 users each month with a penetration rate of about 5%. Recalling how election ’08 was close to call and the difference of 40,586 votes between the candidates, politicians should not underestimate the power of Facebook to galvanise, canvass and rake-in floating voters and keep their loyal supporters up-to-date with information and news. Perhaps it is also interesting to share this point; 32% of the total number of Facebook users are between the ages of 25-35, but the largest group of 41% is between 18-24 years of age. The impact of Facebook cannot therefore be brushed away in this election year. News now flies like wild-fire, and I stay updated about political happenings in Ghana through Facebook. I know I am not alone.

    Interestingly, no stone is being left unturned. Political parties and their representatives in Ghana are now very active on Facebook. Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, the presidential candidate for the PPP( Progressive People’s Party) has more than 10,551 subscriptions on his Facebook page. He seems to have grabbed the real essence of this tool very well. On 7th April 2012 he requested his followers to participate in an online chat with him, an opportunity to relate to his supporters on a one-one basis while giving them the chance to ask questions and make comments. Who would have thought about this a decade ago?

    Meanwhile, even before campaigning in Ghana kick-starts officially, the debate has long started on Facebook. Many of the youth in Ghana are using this medium to express support and opposing views about issues of national character and importance, though emotional, sentimental, naked insults and inconsequential at times. Nevertheless, this is somewhat a strong indication that there is a greater desire for greater political transparency and public inclusion. For example, the state of the nation address; the mob attack on a radio station by thugs of the opposition party; the wrangling within the ruling party;the Woyome judgement debt scandal where a financier of the ruling government is ?purported? to have been paid an amount of 52 million dollars as judgement debt and recently issues arising from Ghana’s mundane biometric registration exercise gained lots of commentary. Just today, the topic dominating is the beating of ?loud-mouthed? Ursula Owusu of the opposition party who has gain notoriety for her insulting behaviour; not even the president is spared at times.

    Some parliamentary candidates are also communicating and disseminating information to heterogeneous audiences using Facebook. Ras Mubarak, one of the youngest Parliamentary candidate in this years election is an ardent user of Facebook. He connects with the over 2,000 public subscriptions on his Facebook page and constantly updates this with his campaign activities.This young politician is definitely pushing the frontiers and is reaching out to lots of people, affording them the opportunity to make informed decision, like his ideas, and express their views by way of commenting. It will be fair to say that there are many other Parliamentary candidates doing same.

    This trend is not only limited to politicians, other concerned civil groups such as Ghana Decides and Ghana elections are sensitising and educating people about the biometric registration and other related election issues. You may want to visit their websites here  and here: 

    With an increase in internet penetration and 3G, the expectation is that many people would turn to social media to be informed, share and disclose their affiliation to political parties. luckily enough, internet is readily available on mobile phones thanks to the numerous telecommunication companies avaliable.This is a greater height for our democracy and very potent omen.

    Using Facebook to connect with otherwise inaccessible groups and capture new members by distributing public information would probably influence the outcome of this years election. Perhaps there are politicians who are adamant to use this new development. Well, this could only be to their own peril. For them I say, this is a bandwagon you should roll along with.

  • Ethiopia’s tourism authorities have launched a new website to showcase sustainable community tourism opportunities in the country.

    The new site, aims to inform tourists and highlight business opportunities for Ethiopian communities. Community Based Tourism is a form of sustainable tourism that allows visitors to connect closely with the communities they visit.

More

  • Microsoft Africa chairman named Mali’s interim prime minister

    Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft’s chairman for Africa, was named interim prime minister of Mali on Tuesday, according to a decree read out over public media.

    “Interim president Dioncounda Traore names Cheick Modibo Diarra in the functions of prime minister,” read the decree nearly a month after the government of the impoverished Saharan state was overthrown in a coup.

    Diarra, a former NASA astrophysicist, founded the Rally for Mali’s Development last year to stand in a now aborted presidential election.

    Born in 1952 in the central region of Segou, Diarra attended universities in Paris and Washington, then worked in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before becoming chairman for Africa at Microsoft in 2006, according to a biography on Microsoft’s website.

    His appointment comes after armed men rounded up several top political and military figures close to ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure and took them to the junta’s headquarters in Kati, near Bamako.

    Diarra’s aides said he had gone Tuesday morning to Kati to meet with the former junta who staged a coup on March 22. They said they had no details on the discussions.

    A Malian security source said the overnight arrests would be explained “when the time comes.”

    Observers said the raids appeared to be aimed at showing that the junta led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, which ceded power to Traore last week, does not intend to be sidelined by politicians.

    An April 6 deal brokered by the regional Economic Community of West African States amnesties the coup leaders and gives the prime minister “full powers” at the head of a “national unity” government to include the military.

    Diarra’s top priority will be to negotiate with Tuareg and Islamist rebels as well as various criminal groups who took advantage of the coup to overrun much of the country’s north.

  • SPA seeks speakers for iWeek 2012 conference in Cape Town

    The Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa (ISPA) is seeking speakers for iWeek 2012 in September in Century City, Cape Town. The industry's annual get-together attracts speakers and delegates from several countries worldwide. Initial proposals to be considered as a speaker for iWeek should be submitted to the ISPA by the end of May, with the final deadline for submission of the speaker's profile and presentation content being 30 June. Presentations should be no longer than 30 minutes and should cater for a few questions afterwards. Most talks will be streamed live via the web and all presentations will be posted on the iWeek website subsequent to the event. There is always tremendous competition for speaking slots at iWeek and several proposals have already been received. ISPA plans to offer three content streams at iWeek 2012. Presentations should address business trends, legislation and governance or technical advances in the internet industry.

Issue No 181 19 avril 2012

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Editorial

  • Les enquêtes de consommateurs disponibles en Afrique indiquent qu’il y a une audience pour les jeux sur ordinateur et téléphone portable mais il y a peu d’informations suggérant un engouement pour la production locale de jeux. Pour les quelques développeurs qui sont assez braves pour se lancer dans le développement de jeux, le modèle commercial reste à la fois confus et contraignant. Lors d’un entretien avec Cliff Onyari, un développeur kenyan à Virtual Designs, Russell Southwood revient sur les facteurs qui permettraient un décollage des jeux.

    Il est bien possible qu’il y ait un plus grand nombre de développeurs africains de jeux mais leur présence ne se fait pas vraiment sentir. La liste ci-dessous est constituée des informations que j’ai réunies et il est bien possible qu’il y en ait plus mais il faut le dire, ils ne font pas vraiment d’efforts pour se faire connaître. Au Ghana, la société Leti Games a développé deux jeux intitulés iWarrior/Kijiji et Street Soccer (selon une enquête datant de 2009, 14% des personnes intérrogées jouent des jeux en ligne). La société travaille maintenant avec Wingu Technologies qui elle-même a des développeurs qui ont produit des jeux dans le passé.

    L’année dernière lors de la conférence Mobile Entertainment Africa, Steve McIvor de Tasty Poison  parlait non sans éloquence du développement d’applicatifs pour les iPhone et iPad mais principalement à destination de marchés à l’extérieur de l’Afrique. Il a aussi souligné les efforts de l’Afrique du Sud ou les autorités gouvernementales ont encouragé le développement du secteur des jeux mais tout cela semblait bien indiqué qu’ils en étaient encore à un stade peu avancé. A cette conférence, il y avait aussi Anne Shongwe qui développe des jeux avec le soutien Nations Unis se concentrant sur les comportements en relation avec le SIDA. Voila, malheureusement c’est tout…

    En fait il y en a un de plus. Il s’agit Cliff Onyary de Virtual Designs avec lequel je me suis entretenu cette semaine à Nairobi. Cliff a un diplôme en architecture de l’université Jomo Kenyatta et pensait qu’il allait faire des maquettes en 3D mais sa vraie passion c’était les jeux. Il a ensuite suivi un cours en ligne de conception de jeux de l’Université de Pittsburgh et a décidé ave son co-fondateurs de se lancer dans le développement de jeux.

    Ils ont réalisé très tôt que les jeux devront être conçus pour des téléphones portables pour avoir une chance quelconque d’atteindre une audience. Dans cette optique, ils ont développé un jeu qui s’appelle Tribal Scars et qui se sera accompagné par une série TV en ligne.

    Le pilote de la série TV donne des informations sur les règles du jeu et est en ligne sur le site Bozza.mobi chapeauté par Emma Kay. Depuis sa mise en ligne deux semaines plus tôt, il y a eu 100 téléchargements. Vous pouvez penser que ce n’est pas beaucoup mais ils viennent juste de commencer. Virtual Designs et Bozza se partageront les revenus de la publicité. Le jeu cible les 16 à 35 ans. Selon Onyari, l’opérateur mobile Safaricom est entrain de développer une plateforme similaire à  iTunes et proposera un partage des revenus 70:30 pour les développeurs de contenu. C’est une autre opportunité de monétiser leurs jeux.

    Cliff Onyari décrite le jeu comme “une campagne contre le tribalisme dans son pays et nous avons pris contact avec des ONGs pour qu’ils en assurent la diffusion. Il n’y a pas beaucoup de gens qui jouent des jeux sur leur téléphone portable mais la stratégie est d’utiliser la série TV en ligne pour les attirer vers le jeu. Nous voulons aussi vendre des produits d’accompagnement comme des T-shirts ». Toute cette stratégie est bien nécessaire mais le test clé sera de voir si les utilisateurs trouvent le jeu amusant en comparaison avec d’autres jeux intéressants qui seront mis sur le marché.

    Quand est-ce Oyari à commencer à jouer des jeux ? « Mon père nous acheté une X-Box et c’est comme cela que tout a commencé. La plupart des gens jouent avec leur ordinateur. La série de la FIFA est un jeu populaire à cause de l’intérêt porté au football ». Les versions originales de jeux produits dans les pays développés se vendent à 8,000KS tandis que les versions piratées d’une qualité raisonnable se vendent à 4,000KS. Les versions originales sont par exemple pour la classe moyenne qui réside à Westlands. Selon ouie dire, les versions piratées peuvent se vendre par centaine chaque jour mais les coûts du piratage sur la qualité sont aussi élevés. Il y a donc bien un marché mais à la moitié du prix de celui que les développeurs de contenu trouve intéressant.

    Mais si tout cela ne marche pas, Onyari et ses amis font appel à d’autres amis en Europe ou aux USA qui les leur envoient. A la sortie de Call of Duty 3, ils se sont associés pour acheter une copie qu’ils partagent ensemble.

    Onyari estime que les contraintes principales à l’expansion du secteur des jeux sont du côté de l’offre. Il y a des personnes qui ont les qualités professionnelles pour le graphisme et l’animation mais peu de gens ont les qualités professionnelles nécessaires pour la conception d’un jeu et sa finition. Les équipements de finition ainsi que les logiciels sont chers. Même des versions pirates sont chères et pas facile à trouver. En Afrique du Sud, l’organisation qui supporte l’industrie cinématographique a proposé d’acheter les équipements d’animation pour permettre aux animateurs de les partager.

    Selon Onyari, les jeunes dans les zones rurales suivent les tendances pour ce qui est de la musique et connaissent tous les chanteurs et par conséquent il n’y a pas de raisons pour qu’il n’en soit pas de même pour les jeux. Cela dit les coûts restent le principale obstacle.

    Tandis que la communauté Internet et l’industrie audiovisuelle dans le monde semblent se connecter à l’Afrique à plusieurs différents niveaux, les sociétés de jeux n’ont pas encore prêté beaucoup d’attention au continent. Comme pour les films, les niveaux de piraterie constituent un challenge extrêmement difficile à surmonter pour faire son entrée. Si les opérateurs mobiles attachent plus d’importance au contenu dans un monde de plus en plus centré sur la data, il doit pourtant être possible de créer un marché pour les jeux.

  • Le ministre du Plan, de l’Economie et de la Coopération Internationale M. Bédoumra Kordjé et le représentant Résident de la Banque au Tchad, Jean Claude Brou ont signé un accord de financement du programme régional de Réseau de télécommunications haut débit en Afrique Centrale. La cérémonie de signature a eu lieu dans la grande salle dudit ministère en présence du ministre des Postes, des Nouvelles Technologies de l’Information et de la communication. Cet accord de financement du Programme Régional de Réseau de Télécommunication Haut débit en Afrique Centrale intervient moins d’un mois après l’inauguration de la fibre optique par le Président de la République Idriss Deby Itno. Cette deuxième phase de par sa dimension régionale va permettre au Tchad de sortir de sa situation géographique défavorable.

    Le représentant Résident de la Banque Mondiale au Tchad Jean Claude Brou a relevé que ce projet à caractère régional concerne essentiellement le Tchad et la République centrafricaine dont l’objectif principal est d’améliorer l’accès et l’utilisation des services du réseau de fibre optique ainsi que la réduction de leurs coûts. «La réalisation d’un tel projet aura des retombées en termes de disponibilité, d’accès et de qualité de communication et de croissance économique. Il contribuera également à l’atteinte des objectifs du Millénaire pour le Développement, surtout en ce qui concerne le point N° 8 qui met l’accent sur les besoins spécifiques des pays enclavés». Pour le ministre du Plan, de l’Economie et de la Coopération Internationale Bedoumra Kordje, ce projet de Réseau de télécommunications Haut Débit est le fruit de la déclaration des Chefs d'Etat de la CEMAC lors du sommet de N'Djamena, tenu le 25 avril 2007. Les pays membres de la CEMAC se sont engagés à travers cette déclaration à assurer progressivement le désenclavement de la sous-région dans le domaine de la technologie de l'information et de la communication (TIC) par le financement des projets sous-régionaux. Pour lui, le Tchad, à l'instar des autres pays de la sous région, doit nécessairement s'arrimer à la nouvelle donne.

    Le Ministre rassure que ce projet qui est une étape fondamentale sera exécuté conformément aux procédures de la Banque Mondiale et ce, dans le respect des règles de l'art. «Des efforts seront également faits pour que les conditions préalables du projet soient remplies à bonne date», a-t-il ajouté. D'un coût global de 15 milliards de francs CFA, ce projet qui vise à construire un réseau long de 1202 km entre N'Djamena- Adré en direction du Soudan et 334 km entre Doba, Bemal en direction de la République Centrafricaine est cofinancé par le gouvernement du Tchad à hauteur de 8 millions de dollars U.S soit 4 milliards de francs CFA.

  • Au Sénégal, le Rassemblement des entreprises du secteur des technologies de l’information et de la communication (RESTIC), une organisation professionnelle qui regroupe tous les métiers dans le domaine des TIC, a publié un communiqué, le 15 avril 2012, dans lequel il « prend acte » de la décision du gouvernement d’annuler la convention de concession de l’autorisation d’opérateur d’infrastructures accordée par le précédent gouvernement à une entreprise sénégalaise. Toutefois, le RASTIC écrit qu’une telle mesure devrait aussi être appliquée à l’opérateur SENTEL Millicom (Tigo) «qui avait acquis une licence d’opérateur de téléphonie mobile au prix dérisoire » et qui « continue ses services d’opérateur en dépit de la révocation de sa licence il y a cinq ans par l’Etat».

    Et comme «il ne saurait y avoir deux poids deux mesures », l’organisation «invite le nouveau régime à trancher sans tarder sur la situation de la licence Tigo».

    Dans le même communiqué, le RESTIC «estime qu’il est urgent d’abroger aussi le décret instituant la taxe sur les appels internationaux, une mesure non conforme aux lois et textes en vigueur dans l’espace UEMOA». Il évoque la nécessité d’un «débat sur la gouvernance financière et comptable de l’ARTP [Agence de régulation des télécommunications et des postes] qui est chargée de collecter des fonds auprès des opérateurs», en déplorant le fait que «les chantiers tels que la téléphonie rurale et le service universel [n’aient] pas connu des avancées».

    Le RESTIC souhaite enfin que le nouveau président de la République, conformément à ses promesses, favorise «des champions nationaux dans tous les secteurs d’activité, dont les technologies de l’information et de la communication, et l’implication de l’expertise locale dans les projets structurants comme l’intranet gouvernemental, le projet de backbone national en fibre optique et le déploiement de la téléphonie publique au standards CDMA piloté par l’ADIE [Agence de l’informatique de l’Etat]».

    Agence ecofin
  • Les opérateurs de télécommunications présents sur le sol marocain se retrouvent victimes du succès de la branche internet, contraignant l'ANRT (Agence Nationale de Réglementation des Télécommunications) à formuler à leur encontre de nouvelles exigences.

    L'internet au Maroc a connu un succès retentissant en quelques années à peine. Le nombre d'abonnés ADSL est passé de 40 000 en 2007 à 3.2 millions à fin 2011, ce qui représente un taux de pénétration de 10%. La concurrence acharnée dans le secteur a poussé les opérateurs à toujours baisser davantage leurs prix. Le prix de l'ADSL par mois à débit égal est passé de 57.9 dollars US à son lancement à 117 dollars US actuellement. Dans le même temps, l'internet 3G est passé de 104.2 dollars US à son lancement en 2008, modem compris, à 34.7 dollars US, toujours en incluant le modem avec un à trois mois de connexion offerts.

    Cette augmentation du nombre d'abonnés liée à une utilisation accrue de l'internet, à titre d'exemple 72% des internautes téléchargent des films et des images contre 36% en 2007, entraîne une dégradation des services. La saturation des réseaux entraîne une baisse des débits et des coupures de connexions. Etant donné que l'infrastructure peine à suivre la demande qui est conditionnée par des offres extrêmement attractives des opérateurs, l'ANRT, selon son responsable Azeddine Mounstassir Bilah, imposera aux opérateurs d'être plus précis sur les offres proposées aux clients en terme de plafond de débit accordé et de volume téléchargé.

    La situation tend vers la fin de l'Internet avec téléchargement illimité. Les opérateurs pourraient être amenés à segmenter le marché comme c'est le cas pour la téléphonie mobile qui compte près de 80 plans tarifaires selon la durée d'appel ou encore les heures de la journée où l'appel est passé.

  • Un prolongement du câble en fibre optique Lion jusqu'au Kenya a été inauguré à Mayotte jeudi. L'infrastructure offre plus de sécurité aux internautes.

    Le plongement du câble sous-marin en fibre optique Lower Indian Ocean Network, ou Lion II, entre officiellement en service. Il a été inauguré en grande pompe jeudi à Mayotte, en présence des représentants des investisseurs regroupés au sein d'un consortium. Lion II, long de 2 700 kilomètres, se connecte à Lion I au large de Toamasina, passe par Mayotte et continue jusqu'à Mombasa, Kenya. Grâce aux autres câbles en fibre optique qui passent dans le canal de Mozambique et dans la partie australe de l'Afrique, cette nouvelle infrastructure offre à la région de l'océan Indien des possibilités de sécurisation de la connexion internet en cas de coupure du Lion I.

    « Lion II améliore le débit de la fourniture d'internet, mais c'est aussi un investissement pour la sécurisation de la connexion pour les clients d'Orange Madagascar », déclare Benja Arson, représentant d'Orange Madagascar à la cérémonie de Mayotte.

    France Télécom et ses partenaires du groupe Orange à Madagascar, au Kenya, à l'ile Maurice, à La Réunion et à Mayotte font partie des plus importants investisseurs dans Lion II. Mais il y a également d'autres opérateurs, dont Emtel Ltd et SFR Réunion-Mayotte. Le projet qui a démarré le 23 septembre 2010, a nécessité un volume d'investissement de près de 70 millions d'euros. Avec Lion I, le câble connecte donc aujourd'hui cinq pays.

    L'inauguration de Lion II revêt une importance particulière, voire historique pour Mayotte qui se connecte pour la première fois au haut débit. L'événement, très attendu par la population, a même fait la Une des journaux locaux dans ce tout nouveau département français. C'est, d'ailleurs, la raison pour laquelle, la ville a abrité la cérémonie d'inauguration qui s'est tenue à la station d'atterrissement du câble, implantée dans la zone industrielle de Kaweni, à Mamoudzou.

    « Le haut débit va bouleverser nos habitudes au quotidien et va faire d'internet un besoin vital. Nous vous demandons donc dès à présent de penser à la sécurisation de cette connexion car une coupure serait insupportable », déclare Ibrahim Aboubacar, premier vice-président du Conseil général de Mayotte, faisant allusion à une deuxième connexion pour anticiper la possibilité d'une panne du câble Lion.

    En tout cas, c'est un véritable défi que ces opérateurs, dont certains sont concurrents sur le même marché, ont réussi à surmonter pour l'intérêt de leurs clients. Orange et SFR, par exemple, se partagent, avec deux autres opérateurs, le marché de 300 000 habitants de Mayotte.

    D'ailleurs, Eric Bouquillon, responsable d'Orange Réunion-Mayotte, a profité de la tribune officielle pour annoncer que les packs internet d'Orange seront en vente dans les boutiques dès le lendemain matin. La réponse de SFR a été dans les journaux du lendemain avec les annonces sur une page sur des clés 3G. La vie a repris son cours normal comme l'a déjà prédit Yves Ruggeri, président du consortium, lors de l'inauguration. « La collaboration s'arrête aujourd'hui. La concurrence reprendra ses droits dès demain. »

  • Orange Guinée, un des cinq opérateurs de télécommunication en Guinée est poursuivi par la justice guinéenne pour pratiques anti concurrentielles. Cinq fournisseurs d'accès à internet locaux, dont le Groupe Mouna Technologie et ETI l'accusent d'abus de position dominante, de concurrence déloyale, etc. Bref, ils reprochent à la société Orange Guinée de leur fournir en gros un service de piètre qualité tandis qu'elle détaille un service de meilleure qualité. Ce qui leur fait perdre la clientèle à son profit.
    Au delà de ce qui précède, les fournisseurs d'accès à internet (FAI) se plaignent contre le déport transfrontalier opéré par Orange Guinée en se connectant à la fibre optique à partir du Sénégal voisin. Des faits d'importation frauduleuse de matériels de télécommunication sont également imputés à Orange Guinée. Même si ces derniers cas relèvent de la compétence de l'autorité de régulation des postes et télécommunications, les FAI pensent qu'ils subissent les conséquences. L'autorité de régulation des postes et télécommunications (ARPT) aurait pris une décision rappelant à Orange Guinée le respect des lois en matière de télécommunication en Guinée. Mais Orange Guinée n'a jamais observé le contenu de cette décision.

    C'est ainsi que, se posant en victime, les fournisseurs d'accès à internet ont saisi la justice, a rappelé un de leurs avocats. Si Orange Guinée n'a rien vu en l'autorité de régulation des postes et télécommunications, elle pourra au moins se soumettre aux décisions de la justice, estime un avocat des FAI. Dans la conclusion qu'elle a déposée au tribunal de Kaloum qui examine ce dossier, Orange Guinée affirme qu'il n'y a dans les faits qui lui sont imputés, aucune violation de la loi sur les télécommunications en Guinée. Sa défense considère d'ailleurs que la décision de l'ARPT, base de la plainte des FAI est devenue caduque après les explications des faits pendant l'audience précédente.

    Paradoxalement, Orange semble ne pas être pour les débats dans cette affaire. Pour la petite histoire, notre prévenu à travers sa défense a choisi au début de répondre par écrit aux accusations des FAI en lieu et place d'un débat contradictoire à la barre. Le tribunal s'estimant pas suffisamment éclairé par les conclusions d'Orange Guinée, a demandé la comparution de son Directeur Général, juridiquement compétent pour répondre à son nom.

    Même son de cloche du côté de la partie civile et du ministère public qui ont compris qu'Orange veut faire en sorte qu'il n'y ait pas débats approfondis. Mercredi 4 avril, pendant que tous s'attendaient au Directeur Général d'Orange Guinée, c'est Ousmane Touré, Contrôleur de gestion, mandaté par lui (le DG) qui s'est présenté à la barre du tribunal. Cela n'a rien de grave, ont dit le tribunal et les autres parties. Mais ce qui fera le problème par après, sera l'incapacité « du représentant du représentant de Orange » à donner des explications, même à répondre aux questions afin d'éclairer la religion des uns et des autres. Pire, lorsque la défense n'a pas voulu que beaucoup de questions soient posées au représentant du prévenu.

    Maître Mohamed Traoré de la partie civile a réagi avec vigueur au comportement de la partie adverse en disant : « Nous n'allons pas accepter d'être pris en otage par Orange Guinée ». L'avocat s'est surtout élevé contre le fait pour le Directeur Général de Orange de se faire représenter par quelqu'un qui ne sait rien dans une affaire aussi importante. Pour Maître Traoré, au-delà d'ignorer la gravité de cette affaire, le DG de Orange Guinée minimise la justice guinéenne. En attendant, il a demandé au tribunal d'accepter que quiconque représente Orange soit traité comme un prévenu. A la demande de la partie civile, l'affaire a été renvoyée au 11 du mois pour la comparution d'un technicien des télécommunications par la diligence de l'autorité de régulation des postes et télécommunications. Ce dernier devra expliquer clairement ce qui s'est passé pour bien assoir la conviction du tribunal.

    guinee7.com
  • Les archives personnelles de Nelson Mandela sont disponibles sur le web depuis le 27 mars. Elles ont été numérisées par le Centre de la Mémoire Nelson Mandela en partenariat avec le moteur de recherche Google. Il s’agit de documents inédits qui permettront de découvrir une facette plus intime de Madiba.

    Les archives personnelles de Nelson Mandela sont désormais en libre consultation sur la Toile, grâce au partenariat entre le Centre de la mémoire Nelson Mandela, basé à Johannesburg, et le moteur de recherche Google. « Cette initiative permettra de toucher l’ensemble de la population, de l’élite mondiale au peuple sud-africain », estime Verne Harris du Centre de la mémoire Nelson Mandela.

    Ces archives sont notamment composées de récits sur son enfance, sur les années passées à la tête de l’Etat sud-africain, d’extraits non-publiés de son autobiographie écrite dans sa cellule de la prison de Robben Island. Au total, sept rubriques ergonomiques reviennent sur sa jeunesse, ses années en prison, sa présidence, sa retraite, les ouvrages de sa collection personnelle, ses activités auprès des jeunes et les moments partagés avec lui. En cliquant sur chacune d’elles, l’internaute a accès à tous types de documents : vidéos, textes et photos. A travers ce thésaurus, Nelson Mandela se laisse découvrir davantage.

    Grâce à ces « archives numériques, (...) Mandela montre comment Internet aide à préserver notre héritage historique et à le rendre accessible au monde entier. Nous avons travaillé en étroite collaboration avec le Centre de la mémoire afin de créer une expérience en ligne interactive proposant des outils de navigation puissants, pour que les utilisateurs puissent découvrir (...) la vie de Nelson Mandela », explique Steve Crossan, le directeur de l’Institut culturel de Google.

    Dans la même veine que les archives de Nelson Mandela, l’Institut culturel de Google planche sur une exposition des manuscrits de la mer Morte, sur la mise en ligne de milliers d’œuvres d’art grâce à Art Project ou encore sur la numérisation des archives du Mémorial de l’Holocauste Yad Vashem.

    Afrik
  • La première tablette tactile tunisienne a été présentée  à Sfax, dans le cadre de la 20e session du Salon de l'informatique, bureautique, télécommunications et multimédia qui se tient à la Foire internationale de Sfax du 11 au 14 du mois en cours. Les initiateurs de cette même marque ont saisi l'occasion de la tenue du salon pour lancer une autre gamme de tablettes 3 G tunisienne qui sera commercialisée début mai prochain.

    Formée de cinq ingénieurs, l'unité industrielle qui fabrique ce genre de produit haute gamme est basée à Sfax et emploie une douzaine de personnes. C'est un produit adapté au marché tunisien nous apprend, M.Chiheb Bouattour, jeune ingénieur et directeur général de Arts, l'entreprise qui propose pour la première fois en Tunisie un tablette tactile made in Tunisia.

    SIB Sfax dans sa 20e édition a été marqué par la participation de 93 exposants venus commercialiser leurs produits informatiques, bureautiques et multimédias. C'est l'une des manifestations économique et commerciale qui a gagné en notoriété et qui a su garder sa périodicité en dépit d'une conjoncture économique, politique et sociale très délicate, aussi bien sur le plan régional que national.

    L'inauguration, hier à Sfax, de cette manifestation, désormais bien ancrée dans la vie économique de la région, a été marquée par une grande affluence notamment de la part d'étudiants et d'élèves venus découvrir les nouveautés au niveau des équipements informatiques.

    Des nouveautés qui ont permis aux visiteurs de découvrir de nouvelles marques et accessoires informatiques mais aussi de dénicher les meilleurs rapports qualité/prix.

    Ordinateurs portables et bureaux, imprimantes, CD, clés USB, imprimantes lazer, livres d'initiation à l'informatique, CD, DVD...les produits proposés sont variés et à des prix différents. Les grandes marques informatiques et bureautiques n'ont pas raté cette occasion pour promouvoir leur produits auprès d'un public connu pour son amour et son engouement pour tout ce qui est informatique et multimédias.

    Ce même public est invité aujourd'hui à assister à une table ronde qui sera organisée en marge du salon et portera sur «la perception de la société civile des applications informatiques à haute valeur ajouté en matière d'action municipale».

    La Presse
  • La conférence du Forum des journalistes africains d'investigation (Fair) qui s'est ouvert à Dakar, mettra l'accent sur le rôle des Tic dans la consolidation et l'amélioration des pratiques du journalisme d'investigation dans un contexte africain difficile et contraignant.

    Selon un communiqué, la réunion, soutenue par l'Open society institute (Osi), va rassembler 30 professionnels des médias en provenance de neuf pays ouest africains.

    Le partenaire local, l'Ecole de journalisme E-jicom contribuera à l'animation de sessions pratiques sur l'usage des nouveaux médias et la recherche en ligne.

    La rencontre de Dakar vise à renforcer le travail d'équipe et les collaborations et à présenter le meilleur des travaux réalisés en Afrique de l'Ouest, souligne les organisateurs.

    Le Soleil
  • L'Algérie a opté "résolument" pour les nouvelles technologies d'information et de communication dans son système de formation, de recherche et de communications, comblant progressivement la fracture numérique qui la sépare des pays développés, a indiqué samedi le président de la République, M. Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

    Dans un message à l'occasion du journée du Savoir (Youm El îlm) célébrée le 16 avril de chaque année, le président Bouteflika a souligné que le défi à venir était de réduire d'urgence les fractures de la connaissance.

    "Participer à l'élaboration du contenu de ce qui circule et rester vigilants sur la fiabilité des informations est une mission que nous confions à nos jeunes virtuoses des nouvelles technologies soucieux des intérêts de leur pays et engagés dans la bataille de la connaissance", a souligné le président Bouteflika.

    Il a relevé que l'évolution des sciences et des technologies était "de plus en plus rapide" et la force des nations résidait dans leur capacité à produire des connaissances et à les transformer en innovations et en richesses.

    "Dans cette nouvelle configuration, nous sommes face à des centres producteurs de savoir et d'innovation et des cercles périphériques plus ou moins proches de ces centres", a poursuivi le chef de l'Etat qui a estimé que l'enjeu "est de s'y intégrer au mieux de nos capacités, de nos besoins et des intérêts de notre pays".

    Dans ce contexte, le président Bouteflika a rappelé que l'Algérie avait engagé au cours des deux derniers programmes quinquennaux, des travaux "gigantesques" à la pointe des dernières technologies dans le domaine de l'hydraulique, avec notamment le transfert d'eau, et dans le domaine des travaux publics, avec les ouvrages d'art de l'autoroute est-ouest.

    "Ces programmes structurants pour le développement économique et social que nous avons engagés constituent pour nos jeunes ingénieurs et techniciens le meilleur moyen d'apprendre et de développer des technologies encore plus innovantes", a indiqué le président Bouteflika pour qui le "véritable" progrès était d'allier le développement économique et social avec le développement scientifique et technologique.

    Il a aussi fait remarquer que l'effort des dix dernières années avait porté plus particulièrement sur l'activité de recherche, consacrée par la loi parmi les priorités nationales pour accompagner le développement économique et social du pays. "Et c'est en développant une base scientifique nationale que notre pays pourra absorber les progrès scientifique, les adapter à ses propres besoins et contribuer aux efforts de recherche développés dans le monde", a-t-il estimé.

    La Tribune
  • Tassarajen Pillay Chedumbrum se montre optimiste dans ses ambitions de faire du secteur des Technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC) un pilier de l'économie mauricienne. Il préconise une contribution de 7 % du Produit intérieur brut (PIB) d'ici à la fin de 2012.

    « Nous sommes en passe de concrétiser l'une de nos plus grandes ambitions. » Tassarajen Pillay Chedumbrum se dit convaincu de faire des TIC un pilier important de l'économie mauricienne. La volonté du gouvernement de démocratiser ce secteur est, selon lui, en bonne voie.

    «Les TIC talonnent actuellement le deuxième pilier de l'économie qu'est le tourisme. Et nous sommes convaincus que d'ici à décembre, le secteur apportera une contribution de 7 % du PIB », a-t-il déclaré lors d'une conférence de presse, ce jeudi 12 avril, dans les locaux du National Computer Board, à Port-Louis.

    Le ministre des TIC a, en effet, invité les journalistes dans le cadre du lancement de la deuxième édition de l'ICT Expo qui se tiendra le 14 et 15 avril, au Rajcoomar Gujadhur State Secondary School de Flacq. Un évènement qui se tiendra sous l'égide de la National Computer Board.

    Le ministre Pillay a rappelé le succès de la précédente édition de l'ICT Expo, qui a eu lieu à Rivière-des-Anguilles et à Rivière-du-Rempart, avec 5 000 et 7 500 visiteurs, respectivement. « Nous voulons apporter la technologie au plus près des citoyens et afin de promouvoir un secteur en émergence », a-t-il souligné.

    L’Express
  • La cour suprême de la Zambie a rejeté l'appel du fond d'investissement libyen Lap Green Networks suite à la décision de nationalisation de l'opérateur historique Zamtel. En 2010, le gouvernement Zambien avait cédé plus de la majorité des parts de Zamtel au groupe Libyen pour un montant de 257 millions de dollars US du temps du règne de Kadhafi. Les autorités nouvellement élues ont estimé que cette transaction ne s'est pas faite dans les normes et ont déclaré qu'elle était alors nulle et non avenue. C'est ainsi que les parts de Lap Green Networks qui représente 75% desont été saisi en janvier 2012. A la suite de cette décision de l'Etat Zambien, Le groupe libyen a décidé de saisir la justice en réclamant des dommages et intérêts qui s'élèvent à 480 millions de dollars. Ce fond d'investissement Libyen s'est vu retiré la plus part de ces actifs télécoms en Afrique à la faveur de la chute du régime de Mouammar Kadhafi, parmi ces pays nous pouvons citer le Rwanda qui est entrain de liquider Rwandatel qui était détenu à 80% par Lap Green Networks.

  • La RDC pourrait disposer d'une plate-forme avec près de 50 chaînes de radio et de télévision congolaises sur satellite. Le projet a été présenté au cours d'une conférence de presse le mercredi 4 avril au Grand Hôtel Kinshasa. La mise en place de la plate-forme devrait se faire grâce à une collaboration entre SES et Microcom.

    Le projet a été rendu possible par le lancement par SES d'un nouveau satellite, le SES-4 en remplacement de NSS-7 dont la couverture ne concernait que l'Afrique de l'Ouest.

    Le nouveau satellite offre la possibilité d'une large couverture, du Sénégal au Djibouti en passant par le Rwanda, le Burundi et Lubumbashi.

    Le SES a été officiellement lancé dans la nuit du 26 au 27 décembre 2011. Il devra être opérationnel dans deux semaines. Tandis que la mise en place de la plate-forme congolaise peut être effective dans 3 mois.

    «En tant qu'entreprise, SES consacre des ressources considérables au continent africain pour permettre aux gouvernements de trouver des solutions appropriées à cette migration.

    Nous bénéficions, en outre, d'une riche expérience en la matière après avoir aidé les pays européens à migrer vers le tout numérique», a fait savoir Ibrahim Guimba Saidou récemment nommé directeur de la zone Afrique pour SES.

    La technologie proposée par l'opérateur présente aussi beaucoup d'avantages en termes de qualité du signal qui reste meilleur quelles que soient les conditions atmosphériques.

    Le système permet de relier tous les coins couverts par le faisceau. Avec un coût à la portée de toutes les bourses, il s'adresse aux masses et non à l'élite comme il en est le cas aujourd'hui. L'objectif est de développer des chaînes de radio et télévision africaines.

    SES opère en Afrique depuis près d'une dizaine d'années. En Afrique de l'Ouest, Afrique de l'Est et en Afrique australe, il a réussi à développer des plate-formes similaires comme Zuku au Kenya, Multitv au Ghana, Top TV en Afrique du Sud. Dans plusieurs pays d'Afrique francophone, il distribue des programmes du groupe Canal plus horizons.

    SES est un opérateur satellitaire de tout premier plan mondial, avec une flotte de 50 satellites géostationnaires. L'entreprise fournit des services de communication par satellite aux télédiffuseurs, aux prestataires des services d'information et Internet, aux opérateurs des réseaux fixes et mobiles, ainsi qu'aux entreprises et organisations gouvernementales du monde entier.

    SES se fait fort d'établir des relations commerciales durables, une qualité de service exemplaire et un niveau d'excellence dans l'industrie de la télédiffusion.

    D'horizons culturels divers, les équipes régionales de SES sont présentes partout dans le monde et travaillent en lien étroit avec les clients pour satisfaire au mieux leurs besoins spécifiques de services et de largeurs de bande satellitaires.

    SES détient des participations dans Ciel au Canada et QuetzSat au Mexique, ainsi qu'une participation stratégique dans l'infrastructure satellitaire de démarrage O3b Networks. Jusqu'à l'horizon 2014, la société se propose de mettre sur orbite 10 satellites en cours de construction entre 2011 et 2014. Quatre seront destinés à l'Afrique à l'échéance 2014.

    Le Potentiel
  • North Africa Com
    15-16 mai 2012, Tunis, Tunisie
    Pour plus d’infos visitez

    West and Central Africa Com
    13-14 juin, Dakar, Sénégal
    Pour plus d’infos visitez

  • Dans ses premières réactions à la presse, suite à l’annonce de sa nomination, Abdou Lô,  le ministre de la Communication, des Télécommunications et des Technologies de l’information du Sénégal avait déclaré qu’il était ‘’venu apporter le pragmatisme des Allemands’’.

  • RESPONSABLE INFRASTRUCTURES, RESEAUX ET SYSTEMES - SENEGAL

    Mission :
    Il sera chargé de gérer et d'administrer les systèmes d'exploitation et réseaux;
    - D'assurer et de garantir la disponibilité des données du système d'information, en collaboration avec le Responsable base de données.

    Qualification / Formation :
    - BAc scientifique + 4 ans Informatique et télécom plus de 3 ans d'expériences dans un poste similaire;
    - Bonne connaissance réseau informatique et télécom, bases de données.

    Description de l'offre :
    Importante entreprise de la place recrute pour son service Informatique: Un Responsable Infrastructures, Réseaux et Systèmes.

    Date d'expiration : 25-05-2012

    Dossier de candidature :
    -CV.
    -Lettre de motivation.
    -Copies légalisées des diplômes.

    Pour plus d’infos ou pour poser votre candidature cliquez ici

Issue no 600 13th April 2012

node ref id: 24651

Top story

  • The available African consumer surveys show there is an audience for computer and mobile phone games but there is little evidence that anyone is much focused on trying to produce local games. For the brave few games developers already doing it, the business model is both confused and constrained. Russell Southwood looks at how African gaming might get out of the box and talks to Kenyan developer Cliff Onyari of Virtual Designs.

    African game developers may be out there in considerable numbers but they don’t have much presence. What’s described below is what I’ve collected and there may be more out there but they don’t make much effort to make themselves known. Ghana’s Leti Games has produced iWarrior/Kijiji and Street Soccer Apps. (According to a 2009 survey in Ghana, 14% played online games.) It is now working with Wingu Technologies, which has itself got developers who have produced games in the past.

    Last year’s Mobile Entertainment Africa saw Steve McIvor of Tasty Poison  talk eloquently about making iPhone and iPad apps for markets largely outside of Africa. He also outlined the efforts made in South Africa with Governmental bodies to focus on growing the games sector, which sounded as if they were at a fairly early stage. Also at Mobile Entertainment Africa was Anne Shongwe, afroes who is developing a game supported by the UN focused on behaviours around HIV/AIDS. And errrrr….that’s it?

    Well, there’s one more, Cliff Onyari, Virtual Designs who I talked to this week in Nairobi. Cliff took a diploma in Architecture at Jomo Kenyatta University and though he would use 3D Max to do architectural renders. But his real passion was games so he took a basic online course in game design from the University of Pittsburgh and decided with his co-founders to shift into games. 

    Very early on, they realized that the games would have to be designed for mobile handsets to have any audience reach. So they have been developing a game called Tribal Scars that will be accompanied by an online TV series.

    The teaser trailer, which gives clues on how to play the game, is up on the Bozza.mobi site run by Emma Kay’s organization of the same name. It went live two weeks ago and there have been 100 downloads. Small potatoes, you might say, but things have only just started. Virtual Designs and Bozza will split any advertising income. The game is aimed at 16-35 year olds. According to Onyari, Safaricom is developing an iTunes-type platform that will offer a 70:30 split to content providers which may offer another route to monetization. (That proposal has been in the works for some time.)

    As Cliff Onyari describes the game it’s about “a campaign to fight tribalism in the country and we have approached NGOs to be the publishers. Not many people play games on the mobile bit the strategy is to use the online TV series to attract them to it. We also want to be able to sell merchandising like T-shirts.” All worthy and necessary stuff but the key test will be whether users find the game fun to play alongside competing delights from elsewhere. Donor money has a habit of backing the nice sounding things and “getting down with the kids” in a “Dad’s embarrassing” sort of way.

    So how did Oyari get into game playing? “My Dad bought us an X-Box and that’s how we started. Most people play on PCs. The popular game is the FIFA series because of the interest in football.” Original games from developed country producers cost KS8,000 and pirated versions which are of reasonable quality only KS4,000. The former sell to people in more middle class neighbourhoods like Westlands. By all accounts, the main pirate figure can sell hundreds a day but the costs of pirating to some quality are also high. So there’s a market, it’s just that it exists at half the price the rights holders find attractive.

    But when all else fails, Onyari and his friends get other friends in Europe and the USA to send them. So when Call of Duty 3 was released, they clubbed together to buy a copy which they shared.

    Onyari sees many of the main constraints to the expansion of the games sector on the supply side. There are graphic and animations skills but few have specific game design skills or experience with rendering platforms. Also rendering engines are not cheap to buy, nor is the software required to produce the finished products. Even pirated versions are expensive and largely unavailable.  In South Africa there are proposal from the film support bodies funded by Government to buy the high-end animation equipment and let animators share it.

    Onyari makes the point that the youth in rural areas follow all the global trends in music and know all the performers so there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be possible to make them a market for games. But “cost is a major issue.”

    However, whereas the online, broadcast and film worlds globally are connecting with Africa at many different levels, the game companies seem (perhaps understandably) to have looked at the map and found “here be dragons.” And as with films, the levels of piracy would make any market entry extremely challenging. But as the mobile operators make content a priority in a more data-centric world, there has to be a way to create a market for games.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

telecoms

  • Algerian Minister of Post, Information and Communication Technologies Moussa Benhamadi said Sunday that 3G licenses would be allotted once an agreement is reached over Russian telecom firm Vimpelcom's local unit Djezzy.

    Benhamadi told the national radio that the Ministry of Finance should resume in the upcoming weeks the talks to reach an agreement over the purchase of Djezzy's 51 percent stake.

    The Russian telecom giant acquired Djezzy last year as part of a 6-billion-U.S.-dollar deal to buy assets of Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom, but the Algerian government demanded a majority stake in the unit.

    Algerian Minister of Finance Karim Djoudi has already stated that "Negotiations with Vimpelcom are ongoing. Until now the price has not been specified. We will work in these negotiations to set the real value."

    Benhamadi further indicated that the competent authorities have been crafting the book of specification of the 3G since last December.

    The minister excluded the possibility of allotting a permit for a fourth mobile phone operator, saying that the existing three operators, Djezzy, Nedjma and state-run Mobilis, are currently covering the local mobile market.

    He specified that the government plans to create a digital industry in the North African nation, as internet service will be provided to all households, schools and enterprises as by 2014.

    Meanwhile, the official said the state-run Algerie Telecom is due to provide internet service for political parties running for the parliamentary elections in May and assist them to set up their own websites to promote their programs online.

  • International firms are keen to enter Libya's telecommunications sector, one of the major business opportunities created by last year's uprisings in the Arab world. But they will only find out how they can do so after the war-torn country's first free elections in June.

    Foreign investment in the sector is much needed after a fifth of Libya's transmitter stations were destroyed in last year's revolution ending Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year dictatorship.

    The country of 6 million people remains in political turmoil; last week's inter-tribal fighting left nearly 150 dead. But Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar Telecom (Qtel) and Saudi Telecom have all expressed potential interest in Libya.

    Gaddafi isolated Libya's economy from much foreign competition, reserving licences and contracts for his own circle, which makes the market attractive to new entrants. There are only two mobile operators, Al Madar and Libyana, which are both state-owned.

    Libya's huge energy reserves mean median incomes are much higher than for neighbouring countries. And acquisition opportunities in telecommunications have dwindled globally in recent years, making Libya more alluring.

    "At least three or four" foreign operators have expressed interest in entering Libya, Communications Minister Anwar El-Feitori told Reuters, "but we'll leave it to the next government to decide on that."

    Elections for a national assembly will be held in June to replace the interim government, which lacks a mandate to make major decisions about the economy. Feitori said Libya would open its telecommunications market to fresh competition "when we have the rules for the competition and when we have the right infrastructure for that as well".

    He said about 20 percent of the sites operated by Al Madar and Libyana were damaged, with the most severe destruction in Zlitan, Misrata and Sirte, scenes of heavy fighting during the eight-month war. Each firm has about 1,000 base stations.

    The damage, which was estimated by the Gaddafi government to total hundreds of millions of dollars, meant mobile networks in the east and west of the country were cut off from each other when the conflict ended.

    "We worked on getting the services back to normal and now we're almost there. There is a big demand in telecom services," Feitori said. Internet users have doubled since the revolution, he added; Facebook played a major role in mobilising opposition to Gaddafi.

    In other African markets, fierce competition and multiple operators have left newer entrants struggling to compete.

    "Libya isn't like that and so would be attractive to foreign operators, both in terms of buying into the existing players or from buying a third licence," said Peter Lange, an analyst at BuddeComm in Sydney.

    "Libya is one of the wealthiest markets in Africa, similar to South Africa and Gabon in terms of GDP per capita, and there's a lot of money to be made in providing broadband and internet services."

    Libya's mobile phone penetration, the ratio of phones to the population, rocketed from under 1 percent in 2001 to 172 percent in 2010, according to official data. But many analysts doubt the figures, believing they may have been invented by officials in the former regime, though the uneven quality of service means a significant number of Libyans do carry two mobiles.

    Real mobile penetration is probably much lower, allowing room for growth, while Libya's broadband and internet penetration lag the regional average and are below levels for the country's poorer neighbours. In 2010, 14 percent of people in Libya were using the Internet, according to the International Telecommunications Union, compared with 49 percent in Morocco, 37 percent in Tunisia and 27 percent in Egypt.

    "Data offers a lot of potential, with only Libyana having a 3G licence," said Matthew Reed, a senior analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media in Dubai. "Data and mobile broadband services are relatively expensive, so there hasn't been a strong take-up yet. There are still prospects for other value-added services, which is why foreign operators are interested."

    Etisalat bid for a third Libya licence in 2009 but the former regime never completed the auction, leaving the sector firmly under the control of the Gaddafi family and its associates.

    Reed said the preferred option for an operator such as Etisalat would probably be to buy into one of the existing service providers.

    "Libya could sell stakes in both Madar and Libyana, which would increase competition and also allow for a skills and knowledge transfer," he said.

    The general manager of Libya's stock exchange, Ahmed Karoud, told Reuters last month that pre-war plans to list shares in Al Madar and Libyana would go ahead next year. The listings might be an opportunity for foreign operators to buy into the firms.

    One analyst said Libyana might be valued at around US$2 billion and Al Madar at about half that amount in the event of a sale, though he stressed that many uncertainties, such as the real level of mobile penetration, meant valuing the companies at this time was very difficult.

    Any sale would depend on the next government's approval - and as the country grapples with political divisions and reconstruction tasks across the economy, it is not clear when telecommunications policy will be set and what it will look like. Some fear a wait of many months.

    "Telecoms is way down on its priority list," said a Middle East telecommunications analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "The networks are operational, but there's no clear government strategy for telecoms or a means to implement one."

    He said one example that Libya might follow was post-war Iraq, which fully liberalised its market and allowed many telecommunications firms to provide international services.

    That policy could be introduced in at least some areas of the country, he said; "with some regions seemingly wanting a federal Libya, regional governments could give permission for foreign telecoms firms to start operations without getting central approval."

    But the case of Egypt, which is also preparing to elect a new leader following the end of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, suggests major liberalisation could be delayed.

    "Pre-revolution, Egypt was talking about privatising Telecom Egypt, but that's now totally on the back burner and Libya's political situation is a lot more fractious," said the analyst. "A third licence is definitely unrealistic until the government and political structures are sorted out."

    Until then, foreign operators will continue to hope. Some analysts think that when the market does open, Etisalat may be treated well by the government because of the UAE's role in providing financial and logistical aid to anti-Gaddafi forces. Qatar also provided substantial aid.

    Etisalat owns a 28 percent stake in Abu Dhabi-based Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications, which supplied satellite phones to the rebels. With local mobile networks shut down, those handsets were used by anti-government fighters to communicate with their commanders and call in NATO airstrikes.

  • South Africa's MTN on Thursday denied allegations it used corrupt practices and promises of weapons to win its licence in Iran, the first time the mobile operator has clearly rejected two-month old charges from rival Turkcell.

    "Any suggestion that Turkcell's failure to obtain the licence was as a result of any alleged corrupt or improper practices by MTN is unfounded," MTN's CEO Sifiso Dabengwa said in a statement.

    "The allegation that MTN influenced South African foreign policy with regard to its armaments and nuclear position is simply ludicrous and has already been dismissed by the South African government."

    MTN first said in February that it faced a suit from Turkcell claiming it bribed officials and asked South Africa to provide weapons to Iran and take a soft stance on Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for the licence.

    Turkey's largest mobile operator initially won a bid for the licence in 2004. Tehran later backed out of the deal and awarded the business to MTN in 2005.

    Turkcell filed a $4.2 billion suit against MTN in a U.S. court late last month.

    MTN has said the case lacked legal merit, but had previously stopped short of a full denial.

    Former CEO Phuthuma Nhleko, who headed the company at the time, has denied that he authorised bribes to Iranian and South African officials for the licence.

    He has also said the company was not in a position to influence decisions made by governments.

    Pretoria has said that its foreign policy is independent.

    The lawsuit threatens to tarnish MTN's reputation as a post-apartheid success story.

  • Kenyan mobile giant Safaricom and US-based wireless technology manufacturer Qualcomm have announced the launch of an ‘Experiential Tour’ for 3G products and services in Kenya, which will take place between 14 April and 31 June.

    The roadshow, which will call at shopping malls, sporting events and universities in Nairobi, Mombasa, Thika, Nakuru and Kisumu, and allow customers to test drive 3G devices and experience rich content and faster internet access enabled by 3G-enabled mobile smartphones, PCs and laptops.

    Qualcomm’s East Africa operations director Billy Owino commented: ‘About 95% of Kenya’s internet users access the internet on mobile networks. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors sharpen this experience by enabling users to do more and recharge less, so they can spend more time watching videos, downloading music, playing games and interacting with friends via social networks’.

  • The National Teacher's Institute (NTI) has mapped out strategies to use mobile technologies to update the knowledge of teachers and strengthen their competencies.

    NTI Director-General, Dr. Aminu Ladan Sharehu disclosed this at the end of a workshop organized by UNESCO in conjunction with Nokia, preparatory to the launching of four pilot projects to explore how mobile technologies can be used to support teachers in Nigeria and three other countries - Mexico, Pakistan and Senegal.

    The workshop with a theme titled, "Mobile Technologies and Teacher Development," was held at UNESCO's office in Paris, France.

  • Russia-focused telecoms firm Vimpelcom said its subsidiary Orascom has submitted a formal notice of arbitration against the Algerian government, escalating a disagreement between the parties over a $1.3 billion fine.

    Vimpelcom took over Algerian mobile firm Djezzy as part of a $6 billion deal last year to acquire the assets of Egyptian firm Orascom, but since then the unit has effectively been in limbo as Algeria would prefer to nationalise it.

    A court imposed the fine on Djezzy after ruling it made false statements to the Algerian central bank.

    Vimpelcom said in a statement that it continued to be open to finding an amicable resolution.

  • GDP per capita in Gabon is well above the African average, with the country’s oil revenues make it one of the wealthiest nations in the continent - although a distorted income distribution and poor social indicators are evident, according to Research & Markets. The telecom market was liberalised in 1999 when the government awarded three mobile telephony licences and two Internet Service Provider (ISP) licences and established an independent regulatory authority. Following two unsuccessful attempts, the privatisation of Gabon Telecom finally succeeded in 2007 when Vivendi-controlled Maroc Telecom bought a majority stake.

    With competition between three service providers – Zain (formerly Celtel, now Bharti Airtel), Gabon Telecom’s Libertis, and Etisalat’s Moov – Gabon became one of the first countries in Africa to exceed 100% mobile market penetration in 2008. At the same time, the network operators have been able to maintain a much higher average revenue per user (ARPU) than their peers in the region.

    The entry of a fourth network, USAN (operated by Bintel under the brand name Azur) into this virtually saturated market in 2009 triggered a price war that saw revenues and profits dive, forcing the operators to streamline their operations and to look for new income streams. Following more than a year of delays, a licence to offer 3G mobile broadband services was finally awarded in late 2011.

    In contrast with the mobile market, Gabon’s fixed-line and internet/broadband sectors have remained underdeveloped due to a lack of competition and the resulting high prices. The country has always had sufficient international bandwidth on the SAT-3/WASC/SAFE fibre-optic submarine cable which runs from Portugal via South Africa to the Far East, but this facility has been monopolised by Gabon Telecom. The recent arrival of a second international submarine fibre optic cable (ACE), combined with the launch of 3G mobile broadband services is expected to bring significant improvements to this sector in 2012.

  • The Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has campaigned against the mild sanctions meted against telecoms operators.They have called for compensation for telecoms subscribers if they are affected by poor quality of service (QoS). These suggestions were given by the President of ATCON, Titi Omo-Ettu in a forum recently.

    He commended the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for carrying out quality of service drive-test to determine the strength of networks in offering telecoms services.

    According to Dr. Eugene Juwah, Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, the commission had commenced the process, through a firm that has the equipment and expertise in quality of service drive test. This test assesses the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of network operators.

    The ATCON President advised the commission to use these measurements to identify specific performance of telephone networks.

    If necessary, he said, they should evoke sanctions to upgrade quality of service of the telecos.

    Omo-Ettu stressed the importance of sanctions, stating that they were part of regulation. He said they should discontinue the payment of fine to government and instead adopt the payment of compensation to consumers for consistent sub-standard network performance.

internet

  • Young Angolan protesters who have been able to mobilize online have invigorated anti-corruption and pro-democracy campaigns, traditional political activists in the southern African nation said Monday.

    Elias Isaac, country director in Angola for the independent Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Marcolino Moco, a member of Angola’s ruling MPLA who is nonetheless a sharp critic of longtime President Eduardo dos Santos, and Horacio Junjuvili of the opposition UNITA party held a news conference in neighboring South Africa Monday to discuss their concerns about the state of democracy in the southern African nation.

    In South Africa, the three said, they have access to a free media lacking at home. Young protesters have circumvented censorship by using Facebook to spread word of gatherings, and have posted videos of their demonstrations — and the often brutal police response — on YouTube.

    Human Rights Watch has called on the Angolan government to “end its use of unnecessary force, including by plainclothes agents.”

    “It’s a very small movement. What is so interesting about it is this disproportionate response,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Lisa Rimli.

    Rimli, who did not attend Monday’s news conference in Johannesburg, said in a telephone interview that the government may be particularly wary of the potential of the protests to spread in an election year. She said the government has been unable to track the leaders of the group, and that protests have continued despite arrests and violence. Meanwhile, traditional activists have struggled to hold demonstrations, she said.

    Isaac said the young people’s protest movement includes demonstrators from impoverished neighborhoods in the capital, Luanda, that are seen as opposition strongholds. But he said young people with the means to travel abroad and links to dos Santos’s MPLA party also are protesting, demanding that Angola enjoy the economic and political developments that they have witnessed abroad.

    Moco, who was prime minister from 1992-1996, said those calling for greater political freedoms are fighting an entrenched and powerful machine run by dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979. Dos Santos’ critics say he has been able to use the country’s oil wealth to consolidate power for himself, his relatives and his cronies even as most Angolans remain poor.

    Moco said the protests by young Angolans, though small, give him “hope that something is going to change, one day.”

    Angolans have endured decades of violence, starting with an anti-colonial war that began in the 1960s, followed by a civil war that broke out after independence in 1975. The civil war ended in 2002 when the army killed UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi.

    Today, many older Angolans fear pushing too hard for political reforms could lead to renewed civil war, said Junjuvili, the UNITA politician.

    But “the younger generations are fed up,” Junjuvili said.

    The youth protests began in 2010 with fewer than a hundred people at scattered demonstrations in Luanda, Isaac said. He said the number of protesters who turn out is slowly starting to grow, and that demonstrations are being held more frequently. Last month, one was even held outside Luanda, in Benguela, a southern coastal town.

    “We believe that, bit by but, these things are going to spread,” Isaac said, though he acknowledged a mass protest could be met with mass repression.

    To date, the protests are far from the scale that was seen in Egypt or Libya, where popular demonstrations toppled longtime leaders. But Moco, the former prime minister, said the president should heed the lessons of the Arab Spring.

    “I don’t see,” he said, “how Mr. Eduardo dos Santos can’t see what is happening in the world.”

    HRW’s Rimli said the young protesters “have the feeling that they have nothing to lose.

    “They have been successful in one aspect: People lost fear.”

  • The government of Botswana says it is geared towards enacting reforms that would see the operations of both government departments and ministries go online in order to expedite services that it conducts. This follows the country’s plummeting rankings in the World Bank’s Doing Business report.

    According to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, among the most problematic areas are starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, legislation and enforcing contracts.

  • Reporters Without Borders has launched a mirror site of radio La Voix de Djibouti’s website, in order to help circumvent the government’s censorship and allow the population to have access to a news sources to which it is being denied.

    The media freedom organization invites Internet users to click here in order to access an exact copy of the original site.

    “As this is a country without media freedom, where only government propaganda is tolerated, we think it is crucial to help the population to gain access to other news sources,” Reporters Without Borders said. “While it is true that the level of Internet use is still low in Djibouti, it is not negligible, and use of social networks in particular is growing. The population will now be able to read critical news bulletins online.”

    A Europe-based exile radio station that supports the opposition Renewal and Development Movement (MRD), La Voix de Djibouti began by broadcasting on the short wave and then switched to being a web radio but the authorities have blocked access to its website from within Djibouti.

  • In what is being promoted as the first partnership of its kind, millions of mobile phone owners in Africa and the Middle East will soon have free access to Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia.

    Wikipedia is available for free on the internet, but to access it, mobile phone users have to be enrolled in a data plan that can be costly for most people, especially in low-income African countries.

    A leading French mobile company, Orange, has struck an agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia, to provide mobile subscribers access to the digital encyclopaedia without incurring additional costs on their internet data plans or subscription fees. The service is being launched throughout 2012 and will be available in both urban and remote parts of Africa and the Middle East. Orange has operations in 15 African countries and five in the Middle East.

    According to a joint statement by Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation, any customer with an Orange SIM card and mobile internet-enabled phone will be able to access the Wikipedia site either through their browser or an Orange widget or software application. This will give users "access to the Wikipedia encyclopaedia services for as many times as they like at no extra charge as long as they stay within Wikipedia's pages."

    According to information on its website, Wikipedia "is a free, collaborative, multilingual internet encyclopaedia." The website has more than 21 million articles (over 3.8 million in English alone) that have been written by volunteers around the world. Most of Wikipedia's articles can be edited by anyone with access to the website.

    "Wikipedia is an important service, a public good - and so we want people to be able to access it for free, regardless of what device they're using," said Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia, who previously couldn't."

    The group executive vice-president for Africa, the Middle East and Asia at Orange, Marc Rennard, said, "In countries where access to information is not always readily available, we are making it simple and easy for our customers to use the world's most comprehensive online encyclopaedia."

    While Orange has 70 million customers across Africa and the Middle East, the free service will be available only to users - currently about 10 million - who have mobile phones with 2G or 3G capability to access the internet. The French mobile operator expects to expand the service to 50 per cent of its customers by 2015. But since the deal with Wikipedia is not exclusive to Orange, similar arrangements with other phone operators in Africa, currently the world's fastest growing market for mobile phones, are likely to be struck in the future.

  • Global consulting company, McKinsey & Company, recently released a report on the impact of the Internet in Nigeria and eight other countries around the world namely Argentina, Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Taiwan, Turkey, and Vietnam. Companies such as Pagatech were profiled in the Nigeria section of the report. You can download the report via the McKinsey website here. In the report, the countries profiled are referred to as “aspiring countries” and the following findings were gleaned.

    1. The Internet is growing at a tremendous rate in aspiring countries, but with very different growth paths. Internet penetration has grown at 25 percent per year for the past 5 years in the 30 aspiring countries, compared with 5 percent per year in developed countries. Many Internet users in aspiring countries are gaining access to the Internet solely through mobile phones. Mobile subscriptions in aspiring countries have increased from 53 percent of worldwide mobile subscriptions in 2005 to 73 percent in 2010.

    2. The impact of the Internet in aspiring countries has been significant, but there is still tremendous potential if these countries reach developed world levels. The Internet contributes an average 1.9 percent of GDP in aspiring countries—$366 billion in 2010. By comparison, the Internet in developed countries contributes an average 3.4 percent of GDP. Today, consumer surplus is between $9 and $26 per user per month in the nine aspiring countries, much lower than the $18 to $28 per user per month we have seen in developed economies.

    3. Individuals in aspiring countries have utilized the Internet in significant and dynamic ways. Individuals have often been the first to benefit from the Internet in aspiring countries, mostly through free services such as e-mail, social networks, and search engines. The younger half of the population drives the adoption of online services, and the level of their engagement with certain online activities, such as social networking, often exceeds that of their developed country counterparts.

    4. Entrepreneurs in aspiring countries have thrived despite Internet ecosystem constraints. Entrepreneurs in aspiring countries are often effectively social entrepreneurs, as they help to build a robust Internet ecosystem. Entrepreneurs have had to innovate, creating new business models that enable users to overcome local constraints, such as offering payment for online purchases upon physical delivery or using mobile accounts instead of credit cards.

    5. There is tremendous potential for enterprises to leverage and gain benefits from the Internet—much more than they do today. Large enterprises were the first to adopt broadband and now are leading the way in adopting more advanced Web technologies. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have not yet leveraged information and communication technologies (ICT) and Web technologies as much as large enterprises. Where they do deploy ICT and Web technologies, SMEs have found increased revenue, lower costs, higher productivity, and net job creation.

    6. Governments and the public sector are offering better and more accessible public services through the Internet, but still have opportunity to go further. E-government services are still nascent in aspiring countries. They have nonetheless already often allowed governments to improve delivery of services such as health care and education. Aspiring country governments have also often played an active role in driving Internet access and use, from investing in infrastructure in rural areas to creating innovation clusters with a focus on Internet-driven growth. Furthermore, governments, as public policy makers, set regulation, influencing the environment in which Internet ecosystems thrive.

    7. Aspiring countries can leverage their distinct characteristics to drive the development of Internet ecosystems. There is more than one way to drive significant economic and social impact from the Internet. Each aspiring country has a unique macroeconomic profile, resulting in different and distinct opportunities to fully capitalize on the Internet’s potential and growth.

  • Concerns about the security of the websites of  Tunisian Interim Government ministries have increased, especially after recent breaches.

    Recent cyber-attacks have targeted the Tunisian Prime Minister’s email account and the official website of the Ministry of Justice.

    The government’s program for 2012, presented by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to the Constituent Assembly on April 5th, included a focus on improving Internet security by hiring new experts at the Ministry of the Interior.

    Hafedh Ben Hamida, IT security engineer and cyber crime specialist, explained that the National Agency for Computer Security has been working on fortifying the defenses of the Internet in Tunisia  since 2004.

    Haythem Elmir, an official at the National Agency for Computer Security, said that the experts will be brought in to assist his agency in its ongoing work protecting Tunisian government websites.

    “The whole security system is to be re-structured in order to improve it. However, the final version is not clear yet,” he stated.

    According to Elmir, the technical aspects of security breaches are immediately treated at the National Agency for Computer Security; emergencies are handled by a special group of the agency called the Tunisian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).  However, legal pursuits are taken care of by other bodies of the government.

    “We have been fighting cyber-crime for the past 5 years. It is a constant battle,” said Elmir. He explained that more backup and enhancement is needed as systems are becoming more vulnerable to sophisticated attacks. However, Elmir feared that process of improving Tunisia’s electronic defenses might be politicized, especially as the Prime Ministry, Interior Ministry, and the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology had all recently attempted to intervene in the matter.

    He warned that infighting over the control of Internet security could be detrimental to the process of creating a more protected network. “Everyone must consider the country’s best interests as a priority,” he stated.

    Ben Hamida asserted that no matter how effective the government’s Internet security, it was not responsible for the security of Tunisian politician’s personal use of the web. “The prime minister chooses his own password. The fact that his email was cracked does not imply that national cyber security is weak,” he added.

    The Interior Ministry was unavailable for comment on the issue at the time of publication. The Office of the Prime Minister stated that they had no knowledge of the Prime Minister’s program to enhance internet security.

  • Kagiso New Media have launched a website, Zalebs celebrity channel, by branching it out of its former Howzit MSN platform. Lauren Lee Atkinson has been appointed as the editor of the website and leads a team of staff writers, who generate fresh news and pictures every day.

    The site brings users the latest info about favourite South African celebrities, from models and soapie stars to actors, media personalities and sports idols. Zalebs.co.za was designed by Gloo and includes many photos and videos.

    Says Kagiso New Media editor Justin Zehmke, "It has enjoyed large growth as a channel on the Howzit MSN portal and reached a size where it deserved to become a web destination in its own right. We will actively be directing users to the site from the MSN portal, though Howzit MSN will also continue to carry Zalebs content.

    "We are making a substantial investment into growing the brand because we believe it has a lot of potential in a market where users are hungry for local celebrity news."

computing

  • Southern Africa is taking steps to respond to rising cyber crime, which is now among the world's fastest growing crimes.

    Cyber crime involves use of the computer networks to harm the reputation of individuals or organisations and includes copyright infringement, fraud, hacking, account thefts, identify thefts, computer viruses and unsolicited mail, commonly referred to as spam.

    Using modern telecommunication networks such as emails, chat rooms and social networks, cybercrime has threatened world's security and financial health.

    Cyber crime is estimated to cause losses of more than US$105 billion worldwide every year. In 2010 alone, at least 280 million web attacks were committed on individuals and organisations, an increase of about 93 percent compared to the previous year, according to a report by the Global Cyber Security Agenda.

    This trend is expected to continue in 2012, and Africa is set to face new and increased attacks due to a rise in Internet accessibility.

    To meet these challenges, members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are strengthening their legal frameworks to fight cyber crimes and ensure that citizens safely conduct their transactions on the Internet.

    The urgency is necessitated by the fact that most governments in the region are in transition to "paperless" operations, which involve the use of the Internet and computers.

    All the 15 SADC countries either have or are crafting cyber crime legislation to curb computer-related crimes.

    A recent SADC meeting on the harmonised cyber security legal framework held in Gaborone, Botswana heard that four countries already have cyber crimes laws. These are Botswana, Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia.

    The other 11 member states are either developing cyber crime legislations or have started national consultations on the matter.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • ­Bharti Airtel's African arm is reported to have bought the tower network infrastructure owned by Rwanda's bankrupt Rwandatel.

    Bharti Airtel paid US$15.5 million for the towers, according to local media reports, and will use them to boost its own network which is being built after it was awarded a license last September. At the time, the company said that it plans to invest over US$100 million in the country over the next three years.

    Rwandatel is having its assets sold after the company was put into liquidation by the courts last year. Before that, the regulator had cancelled its mobile network operating license for allegedly failing to meet its license conditions.

    The telecom company was partially owned by Libyan investment group - Lap Green - with an 80% stake and the Social Security Fund of Rwanda (SSFR) which has 20 percent.

  • ­MTN Uganda has given the incumbent landline operator, Uganda Telecom 21 days to settle an outstanding invoice for Shs22 billion (US$8.8 million) otherwise it will seek to have the company declared bankrupt.

    The invoice is for interconnection fees built up over three previous court cases.

    MTN through their attorneys, Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA), say should UTL fail to pay the demand, then it will seek a court order to wind up the company.

    "We have firm instructions to liquidate utl, which has failed to pay judgment debts due to MTN," Mr Joseph Masiko, a senior partner with KAA told The Monitor newspaper.

    UTL downplayed the demand, saying it is an internal matter they are handling, and that the company has paid all current dues and the debts will be paid in due course.

  • FNB’s virtual ISP will be boosting its free data packages to 5GB for qualifying banking customers from May 8, 2012 – a move that is seen by some as gimmicky and deflective of the bank’s core services.

    However, speaking in an interview with Moneyweb’s Alec Hogg, FNB CEO, Michael Jordaan explained that all of FNB’s added value service offerings form part of the many channels the bank uses to give back to its clients – and perhaps disrupt a few industries along the way.

    FNB Connect’s free data packages are available only to qualifying FNB customers. Although FNB owns a telecom license, it only acts as a virtual Internet service provider (ISP) that deals directly with its own client base.

    “[Being an independant teleco is] not our core skill, our core skill is still banking and financial services, and what we want to do is just provide a reward to our customers,” said Jordaan.

    “We think that there’s an opportunity to reward customers more through rewards programmes like eBucks or fuel rewards, and in some cases to disrupt other industries.”

    “In our case, we thought the telco industry is one where we can bring significant free benefits to our customers and, likewise, it is with this iPad and tablet revolution.”

    When FNB initially started selling Apple’s iPad 2, the bank was delivering close to 20,000 units a month, according to Jordaan. Furthermore, the FNB banking app is seeing upwards of 800 downloads a day, a figure which Jordaan believes will only increase with time.

    Jordaan insisted that, just as is the case with FNB Connect, the idea behind the iPad sales wasn’t to become a hardware distributor or detract from core banking, but to further assist and push banking technology forward in South Africa.

    “The reason why we got into these devices is exactly because we have this smart app that can be downloaded on smartphones and on tablets and we’re very keen to see faster adoption of that in South Africa.”

    “It’s one of the big things that is changing lives in technology and if we can be the one bringing it to South Africans and make their lives a little bit better, and in doing so make the banking experience better, why not?”

    Jordaan would not comment on the feeling of FNB playing in a “gimmicky area”, but felt strongly that competing banks would soon follow FNB’s lead in the technology field, stating that “In fact, I’m quite surprised that that hasn’t happened already.”

    “I’m sure that in the next couple of months you’ll see our competitors doing very, very similar things to what we’ve rolled out in 2011,” he concluded.

  • The money market segment of the financial system was thrown into confusion as technical hitches in the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) payment system – the Real Time Gross Settlement Systems (RTGS) and T24 – stalled up to N300 billion inter-bank transfers.

    The bank’s communications division said a problem with the cooling systems of its Real Time Gross Settlement System had temporarily halted the transfers.

    The inability of banks to transfer money and securities triggered a spiral effect as some lenders’ accounts with the CBN were thrown into debit. Others could not honor their inter-bank obligations.

    CBN’s Director, Corporate Communication, Ugochu-kwu Okoroafor, confirmed, “Yes, we have a problem with the cooling system of the RTGS. Our Crisis Resolution team is just coming out of a meeting now. The RTGS is a very sensitive equipment that has to operate within a certain temperature. We turned it off, repaired it and turned it on but it refused to come on.

    “All the banks have been given an update on what to do. We apologize for the inconvenience and we will not penalize any bank for any breach. The IT team has been working to restore it and they will work overnight to ensure that the system is restored as soon as possible.”

    The Head Treasury Department of one of the top banks also confirmed the glitch. He said what saved the day was the T24, which some of the banks later accessed to consummate some of their transactions.

    The CBN however assured that they are working on resolving the issue, and the system is expected to be up and running by today.

    The bank apologized for the inconvenience.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Vodacom announced on Tuesday that Vodacom Tanzania customers can expect roaming savings when travelling to 9 African countries where Vodacom and its partners operate.

    These countries include: South Africa (Vodacom), Mozambique (Vodacom), Lesotho (Vodacom), DRC Congo (Vodacom), Ghana (Vodafone), Kenya (Safaricom), Rwanda (MTN), Uganda (MTN), Uganda (UTL) and Burundi (UCOM).

    Prepaid and contract/postpaid customers can now receive free incoming calls, SMSes and lower call and data rates while roaming these networks from Vodacom Tanzania.

Digital Content

  • The Egyptian revolution sent the country’s economy into a tailspin. Egypt was already plagued by high unemployment, particularly among those under the age of 30. Amid ongoing unrest, foreign investors have put projects on hold. Once-reliable industries like tourism are struggling. But several dozen technology entrepreneurs think they have what it takes to spur job creation, despite political uncertainty. They are taking part in a competition sponsored by Google, which will award a $200,000 prize to one business.

    In a conference room at the elegant Fairmont Hotel in Cairo, two young men are playing a fierce game of table tennis. Around them, youthful entrepreneurs slouch in bean bag chairs, pecking furiously at their laptops. Hundreds of Egyptians are jammed into small booths around the perimeter of the room. Each one is ready to explain how his or her tech business has the potential to be the next big thing.

    "With IntaFeen,you can share your location with friends and family on the go. Whether you are in a restaurant, watching a movie, eating ice cream, in a park, you share this information with your friends and family," said Adel Youssef, the founder and CEO (chief executive officer) of Wireless Stars. He said spent five years working in the United States but moved back to Egypt because he saw unexploited opportunity. He and his team have created a mobile application called IntaFeen. It’s a location-based social network. Users write reviews of restaurants and movies.

    They earn “badges” for places where they check in frequently. Youssef says the idea is based on the popular “Foursquare” application, but has a different cultural sensibility. "If you see the badges of Foursquare they are designed for U.S. culture or West culture. My favorite badge is gym rat. A gym rat in the U.S. is someone who is actively working in the gym. If you see someone here and you give him this badge, that is insulting," he said.

    About 110,000 people from Egypt to Ghana to Pakistan have downloaded the IntaFeen app. 

    Organizers say the point of the competition is not just for Egypt’s young techies to show off, but to address one of Egypt’s most pressing problems: unemployment. Egypt’s official unemployment rate is 12-point-4 percent, but many believe it to be much higher. Around 90 percent of the unemployed are young, under the age of 30.  But can tech companies really create jobs? 

    Maha Elbouennein, the head of communications for Google in the Middle East and North Africa, said "These are 50 companies that didn't exist six months ago. In order to be participating in the program, they have to be registered, legal entities. This isn't a business plan competition. So the evidence in itself, that 50 companies exist today that didn't six months ago is evidence enough about how it’s helping the economy and it’s growing. It’s creating jobs."

    Elbouennein says, of course, Google has its own financial interests in the region. "Google basically wants people to live on the Internet," he said.

    If technology businesses get bigger in Egypt, inevitably, so will Google.

    Some of the entrepreneurs have set their sights beyond North Africa and the Middle East.  Yasmin Elayat is the CEO of Groupstream, a storytelling platform that lets users interact with one another by adding photos, tweets and blog posts into an online “stream.” Groupstream is going to launch in the United States, first.  "The idea started when we noticed that during the Egyptian revolution, Egyptians were documenting our country’s history in real time on social media and Facebook and Twitter and on photos and videos on cell phones and cameras," she said.

    Elayat turned that initial spark of an idea into a crowd-sourced documentary project called 18 Days in Egypt. But she says she soon realized that the same technology could be useful for those who did not have anything quite so dramatic as a revolution to document. "It doesn't even have to be news. I see my cousin, she’s like 11 and her whole life is on social media. She doesn't even know what it feels like to hold a photograph anymore," she said.

    Google has narrowed a list of 4,000 entrants down to 20 businesses and will pick a winner in May. But win or lose, many of the entrepreneurs share the same hope: that Egypt’s youth, which have been at the forefront of so much political change and upheaval in the last year-and-a-half might now become the leaders of a technological revolution.

  • A distance radiology solution has won this year’s Kenya Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Award.

    The solution by Medisoft East Africa Limited, the brainchild of two medical doctors and an IT professional, allows distance diagnosis of radiology results.

    With their product, a medical specialist can read radiology results and give his or her opinion without leaving their house.

    “Our aim was never to make money but one offering a solution. The award has really motivated us,” said Kanake Ndii, a radiologist and one of the firm’s directors.

    Other winners were Green Dreams Tech Ltd for their product iCow, in the Agriculture category; Digital Divide Data Kenya Ltd, in the Business Process Outsourcing sector; Kuza Biashara Ltd, who bagged the award in Education and Training; and Digital Horizons Ltd, the winner in the financial services.

    An entry from the sports category from Michezo Afrika Ltd also bagged the top prize in the Gender, Youth and Vulnerable groups’ slot.

    Awards for Social Equity and Poverty Reduction went to ALIN and Compulynx Ltd’s MamaMikes.com won in the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector.

    The awards, first held in 2011, hope to recognize and celebrate Kenyans who have developed ICT solutions that drive economic growth and social development as outlined in Kenya’s Vision 2030.

  • The Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), has launched “Eco-finder,” Information and Communication Technology (ICT) device, to improve fishing activities, in Accra on Wednesday.

    The mechanism that would facilitate the efficient location of shoals of fish in coastal and inland waters was donated to fishermen at James Town in the Greater Accra Region.

    The project is one of the flagship programmes outside the core information technology deployment, being implemented by the Ministry of Communications, through GIFEC in line with Government policy to change the structure of the economy through the deployment and exploitation of ICT.

  • Nigeria’s first technology innovation hub, Co-Creation Hub, last week announced that it has partnered with the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF).

    The partnership is aimed at encouraging innovative ideas that could help transform the social technology space in the country.

    It was disclosed that TEF will provide managed seed funding to 20 technological ideas/ventures targeted to tackle social challenges within Nigeria.

    Co-Creation Hub will however, incubate these funded social technology ventures by means of business support resources.

    According to the Co-Creation Hub, the fund aims to support the proper use of technology in several key areas of the economy.

    The fund is currently supporting three social technology ventures:

    Efiko – a mobile testing platform that provides access to learning resources for secondary school students.

    OfficeMotion – a software company creating Tracelist, a web platform product that allows micro and small retailers to showcase their inventory online. It gives consumers direct access to their inventory from web browsers and mobile devices.

    Varsoft – a product of Varsoft Technologies that enables content delivery without the use of the Internet.

  • Sanky Kabeya, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has spent half of his 24 years in Dzaleka refugee camp in central Malawi. He attended primary and secondary school in the camp but, after graduating, his dream of furthering his education seemed an impossible one.

    “I was just staying at home with nothing to do and I lost hope in everything,” he recalled.

    With only three-quarters of refugee children accessing primary education and just over a third enrolled in secondary schools, according to a recent assessment by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), higher education is generally considered a low priority and opportunities for young refugees like Kabeya are extremely limited.

    Recently, however, there has been a growing recognition of the benefits that higher education can bring, not just to individual refugees, but to the vast reconstruction needs of countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and the DRC which will require a new generation of teachers and other professionals when peace finally comes.

    According to Audrey Nirrengarten, an education officer with UNHCR, there is also evidence that offering continuing education opportunities motivates more refugee children to complete primary and secondary school.

    An education strategy released by UNHCR in February recognized the “huge unmet demand for higher education among refugees” and made improving access one of its goals over the next five years.

    Although part of this approach involves doubling the current 2,000 scholarships a year available to refugees through the German-government-funded DAFI programme, a key element of the strategy is to make use of internet technologies and partnerships with academic institutions to reach much larger numbers of refugees through distance learning.

    International Catholic NGO Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) is pioneering this approach through a pilot project at three refugee camps, including Dzaleka, which offers small groups of refugees the opportunity to study towards a diploma in liberal studies from Regis University in Denver, Colorado at no cost. For refugees who do not meet the academic requirements, but are keen to further their education, JRS has developed several vocational courses in areas such as community health and entrepreneurship.

    “JRS tries to do things that other organizations aren’t doing and this was certainly identified as a gap,” said David Holdcroft, JRS’s Johannesburg-based regional director. “The suffering in camps results from frustration building over years of not being able to prepare for the future.”

    Now in his second year of the three-year course, Kabeya’s feelings about the future have changed dramatically. “I’m very inspired, I’ve obtained a lot,” he told IRIN. “I want to make my future bright.”

    ''The suffering in camps results from frustration building over years of not being able to prepare for the future''
    At Dzaleka, which is home to 18,000 refugees, mainly from the DRC, Burundi and Rwanda, the courses are mostly done online using solar-powered computers, but the students’ Skype interactions with their professors in the USA are supplemented by on-site tuition from an academic coordinator and two interns. “The need for cultural and linguistic adaptation was too great,” said programme coordinator Clotilde Giner, explaining that most of the 60 students are French speakers who have learned English through classes at the camp.

    Carine Nice, 22, spoke no English when she arrived at Dzaleka four years ago, but she held on to her hopes of becoming a doctor. She had been in her second year of medical school when conflict erupted in the North Kivu region of DRC where she lived and she was forced to flee with her mother and five siblings.

    “When I arrived, it was boring in the camp and I felt I was still young and needed to learn,” she told IRIN. After taking English and computer classes, she jumped at the opportunity to enrol in the diploma programme.

    She is one of only eight women on the course. “According to the culture, [women think] studies are for men, and have low self-esteem,” she said.

    Nice is fulfilling a requirement of the programme that students transfer some of the knowledge they are gaining to other camp residents, by leading a weekly discussion group for women aimed at improving their English and their confidence to apply for the programme next year.

    Unlike scholarships available through the DAFI programme, the JRS programme is open to all ages and educational backgrounds.

    Gustave Lwaba, a 47-year-old from the DRC, gave up his job teaching at Dzaleka’s primary school to enrol in the course. Opportunities to earn an income are scarce in the camp so the decision was a difficult one, said Lwaba, who has a wife and three children. “I was hungering for tertiary education and I didn’t have that chance in my country,” he explained. “I wanted more skills to help the community or even if I can be repatriated.”

    If the JRS programme helps Lwaba achieve his goal of becoming a tertiary-level teacher, it could benefit not just him and his family, but a future generation of learners in the DRC and reconstruction efforts in that country.

    It is these broader goals that inform the thinking behind another project to bring higher education to refugees due to be launched at Dadaab camp in Kenya in the next academic year through a joint initiative between Canada’s York University and Kenya’s Kenyatta University.

    Like the JRS programme, it will blend online and face-to-face learning, but will give students the option of earning a four-year bachelor’s degree, or opting out after two or three years with a teaching diploma.

    “We’re also aiming towards something that could be accessed from anywhere so that if someone were to start the programme and then be repatriated or resettled, they could continue,” said Sarah Dryden-Peterson, a researcher at the University of Toronto, who is involved in the project.

    Dryden-Peterson said refugee students tend to be extremely motivated. “They’re looking for any kind of printed material they can get their hands on to learn and keep their brains active,” she told IRIN. “More and more what we’re seeing is that with the opening up of telecommunications and internet access, refugees are following online courses and developing their own ways of learning by pulling things off the internet.”

    Participants in JRS’s programme at Dzaleka need to be motivated to stick with their studies in a camp environment where poor living conditions and insufficient food can be a major distraction. In March, the World Food Programme, which supplies food aid to the camp, slashed rations for refugees by half due to a lack of funding and many of the students quietly typing at computers in the programme’s makeshift classroom were working on empty stomachs.

    “It’s very difficult when you eat less and have to study, and we don’t know what will happen next month,” said Nice, who juggles her studies with helping her mother at home and working as an interpreter for UNHCR and JRS.

    Kabeya said frequent blackouts meant he often strained his eyes studying by the light of a candle and that his friends told him he was wasting his time. “But I’m getting good grades and I’m very motivated because I have a goal.”

More

  • - The World Economic Forum has named Brian Herlihy, Seacom Executive Director among the Young Global Leaders 2012.

  • CTA-NEPAD Photo and Essay Competitions Winners

    It is with great pleasure that the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) announce the winners of the Photo and Essay competitions that have been organized to celebrate NEPAD’s 10th Anniversary. This competition also falls in the framework of CTA activities on youth, women and ICTs.

    The winners of the Photo Competition “Looking at ICTs, agriculture and climate change in Africa through the eyes of women and the youth”, who will be awarded with a prize of € 800, are:

    For the category “Youth/women, ICTs and entrepreneurship”

        Mr. Jean-Paul Luesso Amuri, from Democratic Republic of the Congo (Central Africa)
        Mr. Herbert Lwanga, from Uganda (East Africa)
        Ms. Thoko Chikondi, from Malawi (Southern Africa)
        Mr. Ikenna Mbakwe, from Nigeria (West Africa)

    For the category “Youth/women, ICTs and climate change”

        Ms. Thoko Chikondi, from Malawi (Southern Africa)

    Due to the poor quality of entries, the jury decided not to award the prizes for the other regions in the category “Youth/women, ICTs and climate change”.

    The winners of the Essay Competition “Looking at ICTs and agriculture in Africa through the eyes of women and the youth”, who will be awarded with a prize of € 1000, are:

    For the category “Women and ICT in agriculture”

        Mr. Tapfumaneyi Mutenda, from Zimbabwe (Southern Africa)
        Mr. Paulin Tsafack Nguena, from Cameroon (Central Africa)
        Mr. Tuyishime Norbert, from Rwanda (East Africa)
        Mr. Traore Inoussa, from Burkina Faso (West Africa)

    For the category “Youth and ICT in agriculture”

        Mr. Admire Mare, from Zimbabwe (Southern Africa)
        Ms. Comfort Moussa, from Cameroon (Central Africa)
        Mr. Robert Koigi Muthoni, from Kenya (East Africa)
        Mr. Solomon Elorm Allavi, from Ghana (West Africa)

    In addition, the jury agreed to give a special mention to:

        Mr. Bertrand Joël Foe Eloundou, from Cameroon (Youth and ICT in agriculture)
        Mr. Wasike Noah Wamalwa, from Kenya (Women and ICT in agriculture)

    The award ceremony will be held during the NEPAD’s 10th Anniversary Symposium (date to be confirmed later). The winners and the two additional participants are invited to take part to the event.

    A qualified jury, composed by independent African experts in the field of communication, ICTs and agriculture, had the difficult task to choose the best entries among 85 photos and 124 essays.

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