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  • The dirty downside of the ICT industry is that computers have to go somewhere when they die and because they are full of potentially toxic materials they cannot simply be dumped in landfills. Uganda’s Government has sought to tackle part of the problem by banning the import of secondhand computers and sparked the law of unintended consequences. Russell Southwood talked to Shakeel Padamsey of Camara and Kyle Spencer of the Uganda Linux Group about what’s happened.

    In June 2009 the Ugandan Government passed the Financial Bill which prohibited the import of  “used refrigerators, freezers, computers and television sets” from October 2009. The background to the legislation was a concern that Uganda was not dealing properly with the issue of e-waste.

    In May 2008 a report called “e-Waste Assessment in Uganda - A situational analysis of e-waste management and generation with special emphasis on personal computers authored by the Uganda Cleaner Production Centre and EMPA from Switzerland (and sponsored by UNID0 and Microsoft draw attention to the issue. It concluded that:”… only around 10% of those computers (estimated 300,000 in 2007) reach the waste stream, whereas the rest is kept in storage without being used. The 10% in the waste stream gets collected by individuals, whereas material and parts are sold informally and the rest gets dumped informally…This (is) equal to about 2,000 tons of computer waste (desktop unit
    and CRT screen) in total, which contains e.g. 80 tons of printed circuit boards and 400 tons of plastic. These numbers are hypothetical but represent a realistic order of magnitude”. The report’s recommendation was that it be dealt with by a UNIDO/Microsoft refurbishment initiative.

    However, the Government’s complete ban on used computers has had significant unintended consequences. According to a position paper in December 2010 from the E-Waste Special Interest Group is comprised of over 200 traders, importers, suppliers, recyclers, and ICT-Education charitable organisations involved with refurbished ICT equipment:” The vast majority of educational institutions, SMEs, and the public rely upon NGOs and other used-computer importers for affordable high-quality ICT equipment. This ban especially affects thousands of schools and millions of
    students who rely upon these organisations for their ICT needs”.

    “The six-fold price difference between the cheapest refurbished computer (supplied with educational software, training and maintenance), means that schools that
    would have been able to afford 10 or 20 computers now can only afford 2 or 3, making teaching ICT impossible and affecting generations of Ugandans. As a result of the work of organisations which were operating before the ban was implemented, over 2 million
    individuals now have access to high quality branded ICT equipment”.

    “Due to these efforts, educational software and the Internet is now more widely accessible, providing access for 1.8 million students across 4500 schools – working towards targets set out within a number of Millennium Development Goals (2 and 8f). Furthermore, these organisations have trained approximately 32,000 individuals, including 4000 teachers. As a result of the ban, it is estimated that per year at least 1,500 teachers will not be trained and more than 500,000 students will not gain access to ICT equipment”.

    But is not just the education sector that will feel the consequences but also Uganda’s economy:”According to our research, we estimate that the ban immediately eliminates over one thousand skilled jobs and annually removes $17 million from the local economy. A 2009 study by Private Sector Foundation Uganda, projects
    that losses as a result of the ban will total $60 million in revenue and 100,000 jobs in Uganda, compared to the EAC and other African countries without a ban”. All lobby groups are prone to exaggerate slightly for effect but the points are well made.

    The e-Waste Special Interest Group is arguing that the alternative is to produce sound and enforceable regulations on the importation of all electronic goods through licensing of businesses, ensuring only high quality goods are brought into the country. Elements of this approach would include: licensing importers of electronic goods; verification of equipment sent to Uganda by organizations like such Bureau Veritas, SGS, and Intertek; and a system of independent auditing procedures to be adopted with the help of
    relevant Government institutions to ensure that each organisation is actively
    involved in recycling activities; and a recycling “deposit” that would be refunded when the defunct computer was delivered to a recycling centre.

    The Government’s response to these points has been somewhat ill-thought-out. In the response from the Government Minister, NEMA (the environmental agency) and the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee, it said:”Uganda is being used as a dumping ground by developed countries and yet we do not have capacity to dispose E- waste”.

    Two points are very clear: Firstly, why would anyone go to the time and trouble of exporting e-waste to an inland country like Uganda? What is currently being exported are secondhand computers that have a 2-3 year life. Secondly, if Uganda genuinely becomes the ICT society it aspires to be, it will build up a steady stream of defunct computers (and fridges, freezers and televisions) and as every year passes the number will increase. Therefore surely now is the moment to start creating recycling facilities as one of the unfortunate consequences of getting wealthier is that you have to deal with a different type of waste.

    The response also said “that government plans to distribute free computers to government aided schools. It will also ensure that computers are assembled locally at affordable prices”. Sad to say, in our view pigs will fly before this starts happening. Again encouraging a local assembly industry is laudable but Uganda is a relatively small market in which to make it financially viable.

    Kyle Spencer estimates that out of an estimated 350,000-500,000 computers in the country, 130,000 are computers that were bought secondhand. Of these, 1 in seven were refurbished computers:”They simply don’t have the data to support their argument.” Currently an average refurbished computer costs between US$60-70 whereas a new computer at the low end costs around US$350, a price differential of 5-6 times.

    If the Government wants to encourage computer ownership then giving access at the lower price is surely worthy of consideration. Indeed Padamsey’s own organization sold refurbished computers to schools for just US$50. Padamsey says:”The Government wanted to give a waiver to one organization to import refurbished computers. But what can be given by Government can be taken away and a waiver system would be open to corruption.”

    Padamsey went to one of the major landfill sites North of Kampala:”There was some eWaste like dot matrix printers and TVs but most of it was very old. There’s a Chinese company that has been trying to buy plastics and metals at US25 cents a kilo. Things like this would be the basis for a new recycling industry. NEMA doesn’t seem to distinguish between refurbishing and recycling. Our organization runs an e-waste facility in Mombasa and when computers in schools reach the end of their life, they have to return them to us”.

    This is story without heroes and villains but a classic case where legislation has created unintended consequences. The Government has put itself in the position where it is cutting off a supply of cheap, working computers and will need to take on the task of supplying computers to schools (Which part of the budget will that come out of?). It is seeking to deal with a small amount of the refurbished waste stream without anticipating the huge increase in e-waste that the successful adoption of new computers will bring about. Creating recycling capacity has to be the way to go and is probably cheaper than the current legal corner that the politicians have backed themselves into.

    For more market news and insights, go to Balancing Act’s Web TV channel:

    Clips include:

    * Main One’s Michael Iyayi on extending the cable to South Africa and Cameroon.
    * Bouzaine Zaid on the use of You Tube in Morocco
    * Tito Alai on a B2B GPRS sales tracking tool.
    * Praveen Sadalage of Busy Internet on Ghana’s first third party data centre,
    * The CEO of Hadera Tech on green approaches to data servers for Africa.

    There are 51 clips in both English and French that contain news and information that does not appear in our e-letter or on our web site.

telecoms

  • Sudan Vote Monitor, a Web platform that allows ordinary citizens to report on electoral fraud and violence in real time via text message, went live on January 7, 2011, ahead of the January 9 independence referendum in South Sudan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor uses open source software to transmit, collect and interpret information from volunteer observers at polling stations, and also allows users to upload video to a YouTube site, or link directly to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in addition to several Sudan-specific sites.

     “Our technology will provide the closest thing that exists to a real-time snapshot of what is happening on the ground during the referendum,” says Fareed Zein, spokesperson for Sudan Vote Monitor. “Our role is to make it possible for ordinary people to monitor the process.”

    Powering the Sudan Vote Monitor Website is Ushahidi.com, a Web portal that allows anyone to gather data via SMS messaging, e-mail or the internet and
    visualize it on a map. Since the Ushahidi platform was first deployed during the 2008 political crisis in Kenya, it has been used for election monitoring in
    India, Burundi, Mexico and Afghanistan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor is a collaboration of several Sudanese civil society organizations led by the Sudan Institute for Policy and Research (SIRP)
    http://www.sudaninstitute.org and the Asmaa Society for Development http://asmaasociety.org.

  • Brymedia Consortium, one of the initial bidders for state-run incumbent telco Nitel, is looking to acquire the ailing operator, should the preferred buyer fail to make the initial payment, local newspaper Daily Independent reports, citing sources close to the consortium. Brymedia came third during the bidding process for Nitel in February 2010, after offering USD551 million for a 75% stake in Nitel (excluding its CDMA network) and its mobile arm M-Tel. The report follows the failure of Nitel’s preferred bidder, New Generation Telecommunications, to meet its extended deadline for payment of a USD750 million bid security on 23 December 2010.

    President Goodluck Jonathon finally approved New Generation’s bid of USD2.5 billion in October 2010, after an investigation into the bidding process led to an eight-month delay. New Generation – which comprises Minerva Group of Dubai, Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless and technical partner China Unicom – was asked to pay a bid security of USD750 million within ten days from 25 October and was given 60 days to pay the remaining USD1.75 billion.

    On 5 November the bid security deadline was extended by 20 working days and subsequently to 23 December 2010, after the consortium failed to come up with the funds in time. However, Usman Gumi, GiCell’s managing director, said that New Generation was able to secure financial documentation from a foreign investor – which he said showed evidence of imminent payment of the funds following processing by the banks – and submit it to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on 23 December. The BPE is due to meet to discuss the fate of NITEL shortly.

  • The High Court of Malawi has reportedly upheld a decision by telecoms regulator Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to introduce a new interconnection law governing calls across both fixed and mobile networks.

    Two mobile operators, Airtel Malawi (formerly Zain/Celtel) and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), had attained an injunction against the introduction of the Sender Keeps All (SKA) interconnection regime, in which the operator originating the call keeps all of the revenues it collects. However, having heard arguments from MACRA and the operators, the court has now lifted the injunction.

    According to a statement from MACRA following the 23 December 2010 ruling, this means therefore that the court’s decision vindicates the legality and rationale of MACRA’s decision to intervene in the interconnection dispute that currently exists among operators. The regulator has now instructed all fixed and wireless operators to abide by the new interconnection law.

  • Tigo Rwanda has announced that it is now providing mico-SIM cards for subscribers with smart phones particularly those using the 3G iPad and latest iPhone 4.  The company’s Marketing Manager Nina Ndabaneze said on 10th January 2011 that the micro-SIM is now available for Tigo Rwanda subscribers wishing to acquire new numbers and those who wish to swap and retain their old numbers.

    She said that the company has also slashed prices on the Tigo Go Wireless data modem from Rwf25,000 to Rwf19,700  making the device the most affordable 3G modem in Rwanda. From the 10th to the 16th of January, the price per megabyte for our Go Wireless modem subscribers will be Rwf15 from Rwf30/MB

    According to Ndabaneze the company is set to introduce two ZTE low-cost smart phones which are equally useful as any other smart phone when browsing the Internet. The phones including the G-R352 that costs Rwf33,700 (US$56) and the F102 that goes for Rwf35,700 (US$59) which each handset coming with free internet subscription for one month.

    Officials at the Muhima based company also said that Tigo Rwanda was the first to introduce the micro-SIM in Rwanda.  “We have had in our stock the micro-SIM for more than two months. With the use of the new micro-SIM, mobile devices can store a larger battery, and we already see that in the new iPhone which has 16 percent more capacity. With Facebook, Twitter and all these utilities, users browse the Internet all day so they want a large screen, and that kills the battery of most smart phones,” Ndabaneze said.

    “The micro-SIM can be significantly used with Apple products like the 3G iPad or with the new iPhone 4. It is sold at the same price of Rwf350. Tigo subscribers can purchase and use the card as new or also by swap,” Nabaneze added.

    The new iPhone 4 is the first mobile phone to forgo the use of the usual SIM card and move to micro-SIM. Tigo officials said that subscriber who have recently purchased or intend to purchase the iPhone 4 don’t need to worry about the availability of the micro-SIM.

    Tigo and all the other telecom companies in Rwanda already provide the usual mini-SIM card. The new micro-SIM card is basically over 50 percent smaller, measuring only 15 mm × 12 mm × 0.76 mm.

    The micro-SIM standard is the creation of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and it’s been a standard since late 2003.

    In addition to new technology offerings, Tigo is this week launching a portfolio of products under the banner “Tigo My Choice”.  Subscribers will be able to buy bulk packages of voice minutes, SMS or data by simply sending an SMS to the relevant short-code for each package.

    “With these new packages we are telling our subscribers that we understand their unique needs and we will always do our best to provide the most personalized experience for each of them as possible.  Our customers can get more information by dialing *505# on their Tigo mobile, or calling or visiting any of our customer care centres,” Ndabaneze said.   

internet

  • Construction of the national information communication technology broadband backbone is expected to be completed this December, according to a senior government official. The move brings the hope of increased broadband uptake and reduced Internet tariffs in the Tanzanian hinterland and beyond.

    The backbone, which is the terrestrial continuation of the fibre optic submarine cables that landed in the Dar es Salaam coast last year has already contributed to a significant drop in Internet capacity charges. The NICTBB project was embarked on in 2008 and is expected to cost about Sh251 billion when it is completed at the end of this year.

    "The construction of the backbone was divided in two phases to cover the whole country. Phase I became operational in July 2010 and covers the northern ring of the network with ten Points of Presence (POP) which include Dar es Salaam, Morogoro,Singida, Iringa, Babati, Arusha, Namanga, Moshi and Tanga," Gilder Kibola, Head of the National ICT Broadband Backbone told The Citizen in an interview recently in Dar es Salaam.

    "Phase II is expected to be completed by December 2011 with operational PoPs at Lindi, Mtwara, Tunduru, Songea, Sumbawanga, Tabora, Kigoma, Manyovu," she added. The project is funded by a $170 million soft loan from China and Sh30 billion from government sources.

    The government intends to turn the country into the regional ICT hub, according to Ms Kibola. Since phase I of the backbone became operational last July four major locally licensed cellular and data operators were subscribed to NICTBB services, with other two companies from landlocked countries of Malawi and Zambia getting access to NICTBB through licensed local operators.

    According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, the broadband subscriptions stood at four million by the end of last year.

  • Vodacom Business has begun rolling out its optical fibre network in towns across the Western Cape, with over 120km of cable trenched across Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Paarl and Wellington.

    Ermano Quartero, Managing Executive of Products and Marketing at Vodacom Business, explains that the fibre-optic cabling enables the rapid transfer of large amounts of data, and is ideal for services that require smooth data provisioning, such as video conferencing.

    Quartero says the current network covers 23km of cable in Stellenbosch, 48km of cable in Somerset West, and 49km in Paarl and Wellington. There are also 38km of optic spurs in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Somerset West, he notes.

    Parent company Vodacom has been investing heavily in its network infrastructure, reporting R4.573 billion in network expenditure, according to the company's last year-end financial results. Over the past six months, Vodacom laid 831km of fibre and has to date encircled 11 metro rings with optical technology across the country.

  • Nigeria internet Registration Association (NiRA), managers of the Nigerian name space on the internet, the dot ng domain name has released 50, 000 free domain names for Nigerians as part of efforts to identify with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the country. Registration of free domains commenced formally on Friday, December 31, 2010 and will run till March 21, 2011.

    President of NiRA, Mary Uduma, who disclosed this in Abuja saying: "This sense of identification is tied to our perceptiveness of the collective responsibility required to project the true and appropriate Nigerian image and our conviction that the nation's country code, Top Level Domain .ng, is a veritable tool towards achieving this. To this effect, we have chosen to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communications in the re-branding Nigeria Project with the offer of 50,000 free .ng domains in 50 days."

    She said the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) who will provide the necessary funding for the project implementation would champion the project.

    The Agency, she said is committed to training a substantial number of Nigerian youths as web developers in readiness for an envisaged increased demand for the services of web developers with the registration of 50,000 .ng domains in the first quarter of 2011, and the target population of the .ng registry with 250,000 domains by the end of 2011, thereby preparing them for gainful employment.

    The project is expected to be launched this month by NITDA who will also sponsor the capacity building effort of NiRA in the setting up of a datacenter and co-location facility to support the activation of the 250,000 domains.

    NITDA promises to use the project in promoting the adoption of government policy to recognise only .ng e-mails for Government-to-Government, Government-to-Business, and Government-to-Citizens transactions.

    While the free domain name offer lasts, registrars will register domains at no cost to registrants for a period of one year. The offer of free domains is restricted to the following second level domains (SLDs): .com.ng, .org.ng, .name.ng, .mobi.ng, and .sch.ng.

    Registrations outside the listed SLDs will attract the usual charges and other activities in the registry such as renewal and transfer shall attract the normal fees. Recipients are expected to renew their domains at the usual fees at the expiration of the one-year period.

    Since NiRA operates the Registry/Registrar module, domains can only be registered through NiRA accredited registrars, Uduma said. She listed conditions for participation in the free domain name registration to include compliance of all domain names with the NiRA domain name policy; All registrants are subject to the NiRA registrants policy; Domains that are not put to use within six months of the registration shall be withdrawn/deleted. The waiver on the domain registration fee is for a period of one year, only.

    Registrants are expected to pay the necessary renewal fee at the expiration of the one-year period; Registrars may offer some value-added services to the recipients beyond the offer of free domains from NiRA. Other guidelines include the right of registrants to choose, with regard to the freebies they are willing to accept from registrars, particularly on the hosting of their domains; and that registrants may park their .ng free domains on their existing sites since it is completely disallowed to park domains on sites other than theirs.

computing

  • Software giant Microsoft SA expects to name the first four or five winning partners in its multimillion-rand empowerment deal by next February. This comes after it dispelled government's concerns, which had held up the announcement for several months.

    Microsoft's scheme is anticipated to further transform empowerment in South Africa, as the company has already had calls from other multinationals seeking advice on how they can implement similar empowerment structures.

    The software company first announced its R472 million empowerment deal in April, saying it will partner with a handful of software developers, providing investment and advice, in a bid to grow start-up firms into multinational giants.

    Analysts previously described the deal as “unique in SA” and it has been hailed for empowering smaller companies instead of the usual suspects. Microsoft will fund start-up enterprises and provide business knowledge to help them become global software players, but will not take equity stakes in the companies in return.

    It received more than 680 applications from prospective companies in response to its nationwide request for proposals. Of these, 141 met the qualifying criteria, and were whittled down further through a selection panel.

    The company expected to announce the first handful of partners in October, but this was held up when concerns arose within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) over how to measure the outcomes of the equity equivalency plan.

    Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati says he met with DTI acting director-general Lionel October early last month and the parties agreed on a memorandum of understanding that now only needs to be signed off.

    Once the deal has been signed, the company will receive 20 ownership points, which it will earn in return for offering the equity-equivalency plan, says Nyati. He hopes to be in a position to announce the first four or five companies that will benefit from investment and assistance in the middle of next month.

    Nyati says another one or two companies could benefit from the deal this year and Microsoft will open up the offer for new applications. However, after wrapping up the DTI's concerns, the process is expected to run faster.

    Microsoft SA has had a number of enquiries from companies seeking guidance on how to implement a similar deal, says Nyati. His sense is that some multinationals may replicate Microsoft's deal to some degree.

  • A commuter bus service company, Kigali Bus Services (KBS), effective today started issuing electronic cards for its passengers, a technology that is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes region.

    According to the company's marketing manager, Thierry Ngarambe, the service will relieve passengers the risk of having to travel with money in their pocket and help them with effective budgeting.

    Ngarambe also said that the cards, known as twende card are in two categories; e-pass which allows a passenger to load any amount of money from Rwf 200 to 60,000 which is the maximum and seasonal card which ranges from Rwf10,000 valid for one month and to 60,000 for six months. They can be accessed through mobile phone agents, FINA Bank, KBS bus conductors and at the Union Trade Centre.

    He explained that the system was in line with the government policies of technological advancement and environmental cleanliness and as well fulfilling the Central Bank campaign of discouraging people to move with cash in their pockets. The system, according to Ngarambe will also help the company maximize profits due to cases of dishonest taxi touts.

    "This is the most convenient way to achieve efficiency, the card can be used by a passenger swiping it in an electronic device at the bus entrance and deducts the fare automatically for e-passes and the date of expiry for a seasonal card," he said.

    Ngarambe also revealed that the use of paper tickets will not be immediately stopped but passengers using the new system will given priority. He further pointed that a 20 percent discount is guaranteed for the first season card buyers.

    In case of one's card loss or misplacement, passengers are assured of refund with a new card loaded with the previous amount only after the owner had reported the loss to the management who will then cancel the lost card.

  • The Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) on Monday rolled out its electronic connectivity agenda for 2011, which includes setting Information, Communication and Technology centres in all nurses training institutions.

    “GIFEC partnering with the Ministry of Health would equip all nursing training institutions with modern computer laboratory to ensure that trainees have unhindered access to the internet and other electronic facilities,” Kofi Attor, GIFEC Administrator, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview in Accra.

    He said the project involved providing the institutions with high speed computers, printers, scanners, projectors and servers, linking them with the internet in consonance with government’s policy.

    Attoh said under the “Better Ghana Agenda,” and in the Action Year of the government, the President had acknowledged the urgent need for the development and implementation of a comprehensive and integrated ICT for accelerated development policies, strategies and plans.

    In view of these, GIFEC will set up ICT Centres at Agricultural Training Institutions, Security Agencies and National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and also set up more Community Information Centres (CIC).

    Attor said the government in effect had identified ICT as the driver and enabler of a sustained and co-ordinated socio-economic development in Ghana. He said other projects such as Common Telecommunication Facilities, School Connectivity, CIC, Post Office Connectivity, Prison Connectivity, and the Library projects would continue in 2011.
    “We are currently working under the School Connectivity Project with 38

    Colleges of Education, 10 Youth Centres, 37 National Vocational Training Institutes, 37 Technical Schools and a number of Junior and Senior High Schools.” Attoh said GIFEC was set up to facilitate the spread of ICT and its use in rural Ghana to help promote research and reading culture, train rural schoolchildren and teachers in and the use of ICT and empower rural communities by providing access to information.

    He said GIFEC was collaborating with all the major telecommunications operators in the provision of common telecommunications site facilities in selected areas across the country under the Universal Access to Telecommunications Programme (UATP).

    The collaboration involves the award of subsidies to willing and eligible telecommunications operators for the provision of Common Telecommunications Site Facilities.

    He said GIFEC would also continue to educate both the public and telecommunication operators on the erection of masts, their impact on community and health of the people and also monitor the situation to ensure that operators adhered to safety mechanism.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced a $25 million equity investment in Helios Towers Africa Limited (HTA) to help the company build and maintain mobile phone towers in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, increasing mobile phone coverage and reducing communication costs in the region.

    HTA is building a pan-Africa tower company starting in Ghana and expanding into other countries such as Tanzania. The company leases space on its mobile towers to telecom companies, helping widen access to mobile telephony, and other communications technologies, bringing new opportunities, including voice services, market information, financial services, and health services, to developing countries in Africa.

    Helios CEO, Charles Green, said, “IFC understands the unique needs of growing companies in Africa’s telecoms sector and has provided us with a finance package that will allow us to continue our role as the leading independent tower company in Africa, expanding and providing benefits to mobile operators and users in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Bernard Sheahan, IFC Director of Infrastructure & Natural Resources in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Broadening access to affordable mobile telecommunications services remains a crucial part of development across Africa. With this investment, IFC is further lowering the barriers to accessing the knowledge, innovation, and improved government and business services that mobile communications can bring.”

    The reduced costs of leasing towers gives new, smaller companies access to existing tower facilities and allows larger operators to expand into remote areas that would normally by unprofitable.  Lower tower costs should result in enhanced service offerings and declining mobile prices for African consumers.

    HTA was established by Helios Investment Partners in 2009 to replicate the success achieved by its affiliate, Helios Towers Nigeria, which in 2005 became the first independent tower company in Africa. In 2010, HTA formed Helios Towers Ghana Limited to purchase and lease back approximately 750 towers in Ghana to mobile operator Millicom, the first transaction of its kind in Africa. The company recently announced that it will acquire an additional 1,020 sites from Millicom in Tanzania.

    The investment follows IFC’s 2009 investment in Helios Towers Nigeria, where IFC made available $250 million in syndicated loans, mezzanine financing and senior debt, allowing the company to build, maintain, and lease space on its network of telecommunications towers in Nigeria.

  • Two alleged accomplices of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, have pleaded guilty to V-Mobile shares theft charges. Daniel McCann and Mr. De Boer were charged for forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares owned by Akwa Ibom and Delta States. They are accused of violating the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act of the UK by creating fake documents between Delta State and "Africa Finance Ltd," and also between Delta and "African Development Company."

    They are also accused of creating a false account that used both men's names as beneficiaries as part of a scheme to hide the fraudulent nature of the transactions. Daniel McCann pleaded guilty before the Southwark Crown Court judge, last week, while Mr. De Boer had pleaded guilty in a similar trial last December

    Late last year, Ibori's UK-based lawyer, Bhadreh Gohil, who was accused of participating in the laundering of funds realised from the sale of V-Mobile shares owned by the governments of Delta and Akwa Ibom had also pleaded guilty.

    Others who are accused in the scam include Mr. Ibori, David Edevbie, a former Principal Secretary to Umaru Yar'Adua; Love Ojakovo, a former Commissioner of Finance to Ibori and Henry Imashekka, a business associate of Ibori.

    The accused face 14 counts of forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares by two from the Niger Delta region. The accused men reportedly used front companies to defraud the Nigerian states of a total of $37.8 million realised from the sale of the shares.

    Prosecutors alleged that a company named "Africa Development Finance Company" was the major conduit used to steal the funds.

    In an instance cited in the case summary, prosecutors state that an $11 million loan was purportedly granted to an aviation company that assisted Mr. Ibori in purchasing a jet from Canada; $10 million was given to "Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited," the company that Ibori used to purchase Wilbros; and another $790,000 was granted to another fake firm "Africa Development Co." and an offshore nominee firm.

    The two men alongside Mr. Gohil will be sentenced on February 21, 2011. UK prosecutors expect that Mr. Ibori would be coming to London soon after the United Emirates Authorities give a green for UK Metropolitan Police to move him over to London where he is expected to face three separate trials for money laundering, forgery and graft. The successful prosecution of Ibori has so far netted his wife, mistress and older sister.

  • Safaricom shares accounted for more than half of the market turnover recorded at the Nairobi Stock Exchange last year, indicating strong investor interest in the telecommunications firm and bearing heavily on overall movement at the bourse.

    Research by Sterling Investment Bank indicates that more than 3.4 billion shares of the listed mobile phone service provider were traded out of the 5.9 billion shares moved at the Nairobi bourse, translating into about 57 per cent of the total market volumes.

    Fund managers attributed the high turnover at the counter to the high float of the company's shares in the market. "Safaricom traded the highest volumes because it is a 'cheap' stock offering investors relative stability," said Reginald Kadzutu, a senior fund manager.

    The trend was upheld in the first week of trading at the NSE as more than 47 million of the company's shares were sold, out of a total of 77 million in trade dominated by foreign investors.

    This comes amid calls from institutional investors to have the share consolidated to mop up the high volumes of the stock that have been blamed for the sluggish price appreciation that has kept the stock trading below its Sh5 per share offer price.

    The company's chief executive, Bob Collymore, held investor road shows in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Barcelona, New York, Boston and Washington DC where he made presentations to institutional investors who are seen as having the financial muscle to buy the stock in bulk and lead to its natural consolidation. "Given its complexity and legal implications, our board of directors is still deliberating and consulting relevant parties on how best to approach it," said Collymore in an interview.

    The firm's shareholder records indicate that local corporate investors owned 86 per cent of the company at the beginning of December, while foreign corporate investors owned 6.2 per cent.

    At the time of listing in 2008, the company introduced 10 billion shares to the NSE out of the total 40 billion issued shares in a move meant to ensure that shares of the corporation, then majority owned by the State, were spread to more Kenyans.

    The IPO was massively oversubscribed with investors placing offers worth Sh226 billion as compared to the Sh50 billion that the government's 25 per cent stake was worth.

    In the share allocation, foreign investors got less than an eighth of the bids they collectively put in, and have generally been strong on the buy side despite the stock's slow price growth which has only managed an all time high of Sh6.

    Einsten Kihanda, a fund manager at ICEA Asset Management, said that the high volumes attributed to the counter indicate there is an oversupply of the stock in the market, which has further depressed prices.

    "There are too many Safaricom shares in the market which have resulted in the stock selling below its real value," said Mr Kihanda.

    He, however, said that a share buy-back could be the only way that the oversupply of the stock could be resolved to pave way for a price appreciation to reflect on the firm's fundamentals.

    In the half year results for the period ending June 2010, the company had grown its revenue 15.9 per cent to Sh47 billion at a time when income from non-voice shot up by more than 71 per cent to Sh14.6 billion.

    It is expected that revenue from the voice segment would take a hit as call rates declined by more than 50 per cent in the course of the second half of the year.

    The company has, however, sought to reduce dependency on airtime sales for revenue and has diversified into data and retail sales of gadgets to plug the income leaks.

    The regulatory framework would have to be changed to allow for share buy back, according to Mr Kihanda, who noted that the current set of laws in Kenya do not allow for share consolidation.

    "It is definite that Safaricom would drive the volumes this year again," he added.

    Demand for the share is likely to push the stock price up to its offer price of Sh5 in the foreseeable future, while a protracted price war in the second half of last year in the mobile telephone industry had dampened the company's prospects.

    This saw investors wary of the implications of the price war flee the counter, suppressing the stock price to an all-time low of Sh2.75.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom has stepped up its foray into mobile commerce by introducing M-Pesa-based booking of travel tickets and hotel accommodation - a new service that also promises to open additional revenue opportunities for the company's agents. Though the telecommunications operator had introduced a similar ticket-payment service almost one year ago, the new system is an improvement on the earlier "Easy Travel" version in that it allows customers to obtain ticket printouts from Safaricom's customer care shops and later from M-Pesa dealers. "We have launched the service with the necessary infrastructure at over 30 Safaricom shops countrywide for now. Plans are under way to recruit strategic agent outlets which will offer the service," said Bob Collymore, the company's chief executive. In addition, parents and guardians can now remit school fees for their children to the learning institutions through Safaricom's mobile phone money transfer service, M-Pesa.

    - The signal of the cellphone company, Movicel, has reached Caimbambo district, in central Benguela province, thus connecting the locality to the rest of Angola and the world.

    - Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom, the country's largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, has announced that it has reduced the price of sending an on-network SMS to KES1 (USD0.01), down from KES3.5. An SMS sent to an alternative operator's network will cost KES2, down from KES5. Safaricom has confirmed that the newly reduced rates will be permanent, and apply to both pre-paid and post-paid customers.

    - InMobi, a leading mobile ad network, has released its updated network research report.It provides a snapshot of mobile advertising trends in Africa between July 2010 and October 2010. “Africa continues to be a major market in the global mobile ad ecosystem. With nearly 19 per cent – growth in mobile ad impression inventory in just 90 days, it’s clear Africans are increasingly connecting to the Internet via their mobile phone. Key findings include breaking of the 3 billion impressions mark to reach 3.3 billion monthly impressions saying this represented an 18.8% growth over just 90 days.

    - AdMob, the mobile advertising agency now owned by Google says that it is now handling in excess of 2 billion ad requests per day, more than quadrupling the daily rate over the last twelve months. The growth is global. Nine countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in December 2010, up from just one country a year ago. The strongest regional growth in monthly ad requests over the past year has come from Asia (564%), Western Europe (471%) and Oceania (363%). Growth in Africa was recorded at 81%.

    - Namibia’s mobile operator, MTC Namibia has broadened its customer service capacity by introducing an Outbound Call Centre as from mid-December 2010. Before the opening of the Outbound Call Centre, MTC only had an Inbound Call Centre which caters for customers calling in to seek solutions and understanding of various queries that they may have with the company’s products and/or services.

    - A research team at the University of Dar es Salaam says half the Tanzanian population is currently hooked to mobile phones, and that it takes just a handset to run a business in the country. Led by Prof Ophelia Mascarenhas of the university, there is no need for offices, visiting cards or huge capital investments. The Tanzanian study is part of four-nation initiative code-named Picture-Africa. The other countries currently doing similar studies are Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – all financed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Digital Content

  • Pumwani Maternity Hospital, in the impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood of Eastlands, is the site of a trial project using mobile phones to help HIV-positive mothers avoid passing the virus on to their children. Juliet Wangari Njuguna is a research nurse with Kenya Aids Control Project. She works at the Pumwani clinic to assist HIV-positive mothers.

    "We help with the enrolment, and as the patients are coming in they are sifted. We talk to the ones who happen to be HIV positive, and we find out how long they have known their status and if they have disclosed it to anyone." They also find out if the women have a mobile phone.

    In July, the Kenya Aids Control Project started using the Pumwani Hospital as a site to study the potential of following up with HIV positive patients using mobile phones.

    The phone contact is intended to make sure that mothers are keeping up with taking their antiretroviral medicines and stay informed on what they need to do during their pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to their child.

    Mobile phones have become a popular means of communication in Kenya. The recent lowering of costs by the various service providers is encouraging even more people to embrace the mobile phone.

    Pediatrician Frida Govedi, the chief executive officer of Pumwani Maternity Hospital, says, "through this telephony they are being empowered with information. How they should eat, when they should take their vitamins, when they should come for their CD4 counts, it is an interactive medium between the mother and the healthcare worker."

    Ms Njuguna and the other research nurses at Pumwani guide HIV-positive mothers at the clinic through a questionnaire to determine if they are candidates for the mobile phone programme. The questionnaire records details such as the woman's age, her general health, how long she has known that she is HIV positive and if she is already on any medication.

    The mother also has to live within a reasonable distance of the hospital and be able to understand English or Kiswahili. The questionnaire responses are entered into a database. All the women will receive antiretroviral therapy, but a randomly selected group will also receive SMS messages.

    All the women will be followed-up after they give birth to assess the success of the course of treatment. This is also aimed at measuring the effectiveness of the SMS prompts to the mothers receiving the messages against the results of a control group.

    "The women start receiving one message per week reminding them to come for their antenatal care visit," says Ms Njuguna. "Then in their last month of pregnancy, the message changes to remind them to take their drugs.

    "But we write, 'Remember to take your vitamins.' We don't want to put 'ARVs' in a text message, because we don't know who can come across their phones." Ms Njuguna says stigma and the pressure to hide one's HIV status are a major challenge for HIV positive women.

    Extreme poverty is another challenge, with women sometimes missing appointments due to a lack of money for transport or at times not being able to make it as they struggle to make ends meet.

    Literacy is yet another obstacle. "Another thing is that some of them understand English and Kiswahili, but they can't read, so the text messages will not help them. So there are some who feel like we should do calls in the future."

    Dr Govedi worries that the potential advantages of the SMS notification system are also limited by the late enrolment into the programme of many of the women, who are far into their pregnancy by the time they first come to Pumwani.

    "We would have loved to have gotten them as early as 14 weeks, when we are able to institute their antiretroviral therapy for PMTCT. But you find most of the mothers are coming to us well after 20 weeks," says Dr Govedi.

    A day in the life of the health workers providing mobile support is busy. Njuguna must keep up with responding to various text messages and calls from the over 90 women enrolled in the programme, as well as ensuring crucial information is sent out at the right time.

    The routine messages are programmed into a computer and sent out automatically, but when that system is down, a health worker must send them out manually to the women who depend on the reminders.

    She feels it's worth the extra work. "It feels good that you are doing something and they are grateful.

    Then they tend to ask you all sorts of questions, which is better than being at home and assuming things. So you feel like you are having an impact in people's lives."

    The initiative is expected to end in mid-2013. Researchers hope to find positive results in empowering women living with HIV to protect their own health and that of their newborn children.

  • Traffic lights have become attractive targets for thieves in Johannesburg. Some 400 high-tech South African traffic lights are out of action after thieves in Johannesburg stole the mobile phone Sim cards they contain. The thieves ran up bills amounting to thousands of dollars by using the stolen cards to make calls.

    Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) said it is investigating the possibility of an "inside job" after only the Sim card-fitted traffic lights were targeted. The cards were fitted to notify JRA when the traffic lights were faulty. JRA believes a syndicate "with links on the inside" is behind the thefts.

    "We have 2,000 major intersections in Johannesburg and only 600 of those were fitted with the cards," the agency's spokesperson Thulani Makhubela told the BBC. "No-one apart from JRA and our supplier knows which intersections have that system." He described the thefts as "systematic and co-ordinated".

    "The vandalism began with a few lights in November and we repaired them. Over December the thieves struck again, this time hitting hundreds more, including the ones we had repaired," he said. "These people know what they are doing."

    Repairing the faulty traffic lights will cost JRA about 9m rand ($1.3m; £870,000).
    JRA has said it has blocked all the stolen Sim cards so that they cannot be used to make further calls - but this was not before the thieves had run up huge bills.

    "One card had a bill of 30,000 rand ($4,500; £2,900) and we are talking about no less than 150 Sim card bills. Whichever way we look at it we are talking about a lot of money," said Mr Makhubela. Several cases of theft and vandalism have apparently been opened across Johannesburg.

    Johannesburg's roads have been fairly quiet over December but with hundreds of holiday-makers expected to return over the weekend, the damaged lights pose a hazard in the city's major roads says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

More

  • - Jin Moo Lee has been appointed as LG Electronics SA's new CEO, replacing Peet van Rooyen as part of a global restructuring process of the multinational group's operations.

    - The new fixed line service company Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) CEO, replaces expatriate Bernd Flack who left last month. Charles Chuka becomes the second indigenous Malawian to take over the running of a telecommunications company in the country. He is preceded by Saulos Chilima who took over as executive director of Celtel, now Airtel, a mobile telecommunications service provider, last year.

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011, Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
    Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition is a landmark Conference on Africa and significant business networking occasion for the top corporate players active in, across and involved with the development of the African continent - Cape-to-Cairo, with Governments and officials in key industries and state institutions.
    Contact: babette@glopac.com or visit here

    ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach

    23-26 March 2011, Ota, Nigeria
    The conference will initiate research and practice agenda where ICTs will aid the academia, organizations - public and private and non-governmental to improve socio-economic conditions and directly benefit the disadvantaged in some manner.
    For further information visit here

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011

    4-5 April, Movenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE
    Now in its 4th year and attended by over 200 attendees in 2010, Informa Telecoms and Media’s Managed Services for Growth Markets event will take place on 4th - 5th April at the Moevenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE.With a proven track-record and repeat sponsorship from leading suppliers Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NokiaSiemens Networks and Motorola, this event is truly established as the ultimate meeting-place for the Managed Services industry in the growth markets.A 50% discount for operators ensures a high percentage operator attendance.  Extended break times and additional social functions will guarantee a further enhancement to the already unique networking opportunities. Informa’s Managed Services for Growth Markets conference is the only established event in the region, proven to deliver an industry focussed agenda, the highest level speakers, superior networking opportunities, and top class delegates year on year.
For more information visit here

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa

    9 March  2011, Grand Millennium Hotel, Dubai
     Taking place on the 9th March 2011, the Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East and Africa is a Free-to-attend event and will feature all of the key players within the Cloud Computing and SaaS market providing an introduction, discussion and look into the future for the ICT industry.
    This one day conference will provide the most complete and comprehensive platform for the global Cloud Computing and SaaS industry. Register Free today and get inspiration on how to address your latest issues with advice from real-life end-user case studies and practical examples.
    Show Highlights include:
    1 Day Conference on Cloud Computing and SaaS
    Featuring presentations on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Applications, IaaS, Virtualization and PaaS
    Keynote theatre featuring leading industry speakers
    More case studies than any other like event
    Learn from the key players offering leading products and services
    Pre-show online meeting planner
    Evening networking reception for all attendees
    For more information please contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com. Or visit here

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit here

  • The Tech Awards
    The Tech Awards is a programme that aims to honour and award innovators from around the world who use technology to benefit humanity. Three Laureates in each category are honoured, and one Laureate per category receives US$50 000.

    Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

    The purpose of The Tech Awards programme is to inspire global engagement in applying technology to humanity's most pressing problems by recognising individuals, organisations, and companies that are utilising innovative technology solutions to address the most urgent issues facing our planet.

    The categories are: environment, economic development, education, equality and heath.

    The submission deadline is 31 March 2011.

    For nomination form,  For more information about the award,
    To view other opportunities, visit:

    Request for Expressions of Interest - Maputo ICT Incubator Program
    The Government of Mozambique (GoM) has received a Credit from the International Development Association (IDA) toward the cost of the Mozambique eGovernment and Communications Infrastructure Project (MEGCIP) and intends to apply part of the proceeds for contracting of services and infrastructure to establish the “Maputo ICT Incubation Program”. Other complementary funds to be used in this project will be obtained from the Finnish Government, channeled through infoDev.              

    OBJECTIVE OF ASSIGNMENT
    To select a host organization (incubation partner) capable of supporting emerging ICT-enabled businesses and incubating them towards growth and success. The vision for the pilot incubator is that it will eventually become a national ICT small business support center, including additional physical and virtual facilities, contributing strategically to the sector’s growth.

    SCOPE OF SERVICES
    The Incubator will be guided by a business plan, agreed upon with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). It is expected that the Incubator manager will be selected via a competitive process. The incubation model to be agreed upon with MCT will be expected to deliver on the following:

    - Create affordable office space and facilities for small and medium-sized ICT companies. If a virtual/outreach model is proposed, then the minimum space requirement must be specified and made available free of charge

    - Provide Human Resources to manage the Maputo ICT Incubator facilities and services. Where these resources will be “in sourced” indicate which organization will be providing these resources.
    - Grow the ICT industry by facilitating the development and successful growth of early stage companies
    - Attract investment into local ICT companies and services providers
    - Build understanding among the broader business community in terms of the relevance and importance of small, innovative ICT companies in their value chains
    - Position Mozambique as an ICT innovator on the African continent
    - Develop a business model that generates revenue streams to ensure the sustainability of the incubator
    - Generate funds in the medium to long term to support the expansion of the incubator
    - Create linkages with strategic partners in building a sustainable ecosystem
    - Support extension on the Maputo incubator through virtual support services and expansion to other physical locations (such as the Maluana Science Park or incubator facilities in other provinces throughout the country)

    MCT acting as beneficiary institution now invites host organizations interested in managing the Maputo ICT incubator using their own facilities or those of their consortium partners. Interested host organizations must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services. This should include evidence of:
    - The availability of free space and facilities that can be used, with relatively little adaptation, to accommodate start-ups and SMEs , and which can be scaled up over time as the incubator grows;
    - A close link to innovation and to entrepreneurs and the ability to generate, or attract, a steady flow of ICT business start-ups and requisite funding.
    - Energetic, inspired and capable management able to stimulate the development of the ICT small business community. This team should be composed at least by the Maputo ICT Incubator Manager, Business Development Manager, Financial Manager, Administrative Officer and Secretary (the Incubator manager however may be selected in parallel),
    - The host or at least one consortium partner should be of Mozambican origin and the institution based in Mozambique; and provide a viable business plan, geared towards meeting the objectives and purposes outlined above, and be capable of sustaining growth after the expiry of the grant-support period.

    This assignment is estimated to cover an initial two-year engagement for grant support with the possibility of extension, depending on the overall success of the program.

    Host organizations will be selected in accordance with the procedures set out in the World Bank’s guidelines:

    Selection and employment of consultants by World Bank Borrowers, May 2004 (revised October 2006, and May 2010). Interested consultants may obtain additional information at the address indicated below during the working days from 7:30 a.m. to 15:30 p.m. (local time) and on MCT web page www.mct.gov.mz.

    Expression of interest must be delivered to the address below until 15:30 p.m. (local time) of January 23rd, 2011

    Ministry of Science and Technology
    Directorate of Infrastructure and Information Systems (DISI )
    Av. Patrice Lumumba, 770
    Maputo-Mozambique
    Tel.: +258 21 352800
    Fax: +258 21 352860
    E-mail: secretariado@mct.gov.mz

  • Vodafone and Huawei - Ghana
    Ghanaian fixed and mobile operator Vodafone Ghana has awarded China’s Huawei a five-year managed services agreement under which it will take over responsibilities for the operations and maintenance of the Vodafone mobile, microwave, SDH and fixed switching networks. It is hoped the long term partnership will provide the telco with a sustainable operating model, reducing its operating expenses and enabling it to focus further on providing more attractive new services to its customers. The network operations agreement signed by the pair also guarantees performance and service quality of the Vodafone network, which is used by multiple vendors across the country, the vendor said.


    Synchronica and handset manufacturer - Africa

    Synchronica, the international provider of next-generation mobile messaging services, has secured an initial contract worth more than USD 500,000 with a device manufacturer targeting the African mass market. The device manufacturer will bundle the white-labelled Synchronica Mobile Gateway with a number of MediaTek-based handsets, enabling consumers in Africa to experience a BlackBerry-like service on a range of low-cost devices.

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  • It would be easy to think that the only sport of interest to Africans was football. It grabs all the attention and the largest slice of the programme rights money spent on sport to be shown in Africa. But African television channels are beginning to realise that they can’t all end up with the key football rights so developing other sports programming may be a smart move. Russell Southwood talked to CAfrica’s Managing Director Cathy Fogler about its ambition to deliver “premium sports programs through a formal network of free-to-air broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa.”

    CAfrica was launched by a trio of seasoned industry professionals. Rob and Cathy Fogler and Rwandan Eugene Nyagahene. Bob Fogler had worked with Eugene Nyagahene on venture capital for SMEs in Rwanda and both of the Foglers have a background in broadcast in the USA. Eugene Nyagahene was the founder of the Tele10 Pay TV group in francophone Africa. As Cathy Fogler told us:”The three of us were discussing the TV landscape in Africa and this led to us forming the company.”

    CAfrica distributes its sports content to Free-To-Air TV stations across Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) and it is currently shown in 21 countries:”When we select a station, there are a few factors we look at including: the reach and quality of their broadcast signal; their relationship with their audiences; and how they promote the content we give them. But the overriding factor is the professionalism of the broadcaster.”

    Currently CAfrica has multi-year agreements with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAFR. It broadcasts the top game played in the NBA every week, weekly highlights from other games and the All Star Weekend. In terms of the IAAF, broadcasts the Diamond League which is a showcase for top athletes. It is looking to acquire other sports rights but is understandably cagey about its next move:”We’re looking at other things but I can’t be specific at the moment. We’re in discussion with the rights holders for all the major sports.”

    CAfrica does not just deliver the programmes:”We produce the programmes and work with IMG in London to produce both English and French commentary. Our affiliates can choose either. What marks out what we deliver is the quality of production.”

    Specific audience data is difficult to get in Africa but it airs three programmes a week during sports primetime in 21 of the major country markets during sports prime time. Fogler has a rough “thumb-suck” in the absence of broadcaster research:”Our territory is Sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa and it covers 600 million people. On average, there is a 20% TV household penetration. In addition, up to 50% of those people might be watching television outside of the home. This gives our programmes a reach of around 300 million people.”

    So what’s the business model?:”I can’t discuss the full business model but there are parts that are already clear. CAfrica provides programmes to broadcast affiliates on reasonable terms. In terms of ad revenues, we target the international, multinational corporations and the affiliate broadcast partner sells to local advertisers. We provide advertisers with a unique way of talking to Africa’s middle class consumers across the continent.”

    The NBA is also putting its weight behind promoting basketball on the continent. It has opened a Johannesburg office to have a presence on the continent and to grow the game there. It is creating grassroots basketball programming across the continent. As with the Premier League, the NBA has attracted African players. There are now over 20 of them in the NBA, the most famous of which is Tanzanian Hasheem Thabeet who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. He did not begin to play basketball until the age of 15, when he began to watch pickup games in Tanzania.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel – Nollywood and FESPACO 2011

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top African TV and Radio personalities. There are interviews in both English and French. In particular look out for in English, Matthew Brown on Changing Nollywood Business Models. Matthew is a PhD student from University of Wisconsin who’s just come from a year in Nigeria researching the topic. In French, we have the FESPACO 2011 press conference in Paris which gives details of this upcoming biennial festival in Ouegadougou. Click here:

    Workshop at DISCOP

    Differentiate your TV channel – Standing out from the competition. The TV stations that will make their mark in 2011 and succeed in gaining market share will be those that build loyalty through the people, programmes and feel of their TV channel. The workshop will focus on all aspects of differentiating your TV channel, primarily addressing: Channel attitude and personality, Content (local and exclusive); Programming (overall structure and pieces); and brand (content, personalities and marketing). Led by Russell Southwood, CEO, Balancing Act with panel speakers including Cathy Fogler, Managing Director, CAfrica and Yaa Newman of TV Africa. Date, time and Place: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 9 February, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.

  • This summarised version of an article by Richard Seymour in Nigeria’s Compass newspaper offers many interesting insights into the development of the continent’s largest film industry.

    Nollywood owes its recent expansion to the introduction of relatively cheapo digital technology to the consumer market, which allows almost anyone who can shout ‘Action!’ to be a film director. Budgets for even the most popular locally made films are low. Many do not employ technicians and, often, the ‘actors’ are anyone who happens to be passing by at the time. In a matter of weeks, the final film has been edited and distributed, either to the myriad low-budget cable television channels of which there are now so many, or as DVDs to be sold for about $2 in crowded markets.

    It is easy for filmmakers and watchers elsewhere to deride the quality of these hastily made movies, but there is no doubting the passion Africans across the continent have for them. They sell in their thousands and make money for their producers, which not every Hollywood mogul can boast. Perhaps for the first time, movie watchers in Africa are seeing themselves on screen: characters that millions of Africans can recognise themselves in, living lives which are familiar to them. And it seems they cannot get enough.

    But the industry in Nigeria is now coming of age and is attempting to raise standards across the board. Unfortunately, however, as the music industry has found out, the same technology that renders it easy to make films also makes illegally copying them a simpler task. And this is getting in the way of attracting investment. After all, who would want to put their money into a venture that has little control over its product and who profits from it?

    Some estimates from within the industry claim that as much as 50% of all money made from their films is lost to piracy. Many movies made today are not able to even recover the costs of production, which means there is no money to reinvest in new projects.

    Part of the problem is one of infrastructure. In other countries, film lovers still mostly prefer to patronise movie theatres, despite the expense, because they either want the full effect of the latest technology, whether it be high definition, surround sound or 3D, or they do not wish to wait for the DVD to go on sale. This forms a buttress against the pirate industry.

    But there are so few cinemas in Africa in comparison. Lacking a robust distribution network, movie producers are forced to release titles straight to DVD, which are then copied and sold more cheaply within days.

    The problem has been made worse by the ability of pirates to squeeze several films onto a single DVD and then sell it for half the price of a single, legitimate title. And producers face the further frustration of an increasing number of cable television channels showing their films without permission with very little they can do to stop it.

    As a result, the already low budgets producers have to make films are getting smaller and production values are not improving. Hence the concern that the Nigerian film industry may have peaked without ever having tapped its phenomenal potential.

    The largest film industry in the world, India’s Bollywood, is taking matters into its own hands. The trend of filmmakers to remake existing films with no regard for copyright, which hardly helped their own cause, seems to be abating.

    In addition, India’s film industry has entered into a joint venture with the Alliance Against Copyright Theft (AACT) – an international organisation of filmmakers and distributors – in a bid to tackle the problem. The group, supported by the Indian government, has launched raids against suspected pirates, enforcing existing piracy laws, but recognises that a change in the public’s attitude toward pirated films is needed most.

    A similar initiative in Nigeria would begin to turn the tide of copyright infringement and help the country’s filmmakers continue to make the films so many Africans enjoy. Nothing can be done, however, without the political will, and the perception among Nigeria’s filmmakers is that the government is simply not taking the problem seriously enough.

    Nigeria is a signatory to a number of international copyright conventions and has the laws and administering bodies to protect filmmakers if it wants to. Anti-piracy squads have the power to perform raids, confiscate materials and make arrests, but with an estimated 90% of all DVDs on sale illegal copies, there is clearly much still to do.

    The National Film & Video Censors Board in Nigeria (NFVCB) is doing its best to formalise the country’s film industry. Its role of classifying films and registering and regulating all outlets is all but impossible, and will remain so, if it is not backed more forcibly by the government.

    There is little freedom too in over-regulation. The NFVCB has on its ‘8 Point Action Plan’ a ‘New Direction in Film & Video Content’, which, they say, should paint Nigeria in a positive light.

    That is all well and good, but will censors swoop on filmmakers who wish to pass comment on, for instance, government corruption? Would, to take but one contemporary example, Jeta Amata’s new film, Black Gold (to be released in 2011), about greed, corruption and violence in the Niger Delta, be allowed by a more powerful regulatory body?

    But strict regulation of any sort seems along way off. Despite concerns, foreign investors are willing to take stake in the Nigerian film industry by investing in its most talented filmmakers. The young director, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, born in Benin City, in 2008 made Close Enemies for $300,000, still a record for a Nigerian film. But the film had to be made outside of Nigeria in Los Angeles.

    The slick, high-budget movie is a world away from the shoestring productions that form the base for the industry in Nigeria and, along with its subject matter, will do much to gain the respect, and investment dollars, of the biggest studios.

    Indeed, it is directors like Amata, whose critically acclaimed 2004 film, The Alexa Affair, which was filmed in Germany using a German crew, introduced methods honed in the Nigerian film industry, who are showing Western filmmakers how to cut costs and production times without compromising quality.

    The advancing Nigerian economy and the construction of cinema complexes is giving the local film industry room to grow but it is not only in Nigeria that the film industry is enjoying a boom. This September, the Federation of Pan-African Filmmakers (FEPACI) announced their intention to set up African Film Cinema Fund with a $50m target, in particular, to invest in a continent-wide distribution network. Discussions are in their early stages.

    In conjunction with organisations such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and other private investors, it hopes to create a framework to strengthen coproduction and distribution partnerships, and through a partnership with the International Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF) hopes to fulfil the UNESCO idea of enabling the diversity of cultural expression.

    Striding toward doing so and further breaking the stereotype of African-made films is Pumzi, the 2009 production, directed by Kenyan born Wanuri Kahiu and shot on location in South Africa. The internationally funded short film is of the science fiction genre – itself so far a rarity among African films – based in the future where Asha, played by Kudzani Moswela, sets about looking for life in an otherwise lifeless, post-World War III ‘Water War’ planet.

    Money for the imaginative project came partly from the Changamoto Arts Fund, which seeks to ‘liberate the artist from the pressure of creating safe work’, thus emancipating creative talent from commercial considerations and worries over piracy, and Focus Feature’s Africa First, making grants of $10,000 to short-film makers in Africa.

    Such funds are as important for the development of Africa’s film industry as the injection of cash. Money cannot buy new, exciting ideas; and without those, no creative industry’ can flourish. Another film which bucks the trend and aims to establish Africa at the forefront of movie-making technology is Lion of Judah,a computer-animated 3D movie, commissioned by a US company and made entirely in South Africa using almost entirely South African animators.

    The Cape Town-based studio, Animal Matters, which is making the film, has to make the most of its limited resources but hopes that investment in technology and training can help the country position itself well in what promises to be a highly lucrative 3D market.

    If given the freedom and protection to work, the continent’s most creative filmmakers will give expression to Africa’s creativity, allowing it to tell its own stories about itself, and forging its own cultural identity in a environment where cultural imperialism threatens to homogenise an otherwise diverse and colourful world.

  • Far from being a District 9 copy, the new black-and-white sci-fi film from Cape Town-based production company Be Phat Motel has its own dark ambience and unique character that is set to breathe new life into the genre. The self-funded thriller, titled Sweetheart, is not a full-length feature film but still manages to entertain throughout its 26 minutes. It previewed to a receptive audience on 2 December 2010 at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town.

    The film stars Inge Beckmann – former vocalist of local electronic group Lark – as Sweetheart, with theatre actor Andre Weidemann as Ogilvy and Survivor Africa host Anthony Oseyemi as Honest John. The supporting cast includes Norman Murray, model Pope Jerrod, and Aidan Whytock, a finalist in the 2010 Top Billing presenter search.

    Sweetheart is Be Phat’s first short film and is directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond, with a score composed by James Matthes. The film was made purely for creative purposes, claim the Be Phat team, and not to deliver any specific message or lesson.

    Like District 9, Sweetheart was shot with Red One cameras. Its monochrome style, which the team says is based on the Coen Brothers’ 2001 The Man Who Wasn’t There, is a tribute to the noir films of the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the visuals were filmed in the old suburb of Woodstock, which lies about a kilometre from Cape Town’s city centre. In mid-2010 Be Phat released a teaser on the internet, and the full trailer may now also be viewed online.

    The story, which was written in under a week and filmed in eight days at the beginning of 2010, plays out in the 1950s against the backdrop of one of the tense periods of the Cold War. “We shot the film two weeks after coming up with the idea,” said Matthews in a recent interview with Cape Town Magazine, “and without funding. I got the last part of the script on the morning we started shooting.”

    “We worked with a bunch of great actors on the film,” added Drummond. “Tireless, they all gave way more of themselves than they needed to – there was a great energy.”
    Sweetheart is a young wife and mother living on a farm with her family. Her husband and stepsons travel into town one day, and don’t come back. While she waits for them to return she catches glimpses of mysterious events in the distance.

    Eventually Sweetheart realises that her family is not coming back, and she’s forced to leave the farm and make the trip to the city – a strange, post-apocalyptic 1950s version of Cape Town – to look for them. When she gets there she finds the place deserted, except for random groups of survivors. This makes her task all the more dangerous, but if she wants to find the answers, she must press on.

    Be Phat Motel was established in 2007 and from the early days of commercials and music videos, they are now set on a new course of producing feature films. The Be Phat core team comprises award-winning director Matthews, editor Daniel Mitchell, producer/screenwriter Drummond, and cinematographer Shaun Lee.

    The team originally planned Sweetheart as a five-minute experimental film, but found that it was better suited to its final length. Even without the considerable muscle of District 9 producer Peter Jackson, Be Phat has high hopes for Sweetheart and with the interest already seen online and at the preview screening, their hopes have every chance of being realised.

    Their first feature film is currently in development – Five Fingers for Marseilles, which starts off in 1980s rural South Africa and aims to merge the country’s history with the classic western theme. It follows the struggle for freedom from police oppression of the small community of Railway, which sits on the fringes of a fictional South African town called Marseilles.

    At first only five young men – the Five Fingers – are brave enough to stand up to the authorities, until one of them commits a crime that sends him to prison for 20 years. When he returns to his home town he finds it under threat from a new source, and must once again fight to save the day. Five Fingers will play mainly in Sesotho and isiXhosa, with some English.

  • When South African film-maker Neill Blomkamp's strange new short went viral (in Oct 2010) it prompted many questions: is this a clue to Blomkamp's mooted District 9 sequel? Or his forthcoming new sci-fi project Elysium? It said as much about contemporary movie marketing as it did about the director's creativity.

    Social networking encourages a see-and-then-share habit for moviegoers, and it's taken a step further this year – just observe the excitement and commercial reward generated by this year's viral campaigns for Inception and Tron. Yet despite the commercial motivation, most fans appear to be enjoying the shift. Viral movie marketing encourages engagement with cinema, wider conversation and expands the worlds of movies people love. In the case of Blomkamp's new video, far from merely being a trailer for a forthcoming project, the short might be seen as a starting point for a digital egg hunt.

    If you've managed to come out unscathed after sitting through the video's impressively tense minute-long running time, you'll notice that the creature in Blomkamp's video is stamped AMG Heartland. Cue film fans doing some digging and discovering this is a phrase trademarked to communications company Sable, which suggests more videos will follow over the coming months.

    Most movie fans enjoy the way things are now, but there's some who really enjoy it – in fact, there's a growing subculture of movie fans for whom this hunt for information is as exciting as the films themselves. Over at Movieviral.com, there's a website full of people picking through the detritus of the web and correlating clues with existing release schedules – asking themselves and each other, what does it all mean? Their forum asks if this website provides clues to Battle: Los Angeles, or is just the musings of a UFO enthusiast. It doesn't really matter which – what's most important is getting excited about the movie.

    Yet some of the website's subscribers have certainly found more to enjoy in movies than mere speculation – it was Movieviral.com forum users who first cracked the code to ijustwanttobeperfect.com, the website for Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming psychological horror Black Swan, discovering, after a tipoff from the lead character's @theswanqueen twitter account, that if you typed the name of the film's villain Rothbart on the site, you were rewarded with access to view unseen footage from the movie.

    Sci-fi and horror are the perfect subject matter for this kind of fan engagement – after all, what's scarier than what you don't know? – and when they're not trying to deduce whether a strange alien autopsy video entitled Apollo 20 has any relation to the forthcoming Apollo 18 movie, they're trying to crack the DOS-style setup of thescariestthingieversaw.com, a website reporting to provide access to the home computer of D Morris, a character from JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Super 8. That film's not out until June 2011, they've got plenty of time.

    But what is perhaps most exciting to this community is that the internet provides more clues about forthcoming movies than the release schedules. Nobody really knows what theclearpill.com means, other than suggesting that a Bradley Cooper movie about a wonder drug called Limitless appears to be in the works. Likewise the potential resurrection of the Mortal Kombat franchise when a video entitled Mortal Kombat Rebirth was put on YouTube this summer. Fans weren't given any explanation as to whether this was a new shonky beat 'em up video game, or another shonky movie based on the shonky beat 'em up game – but three million users debating which one it is can't be bad for business.

    Of course, there is a school of thought that wishes things remained as they always were, that digging around and hunting for clues spoils the magic of cinema, like asking a magician to reveal the secrets of his tricks. Another thinks fans should know better than to fall for smart marketing, that they're just feeding the machine and wasting their lives searching for information that will be revealed to them in due course.

    Both schools are entitled to their views, yet as they sit down to watch their summer blockbusters next year, inquisitive fans such as myself will be even more exited, knowing we've been part of the conversation for longer.

    As an aside, Deadline reports that Jodie Foster has just joined Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley in Neill Blomkamp's 'District 9' follow up, 'Elysium'.

  • SABC1 has announced the highlights of the season starting in January 2011:

    Soul Buddyz 5: Monday 10 Jan @ 19:00
    An exciting, positive and up-beat drama series detailing the lives and challenges of a group of teenaged friends – the Soul Buddyz!  The stories are educational with an entertainment element focusing on a National Dance Competition in which the Buddyz participate for a final prize. The series showcases their journey as individuals and as a team - highlighting their joys, pain, challenges and triumphs along the way! One of the setbacks they experience is how alcohol is used by one of their members, undermining their cohesion as a group and dealing with a difficult issue of how to stop the sale of alcohol at their school.

    One Day Leader: Tuesday 11 Jan @ 18:30
    One Day Leader is a reality format that aims to identify and develop young leaders between the ages of 18 and 25, while engaging the public and creating awareness around critical social and economic issues. South Africa needs strong leadership to address its many social issues, not only now, but well into the future. One Day Leader aims not at criticising current leaders or forms of leadership but to encourage young and bright minds to come up with innovative ways of addressing issues.

    Pathfinders (A 2-part documentary series) Tuesday 11 & 18 Jan @ 21:00
    Part 1: Gogo's Heart
    A group of elderly women in Alexandra are re-inventing community relations in the wake of the devastation left behind by HIV/AIDS. The documentary profiles the work done by Rose Letwaba and a group of gogo's from Alexandra.

    Part 2: The Making of Our FatherThe documentary details the work in progress of an inter-generational dialogue project entitled "Our Father." Our Father is the attempt by five artists to collaborate on individual narratives detailing metaphorical and literal journeys in search and exploration of their fathers. In some cases their fathers are alive and in other they are not, and yet still others have never even known their fathers. Through art they have decided to unpack the nature and impact of their relationships or lack thereof with their fathers to see what it means to them as young men and as artists.

    The Game 3: Friday 21 Jan @ 20:30

    The Game stars Tia Mowry as Melanie Barnett, a young, intelligent medical student, who is also the girlfriend of an eager rookie football player, Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall). Melanie decides to pass on her chance at attending Johns Hopkins Medical School to be with Derwin after he is recently chosen to play for the San Diego Sabres as the new third-string wide receiver. As Melanie tries to adjust to her new lifestyle, she meets Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson), single mother and manager of Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) who is a charming star quarterback for the San Diego Sabres and Kelly Pitts (Brittany Daniel), the wife of Jason Pitts (Coby Bell) who is a thrifty star player. With the help of Tasha and Kelly Melanie learns how the game is played amongst the women behind the athletes.  Created by Mara Brock Akil.

    Friends Like These: Saturday 22 Jan @ 18:30
    A game show that is all about testing friendships and finding out what makes them tick! The show has an appeal that cuts across age, gender and race differences, thus capturing the imagination of Mzansi viewers from all backgrounds. 5 male and 5 female contestants battle it out every week for the chance to play face-to-face to win the holiday of a lifetime.  

    The Unit 3: Monday 24 Jan @ 22:00
    The Unit is a covert team of US Special Forces operatives who undertake missions around the world. Bob Brown is the newcomer who joins Jona's team and they set out to rescue European businessmen who have been hijacked by terrorists. Meanwhile, Bob's wife, Kim, is struggling with how much control the Unit has over her personal life.  Cast: Regina Tayor, Dennis Haysbert, Max Martini, Scott Foley, Audrey Anderson, Abby Brammell, Robert Patrick, Demore Barnes, Michael Irby, Alyssa Shafer. Written by David Mamet.

    50 Years of Love: 25 Jan @ 21:00
    This documentary takes a close look at the institution of marriage, its relevance in today's society and exceptional people that have survived it for over 50 years. Feeling that marriage is one subject for which people are poorly prepared by most societies, a filmmaker couple set out around the world to have an honest look at marriage beyond the honeymoon and the "happily ever after" clichés. Only then will they decide whether or not to take the giant step themselves. A heart-warming story that questions without disrespecting the different types of marriages from the "usual" to arranged marriages and traditional polygamous marriages.

    Dance to Fame: Thursday 27 Jan @ 19:00
    The 13-episode show celebrates the inspiration and excitement behind the world of street dance as it presents the once-in-a-lifetime chance for audience members to Dance to Fame. Four of SA's most talented dance groups will be selected to compete in this dance battle, putting all they have on the floor as they fight for the title of SA's best dance crew and a R100 000 prize money!

  • Subscribers of major West African mobile service provider, Globacom, can now watch DStv programmes on their mobile phones as the company rolls out the DStvMobile service on Glo.

    The product, called, DStv Mobile on Glo is offered in partnership with Details Nigeria Limited, the provider of DStv Mobile. DStv Mobile on Glo brings the rich experience of DStv to Glo subscribers who are connected to the service and have special DVB-H enabled handsets.

    Globacom’s Head of Value Added Services, Samson Isa said that Glo
    subscribers who sign up to DStv Mobile on Glo will enjoy a wide range of
    programming from news channels such as CNN to entertainment and movie
    channels such as Africa Magic, Magic World, Africa Magic Yoruba, Africa Magic Hausa, Channel O, Sound city, Cartoon Network, TBN, Super Sport 7, Super Sport 9, Super Sport Blitz and NTA Plus. Subscribers to the service will also enjoy super fast Internet access.

    “The High Speed Internet Service on the package is connected to the GLO 1 Cable”, Isa disclosed, adding that this gives the subscriber a robust and seamless viewing experience. He explained that DStv Mobile from Glo comes with Nokia 5330, one month free High Speed Internet bundle and free DStv Mobile subscription until 31 March, 2011. The handset can be used to make and receive calls and for internet browsing.

    The service is available, to start with, in 10 Nigerian cities including Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kaduna.

  • The Togolese authorities on December 29, 2010 closed down three privately-owned radio stations in Lome, the capital, over administrative reasons.

    A statement issued by the regulatory body, Posts and Telecommunications' Regulatory Authority (ART&P) and signed by Palouki Massina, its director general said the decision was taken after it undertook a 10-day joint review of the stations together with the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) in November 2010.

    The statement said the stations, X-Solaire, Metropolys and Providence were operating illegally as they did not have the required registration documents and standard broadcasting equipment.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent in Togo reported that since the closure, the officials of the stations have been met with delay tactics from the authorities, in their efforts to obtain the required documents.

    Meanwhile, the media group, SOS Journaliste en Danger, has condemned the action of the authorities. In a release issued on January 12, the SOS said it was an attempt by the authorities to muzzle the stations which were deemed critical of the administration of President Faure Gnassingbé.

    The media group wondered why in spite of the stations'status, the ART&P was collecting licensing fees from them.

  • Talk show diva and cultural kingmaker Oprah Winfrey expands her media empire with the high-stakes launch of her OWN cable network.

    While Winfrey's comfy couches have launched scores of careers, from Dr. Phil to the inventors of her 'favorite things', it's unclear if her magic touch can carry an entire network.

    "Oprah has a very powerful brand name, but it's really difficult to get people to change their viewing habits and find a new channel," said Derek Baine, an analyst for industry consultant SNL Kagan. "Plus, the fact that she'll still be on her syndicated show will probably be confusing to some people."

    Discovery Networks is reportedly sinking 189 million dollars into the joint venture, which replaces Discovery Health and will reach nearly 80 million homes. The programming is intended to "inspire viewers and give them hope," Oprah has often said, and the network is being "built on great intentions."

    However, she acknowledged in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that it may take time to translate the success of a show she'd done 140 times a year into a network which airs 24 hours a day.

    "If you're on the outside looking in, of course it looks like a big risk," Winfrey told the paper. But for me, it's not so much about going wider. It's about going deeper, so that you have a platform that has a deeper impact."

    The Oprah Winfrey Network launches at 16:00 GMT, noon on the east coast and 9am on the west coast, with an hour-long introduction hosted by Winfrey and a weekend line-up of sneak previews.

    The network has also developed: a reality show where contestants compete for their own television show; another where children kidnap their workaholic parents; two cooking shows; a show where families get rid of their clutter and get organized; a talk show about sex; and a series which profiles top names like Diane Sawyer, Jay-Z, Maya Angelou, and Condoleezza Rice.

  • From Abuja, the presidency has accused international news operation, Aljazeera of seeking to destabilise Nigeria through false reports, saying it would not condone any further reckless and deliberate falsehood.

    In a statement last week, presidential spokesman, Ima Niboro said it was pure lie the report that President Goodluck Jonathan fingered the notorious Boko Haram sect of for masterminding the Abuja bomb blast.

    He said, "Our attention has been drawn to the unfounded and sensational news item on Al Jazeera television, claiming that Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has blamed the fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, for the bomb blast which occurred in Abuja yesterday. This is an outright lie. Nowhere, and at no time has the President held any particular group responsible for the attack."

    Additionally, he added that neither the Nigerian security services nor the Nigerian government have confirmed those behind the attacks.

  • Cinemas in Africa have been closing down one after the other over the last twenty years. Today, many countries have only one working cinema left. The Association ‘Cinemas for Africa’ - launched in 2009 over FESPACO at the initiative of the Mauritian film maker Abderrahmane Sissako - has been commissioned to back the renovation of Cinemas on the continent and work towards getting them up and running again.

    Abderrahamane Sissako reported that in Bamako, 30 movie theatres have been sold and some of them converted into other types of business. The « groupe Tomota », owner of Cinema « Ciné Soudan »,  has asked Sissako, to find an idea to renovate the
    Building. “Les inRocks“ reported that in Senegal, Cameroun and in Madagascar, cinema theatres have been closed down.

    The Association has launched a subscription campaign amongst public and private contributors. The collection of funds, in the form of a symbolic sale of cinema seats, will contribute to the renovation of the Soudan Ciné in Bamako (Mali) the Association’s pilot project.

    More here

  • The new Killarney CineCentre will open in March 2011 and will have a full-3D complex with five screens totalling 708 seats.

    It owner, with over 50 years in the industry, Avalon Group's Moosa Moosa is the longest serving cinema executive in South Africa and among the longest serving in the world.

    Avalon's most ambitious project to date comes to fruition at the Killarney Mall shopping centre in Johannesburg's affluent northern suburbs. The new Cine Centre will be a specialised luxury cinema complex featuring the latest Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters. The centre will have five screens, each featuring the latest 3D and digital projection hardware, as well as state-of-the-art Dolby Digital surround sound.

    "All five cinemas will offer cutting-edge viewing technology including 3D," says Debra Sharnock, centre manager of Killarney Mall. "A fully digital 3D cinema complex is a first for the South African cinema industry, demonstrating the extraordinary quality that movie-goers can expect at Johannesburg's newest cinema development." A highlight of the Cine Centre will be a luxurious 64-seat gold-class theatre available for hire.

    For the full story visit Media Club South Africa website here:

  • South Africa-based multinational media conglomerate Naspers has an indirect stake in Facebook worth $343 million (R2.3 billion) following a multimillion-dollar injection into the social-networking site by US bank Goldman Sachs and Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies (DST).

    This funding boosted Facebook’s value to $50bn. Naspers owns 30 percent in Mail.ru, Russia’s leading internet group, which in turn owns 2.4 percent of Facebook through its sister company DST.

    Abdul Davids, the Head of Research at Kagiso Asset Management, said the Facebook stake accounted for 15 percent of Mail.ru’s value but this meant that its other businesses were either under-valued or Facebook was overpriced.

    “Facebook is making very minimal revenue at the moment. One can argue that at $50bn it is a bit on the rich side.” Davids said that if Facebook were to list on the local bourse, it would dwarf the worth of MTN and other Top40 index shares. It would also double Naspers’ valuation.

  • Francisco Partners have completed their acquisition of Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional (active in Africa) from Technicolor.

    As of January 1st 2011, the California-based firm started operating as an independent company under the trade name Grass Valley, with terms of the sale including 100 percent ownership of the current Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional business. 

    The deal includes the camera, content repurposing, editing, master control, modular, news production, production automation, production switchers, routing, and video servers product lines, including their entire product portfolios, the R&D centres and factories around the world, the Sales & Systems activities and Customer Support organisation worldwide, as well as the management and administrative support functions dedicated to the business.

  • The Ttabamiruka is an annual conference organised by the Buganda Kingdom to review and discuss the social, cultural, economic and developmental issues of the kingdom. The theme for the 2010 conference was Poverty and Development.

    The conference, held on 17 December 2010 at the Wampewo Avenue-based Hotel Africana, in a suburb of Kampala, was supposed to be broadcast live by several radio stations, including the Buganda Kingdom-owned Central Broadcasting Services (CBS FM) radio station, but all were stopped by the BC. By the time the directive was issued by the BC, CBS FM was already relaying the debates live.

    A CBS FM staffer who preferred to remain anonymous said the station received a call from the BC telling them to suspend the live broadcast, equating it to the open-air talk shows locally known as Ebimeeza, which were banned in September 2009.

    "We only broadcast live the speech of the king, His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II," a staffer said. The station was accused of failing to consult the BC on the issues to be discussed and aired during the conference.

    The Kingdom of Buganda comprises one of the largest ethnic groups in Uganda and is based in the central region. Most of its people are languishing in poverty. National Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that more than 38% of the total population in Uganda lives below poverty line.

    The chairman of the BC, Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, told the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the conference broadcasts were not much different from the banned Ebimeeza, which were broadcast from bars and night clubs.

    "We were not informed as a regulatory body about the topics to be discussed and the guests. So what they were doing was illegal because we banned the Ebimeeza in 2009. We were even taken to court over our action," Mutabazi said. He explained that there is a license requirement stipulating that all radio stations planning to produce live broadcast programmes should own pre-listening gadgets, but most radio stations have failed to comply with the requirement. "We can tolerate live soccer matches or Independence commemorations but not debates," Mutabazi stressed.

    In September 2009, the council arbitrarily closed down five privately-owned radio stations, 88.8 and 89.2 CBS FM, Ssuubi FM, Radio Sapientia and Radio Two (Akkaboozi), and banned open-air radio talk shows.

    HRNJ-Uganda feels that the BC is overstepping its powers when it begins to regulate people's thoughts and information. These actions are illegal as they limit the ability of citizens to exercise their fundamental freedoms and liberties as stipulated in Art. 29 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda

  • The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has blamed political parties for the poor representation they receive from state broadcast stations. NBC's Head of Public Affairs Awwalu Salihu said refusal of aggrieved parties to report to the Commission when fair representation is not given to them does not help the commission in its quest to solve the problem.

    "If any station goes off course, it is left to the aggrieved parties to report to the commission and we will follow it up. But the biggest problem we have is that they never complain, some will rather go to the media and castigate us," he said.

    While stating that the commission had given each broadcast station political guidelines, he said letters had also been written to the stations to this effect, telling them that all parties need to be represented fairly.

    "This however does not mean equal airtime for everyone because some political parties are bigger than others," he said. He said the commission in conjunction with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was planning a political summit in this month where all parties and broadcast stations would be involved.
    "It is hoped that the issue of poor representation amongst others will be resolved at the end of the summit", he said.

  • Communications Minister Radhakrishna Padayachie announced last week that South Africa will complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital television by December 2013. The analogue switch off date was originally set for November 2011 but has since been postponed to December 2013 by the Communications Ministry.

    The minister revealed that South Africa would adopt the DVB-T2 standard for digital migration. After the December 2013 deadline, existing analogue TVs will not be able to transmit images but viewers equipped with digital TVs would not experience any problems.
    Once the analogue signal has been switched off, those with analogue TVs will need a Set-Top-Box (STB). The box will convert the digital signal to analogue for the analogue TV.  The Minister also mentioned that there were "export opportunities" with regards to STB as other African countries needing help with digital migration could look to South Africa as the manufacturing base of STB.

    Padayachie added that this digital migration transition could serve as a catalyst to revitalise the South African electronics manufacturing industry. Among the benefits of going digital, and on top of a clearer broadcast images for viewers, the other dividend is that it will start liberating the spectrum and provide more channels. DVB-T2 will provide viewers access to 14 channels.

    Start of January, some media reported that a grouping of aspirant black manufacturers organised labour plan to contest a cabinet decision to adopt a European digital terrestrial television broadcasting standard.

    Keith Thabo, the chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronics Components (Namec), said that the organisations would challenge the adoption of Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T2), a second-generation standard, because its introduction would fail to achieve the optimum socioeconomic impact. He said the groups favoured a Japanese standard, which is also used in Brazil, for South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting, which has to be completed by 2015.

    Namec is concerned that commercial broadcasters e.tv and M-Net, and decoder manufacturers Altech and Reunert, who claim to have spent millions on trials of the European standard, would be the only commercial beneficiaries if South Africa adopted DVB-T2.

  • The African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Media Initiative (AMI) convened a meeting on the Pan African Media Portal (PAMP) in Nairobi, Kenya, on 21 December 2010. The African Union Commission, A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media, partners on the implementation of this ambitious project, attended the meeting.
     
     The Nairobi gathering was a follow-up to the Informal Joint Experts Meeting organised by the African Union Commission and the European Commission (EC) in Addis Ababa, March 23-25, 2010 on the theme "Media and Development".
     
    Media play a critical role in promoting economic and human development. In order to help African media participate effectively and efficiently in the development efforts of the continent, the AUC has partnered with key players to develop a world class web platform that will serve as central point to access information about the fast changing African media landscape.
     
    This platform will gather information about media houses; list the national legislation of AU Member States on media, present journalism and communication schools, and provide a full list of all relevant media stakeholders in each African country.
     
    Participants in the Nairobi meeting agreed upon priority areas to implement in the first quarter of 2011 with the objective of launching a public website no later than March.
     
    “We are happy to see that this important project is finally underway. It has the full support of the EC, AUC and its chairperson Jean Ping. It is a new concept that will provide the hub of all African media information, and contacts, including the Diaspora, a unique and unifying concept- one that has never been seen before”
    said Habiba Mejri-Cheikh, the AUC spokesperson in charge of Communication and Information.
     
    “The African media landscape is fast changing with the huge impact of new information and communication technologies. It is high time that the media community comes together to create a unique tool which will provide the much needed information on the state of the media throughout the continent” commented Amadou Mahtar Ba, CEO of the African Media Initiative which oversees the implementation of the Pan African Media Portal. “We are grateful to A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media who are pulling together their technological resources to make sure that this project takes off.”

  • 21-29 January 2011
    12th. “Festival national du film (FNF) Marocain” in Tangier
    Venue: Tangier - city in northern Morocco

    Long and short film competition hosted by Ahmed Ghazali, « président de la Haute Autorité de la Communication audiovisuelle » (HACA) in Morocco. There are 19 long films in competition.
    click for details here:
     

     

    9-11 February 2011
    Discop Africa
    Venue: Lapalm Royal Beach hotel, Accra, Ghana.

    Since 2009, DISCOP markets targeting Sub-Saharan African television marketplaces have brought together over 400 companies selling and buying television content in this part of the world.
    click for details here:
     

     

    10-20 February 2011
    “Berlinale” – Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin)
    Venue: Berlin

    One of the most important dates on the international film industry’s calendar: About 400 films are shown every year, more than 19,000 film professionals from 128 countries, including about 4,000 journalists, almost 300,000 tickets sold.
    click for details here:
     

     

    16-21 February 2011
    2011 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF)
    Venue: Los Angeles, CA, USA

    Completed U.S. and international feature-length and short films festival. The PAFF presents and showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans.  In addition to the film festival, the PAFF presents a world renowned Art Show featuring over 100 fine artists and craftspeople from around the world showcasing the best in Black fine art, sculpture, photography, unique handmade crafts, home furnishings, designer jewelry, designer fashions and accessories that highlight the artistry and beauty of the African aesthetic. click for details here:

     

    23rd till 26th February 2011
    Aluta film festival 2011
    Venue: Kimberley – South Africa.

    click for details here:
     

     

    26 February to 5 March 2011
    2011 FESPACO – 22nd edition
    Venue: Ouagadougou – Burkina Fasso

    Set up every two years, the well-known FESPACO festival is a week of celebration for Cinema for Africans and for the African Diaspora. Fespaco is considered as one of the biggest film events on the African continent. In 2011, it will be held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Communication of Burkina Faso
    click for details here:
     

     

    22nd - 27th March 2011
    Festival Cinema Africano Asia e America Latina 21° edizione
    Venue: Milano, Italy

    click for details here:

    22nd - 24th March 2011
    IPTV World Forum 2011
    Venue: Olympia, London UK

    A comprehensive programme of more than 200 visionary speakers, including over 140 service providers from telcos, cablecos, broadcasters and content providers. The conference programme is divided into four specific tracks focusing on IP Platforms for TV, Network Optimisation, Service Management and The Business of Content. Each day will start with a keynote plenary session discussing the innovations and services in IP and TV:
    click for details here: for a conference programme please e-mail gavin.whitechurch@informa.com
     

     

    23-25 March 2011
    AdExpo
    Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

    Mega Media AdExpo is a platform where the advertising industry, marketers, advertisers and media buyers gather and meet to discuss and plan advertising for the year ahead. Apart from the exhibits, the event also aims to educate with its offering of short 30 min workshops on interesting topics from Mobile marketing to internet advertising. 

     

    25 march to 9 April 2011
    Afrika Filmfestival
    Leuven, 3220 Holsbeek - Belgium

    The Afrika Filmfestival in Leuven is the most important annual showcase for African films in the Benelux. The festival promotes African cinema.
    click for details here:
     

     

    4-7 April 2011
    MIPTV
    Venue: Cannes, France

    MIPTV is the world's leading content market. It provides a unique opportunity to meet the key decision makers in the TV/Film, Digital media and Cinema industry. 21,000 m2 exhibition floor.
    click for details here:
     

     

    13-17 April 2011
    International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes
    Venue: Cannes

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    click for details here:
     

     

    April May 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Film Festival. AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:
     

     

    May 2010
    The Helsinki African Film Festival
    Venue: Andorra, Eerikinkatu 11, 00100 Helsinki

    Call for short film submissions - Deadline 31 December 2010

    Helsinki African Film Festival brings an entertaining and thought-provoking selection of contemporary African cinema to Finland. The festival aims to foster communication across cultures and support dialogue on wide-ranging issues related to Africa
    click for details here:

     

    2, 5 June 2011
    Africa Festival
    Venue: Wurzburg, Germany

    click for details here:

     

    11th to 19th June, 2011
    The 8th African Film Festival of Tarifa, Spain
    Calle Monte Carmelo, 5 bajo
    41011 Sevilla España

    click for details here:
     

     

    2 - 10 July, 2011
    Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)

    East Africa's largest film and arts festival, showcasing a broad spectrum of African films.
    click for details here:

     

    20-22 July 2011
    Mediatech Africa 2011 Exhibition
    The Coca-Cola Dome
    Northgate - Johannesburg (South Africa)

    Mediatech Africa SA's only all-inclusive broadcast, media, entertainment and AV trade. It showcases cutting edge technologies and services from industry leaders in television and broadcast, sound and audio, lighting and staging, animation, communication and related fields.
    click for details here:

     

    22-25 July 2011
    The 2nd Durban FilmMart over the 32nd Durban International Film Festival (21-31 July).
    Venue: Durban

    Contact: Durban Film Office –
    click for details here:

     

    July to Sept. 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Outdoor Summer Screenings in NYC Parks. Featuring dance, music, food and of course films. AFF programs year-round; therefore, AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:

     

    3-8 Octobre 2011
    Festival du Court Métrage Méditerranéen de Tanger
    Venue: Tangier, Morocco

    A festival focused on short films.
    for details E-mail : ccm@menara.ma

    31 Oct 7 Nov 2011
    Out In Africa
    South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    Venue: various, see website

    click for details here:

     
    Oct-Nov, final dates tba
    Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival
    Venue: Edinburgh's Filmhouse cinema

    The UK's largest African Film Festival
    click for details here:


    (final date tba)
    Festival du Monde Arabe du Court-métrage Azrou-Ifrane

    click for details here:

  •  At the start of January 2011, it was announced that South African  Parliament is moving ahead to fill the four vacancies on the SABC’s board, with its communications committee due to meet next week to draw up a shortlist of candidates. A total of 84 nominations have been received by Parliament since it called for names in October 2010.

     African Cinema will miss two grand figures: Mahama Johnson Traoré (1942-2010) and Sotigui Kouyaté (1936-2010) passed away in 2010 and will be honoured at FESPACO 2011.

     Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has taken on a new role: he’s starring in a television series called The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
    This remarkable nine part documentary premieres on SABC3 from Tuesday, 1st February at 20:00.

  • ACP Films to African film Producers
    Coming soon: a new call for proposals

    The new ACP-EU ACP cultural sector Support Programme will be launched in 2011 and includes two components: ACPFilms and ACPCultures.
    Funded by the 10th EDF, this new program has a budget of 30 million Euros, 24 million allocated to projects. A call for proposals will be launched in a couple of weeks.


    ACP Films: 2010 wrap up and perspectives in 2011

    The year 2010 ends on a positive note for the ACPFilms Programme, with several
    beneficiaries participating to many international festivals. I am glad to mention the wonderful film “A crying man” of the Chadian Mahamat Saleh Haroun, who won the Jury Prize at last Cannes Festival, and three awards at Dubai Film Festival- best director, best actor and best editor. The Last Flight of the Flamingo of the Mozambican Joao Ribeiro was also awarded at the Festival of Tarifa in Spain, and Viva Riva, by the Congolese Djo Munga, was invited to the Toronto Film Festival 2010 and to the next Berlin Film Festival in February 2011. The ACP cinema and audiovisual production has continued to strengthen its position in these prestigious environments.

    Also in the ACP field, our policy to make images available to the ACP local population is taking root. From Mozambique to Fiji via Trinidad & Tobago, people have access to local works through mobile digital cinema screenings or broadcasts on television channels, through projects supported by ACPFilms Programme. At the same time, the support offered by the Programme also strengthens distribution
    networks while giving priority to professional technical trainings.

    The cultural policy of the ACP Group aims at, among other things, developing and structuring film and audiovisual industries at intra-ACP level. It does so through the creation and dissemination of their own pictures in better conditions, better promotion of cultural diversity and enhancement of cultural identities in the ACP and intercultural dialogue on the one hand; on the other by promoting an environment conductive to the creation, trade and sustainability of their fundamental cultural values and diversity.
    Today more than ever, the ACP Secretariat affirms its continuing commitment to support the strengthening of the culture sector as a fundamental element in the development cooperation policy.

    This support that will be confirmed in a few weeks with the launch of the new “EU-ACP ACP cultural sector support Programme” combining the two components ACPFILMS and ACPCultures. The overall objective of this new Programme, with a budget of 30 million Euros, of which 24 million will be spent on projects, is to contribute to the struggle against poverty through the emergence and consolidation of sustainable cultural industries in ACP countries, fostering their contribution to social and economic development and preservation of cultural diversity. A first call for proposals will be launched in early 2011, to enhance the creation and production of cultural goods and services in the ACP States, through an integrated approach, with interregional distribution channels; to promote better access to local, regional, intra-ACP, European and international markets; and to build capacity of stakeholders, operators and cultural entrepreneurs in ACP countries. The focus will be on supporting projects that have South-South cooperation perspective and that seek to develop synergies at intra-ACP level.
    With this new programme, the ACP Secretariat took it to heart to hear the wishes of artists and cultural operators. Whenever it was possible, the specificity of the sector was taken into account when drafting the Guidelines to be published shortly.
    Once again, the ACP / EU demonstrate the benefit of the Cotonou Agreement for ACP cinema and audiovisual sector. I invite all ACP professionals and citizens of Member States of European Union to apply.

    To you all I extend my best wishes for 2011.

    Michèle Dominique RAYMOND
    Assistant Secretary General
    Department of Political Affairs
    and Human Development
    www.acpfilms.eu


    Call for entry - International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes, France, from
    13-17 April 2011.

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    More info here:


    Scholarships for Artists UNESCO-Aschberg 2011

    An application for UNESCO-Aschberg grants for artists are now open. These scholarships promote mobility of young artists (between 25 and 35), in order to enrich their personal perspectives, to enable them to engage in intercultural dialogue and to expose them to cultural diversity.
    For more information click here:

     

    Call for entries - Eighth edition of the African Film Festival of Tarifa, 11 to 19 June
    2011.

    The African Film Festival of Tarifa is organizing calls for applications:
    Submission of movies to be screened during the festival - Deadline for registration and sending DVDs: February 25, 2011. For more information e-mail: marionb@fcat.es

    Call for candidates to submit your pictures to the fourth Africa Photo competition.

    Registration deadline: March 1, 2011. For more information e-mail: gaetano@fcat.es

    To download regulations of these various applications: www.fcat.es/FCAT_fr

    Festival of Media Awards deadline has been extended.

    Due to the overwhelming response and the many requests the organiser have received, the deadline for the Festival of Media Awards entries has been extended to Friday 4 February 2011.

    CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards 2011

    CNN International and MultiChoice officially launched the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2011 Awards.
    The winners of these prestigious annual awards will be announced at a gala ceremony to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2011.
    The competition is open to African nationals who are professional journalists including freelancers across print, television, internet, photographic and radio. Full details on how to enter can be found by logging on at www.cnn.com/africanawards. The closing date for entries is 27 January 2011
    This year, the competition will recognise excellence in most journalist categories including the following:
    • Television Features Award
    • Television News Bulletin Award
    For further information please contact:
    CNN International London: Joel Brown + 44 20 7693 0967/ + 44 7967 293452 joel.brown@turner.com
    MultiChoice South Africa: Marietjie Groenewald + 27 11 289 3067 / +27 79 501 1758 Marietjie.Groenewald@multichoice.co.za

Issue 96: There is life after football – CAfrica rolls out the NBA across the continent

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  • It would be easy to think that the only sport of interest to Africans was football. It grabs all the attention and the largest slice of the programme rights money spent on sport to be shown in Africa. But African television channels are beginning to realise that they can’t all end up with the key football rights so developing other sports programming may be a smart move. Russell Southwood talked to CAfrica’s Managing Director Cathy Fogler about its ambition to deliver “premium sports programs through a formal network of free-to-air broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa.”

    CAfrica was launched by a trio of seasoned industry professionals. Rob and Cathy Fogler and Rwandan Eugene Nyagahene. Bob Fogler had worked with Eugene Nyagahene on venture capital for SMEs in Rwanda and both of the Foglers have a background in broadcast in the USA. Eugene Nyagahene was the founder of the Tele10 Pay TV group in francophone Africa. As Cathy Fogler told us:”The three of us were discussing the TV landscape in Africa and this led to us forming the company.”

    CAfrica distributes its sports content to Free-To-Air TV stations across Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) and it is currently shown in 21 countries:”When we select a station, there are a few factors we look at including: the reach and quality of their broadcast signal; their relationship with their audiences; and how they promote the content we give them. But the overriding factor is the professionalism of the broadcaster.”

    Currently CAfrica has multi-year agreements with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAFR. It broadcasts the top game played in the NBA every week, weekly highlights from other games and the All Star Weekend. In terms of the IAAF, broadcasts the Diamond League which is a showcase for top athletes. It is looking to acquire other sports rights but is understandably cagey about its next move:”We’re looking at other things but I can’t be specific at the moment. We’re in discussion with the rights holders for all the major sports.”

    CAfrica does not just deliver the programmes:”We produce the programmes and work with IMG in London to produce both English and French commentary. Our affiliates can choose either. What marks out what we deliver is the quality of production.”

    Specific audience data is difficult to get in Africa but it airs three programmes a week during sports primetime in 21 of the major country markets during sports prime time. Fogler has a rough “thumb-suck” in the absence of broadcaster research:”Our territory is Sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa and it covers 600 million people. On average, there is a 20% TV household penetration. In addition, up to 50% of those people might be watching television outside of the home. This gives our programmes a reach of around 300 million people.”

    So what’s the business model?:”I can’t discuss the full business model but there are parts that are already clear. CAfrica provides programmes to broadcast affiliates on reasonable terms. In terms of ad revenues, we target the international, multinational corporations and the affiliate broadcast partner sells to local advertisers. We provide advertisers with a unique way of talking to Africa’s middle class consumers across the continent.”

    The NBA is also putting its weight behind promoting basketball on the continent. It has opened a Johannesburg office to have a presence on the continent and to grow the game there. It is creating grassroots basketball programming across the continent. As with the Premier League, the NBA has attracted African players. There are now over 20 of them in the NBA, the most famous of which is Tanzanian Hasheem Thabeet who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. He did not begin to play basketball until the age of 15, when he began to watch pickup games in Tanzania.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel – Nollywood and FESPACO 2011

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top African TV and Radio personalities. There are interviews in both English and French. In particular look out for in English, Matthew Brown on Changing Nollywood Business Models. Matthew is a PhD student from University of Wisconsin who’s just come from a year in Nigeria researching the topic. In French, we have the FESPACO 2011 press conference in Paris which gives details of this upcoming biennial festival in Ouegadougou. Click here:

    Workshop at DISCOP

    Differentiate your TV channel – Standing out from the competition. The TV stations that will make their mark in 2011 and succeed in gaining market share will be those that build loyalty through the people, programmes and feel of their TV channel. The workshop will focus on all aspects of differentiating your TV channel, primarily addressing: Channel attitude and personality, Content (local and exclusive); Programming (overall structure and pieces); and brand (content, personalities and marketing). Led by Russell Southwood, CEO, Balancing Act with panel speakers including Cathy Fogler, Managing Director, CAfrica and Yaa Newman of TV Africa. Date, time and Place: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 9 February, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.

  • This summarised version of an article by Richard Seymour in Nigeria’s Compass newspaper offers many interesting insights into the development of the continent’s largest film industry.

    Nollywood owes its recent expansion to the introduction of relatively cheapo digital technology to the consumer market, which allows almost anyone who can shout ‘Action!’ to be a film director. Budgets for even the most popular locally made films are low. Many do not employ technicians and, often, the ‘actors’ are anyone who happens to be passing by at the time. In a matter of weeks, the final film has been edited and distributed, either to the myriad low-budget cable television channels of which there are now so many, or as DVDs to be sold for about $2 in crowded markets.

    It is easy for filmmakers and watchers elsewhere to deride the quality of these hastily made movies, but there is no doubting the passion Africans across the continent have for them. They sell in their thousands and make money for their producers, which not every Hollywood mogul can boast. Perhaps for the first time, movie watchers in Africa are seeing themselves on screen: characters that millions of Africans can recognise themselves in, living lives which are familiar to them. And it seems they cannot get enough.

    But the industry in Nigeria is now coming of age and is attempting to raise standards across the board. Unfortunately, however, as the music industry has found out, the same technology that renders it easy to make films also makes illegally copying them a simpler task. And this is getting in the way of attracting investment. After all, who would want to put their money into a venture that has little control over its product and who profits from it?

    Some estimates from within the industry claim that as much as 50% of all money made from their films is lost to piracy. Many movies made today are not able to even recover the costs of production, which means there is no money to reinvest in new projects.

    Part of the problem is one of infrastructure. In other countries, film lovers still mostly prefer to patronise movie theatres, despite the expense, because they either want the full effect of the latest technology, whether it be high definition, surround sound or 3D, or they do not wish to wait for the DVD to go on sale. This forms a buttress against the pirate industry.

    But there are so few cinemas in Africa in comparison. Lacking a robust distribution network, movie producers are forced to release titles straight to DVD, which are then copied and sold more cheaply within days.

    The problem has been made worse by the ability of pirates to squeeze several films onto a single DVD and then sell it for half the price of a single, legitimate title. And producers face the further frustration of an increasing number of cable television channels showing their films without permission with very little they can do to stop it.

    As a result, the already low budgets producers have to make films are getting smaller and production values are not improving. Hence the concern that the Nigerian film industry may have peaked without ever having tapped its phenomenal potential.

    The largest film industry in the world, India’s Bollywood, is taking matters into its own hands. The trend of filmmakers to remake existing films with no regard for copyright, which hardly helped their own cause, seems to be abating.

    In addition, India’s film industry has entered into a joint venture with the Alliance Against Copyright Theft (AACT) – an international organisation of filmmakers and distributors – in a bid to tackle the problem. The group, supported by the Indian government, has launched raids against suspected pirates, enforcing existing piracy laws, but recognises that a change in the public’s attitude toward pirated films is needed most.

    A similar initiative in Nigeria would begin to turn the tide of copyright infringement and help the country’s filmmakers continue to make the films so many Africans enjoy. Nothing can be done, however, without the political will, and the perception among Nigeria’s filmmakers is that the government is simply not taking the problem seriously enough.

    Nigeria is a signatory to a number of international copyright conventions and has the laws and administering bodies to protect filmmakers if it wants to. Anti-piracy squads have the power to perform raids, confiscate materials and make arrests, but with an estimated 90% of all DVDs on sale illegal copies, there is clearly much still to do.

    The National Film & Video Censors Board in Nigeria (NFVCB) is doing its best to formalise the country’s film industry. Its role of classifying films and registering and regulating all outlets is all but impossible, and will remain so, if it is not backed more forcibly by the government.

    There is little freedom too in over-regulation. The NFVCB has on its ‘8 Point Action Plan’ a ‘New Direction in Film & Video Content’, which, they say, should paint Nigeria in a positive light.

    That is all well and good, but will censors swoop on filmmakers who wish to pass comment on, for instance, government corruption? Would, to take but one contemporary example, Jeta Amata’s new film, Black Gold (to be released in 2011), about greed, corruption and violence in the Niger Delta, be allowed by a more powerful regulatory body?

    But strict regulation of any sort seems along way off. Despite concerns, foreign investors are willing to take stake in the Nigerian film industry by investing in its most talented filmmakers. The young director, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, born in Benin City, in 2008 made Close Enemies for $300,000, still a record for a Nigerian film. But the film had to be made outside of Nigeria in Los Angeles.

    The slick, high-budget movie is a world away from the shoestring productions that form the base for the industry in Nigeria and, along with its subject matter, will do much to gain the respect, and investment dollars, of the biggest studios.

    Indeed, it is directors like Amata, whose critically acclaimed 2004 film, The Alexa Affair, which was filmed in Germany using a German crew, introduced methods honed in the Nigerian film industry, who are showing Western filmmakers how to cut costs and production times without compromising quality.

    The advancing Nigerian economy and the construction of cinema complexes is giving the local film industry room to grow but it is not only in Nigeria that the film industry is enjoying a boom. This September, the Federation of Pan-African Filmmakers (FEPACI) announced their intention to set up African Film Cinema Fund with a $50m target, in particular, to invest in a continent-wide distribution network. Discussions are in their early stages.

    In conjunction with organisations such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and other private investors, it hopes to create a framework to strengthen coproduction and distribution partnerships, and through a partnership with the International Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF) hopes to fulfil the UNESCO idea of enabling the diversity of cultural expression.

    Striding toward doing so and further breaking the stereotype of African-made films is Pumzi, the 2009 production, directed by Kenyan born Wanuri Kahiu and shot on location in South Africa. The internationally funded short film is of the science fiction genre – itself so far a rarity among African films – based in the future where Asha, played by Kudzani Moswela, sets about looking for life in an otherwise lifeless, post-World War III ‘Water War’ planet.

    Money for the imaginative project came partly from the Changamoto Arts Fund, which seeks to ‘liberate the artist from the pressure of creating safe work’, thus emancipating creative talent from commercial considerations and worries over piracy, and Focus Feature’s Africa First, making grants of $10,000 to short-film makers in Africa.

    Such funds are as important for the development of Africa’s film industry as the injection of cash. Money cannot buy new, exciting ideas; and without those, no creative industry’ can flourish. Another film which bucks the trend and aims to establish Africa at the forefront of movie-making technology is Lion of Judah,a computer-animated 3D movie, commissioned by a US company and made entirely in South Africa using almost entirely South African animators.

    The Cape Town-based studio, Animal Matters, which is making the film, has to make the most of its limited resources but hopes that investment in technology and training can help the country position itself well in what promises to be a highly lucrative 3D market.

    If given the freedom and protection to work, the continent’s most creative filmmakers will give expression to Africa’s creativity, allowing it to tell its own stories about itself, and forging its own cultural identity in a environment where cultural imperialism threatens to homogenise an otherwise diverse and colourful world.

  • Far from being a District 9 copy, the new black-and-white sci-fi film from Cape Town-based production company Be Phat Motel has its own dark ambience and unique character that is set to breathe new life into the genre. The self-funded thriller, titled Sweetheart, is not a full-length feature film but still manages to entertain throughout its 26 minutes. It previewed to a receptive audience on 2 December 2010 at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town.

    The film stars Inge Beckmann – former vocalist of local electronic group Lark – as Sweetheart, with theatre actor Andre Weidemann as Ogilvy and Survivor Africa host Anthony Oseyemi as Honest John. The supporting cast includes Norman Murray, model Pope Jerrod, and Aidan Whytock, a finalist in the 2010 Top Billing presenter search.

    Sweetheart is Be Phat’s first short film and is directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond, with a score composed by James Matthes. The film was made purely for creative purposes, claim the Be Phat team, and not to deliver any specific message or lesson.

    Like District 9, Sweetheart was shot with Red One cameras. Its monochrome style, which the team says is based on the Coen Brothers’ 2001 The Man Who Wasn’t There, is a tribute to the noir films of the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the visuals were filmed in the old suburb of Woodstock, which lies about a kilometre from Cape Town’s city centre. In mid-2010 Be Phat released a teaser on the internet, and the full trailer may now also be viewed online.

    The story, which was written in under a week and filmed in eight days at the beginning of 2010, plays out in the 1950s against the backdrop of one of the tense periods of the Cold War. “We shot the film two weeks after coming up with the idea,” said Matthews in a recent interview with Cape Town Magazine, “and without funding. I got the last part of the script on the morning we started shooting.”

    “We worked with a bunch of great actors on the film,” added Drummond. “Tireless, they all gave way more of themselves than they needed to – there was a great energy.”
    Sweetheart is a young wife and mother living on a farm with her family. Her husband and stepsons travel into town one day, and don’t come back. While she waits for them to return she catches glimpses of mysterious events in the distance.

    Eventually Sweetheart realises that her family is not coming back, and she’s forced to leave the farm and make the trip to the city – a strange, post-apocalyptic 1950s version of Cape Town – to look for them. When she gets there she finds the place deserted, except for random groups of survivors. This makes her task all the more dangerous, but if she wants to find the answers, she must press on.

    Be Phat Motel was established in 2007 and from the early days of commercials and music videos, they are now set on a new course of producing feature films. The Be Phat core team comprises award-winning director Matthews, editor Daniel Mitchell, producer/screenwriter Drummond, and cinematographer Shaun Lee.

    The team originally planned Sweetheart as a five-minute experimental film, but found that it was better suited to its final length. Even without the considerable muscle of District 9 producer Peter Jackson, Be Phat has high hopes for Sweetheart and with the interest already seen online and at the preview screening, their hopes have every chance of being realised.

    Their first feature film is currently in development – Five Fingers for Marseilles, which starts off in 1980s rural South Africa and aims to merge the country’s history with the classic western theme. It follows the struggle for freedom from police oppression of the small community of Railway, which sits on the fringes of a fictional South African town called Marseilles.

    At first only five young men – the Five Fingers – are brave enough to stand up to the authorities, until one of them commits a crime that sends him to prison for 20 years. When he returns to his home town he finds it under threat from a new source, and must once again fight to save the day. Five Fingers will play mainly in Sesotho and isiXhosa, with some English.

  • When South African film-maker Neill Blomkamp's strange new short went viral (in Oct 2010) it prompted many questions: is this a clue to Blomkamp's mooted District 9 sequel? Or his forthcoming new sci-fi project Elysium? It said as much about contemporary movie marketing as it did about the director's creativity.

    Social networking encourages a see-and-then-share habit for moviegoers, and it's taken a step further this year – just observe the excitement and commercial reward generated by this year's viral campaigns for Inception and Tron. Yet despite the commercial motivation, most fans appear to be enjoying the shift. Viral movie marketing encourages engagement with cinema, wider conversation and expands the worlds of movies people love. In the case of Blomkamp's new video, far from merely being a trailer for a forthcoming project, the short might be seen as a starting point for a digital egg hunt.

    If you've managed to come out unscathed after sitting through the video's impressively tense minute-long running time, you'll notice that the creature in Blomkamp's video is stamped AMG Heartland. Cue film fans doing some digging and discovering this is a phrase trademarked to communications company Sable, which suggests more videos will follow over the coming months.

    Most movie fans enjoy the way things are now, but there's some who really enjoy it – in fact, there's a growing subculture of movie fans for whom this hunt for information is as exciting as the films themselves. Over at Movieviral.com, there's a website full of people picking through the detritus of the web and correlating clues with existing release schedules – asking themselves and each other, what does it all mean? Their forum asks if this website provides clues to Battle: Los Angeles, or is just the musings of a UFO enthusiast. It doesn't really matter which – what's most important is getting excited about the movie.

    Yet some of the website's subscribers have certainly found more to enjoy in movies than mere speculation – it was Movieviral.com forum users who first cracked the code to ijustwanttobeperfect.com, the website for Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming psychological horror Black Swan, discovering, after a tipoff from the lead character's @theswanqueen twitter account, that if you typed the name of the film's villain Rothbart on the site, you were rewarded with access to view unseen footage from the movie.

    Sci-fi and horror are the perfect subject matter for this kind of fan engagement – after all, what's scarier than what you don't know? – and when they're not trying to deduce whether a strange alien autopsy video entitled Apollo 20 has any relation to the forthcoming Apollo 18 movie, they're trying to crack the DOS-style setup of thescariestthingieversaw.com, a website reporting to provide access to the home computer of D Morris, a character from JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Super 8. That film's not out until June 2011, they've got plenty of time.

    But what is perhaps most exciting to this community is that the internet provides more clues about forthcoming movies than the release schedules. Nobody really knows what theclearpill.com means, other than suggesting that a Bradley Cooper movie about a wonder drug called Limitless appears to be in the works. Likewise the potential resurrection of the Mortal Kombat franchise when a video entitled Mortal Kombat Rebirth was put on YouTube this summer. Fans weren't given any explanation as to whether this was a new shonky beat 'em up video game, or another shonky movie based on the shonky beat 'em up game – but three million users debating which one it is can't be bad for business.

    Of course, there is a school of thought that wishes things remained as they always were, that digging around and hunting for clues spoils the magic of cinema, like asking a magician to reveal the secrets of his tricks. Another thinks fans should know better than to fall for smart marketing, that they're just feeding the machine and wasting their lives searching for information that will be revealed to them in due course.

    Both schools are entitled to their views, yet as they sit down to watch their summer blockbusters next year, inquisitive fans such as myself will be even more exited, knowing we've been part of the conversation for longer.

    As an aside, Deadline reports that Jodie Foster has just joined Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley in Neill Blomkamp's 'District 9' follow up, 'Elysium'.

  • SABC1 has announced the highlights of the season starting in January 2011:

    Soul Buddyz 5: Monday 10 Jan @ 19:00
    An exciting, positive and up-beat drama series detailing the lives and challenges of a group of teenaged friends – the Soul Buddyz!  The stories are educational with an entertainment element focusing on a National Dance Competition in which the Buddyz participate for a final prize. The series showcases their journey as individuals and as a team - highlighting their joys, pain, challenges and triumphs along the way! One of the setbacks they experience is how alcohol is used by one of their members, undermining their cohesion as a group and dealing with a difficult issue of how to stop the sale of alcohol at their school.

    One Day Leader: Tuesday 11 Jan @ 18:30
    One Day Leader is a reality format that aims to identify and develop young leaders between the ages of 18 and 25, while engaging the public and creating awareness around critical social and economic issues. South Africa needs strong leadership to address its many social issues, not only now, but well into the future. One Day Leader aims not at criticising current leaders or forms of leadership but to encourage young and bright minds to come up with innovative ways of addressing issues.

    Pathfinders (A 2-part documentary series) Tuesday 11 & 18 Jan @ 21:00
    Part 1: Gogo's Heart
    A group of elderly women in Alexandra are re-inventing community relations in the wake of the devastation left behind by HIV/AIDS. The documentary profiles the work done by Rose Letwaba and a group of gogo's from Alexandra.

    Part 2: The Making of Our FatherThe documentary details the work in progress of an inter-generational dialogue project entitled "Our Father." Our Father is the attempt by five artists to collaborate on individual narratives detailing metaphorical and literal journeys in search and exploration of their fathers. In some cases their fathers are alive and in other they are not, and yet still others have never even known their fathers. Through art they have decided to unpack the nature and impact of their relationships or lack thereof with their fathers to see what it means to them as young men and as artists.

    The Game 3: Friday 21 Jan @ 20:30

    The Game stars Tia Mowry as Melanie Barnett, a young, intelligent medical student, who is also the girlfriend of an eager rookie football player, Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall). Melanie decides to pass on her chance at attending Johns Hopkins Medical School to be with Derwin after he is recently chosen to play for the San Diego Sabres as the new third-string wide receiver. As Melanie tries to adjust to her new lifestyle, she meets Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson), single mother and manager of Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) who is a charming star quarterback for the San Diego Sabres and Kelly Pitts (Brittany Daniel), the wife of Jason Pitts (Coby Bell) who is a thrifty star player. With the help of Tasha and Kelly Melanie learns how the game is played amongst the women behind the athletes.  Created by Mara Brock Akil.

    Friends Like These: Saturday 22 Jan @ 18:30
    A game show that is all about testing friendships and finding out what makes them tick! The show has an appeal that cuts across age, gender and race differences, thus capturing the imagination of Mzansi viewers from all backgrounds. 5 male and 5 female contestants battle it out every week for the chance to play face-to-face to win the holiday of a lifetime.  

    The Unit 3: Monday 24 Jan @ 22:00
    The Unit is a covert team of US Special Forces operatives who undertake missions around the world. Bob Brown is the newcomer who joins Jona's team and they set out to rescue European businessmen who have been hijacked by terrorists. Meanwhile, Bob's wife, Kim, is struggling with how much control the Unit has over her personal life.  Cast: Regina Tayor, Dennis Haysbert, Max Martini, Scott Foley, Audrey Anderson, Abby Brammell, Robert Patrick, Demore Barnes, Michael Irby, Alyssa Shafer. Written by David Mamet.

    50 Years of Love: 25 Jan @ 21:00
    This documentary takes a close look at the institution of marriage, its relevance in today's society and exceptional people that have survived it for over 50 years. Feeling that marriage is one subject for which people are poorly prepared by most societies, a filmmaker couple set out around the world to have an honest look at marriage beyond the honeymoon and the "happily ever after" clichés. Only then will they decide whether or not to take the giant step themselves. A heart-warming story that questions without disrespecting the different types of marriages from the "usual" to arranged marriages and traditional polygamous marriages.

    Dance to Fame: Thursday 27 Jan @ 19:00
    The 13-episode show celebrates the inspiration and excitement behind the world of street dance as it presents the once-in-a-lifetime chance for audience members to Dance to Fame. Four of SA's most talented dance groups will be selected to compete in this dance battle, putting all they have on the floor as they fight for the title of SA's best dance crew and a R100 000 prize money!

  • Subscribers of major West African mobile service provider, Globacom, can now watch DStv programmes on their mobile phones as the company rolls out the DStvMobile service on Glo.

    The product, called, DStv Mobile on Glo is offered in partnership with Details Nigeria Limited, the provider of DStv Mobile. DStv Mobile on Glo brings the rich experience of DStv to Glo subscribers who are connected to the service and have special DVB-H enabled handsets.

    Globacom’s Head of Value Added Services, Samson Isa said that Glo
    subscribers who sign up to DStv Mobile on Glo will enjoy a wide range of
    programming from news channels such as CNN to entertainment and movie
    channels such as Africa Magic, Magic World, Africa Magic Yoruba, Africa Magic Hausa, Channel O, Sound city, Cartoon Network, TBN, Super Sport 7, Super Sport 9, Super Sport Blitz and NTA Plus. Subscribers to the service will also enjoy super fast Internet access.

    “The High Speed Internet Service on the package is connected to the GLO 1 Cable”, Isa disclosed, adding that this gives the subscriber a robust and seamless viewing experience. He explained that DStv Mobile from Glo comes with Nokia 5330, one month free High Speed Internet bundle and free DStv Mobile subscription until 31 March, 2011. The handset can be used to make and receive calls and for internet browsing.

    The service is available, to start with, in 10 Nigerian cities including Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kaduna.

  • The Togolese authorities on December 29, 2010 closed down three privately-owned radio stations in Lome, the capital, over administrative reasons.

    A statement issued by the regulatory body, Posts and Telecommunications' Regulatory Authority (ART&P) and signed by Palouki Massina, its director general said the decision was taken after it undertook a 10-day joint review of the stations together with the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) in November 2010.

    The statement said the stations, X-Solaire, Metropolys and Providence were operating illegally as they did not have the required registration documents and standard broadcasting equipment.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent in Togo reported that since the closure, the officials of the stations have been met with delay tactics from the authorities, in their efforts to obtain the required documents.

    Meanwhile, the media group, SOS Journaliste en Danger, has condemned the action of the authorities. In a release issued on January 12, the SOS said it was an attempt by the authorities to muzzle the stations which were deemed critical of the administration of President Faure Gnassingbé.

    The media group wondered why in spite of the stations'status, the ART&P was collecting licensing fees from them.

  • Talk show diva and cultural kingmaker Oprah Winfrey expands her media empire with the high-stakes launch of her OWN cable network.

    While Winfrey's comfy couches have launched scores of careers, from Dr. Phil to the inventors of her 'favorite things', it's unclear if her magic touch can carry an entire network.

    "Oprah has a very powerful brand name, but it's really difficult to get people to change their viewing habits and find a new channel," said Derek Baine, an analyst for industry consultant SNL Kagan. "Plus, the fact that she'll still be on her syndicated show will probably be confusing to some people."

    Discovery Networks is reportedly sinking 189 million dollars into the joint venture, which replaces Discovery Health and will reach nearly 80 million homes. The programming is intended to "inspire viewers and give them hope," Oprah has often said, and the network is being "built on great intentions."

    However, she acknowledged in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that it may take time to translate the success of a show she'd done 140 times a year into a network which airs 24 hours a day.

    "If you're on the outside looking in, of course it looks like a big risk," Winfrey told the paper. But for me, it's not so much about going wider. It's about going deeper, so that you have a platform that has a deeper impact."

    The Oprah Winfrey Network launches at 16:00 GMT, noon on the east coast and 9am on the west coast, with an hour-long introduction hosted by Winfrey and a weekend line-up of sneak previews.

    The network has also developed: a reality show where contestants compete for their own television show; another where children kidnap their workaholic parents; two cooking shows; a show where families get rid of their clutter and get organized; a talk show about sex; and a series which profiles top names like Diane Sawyer, Jay-Z, Maya Angelou, and Condoleezza Rice.

  • From Abuja, the presidency has accused international news operation, Aljazeera of seeking to destabilise Nigeria through false reports, saying it would not condone any further reckless and deliberate falsehood.

    In a statement last week, presidential spokesman, Ima Niboro said it was pure lie the report that President Goodluck Jonathan fingered the notorious Boko Haram sect of for masterminding the Abuja bomb blast.

    He said, "Our attention has been drawn to the unfounded and sensational news item on Al Jazeera television, claiming that Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has blamed the fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, for the bomb blast which occurred in Abuja yesterday. This is an outright lie. Nowhere, and at no time has the President held any particular group responsible for the attack."

    Additionally, he added that neither the Nigerian security services nor the Nigerian government have confirmed those behind the attacks.

  • Cinemas in Africa have been closing down one after the other over the last twenty years. Today, many countries have only one working cinema left. The Association ‘Cinemas for Africa’ - launched in 2009 over FESPACO at the initiative of the Mauritian film maker Abderrahmane Sissako - has been commissioned to back the renovation of Cinemas on the continent and work towards getting them up and running again.

    Abderrahamane Sissako reported that in Bamako, 30 movie theatres have been sold and some of them converted into other types of business. The « groupe Tomota », owner of Cinema « Ciné Soudan »,  has asked Sissako, to find an idea to renovate the
    Building. “Les inRocks“ reported that in Senegal, Cameroun and in Madagascar, cinema theatres have been closed down.

    The Association has launched a subscription campaign amongst public and private contributors. The collection of funds, in the form of a symbolic sale of cinema seats, will contribute to the renovation of the Soudan Ciné in Bamako (Mali) the Association’s pilot project.

    More here

  • The new Killarney CineCentre will open in March 2011 and will have a full-3D complex with five screens totalling 708 seats.

    It owner, with over 50 years in the industry, Avalon Group's Moosa Moosa is the longest serving cinema executive in South Africa and among the longest serving in the world.

    Avalon's most ambitious project to date comes to fruition at the Killarney Mall shopping centre in Johannesburg's affluent northern suburbs. The new Cine Centre will be a specialised luxury cinema complex featuring the latest Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters. The centre will have five screens, each featuring the latest 3D and digital projection hardware, as well as state-of-the-art Dolby Digital surround sound.

    "All five cinemas will offer cutting-edge viewing technology including 3D," says Debra Sharnock, centre manager of Killarney Mall. "A fully digital 3D cinema complex is a first for the South African cinema industry, demonstrating the extraordinary quality that movie-goers can expect at Johannesburg's newest cinema development." A highlight of the Cine Centre will be a luxurious 64-seat gold-class theatre available for hire.

    For the full story visit Media Club South Africa website here:

  • South Africa-based multinational media conglomerate Naspers has an indirect stake in Facebook worth $343 million (R2.3 billion) following a multimillion-dollar injection into the social-networking site by US bank Goldman Sachs and Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies (DST).

    This funding boosted Facebook’s value to $50bn. Naspers owns 30 percent in Mail.ru, Russia’s leading internet group, which in turn owns 2.4 percent of Facebook through its sister company DST.

    Abdul Davids, the Head of Research at Kagiso Asset Management, said the Facebook stake accounted for 15 percent of Mail.ru’s value but this meant that its other businesses were either under-valued or Facebook was overpriced.

    “Facebook is making very minimal revenue at the moment. One can argue that at $50bn it is a bit on the rich side.” Davids said that if Facebook were to list on the local bourse, it would dwarf the worth of MTN and other Top40 index shares. It would also double Naspers’ valuation.

  • Francisco Partners have completed their acquisition of Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional (active in Africa) from Technicolor.

    As of January 1st 2011, the California-based firm started operating as an independent company under the trade name Grass Valley, with terms of the sale including 100 percent ownership of the current Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional business. 

    The deal includes the camera, content repurposing, editing, master control, modular, news production, production automation, production switchers, routing, and video servers product lines, including their entire product portfolios, the R&D centres and factories around the world, the Sales & Systems activities and Customer Support organisation worldwide, as well as the management and administrative support functions dedicated to the business.

  • The Ttabamiruka is an annual conference organised by the Buganda Kingdom to review and discuss the social, cultural, economic and developmental issues of the kingdom. The theme for the 2010 conference was Poverty and Development.

    The conference, held on 17 December 2010 at the Wampewo Avenue-based Hotel Africana, in a suburb of Kampala, was supposed to be broadcast live by several radio stations, including the Buganda Kingdom-owned Central Broadcasting Services (CBS FM) radio station, but all were stopped by the BC. By the time the directive was issued by the BC, CBS FM was already relaying the debates live.

    A CBS FM staffer who preferred to remain anonymous said the station received a call from the BC telling them to suspend the live broadcast, equating it to the open-air talk shows locally known as Ebimeeza, which were banned in September 2009.

    "We only broadcast live the speech of the king, His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II," a staffer said. The station was accused of failing to consult the BC on the issues to be discussed and aired during the conference.

    The Kingdom of Buganda comprises one of the largest ethnic groups in Uganda and is based in the central region. Most of its people are languishing in poverty. National Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that more than 38% of the total population in Uganda lives below poverty line.

    The chairman of the BC, Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, told the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the conference broadcasts were not much different from the banned Ebimeeza, which were broadcast from bars and night clubs.

    "We were not informed as a regulatory body about the topics to be discussed and the guests. So what they were doing was illegal because we banned the Ebimeeza in 2009. We were even taken to court over our action," Mutabazi said. He explained that there is a license requirement stipulating that all radio stations planning to produce live broadcast programmes should own pre-listening gadgets, but most radio stations have failed to comply with the requirement. "We can tolerate live soccer matches or Independence commemorations but not debates," Mutabazi stressed.

    In September 2009, the council arbitrarily closed down five privately-owned radio stations, 88.8 and 89.2 CBS FM, Ssuubi FM, Radio Sapientia and Radio Two (Akkaboozi), and banned open-air radio talk shows.

    HRNJ-Uganda feels that the BC is overstepping its powers when it begins to regulate people's thoughts and information. These actions are illegal as they limit the ability of citizens to exercise their fundamental freedoms and liberties as stipulated in Art. 29 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda

  • The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has blamed political parties for the poor representation they receive from state broadcast stations. NBC's Head of Public Affairs Awwalu Salihu said refusal of aggrieved parties to report to the Commission when fair representation is not given to them does not help the commission in its quest to solve the problem.

    "If any station goes off course, it is left to the aggrieved parties to report to the commission and we will follow it up. But the biggest problem we have is that they never complain, some will rather go to the media and castigate us," he said.

    While stating that the commission had given each broadcast station political guidelines, he said letters had also been written to the stations to this effect, telling them that all parties need to be represented fairly.

    "This however does not mean equal airtime for everyone because some political parties are bigger than others," he said. He said the commission in conjunction with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was planning a political summit in this month where all parties and broadcast stations would be involved.
    "It is hoped that the issue of poor representation amongst others will be resolved at the end of the summit", he said.

  • Communications Minister Radhakrishna Padayachie announced last week that South Africa will complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital television by December 2013. The analogue switch off date was originally set for November 2011 but has since been postponed to December 2013 by the Communications Ministry.

    The minister revealed that South Africa would adopt the DVB-T2 standard for digital migration. After the December 2013 deadline, existing analogue TVs will not be able to transmit images but viewers equipped with digital TVs would not experience any problems.
    Once the analogue signal has been switched off, those with analogue TVs will need a Set-Top-Box (STB). The box will convert the digital signal to analogue for the analogue TV.  The Minister also mentioned that there were "export opportunities" with regards to STB as other African countries needing help with digital migration could look to South Africa as the manufacturing base of STB.

    Padayachie added that this digital migration transition could serve as a catalyst to revitalise the South African electronics manufacturing industry. Among the benefits of going digital, and on top of a clearer broadcast images for viewers, the other dividend is that it will start liberating the spectrum and provide more channels. DVB-T2 will provide viewers access to 14 channels.

    Start of January, some media reported that a grouping of aspirant black manufacturers organised labour plan to contest a cabinet decision to adopt a European digital terrestrial television broadcasting standard.

    Keith Thabo, the chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronics Components (Namec), said that the organisations would challenge the adoption of Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T2), a second-generation standard, because its introduction would fail to achieve the optimum socioeconomic impact. He said the groups favoured a Japanese standard, which is also used in Brazil, for South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting, which has to be completed by 2015.

    Namec is concerned that commercial broadcasters e.tv and M-Net, and decoder manufacturers Altech and Reunert, who claim to have spent millions on trials of the European standard, would be the only commercial beneficiaries if South Africa adopted DVB-T2.

  • The African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Media Initiative (AMI) convened a meeting on the Pan African Media Portal (PAMP) in Nairobi, Kenya, on 21 December 2010. The African Union Commission, A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media, partners on the implementation of this ambitious project, attended the meeting.
     
     The Nairobi gathering was a follow-up to the Informal Joint Experts Meeting organised by the African Union Commission and the European Commission (EC) in Addis Ababa, March 23-25, 2010 on the theme "Media and Development".
     
    Media play a critical role in promoting economic and human development. In order to help African media participate effectively and efficiently in the development efforts of the continent, the AUC has partnered with key players to develop a world class web platform that will serve as central point to access information about the fast changing African media landscape.
     
    This platform will gather information about media houses; list the national legislation of AU Member States on media, present journalism and communication schools, and provide a full list of all relevant media stakeholders in each African country.
     
    Participants in the Nairobi meeting agreed upon priority areas to implement in the first quarter of 2011 with the objective of launching a public website no later than March.
     
    “We are happy to see that this important project is finally underway. It has the full support of the EC, AUC and its chairperson Jean Ping. It is a new concept that will provide the hub of all African media information, and contacts, including the Diaspora, a unique and unifying concept- one that has never been seen before”
    said Habiba Mejri-Cheikh, the AUC spokesperson in charge of Communication and Information.
     
    “The African media landscape is fast changing with the huge impact of new information and communication technologies. It is high time that the media community comes together to create a unique tool which will provide the much needed information on the state of the media throughout the continent” commented Amadou Mahtar Ba, CEO of the African Media Initiative which oversees the implementation of the Pan African Media Portal. “We are grateful to A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media who are pulling together their technological resources to make sure that this project takes off.”

  • 21-29 January 2011
    12th. “Festival national du film (FNF) Marocain” in Tangier
    Venue: Tangier - city in northern Morocco

    Long and short film competition hosted by Ahmed Ghazali, « président de la Haute Autorité de la Communication audiovisuelle » (HACA) in Morocco. There are 19 long films in competition.
    click for details here:
     

     

    9-11 February 2011
    Discop Africa
    Venue: Lapalm Royal Beach hotel, Accra, Ghana.

    Since 2009, DISCOP markets targeting Sub-Saharan African television marketplaces have brought together over 400 companies selling and buying television content in this part of the world.
    click for details here:
     

     

    10-20 February 2011
    “Berlinale” – Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin)
    Venue: Berlin

    One of the most important dates on the international film industry’s calendar: About 400 films are shown every year, more than 19,000 film professionals from 128 countries, including about 4,000 journalists, almost 300,000 tickets sold.
    click for details here:
     

     

    16-21 February 2011
    2011 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF)
    Venue: Los Angeles, CA, USA

    Completed U.S. and international feature-length and short films festival. The PAFF presents and showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans.  In addition to the film festival, the PAFF presents a world renowned Art Show featuring over 100 fine artists and craftspeople from around the world showcasing the best in Black fine art, sculpture, photography, unique handmade crafts, home furnishings, designer jewelry, designer fashions and accessories that highlight the artistry and beauty of the African aesthetic. click for details here:

     

    23rd till 26th February 2011
    Aluta film festival 2011
    Venue: Kimberley – South Africa.

    click for details here:
     

     

    26 February to 5 March 2011
    2011 FESPACO – 22nd edition
    Venue: Ouagadougou – Burkina Fasso

    Set up every two years, the well-known FESPACO festival is a week of celebration for Cinema for Africans and for the African Diaspora. Fespaco is considered as one of the biggest film events on the African continent. In 2011, it will be held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Communication of Burkina Faso
    click for details here:
     

     

    22nd - 27th March 2011
    Festival Cinema Africano Asia e America Latina 21° edizione
    Venue: Milano, Italy

    click for details here:

    22nd - 24th March 2011
    IPTV World Forum 2011
    Venue: Olympia, London UK

    A comprehensive programme of more than 200 visionary speakers, including over 140 service providers from telcos, cablecos, broadcasters and content providers. The conference programme is divided into four specific tracks focusing on IP Platforms for TV, Network Optimisation, Service Management and The Business of Content. Each day will start with a keynote plenary session discussing the innovations and services in IP and TV:
    click for details here: for a conference programme please e-mail gavin.whitechurch@informa.com
     

     

    23-25 March 2011
    AdExpo
    Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

    Mega Media AdExpo is a platform where the advertising industry, marketers, advertisers and media buyers gather and meet to discuss and plan advertising for the year ahead. Apart from the exhibits, the event also aims to educate with its offering of short 30 min workshops on interesting topics from Mobile marketing to internet advertising. 

     

    25 march to 9 April 2011
    Afrika Filmfestival
    Leuven, 3220 Holsbeek - Belgium

    The Afrika Filmfestival in Leuven is the most important annual showcase for African films in the Benelux. The festival promotes African cinema.
    click for details here:
     

     

    4-7 April 2011
    MIPTV
    Venue: Cannes, France

    MIPTV is the world's leading content market. It provides a unique opportunity to meet the key decision makers in the TV/Film, Digital media and Cinema industry. 21,000 m2 exhibition floor.
    click for details here:
     

     

    13-17 April 2011
    International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes
    Venue: Cannes

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    click for details here:
     

     

    April May 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Film Festival. AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:
     

     

    May 2010
    The Helsinki African Film Festival
    Venue: Andorra, Eerikinkatu 11, 00100 Helsinki

    Call for short film submissions - Deadline 31 December 2010

    Helsinki African Film Festival brings an entertaining and thought-provoking selection of contemporary African cinema to Finland. The festival aims to foster communication across cultures and support dialogue on wide-ranging issues related to Africa
    click for details here:

     

    2, 5 June 2011
    Africa Festival
    Venue: Wurzburg, Germany

    click for details here:

     

    11th to 19th June, 2011
    The 8th African Film Festival of Tarifa, Spain
    Calle Monte Carmelo, 5 bajo
    41011 Sevilla España

    click for details here:
     

     

    2 - 10 July, 2011
    Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)

    East Africa's largest film and arts festival, showcasing a broad spectrum of African films.
    click for details here:

     

    20-22 July 2011
    Mediatech Africa 2011 Exhibition
    The Coca-Cola Dome
    Northgate - Johannesburg (South Africa)

    Mediatech Africa SA's only all-inclusive broadcast, media, entertainment and AV trade. It showcases cutting edge technologies and services from industry leaders in television and broadcast, sound and audio, lighting and staging, animation, communication and related fields.
    click for details here:

     

    22-25 July 2011
    The 2nd Durban FilmMart over the 32nd Durban International Film Festival (21-31 July).
    Venue: Durban

    Contact: Durban Film Office –
    click for details here:

     

    July to Sept. 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Outdoor Summer Screenings in NYC Parks. Featuring dance, music, food and of course films. AFF programs year-round; therefore, AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:

     

    3-8 Octobre 2011
    Festival du Court Métrage Méditerranéen de Tanger
    Venue: Tangier, Morocco

    A festival focused on short films.
    for details E-mail : ccm@menara.ma

    31 Oct 7 Nov 2011
    Out In Africa
    South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    Venue: various, see website

    click for details here:

     
    Oct-Nov, final dates tba
    Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival
    Venue: Edinburgh's Filmhouse cinema

    The UK's largest African Film Festival
    click for details here:


    (final date tba)
    Festival du Monde Arabe du Court-métrage Azrou-Ifrane

    click for details here:

  •  At the start of January 2011, it was announced that South African  Parliament is moving ahead to fill the four vacancies on the SABC’s board, with its communications committee due to meet next week to draw up a shortlist of candidates. A total of 84 nominations have been received by Parliament since it called for names in October 2010.

     African Cinema will miss two grand figures: Mahama Johnson Traoré (1942-2010) and Sotigui Kouyaté (1936-2010) passed away in 2010 and will be honoured at FESPACO 2011.

     Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has taken on a new role: he’s starring in a television series called The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
    This remarkable nine part documentary premieres on SABC3 from Tuesday, 1st February at 20:00.

  • ACP Films to African film Producers
    Coming soon: a new call for proposals

    The new ACP-EU ACP cultural sector Support Programme will be launched in 2011 and includes two components: ACPFilms and ACPCultures.
    Funded by the 10th EDF, this new program has a budget of 30 million Euros, 24 million allocated to projects. A call for proposals will be launched in a couple of weeks.


    ACP Films: 2010 wrap up and perspectives in 2011

    The year 2010 ends on a positive note for the ACPFilms Programme, with several
    beneficiaries participating to many international festivals. I am glad to mention the wonderful film “A crying man” of the Chadian Mahamat Saleh Haroun, who won the Jury Prize at last Cannes Festival, and three awards at Dubai Film Festival- best director, best actor and best editor. The Last Flight of the Flamingo of the Mozambican Joao Ribeiro was also awarded at the Festival of Tarifa in Spain, and Viva Riva, by the Congolese Djo Munga, was invited to the Toronto Film Festival 2010 and to the next Berlin Film Festival in February 2011. The ACP cinema and audiovisual production has continued to strengthen its position in these prestigious environments.

    Also in the ACP field, our policy to make images available to the ACP local population is taking root. From Mozambique to Fiji via Trinidad & Tobago, people have access to local works through mobile digital cinema screenings or broadcasts on television channels, through projects supported by ACPFilms Programme. At the same time, the support offered by the Programme also strengthens distribution
    networks while giving priority to professional technical trainings.

    The cultural policy of the ACP Group aims at, among other things, developing and structuring film and audiovisual industries at intra-ACP level. It does so through the creation and dissemination of their own pictures in better conditions, better promotion of cultural diversity and enhancement of cultural identities in the ACP and intercultural dialogue on the one hand; on the other by promoting an environment conductive to the creation, trade and sustainability of their fundamental cultural values and diversity.
    Today more than ever, the ACP Secretariat affirms its continuing commitment to support the strengthening of the culture sector as a fundamental element in the development cooperation policy.

    This support that will be confirmed in a few weeks with the launch of the new “EU-ACP ACP cultural sector support Programme” combining the two components ACPFILMS and ACPCultures. The overall objective of this new Programme, with a budget of 30 million Euros, of which 24 million will be spent on projects, is to contribute to the struggle against poverty through the emergence and consolidation of sustainable cultural industries in ACP countries, fostering their contribution to social and economic development and preservation of cultural diversity. A first call for proposals will be launched in early 2011, to enhance the creation and production of cultural goods and services in the ACP States, through an integrated approach, with interregional distribution channels; to promote better access to local, regional, intra-ACP, European and international markets; and to build capacity of stakeholders, operators and cultural entrepreneurs in ACP countries. The focus will be on supporting projects that have South-South cooperation perspective and that seek to develop synergies at intra-ACP level.
    With this new programme, the ACP Secretariat took it to heart to hear the wishes of artists and cultural operators. Whenever it was possible, the specificity of the sector was taken into account when drafting the Guidelines to be published shortly.
    Once again, the ACP / EU demonstrate the benefit of the Cotonou Agreement for ACP cinema and audiovisual sector. I invite all ACP professionals and citizens of Member States of European Union to apply.

    To you all I extend my best wishes for 2011.

    Michèle Dominique RAYMOND
    Assistant Secretary General
    Department of Political Affairs
    and Human Development
    www.acpfilms.eu


    Call for entry - International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes, France, from
    13-17 April 2011.

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    More info here:


    Scholarships for Artists UNESCO-Aschberg 2011

    An application for UNESCO-Aschberg grants for artists are now open. These scholarships promote mobility of young artists (between 25 and 35), in order to enrich their personal perspectives, to enable them to engage in intercultural dialogue and to expose them to cultural diversity.
    For more information click here:

     

    Call for entries - Eighth edition of the African Film Festival of Tarifa, 11 to 19 June
    2011.

    The African Film Festival of Tarifa is organizing calls for applications:
    Submission of movies to be screened during the festival - Deadline for registration and sending DVDs: February 25, 2011. For more information e-mail: marionb@fcat.es

    Call for candidates to submit your pictures to the fourth Africa Photo competition.

    Registration deadline: March 1, 2011. For more information e-mail: gaetano@fcat.es

    To download regulations of these various applications: www.fcat.es/FCAT_fr

    Festival of Media Awards deadline has been extended.

    Due to the overwhelming response and the many requests the organiser have received, the deadline for the Festival of Media Awards entries has been extended to Friday 4 February 2011.

    CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards 2011

    CNN International and MultiChoice officially launched the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2011 Awards.
    The winners of these prestigious annual awards will be announced at a gala ceremony to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2011.
    The competition is open to African nationals who are professional journalists including freelancers across print, television, internet, photographic and radio. Full details on how to enter can be found by logging on at www.cnn.com/africanawards. The closing date for entries is 27 January 2011
    This year, the competition will recognise excellence in most journalist categories including the following:
    • Television Features Award
    • Television News Bulletin Award
    For further information please contact:
    CNN International London: Joel Brown + 44 20 7693 0967/ + 44 7967 293452 joel.brown@turner.com
    MultiChoice South Africa: Marietjie Groenewald + 27 11 289 3067 / +27 79 501 1758 Marietjie.Groenewald@multichoice.co.za

Issue 96: There is life after football – CAfrica rolls out the NBA across the continent

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  • It would be easy to think that the only sport of interest to Africans was football. It grabs all the attention and the largest slice of the programme rights money spent on sport to be shown in Africa. But African television channels are beginning to realise that they can’t all end up with the key football rights so developing other sports programming may be a smart move. Russell Southwood talked to CAfrica’s Managing Director Cathy Fogler about its ambition to deliver “premium sports programs through a formal network of free-to-air broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa.”

    CAfrica was launched by a trio of seasoned industry professionals. Rob and Cathy Fogler and Rwandan Eugene Nyagahene. Bob Fogler had worked with Eugene Nyagahene on venture capital for SMEs in Rwanda and both of the Foglers have a background in broadcast in the USA. Eugene Nyagahene was the founder of the Tele10 Pay TV group in francophone Africa. As Cathy Fogler told us:”The three of us were discussing the TV landscape in Africa and this led to us forming the company.”

    CAfrica distributes its sports content to Free-To-Air TV stations across Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) and it is currently shown in 21 countries:”When we select a station, there are a few factors we look at including: the reach and quality of their broadcast signal; their relationship with their audiences; and how they promote the content we give them. But the overriding factor is the professionalism of the broadcaster.”

    Currently CAfrica has multi-year agreements with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAFR. It broadcasts the top game played in the NBA every week, weekly highlights from other games and the All Star Weekend. In terms of the IAAF, broadcasts the Diamond League which is a showcase for top athletes. It is looking to acquire other sports rights but is understandably cagey about its next move:”We’re looking at other things but I can’t be specific at the moment. We’re in discussion with the rights holders for all the major sports.”

    CAfrica does not just deliver the programmes:”We produce the programmes and work with IMG in London to produce both English and French commentary. Our affiliates can choose either. What marks out what we deliver is the quality of production.”

    Specific audience data is difficult to get in Africa but it airs three programmes a week during sports primetime in 21 of the major country markets during sports prime time. Fogler has a rough “thumb-suck” in the absence of broadcaster research:”Our territory is Sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa and it covers 600 million people. On average, there is a 20% TV household penetration. In addition, up to 50% of those people might be watching television outside of the home. This gives our programmes a reach of around 300 million people.”

    So what’s the business model?:”I can’t discuss the full business model but there are parts that are already clear. CAfrica provides programmes to broadcast affiliates on reasonable terms. In terms of ad revenues, we target the international, multinational corporations and the affiliate broadcast partner sells to local advertisers. We provide advertisers with a unique way of talking to Africa’s middle class consumers across the continent.”

    The NBA is also putting its weight behind promoting basketball on the continent. It has opened a Johannesburg office to have a presence on the continent and to grow the game there. It is creating grassroots basketball programming across the continent. As with the Premier League, the NBA has attracted African players. There are now over 20 of them in the NBA, the most famous of which is Tanzanian Hasheem Thabeet who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. He did not begin to play basketball until the age of 15, when he began to watch pickup games in Tanzania.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel – Nollywood and FESPACO 2011

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top African TV and Radio personalities. There are interviews in both English and French. In particular look out for in English, Matthew Brown on Changing Nollywood Business Models. Matthew is a PhD student from University of Wisconsin who’s just come from a year in Nigeria researching the topic. In French, we have the FESPACO 2011 press conference in Paris which gives details of this upcoming biennial festival in Ouegadougou. Click here:

    Workshop at DISCOP

    Differentiate your TV channel – Standing out from the competition. The TV stations that will make their mark in 2011 and succeed in gaining market share will be those that build loyalty through the people, programmes and feel of their TV channel. The workshop will focus on all aspects of differentiating your TV channel, primarily addressing: Channel attitude and personality, Content (local and exclusive); Programming (overall structure and pieces); and brand (content, personalities and marketing). Led by Russell Southwood, CEO, Balancing Act with panel speakers including Cathy Fogler, Managing Director, CAfrica and Yaa Newman of TV Africa. Date, time and Place: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 9 February, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.

  • This summarised version of an article by Richard Seymour in Nigeria’s Compass newspaper offers many interesting insights into the development of the continent’s largest film industry.

    Nollywood owes its recent expansion to the introduction of relatively cheapo digital technology to the consumer market, which allows almost anyone who can shout ‘Action!’ to be a film director. Budgets for even the most popular locally made films are low. Many do not employ technicians and, often, the ‘actors’ are anyone who happens to be passing by at the time. In a matter of weeks, the final film has been edited and distributed, either to the myriad low-budget cable television channels of which there are now so many, or as DVDs to be sold for about $2 in crowded markets.

    It is easy for filmmakers and watchers elsewhere to deride the quality of these hastily made movies, but there is no doubting the passion Africans across the continent have for them. They sell in their thousands and make money for their producers, which not every Hollywood mogul can boast. Perhaps for the first time, movie watchers in Africa are seeing themselves on screen: characters that millions of Africans can recognise themselves in, living lives which are familiar to them. And it seems they cannot get enough.

    But the industry in Nigeria is now coming of age and is attempting to raise standards across the board. Unfortunately, however, as the music industry has found out, the same technology that renders it easy to make films also makes illegally copying them a simpler task. And this is getting in the way of attracting investment. After all, who would want to put their money into a venture that has little control over its product and who profits from it?

    Some estimates from within the industry claim that as much as 50% of all money made from their films is lost to piracy. Many movies made today are not able to even recover the costs of production, which means there is no money to reinvest in new projects.

    Part of the problem is one of infrastructure. In other countries, film lovers still mostly prefer to patronise movie theatres, despite the expense, because they either want the full effect of the latest technology, whether it be high definition, surround sound or 3D, or they do not wish to wait for the DVD to go on sale. This forms a buttress against the pirate industry.

    But there are so few cinemas in Africa in comparison. Lacking a robust distribution network, movie producers are forced to release titles straight to DVD, which are then copied and sold more cheaply within days.

    The problem has been made worse by the ability of pirates to squeeze several films onto a single DVD and then sell it for half the price of a single, legitimate title. And producers face the further frustration of an increasing number of cable television channels showing their films without permission with very little they can do to stop it.

    As a result, the already low budgets producers have to make films are getting smaller and production values are not improving. Hence the concern that the Nigerian film industry may have peaked without ever having tapped its phenomenal potential.

    The largest film industry in the world, India’s Bollywood, is taking matters into its own hands. The trend of filmmakers to remake existing films with no regard for copyright, which hardly helped their own cause, seems to be abating.

    In addition, India’s film industry has entered into a joint venture with the Alliance Against Copyright Theft (AACT) – an international organisation of filmmakers and distributors – in a bid to tackle the problem. The group, supported by the Indian government, has launched raids against suspected pirates, enforcing existing piracy laws, but recognises that a change in the public’s attitude toward pirated films is needed most.

    A similar initiative in Nigeria would begin to turn the tide of copyright infringement and help the country’s filmmakers continue to make the films so many Africans enjoy. Nothing can be done, however, without the political will, and the perception among Nigeria’s filmmakers is that the government is simply not taking the problem seriously enough.

    Nigeria is a signatory to a number of international copyright conventions and has the laws and administering bodies to protect filmmakers if it wants to. Anti-piracy squads have the power to perform raids, confiscate materials and make arrests, but with an estimated 90% of all DVDs on sale illegal copies, there is clearly much still to do.

    The National Film & Video Censors Board in Nigeria (NFVCB) is doing its best to formalise the country’s film industry. Its role of classifying films and registering and regulating all outlets is all but impossible, and will remain so, if it is not backed more forcibly by the government.

    There is little freedom too in over-regulation. The NFVCB has on its ‘8 Point Action Plan’ a ‘New Direction in Film & Video Content’, which, they say, should paint Nigeria in a positive light.

    That is all well and good, but will censors swoop on filmmakers who wish to pass comment on, for instance, government corruption? Would, to take but one contemporary example, Jeta Amata’s new film, Black Gold (to be released in 2011), about greed, corruption and violence in the Niger Delta, be allowed by a more powerful regulatory body?

    But strict regulation of any sort seems along way off. Despite concerns, foreign investors are willing to take stake in the Nigerian film industry by investing in its most talented filmmakers. The young director, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, born in Benin City, in 2008 made Close Enemies for $300,000, still a record for a Nigerian film. But the film had to be made outside of Nigeria in Los Angeles.

    The slick, high-budget movie is a world away from the shoestring productions that form the base for the industry in Nigeria and, along with its subject matter, will do much to gain the respect, and investment dollars, of the biggest studios.

    Indeed, it is directors like Amata, whose critically acclaimed 2004 film, The Alexa Affair, which was filmed in Germany using a German crew, introduced methods honed in the Nigerian film industry, who are showing Western filmmakers how to cut costs and production times without compromising quality.

    The advancing Nigerian economy and the construction of cinema complexes is giving the local film industry room to grow but it is not only in Nigeria that the film industry is enjoying a boom. This September, the Federation of Pan-African Filmmakers (FEPACI) announced their intention to set up African Film Cinema Fund with a $50m target, in particular, to invest in a continent-wide distribution network. Discussions are in their early stages.

    In conjunction with organisations such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and other private investors, it hopes to create a framework to strengthen coproduction and distribution partnerships, and through a partnership with the International Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF) hopes to fulfil the UNESCO idea of enabling the diversity of cultural expression.

    Striding toward doing so and further breaking the stereotype of African-made films is Pumzi, the 2009 production, directed by Kenyan born Wanuri Kahiu and shot on location in South Africa. The internationally funded short film is of the science fiction genre – itself so far a rarity among African films – based in the future where Asha, played by Kudzani Moswela, sets about looking for life in an otherwise lifeless, post-World War III ‘Water War’ planet.

    Money for the imaginative project came partly from the Changamoto Arts Fund, which seeks to ‘liberate the artist from the pressure of creating safe work’, thus emancipating creative talent from commercial considerations and worries over piracy, and Focus Feature’s Africa First, making grants of $10,000 to short-film makers in Africa.

    Such funds are as important for the development of Africa’s film industry as the injection of cash. Money cannot buy new, exciting ideas; and without those, no creative industry’ can flourish. Another film which bucks the trend and aims to establish Africa at the forefront of movie-making technology is Lion of Judah,a computer-animated 3D movie, commissioned by a US company and made entirely in South Africa using almost entirely South African animators.

    The Cape Town-based studio, Animal Matters, which is making the film, has to make the most of its limited resources but hopes that investment in technology and training can help the country position itself well in what promises to be a highly lucrative 3D market.

    If given the freedom and protection to work, the continent’s most creative filmmakers will give expression to Africa’s creativity, allowing it to tell its own stories about itself, and forging its own cultural identity in a environment where cultural imperialism threatens to homogenise an otherwise diverse and colourful world.

  • Far from being a District 9 copy, the new black-and-white sci-fi film from Cape Town-based production company Be Phat Motel has its own dark ambience and unique character that is set to breathe new life into the genre. The self-funded thriller, titled Sweetheart, is not a full-length feature film but still manages to entertain throughout its 26 minutes. It previewed to a receptive audience on 2 December 2010 at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town.

    The film stars Inge Beckmann – former vocalist of local electronic group Lark – as Sweetheart, with theatre actor Andre Weidemann as Ogilvy and Survivor Africa host Anthony Oseyemi as Honest John. The supporting cast includes Norman Murray, model Pope Jerrod, and Aidan Whytock, a finalist in the 2010 Top Billing presenter search.

    Sweetheart is Be Phat’s first short film and is directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond, with a score composed by James Matthes. The film was made purely for creative purposes, claim the Be Phat team, and not to deliver any specific message or lesson.

    Like District 9, Sweetheart was shot with Red One cameras. Its monochrome style, which the team says is based on the Coen Brothers’ 2001 The Man Who Wasn’t There, is a tribute to the noir films of the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the visuals were filmed in the old suburb of Woodstock, which lies about a kilometre from Cape Town’s city centre. In mid-2010 Be Phat released a teaser on the internet, and the full trailer may now also be viewed online.

    The story, which was written in under a week and filmed in eight days at the beginning of 2010, plays out in the 1950s against the backdrop of one of the tense periods of the Cold War. “We shot the film two weeks after coming up with the idea,” said Matthews in a recent interview with Cape Town Magazine, “and without funding. I got the last part of the script on the morning we started shooting.”

    “We worked with a bunch of great actors on the film,” added Drummond. “Tireless, they all gave way more of themselves than they needed to – there was a great energy.”
    Sweetheart is a young wife and mother living on a farm with her family. Her husband and stepsons travel into town one day, and don’t come back. While she waits for them to return she catches glimpses of mysterious events in the distance.

    Eventually Sweetheart realises that her family is not coming back, and she’s forced to leave the farm and make the trip to the city – a strange, post-apocalyptic 1950s version of Cape Town – to look for them. When she gets there she finds the place deserted, except for random groups of survivors. This makes her task all the more dangerous, but if she wants to find the answers, she must press on.

    Be Phat Motel was established in 2007 and from the early days of commercials and music videos, they are now set on a new course of producing feature films. The Be Phat core team comprises award-winning director Matthews, editor Daniel Mitchell, producer/screenwriter Drummond, and cinematographer Shaun Lee.

    The team originally planned Sweetheart as a five-minute experimental film, but found that it was better suited to its final length. Even without the considerable muscle of District 9 producer Peter Jackson, Be Phat has high hopes for Sweetheart and with the interest already seen online and at the preview screening, their hopes have every chance of being realised.

    Their first feature film is currently in development – Five Fingers for Marseilles, which starts off in 1980s rural South Africa and aims to merge the country’s history with the classic western theme. It follows the struggle for freedom from police oppression of the small community of Railway, which sits on the fringes of a fictional South African town called Marseilles.

    At first only five young men – the Five Fingers – are brave enough to stand up to the authorities, until one of them commits a crime that sends him to prison for 20 years. When he returns to his home town he finds it under threat from a new source, and must once again fight to save the day. Five Fingers will play mainly in Sesotho and isiXhosa, with some English.

  • When South African film-maker Neill Blomkamp's strange new short went viral (in Oct 2010) it prompted many questions: is this a clue to Blomkamp's mooted District 9 sequel? Or his forthcoming new sci-fi project Elysium? It said as much about contemporary movie marketing as it did about the director's creativity.

    Social networking encourages a see-and-then-share habit for moviegoers, and it's taken a step further this year – just observe the excitement and commercial reward generated by this year's viral campaigns for Inception and Tron. Yet despite the commercial motivation, most fans appear to be enjoying the shift. Viral movie marketing encourages engagement with cinema, wider conversation and expands the worlds of movies people love. In the case of Blomkamp's new video, far from merely being a trailer for a forthcoming project, the short might be seen as a starting point for a digital egg hunt.

    If you've managed to come out unscathed after sitting through the video's impressively tense minute-long running time, you'll notice that the creature in Blomkamp's video is stamped AMG Heartland. Cue film fans doing some digging and discovering this is a phrase trademarked to communications company Sable, which suggests more videos will follow over the coming months.

    Most movie fans enjoy the way things are now, but there's some who really enjoy it – in fact, there's a growing subculture of movie fans for whom this hunt for information is as exciting as the films themselves. Over at Movieviral.com, there's a website full of people picking through the detritus of the web and correlating clues with existing release schedules – asking themselves and each other, what does it all mean? Their forum asks if this website provides clues to Battle: Los Angeles, or is just the musings of a UFO enthusiast. It doesn't really matter which – what's most important is getting excited about the movie.

    Yet some of the website's subscribers have certainly found more to enjoy in movies than mere speculation – it was Movieviral.com forum users who first cracked the code to ijustwanttobeperfect.com, the website for Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming psychological horror Black Swan, discovering, after a tipoff from the lead character's @theswanqueen twitter account, that if you typed the name of the film's villain Rothbart on the site, you were rewarded with access to view unseen footage from the movie.

    Sci-fi and horror are the perfect subject matter for this kind of fan engagement – after all, what's scarier than what you don't know? – and when they're not trying to deduce whether a strange alien autopsy video entitled Apollo 20 has any relation to the forthcoming Apollo 18 movie, they're trying to crack the DOS-style setup of thescariestthingieversaw.com, a website reporting to provide access to the home computer of D Morris, a character from JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Super 8. That film's not out until June 2011, they've got plenty of time.

    But what is perhaps most exciting to this community is that the internet provides more clues about forthcoming movies than the release schedules. Nobody really knows what theclearpill.com means, other than suggesting that a Bradley Cooper movie about a wonder drug called Limitless appears to be in the works. Likewise the potential resurrection of the Mortal Kombat franchise when a video entitled Mortal Kombat Rebirth was put on YouTube this summer. Fans weren't given any explanation as to whether this was a new shonky beat 'em up video game, or another shonky movie based on the shonky beat 'em up game – but three million users debating which one it is can't be bad for business.

    Of course, there is a school of thought that wishes things remained as they always were, that digging around and hunting for clues spoils the magic of cinema, like asking a magician to reveal the secrets of his tricks. Another thinks fans should know better than to fall for smart marketing, that they're just feeding the machine and wasting their lives searching for information that will be revealed to them in due course.

    Both schools are entitled to their views, yet as they sit down to watch their summer blockbusters next year, inquisitive fans such as myself will be even more exited, knowing we've been part of the conversation for longer.

    As an aside, Deadline reports that Jodie Foster has just joined Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley in Neill Blomkamp's 'District 9' follow up, 'Elysium'.

  • SABC1 has announced the highlights of the season starting in January 2011:

    Soul Buddyz 5: Monday 10 Jan @ 19:00
    An exciting, positive and up-beat drama series detailing the lives and challenges of a group of teenaged friends – the Soul Buddyz!  The stories are educational with an entertainment element focusing on a National Dance Competition in which the Buddyz participate for a final prize. The series showcases their journey as individuals and as a team - highlighting their joys, pain, challenges and triumphs along the way! One of the setbacks they experience is how alcohol is used by one of their members, undermining their cohesion as a group and dealing with a difficult issue of how to stop the sale of alcohol at their school.

    One Day Leader: Tuesday 11 Jan @ 18:30
    One Day Leader is a reality format that aims to identify and develop young leaders between the ages of 18 and 25, while engaging the public and creating awareness around critical social and economic issues. South Africa needs strong leadership to address its many social issues, not only now, but well into the future. One Day Leader aims not at criticising current leaders or forms of leadership but to encourage young and bright minds to come up with innovative ways of addressing issues.

    Pathfinders (A 2-part documentary series) Tuesday 11 & 18 Jan @ 21:00
    Part 1: Gogo's Heart
    A group of elderly women in Alexandra are re-inventing community relations in the wake of the devastation left behind by HIV/AIDS. The documentary profiles the work done by Rose Letwaba and a group of gogo's from Alexandra.

    Part 2: The Making of Our FatherThe documentary details the work in progress of an inter-generational dialogue project entitled "Our Father." Our Father is the attempt by five artists to collaborate on individual narratives detailing metaphorical and literal journeys in search and exploration of their fathers. In some cases their fathers are alive and in other they are not, and yet still others have never even known their fathers. Through art they have decided to unpack the nature and impact of their relationships or lack thereof with their fathers to see what it means to them as young men and as artists.

    The Game 3: Friday 21 Jan @ 20:30

    The Game stars Tia Mowry as Melanie Barnett, a young, intelligent medical student, who is also the girlfriend of an eager rookie football player, Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall). Melanie decides to pass on her chance at attending Johns Hopkins Medical School to be with Derwin after he is recently chosen to play for the San Diego Sabres as the new third-string wide receiver. As Melanie tries to adjust to her new lifestyle, she meets Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson), single mother and manager of Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) who is a charming star quarterback for the San Diego Sabres and Kelly Pitts (Brittany Daniel), the wife of Jason Pitts (Coby Bell) who is a thrifty star player. With the help of Tasha and Kelly Melanie learns how the game is played amongst the women behind the athletes.  Created by Mara Brock Akil.

    Friends Like These: Saturday 22 Jan @ 18:30
    A game show that is all about testing friendships and finding out what makes them tick! The show has an appeal that cuts across age, gender and race differences, thus capturing the imagination of Mzansi viewers from all backgrounds. 5 male and 5 female contestants battle it out every week for the chance to play face-to-face to win the holiday of a lifetime.  

    The Unit 3: Monday 24 Jan @ 22:00
    The Unit is a covert team of US Special Forces operatives who undertake missions around the world. Bob Brown is the newcomer who joins Jona's team and they set out to rescue European businessmen who have been hijacked by terrorists. Meanwhile, Bob's wife, Kim, is struggling with how much control the Unit has over her personal life.  Cast: Regina Tayor, Dennis Haysbert, Max Martini, Scott Foley, Audrey Anderson, Abby Brammell, Robert Patrick, Demore Barnes, Michael Irby, Alyssa Shafer. Written by David Mamet.

    50 Years of Love: 25 Jan @ 21:00
    This documentary takes a close look at the institution of marriage, its relevance in today's society and exceptional people that have survived it for over 50 years. Feeling that marriage is one subject for which people are poorly prepared by most societies, a filmmaker couple set out around the world to have an honest look at marriage beyond the honeymoon and the "happily ever after" clichés. Only then will they decide whether or not to take the giant step themselves. A heart-warming story that questions without disrespecting the different types of marriages from the "usual" to arranged marriages and traditional polygamous marriages.

    Dance to Fame: Thursday 27 Jan @ 19:00
    The 13-episode show celebrates the inspiration and excitement behind the world of street dance as it presents the once-in-a-lifetime chance for audience members to Dance to Fame. Four of SA's most talented dance groups will be selected to compete in this dance battle, putting all they have on the floor as they fight for the title of SA's best dance crew and a R100 000 prize money!

  • Subscribers of major West African mobile service provider, Globacom, can now watch DStv programmes on their mobile phones as the company rolls out the DStvMobile service on Glo.

    The product, called, DStv Mobile on Glo is offered in partnership with Details Nigeria Limited, the provider of DStv Mobile. DStv Mobile on Glo brings the rich experience of DStv to Glo subscribers who are connected to the service and have special DVB-H enabled handsets.

    Globacom’s Head of Value Added Services, Samson Isa said that Glo
    subscribers who sign up to DStv Mobile on Glo will enjoy a wide range of
    programming from news channels such as CNN to entertainment and movie
    channels such as Africa Magic, Magic World, Africa Magic Yoruba, Africa Magic Hausa, Channel O, Sound city, Cartoon Network, TBN, Super Sport 7, Super Sport 9, Super Sport Blitz and NTA Plus. Subscribers to the service will also enjoy super fast Internet access.

    “The High Speed Internet Service on the package is connected to the GLO 1 Cable”, Isa disclosed, adding that this gives the subscriber a robust and seamless viewing experience. He explained that DStv Mobile from Glo comes with Nokia 5330, one month free High Speed Internet bundle and free DStv Mobile subscription until 31 March, 2011. The handset can be used to make and receive calls and for internet browsing.

    The service is available, to start with, in 10 Nigerian cities including Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kaduna.

  • The Togolese authorities on December 29, 2010 closed down three privately-owned radio stations in Lome, the capital, over administrative reasons.

    A statement issued by the regulatory body, Posts and Telecommunications' Regulatory Authority (ART&P) and signed by Palouki Massina, its director general said the decision was taken after it undertook a 10-day joint review of the stations together with the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) in November 2010.

    The statement said the stations, X-Solaire, Metropolys and Providence were operating illegally as they did not have the required registration documents and standard broadcasting equipment.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent in Togo reported that since the closure, the officials of the stations have been met with delay tactics from the authorities, in their efforts to obtain the required documents.

    Meanwhile, the media group, SOS Journaliste en Danger, has condemned the action of the authorities. In a release issued on January 12, the SOS said it was an attempt by the authorities to muzzle the stations which were deemed critical of the administration of President Faure Gnassingbé.

    The media group wondered why in spite of the stations'status, the ART&P was collecting licensing fees from them.

  • Talk show diva and cultural kingmaker Oprah Winfrey expands her media empire with the high-stakes launch of her OWN cable network.

    While Winfrey's comfy couches have launched scores of careers, from Dr. Phil to the inventors of her 'favorite things', it's unclear if her magic touch can carry an entire network.

    "Oprah has a very powerful brand name, but it's really difficult to get people to change their viewing habits and find a new channel," said Derek Baine, an analyst for industry consultant SNL Kagan. "Plus, the fact that she'll still be on her syndicated show will probably be confusing to some people."

    Discovery Networks is reportedly sinking 189 million dollars into the joint venture, which replaces Discovery Health and will reach nearly 80 million homes. The programming is intended to "inspire viewers and give them hope," Oprah has often said, and the network is being "built on great intentions."

    However, she acknowledged in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that it may take time to translate the success of a show she'd done 140 times a year into a network which airs 24 hours a day.

    "If you're on the outside looking in, of course it looks like a big risk," Winfrey told the paper. But for me, it's not so much about going wider. It's about going deeper, so that you have a platform that has a deeper impact."

    The Oprah Winfrey Network launches at 16:00 GMT, noon on the east coast and 9am on the west coast, with an hour-long introduction hosted by Winfrey and a weekend line-up of sneak previews.

    The network has also developed: a reality show where contestants compete for their own television show; another where children kidnap their workaholic parents; two cooking shows; a show where families get rid of their clutter and get organized; a talk show about sex; and a series which profiles top names like Diane Sawyer, Jay-Z, Maya Angelou, and Condoleezza Rice.

  • From Abuja, the presidency has accused international news operation, Aljazeera of seeking to destabilise Nigeria through false reports, saying it would not condone any further reckless and deliberate falsehood.

    In a statement last week, presidential spokesman, Ima Niboro said it was pure lie the report that President Goodluck Jonathan fingered the notorious Boko Haram sect of for masterminding the Abuja bomb blast.

    He said, "Our attention has been drawn to the unfounded and sensational news item on Al Jazeera television, claiming that Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has blamed the fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, for the bomb blast which occurred in Abuja yesterday. This is an outright lie. Nowhere, and at no time has the President held any particular group responsible for the attack."

    Additionally, he added that neither the Nigerian security services nor the Nigerian government have confirmed those behind the attacks.

  • Cinemas in Africa have been closing down one after the other over the last twenty years. Today, many countries have only one working cinema left. The Association ‘Cinemas for Africa’ - launched in 2009 over FESPACO at the initiative of the Mauritian film maker Abderrahmane Sissako - has been commissioned to back the renovation of Cinemas on the continent and work towards getting them up and running again.

    Abderrahamane Sissako reported that in Bamako, 30 movie theatres have been sold and some of them converted into other types of business. The « groupe Tomota », owner of Cinema « Ciné Soudan »,  has asked Sissako, to find an idea to renovate the
    Building. “Les inRocks“ reported that in Senegal, Cameroun and in Madagascar, cinema theatres have been closed down.

    The Association has launched a subscription campaign amongst public and private contributors. The collection of funds, in the form of a symbolic sale of cinema seats, will contribute to the renovation of the Soudan Ciné in Bamako (Mali) the Association’s pilot project.

    More here

  • The new Killarney CineCentre will open in March 2011 and will have a full-3D complex with five screens totalling 708 seats.

    It owner, with over 50 years in the industry, Avalon Group's Moosa Moosa is the longest serving cinema executive in South Africa and among the longest serving in the world.

    Avalon's most ambitious project to date comes to fruition at the Killarney Mall shopping centre in Johannesburg's affluent northern suburbs. The new Cine Centre will be a specialised luxury cinema complex featuring the latest Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters. The centre will have five screens, each featuring the latest 3D and digital projection hardware, as well as state-of-the-art Dolby Digital surround sound.

    "All five cinemas will offer cutting-edge viewing technology including 3D," says Debra Sharnock, centre manager of Killarney Mall. "A fully digital 3D cinema complex is a first for the South African cinema industry, demonstrating the extraordinary quality that movie-goers can expect at Johannesburg's newest cinema development." A highlight of the Cine Centre will be a luxurious 64-seat gold-class theatre available for hire.

    For the full story visit Media Club South Africa website here:

  • South Africa-based multinational media conglomerate Naspers has an indirect stake in Facebook worth $343 million (R2.3 billion) following a multimillion-dollar injection into the social-networking site by US bank Goldman Sachs and Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies (DST).

    This funding boosted Facebook’s value to $50bn. Naspers owns 30 percent in Mail.ru, Russia’s leading internet group, which in turn owns 2.4 percent of Facebook through its sister company DST.

    Abdul Davids, the Head of Research at Kagiso Asset Management, said the Facebook stake accounted for 15 percent of Mail.ru’s value but this meant that its other businesses were either under-valued or Facebook was overpriced.

    “Facebook is making very minimal revenue at the moment. One can argue that at $50bn it is a bit on the rich side.” Davids said that if Facebook were to list on the local bourse, it would dwarf the worth of MTN and other Top40 index shares. It would also double Naspers’ valuation.

  • Francisco Partners have completed their acquisition of Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional (active in Africa) from Technicolor.

    As of January 1st 2011, the California-based firm started operating as an independent company under the trade name Grass Valley, with terms of the sale including 100 percent ownership of the current Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional business. 

    The deal includes the camera, content repurposing, editing, master control, modular, news production, production automation, production switchers, routing, and video servers product lines, including their entire product portfolios, the R&D centres and factories around the world, the Sales & Systems activities and Customer Support organisation worldwide, as well as the management and administrative support functions dedicated to the business.

  • The Ttabamiruka is an annual conference organised by the Buganda Kingdom to review and discuss the social, cultural, economic and developmental issues of the kingdom. The theme for the 2010 conference was Poverty and Development.

    The conference, held on 17 December 2010 at the Wampewo Avenue-based Hotel Africana, in a suburb of Kampala, was supposed to be broadcast live by several radio stations, including the Buganda Kingdom-owned Central Broadcasting Services (CBS FM) radio station, but all were stopped by the BC. By the time the directive was issued by the BC, CBS FM was already relaying the debates live.

    A CBS FM staffer who preferred to remain anonymous said the station received a call from the BC telling them to suspend the live broadcast, equating it to the open-air talk shows locally known as Ebimeeza, which were banned in September 2009.

    "We only broadcast live the speech of the king, His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II," a staffer said. The station was accused of failing to consult the BC on the issues to be discussed and aired during the conference.

    The Kingdom of Buganda comprises one of the largest ethnic groups in Uganda and is based in the central region. Most of its people are languishing in poverty. National Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that more than 38% of the total population in Uganda lives below poverty line.

    The chairman of the BC, Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, told the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the conference broadcasts were not much different from the banned Ebimeeza, which were broadcast from bars and night clubs.

    "We were not informed as a regulatory body about the topics to be discussed and the guests. So what they were doing was illegal because we banned the Ebimeeza in 2009. We were even taken to court over our action," Mutabazi said. He explained that there is a license requirement stipulating that all radio stations planning to produce live broadcast programmes should own pre-listening gadgets, but most radio stations have failed to comply with the requirement. "We can tolerate live soccer matches or Independence commemorations but not debates," Mutabazi stressed.

    In September 2009, the council arbitrarily closed down five privately-owned radio stations, 88.8 and 89.2 CBS FM, Ssuubi FM, Radio Sapientia and Radio Two (Akkaboozi), and banned open-air radio talk shows.

    HRNJ-Uganda feels that the BC is overstepping its powers when it begins to regulate people's thoughts and information. These actions are illegal as they limit the ability of citizens to exercise their fundamental freedoms and liberties as stipulated in Art. 29 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda

  • The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has blamed political parties for the poor representation they receive from state broadcast stations. NBC's Head of Public Affairs Awwalu Salihu said refusal of aggrieved parties to report to the Commission when fair representation is not given to them does not help the commission in its quest to solve the problem.

    "If any station goes off course, it is left to the aggrieved parties to report to the commission and we will follow it up. But the biggest problem we have is that they never complain, some will rather go to the media and castigate us," he said.

    While stating that the commission had given each broadcast station political guidelines, he said letters had also been written to the stations to this effect, telling them that all parties need to be represented fairly.

    "This however does not mean equal airtime for everyone because some political parties are bigger than others," he said. He said the commission in conjunction with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was planning a political summit in this month where all parties and broadcast stations would be involved.
    "It is hoped that the issue of poor representation amongst others will be resolved at the end of the summit", he said.

  • Communications Minister Radhakrishna Padayachie announced last week that South Africa will complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital television by December 2013. The analogue switch off date was originally set for November 2011 but has since been postponed to December 2013 by the Communications Ministry.

    The minister revealed that South Africa would adopt the DVB-T2 standard for digital migration. After the December 2013 deadline, existing analogue TVs will not be able to transmit images but viewers equipped with digital TVs would not experience any problems.
    Once the analogue signal has been switched off, those with analogue TVs will need a Set-Top-Box (STB). The box will convert the digital signal to analogue for the analogue TV.  The Minister also mentioned that there were "export opportunities" with regards to STB as other African countries needing help with digital migration could look to South Africa as the manufacturing base of STB.

    Padayachie added that this digital migration transition could serve as a catalyst to revitalise the South African electronics manufacturing industry. Among the benefits of going digital, and on top of a clearer broadcast images for viewers, the other dividend is that it will start liberating the spectrum and provide more channels. DVB-T2 will provide viewers access to 14 channels.

    Start of January, some media reported that a grouping of aspirant black manufacturers organised labour plan to contest a cabinet decision to adopt a European digital terrestrial television broadcasting standard.

    Keith Thabo, the chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronics Components (Namec), said that the organisations would challenge the adoption of Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T2), a second-generation standard, because its introduction would fail to achieve the optimum socioeconomic impact. He said the groups favoured a Japanese standard, which is also used in Brazil, for South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting, which has to be completed by 2015.

    Namec is concerned that commercial broadcasters e.tv and M-Net, and decoder manufacturers Altech and Reunert, who claim to have spent millions on trials of the European standard, would be the only commercial beneficiaries if South Africa adopted DVB-T2.

  • The African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Media Initiative (AMI) convened a meeting on the Pan African Media Portal (PAMP) in Nairobi, Kenya, on 21 December 2010. The African Union Commission, A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media, partners on the implementation of this ambitious project, attended the meeting.
     
     The Nairobi gathering was a follow-up to the Informal Joint Experts Meeting organised by the African Union Commission and the European Commission (EC) in Addis Ababa, March 23-25, 2010 on the theme "Media and Development".
     
    Media play a critical role in promoting economic and human development. In order to help African media participate effectively and efficiently in the development efforts of the continent, the AUC has partnered with key players to develop a world class web platform that will serve as central point to access information about the fast changing African media landscape.
     
    This platform will gather information about media houses; list the national legislation of AU Member States on media, present journalism and communication schools, and provide a full list of all relevant media stakeholders in each African country.
     
    Participants in the Nairobi meeting agreed upon priority areas to implement in the first quarter of 2011 with the objective of launching a public website no later than March.
     
    “We are happy to see that this important project is finally underway. It has the full support of the EC, AUC and its chairperson Jean Ping. It is a new concept that will provide the hub of all African media information, and contacts, including the Diaspora, a unique and unifying concept- one that has never been seen before”
    said Habiba Mejri-Cheikh, the AUC spokesperson in charge of Communication and Information.
     
    “The African media landscape is fast changing with the huge impact of new information and communication technologies. It is high time that the media community comes together to create a unique tool which will provide the much needed information on the state of the media throughout the continent” commented Amadou Mahtar Ba, CEO of the African Media Initiative which oversees the implementation of the Pan African Media Portal. “We are grateful to A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media who are pulling together their technological resources to make sure that this project takes off.”

  • 21-29 January 2011
    12th. “Festival national du film (FNF) Marocain” in Tangier
    Venue: Tangier - city in northern Morocco

    Long and short film competition hosted by Ahmed Ghazali, « président de la Haute Autorité de la Communication audiovisuelle » (HACA) in Morocco. There are 19 long films in competition.
    click for details here:
     

     

    9-11 February 2011
    Discop Africa
    Venue: Lapalm Royal Beach hotel, Accra, Ghana.

    Since 2009, DISCOP markets targeting Sub-Saharan African television marketplaces have brought together over 400 companies selling and buying television content in this part of the world.
    click for details here:
     

     

    10-20 February 2011
    “Berlinale” – Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin)
    Venue: Berlin

    One of the most important dates on the international film industry’s calendar: About 400 films are shown every year, more than 19,000 film professionals from 128 countries, including about 4,000 journalists, almost 300,000 tickets sold.
    click for details here:
     

     

    16-21 February 2011
    2011 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF)
    Venue: Los Angeles, CA, USA

    Completed U.S. and international feature-length and short films festival. The PAFF presents and showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans.  In addition to the film festival, the PAFF presents a world renowned Art Show featuring over 100 fine artists and craftspeople from around the world showcasing the best in Black fine art, sculpture, photography, unique handmade crafts, home furnishings, designer jewelry, designer fashions and accessories that highlight the artistry and beauty of the African aesthetic. click for details here:

     

    23rd till 26th February 2011
    Aluta film festival 2011
    Venue: Kimberley – South Africa.

    click for details here:
     

     

    26 February to 5 March 2011
    2011 FESPACO – 22nd edition
    Venue: Ouagadougou – Burkina Fasso

    Set up every two years, the well-known FESPACO festival is a week of celebration for Cinema for Africans and for the African Diaspora. Fespaco is considered as one of the biggest film events on the African continent. In 2011, it will be held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Communication of Burkina Faso
    click for details here:
     

     

    22nd - 27th March 2011
    Festival Cinema Africano Asia e America Latina 21° edizione
    Venue: Milano, Italy

    click for details here:

    22nd - 24th March 2011
    IPTV World Forum 2011
    Venue: Olympia, London UK

    A comprehensive programme of more than 200 visionary speakers, including over 140 service providers from telcos, cablecos, broadcasters and content providers. The conference programme is divided into four specific tracks focusing on IP Platforms for TV, Network Optimisation, Service Management and The Business of Content. Each day will start with a keynote plenary session discussing the innovations and services in IP and TV:
    click for details here: for a conference programme please e-mail gavin.whitechurch@informa.com
     

     

    23-25 March 2011
    AdExpo
    Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

    Mega Media AdExpo is a platform where the advertising industry, marketers, advertisers and media buyers gather and meet to discuss and plan advertising for the year ahead. Apart from the exhibits, the event also aims to educate with its offering of short 30 min workshops on interesting topics from Mobile marketing to internet advertising. 

     

    25 march to 9 April 2011
    Afrika Filmfestival
    Leuven, 3220 Holsbeek - Belgium

    The Afrika Filmfestival in Leuven is the most important annual showcase for African films in the Benelux. The festival promotes African cinema.
    click for details here:
     

     

    4-7 April 2011
    MIPTV
    Venue: Cannes, France

    MIPTV is the world's leading content market. It provides a unique opportunity to meet the key decision makers in the TV/Film, Digital media and Cinema industry. 21,000 m2 exhibition floor.
    click for details here:
     

     

    13-17 April 2011
    International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes
    Venue: Cannes

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    click for details here:
     

     

    April May 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Film Festival. AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:
     

     

    May 2010
    The Helsinki African Film Festival
    Venue: Andorra, Eerikinkatu 11, 00100 Helsinki

    Call for short film submissions - Deadline 31 December 2010

    Helsinki African Film Festival brings an entertaining and thought-provoking selection of contemporary African cinema to Finland. The festival aims to foster communication across cultures and support dialogue on wide-ranging issues related to Africa
    click for details here:

     

    2, 5 June 2011
    Africa Festival
    Venue: Wurzburg, Germany

    click for details here:

     

    11th to 19th June, 2011
    The 8th African Film Festival of Tarifa, Spain
    Calle Monte Carmelo, 5 bajo
    41011 Sevilla España

    click for details here:
     

     

    2 - 10 July, 2011
    Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)

    East Africa's largest film and arts festival, showcasing a broad spectrum of African films.
    click for details here:

     

    20-22 July 2011
    Mediatech Africa 2011 Exhibition
    The Coca-Cola Dome
    Northgate - Johannesburg (South Africa)

    Mediatech Africa SA's only all-inclusive broadcast, media, entertainment and AV trade. It showcases cutting edge technologies and services from industry leaders in television and broadcast, sound and audio, lighting and staging, animation, communication and related fields.
    click for details here:

     

    22-25 July 2011
    The 2nd Durban FilmMart over the 32nd Durban International Film Festival (21-31 July).
    Venue: Durban

    Contact: Durban Film Office –
    click for details here:

     

    July to Sept. 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Outdoor Summer Screenings in NYC Parks. Featuring dance, music, food and of course films. AFF programs year-round; therefore, AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:

     

    3-8 Octobre 2011
    Festival du Court Métrage Méditerranéen de Tanger
    Venue: Tangier, Morocco

    A festival focused on short films.
    for details E-mail : ccm@menara.ma

    31 Oct 7 Nov 2011
    Out In Africa
    South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    Venue: various, see website

    click for details here:

     
    Oct-Nov, final dates tba
    Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival
    Venue: Edinburgh's Filmhouse cinema

    The UK's largest African Film Festival
    click for details here:


    (final date tba)
    Festival du Monde Arabe du Court-métrage Azrou-Ifrane

    click for details here:

  •  At the start of January 2011, it was announced that South African  Parliament is moving ahead to fill the four vacancies on the SABC’s board, with its communications committee due to meet next week to draw up a shortlist of candidates. A total of 84 nominations have been received by Parliament since it called for names in October 2010.

     African Cinema will miss two grand figures: Mahama Johnson Traoré (1942-2010) and Sotigui Kouyaté (1936-2010) passed away in 2010 and will be honoured at FESPACO 2011.

     Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has taken on a new role: he’s starring in a television series called The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
    This remarkable nine part documentary premieres on SABC3 from Tuesday, 1st February at 20:00.

  • ACP Films to African film Producers
    Coming soon: a new call for proposals

    The new ACP-EU ACP cultural sector Support Programme will be launched in 2011 and includes two components: ACPFilms and ACPCultures.
    Funded by the 10th EDF, this new program has a budget of 30 million Euros, 24 million allocated to projects. A call for proposals will be launched in a couple of weeks.


    ACP Films: 2010 wrap up and perspectives in 2011

    The year 2010 ends on a positive note for the ACPFilms Programme, with several
    beneficiaries participating to many international festivals. I am glad to mention the wonderful film “A crying man” of the Chadian Mahamat Saleh Haroun, who won the Jury Prize at last Cannes Festival, and three awards at Dubai Film Festival- best director, best actor and best editor. The Last Flight of the Flamingo of the Mozambican Joao Ribeiro was also awarded at the Festival of Tarifa in Spain, and Viva Riva, by the Congolese Djo Munga, was invited to the Toronto Film Festival 2010 and to the next Berlin Film Festival in February 2011. The ACP cinema and audiovisual production has continued to strengthen its position in these prestigious environments.

    Also in the ACP field, our policy to make images available to the ACP local population is taking root. From Mozambique to Fiji via Trinidad & Tobago, people have access to local works through mobile digital cinema screenings or broadcasts on television channels, through projects supported by ACPFilms Programme. At the same time, the support offered by the Programme also strengthens distribution
    networks while giving priority to professional technical trainings.

    The cultural policy of the ACP Group aims at, among other things, developing and structuring film and audiovisual industries at intra-ACP level. It does so through the creation and dissemination of their own pictures in better conditions, better promotion of cultural diversity and enhancement of cultural identities in the ACP and intercultural dialogue on the one hand; on the other by promoting an environment conductive to the creation, trade and sustainability of their fundamental cultural values and diversity.
    Today more than ever, the ACP Secretariat affirms its continuing commitment to support the strengthening of the culture sector as a fundamental element in the development cooperation policy.

    This support that will be confirmed in a few weeks with the launch of the new “EU-ACP ACP cultural sector support Programme” combining the two components ACPFILMS and ACPCultures. The overall objective of this new Programme, with a budget of 30 million Euros, of which 24 million will be spent on projects, is to contribute to the struggle against poverty through the emergence and consolidation of sustainable cultural industries in ACP countries, fostering their contribution to social and economic development and preservation of cultural diversity. A first call for proposals will be launched in early 2011, to enhance the creation and production of cultural goods and services in the ACP States, through an integrated approach, with interregional distribution channels; to promote better access to local, regional, intra-ACP, European and international markets; and to build capacity of stakeholders, operators and cultural entrepreneurs in ACP countries. The focus will be on supporting projects that have South-South cooperation perspective and that seek to develop synergies at intra-ACP level.
    With this new programme, the ACP Secretariat took it to heart to hear the wishes of artists and cultural operators. Whenever it was possible, the specificity of the sector was taken into account when drafting the Guidelines to be published shortly.
    Once again, the ACP / EU demonstrate the benefit of the Cotonou Agreement for ACP cinema and audiovisual sector. I invite all ACP professionals and citizens of Member States of European Union to apply.

    To you all I extend my best wishes for 2011.

    Michèle Dominique RAYMOND
    Assistant Secretary General
    Department of Political Affairs
    and Human Development
    www.acpfilms.eu


    Call for entry - International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes, France, from
    13-17 April 2011.

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    More info here:


    Scholarships for Artists UNESCO-Aschberg 2011

    An application for UNESCO-Aschberg grants for artists are now open. These scholarships promote mobility of young artists (between 25 and 35), in order to enrich their personal perspectives, to enable them to engage in intercultural dialogue and to expose them to cultural diversity.
    For more information click here:

     

    Call for entries - Eighth edition of the African Film Festival of Tarifa, 11 to 19 June
    2011.

    The African Film Festival of Tarifa is organizing calls for applications:
    Submission of movies to be screened during the festival - Deadline for registration and sending DVDs: February 25, 2011. For more information e-mail: marionb@fcat.es

    Call for candidates to submit your pictures to the fourth Africa Photo competition.

    Registration deadline: March 1, 2011. For more information e-mail: gaetano@fcat.es

    To download regulations of these various applications: www.fcat.es/FCAT_fr

    Festival of Media Awards deadline has been extended.

    Due to the overwhelming response and the many requests the organiser have received, the deadline for the Festival of Media Awards entries has been extended to Friday 4 February 2011.

    CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards 2011

    CNN International and MultiChoice officially launched the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2011 Awards.
    The winners of these prestigious annual awards will be announced at a gala ceremony to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2011.
    The competition is open to African nationals who are professional journalists including freelancers across print, television, internet, photographic and radio. Full details on how to enter can be found by logging on at www.cnn.com/africanawards. The closing date for entries is 27 January 2011
    This year, the competition will recognise excellence in most journalist categories including the following:
    • Television Features Award
    • Television News Bulletin Award
    For further information please contact:
    CNN International London: Joel Brown + 44 20 7693 0967/ + 44 7967 293452 joel.brown@turner.com
    MultiChoice South Africa: Marietjie Groenewald + 27 11 289 3067 / +27 79 501 1758 Marietjie.Groenewald@multichoice.co.za

Issue 96: There is life after football – CAfrica rolls out the NBA across the continent

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  • It would be easy to think that the only sport of interest to Africans was football. It grabs all the attention and the largest slice of the programme rights money spent on sport to be shown in Africa. But African television channels are beginning to realise that they can’t all end up with the key football rights so developing other sports programming may be a smart move. Russell Southwood talked to CAfrica’s Managing Director Cathy Fogler about its ambition to deliver “premium sports programs through a formal network of free-to-air broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa.”

    CAfrica was launched by a trio of seasoned industry professionals. Rob and Cathy Fogler and Rwandan Eugene Nyagahene. Bob Fogler had worked with Eugene Nyagahene on venture capital for SMEs in Rwanda and both of the Foglers have a background in broadcast in the USA. Eugene Nyagahene was the founder of the Tele10 Pay TV group in francophone Africa. As Cathy Fogler told us:”The three of us were discussing the TV landscape in Africa and this led to us forming the company.”

    CAfrica distributes its sports content to Free-To-Air TV stations across Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) and it is currently shown in 21 countries:”When we select a station, there are a few factors we look at including: the reach and quality of their broadcast signal; their relationship with their audiences; and how they promote the content we give them. But the overriding factor is the professionalism of the broadcaster.”

    Currently CAfrica has multi-year agreements with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAFR. It broadcasts the top game played in the NBA every week, weekly highlights from other games and the All Star Weekend. In terms of the IAAF, broadcasts the Diamond League which is a showcase for top athletes. It is looking to acquire other sports rights but is understandably cagey about its next move:”We’re looking at other things but I can’t be specific at the moment. We’re in discussion with the rights holders for all the major sports.”

    CAfrica does not just deliver the programmes:”We produce the programmes and work with IMG in London to produce both English and French commentary. Our affiliates can choose either. What marks out what we deliver is the quality of production.”

    Specific audience data is difficult to get in Africa but it airs three programmes a week during sports primetime in 21 of the major country markets during sports prime time. Fogler has a rough “thumb-suck” in the absence of broadcaster research:”Our territory is Sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa and it covers 600 million people. On average, there is a 20% TV household penetration. In addition, up to 50% of those people might be watching television outside of the home. This gives our programmes a reach of around 300 million people.”

    So what’s the business model?:”I can’t discuss the full business model but there are parts that are already clear. CAfrica provides programmes to broadcast affiliates on reasonable terms. In terms of ad revenues, we target the international, multinational corporations and the affiliate broadcast partner sells to local advertisers. We provide advertisers with a unique way of talking to Africa’s middle class consumers across the continent.”

    The NBA is also putting its weight behind promoting basketball on the continent. It has opened a Johannesburg office to have a presence on the continent and to grow the game there. It is creating grassroots basketball programming across the continent. As with the Premier League, the NBA has attracted African players. There are now over 20 of them in the NBA, the most famous of which is Tanzanian Hasheem Thabeet who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. He did not begin to play basketball until the age of 15, when he began to watch pickup games in Tanzania.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel – Nollywood and FESPACO 2011

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top African TV and Radio personalities. There are interviews in both English and French. In particular look out for in English, Matthew Brown on Changing Nollywood Business Models. Matthew is a PhD student from University of Wisconsin who’s just come from a year in Nigeria researching the topic. In French, we have the FESPACO 2011 press conference in Paris which gives details of this upcoming biennial festival in Ouegadougou. Click here:

    Workshop at DISCOP

    Differentiate your TV channel – Standing out from the competition. The TV stations that will make their mark in 2011 and succeed in gaining market share will be those that build loyalty through the people, programmes and feel of their TV channel. The workshop will focus on all aspects of differentiating your TV channel, primarily addressing: Channel attitude and personality, Content (local and exclusive); Programming (overall structure and pieces); and brand (content, personalities and marketing). Led by Russell Southwood, CEO, Balancing Act with panel speakers including Cathy Fogler, Managing Director, CAfrica and Yaa Newman of TV Africa. Date, time and Place: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 9 February, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.

  • This summarised version of an article by Richard Seymour in Nigeria’s Compass newspaper offers many interesting insights into the development of the continent’s largest film industry.

    Nollywood owes its recent expansion to the introduction of relatively cheapo digital technology to the consumer market, which allows almost anyone who can shout ‘Action!’ to be a film director. Budgets for even the most popular locally made films are low. Many do not employ technicians and, often, the ‘actors’ are anyone who happens to be passing by at the time. In a matter of weeks, the final film has been edited and distributed, either to the myriad low-budget cable television channels of which there are now so many, or as DVDs to be sold for about $2 in crowded markets.

    It is easy for filmmakers and watchers elsewhere to deride the quality of these hastily made movies, but there is no doubting the passion Africans across the continent have for them. They sell in their thousands and make money for their producers, which not every Hollywood mogul can boast. Perhaps for the first time, movie watchers in Africa are seeing themselves on screen: characters that millions of Africans can recognise themselves in, living lives which are familiar to them. And it seems they cannot get enough.

    But the industry in Nigeria is now coming of age and is attempting to raise standards across the board. Unfortunately, however, as the music industry has found out, the same technology that renders it easy to make films also makes illegally copying them a simpler task. And this is getting in the way of attracting investment. After all, who would want to put their money into a venture that has little control over its product and who profits from it?

    Some estimates from within the industry claim that as much as 50% of all money made from their films is lost to piracy. Many movies made today are not able to even recover the costs of production, which means there is no money to reinvest in new projects.

    Part of the problem is one of infrastructure. In other countries, film lovers still mostly prefer to patronise movie theatres, despite the expense, because they either want the full effect of the latest technology, whether it be high definition, surround sound or 3D, or they do not wish to wait for the DVD to go on sale. This forms a buttress against the pirate industry.

    But there are so few cinemas in Africa in comparison. Lacking a robust distribution network, movie producers are forced to release titles straight to DVD, which are then copied and sold more cheaply within days.

    The problem has been made worse by the ability of pirates to squeeze several films onto a single DVD and then sell it for half the price of a single, legitimate title. And producers face the further frustration of an increasing number of cable television channels showing their films without permission with very little they can do to stop it.

    As a result, the already low budgets producers have to make films are getting smaller and production values are not improving. Hence the concern that the Nigerian film industry may have peaked without ever having tapped its phenomenal potential.

    The largest film industry in the world, India’s Bollywood, is taking matters into its own hands. The trend of filmmakers to remake existing films with no regard for copyright, which hardly helped their own cause, seems to be abating.

    In addition, India’s film industry has entered into a joint venture with the Alliance Against Copyright Theft (AACT) – an international organisation of filmmakers and distributors – in a bid to tackle the problem. The group, supported by the Indian government, has launched raids against suspected pirates, enforcing existing piracy laws, but recognises that a change in the public’s attitude toward pirated films is needed most.

    A similar initiative in Nigeria would begin to turn the tide of copyright infringement and help the country’s filmmakers continue to make the films so many Africans enjoy. Nothing can be done, however, without the political will, and the perception among Nigeria’s filmmakers is that the government is simply not taking the problem seriously enough.

    Nigeria is a signatory to a number of international copyright conventions and has the laws and administering bodies to protect filmmakers if it wants to. Anti-piracy squads have the power to perform raids, confiscate materials and make arrests, but with an estimated 90% of all DVDs on sale illegal copies, there is clearly much still to do.

    The National Film & Video Censors Board in Nigeria (NFVCB) is doing its best to formalise the country’s film industry. Its role of classifying films and registering and regulating all outlets is all but impossible, and will remain so, if it is not backed more forcibly by the government.

    There is little freedom too in over-regulation. The NFVCB has on its ‘8 Point Action Plan’ a ‘New Direction in Film & Video Content’, which, they say, should paint Nigeria in a positive light.

    That is all well and good, but will censors swoop on filmmakers who wish to pass comment on, for instance, government corruption? Would, to take but one contemporary example, Jeta Amata’s new film, Black Gold (to be released in 2011), about greed, corruption and violence in the Niger Delta, be allowed by a more powerful regulatory body?

    But strict regulation of any sort seems along way off. Despite concerns, foreign investors are willing to take stake in the Nigerian film industry by investing in its most talented filmmakers. The young director, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, born in Benin City, in 2008 made Close Enemies for $300,000, still a record for a Nigerian film. But the film had to be made outside of Nigeria in Los Angeles.

    The slick, high-budget movie is a world away from the shoestring productions that form the base for the industry in Nigeria and, along with its subject matter, will do much to gain the respect, and investment dollars, of the biggest studios.

    Indeed, it is directors like Amata, whose critically acclaimed 2004 film, The Alexa Affair, which was filmed in Germany using a German crew, introduced methods honed in the Nigerian film industry, who are showing Western filmmakers how to cut costs and production times without compromising quality.

    The advancing Nigerian economy and the construction of cinema complexes is giving the local film industry room to grow but it is not only in Nigeria that the film industry is enjoying a boom. This September, the Federation of Pan-African Filmmakers (FEPACI) announced their intention to set up African Film Cinema Fund with a $50m target, in particular, to invest in a continent-wide distribution network. Discussions are in their early stages.

    In conjunction with organisations such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and other private investors, it hopes to create a framework to strengthen coproduction and distribution partnerships, and through a partnership with the International Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF) hopes to fulfil the UNESCO idea of enabling the diversity of cultural expression.

    Striding toward doing so and further breaking the stereotype of African-made films is Pumzi, the 2009 production, directed by Kenyan born Wanuri Kahiu and shot on location in South Africa. The internationally funded short film is of the science fiction genre – itself so far a rarity among African films – based in the future where Asha, played by Kudzani Moswela, sets about looking for life in an otherwise lifeless, post-World War III ‘Water War’ planet.

    Money for the imaginative project came partly from the Changamoto Arts Fund, which seeks to ‘liberate the artist from the pressure of creating safe work’, thus emancipating creative talent from commercial considerations and worries over piracy, and Focus Feature’s Africa First, making grants of $10,000 to short-film makers in Africa.

    Such funds are as important for the development of Africa’s film industry as the injection of cash. Money cannot buy new, exciting ideas; and without those, no creative industry’ can flourish. Another film which bucks the trend and aims to establish Africa at the forefront of movie-making technology is Lion of Judah,a computer-animated 3D movie, commissioned by a US company and made entirely in South Africa using almost entirely South African animators.

    The Cape Town-based studio, Animal Matters, which is making the film, has to make the most of its limited resources but hopes that investment in technology and training can help the country position itself well in what promises to be a highly lucrative 3D market.

    If given the freedom and protection to work, the continent’s most creative filmmakers will give expression to Africa’s creativity, allowing it to tell its own stories about itself, and forging its own cultural identity in a environment where cultural imperialism threatens to homogenise an otherwise diverse and colourful world.

  • Far from being a District 9 copy, the new black-and-white sci-fi film from Cape Town-based production company Be Phat Motel has its own dark ambience and unique character that is set to breathe new life into the genre. The self-funded thriller, titled Sweetheart, is not a full-length feature film but still manages to entertain throughout its 26 minutes. It previewed to a receptive audience on 2 December 2010 at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town.

    The film stars Inge Beckmann – former vocalist of local electronic group Lark – as Sweetheart, with theatre actor Andre Weidemann as Ogilvy and Survivor Africa host Anthony Oseyemi as Honest John. The supporting cast includes Norman Murray, model Pope Jerrod, and Aidan Whytock, a finalist in the 2010 Top Billing presenter search.

    Sweetheart is Be Phat’s first short film and is directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond, with a score composed by James Matthes. The film was made purely for creative purposes, claim the Be Phat team, and not to deliver any specific message or lesson.

    Like District 9, Sweetheart was shot with Red One cameras. Its monochrome style, which the team says is based on the Coen Brothers’ 2001 The Man Who Wasn’t There, is a tribute to the noir films of the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the visuals were filmed in the old suburb of Woodstock, which lies about a kilometre from Cape Town’s city centre. In mid-2010 Be Phat released a teaser on the internet, and the full trailer may now also be viewed online.

    The story, which was written in under a week and filmed in eight days at the beginning of 2010, plays out in the 1950s against the backdrop of one of the tense periods of the Cold War. “We shot the film two weeks after coming up with the idea,” said Matthews in a recent interview with Cape Town Magazine, “and without funding. I got the last part of the script on the morning we started shooting.”

    “We worked with a bunch of great actors on the film,” added Drummond. “Tireless, they all gave way more of themselves than they needed to – there was a great energy.”
    Sweetheart is a young wife and mother living on a farm with her family. Her husband and stepsons travel into town one day, and don’t come back. While she waits for them to return she catches glimpses of mysterious events in the distance.

    Eventually Sweetheart realises that her family is not coming back, and she’s forced to leave the farm and make the trip to the city – a strange, post-apocalyptic 1950s version of Cape Town – to look for them. When she gets there she finds the place deserted, except for random groups of survivors. This makes her task all the more dangerous, but if she wants to find the answers, she must press on.

    Be Phat Motel was established in 2007 and from the early days of commercials and music videos, they are now set on a new course of producing feature films. The Be Phat core team comprises award-winning director Matthews, editor Daniel Mitchell, producer/screenwriter Drummond, and cinematographer Shaun Lee.

    The team originally planned Sweetheart as a five-minute experimental film, but found that it was better suited to its final length. Even without the considerable muscle of District 9 producer Peter Jackson, Be Phat has high hopes for Sweetheart and with the interest already seen online and at the preview screening, their hopes have every chance of being realised.

    Their first feature film is currently in development – Five Fingers for Marseilles, which starts off in 1980s rural South Africa and aims to merge the country’s history with the classic western theme. It follows the struggle for freedom from police oppression of the small community of Railway, which sits on the fringes of a fictional South African town called Marseilles.

    At first only five young men – the Five Fingers – are brave enough to stand up to the authorities, until one of them commits a crime that sends him to prison for 20 years. When he returns to his home town he finds it under threat from a new source, and must once again fight to save the day. Five Fingers will play mainly in Sesotho and isiXhosa, with some English.

  • When South African film-maker Neill Blomkamp's strange new short went viral (in Oct 2010) it prompted many questions: is this a clue to Blomkamp's mooted District 9 sequel? Or his forthcoming new sci-fi project Elysium? It said as much about contemporary movie marketing as it did about the director's creativity.

    Social networking encourages a see-and-then-share habit for moviegoers, and it's taken a step further this year – just observe the excitement and commercial reward generated by this year's viral campaigns for Inception and Tron. Yet despite the commercial motivation, most fans appear to be enjoying the shift. Viral movie marketing encourages engagement with cinema, wider conversation and expands the worlds of movies people love. In the case of Blomkamp's new video, far from merely being a trailer for a forthcoming project, the short might be seen as a starting point for a digital egg hunt.

    If you've managed to come out unscathed after sitting through the video's impressively tense minute-long running time, you'll notice that the creature in Blomkamp's video is stamped AMG Heartland. Cue film fans doing some digging and discovering this is a phrase trademarked to communications company Sable, which suggests more videos will follow over the coming months.

    Most movie fans enjoy the way things are now, but there's some who really enjoy it – in fact, there's a growing subculture of movie fans for whom this hunt for information is as exciting as the films themselves. Over at Movieviral.com, there's a website full of people picking through the detritus of the web and correlating clues with existing release schedules – asking themselves and each other, what does it all mean? Their forum asks if this website provides clues to Battle: Los Angeles, or is just the musings of a UFO enthusiast. It doesn't really matter which – what's most important is getting excited about the movie.

    Yet some of the website's subscribers have certainly found more to enjoy in movies than mere speculation – it was Movieviral.com forum users who first cracked the code to ijustwanttobeperfect.com, the website for Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming psychological horror Black Swan, discovering, after a tipoff from the lead character's @theswanqueen twitter account, that if you typed the name of the film's villain Rothbart on the site, you were rewarded with access to view unseen footage from the movie.

    Sci-fi and horror are the perfect subject matter for this kind of fan engagement – after all, what's scarier than what you don't know? – and when they're not trying to deduce whether a strange alien autopsy video entitled Apollo 20 has any relation to the forthcoming Apollo 18 movie, they're trying to crack the DOS-style setup of thescariestthingieversaw.com, a website reporting to provide access to the home computer of D Morris, a character from JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Super 8. That film's not out until June 2011, they've got plenty of time.

    But what is perhaps most exciting to this community is that the internet provides more clues about forthcoming movies than the release schedules. Nobody really knows what theclearpill.com means, other than suggesting that a Bradley Cooper movie about a wonder drug called Limitless appears to be in the works. Likewise the potential resurrection of the Mortal Kombat franchise when a video entitled Mortal Kombat Rebirth was put on YouTube this summer. Fans weren't given any explanation as to whether this was a new shonky beat 'em up video game, or another shonky movie based on the shonky beat 'em up game – but three million users debating which one it is can't be bad for business.

    Of course, there is a school of thought that wishes things remained as they always were, that digging around and hunting for clues spoils the magic of cinema, like asking a magician to reveal the secrets of his tricks. Another thinks fans should know better than to fall for smart marketing, that they're just feeding the machine and wasting their lives searching for information that will be revealed to them in due course.

    Both schools are entitled to their views, yet as they sit down to watch their summer blockbusters next year, inquisitive fans such as myself will be even more exited, knowing we've been part of the conversation for longer.

    As an aside, Deadline reports that Jodie Foster has just joined Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley in Neill Blomkamp's 'District 9' follow up, 'Elysium'.

  • SABC1 has announced the highlights of the season starting in January 2011:

    Soul Buddyz 5: Monday 10 Jan @ 19:00
    An exciting, positive and up-beat drama series detailing the lives and challenges of a group of teenaged friends – the Soul Buddyz!  The stories are educational with an entertainment element focusing on a National Dance Competition in which the Buddyz participate for a final prize. The series showcases their journey as individuals and as a team - highlighting their joys, pain, challenges and triumphs along the way! One of the setbacks they experience is how alcohol is used by one of their members, undermining their cohesion as a group and dealing with a difficult issue of how to stop the sale of alcohol at their school.

    One Day Leader: Tuesday 11 Jan @ 18:30
    One Day Leader is a reality format that aims to identify and develop young leaders between the ages of 18 and 25, while engaging the public and creating awareness around critical social and economic issues. South Africa needs strong leadership to address its many social issues, not only now, but well into the future. One Day Leader aims not at criticising current leaders or forms of leadership but to encourage young and bright minds to come up with innovative ways of addressing issues.

    Pathfinders (A 2-part documentary series) Tuesday 11 & 18 Jan @ 21:00
    Part 1: Gogo's Heart
    A group of elderly women in Alexandra are re-inventing community relations in the wake of the devastation left behind by HIV/AIDS. The documentary profiles the work done by Rose Letwaba and a group of gogo's from Alexandra.

    Part 2: The Making of Our FatherThe documentary details the work in progress of an inter-generational dialogue project entitled "Our Father." Our Father is the attempt by five artists to collaborate on individual narratives detailing metaphorical and literal journeys in search and exploration of their fathers. In some cases their fathers are alive and in other they are not, and yet still others have never even known their fathers. Through art they have decided to unpack the nature and impact of their relationships or lack thereof with their fathers to see what it means to them as young men and as artists.

    The Game 3: Friday 21 Jan @ 20:30

    The Game stars Tia Mowry as Melanie Barnett, a young, intelligent medical student, who is also the girlfriend of an eager rookie football player, Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall). Melanie decides to pass on her chance at attending Johns Hopkins Medical School to be with Derwin after he is recently chosen to play for the San Diego Sabres as the new third-string wide receiver. As Melanie tries to adjust to her new lifestyle, she meets Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson), single mother and manager of Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) who is a charming star quarterback for the San Diego Sabres and Kelly Pitts (Brittany Daniel), the wife of Jason Pitts (Coby Bell) who is a thrifty star player. With the help of Tasha and Kelly Melanie learns how the game is played amongst the women behind the athletes.  Created by Mara Brock Akil.

    Friends Like These: Saturday 22 Jan @ 18:30
    A game show that is all about testing friendships and finding out what makes them tick! The show has an appeal that cuts across age, gender and race differences, thus capturing the imagination of Mzansi viewers from all backgrounds. 5 male and 5 female contestants battle it out every week for the chance to play face-to-face to win the holiday of a lifetime.  

    The Unit 3: Monday 24 Jan @ 22:00
    The Unit is a covert team of US Special Forces operatives who undertake missions around the world. Bob Brown is the newcomer who joins Jona's team and they set out to rescue European businessmen who have been hijacked by terrorists. Meanwhile, Bob's wife, Kim, is struggling with how much control the Unit has over her personal life.  Cast: Regina Tayor, Dennis Haysbert, Max Martini, Scott Foley, Audrey Anderson, Abby Brammell, Robert Patrick, Demore Barnes, Michael Irby, Alyssa Shafer. Written by David Mamet.

    50 Years of Love: 25 Jan @ 21:00
    This documentary takes a close look at the institution of marriage, its relevance in today's society and exceptional people that have survived it for over 50 years. Feeling that marriage is one subject for which people are poorly prepared by most societies, a filmmaker couple set out around the world to have an honest look at marriage beyond the honeymoon and the "happily ever after" clichés. Only then will they decide whether or not to take the giant step themselves. A heart-warming story that questions without disrespecting the different types of marriages from the "usual" to arranged marriages and traditional polygamous marriages.

    Dance to Fame: Thursday 27 Jan @ 19:00
    The 13-episode show celebrates the inspiration and excitement behind the world of street dance as it presents the once-in-a-lifetime chance for audience members to Dance to Fame. Four of SA's most talented dance groups will be selected to compete in this dance battle, putting all they have on the floor as they fight for the title of SA's best dance crew and a R100 000 prize money!

  • Subscribers of major West African mobile service provider, Globacom, can now watch DStv programmes on their mobile phones as the company rolls out the DStvMobile service on Glo.

    The product, called, DStv Mobile on Glo is offered in partnership with Details Nigeria Limited, the provider of DStv Mobile. DStv Mobile on Glo brings the rich experience of DStv to Glo subscribers who are connected to the service and have special DVB-H enabled handsets.

    Globacom’s Head of Value Added Services, Samson Isa said that Glo
    subscribers who sign up to DStv Mobile on Glo will enjoy a wide range of
    programming from news channels such as CNN to entertainment and movie
    channels such as Africa Magic, Magic World, Africa Magic Yoruba, Africa Magic Hausa, Channel O, Sound city, Cartoon Network, TBN, Super Sport 7, Super Sport 9, Super Sport Blitz and NTA Plus. Subscribers to the service will also enjoy super fast Internet access.

    “The High Speed Internet Service on the package is connected to the GLO 1 Cable”, Isa disclosed, adding that this gives the subscriber a robust and seamless viewing experience. He explained that DStv Mobile from Glo comes with Nokia 5330, one month free High Speed Internet bundle and free DStv Mobile subscription until 31 March, 2011. The handset can be used to make and receive calls and for internet browsing.

    The service is available, to start with, in 10 Nigerian cities including Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kaduna.

  • The Togolese authorities on December 29, 2010 closed down three privately-owned radio stations in Lome, the capital, over administrative reasons.

    A statement issued by the regulatory body, Posts and Telecommunications' Regulatory Authority (ART&P) and signed by Palouki Massina, its director general said the decision was taken after it undertook a 10-day joint review of the stations together with the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) in November 2010.

    The statement said the stations, X-Solaire, Metropolys and Providence were operating illegally as they did not have the required registration documents and standard broadcasting equipment.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent in Togo reported that since the closure, the officials of the stations have been met with delay tactics from the authorities, in their efforts to obtain the required documents.

    Meanwhile, the media group, SOS Journaliste en Danger, has condemned the action of the authorities. In a release issued on January 12, the SOS said it was an attempt by the authorities to muzzle the stations which were deemed critical of the administration of President Faure Gnassingbé.

    The media group wondered why in spite of the stations'status, the ART&P was collecting licensing fees from them.

  • Talk show diva and cultural kingmaker Oprah Winfrey expands her media empire with the high-stakes launch of her OWN cable network.

    While Winfrey's comfy couches have launched scores of careers, from Dr. Phil to the inventors of her 'favorite things', it's unclear if her magic touch can carry an entire network.

    "Oprah has a very powerful brand name, but it's really difficult to get people to change their viewing habits and find a new channel," said Derek Baine, an analyst for industry consultant SNL Kagan. "Plus, the fact that she'll still be on her syndicated show will probably be confusing to some people."

    Discovery Networks is reportedly sinking 189 million dollars into the joint venture, which replaces Discovery Health and will reach nearly 80 million homes. The programming is intended to "inspire viewers and give them hope," Oprah has often said, and the network is being "built on great intentions."

    However, she acknowledged in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that it may take time to translate the success of a show she'd done 140 times a year into a network which airs 24 hours a day.

    "If you're on the outside looking in, of course it looks like a big risk," Winfrey told the paper. But for me, it's not so much about going wider. It's about going deeper, so that you have a platform that has a deeper impact."

    The Oprah Winfrey Network launches at 16:00 GMT, noon on the east coast and 9am on the west coast, with an hour-long introduction hosted by Winfrey and a weekend line-up of sneak previews.

    The network has also developed: a reality show where contestants compete for their own television show; another where children kidnap their workaholic parents; two cooking shows; a show where families get rid of their clutter and get organized; a talk show about sex; and a series which profiles top names like Diane Sawyer, Jay-Z, Maya Angelou, and Condoleezza Rice.

  • From Abuja, the presidency has accused international news operation, Aljazeera of seeking to destabilise Nigeria through false reports, saying it would not condone any further reckless and deliberate falsehood.

    In a statement last week, presidential spokesman, Ima Niboro said it was pure lie the report that President Goodluck Jonathan fingered the notorious Boko Haram sect of for masterminding the Abuja bomb blast.

    He said, "Our attention has been drawn to the unfounded and sensational news item on Al Jazeera television, claiming that Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has blamed the fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, for the bomb blast which occurred in Abuja yesterday. This is an outright lie. Nowhere, and at no time has the President held any particular group responsible for the attack."

    Additionally, he added that neither the Nigerian security services nor the Nigerian government have confirmed those behind the attacks.

  • Cinemas in Africa have been closing down one after the other over the last twenty years. Today, many countries have only one working cinema left. The Association ‘Cinemas for Africa’ - launched in 2009 over FESPACO at the initiative of the Mauritian film maker Abderrahmane Sissako - has been commissioned to back the renovation of Cinemas on the continent and work towards getting them up and running again.

    Abderrahamane Sissako reported that in Bamako, 30 movie theatres have been sold and some of them converted into other types of business. The « groupe Tomota », owner of Cinema « Ciné Soudan »,  has asked Sissako, to find an idea to renovate the
    Building. “Les inRocks“ reported that in Senegal, Cameroun and in Madagascar, cinema theatres have been closed down.

    The Association has launched a subscription campaign amongst public and private contributors. The collection of funds, in the form of a symbolic sale of cinema seats, will contribute to the renovation of the Soudan Ciné in Bamako (Mali) the Association’s pilot project.

    More here

  • The new Killarney CineCentre will open in March 2011 and will have a full-3D complex with five screens totalling 708 seats.

    It owner, with over 50 years in the industry, Avalon Group's Moosa Moosa is the longest serving cinema executive in South Africa and among the longest serving in the world.

    Avalon's most ambitious project to date comes to fruition at the Killarney Mall shopping centre in Johannesburg's affluent northern suburbs. The new Cine Centre will be a specialised luxury cinema complex featuring the latest Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters. The centre will have five screens, each featuring the latest 3D and digital projection hardware, as well as state-of-the-art Dolby Digital surround sound.

    "All five cinemas will offer cutting-edge viewing technology including 3D," says Debra Sharnock, centre manager of Killarney Mall. "A fully digital 3D cinema complex is a first for the South African cinema industry, demonstrating the extraordinary quality that movie-goers can expect at Johannesburg's newest cinema development." A highlight of the Cine Centre will be a luxurious 64-seat gold-class theatre available for hire.

    For the full story visit Media Club South Africa website here:

  • South Africa-based multinational media conglomerate Naspers has an indirect stake in Facebook worth $343 million (R2.3 billion) following a multimillion-dollar injection into the social-networking site by US bank Goldman Sachs and Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies (DST).

    This funding boosted Facebook’s value to $50bn. Naspers owns 30 percent in Mail.ru, Russia’s leading internet group, which in turn owns 2.4 percent of Facebook through its sister company DST.

    Abdul Davids, the Head of Research at Kagiso Asset Management, said the Facebook stake accounted for 15 percent of Mail.ru’s value but this meant that its other businesses were either under-valued or Facebook was overpriced.

    “Facebook is making very minimal revenue at the moment. One can argue that at $50bn it is a bit on the rich side.” Davids said that if Facebook were to list on the local bourse, it would dwarf the worth of MTN and other Top40 index shares. It would also double Naspers’ valuation.

  • Francisco Partners have completed their acquisition of Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional (active in Africa) from Technicolor.

    As of January 1st 2011, the California-based firm started operating as an independent company under the trade name Grass Valley, with terms of the sale including 100 percent ownership of the current Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional business. 

    The deal includes the camera, content repurposing, editing, master control, modular, news production, production automation, production switchers, routing, and video servers product lines, including their entire product portfolios, the R&D centres and factories around the world, the Sales & Systems activities and Customer Support organisation worldwide, as well as the management and administrative support functions dedicated to the business.

  • The Ttabamiruka is an annual conference organised by the Buganda Kingdom to review and discuss the social, cultural, economic and developmental issues of the kingdom. The theme for the 2010 conference was Poverty and Development.

    The conference, held on 17 December 2010 at the Wampewo Avenue-based Hotel Africana, in a suburb of Kampala, was supposed to be broadcast live by several radio stations, including the Buganda Kingdom-owned Central Broadcasting Services (CBS FM) radio station, but all were stopped by the BC. By the time the directive was issued by the BC, CBS FM was already relaying the debates live.

    A CBS FM staffer who preferred to remain anonymous said the station received a call from the BC telling them to suspend the live broadcast, equating it to the open-air talk shows locally known as Ebimeeza, which were banned in September 2009.

    "We only broadcast live the speech of the king, His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II," a staffer said. The station was accused of failing to consult the BC on the issues to be discussed and aired during the conference.

    The Kingdom of Buganda comprises one of the largest ethnic groups in Uganda and is based in the central region. Most of its people are languishing in poverty. National Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that more than 38% of the total population in Uganda lives below poverty line.

    The chairman of the BC, Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, told the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the conference broadcasts were not much different from the banned Ebimeeza, which were broadcast from bars and night clubs.

    "We were not informed as a regulatory body about the topics to be discussed and the guests. So what they were doing was illegal because we banned the Ebimeeza in 2009. We were even taken to court over our action," Mutabazi said. He explained that there is a license requirement stipulating that all radio stations planning to produce live broadcast programmes should own pre-listening gadgets, but most radio stations have failed to comply with the requirement. "We can tolerate live soccer matches or Independence commemorations but not debates," Mutabazi stressed.

    In September 2009, the council arbitrarily closed down five privately-owned radio stations, 88.8 and 89.2 CBS FM, Ssuubi FM, Radio Sapientia and Radio Two (Akkaboozi), and banned open-air radio talk shows.

    HRNJ-Uganda feels that the BC is overstepping its powers when it begins to regulate people's thoughts and information. These actions are illegal as they limit the ability of citizens to exercise their fundamental freedoms and liberties as stipulated in Art. 29 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda

  • The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has blamed political parties for the poor representation they receive from state broadcast stations. NBC's Head of Public Affairs Awwalu Salihu said refusal of aggrieved parties to report to the Commission when fair representation is not given to them does not help the commission in its quest to solve the problem.

    "If any station goes off course, it is left to the aggrieved parties to report to the commission and we will follow it up. But the biggest problem we have is that they never complain, some will rather go to the media and castigate us," he said.

    While stating that the commission had given each broadcast station political guidelines, he said letters had also been written to the stations to this effect, telling them that all parties need to be represented fairly.

    "This however does not mean equal airtime for everyone because some political parties are bigger than others," he said. He said the commission in conjunction with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was planning a political summit in this month where all parties and broadcast stations would be involved.
    "It is hoped that the issue of poor representation amongst others will be resolved at the end of the summit", he said.

  • Communications Minister Radhakrishna Padayachie announced last week that South Africa will complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital television by December 2013. The analogue switch off date was originally set for November 2011 but has since been postponed to December 2013 by the Communications Ministry.

    The minister revealed that South Africa would adopt the DVB-T2 standard for digital migration. After the December 2013 deadline, existing analogue TVs will not be able to transmit images but viewers equipped with digital TVs would not experience any problems.
    Once the analogue signal has been switched off, those with analogue TVs will need a Set-Top-Box (STB). The box will convert the digital signal to analogue for the analogue TV.  The Minister also mentioned that there were "export opportunities" with regards to STB as other African countries needing help with digital migration could look to South Africa as the manufacturing base of STB.

    Padayachie added that this digital migration transition could serve as a catalyst to revitalise the South African electronics manufacturing industry. Among the benefits of going digital, and on top of a clearer broadcast images for viewers, the other dividend is that it will start liberating the spectrum and provide more channels. DVB-T2 will provide viewers access to 14 channels.

    Start of January, some media reported that a grouping of aspirant black manufacturers organised labour plan to contest a cabinet decision to adopt a European digital terrestrial television broadcasting standard.

    Keith Thabo, the chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronics Components (Namec), said that the organisations would challenge the adoption of Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T2), a second-generation standard, because its introduction would fail to achieve the optimum socioeconomic impact. He said the groups favoured a Japanese standard, which is also used in Brazil, for South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting, which has to be completed by 2015.

    Namec is concerned that commercial broadcasters e.tv and M-Net, and decoder manufacturers Altech and Reunert, who claim to have spent millions on trials of the European standard, would be the only commercial beneficiaries if South Africa adopted DVB-T2.

  • The African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Media Initiative (AMI) convened a meeting on the Pan African Media Portal (PAMP) in Nairobi, Kenya, on 21 December 2010. The African Union Commission, A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media, partners on the implementation of this ambitious project, attended the meeting.
     
     The Nairobi gathering was a follow-up to the Informal Joint Experts Meeting organised by the African Union Commission and the European Commission (EC) in Addis Ababa, March 23-25, 2010 on the theme "Media and Development".
     
    Media play a critical role in promoting economic and human development. In order to help African media participate effectively and efficiently in the development efforts of the continent, the AUC has partnered with key players to develop a world class web platform that will serve as central point to access information about the fast changing African media landscape.
     
    This platform will gather information about media houses; list the national legislation of AU Member States on media, present journalism and communication schools, and provide a full list of all relevant media stakeholders in each African country.
     
    Participants in the Nairobi meeting agreed upon priority areas to implement in the first quarter of 2011 with the objective of launching a public website no later than March.
     
    “We are happy to see that this important project is finally underway. It has the full support of the EC, AUC and its chairperson Jean Ping. It is a new concept that will provide the hub of all African media information, and contacts, including the Diaspora, a unique and unifying concept- one that has never been seen before”
    said Habiba Mejri-Cheikh, the AUC spokesperson in charge of Communication and Information.
     
    “The African media landscape is fast changing with the huge impact of new information and communication technologies. It is high time that the media community comes together to create a unique tool which will provide the much needed information on the state of the media throughout the continent” commented Amadou Mahtar Ba, CEO of the African Media Initiative which oversees the implementation of the Pan African Media Portal. “We are grateful to A24 Media and AllAfrica Global Media who are pulling together their technological resources to make sure that this project takes off.”

  • 21-29 January 2011
    12th. “Festival national du film (FNF) Marocain” in Tangier
    Venue: Tangier - city in northern Morocco

    Long and short film competition hosted by Ahmed Ghazali, « président de la Haute Autorité de la Communication audiovisuelle » (HACA) in Morocco. There are 19 long films in competition.
    click for details here:
     

     

    9-11 February 2011
    Discop Africa
    Venue: Lapalm Royal Beach hotel, Accra, Ghana.

    Since 2009, DISCOP markets targeting Sub-Saharan African television marketplaces have brought together over 400 companies selling and buying television content in this part of the world.
    click for details here:
     

     

    10-20 February 2011
    “Berlinale” – Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin)
    Venue: Berlin

    One of the most important dates on the international film industry’s calendar: About 400 films are shown every year, more than 19,000 film professionals from 128 countries, including about 4,000 journalists, almost 300,000 tickets sold.
    click for details here:
     

     

    16-21 February 2011
    2011 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF)
    Venue: Los Angeles, CA, USA

    Completed U.S. and international feature-length and short films festival. The PAFF presents and showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans.  In addition to the film festival, the PAFF presents a world renowned Art Show featuring over 100 fine artists and craftspeople from around the world showcasing the best in Black fine art, sculpture, photography, unique handmade crafts, home furnishings, designer jewelry, designer fashions and accessories that highlight the artistry and beauty of the African aesthetic. click for details here:

     

    23rd till 26th February 2011
    Aluta film festival 2011
    Venue: Kimberley – South Africa.

    click for details here:
     

     

    26 February to 5 March 2011
    2011 FESPACO – 22nd edition
    Venue: Ouagadougou – Burkina Fasso

    Set up every two years, the well-known FESPACO festival is a week of celebration for Cinema for Africans and for the African Diaspora. Fespaco is considered as one of the biggest film events on the African continent. In 2011, it will be held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Communication of Burkina Faso
    click for details here:
     

     

    22nd - 27th March 2011
    Festival Cinema Africano Asia e America Latina 21° edizione
    Venue: Milano, Italy

    click for details here:

    22nd - 24th March 2011
    IPTV World Forum 2011
    Venue: Olympia, London UK

    A comprehensive programme of more than 200 visionary speakers, including over 140 service providers from telcos, cablecos, broadcasters and content providers. The conference programme is divided into four specific tracks focusing on IP Platforms for TV, Network Optimisation, Service Management and The Business of Content. Each day will start with a keynote plenary session discussing the innovations and services in IP and TV:
    click for details here: for a conference programme please e-mail gavin.whitechurch@informa.com
     

     

    23-25 March 2011
    AdExpo
    Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

    Mega Media AdExpo is a platform where the advertising industry, marketers, advertisers and media buyers gather and meet to discuss and plan advertising for the year ahead. Apart from the exhibits, the event also aims to educate with its offering of short 30 min workshops on interesting topics from Mobile marketing to internet advertising. 

     

    25 march to 9 April 2011
    Afrika Filmfestival
    Leuven, 3220 Holsbeek - Belgium

    The Afrika Filmfestival in Leuven is the most important annual showcase for African films in the Benelux. The festival promotes African cinema.
    click for details here:
     

     

    4-7 April 2011
    MIPTV
    Venue: Cannes, France

    MIPTV is the world's leading content market. It provides a unique opportunity to meet the key decision makers in the TV/Film, Digital media and Cinema industry. 21,000 m2 exhibition floor.
    click for details here:
     

     

    13-17 April 2011
    International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes
    Venue: Cannes

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    click for details here:
     

     

    April May 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Film Festival. AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:
     

     

    May 2010
    The Helsinki African Film Festival
    Venue: Andorra, Eerikinkatu 11, 00100 Helsinki

    Call for short film submissions - Deadline 31 December 2010

    Helsinki African Film Festival brings an entertaining and thought-provoking selection of contemporary African cinema to Finland. The festival aims to foster communication across cultures and support dialogue on wide-ranging issues related to Africa
    click for details here:

     

    2, 5 June 2011
    Africa Festival
    Venue: Wurzburg, Germany

    click for details here:

     

    11th to 19th June, 2011
    The 8th African Film Festival of Tarifa, Spain
    Calle Monte Carmelo, 5 bajo
    41011 Sevilla España

    click for details here:
     

     

    2 - 10 July, 2011
    Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)

    East Africa's largest film and arts festival, showcasing a broad spectrum of African films.
    click for details here:

     

    20-22 July 2011
    Mediatech Africa 2011 Exhibition
    The Coca-Cola Dome
    Northgate - Johannesburg (South Africa)

    Mediatech Africa SA's only all-inclusive broadcast, media, entertainment and AV trade. It showcases cutting edge technologies and services from industry leaders in television and broadcast, sound and audio, lighting and staging, animation, communication and related fields.
    click for details here:

     

    22-25 July 2011
    The 2nd Durban FilmMart over the 32nd Durban International Film Festival (21-31 July).
    Venue: Durban

    Contact: Durban Film Office –
    click for details here:

     

    July to Sept. 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA

    Outdoor Summer Screenings in NYC Parks. Featuring dance, music, food and of course films. AFF programs year-round; therefore, AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    click for details here:

     

    3-8 Octobre 2011
    Festival du Court Métrage Méditerranéen de Tanger
    Venue: Tangier, Morocco

    A festival focused on short films.
    for details E-mail : ccm@menara.ma

    31 Oct 7 Nov 2011
    Out In Africa
    South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    Venue: various, see website

    click for details here:

     
    Oct-Nov, final dates tba
    Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival
    Venue: Edinburgh's Filmhouse cinema

    The UK's largest African Film Festival
    click for details here:


    (final date tba)
    Festival du Monde Arabe du Court-métrage Azrou-Ifrane

    click for details here:

  •  At the start of January 2011, it was announced that South African  Parliament is moving ahead to fill the four vacancies on the SABC’s board, with its communications committee due to meet next week to draw up a shortlist of candidates. A total of 84 nominations have been received by Parliament since it called for names in October 2010.

     African Cinema will miss two grand figures: Mahama Johnson Traoré (1942-2010) and Sotigui Kouyaté (1936-2010) passed away in 2010 and will be honoured at FESPACO 2011.

     Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has taken on a new role: he’s starring in a television series called The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
    This remarkable nine part documentary premieres on SABC3 from Tuesday, 1st February at 20:00.

  • ACP Films to African film Producers
    Coming soon: a new call for proposals

    The new ACP-EU ACP cultural sector Support Programme will be launched in 2011 and includes two components: ACPFilms and ACPCultures.
    Funded by the 10th EDF, this new program has a budget of 30 million Euros, 24 million allocated to projects. A call for proposals will be launched in a couple of weeks.


    ACP Films: 2010 wrap up and perspectives in 2011

    The year 2010 ends on a positive note for the ACPFilms Programme, with several
    beneficiaries participating to many international festivals. I am glad to mention the wonderful film “A crying man” of the Chadian Mahamat Saleh Haroun, who won the Jury Prize at last Cannes Festival, and three awards at Dubai Film Festival- best director, best actor and best editor. The Last Flight of the Flamingo of the Mozambican Joao Ribeiro was also awarded at the Festival of Tarifa in Spain, and Viva Riva, by the Congolese Djo Munga, was invited to the Toronto Film Festival 2010 and to the next Berlin Film Festival in February 2011. The ACP cinema and audiovisual production has continued to strengthen its position in these prestigious environments.

    Also in the ACP field, our policy to make images available to the ACP local population is taking root. From Mozambique to Fiji via Trinidad & Tobago, people have access to local works through mobile digital cinema screenings or broadcasts on television channels, through projects supported by ACPFilms Programme. At the same time, the support offered by the Programme also strengthens distribution
    networks while giving priority to professional technical trainings.

    The cultural policy of the ACP Group aims at, among other things, developing and structuring film and audiovisual industries at intra-ACP level. It does so through the creation and dissemination of their own pictures in better conditions, better promotion of cultural diversity and enhancement of cultural identities in the ACP and intercultural dialogue on the one hand; on the other by promoting an environment conductive to the creation, trade and sustainability of their fundamental cultural values and diversity.
    Today more than ever, the ACP Secretariat affirms its continuing commitment to support the strengthening of the culture sector as a fundamental element in the development cooperation policy.

    This support that will be confirmed in a few weeks with the launch of the new “EU-ACP ACP cultural sector support Programme” combining the two components ACPFILMS and ACPCultures. The overall objective of this new Programme, with a budget of 30 million Euros, of which 24 million will be spent on projects, is to contribute to the struggle against poverty through the emergence and consolidation of sustainable cultural industries in ACP countries, fostering their contribution to social and economic development and preservation of cultural diversity. A first call for proposals will be launched in early 2011, to enhance the creation and production of cultural goods and services in the ACP States, through an integrated approach, with interregional distribution channels; to promote better access to local, regional, intra-ACP, European and international markets; and to build capacity of stakeholders, operators and cultural entrepreneurs in ACP countries. The focus will be on supporting projects that have South-South cooperation perspective and that seek to develop synergies at intra-ACP level.
    With this new programme, the ACP Secretariat took it to heart to hear the wishes of artists and cultural operators. Whenever it was possible, the specificity of the sector was taken into account when drafting the Guidelines to be published shortly.
    Once again, the ACP / EU demonstrate the benefit of the Cotonou Agreement for ACP cinema and audiovisual sector. I invite all ACP professionals and citizens of Member States of European Union to apply.

    To you all I extend my best wishes for 2011.

    Michèle Dominique RAYMOND
    Assistant Secretary General
    Department of Political Affairs
    and Human Development
    www.acpfilms.eu


    Call for entry - International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes, France, from
    13-17 April 2011.

    Submission of films and application for accreditation for the International Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes are now open.
    Closing date for film entries: February 20, 2011
    Film Genres Sought: Fiction/ Narrative, Documentary, Animation...
    Category: Long, Medium, Short film.
    More info here:


    Scholarships for Artists UNESCO-Aschberg 2011

    An application for UNESCO-Aschberg grants for artists are now open. These scholarships promote mobility of young artists (between 25 and 35), in order to enrich their personal perspectives, to enable them to engage in intercultural dialogue and to expose them to cultural diversity.
    For more information click here:

     

    Call for entries - Eighth edition of the African Film Festival of Tarifa, 11 to 19 June
    2011.

    The African Film Festival of Tarifa is organizing calls for applications:
    Submission of movies to be screened during the festival - Deadline for registration and sending DVDs: February 25, 2011. For more information e-mail: marionb@fcat.es

    Call for candidates to submit your pictures to the fourth Africa Photo competition.

    Registration deadline: March 1, 2011. For more information e-mail: gaetano@fcat.es

    To download regulations of these various applications: www.fcat.es/FCAT_fr

    Festival of Media Awards deadline has been extended.

    Due to the overwhelming response and the many requests the organiser have received, the deadline for the Festival of Media Awards entries has been extended to Friday 4 February 2011.

    CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards 2011

    CNN International and MultiChoice officially launched the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2011 Awards.
    The winners of these prestigious annual awards will be announced at a gala ceremony to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2011.
    The competition is open to African nationals who are professional journalists including freelancers across print, television, internet, photographic and radio. Full details on how to enter can be found by logging on at www.cnn.com/africanawards. The closing date for entries is 27 January 2011
    This year, the competition will recognise excellence in most journalist categories including the following:
    • Television Features Award
    • Television News Bulletin Award
    For further information please contact:
    CNN International London: Joel Brown + 44 20 7693 0967/ + 44 7967 293452 joel.brown@turner.com
    MultiChoice South Africa: Marietjie Groenewald + 27 11 289 3067 / +27 79 501 1758 Marietjie.Groenewald@multichoice.co.za

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Top story

  • The dirty downside of the ICT industry is that computers have to go somewhere when they die and because they are full of potentially toxic materials they cannot simply be dumped in landfills. Uganda’s Government has sought to tackle part of the problem by banning the import of secondhand computers and sparked the law of unintended consequences. Russell Southwood talked to Shakeel Padamsey of Camara and Kyle Spencer of the Uganda Linux Group about what’s happened.

    In June 2009 the Ugandan Government passed the Financial Bill which prohibited the import of  “used refrigerators, freezers, computers and television sets” from October 2009. The background to the legislation was a concern that Uganda was not dealing properly with the issue of e-waste.

    In May 2008 a report called “e-Waste Assessment in Uganda - A situational analysis of e-waste management and generation with special emphasis on personal computers authored by the Uganda Cleaner Production Centre and EMPA from Switzerland (and sponsored by UNID0 and Microsoft draw attention to the issue. It concluded that:”… only around 10% of those computers (estimated 300,000 in 2007) reach the waste stream, whereas the rest is kept in storage without being used. The 10% in the waste stream gets collected by individuals, whereas material and parts are sold informally and the rest gets dumped informally…This (is) equal to about 2,000 tons of computer waste (desktop unit
    and CRT screen) in total, which contains e.g. 80 tons of printed circuit boards and 400 tons of plastic. These numbers are hypothetical but represent a realistic order of magnitude”. The report’s recommendation was that it be dealt with by a UNIDO/Microsoft refurbishment initiative.

    However, the Government’s complete ban on used computers has had significant unintended consequences. According to a position paper in December 2010 from the E-Waste Special Interest Group is comprised of over 200 traders, importers, suppliers, recyclers, and ICT-Education charitable organisations involved with refurbished ICT equipment:” The vast majority of educational institutions, SMEs, and the public rely upon NGOs and other used-computer importers for affordable high-quality ICT equipment. This ban especially affects thousands of schools and millions of
    students who rely upon these organisations for their ICT needs”.

    “The six-fold price difference between the cheapest refurbished computer (supplied with educational software, training and maintenance), means that schools that
    would have been able to afford 10 or 20 computers now can only afford 2 or 3, making teaching ICT impossible and affecting generations of Ugandans. As a result of the work of organisations which were operating before the ban was implemented, over 2 million
    individuals now have access to high quality branded ICT equipment”.

    “Due to these efforts, educational software and the Internet is now more widely accessible, providing access for 1.8 million students across 4500 schools – working towards targets set out within a number of Millennium Development Goals (2 and 8f). Furthermore, these organisations have trained approximately 32,000 individuals, including 4000 teachers. As a result of the ban, it is estimated that per year at least 1,500 teachers will not be trained and more than 500,000 students will not gain access to ICT equipment”.

    But is not just the education sector that will feel the consequences but also Uganda’s economy:”According to our research, we estimate that the ban immediately eliminates over one thousand skilled jobs and annually removes $17 million from the local economy. A 2009 study by Private Sector Foundation Uganda, projects
    that losses as a result of the ban will total $60 million in revenue and 100,000 jobs in Uganda, compared to the EAC and other African countries without a ban”. All lobby groups are prone to exaggerate slightly for effect but the points are well made.

    The e-Waste Special Interest Group is arguing that the alternative is to produce sound and enforceable regulations on the importation of all electronic goods through licensing of businesses, ensuring only high quality goods are brought into the country. Elements of this approach would include: licensing importers of electronic goods; verification of equipment sent to Uganda by organizations like such Bureau Veritas, SGS, and Intertek; and a system of independent auditing procedures to be adopted with the help of
    relevant Government institutions to ensure that each organisation is actively
    involved in recycling activities; and a recycling “deposit” that would be refunded when the defunct computer was delivered to a recycling centre.

    The Government’s response to these points has been somewhat ill-thought-out. In the response from the Government Minister, NEMA (the environmental agency) and the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee, it said:”Uganda is being used as a dumping ground by developed countries and yet we do not have capacity to dispose E- waste”.

    Two points are very clear: Firstly, why would anyone go to the time and trouble of exporting e-waste to an inland country like Uganda? What is currently being exported are secondhand computers that have a 2-3 year life. Secondly, if Uganda genuinely becomes the ICT society it aspires to be, it will build up a steady stream of defunct computers (and fridges, freezers and televisions) and as every year passes the number will increase. Therefore surely now is the moment to start creating recycling facilities as one of the unfortunate consequences of getting wealthier is that you have to deal with a different type of waste.

    The response also said “that government plans to distribute free computers to government aided schools. It will also ensure that computers are assembled locally at affordable prices”. Sad to say, in our view pigs will fly before this starts happening. Again encouraging a local assembly industry is laudable but Uganda is a relatively small market in which to make it financially viable.

    Kyle Spencer estimates that out of an estimated 350,000-500,000 computers in the country, 130,000 are computers that were bought secondhand. Of these, 1 in seven were refurbished computers:”They simply don’t have the data to support their argument.” Currently an average refurbished computer costs between US$60-70 whereas a new computer at the low end costs around US$350, a price differential of 5-6 times.

    If the Government wants to encourage computer ownership then giving access at the lower price is surely worthy of consideration. Indeed Padamsey’s own organization sold refurbished computers to schools for just US$50. Padamsey says:”The Government wanted to give a waiver to one organization to import refurbished computers. But what can be given by Government can be taken away and a waiver system would be open to corruption.”

    Padamsey went to one of the major landfill sites North of Kampala:”There was some eWaste like dot matrix printers and TVs but most of it was very old. There’s a Chinese company that has been trying to buy plastics and metals at US25 cents a kilo. Things like this would be the basis for a new recycling industry. NEMA doesn’t seem to distinguish between refurbishing and recycling. Our organization runs an e-waste facility in Mombasa and when computers in schools reach the end of their life, they have to return them to us”.

    This is story without heroes and villains but a classic case where legislation has created unintended consequences. The Government has put itself in the position where it is cutting off a supply of cheap, working computers and will need to take on the task of supplying computers to schools (Which part of the budget will that come out of?). It is seeking to deal with a small amount of the refurbished waste stream without anticipating the huge increase in e-waste that the successful adoption of new computers will bring about. Creating recycling capacity has to be the way to go and is probably cheaper than the current legal corner that the politicians have backed themselves into.

    For more market news and insights, go to Balancing Act’s Web TV channel:

    Clips include:

    * Main One’s Michael Iyayi on extending the cable to South Africa and Cameroon.
    * Bouzaine Zaid on the use of You Tube in Morocco
    * Tito Alai on a B2B GPRS sales tracking tool.
    * Praveen Sadalage of Busy Internet on Ghana’s first third party data centre,
    * The CEO of Hadera Tech on green approaches to data servers for Africa.

    There are 51 clips in both English and French that contain news and information that does not appear in our e-letter or on our web site.

telecoms

  • Sudan Vote Monitor, a Web platform that allows ordinary citizens to report on electoral fraud and violence in real time via text message, went live on January 7, 2011, ahead of the January 9 independence referendum in South Sudan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor uses open source software to transmit, collect and interpret information from volunteer observers at polling stations, and also allows users to upload video to a YouTube site, or link directly to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in addition to several Sudan-specific sites.

     “Our technology will provide the closest thing that exists to a real-time snapshot of what is happening on the ground during the referendum,” says Fareed Zein, spokesperson for Sudan Vote Monitor. “Our role is to make it possible for ordinary people to monitor the process.”

    Powering the Sudan Vote Monitor Website is Ushahidi.com, a Web portal that allows anyone to gather data via SMS messaging, e-mail or the internet and
    visualize it on a map. Since the Ushahidi platform was first deployed during the 2008 political crisis in Kenya, it has been used for election monitoring in
    India, Burundi, Mexico and Afghanistan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor is a collaboration of several Sudanese civil society organizations led by the Sudan Institute for Policy and Research (SIRP)
    http://www.sudaninstitute.org and the Asmaa Society for Development http://asmaasociety.org.

  • Brymedia Consortium, one of the initial bidders for state-run incumbent telco Nitel, is looking to acquire the ailing operator, should the preferred buyer fail to make the initial payment, local newspaper Daily Independent reports, citing sources close to the consortium. Brymedia came third during the bidding process for Nitel in February 2010, after offering USD551 million for a 75% stake in Nitel (excluding its CDMA network) and its mobile arm M-Tel. The report follows the failure of Nitel’s preferred bidder, New Generation Telecommunications, to meet its extended deadline for payment of a USD750 million bid security on 23 December 2010.

    President Goodluck Jonathon finally approved New Generation’s bid of USD2.5 billion in October 2010, after an investigation into the bidding process led to an eight-month delay. New Generation – which comprises Minerva Group of Dubai, Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless and technical partner China Unicom – was asked to pay a bid security of USD750 million within ten days from 25 October and was given 60 days to pay the remaining USD1.75 billion.

    On 5 November the bid security deadline was extended by 20 working days and subsequently to 23 December 2010, after the consortium failed to come up with the funds in time. However, Usman Gumi, GiCell’s managing director, said that New Generation was able to secure financial documentation from a foreign investor – which he said showed evidence of imminent payment of the funds following processing by the banks – and submit it to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on 23 December. The BPE is due to meet to discuss the fate of NITEL shortly.

  • The High Court of Malawi has reportedly upheld a decision by telecoms regulator Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to introduce a new interconnection law governing calls across both fixed and mobile networks.

    Two mobile operators, Airtel Malawi (formerly Zain/Celtel) and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), had attained an injunction against the introduction of the Sender Keeps All (SKA) interconnection regime, in which the operator originating the call keeps all of the revenues it collects. However, having heard arguments from MACRA and the operators, the court has now lifted the injunction.

    According to a statement from MACRA following the 23 December 2010 ruling, this means therefore that the court’s decision vindicates the legality and rationale of MACRA’s decision to intervene in the interconnection dispute that currently exists among operators. The regulator has now instructed all fixed and wireless operators to abide by the new interconnection law.

  • Tigo Rwanda has announced that it is now providing mico-SIM cards for subscribers with smart phones particularly those using the 3G iPad and latest iPhone 4.  The company’s Marketing Manager Nina Ndabaneze said on 10th January 2011 that the micro-SIM is now available for Tigo Rwanda subscribers wishing to acquire new numbers and those who wish to swap and retain their old numbers.

    She said that the company has also slashed prices on the Tigo Go Wireless data modem from Rwf25,000 to Rwf19,700  making the device the most affordable 3G modem in Rwanda. From the 10th to the 16th of January, the price per megabyte for our Go Wireless modem subscribers will be Rwf15 from Rwf30/MB

    According to Ndabaneze the company is set to introduce two ZTE low-cost smart phones which are equally useful as any other smart phone when browsing the Internet. The phones including the G-R352 that costs Rwf33,700 (US$56) and the F102 that goes for Rwf35,700 (US$59) which each handset coming with free internet subscription for one month.

    Officials at the Muhima based company also said that Tigo Rwanda was the first to introduce the micro-SIM in Rwanda.  “We have had in our stock the micro-SIM for more than two months. With the use of the new micro-SIM, mobile devices can store a larger battery, and we already see that in the new iPhone which has 16 percent more capacity. With Facebook, Twitter and all these utilities, users browse the Internet all day so they want a large screen, and that kills the battery of most smart phones,” Ndabaneze said.

    “The micro-SIM can be significantly used with Apple products like the 3G iPad or with the new iPhone 4. It is sold at the same price of Rwf350. Tigo subscribers can purchase and use the card as new or also by swap,” Nabaneze added.

    The new iPhone 4 is the first mobile phone to forgo the use of the usual SIM card and move to micro-SIM. Tigo officials said that subscriber who have recently purchased or intend to purchase the iPhone 4 don’t need to worry about the availability of the micro-SIM.

    Tigo and all the other telecom companies in Rwanda already provide the usual mini-SIM card. The new micro-SIM card is basically over 50 percent smaller, measuring only 15 mm × 12 mm × 0.76 mm.

    The micro-SIM standard is the creation of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and it’s been a standard since late 2003.

    In addition to new technology offerings, Tigo is this week launching a portfolio of products under the banner “Tigo My Choice”.  Subscribers will be able to buy bulk packages of voice minutes, SMS or data by simply sending an SMS to the relevant short-code for each package.

    “With these new packages we are telling our subscribers that we understand their unique needs and we will always do our best to provide the most personalized experience for each of them as possible.  Our customers can get more information by dialing *505# on their Tigo mobile, or calling or visiting any of our customer care centres,” Ndabaneze said.   

internet

  • Construction of the national information communication technology broadband backbone is expected to be completed this December, according to a senior government official. The move brings the hope of increased broadband uptake and reduced Internet tariffs in the Tanzanian hinterland and beyond.

    The backbone, which is the terrestrial continuation of the fibre optic submarine cables that landed in the Dar es Salaam coast last year has already contributed to a significant drop in Internet capacity charges. The NICTBB project was embarked on in 2008 and is expected to cost about Sh251 billion when it is completed at the end of this year.

    "The construction of the backbone was divided in two phases to cover the whole country. Phase I became operational in July 2010 and covers the northern ring of the network with ten Points of Presence (POP) which include Dar es Salaam, Morogoro,Singida, Iringa, Babati, Arusha, Namanga, Moshi and Tanga," Gilder Kibola, Head of the National ICT Broadband Backbone told The Citizen in an interview recently in Dar es Salaam.

    "Phase II is expected to be completed by December 2011 with operational PoPs at Lindi, Mtwara, Tunduru, Songea, Sumbawanga, Tabora, Kigoma, Manyovu," she added. The project is funded by a $170 million soft loan from China and Sh30 billion from government sources.

    The government intends to turn the country into the regional ICT hub, according to Ms Kibola. Since phase I of the backbone became operational last July four major locally licensed cellular and data operators were subscribed to NICTBB services, with other two companies from landlocked countries of Malawi and Zambia getting access to NICTBB through licensed local operators.

    According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, the broadband subscriptions stood at four million by the end of last year.

  • Vodacom Business has begun rolling out its optical fibre network in towns across the Western Cape, with over 120km of cable trenched across Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Paarl and Wellington.

    Ermano Quartero, Managing Executive of Products and Marketing at Vodacom Business, explains that the fibre-optic cabling enables the rapid transfer of large amounts of data, and is ideal for services that require smooth data provisioning, such as video conferencing.

    Quartero says the current network covers 23km of cable in Stellenbosch, 48km of cable in Somerset West, and 49km in Paarl and Wellington. There are also 38km of optic spurs in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Somerset West, he notes.

    Parent company Vodacom has been investing heavily in its network infrastructure, reporting R4.573 billion in network expenditure, according to the company's last year-end financial results. Over the past six months, Vodacom laid 831km of fibre and has to date encircled 11 metro rings with optical technology across the country.

  • Nigeria internet Registration Association (NiRA), managers of the Nigerian name space on the internet, the dot ng domain name has released 50, 000 free domain names for Nigerians as part of efforts to identify with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the country. Registration of free domains commenced formally on Friday, December 31, 2010 and will run till March 21, 2011.

    President of NiRA, Mary Uduma, who disclosed this in Abuja saying: "This sense of identification is tied to our perceptiveness of the collective responsibility required to project the true and appropriate Nigerian image and our conviction that the nation's country code, Top Level Domain .ng, is a veritable tool towards achieving this. To this effect, we have chosen to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communications in the re-branding Nigeria Project with the offer of 50,000 free .ng domains in 50 days."

    She said the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) who will provide the necessary funding for the project implementation would champion the project.

    The Agency, she said is committed to training a substantial number of Nigerian youths as web developers in readiness for an envisaged increased demand for the services of web developers with the registration of 50,000 .ng domains in the first quarter of 2011, and the target population of the .ng registry with 250,000 domains by the end of 2011, thereby preparing them for gainful employment.

    The project is expected to be launched this month by NITDA who will also sponsor the capacity building effort of NiRA in the setting up of a datacenter and co-location facility to support the activation of the 250,000 domains.

    NITDA promises to use the project in promoting the adoption of government policy to recognise only .ng e-mails for Government-to-Government, Government-to-Business, and Government-to-Citizens transactions.

    While the free domain name offer lasts, registrars will register domains at no cost to registrants for a period of one year. The offer of free domains is restricted to the following second level domains (SLDs): .com.ng, .org.ng, .name.ng, .mobi.ng, and .sch.ng.

    Registrations outside the listed SLDs will attract the usual charges and other activities in the registry such as renewal and transfer shall attract the normal fees. Recipients are expected to renew their domains at the usual fees at the expiration of the one-year period.

    Since NiRA operates the Registry/Registrar module, domains can only be registered through NiRA accredited registrars, Uduma said. She listed conditions for participation in the free domain name registration to include compliance of all domain names with the NiRA domain name policy; All registrants are subject to the NiRA registrants policy; Domains that are not put to use within six months of the registration shall be withdrawn/deleted. The waiver on the domain registration fee is for a period of one year, only.

    Registrants are expected to pay the necessary renewal fee at the expiration of the one-year period; Registrars may offer some value-added services to the recipients beyond the offer of free domains from NiRA. Other guidelines include the right of registrants to choose, with regard to the freebies they are willing to accept from registrars, particularly on the hosting of their domains; and that registrants may park their .ng free domains on their existing sites since it is completely disallowed to park domains on sites other than theirs.

computing

  • Software giant Microsoft SA expects to name the first four or five winning partners in its multimillion-rand empowerment deal by next February. This comes after it dispelled government's concerns, which had held up the announcement for several months.

    Microsoft's scheme is anticipated to further transform empowerment in South Africa, as the company has already had calls from other multinationals seeking advice on how they can implement similar empowerment structures.

    The software company first announced its R472 million empowerment deal in April, saying it will partner with a handful of software developers, providing investment and advice, in a bid to grow start-up firms into multinational giants.

    Analysts previously described the deal as “unique in SA” and it has been hailed for empowering smaller companies instead of the usual suspects. Microsoft will fund start-up enterprises and provide business knowledge to help them become global software players, but will not take equity stakes in the companies in return.

    It received more than 680 applications from prospective companies in response to its nationwide request for proposals. Of these, 141 met the qualifying criteria, and were whittled down further through a selection panel.

    The company expected to announce the first handful of partners in October, but this was held up when concerns arose within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) over how to measure the outcomes of the equity equivalency plan.

    Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati says he met with DTI acting director-general Lionel October early last month and the parties agreed on a memorandum of understanding that now only needs to be signed off.

    Once the deal has been signed, the company will receive 20 ownership points, which it will earn in return for offering the equity-equivalency plan, says Nyati. He hopes to be in a position to announce the first four or five companies that will benefit from investment and assistance in the middle of next month.

    Nyati says another one or two companies could benefit from the deal this year and Microsoft will open up the offer for new applications. However, after wrapping up the DTI's concerns, the process is expected to run faster.

    Microsoft SA has had a number of enquiries from companies seeking guidance on how to implement a similar deal, says Nyati. His sense is that some multinationals may replicate Microsoft's deal to some degree.

  • A commuter bus service company, Kigali Bus Services (KBS), effective today started issuing electronic cards for its passengers, a technology that is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes region.

    According to the company's marketing manager, Thierry Ngarambe, the service will relieve passengers the risk of having to travel with money in their pocket and help them with effective budgeting.

    Ngarambe also said that the cards, known as twende card are in two categories; e-pass which allows a passenger to load any amount of money from Rwf 200 to 60,000 which is the maximum and seasonal card which ranges from Rwf10,000 valid for one month and to 60,000 for six months. They can be accessed through mobile phone agents, FINA Bank, KBS bus conductors and at the Union Trade Centre.

    He explained that the system was in line with the government policies of technological advancement and environmental cleanliness and as well fulfilling the Central Bank campaign of discouraging people to move with cash in their pockets. The system, according to Ngarambe will also help the company maximize profits due to cases of dishonest taxi touts.

    "This is the most convenient way to achieve efficiency, the card can be used by a passenger swiping it in an electronic device at the bus entrance and deducts the fare automatically for e-passes and the date of expiry for a seasonal card," he said.

    Ngarambe also revealed that the use of paper tickets will not be immediately stopped but passengers using the new system will given priority. He further pointed that a 20 percent discount is guaranteed for the first season card buyers.

    In case of one's card loss or misplacement, passengers are assured of refund with a new card loaded with the previous amount only after the owner had reported the loss to the management who will then cancel the lost card.

  • The Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) on Monday rolled out its electronic connectivity agenda for 2011, which includes setting Information, Communication and Technology centres in all nurses training institutions.

    “GIFEC partnering with the Ministry of Health would equip all nursing training institutions with modern computer laboratory to ensure that trainees have unhindered access to the internet and other electronic facilities,” Kofi Attor, GIFEC Administrator, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview in Accra.

    He said the project involved providing the institutions with high speed computers, printers, scanners, projectors and servers, linking them with the internet in consonance with government’s policy.

    Attoh said under the “Better Ghana Agenda,” and in the Action Year of the government, the President had acknowledged the urgent need for the development and implementation of a comprehensive and integrated ICT for accelerated development policies, strategies and plans.

    In view of these, GIFEC will set up ICT Centres at Agricultural Training Institutions, Security Agencies and National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and also set up more Community Information Centres (CIC).

    Attor said the government in effect had identified ICT as the driver and enabler of a sustained and co-ordinated socio-economic development in Ghana. He said other projects such as Common Telecommunication Facilities, School Connectivity, CIC, Post Office Connectivity, Prison Connectivity, and the Library projects would continue in 2011.
    “We are currently working under the School Connectivity Project with 38

    Colleges of Education, 10 Youth Centres, 37 National Vocational Training Institutes, 37 Technical Schools and a number of Junior and Senior High Schools.” Attoh said GIFEC was set up to facilitate the spread of ICT and its use in rural Ghana to help promote research and reading culture, train rural schoolchildren and teachers in and the use of ICT and empower rural communities by providing access to information.

    He said GIFEC was collaborating with all the major telecommunications operators in the provision of common telecommunications site facilities in selected areas across the country under the Universal Access to Telecommunications Programme (UATP).

    The collaboration involves the award of subsidies to willing and eligible telecommunications operators for the provision of Common Telecommunications Site Facilities.

    He said GIFEC would also continue to educate both the public and telecommunication operators on the erection of masts, their impact on community and health of the people and also monitor the situation to ensure that operators adhered to safety mechanism.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced a $25 million equity investment in Helios Towers Africa Limited (HTA) to help the company build and maintain mobile phone towers in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, increasing mobile phone coverage and reducing communication costs in the region.

    HTA is building a pan-Africa tower company starting in Ghana and expanding into other countries such as Tanzania. The company leases space on its mobile towers to telecom companies, helping widen access to mobile telephony, and other communications technologies, bringing new opportunities, including voice services, market information, financial services, and health services, to developing countries in Africa.

    Helios CEO, Charles Green, said, “IFC understands the unique needs of growing companies in Africa’s telecoms sector and has provided us with a finance package that will allow us to continue our role as the leading independent tower company in Africa, expanding and providing benefits to mobile operators and users in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Bernard Sheahan, IFC Director of Infrastructure & Natural Resources in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Broadening access to affordable mobile telecommunications services remains a crucial part of development across Africa. With this investment, IFC is further lowering the barriers to accessing the knowledge, innovation, and improved government and business services that mobile communications can bring.”

    The reduced costs of leasing towers gives new, smaller companies access to existing tower facilities and allows larger operators to expand into remote areas that would normally by unprofitable.  Lower tower costs should result in enhanced service offerings and declining mobile prices for African consumers.

    HTA was established by Helios Investment Partners in 2009 to replicate the success achieved by its affiliate, Helios Towers Nigeria, which in 2005 became the first independent tower company in Africa. In 2010, HTA formed Helios Towers Ghana Limited to purchase and lease back approximately 750 towers in Ghana to mobile operator Millicom, the first transaction of its kind in Africa. The company recently announced that it will acquire an additional 1,020 sites from Millicom in Tanzania.

    The investment follows IFC’s 2009 investment in Helios Towers Nigeria, where IFC made available $250 million in syndicated loans, mezzanine financing and senior debt, allowing the company to build, maintain, and lease space on its network of telecommunications towers in Nigeria.

  • Two alleged accomplices of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, have pleaded guilty to V-Mobile shares theft charges. Daniel McCann and Mr. De Boer were charged for forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares owned by Akwa Ibom and Delta States. They are accused of violating the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act of the UK by creating fake documents between Delta State and "Africa Finance Ltd," and also between Delta and "African Development Company."

    They are also accused of creating a false account that used both men's names as beneficiaries as part of a scheme to hide the fraudulent nature of the transactions. Daniel McCann pleaded guilty before the Southwark Crown Court judge, last week, while Mr. De Boer had pleaded guilty in a similar trial last December

    Late last year, Ibori's UK-based lawyer, Bhadreh Gohil, who was accused of participating in the laundering of funds realised from the sale of V-Mobile shares owned by the governments of Delta and Akwa Ibom had also pleaded guilty.

    Others who are accused in the scam include Mr. Ibori, David Edevbie, a former Principal Secretary to Umaru Yar'Adua; Love Ojakovo, a former Commissioner of Finance to Ibori and Henry Imashekka, a business associate of Ibori.

    The accused face 14 counts of forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares by two from the Niger Delta region. The accused men reportedly used front companies to defraud the Nigerian states of a total of $37.8 million realised from the sale of the shares.

    Prosecutors alleged that a company named "Africa Development Finance Company" was the major conduit used to steal the funds.

    In an instance cited in the case summary, prosecutors state that an $11 million loan was purportedly granted to an aviation company that assisted Mr. Ibori in purchasing a jet from Canada; $10 million was given to "Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited," the company that Ibori used to purchase Wilbros; and another $790,000 was granted to another fake firm "Africa Development Co." and an offshore nominee firm.

    The two men alongside Mr. Gohil will be sentenced on February 21, 2011. UK prosecutors expect that Mr. Ibori would be coming to London soon after the United Emirates Authorities give a green for UK Metropolitan Police to move him over to London where he is expected to face three separate trials for money laundering, forgery and graft. The successful prosecution of Ibori has so far netted his wife, mistress and older sister.

  • Safaricom shares accounted for more than half of the market turnover recorded at the Nairobi Stock Exchange last year, indicating strong investor interest in the telecommunications firm and bearing heavily on overall movement at the bourse.

    Research by Sterling Investment Bank indicates that more than 3.4 billion shares of the listed mobile phone service provider were traded out of the 5.9 billion shares moved at the Nairobi bourse, translating into about 57 per cent of the total market volumes.

    Fund managers attributed the high turnover at the counter to the high float of the company's shares in the market. "Safaricom traded the highest volumes because it is a 'cheap' stock offering investors relative stability," said Reginald Kadzutu, a senior fund manager.

    The trend was upheld in the first week of trading at the NSE as more than 47 million of the company's shares were sold, out of a total of 77 million in trade dominated by foreign investors.

    This comes amid calls from institutional investors to have the share consolidated to mop up the high volumes of the stock that have been blamed for the sluggish price appreciation that has kept the stock trading below its Sh5 per share offer price.

    The company's chief executive, Bob Collymore, held investor road shows in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Barcelona, New York, Boston and Washington DC where he made presentations to institutional investors who are seen as having the financial muscle to buy the stock in bulk and lead to its natural consolidation. "Given its complexity and legal implications, our board of directors is still deliberating and consulting relevant parties on how best to approach it," said Collymore in an interview.

    The firm's shareholder records indicate that local corporate investors owned 86 per cent of the company at the beginning of December, while foreign corporate investors owned 6.2 per cent.

    At the time of listing in 2008, the company introduced 10 billion shares to the NSE out of the total 40 billion issued shares in a move meant to ensure that shares of the corporation, then majority owned by the State, were spread to more Kenyans.

    The IPO was massively oversubscribed with investors placing offers worth Sh226 billion as compared to the Sh50 billion that the government's 25 per cent stake was worth.

    In the share allocation, foreign investors got less than an eighth of the bids they collectively put in, and have generally been strong on the buy side despite the stock's slow price growth which has only managed an all time high of Sh6.

    Einsten Kihanda, a fund manager at ICEA Asset Management, said that the high volumes attributed to the counter indicate there is an oversupply of the stock in the market, which has further depressed prices.

    "There are too many Safaricom shares in the market which have resulted in the stock selling below its real value," said Mr Kihanda.

    He, however, said that a share buy-back could be the only way that the oversupply of the stock could be resolved to pave way for a price appreciation to reflect on the firm's fundamentals.

    In the half year results for the period ending June 2010, the company had grown its revenue 15.9 per cent to Sh47 billion at a time when income from non-voice shot up by more than 71 per cent to Sh14.6 billion.

    It is expected that revenue from the voice segment would take a hit as call rates declined by more than 50 per cent in the course of the second half of the year.

    The company has, however, sought to reduce dependency on airtime sales for revenue and has diversified into data and retail sales of gadgets to plug the income leaks.

    The regulatory framework would have to be changed to allow for share buy back, according to Mr Kihanda, who noted that the current set of laws in Kenya do not allow for share consolidation.

    "It is definite that Safaricom would drive the volumes this year again," he added.

    Demand for the share is likely to push the stock price up to its offer price of Sh5 in the foreseeable future, while a protracted price war in the second half of last year in the mobile telephone industry had dampened the company's prospects.

    This saw investors wary of the implications of the price war flee the counter, suppressing the stock price to an all-time low of Sh2.75.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom has stepped up its foray into mobile commerce by introducing M-Pesa-based booking of travel tickets and hotel accommodation - a new service that also promises to open additional revenue opportunities for the company's agents. Though the telecommunications operator had introduced a similar ticket-payment service almost one year ago, the new system is an improvement on the earlier "Easy Travel" version in that it allows customers to obtain ticket printouts from Safaricom's customer care shops and later from M-Pesa dealers. "We have launched the service with the necessary infrastructure at over 30 Safaricom shops countrywide for now. Plans are under way to recruit strategic agent outlets which will offer the service," said Bob Collymore, the company's chief executive. In addition, parents and guardians can now remit school fees for their children to the learning institutions through Safaricom's mobile phone money transfer service, M-Pesa.

    - The signal of the cellphone company, Movicel, has reached Caimbambo district, in central Benguela province, thus connecting the locality to the rest of Angola and the world.

    - Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom, the country's largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, has announced that it has reduced the price of sending an on-network SMS to KES1 (USD0.01), down from KES3.5. An SMS sent to an alternative operator's network will cost KES2, down from KES5. Safaricom has confirmed that the newly reduced rates will be permanent, and apply to both pre-paid and post-paid customers.

    - InMobi, a leading mobile ad network, has released its updated network research report.It provides a snapshot of mobile advertising trends in Africa between July 2010 and October 2010. “Africa continues to be a major market in the global mobile ad ecosystem. With nearly 19 per cent – growth in mobile ad impression inventory in just 90 days, it’s clear Africans are increasingly connecting to the Internet via their mobile phone. Key findings include breaking of the 3 billion impressions mark to reach 3.3 billion monthly impressions saying this represented an 18.8% growth over just 90 days.

    - AdMob, the mobile advertising agency now owned by Google says that it is now handling in excess of 2 billion ad requests per day, more than quadrupling the daily rate over the last twelve months. The growth is global. Nine countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in December 2010, up from just one country a year ago. The strongest regional growth in monthly ad requests over the past year has come from Asia (564%), Western Europe (471%) and Oceania (363%). Growth in Africa was recorded at 81%.

    - Namibia’s mobile operator, MTC Namibia has broadened its customer service capacity by introducing an Outbound Call Centre as from mid-December 2010. Before the opening of the Outbound Call Centre, MTC only had an Inbound Call Centre which caters for customers calling in to seek solutions and understanding of various queries that they may have with the company’s products and/or services.

    - A research team at the University of Dar es Salaam says half the Tanzanian population is currently hooked to mobile phones, and that it takes just a handset to run a business in the country. Led by Prof Ophelia Mascarenhas of the university, there is no need for offices, visiting cards or huge capital investments. The Tanzanian study is part of four-nation initiative code-named Picture-Africa. The other countries currently doing similar studies are Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – all financed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Digital Content

  • Pumwani Maternity Hospital, in the impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood of Eastlands, is the site of a trial project using mobile phones to help HIV-positive mothers avoid passing the virus on to their children. Juliet Wangari Njuguna is a research nurse with Kenya Aids Control Project. She works at the Pumwani clinic to assist HIV-positive mothers.

    "We help with the enrolment, and as the patients are coming in they are sifted. We talk to the ones who happen to be HIV positive, and we find out how long they have known their status and if they have disclosed it to anyone." They also find out if the women have a mobile phone.

    In July, the Kenya Aids Control Project started using the Pumwani Hospital as a site to study the potential of following up with HIV positive patients using mobile phones.

    The phone contact is intended to make sure that mothers are keeping up with taking their antiretroviral medicines and stay informed on what they need to do during their pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to their child.

    Mobile phones have become a popular means of communication in Kenya. The recent lowering of costs by the various service providers is encouraging even more people to embrace the mobile phone.

    Pediatrician Frida Govedi, the chief executive officer of Pumwani Maternity Hospital, says, "through this telephony they are being empowered with information. How they should eat, when they should take their vitamins, when they should come for their CD4 counts, it is an interactive medium between the mother and the healthcare worker."

    Ms Njuguna and the other research nurses at Pumwani guide HIV-positive mothers at the clinic through a questionnaire to determine if they are candidates for the mobile phone programme. The questionnaire records details such as the woman's age, her general health, how long she has known that she is HIV positive and if she is already on any medication.

    The mother also has to live within a reasonable distance of the hospital and be able to understand English or Kiswahili. The questionnaire responses are entered into a database. All the women will receive antiretroviral therapy, but a randomly selected group will also receive SMS messages.

    All the women will be followed-up after they give birth to assess the success of the course of treatment. This is also aimed at measuring the effectiveness of the SMS prompts to the mothers receiving the messages against the results of a control group.

    "The women start receiving one message per week reminding them to come for their antenatal care visit," says Ms Njuguna. "Then in their last month of pregnancy, the message changes to remind them to take their drugs.

    "But we write, 'Remember to take your vitamins.' We don't want to put 'ARVs' in a text message, because we don't know who can come across their phones." Ms Njuguna says stigma and the pressure to hide one's HIV status are a major challenge for HIV positive women.

    Extreme poverty is another challenge, with women sometimes missing appointments due to a lack of money for transport or at times not being able to make it as they struggle to make ends meet.

    Literacy is yet another obstacle. "Another thing is that some of them understand English and Kiswahili, but they can't read, so the text messages will not help them. So there are some who feel like we should do calls in the future."

    Dr Govedi worries that the potential advantages of the SMS notification system are also limited by the late enrolment into the programme of many of the women, who are far into their pregnancy by the time they first come to Pumwani.

    "We would have loved to have gotten them as early as 14 weeks, when we are able to institute their antiretroviral therapy for PMTCT. But you find most of the mothers are coming to us well after 20 weeks," says Dr Govedi.

    A day in the life of the health workers providing mobile support is busy. Njuguna must keep up with responding to various text messages and calls from the over 90 women enrolled in the programme, as well as ensuring crucial information is sent out at the right time.

    The routine messages are programmed into a computer and sent out automatically, but when that system is down, a health worker must send them out manually to the women who depend on the reminders.

    She feels it's worth the extra work. "It feels good that you are doing something and they are grateful.

    Then they tend to ask you all sorts of questions, which is better than being at home and assuming things. So you feel like you are having an impact in people's lives."

    The initiative is expected to end in mid-2013. Researchers hope to find positive results in empowering women living with HIV to protect their own health and that of their newborn children.

  • Traffic lights have become attractive targets for thieves in Johannesburg. Some 400 high-tech South African traffic lights are out of action after thieves in Johannesburg stole the mobile phone Sim cards they contain. The thieves ran up bills amounting to thousands of dollars by using the stolen cards to make calls.

    Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) said it is investigating the possibility of an "inside job" after only the Sim card-fitted traffic lights were targeted. The cards were fitted to notify JRA when the traffic lights were faulty. JRA believes a syndicate "with links on the inside" is behind the thefts.

    "We have 2,000 major intersections in Johannesburg and only 600 of those were fitted with the cards," the agency's spokesperson Thulani Makhubela told the BBC. "No-one apart from JRA and our supplier knows which intersections have that system." He described the thefts as "systematic and co-ordinated".

    "The vandalism began with a few lights in November and we repaired them. Over December the thieves struck again, this time hitting hundreds more, including the ones we had repaired," he said. "These people know what they are doing."

    Repairing the faulty traffic lights will cost JRA about 9m rand ($1.3m; £870,000).
    JRA has said it has blocked all the stolen Sim cards so that they cannot be used to make further calls - but this was not before the thieves had run up huge bills.

    "One card had a bill of 30,000 rand ($4,500; £2,900) and we are talking about no less than 150 Sim card bills. Whichever way we look at it we are talking about a lot of money," said Mr Makhubela. Several cases of theft and vandalism have apparently been opened across Johannesburg.

    Johannesburg's roads have been fairly quiet over December but with hundreds of holiday-makers expected to return over the weekend, the damaged lights pose a hazard in the city's major roads says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

More

  • - Jin Moo Lee has been appointed as LG Electronics SA's new CEO, replacing Peet van Rooyen as part of a global restructuring process of the multinational group's operations.

    - The new fixed line service company Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) CEO, replaces expatriate Bernd Flack who left last month. Charles Chuka becomes the second indigenous Malawian to take over the running of a telecommunications company in the country. He is preceded by Saulos Chilima who took over as executive director of Celtel, now Airtel, a mobile telecommunications service provider, last year.

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011, Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
    Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition is a landmark Conference on Africa and significant business networking occasion for the top corporate players active in, across and involved with the development of the African continent - Cape-to-Cairo, with Governments and officials in key industries and state institutions.
    Contact: babette@glopac.com or visit here

    ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach

    23-26 March 2011, Ota, Nigeria
    The conference will initiate research and practice agenda where ICTs will aid the academia, organizations - public and private and non-governmental to improve socio-economic conditions and directly benefit the disadvantaged in some manner.
    For further information visit here

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011

    4-5 April, Movenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE
    Now in its 4th year and attended by over 200 attendees in 2010, Informa Telecoms and Media’s Managed Services for Growth Markets event will take place on 4th - 5th April at the Moevenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE.With a proven track-record and repeat sponsorship from leading suppliers Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NokiaSiemens Networks and Motorola, this event is truly established as the ultimate meeting-place for the Managed Services industry in the growth markets.A 50% discount for operators ensures a high percentage operator attendance.  Extended break times and additional social functions will guarantee a further enhancement to the already unique networking opportunities. Informa’s Managed Services for Growth Markets conference is the only established event in the region, proven to deliver an industry focussed agenda, the highest level speakers, superior networking opportunities, and top class delegates year on year.
For more information visit here

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa

    9 March  2011, Grand Millennium Hotel, Dubai
     Taking place on the 9th March 2011, the Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East and Africa is a Free-to-attend event and will feature all of the key players within the Cloud Computing and SaaS market providing an introduction, discussion and look into the future for the ICT industry.
    This one day conference will provide the most complete and comprehensive platform for the global Cloud Computing and SaaS industry. Register Free today and get inspiration on how to address your latest issues with advice from real-life end-user case studies and practical examples.
    Show Highlights include:
    1 Day Conference on Cloud Computing and SaaS
    Featuring presentations on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Applications, IaaS, Virtualization and PaaS
    Keynote theatre featuring leading industry speakers
    More case studies than any other like event
    Learn from the key players offering leading products and services
    Pre-show online meeting planner
    Evening networking reception for all attendees
    For more information please contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com. Or visit here

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit here

  • The Tech Awards
    The Tech Awards is a programme that aims to honour and award innovators from around the world who use technology to benefit humanity. Three Laureates in each category are honoured, and one Laureate per category receives US$50 000.

    Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

    The purpose of The Tech Awards programme is to inspire global engagement in applying technology to humanity's most pressing problems by recognising individuals, organisations, and companies that are utilising innovative technology solutions to address the most urgent issues facing our planet.

    The categories are: environment, economic development, education, equality and heath.

    The submission deadline is 31 March 2011.

    For nomination form,  For more information about the award,
    To view other opportunities, visit:

    Request for Expressions of Interest - Maputo ICT Incubator Program
    The Government of Mozambique (GoM) has received a Credit from the International Development Association (IDA) toward the cost of the Mozambique eGovernment and Communications Infrastructure Project (MEGCIP) and intends to apply part of the proceeds for contracting of services and infrastructure to establish the “Maputo ICT Incubation Program”. Other complementary funds to be used in this project will be obtained from the Finnish Government, channeled through infoDev.              

    OBJECTIVE OF ASSIGNMENT
    To select a host organization (incubation partner) capable of supporting emerging ICT-enabled businesses and incubating them towards growth and success. The vision for the pilot incubator is that it will eventually become a national ICT small business support center, including additional physical and virtual facilities, contributing strategically to the sector’s growth.

    SCOPE OF SERVICES
    The Incubator will be guided by a business plan, agreed upon with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). It is expected that the Incubator manager will be selected via a competitive process. The incubation model to be agreed upon with MCT will be expected to deliver on the following:

    - Create affordable office space and facilities for small and medium-sized ICT companies. If a virtual/outreach model is proposed, then the minimum space requirement must be specified and made available free of charge

    - Provide Human Resources to manage the Maputo ICT Incubator facilities and services. Where these resources will be “in sourced” indicate which organization will be providing these resources.
    - Grow the ICT industry by facilitating the development and successful growth of early stage companies
    - Attract investment into local ICT companies and services providers
    - Build understanding among the broader business community in terms of the relevance and importance of small, innovative ICT companies in their value chains
    - Position Mozambique as an ICT innovator on the African continent
    - Develop a business model that generates revenue streams to ensure the sustainability of the incubator
    - Generate funds in the medium to long term to support the expansion of the incubator
    - Create linkages with strategic partners in building a sustainable ecosystem
    - Support extension on the Maputo incubator through virtual support services and expansion to other physical locations (such as the Maluana Science Park or incubator facilities in other provinces throughout the country)

    MCT acting as beneficiary institution now invites host organizations interested in managing the Maputo ICT incubator using their own facilities or those of their consortium partners. Interested host organizations must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services. This should include evidence of:
    - The availability of free space and facilities that can be used, with relatively little adaptation, to accommodate start-ups and SMEs , and which can be scaled up over time as the incubator grows;
    - A close link to innovation and to entrepreneurs and the ability to generate, or attract, a steady flow of ICT business start-ups and requisite funding.
    - Energetic, inspired and capable management able to stimulate the development of the ICT small business community. This team should be composed at least by the Maputo ICT Incubator Manager, Business Development Manager, Financial Manager, Administrative Officer and Secretary (the Incubator manager however may be selected in parallel),
    - The host or at least one consortium partner should be of Mozambican origin and the institution based in Mozambique; and provide a viable business plan, geared towards meeting the objectives and purposes outlined above, and be capable of sustaining growth after the expiry of the grant-support period.

    This assignment is estimated to cover an initial two-year engagement for grant support with the possibility of extension, depending on the overall success of the program.

    Host organizations will be selected in accordance with the procedures set out in the World Bank’s guidelines:

    Selection and employment of consultants by World Bank Borrowers, May 2004 (revised October 2006, and May 2010). Interested consultants may obtain additional information at the address indicated below during the working days from 7:30 a.m. to 15:30 p.m. (local time) and on MCT web page www.mct.gov.mz.

    Expression of interest must be delivered to the address below until 15:30 p.m. (local time) of January 23rd, 2011

    Ministry of Science and Technology
    Directorate of Infrastructure and Information Systems (DISI )
    Av. Patrice Lumumba, 770
    Maputo-Mozambique
    Tel.: +258 21 352800
    Fax: +258 21 352860
    E-mail: secretariado@mct.gov.mz

  • Vodafone and Huawei - Ghana
    Ghanaian fixed and mobile operator Vodafone Ghana has awarded China’s Huawei a five-year managed services agreement under which it will take over responsibilities for the operations and maintenance of the Vodafone mobile, microwave, SDH and fixed switching networks. It is hoped the long term partnership will provide the telco with a sustainable operating model, reducing its operating expenses and enabling it to focus further on providing more attractive new services to its customers. The network operations agreement signed by the pair also guarantees performance and service quality of the Vodafone network, which is used by multiple vendors across the country, the vendor said.


    Synchronica and handset manufacturer - Africa

    Synchronica, the international provider of next-generation mobile messaging services, has secured an initial contract worth more than USD 500,000 with a device manufacturer targeting the African mass market. The device manufacturer will bundle the white-labelled Synchronica Mobile Gateway with a number of MediaTek-based handsets, enabling consumers in Africa to experience a BlackBerry-like service on a range of low-cost devices.

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  • The huge task of the digital transition in broadcasting is beginning to pick up pace in East Africa. In February Uganda will become the third country in the region to offer live digital transmission as an alternative to the existing analog signals. However, key obstacles still need to be cleared if the process is to find favour amongst Africa’s TV viewers. Russell Southwood has spoken to Jacaranda Digital Broadcasting’s CEO Richard Lutwama about its investment in a Uganda-wide digital transmission network.

    Five Ugandan television stations took part in a digital broadcast pilot with 200 viewers receiving the signal in the capital Kampala in November 2009. The five television stations taking part in the pilot include Kenyan-owned Nation Television (NTV), WBS, East Africa Television and Nile Broadcasting Service. The pilot transmissions were carried out by Next Generation Broadcasting, a Swedish company in partnership with national broadcaster Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) TV.

    Jacaranda Digital Broadcasting is one of four “pioneer” digital signal carrier licence holders, which also include the Chinese company Star TV and the Swedish company NGB. Therefore Uganda’s 10 terrestrial broadcasters will have a choice of signal carrier and will not be compelled to use the state-owned broadcaster’s transmission network.

    Jacaranda Digital Broadcasting will be rolling out its digital transmission network in four phases: the first one will cover Kampala and surrounding areas and subsequent phases will cover the west, the north and the east of the country. The first phase, which will go live in the third week of February, will cost US$850,000 and the total network build cost will be US$2.5 million. When the full roll-out is completed in late 2012 the transmission network will cover 70% of the population.

    Jacaranda Digital Broadcasting’s CEO Richard Lutwama has chosen the DVB-T standard over the more up-to-date DVB-T2 standard now being used in neighbouring Kenya:”According to our vendors, the DVB-T2 standard is still very unstable and the set-top boxes are expensive for end users, currently costing around US$200.”

    Currently India is discussing rolling out straight to DVB-T2 and if it does so, then the current instabilities will be resolved and the long production runs will bring the set-top box price down. However, Lutwama believes that this means T2 will not be worth considering for at least 2-3 years.

    Lutwama says that his company will roll-out 28 channels, 18 of these will be for national content and 12 will be kept in reserve for later local content channels. Jacaranda Digital Broadcasting’s business model is built on two elements: firstly, it will sell digital transmission capacity to terrestrial Free-To-Air broadcasters and secondly, it will offer Pay TV content. On the latter, Lutwama told us:”If we have 50,000 customers we will break even but we’ll be comfortable with 120,000 customers. We’re not aiming at the high end of the market and we want users not to be paying more than US$10 per month. If we’re able to achieve these targets, we’ll look to extend to hundreds of thousands of more customers.”

    East Africa has got in place the licensing for digital signal carriers and attracted operators but Government has still failed to create the circumstances to make the changeover a rapid success. Currently a set-top box for an end-user in Uganda costs around US$60.

    And as Lutwama told us:”The transition deadline is early 2012. We don’t think the Government has done enough to make the transition work. It has not moved a finger. It must meet us halfway by removing the tax on the set-top box. If they did that, the set-top box price would be US$40 and we could roll part of the payment into our monthly charges and offer a set-top box at a much lower price. If we could provide it for US$20, our monthly fees would still be very low.”

    The other missing element is a unified marketing response by the Free-To-Air (FTA) broadcasters. In the UK, FTA broadcasters came together to promote a Freeview branded set-top box which offered all of the FTA broadcasters existing channels and their new ones.

    Some of these new channels were extremely simple to create. Channel 4 simply used one to run programmes one hour later to allow people a second chance to see things if they weren’t home when the programme started. Five used an additional channel to create Five USA to package its popular US programming in a single channel.

    The row in Kenya between the Government and the FTA broadcasters is over who gets the new channels: will it be the existing players or will it be the new Pay TV operators who tend to be the investors in the digital transmission infrastructure? However, thus far traditional FTA broadcasters have not put much on the table in terms of programming ideas.

    So where Africa’s digital transition is taking place, it’s succeeding in getting the transmission infrastructure in place but too little attention is being paid creating a content bonus to attract African TV viewers to the new technology. Without this focus, the whole process will be extremely slow or may be still-born.

    News announcement: Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel

    Also do not miss our Web TV channel (beta version) which highlights recent interviews with top African TV and Radio personalities. There are interviews in both English and French. In particular look out for Twitter’s Jessica Verrilli of Twitter talking about how African media is making use of its service. Click here

     

    CALL FOR PAPERS

    Africa’s broadcast and film industries are entering the new decade full of dynamism and potential as a result of last liberalisation in broadcasting and unprecedented entrepreneurial drive in film-making over the past decade. The 3rd African Broadcast and Film Conference will provide a stock-taking opportunity for players in both industries, and empower them with the knowledge and business contacts they need to build effectively on the gains so far.

    The conference is aimed at senior and middle managers in:

    - National television stations
    - National radio stations.
    - Pay TV companies using cable, IP-TV or satellite.
    - International broadcasting services like CNN, BBC, NBC, VOA, China Broadcasting, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, Radio Japan, Radio Moscow, Radio France International and Radio Netherlands.
    - Television and film production companies.
    - Facilities providers including production equipment hire, post-production and outside broadcast.
    - Organisations like donors and faith-based organisations that run their own broadcast organisations for development purposes.
    - Television and film equipment vendors and satellite capacity suppliers.
    - Advertising and marketing agencies.
    - Mobile and fixed telephone operators looking at convergence opportunities.
    - Library Facilities for music, commercials and programmes.

    Themes

    - Pay TV – How to extend services to the bottom of the pyramid

    - Local content development – Success stories and hurdles

    - The Digital Transition – Assessing progress and challenges across the continent

    - Innovative radio broadcasting

    - The Changing African TV and Radio audiences

    - Building an African film industry – building synergies, collaboration and partnerships across the continent

    - Sports broadcasting – carving out Africa’s stake in the run-up to London 2012

    - Technological innovation – improving services, driving down costs and extending coverage

    - The impact of social media – developing multi-media platforms

    These themes are provisional and that we welcome conference presentation ideas. If you have a theme or idea you would like to present at the conference please contact Russell Southwood on info@balancingact-africa.com or Helen Moroney helenm@aitecafrica.com

    3nd African Broadcast and Film Conference, Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi (13-14 July, 2011), Nairobi, Kenya

     

  • On the busy street of Nkrumah road, hidden at a back office of a big stationery shop, is a group of young men and a lady, armed with a few computers, graphic tablets and an animation table, who plan to turn Uganda's first digital animation studio into the leading animation Studio in the region. Yunus Sebyala, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the little known Xtoons Animations, says it is the first animation studio in the country.

    With a virtually non-existent animation industry in Uganda, Yunus Sebyala says he had to start from scratch. His dream is to build a world class animation studio in Uganda. After completing his A' level, Sebyala spent his vacation working with computer graphic programmes like PC DJ and movie maker, and searching for whatever piece of knowledge on animation he could get hold of.

    Due to the fact that the animation was non-existent in Uganda at the time, Sebyala started to teach himself using the internet. Lady luck soon smiled upon him when he got a chance to travel to the UK in 2003. While there, he met with professional animators and learnt a bit about animation.

    It is on this and other trips that he acquired the basic equipments used in animation like graphic tablets and some computer components like advanced graphic cards, which he later used to establish his small backroom office. After doing some practice on his own he decided to formalise things and set up a studio in the names of Xtoons Animations Limited in 2009.

    "Prior to that, in early 2008, I began teaching a group of young artists interested in animation some basic skills in two dimensional (2D) animation, which is the most common form of animation used in most cartoons on television over the years," Sebyala says.

    On why he chose 2D ahead of the fast-rising and more advanced three dimensional (3D), Sebyala says it was because it was easier to teach the people he was planning to work with. Also, 2D demanded less hardware, which meant less costs.

    Registered in 2008, the company started operations in 2009 at its current Nkrumah road location. The company has completed two projects so far. Both are 2D animated adverts. Sebyala says they are in the advanced stages of starting an animated television programme on one of the local TV stations.

  • In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Republic of China Premier Wu Den-yih proposed that the many stories related to Taiwan's decades-long aid to foreign countries could be adapted for film, including the "A Lamp Lighting Up Africa" program that the country is promoting in Burkina Faso.

    The films could be shown in 2011 as part of celebrations for the ROC's 100th founding anniversary, Wu said while hosting a dinner for Taiwanese diplomats and expatriates upon his arrival in the West African ally on a one-week visit.

    The "A Lamp Lighting Up Africa" project, for example, could be adapted for a TV drama centered around a leading character who goes to Burkina Faso to carry out the work, blended with subject matter such as kinship and friendship, according to Wu.

    The program is aimed at bringing electric light to the homes of disadvantaged Burkina Faso students, who are often forced to study on the streets at night by the light of street lamps because they do not have electric light at home.

    Under the program, photovoltaic power-generating systems have been installed in participating schools and each student has been given an LED lighting kit equipped with a rechargeable battery that lasts four-and-a-half hours. The children can recharge their lamps at school and bring them home to use at night.

    Wu is the first Taiwanese premier to visit the impoverished West African ally since the two countries resumed diplomatic ties in 1994. The main purpose of the visit is to attend the Dec. 20 inauguration of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore for a new term.

  • Matt Damon is in talks to star in the next science fiction project from Neill Blomkamp, whose debut film District 9 was nominated for four Academy Awards earlier this year.

    Blomkamp has pitched Elysium as a tale of the far future on another planet, though the term traditionally refers to a section of the underworld in Greek mythology (the Elysian Fields, or Elysian Plains, were the final resting places of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous). The film will once again star  Sharlto Copley, the South African actor who was the breakout star of District 9, and has apparently managed to emerge unscathed from his turn as "Howling Mad" Murdock in The A-Team movie earlier this year.

    Deadline reports that Damon is in the early stage of negotiations. Blomkamp is keeping details of Elysium under wraps, but it sounds like the unnamed science fiction project that he discussed at last year's Comic Con convention in San Diego.

    "I've got one science fiction idea that I'm absolutely in love with, which I'm pretty sure is going to be my next film. Ninety-nine per cent sure," Blomkamp said at the time. "It's totally original, it's my own story ... It's set on another planet, but it's cool. It's violent, very violent, and very unique hopefully. We'll see."

  • The South African film “A Small Town Called Descent” has made big waves at the seventh Dubai International Film Festival. It deals with the 2008 xenophobic attacks, in which over 60 people died.

    The story sees three Scorpions investigators being sent to a small Karoo town to investigate the killing of a Zimbabwean man. Hlubi Mboya plays the man’s South African girlfriend, who is sexually assaulted for dating him.

    “A Small Town Called Descent” is a 100% South African Feature Film Production. Produced by Moments Entertainment's Firdoze Bulbulia and Faith Isiakpere, this riveting and relevant "Cop Drama" is written and directed by first time Feature Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. The film also co-stars veteran Hollywood character actor, John Savage (Salvador, The Deer Hunter, The Godfather III, White Squall) – The film features some of South Africa's top acting talent including Fana Mokoena (Hotel Rwanda), Lindani Nkosi (No.1 Ladies Detective Agency), Bubu Mazibuko (Catch A Fire) Zandile Msutwana (White Wedding), Sivu Nobongoza (uMalusi) and Hlubi Mboya (SA' it girl!) amongst others.

    “These are stories that need to be told. This movie will remind the globe and South Africans about humanity,” said Mboya. The film is expected to be released in South Africa early next year.

  • All year long, TV5Monde rallied its audience to celebrate both on its channels and on its website the 50th anniversary of African independence. News reports, special editions, magazines, documentaries, films ... A programming devoted to Africa, to its great historical epics, but also to the future and new challenges facing the continent.

    On 18 December, TV5Monde devoted an entire night to the continent, with a TV special "Africa (s), 50 years and what’s next? " (« Afrique(s), 50 ans et après ? » in Fr.) through a tense debate in the presence of numerous personalities, followed by the release of the four episodes of the now popular documentary series "Africa (s), another story of the twentieth century" (« Afrique(s), une autre histoire du XXème siècle »). Here is a video of the evening from an insider: click here

    Denise Epoté, TV presenter and director of TV5Monde Africa was surrounded with African players and witnesses, African politicians and politics experts as well as artists to comment on this year's celebrations of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Independence. They revisited this half-century history while evoking some of the prospects available to Africa.

    Sylvain Béletre from Balancing Act reported: “this surely was one the most interesting debates that we’ve seen as a result of 50 years of independence in Africa. The debate’s key message seems to be that Africans – especially the young generation – do not want to be directed by ex-colonies anymore. The programme acknowledged that democracy in several African countries has had a high price to pay and that there are still many economically and politically unstable countries. However, participants also recognised that independent Africa is still very young. It seems that the continent wants to turn the page once and for all on “daddy’s Africa”. African thinkers are now looking for a new era, one where African societies will reinvent themselves with pride, with complete freedom from their past ties, thinking and looking at their histories, true roots, cultural talents, analysing their international relations and their current challenges, embracing new currents to design a more promising, a more personal future. And this will take time; Rome was not built in one day.
    Further magazines and debates are expected on the topic in 2011 from TV5Monde, with particular highlights on political reforms, economic outlooks, new cultural trends and an opportunity to imagine the next 50 years in Africa.”

    Guests of the programmes included: Emile Derlin Zinsou, ex-President of Dahomey (Benin); Henri Lopès, ex-Prime minister of Congo Brazzaville and current Ambassador in France; Jacques Toubon, ex-French minister and Secretary of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Independence; Philippe Sainteny, french journalist, co-author of the documentary series « Afrique(s), une autre Histoire du XXème siècle »; Falila Gbadamassi, journalist at Afrik.com; Léonora Miano, a writer from Cameroon (Prize « Goncourt des lycéens » 2006)  and Marie-Roger Biloa, journalist at Africa International
     
    Recently, TV5Monde also mentioned that it breaks audience records in Brazzaville.
    The French-speaking channel tops international channels for notoriety and audience according to a survey by TNS Sofrès.
    In Brazzaville, TV5Monde’s weekly cumulated audience reached 73,9 % of the population aged 15+ and 93,5 % of top managers. Each day, one inhabitant out of two is reported to be watching TV5Monde; a 44.4% cumulated audience among people aged 15 and above.

    TV5Monde’s global notoriety reaches 96.3% among the 15+ demo, which is very close to that of Kinshasa where the channel is carried on a terrestrial network. In Brazzaville, TV5Monde positions in third place after national channel Télé Congo and private channel DRTV.

  • Dominique Guihot, director of “Africa no.1” and of “Patenaire Production” (his own audiovisual production company) is a legend in the Francophone African radio market. Originally a radio journalist, Guihot acquired Africa No 1 in 2000. The man has maintained one of Africa’s most popular radio stations of all time and has helped turn some radio presenters into household names. Dominique Guihot was interviewed by Sylvain Béletre from Balancing Act Africa.

    Q: Who is Africa No 1 today and who is your audience?

    A: Africa No 1 is the most important Francophone African radio. It is a generalist radio – a radio for all - which focuses on African and international current affairs and cultures. Its programmes target all Africans, with particular features dedicated to the Diaspora, African women, young adults, older generation, Africa’s lovers, etc. We also provide music and sport editions. All our programmes are French speaking.

    Q: How many staff do you have today?

    A: We have 50 employees in Libreville and 20 in Paris, all full time, plus correspondents across Africa and Europe. In Europe, our correspondents focus on the African Diaspora.

    Q: Where is Africa No 1 broadcast today?

    A: Its programs are broadcast around the world thanks to our short wave transmitters. We sit on two continents: Africa and Europe where programmes are produced daily and transmitted in real time via satellite. The radio has FM relays (frequency modulation) in 16 capitals of Francophone Africa enabling coverage in 14 African countries (via 14 FM transmitters), and in Paris (via three frequencies incl. 107.5 FM – 11 million area). Altogether, Africa No. 1 broadcast in the major African capitals and in Paris (FM signal), on the internet globally (www.africa1.com) and via satellite package Africasat. We have an office in Libreville (Gabon) and one in Paris near to Bastille.

    Q: What are your audience numbers and which are the most popular programmes?

    A: Each day, Africa No. 1 is followed by 30 million people worldwide including 130, 000 in the Paris area (“Ile de France”). We have had difficulties tracking audience in Africa since there is a lack of audience measurement in Francophone regions. Information / current affairs are what drive the highest audience. Interactive magazines and music programmes usually come second in audience terms.

    Q: How do you produce your programmes and what is your editorial angle?

    A: Our programmes are produced by our editorial team located in Libreville and Paris, and by correspondents throughout Africa and Europe.
    Africa No. 1 offers listeners information and interaction on Africa’s issues and on the African Diaspora. It also focuses on African culture and local creativity.
    Audience-wise, current affairs gather broad success. We provide news every hour between 5:30 and 23:00 (GMT) and major editions in the morning (5:30 to 8:30), afternoon (12:00) and evening (18:00). Our interactive magazines, music and sports programmes (driven by Robert Brazza and Manu Dibango) are well followed. On top, we provide entertainment and more group-targeted magazines.

    Q: How did you come to buy the radio station?

    A: I bought the company back in the year 2000. I was involved in AIDS campaigns in Africa back in the 1980s’ and this is how I got in touch with the radio’s staff. Its owner (the Government) wanted to sell the company and I decided to acquire it.

    Q: Where have you invested recently and where do you plan to invest over the next few months to support the radio’s developments?

    A: We want to maintain dialogue between Africans and drive the largest African community. Financing and expanding an international radio station is very costly.
    We have thus put a lot of efforts into our internet strategy to boost the radio’s footprint. Thanks to the internet, the radio is available live anywhere in the world provided that you have broadband access. The radio’s website aims to be intuitive, interactive and informative. It provides real time information and analysis, interactive tools and games, podcasts and videos for replay, Film/DVD, concerts and book highlights. We also want it to be a social network and a mean of reducing isolation for all. We have built our dedicated pages on Facebook and Twitter – a growing media especially over political crisis - which require daily feeds and attention to best serve its communities. Additionally we have started establishing partnerships with third parties to set up links that drive people to our site.

    Q: What is your website’s traffic today?

    A: We have reached 6 million pages views per year and 700,000 unique visitors this year and growing. Almost 40% of its traffic comes from direct access, 43% from search engines and 17% from external links (source: eStat Mediametrie).

    Q: Maintaining such radio network is very expensive. Is the station profitable?

    A: Today, we have managed to reach break even point. We have invested in a strong advertising team and ad revenues have tripled between 2002 and 2010 which proves that there is today a market for ethnic media. Our advertising clients are mainly banks, airlines, telecoms players, transport, cultural products, food industries, etc.

    Q: Considering the more fragmented media landscape today, what is your strategy to keep the radio’s competitive status?

    A: We take part of our margins to reinvest in the station with a view to best serve our audience, to increase the radio’s brand image and specificities.

    Watch the interviews here (in French only)

  • Oumarou Barry was interviewed by Sylvain Béletre from Balancing Act Africa on the positive aspects of the two programmes that he presents weekly to an audience of about 40 million people across sub-Saharan Africa and on other continents via 45 channels.

    Q: What are your TV programmes?

    A: “Business Africa” and “Initiative Africa” provide insights into a more prosperous Africa. Reports are made by local African correspondents who know what they are talking about. Their objective is to illustrate a better Africa with Africans on the move. Our programmes are made by Africans for Africans.

    Q: Do you have any anecdotes of how your programmes have generated positive impacts?

    A: In Togo, I remember the story of a couple who lost their job in the hospitality sector. They decided to set up a chalk fabric business and obtained bank credit. We featured their initiative in a report and we got several phone calls from all over Africa from people who wanted to do the same in their country or who wanted to partner with them or distribute their products.

    Another example is when local correspondents showed us that some school kids were playing near to a dangerous cliff in the Brazzaville area. We called upon the government to take relevant measures and consequently, the risk was promptly eliminated by local authorities.

    Q: Who support your programmes?

    A: Our sponsors are large companies with presence in Africa who need to communicate to a wide audience in some positive TV programmes.

    Watch the interviews here: Interview 1 Interview 2 (in French only)

  • Scandinavian-owned television network Viasat 1will in the early months of next year, invest heavily in content, particularly those that would help them cement their position as the fastest growing channel in the country, the management of the station has said. At a media briefing held over the weekend in Accra to present what likely features the station’s programming style would have next year, Chief Executive Officer of the outfit Rune Skogeng told the gathering that with what they’ve been able to achieve in less than 3years, he thinks beating their strongest contenders shouldn’t be a problem.

    Viasat 1, according to Skogeng, will continue to depend on content from some of the world’s reliable providers such as MNet, MTV, Africa Magic and NBC among other local and international content providers.

    These roll out expansions, according to the station, would create an avenue for better interaction with viewers and solidify the channel’s position on providing quality products for its growing followers. It gives viewers detailed information on daily schedules in order to plan their TV viewing for the day, future projects of the channel and an interactive forum for viewer comments and contributions.

    In a related development, the station has launched a brand new viewer-focused, interactive website this month. The site www.viasat1.com.gh, is designed in direct response to Viasat 1's research into increasing internet penetration in Ghana and the desire to leverage this platform to increase “top-of-mind” awareness for the channel, the station has said.

    Viasat 1 Chief Executive Rune Skogeng said: “As a consumer oriented and research driven company, we have always tracked the growth of other interactive media with keen interest and the results have influenced the new website design, content and functionality”.

    With plans in place to churn out more local productions, the new website will function as an integrated marketing tool for Viasat1. Viasat 1 is owned by the Modern Times Group MTG AB, a leading international entertainment broadcasting group with the largest geographical broadcast footprint in Europe. The station’s audience share in the past two years of operations has seen an average rise of 16%.

  • MultiChoice announced that its DStv On Demand CatchUp and series recording services are now available on the HD PVR 2P decoders. As of 9 December 2010, all DStv Premium Subscribers with HD PVR 2P decoders and a PVR subscription will also have access to the “DStv On Demand CatchUp”, as well as the series recording feature. Premium subscribers with 4-tuner HD PVRs and SD PVRs already have access to the service. This service is offered to Premium subscribers at no additional cost.

    DStv On Demand offers a variety of general entertainment, sport and actuality programming on the CatchUp service. The programmes are available within 24 hours after first being broadcast on DStv and are normally available for viewing for a full 7 days thereafter. The CatchUp service is also available online at dstv.com with up to 80 hours of programming and movies.

    The content on DStv On Demand does not have advert breaks, giving subscribers a quick and convenient way to catch up on their favourite series and sports programmes.

    For DStv On Demand schedules or for more information about the online DStv On Demand offering, go to www.dstv.com

  • Black-owned broadcaster “Mobile TV” has begun test transmissions using Korea's digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) technology from Sentech's tower in Brixton, Johannesburg.

    Mobile TV, formerly known as the Mobile TV Consortium, was given a test licence in September 2010 to test the capabilities of DMB, a competitor standard to the digital video broadcasting handheld (DVB-H) network recently launched by MultiChoice.

    The test network is providing a number of television and radio broadcasts from the SABC, including SABC 1, 2 and 3 and radio stations 5fm and Metro FM.

  • Gambia got a tap on the back from Gambian-born Waka Jagne, who runs the famous "Talk Senegambia Show" on Ben Television, a UK-based black and ethnic-oriented diverse and cosmopolitan channel. The Talk Senegambia show anchorman Waka Jagne disclosed that they were in The Gambia to do a documentary about the country, which will be featured on Ben Television in the United Kingdom.

    He said: "We came to The Gambia to do a documentary and the idea is to promote the country, especially its tourism sector. We have also worked with part of the private sector and we conducted interviews with some ministers such as Trade and Tourism. We want the outside world to know more about The Gambia. So the documentary is for people out there to know that it is safe here, very stable and a peaceful country. And we have infrastructures that are very good. There are lots of developments - we have electricity 24 hours, the roads are in good shape."

    Jagne explained that the developments highlighted are the essential things that will make investors to come, and stressed that this is one of the reasons for the documentary. He further hinted that the documentary is also aimed at assuring Gambians in the Diaspora that they can come back after the completion of their education and partake in the development of their country as there are job opportunities. He opined that such an initiative will also encourage other Gambians who have some capital in Europe to come back and invest, given the fact that developing the country cannot solely rest on the hands of the government.

    The Gambian-born UK based television star concluded by disclosing that his "Talk Senegambia Show," highlights culture and tradition including music and the achievements of the Senegambia region, especially The Gambia.

  • For decades, a number of technological innovations have been undertaken to ease access to information through use of phones, desk top computers, laptops and radios.
    With the advent of pay digital television services into Uganda, a new era of phone aided mobile television is taking hold.

    All that is required of a subscriber is having a TV receiver dual sim card phone, so that one card provision is for telephone service provider and the other for the pay TV operator.

    Some of the broadcasting technology incoming will also enable people watch television on computers and monitors installed in vehicles.

    In addition to mobility, mobile TV delivers a variety of services including video-on-demand, traditional/linear and live TV programmes.

    Another exciting opportunity for users is mobile TV pod casts, where content is delivered to a user's mobile on demand or by subscriptions. Stored locally on the handset, this content can then be viewed even when there's no network connection. And a service provider can schedule the delivery to "off-peak" hours, like in the night.

  • The ANC and the SABC are fighting over ownership of historic video footage - including unseen images of former president Nelson Mandela and film of his wedding to Graça Machel. The ruling party has threatened to take legal action to get the material.

    The extensive footage also includes behind-the-scenes footage of ANC activities during the apartheid era and shortly after its unbanning in 1990.  The Sunday Times has seen the correspondence between the SABC and ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise. In it Modise demands that the public broadcaster return the "priceless" tapes; she even sought the intervention of former Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.

    In one letter, Modise tells Nyanda that her frustration at the SABC's lack of action may leave the ANC with no option but to go to court. "I am forced to burden your extremely busy schedule with a request for advice on how we may proceed in our quest for a remedy, which we wish should not include judicial intervention," Modise wrote.

    The tapes ended up with the SABC thanks to former ANC employee Rapitse Montsho, who had worked in the party's video unit. This followed a verbal agreement between Montsho - the SABC's general manager of news resources at the time - and the ANC that the SABC would use the material for documentaries.

    Montsho is under suspension for trying to remove the tapes from the SABC building.
    The MK Veterans Association is also demanding the return of material on Solomon Mahlangu, which it gave to the SABC last year on the 30th anniversary of his execution.

  • Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the consequences for journalists of the fight for control of state television and the media in general being waged by the supporters of Laurent Gbagbo and the ones of Alassane Ouattara.

    "We are very worried about the situation in Côte d'Ivoire," Reporters Without Borders said. "The violent dispersal of yesterday's demonstration unfortunately caused casualties and we hope that any resumption of hostilities does not target journalists."

    The press freedom organisation added: "We deplore the fact that the authorities are treating journalists as undesired witnesses and are trying to prevent them from covering what is going on. We also deplore the fact that they are reducing the news coverage available to Ivorians by banning the opposition media after already suspending international broadcast media."

    Many incidents involving the media took place during a march by Ouattara supporters on the Abidjan headquarters of the state-owned broadcaster Radio-Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) in an attempt to install new managers appointed by Guillaume Soro, the prime minister of the government formed by Ouattara.

    Securing forces loyal to Gbagbo threatened French TV crews covering the march. Members of the Security Operations Command Centre (CECOS) turned their Kalashnikovs on a France 2 crew, who were forced to lie on the ground while their equipment was taken. Live rounds were used to disperse a France 3 crew, who sustained no injuries or damage.

    Alassane Kanaté, a freelance cameraman working for the French 24-hour satellite news channel France 24 was arrested at a military roadblock and taken to police headquarters in the Abidjan district of Plateau, where he was held overnight and mistreated. He was receiving treatment in an Abidjan hospital this morning. At least three journalists were arrested during the march.

    Members of the Republican Guard meanwhile raided the Sud Actions Médias and Olympe printing presses yesterday into order to prevent them from printing the independent daily L'Intelligent d'Abidjan and six opposition newspapers: Le Patriote, Le Nouveau Réveil, L'Expression, Nord-Sud, Le Mandat and Le Démocrate. Sud Actions Médias refused to print two pro-Gbagbo newspapers, Le Nouveau Courrier and Le Temps, in protest. The Republican Guard also ordered the distributor Presstalis not to distribute any opposition newspapers.

    During a visit to RTI on 14 December, Gbagbo's new communication minister, Ouattara Gnonzié, issued a warning to media that are not supporting his government. "I am going to meet with the privately-owned media," he said. "They may be privately-owned, but they have a duty to respect our country's laws and constitution. Reporting alarming and false information, which depresses and discourages the public, is against the law. This must stop as soon as possible."

    Members of Gbagbo's press office, his new minister of youth, labour and public health, Charles Blé Goudé, and Gen. Bruno Dogbo Blé, the head of the Republican Guard, are among the government officials who have banned opposition newspapers in an illegal manner.

  • In Kenya on Wednesday, 8 December 2010, Wananchi’s 'triple-play' fibre service - offering video (cable TV), data (broadband Internet) and voice (telephony)
     - finally went live; one million homes in East Africa are targeted by 2015. Branded under its Zuku brand, the fibre package has gone live in the cities of Kileleshwa, Kilimani, Lavington and Hurligham.

    Phase two of the triple-play project will focus on the areas of South B and South C, Westlands and Parklands, and will be completed by 1H 11. The remainder of Nairobi and Mombasa are scheduled to be completed during the second half of 2011. Tanzania and Uganda have been mooted for subsequent connectivity. It will now offer unmatched download speeds ranging from 1Mbps to 8Mbps for residential customers, and speeds of 8Mbps to 20Mbps for business customers.

    Wananchi has also invested in cable channels such as Zuku Sports and Zuku Sports HD, the latter of which represents the region's first HD sport channel, as well as eight movie channels, including Zuku Movies Max and Zuku Movies Max HD.

    To date Wananchi has invested over USD100 million in its fibre rollout, and its existing infrastructure currently provides 100 cable TV channels to around 12,000 customers in Nairobi and Mombasa, and WiMAX broadband connectivity to approximately 9,000 customers in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Nyeri and Eldoret. Global pay-TV penetration ranges from 20% to 80%, while in Africa the penetration is still less than 0.1%. http://www.zuku.co.ke/home/

  • Rwanda will switch to digital broadcasting early next year beating the 2012 deadline African countries set to switch off analogue broadcasting. The development paves the way for the Rwanda government to licence a second signal distributor for a terrestrial digital broadcast network, according to Ignatius Kabagambe, Director General in the Ministry of Information. Kabagambe says in Rwanda the law provides for a maximum of two signal distributors.

    "One signal licence was awarded to the Public Orinfor, the public broadcaster. The second licence is to be issued through an open international competitive bidding process," Kabagambe told East African Business Week. He said the bidding process had to be suspended to allow Rwanda migrate to digital broadcasting.

    "We thought it would not make business sense for someone to invest in analogue and later tell him to migrate to digital," Kabagambe explained. "Now that the country is switching to digital broadcasting, we are inviting investors in television and content provision for the national broadcaster," he mentioned.

    Patrice Mulama, Executive Director Media High Council, the regulator of the media industry in the private sector says a number of investors have already shown interest in the second signal distributor licence. "Nation Media Group, Tele 10, Star Times are some of the investors keen on this and a couple of others have shown interest in the licence. However they have not committed themselves," said Mulama.

    Both Kabagambe and Mulama believe the Rwanda media sector has a lot of opportunities for investors to exploit. "There are opportunities virtually in all media sectors including print, electronic and online publications," Kabagambe said. In the electronic media, Mulama says Rwanda has 20 radio station, government owns five of these. There is currently only one television station.

  • 6 – 17 January, 2011
    The 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival
    Palm Springs, Cal. USA
    The 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival announced a new program highlighting African Cinema. “Cinema Safari: A Showcase of African Cinema”
    This program will premiere 13 new films made in Africa or reflecting contemporary African stories and themes. The showcase reflects the dramatic upsurge of film production across the African continent and the concurrent emergence of exciting new filmmaking talents throughout the region. The films selected programmes include:
    •Africa United (United Kingdom/South Africa/Rwanda)
    •The Athlete (Ethiopa/Germany/USA)
    •Desert Flower (UK/Germany/Austria)
    •I Am Slave (United Kingdom)
    •Imani (Uganda/Sweden)
    •Kinshasa Symphony (Germany)
    •The Last Lions (USA/Botswana)
    •The Lazarus Effect (USA)
    •Life Above All (South Africa/Germany)
    •Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle (USA/South Africa)
    •A Screaming Man (Chad/France/Belgium)
    •Soul Boy (Kenya/Germany)

    9-11 February 2011
    Discop Africa
    Venue: Lapalm Royal Beach hotel, Accra, Ghana.
    Since 2009, DISCOP markets targeting Sub-Saharan African television marketplaces have brought together over 400 companies selling and buying television content in this part of the world.
    http://www.discop.com/ci/pages/show/da5_index#

    16-21 February 2011
    2011 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF)
    Venue: Los Angeles, CA, USA
    Completed U.S. and international feature-length and short films festival. The PAFF presents and showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans.  In addition to the film festival, the PAFF presents a world renowned Art Show featuring over 100 fine artists and craftspeople from around the world showcasing the best in Black fine art, sculpture, photography, unique handmade crafts, home furnishings, designer jewelry, designer fashions and accessories that highlight the artistry and beauty of the African aesthetic. 
    http://www.paff.org

    23 - 26 February 2011
    Aluta film festival 2011
    Venue: Kimberley – South Africa.
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=23000307873

    22 - 27 March 2011
    Festival Cinema Africano Asia e America Latina 21° edizione
    Venue: Milano, Italy
    http://www.festivalcinemaafricano.org/

    22 - 24 March 2011
    IPTV World Forum 2011
    Venue: Olympia, London UK
    http://www.iptv-forum.com/

    23-25 March 2011
    AdExpo
    Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
    Mega Media AdExpo is a platform where the advertising industry, marketers, advertisers and media buyers gather and meet to discuss and plan advertising for the year ahead. Apart from the exhibits, the event also aims to educate with its offering of short 30 min workshops on interesting topics from Mobile marketing to internet advertising.

    4-7 April 2011
    MIPTV
    Venue: Cannes, France
    MIPTV is the world's leading content market. It provides a unique opportunity to meet the key decision makers in the TV/Film, Digital media and Cinema industry. 21,000 m2 exhibition floor.
    http://www.mipworld.com/en/miptv/ -

    25 march - 9 April 2011
    Afrika Filmfestival
    Leuven, 3220 Holsbeek - Belgium
    The Afrika Filmfestival in Leuven is the most important annual showcase for African films in the Benelux. The festival promotes African cinema.
    http://www.afrikafilmfestival.be

    April May 2011 (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA
    Film Festival. AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    http://www.africanfilmny.org/index.html

    May 2011
    The Helsinki African Film Festival
    Venue: Andorra, Eerikinkatu 11, 00100 Helsinki
    Helsinki African Film Festival brings an entertaining and thought-provoking selection of contemporary African cinema to Finland. The festival aims to foster communication across cultures and support dialogue on wide-ranging issues related to Africa
    http://www.haff.fi/

    2 - 5 June 2011
    Africa Festival
    Venue: Wurzburg, Germany
    http://www.africafestival.org

    11 - 19 June, 2011
    The 8th African Film Festival of Tarifa, Spain
    Calle Monte Carmelo, 5 bajo
    41011 Sevilla España
    http://www.fcat.es

    2 -10 July, 2011
    Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)
    East Africa's largest film and arts festival, showcasing a broad spectrum of African films.
    http://www.ziff.or.tz/

    20 - 22 July, 2011
    Mediatech Africa 2011 Exhibition
    The Coca-Cola Dome
    Northgate - Johannesburg (South Africa)
    Mediatech Africa SA's only all-inclusive broadcast, media, entertainment and AV trade. It showcases cutting edge technologies and services from industry leaders in television and broadcast, sound and audio, lighting and staging, animation, communication and related fields.
    http://www.mediatech.co.za/

    22 - 25 July, 2011
    The 2nd Durban FilmMart over the 32nd Durban International Film Festival (21-31 July).
    Venue: Durban
    Contact: Durban Film Office –
    http://www.durbanfilmoffice.com

    July – Sept 2011, (final dates tba)
    African film festival (AFF) in NYC
    NYC, USA
    Outdoor Summer Screenings in NYC Parks. Featuring dance, music, food and of course films. AFF programs year-round; therefore, AFF organisers accept submissions on an ongoing basis.
    http://www.africanfilmny.org/index.html

    31 Oct - 7 Nov, 2011
    Out In Africa
    South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    Venue: various, see website
    http://www.oia.co.za/

    Oct - Nov, 2011 final dates tba
    Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival
    Venue: Edinburgh's Filmhouse cinema
    The UK's largest African Film Festival
    http://www.africa-in-motion.org.uk/

    Dec 2011 (final date tba)
    Africa Int. Film Festival
    Venue : Port Harcourt, Nigeria
    http://www.africafilmfest.com/

  • Alassane Ouattara appointed Brou Aka Pascal - also President and Founder of OJPCI, the journalist organisation in Côte d’Ivoire -  on the 8th. December 2010 to become the new head of RTI (state TV station in Côte d’Ivoire). However, access to the TV station has been blocked by Laurent Gbagbo.

    Simba Mhere is the youngest and newest addition to Top Billing after winning the TV show's presenter search competitionThe 22-year-old Zimbabwean-born University of Johannesburg student and former 100m Gauteng champs athlete beat runner-up Kalysha Naidoo and more than 5 000 other hopefuls from around the country.

    Tunisie-Media appointed a new CEO: The Tunisian Ministry of Communication announced the nomination of Chaouki Aloui to head the Tunisian TV (ERTT).

  • Call for support – A film association for DRC named "MOTO Ciné”

    Start of Dec. 2010, global wires reported that Hollywood star Ben Affleck was struggling to rally support from Hollywood studio executives to back his plans to make a movie about the troubles in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    An audiovisual professional, Plante Kibadhi is now calling for global support to help him build a strong film industry in DRC in order to preserve the country’s heritage and culture, to challenge current issues and work for peace.

    Originally from DRC, Plante has a journalist degree and studied at “l’Institut Facultaire des Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication” [IFASIC].
    He worked in South Africa as a TV journalist, presenter, and as a scriptwriter.

    Plante explained to Sylvain Béletre from Balancing Act: “I am back in DRC, my country, and I have many project related to the African audio-visual art and culture. I now need to find partners to join me, to finance and contribute to these projects.
    Right now in Congo, not much is being done to support the film industry, and it is difficult to find funds. One of my objectives is to set up a movie office for the country. The situation for DRC’s film industry is no way near that of South Africa. I have little hope that the Congolese government will invest in local cinema. For now our industry is mainly dependent on filmmakers living and working abroad.”
    Plante added: “I have started setting up the status of a film association for DRC: it is named "MOTO Ciné”: in Lingala, language that we speak in Kinshasa, this means: “man of cinema”. The main association’s objectives are to initiate and develop DRC’s film industry, promote it, support film training in the country, animate debates and discussions between audiovisual professionals, find sponsors, and engage with DRC’s government to seek partnership.

    As a film maker, I have also put together some film projects. Here are some examples: 
    1. “Sorry sisi”: sisi is short for sister in Zulu; the film talks about Congolese in South Africa, and it starts in Kinshasa, DRC.
    2. “Forget my tears” (in Fr. “Oubli mes larmes”), 100% from RDC, tells the story of a woman’s struggles and sufferings, and that of people who enjoy life and forget about those who are in pain.
    3. “Long night” (in Fr. «Longue Nuit»), the story of a girl of good education, from a good family, but who seeks to discover the life of street prostitution in Kinshasa’s nightclubs.
    4. Why me? (In Fr.: «Pourquoi moi?»): the story of a kid who was accidently exchanged for another baby by hospital nurses just after he was born.»

    Plante Kibadhi Mbuka can be contacted at tel: + 243 810750 340 - + 243 99 76 74 252 - Email: kibaplante@yahoo.fr

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  • The dirty downside of the ICT industry is that computers have to go somewhere when they die and because they are full of potentially toxic materials they cannot simply be dumped in landfills. Uganda’s Government has sought to tackle part of the problem by banning the import of secondhand computers and sparked the law of unintended consequences. Russell Southwood talked to Shakeel Padamsey of Camara and Kyle Spencer of the Uganda Linux Group about what’s happened.

    In June 2009 the Ugandan Government passed the Financial Bill which prohibited the import of  “used refrigerators, freezers, computers and television sets” from October 2009. The background to the legislation was a concern that Uganda was not dealing properly with the issue of e-waste.

    In May 2008 a report called “e-Waste Assessment in Uganda - A situational analysis of e-waste management and generation with special emphasis on personal computers authored by the Uganda Cleaner Production Centre and EMPA from Switzerland (and sponsored by UNID0 and Microsoft draw attention to the issue. It concluded that:”… only around 10% of those computers (estimated 300,000 in 2007) reach the waste stream, whereas the rest is kept in storage without being used. The 10% in the waste stream gets collected by individuals, whereas material and parts are sold informally and the rest gets dumped informally…This (is) equal to about 2,000 tons of computer waste (desktop unit
    and CRT screen) in total, which contains e.g. 80 tons of printed circuit boards and 400 tons of plastic. These numbers are hypothetical but represent a realistic order of magnitude”. The report’s recommendation was that it be dealt with by a UNIDO/Microsoft refurbishment initiative.

    However, the Government’s complete ban on used computers has had significant unintended consequences. According to a position paper in December 2010 from the E-Waste Special Interest Group is comprised of over 200 traders, importers, suppliers, recyclers, and ICT-Education charitable organisations involved with refurbished ICT equipment:” The vast majority of educational institutions, SMEs, and the public rely upon NGOs and other used-computer importers for affordable high-quality ICT equipment. This ban especially affects thousands of schools and millions of
    students who rely upon these organisations for their ICT needs”.

    “The six-fold price difference between the cheapest refurbished computer (supplied with educational software, training and maintenance), means that schools that
    would have been able to afford 10 or 20 computers now can only afford 2 or 3, making teaching ICT impossible and affecting generations of Ugandans. As a result of the work of organisations which were operating before the ban was implemented, over 2 million
    individuals now have access to high quality branded ICT equipment”.

    “Due to these efforts, educational software and the Internet is now more widely accessible, providing access for 1.8 million students across 4500 schools – working towards targets set out within a number of Millennium Development Goals (2 and 8f). Furthermore, these organisations have trained approximately 32,000 individuals, including 4000 teachers. As a result of the ban, it is estimated that per year at least 1,500 teachers will not be trained and more than 500,000 students will not gain access to ICT equipment”.

    But is not just the education sector that will feel the consequences but also Uganda’s economy:”According to our research, we estimate that the ban immediately eliminates over one thousand skilled jobs and annually removes $17 million from the local economy. A 2009 study by Private Sector Foundation Uganda, projects
    that losses as a result of the ban will total $60 million in revenue and 100,000 jobs in Uganda, compared to the EAC and other African countries without a ban”. All lobby groups are prone to exaggerate slightly for effect but the points are well made.

    The e-Waste Special Interest Group is arguing that the alternative is to produce sound and enforceable regulations on the importation of all electronic goods through licensing of businesses, ensuring only high quality goods are brought into the country. Elements of this approach would include: licensing importers of electronic goods; verification of equipment sent to Uganda by organizations like such Bureau Veritas, SGS, and Intertek; and a system of independent auditing procedures to be adopted with the help of
    relevant Government institutions to ensure that each organisation is actively
    involved in recycling activities; and a recycling “deposit” that would be refunded when the defunct computer was delivered to a recycling centre.

    The Government’s response to these points has been somewhat ill-thought-out. In the response from the Government Minister, NEMA (the environmental agency) and the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee, it said:”Uganda is being used as a dumping ground by developed countries and yet we do not have capacity to dispose E- waste”.

    Two points are very clear: Firstly, why would anyone go to the time and trouble of exporting e-waste to an inland country like Uganda? What is currently being exported are secondhand computers that have a 2-3 year life. Secondly, if Uganda genuinely becomes the ICT society it aspires to be, it will build up a steady stream of defunct computers (and fridges, freezers and televisions) and as every year passes the number will increase. Therefore surely now is the moment to start creating recycling facilities as one of the unfortunate consequences of getting wealthier is that you have to deal with a different type of waste.

    The response also said “that government plans to distribute free computers to government aided schools. It will also ensure that computers are assembled locally at affordable prices”. Sad to say, in our view pigs will fly before this starts happening. Again encouraging a local assembly industry is laudable but Uganda is a relatively small market in which to make it financially viable.

    Kyle Spencer estimates that out of an estimated 350,000-500,000 computers in the country, 130,000 are computers that were bought secondhand. Of these, 1 in seven were refurbished computers:”They simply don’t have the data to support their argument.” Currently an average refurbished computer costs between US$60-70 whereas a new computer at the low end costs around US$350, a price differential of 5-6 times.

    If the Government wants to encourage computer ownership then giving access at the lower price is surely worthy of consideration. Indeed Padamsey’s own organization sold refurbished computers to schools for just US$50. Padamsey says:”The Government wanted to give a waiver to one organization to import refurbished computers. But what can be given by Government can be taken away and a waiver system would be open to corruption.”

    Padamsey went to one of the major landfill sites North of Kampala:”There was some eWaste like dot matrix printers and TVs but most of it was very old. There’s a Chinese company that has been trying to buy plastics and metals at US25 cents a kilo. Things like this would be the basis for a new recycling industry. NEMA doesn’t seem to distinguish between refurbishing and recycling. Our organization runs an e-waste facility in Mombasa and when computers in schools reach the end of their life, they have to return them to us”.

    This is story without heroes and villains but a classic case where legislation has created unintended consequences. The Government has put itself in the position where it is cutting off a supply of cheap, working computers and will need to take on the task of supplying computers to schools (Which part of the budget will that come out of?). It is seeking to deal with a small amount of the refurbished waste stream without anticipating the huge increase in e-waste that the successful adoption of new computers will bring about. Creating recycling capacity has to be the way to go and is probably cheaper than the current legal corner that the politicians have backed themselves into.

    For more market news and insights, go to Balancing Act’s Web TV channel:

    Clips include:

    * Main One’s Michael Iyayi on extending the cable to South Africa and Cameroon.
    * Bouzaine Zaid on the use of You Tube in Morocco
    * Tito Alai on a B2B GPRS sales tracking tool.
    * Praveen Sadalage of Busy Internet on Ghana’s first third party data centre,
    * The CEO of Hadera Tech on green approaches to data servers for Africa.

    There are 51 clips in both English and French that contain news and information that does not appear in our e-letter or on our web site.

telecoms

  • Sudan Vote Monitor, a Web platform that allows ordinary citizens to report on electoral fraud and violence in real time via text message, went live on January 7, 2011, ahead of the January 9 independence referendum in South Sudan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor uses open source software to transmit, collect and interpret information from volunteer observers at polling stations, and also allows users to upload video to a YouTube site, or link directly to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in addition to several Sudan-specific sites.

     “Our technology will provide the closest thing that exists to a real-time snapshot of what is happening on the ground during the referendum,” says Fareed Zein, spokesperson for Sudan Vote Monitor. “Our role is to make it possible for ordinary people to monitor the process.”

    Powering the Sudan Vote Monitor Website is Ushahidi.com, a Web portal that allows anyone to gather data via SMS messaging, e-mail or the internet and
    visualize it on a map. Since the Ushahidi platform was first deployed during the 2008 political crisis in Kenya, it has been used for election monitoring in
    India, Burundi, Mexico and Afghanistan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor is a collaboration of several Sudanese civil society organizations led by the Sudan Institute for Policy and Research (SIRP)
    http://www.sudaninstitute.org and the Asmaa Society for Development http://asmaasociety.org.

  • Brymedia Consortium, one of the initial bidders for state-run incumbent telco Nitel, is looking to acquire the ailing operator, should the preferred buyer fail to make the initial payment, local newspaper Daily Independent reports, citing sources close to the consortium. Brymedia came third during the bidding process for Nitel in February 2010, after offering USD551 million for a 75% stake in Nitel (excluding its CDMA network) and its mobile arm M-Tel. The report follows the failure of Nitel’s preferred bidder, New Generation Telecommunications, to meet its extended deadline for payment of a USD750 million bid security on 23 December 2010.

    President Goodluck Jonathon finally approved New Generation’s bid of USD2.5 billion in October 2010, after an investigation into the bidding process led to an eight-month delay. New Generation – which comprises Minerva Group of Dubai, Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless and technical partner China Unicom – was asked to pay a bid security of USD750 million within ten days from 25 October and was given 60 days to pay the remaining USD1.75 billion.

    On 5 November the bid security deadline was extended by 20 working days and subsequently to 23 December 2010, after the consortium failed to come up with the funds in time. However, Usman Gumi, GiCell’s managing director, said that New Generation was able to secure financial documentation from a foreign investor – which he said showed evidence of imminent payment of the funds following processing by the banks – and submit it to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on 23 December. The BPE is due to meet to discuss the fate of NITEL shortly.

  • The High Court of Malawi has reportedly upheld a decision by telecoms regulator Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to introduce a new interconnection law governing calls across both fixed and mobile networks.

    Two mobile operators, Airtel Malawi (formerly Zain/Celtel) and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), had attained an injunction against the introduction of the Sender Keeps All (SKA) interconnection regime, in which the operator originating the call keeps all of the revenues it collects. However, having heard arguments from MACRA and the operators, the court has now lifted the injunction.

    According to a statement from MACRA following the 23 December 2010 ruling, this means therefore that the court’s decision vindicates the legality and rationale of MACRA’s decision to intervene in the interconnection dispute that currently exists among operators. The regulator has now instructed all fixed and wireless operators to abide by the new interconnection law.

  • Tigo Rwanda has announced that it is now providing mico-SIM cards for subscribers with smart phones particularly those using the 3G iPad and latest iPhone 4.  The company’s Marketing Manager Nina Ndabaneze said on 10th January 2011 that the micro-SIM is now available for Tigo Rwanda subscribers wishing to acquire new numbers and those who wish to swap and retain their old numbers.

    She said that the company has also slashed prices on the Tigo Go Wireless data modem from Rwf25,000 to Rwf19,700  making the device the most affordable 3G modem in Rwanda. From the 10th to the 16th of January, the price per megabyte for our Go Wireless modem subscribers will be Rwf15 from Rwf30/MB

    According to Ndabaneze the company is set to introduce two ZTE low-cost smart phones which are equally useful as any other smart phone when browsing the Internet. The phones including the G-R352 that costs Rwf33,700 (US$56) and the F102 that goes for Rwf35,700 (US$59) which each handset coming with free internet subscription for one month.

    Officials at the Muhima based company also said that Tigo Rwanda was the first to introduce the micro-SIM in Rwanda.  “We have had in our stock the micro-SIM for more than two months. With the use of the new micro-SIM, mobile devices can store a larger battery, and we already see that in the new iPhone which has 16 percent more capacity. With Facebook, Twitter and all these utilities, users browse the Internet all day so they want a large screen, and that kills the battery of most smart phones,” Ndabaneze said.

    “The micro-SIM can be significantly used with Apple products like the 3G iPad or with the new iPhone 4. It is sold at the same price of Rwf350. Tigo subscribers can purchase and use the card as new or also by swap,” Nabaneze added.

    The new iPhone 4 is the first mobile phone to forgo the use of the usual SIM card and move to micro-SIM. Tigo officials said that subscriber who have recently purchased or intend to purchase the iPhone 4 don’t need to worry about the availability of the micro-SIM.

    Tigo and all the other telecom companies in Rwanda already provide the usual mini-SIM card. The new micro-SIM card is basically over 50 percent smaller, measuring only 15 mm × 12 mm × 0.76 mm.

    The micro-SIM standard is the creation of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and it’s been a standard since late 2003.

    In addition to new technology offerings, Tigo is this week launching a portfolio of products under the banner “Tigo My Choice”.  Subscribers will be able to buy bulk packages of voice minutes, SMS or data by simply sending an SMS to the relevant short-code for each package.

    “With these new packages we are telling our subscribers that we understand their unique needs and we will always do our best to provide the most personalized experience for each of them as possible.  Our customers can get more information by dialing *505# on their Tigo mobile, or calling or visiting any of our customer care centres,” Ndabaneze said.   

internet

  • Construction of the national information communication technology broadband backbone is expected to be completed this December, according to a senior government official. The move brings the hope of increased broadband uptake and reduced Internet tariffs in the Tanzanian hinterland and beyond.

    The backbone, which is the terrestrial continuation of the fibre optic submarine cables that landed in the Dar es Salaam coast last year has already contributed to a significant drop in Internet capacity charges. The NICTBB project was embarked on in 2008 and is expected to cost about Sh251 billion when it is completed at the end of this year.

    "The construction of the backbone was divided in two phases to cover the whole country. Phase I became operational in July 2010 and covers the northern ring of the network with ten Points of Presence (POP) which include Dar es Salaam, Morogoro,Singida, Iringa, Babati, Arusha, Namanga, Moshi and Tanga," Gilder Kibola, Head of the National ICT Broadband Backbone told The Citizen in an interview recently in Dar es Salaam.

    "Phase II is expected to be completed by December 2011 with operational PoPs at Lindi, Mtwara, Tunduru, Songea, Sumbawanga, Tabora, Kigoma, Manyovu," she added. The project is funded by a $170 million soft loan from China and Sh30 billion from government sources.

    The government intends to turn the country into the regional ICT hub, according to Ms Kibola. Since phase I of the backbone became operational last July four major locally licensed cellular and data operators were subscribed to NICTBB services, with other two companies from landlocked countries of Malawi and Zambia getting access to NICTBB through licensed local operators.

    According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, the broadband subscriptions stood at four million by the end of last year.

  • Vodacom Business has begun rolling out its optical fibre network in towns across the Western Cape, with over 120km of cable trenched across Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Paarl and Wellington.

    Ermano Quartero, Managing Executive of Products and Marketing at Vodacom Business, explains that the fibre-optic cabling enables the rapid transfer of large amounts of data, and is ideal for services that require smooth data provisioning, such as video conferencing.

    Quartero says the current network covers 23km of cable in Stellenbosch, 48km of cable in Somerset West, and 49km in Paarl and Wellington. There are also 38km of optic spurs in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Somerset West, he notes.

    Parent company Vodacom has been investing heavily in its network infrastructure, reporting R4.573 billion in network expenditure, according to the company's last year-end financial results. Over the past six months, Vodacom laid 831km of fibre and has to date encircled 11 metro rings with optical technology across the country.

  • Nigeria internet Registration Association (NiRA), managers of the Nigerian name space on the internet, the dot ng domain name has released 50, 000 free domain names for Nigerians as part of efforts to identify with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the country. Registration of free domains commenced formally on Friday, December 31, 2010 and will run till March 21, 2011.

    President of NiRA, Mary Uduma, who disclosed this in Abuja saying: "This sense of identification is tied to our perceptiveness of the collective responsibility required to project the true and appropriate Nigerian image and our conviction that the nation's country code, Top Level Domain .ng, is a veritable tool towards achieving this. To this effect, we have chosen to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communications in the re-branding Nigeria Project with the offer of 50,000 free .ng domains in 50 days."

    She said the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) who will provide the necessary funding for the project implementation would champion the project.

    The Agency, she said is committed to training a substantial number of Nigerian youths as web developers in readiness for an envisaged increased demand for the services of web developers with the registration of 50,000 .ng domains in the first quarter of 2011, and the target population of the .ng registry with 250,000 domains by the end of 2011, thereby preparing them for gainful employment.

    The project is expected to be launched this month by NITDA who will also sponsor the capacity building effort of NiRA in the setting up of a datacenter and co-location facility to support the activation of the 250,000 domains.

    NITDA promises to use the project in promoting the adoption of government policy to recognise only .ng e-mails for Government-to-Government, Government-to-Business, and Government-to-Citizens transactions.

    While the free domain name offer lasts, registrars will register domains at no cost to registrants for a period of one year. The offer of free domains is restricted to the following second level domains (SLDs): .com.ng, .org.ng, .name.ng, .mobi.ng, and .sch.ng.

    Registrations outside the listed SLDs will attract the usual charges and other activities in the registry such as renewal and transfer shall attract the normal fees. Recipients are expected to renew their domains at the usual fees at the expiration of the one-year period.

    Since NiRA operates the Registry/Registrar module, domains can only be registered through NiRA accredited registrars, Uduma said. She listed conditions for participation in the free domain name registration to include compliance of all domain names with the NiRA domain name policy; All registrants are subject to the NiRA registrants policy; Domains that are not put to use within six months of the registration shall be withdrawn/deleted. The waiver on the domain registration fee is for a period of one year, only.

    Registrants are expected to pay the necessary renewal fee at the expiration of the one-year period; Registrars may offer some value-added services to the recipients beyond the offer of free domains from NiRA. Other guidelines include the right of registrants to choose, with regard to the freebies they are willing to accept from registrars, particularly on the hosting of their domains; and that registrants may park their .ng free domains on their existing sites since it is completely disallowed to park domains on sites other than theirs.

computing

  • Software giant Microsoft SA expects to name the first four or five winning partners in its multimillion-rand empowerment deal by next February. This comes after it dispelled government's concerns, which had held up the announcement for several months.

    Microsoft's scheme is anticipated to further transform empowerment in South Africa, as the company has already had calls from other multinationals seeking advice on how they can implement similar empowerment structures.

    The software company first announced its R472 million empowerment deal in April, saying it will partner with a handful of software developers, providing investment and advice, in a bid to grow start-up firms into multinational giants.

    Analysts previously described the deal as “unique in SA” and it has been hailed for empowering smaller companies instead of the usual suspects. Microsoft will fund start-up enterprises and provide business knowledge to help them become global software players, but will not take equity stakes in the companies in return.

    It received more than 680 applications from prospective companies in response to its nationwide request for proposals. Of these, 141 met the qualifying criteria, and were whittled down further through a selection panel.

    The company expected to announce the first handful of partners in October, but this was held up when concerns arose within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) over how to measure the outcomes of the equity equivalency plan.

    Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati says he met with DTI acting director-general Lionel October early last month and the parties agreed on a memorandum of understanding that now only needs to be signed off.

    Once the deal has been signed, the company will receive 20 ownership points, which it will earn in return for offering the equity-equivalency plan, says Nyati. He hopes to be in a position to announce the first four or five companies that will benefit from investment and assistance in the middle of next month.

    Nyati says another one or two companies could benefit from the deal this year and Microsoft will open up the offer for new applications. However, after wrapping up the DTI's concerns, the process is expected to run faster.

    Microsoft SA has had a number of enquiries from companies seeking guidance on how to implement a similar deal, says Nyati. His sense is that some multinationals may replicate Microsoft's deal to some degree.

  • A commuter bus service company, Kigali Bus Services (KBS), effective today started issuing electronic cards for its passengers, a technology that is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes region.

    According to the company's marketing manager, Thierry Ngarambe, the service will relieve passengers the risk of having to travel with money in their pocket and help them with effective budgeting.

    Ngarambe also said that the cards, known as twende card are in two categories; e-pass which allows a passenger to load any amount of money from Rwf 200 to 60,000 which is the maximum and seasonal card which ranges from Rwf10,000 valid for one month and to 60,000 for six months. They can be accessed through mobile phone agents, FINA Bank, KBS bus conductors and at the Union Trade Centre.

    He explained that the system was in line with the government policies of technological advancement and environmental cleanliness and as well fulfilling the Central Bank campaign of discouraging people to move with cash in their pockets. The system, according to Ngarambe will also help the company maximize profits due to cases of dishonest taxi touts.

    "This is the most convenient way to achieve efficiency, the card can be used by a passenger swiping it in an electronic device at the bus entrance and deducts the fare automatically for e-passes and the date of expiry for a seasonal card," he said.

    Ngarambe also revealed that the use of paper tickets will not be immediately stopped but passengers using the new system will given priority. He further pointed that a 20 percent discount is guaranteed for the first season card buyers.

    In case of one's card loss or misplacement, passengers are assured of refund with a new card loaded with the previous amount only after the owner had reported the loss to the management who will then cancel the lost card.

  • The Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) on Monday rolled out its electronic connectivity agenda for 2011, which includes setting Information, Communication and Technology centres in all nurses training institutions.

    “GIFEC partnering with the Ministry of Health would equip all nursing training institutions with modern computer laboratory to ensure that trainees have unhindered access to the internet and other electronic facilities,” Kofi Attor, GIFEC Administrator, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview in Accra.

    He said the project involved providing the institutions with high speed computers, printers, scanners, projectors and servers, linking them with the internet in consonance with government’s policy.

    Attoh said under the “Better Ghana Agenda,” and in the Action Year of the government, the President had acknowledged the urgent need for the development and implementation of a comprehensive and integrated ICT for accelerated development policies, strategies and plans.

    In view of these, GIFEC will set up ICT Centres at Agricultural Training Institutions, Security Agencies and National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and also set up more Community Information Centres (CIC).

    Attor said the government in effect had identified ICT as the driver and enabler of a sustained and co-ordinated socio-economic development in Ghana. He said other projects such as Common Telecommunication Facilities, School Connectivity, CIC, Post Office Connectivity, Prison Connectivity, and the Library projects would continue in 2011.
    “We are currently working under the School Connectivity Project with 38

    Colleges of Education, 10 Youth Centres, 37 National Vocational Training Institutes, 37 Technical Schools and a number of Junior and Senior High Schools.” Attoh said GIFEC was set up to facilitate the spread of ICT and its use in rural Ghana to help promote research and reading culture, train rural schoolchildren and teachers in and the use of ICT and empower rural communities by providing access to information.

    He said GIFEC was collaborating with all the major telecommunications operators in the provision of common telecommunications site facilities in selected areas across the country under the Universal Access to Telecommunications Programme (UATP).

    The collaboration involves the award of subsidies to willing and eligible telecommunications operators for the provision of Common Telecommunications Site Facilities.

    He said GIFEC would also continue to educate both the public and telecommunication operators on the erection of masts, their impact on community and health of the people and also monitor the situation to ensure that operators adhered to safety mechanism.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced a $25 million equity investment in Helios Towers Africa Limited (HTA) to help the company build and maintain mobile phone towers in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, increasing mobile phone coverage and reducing communication costs in the region.

    HTA is building a pan-Africa tower company starting in Ghana and expanding into other countries such as Tanzania. The company leases space on its mobile towers to telecom companies, helping widen access to mobile telephony, and other communications technologies, bringing new opportunities, including voice services, market information, financial services, and health services, to developing countries in Africa.

    Helios CEO, Charles Green, said, “IFC understands the unique needs of growing companies in Africa’s telecoms sector and has provided us with a finance package that will allow us to continue our role as the leading independent tower company in Africa, expanding and providing benefits to mobile operators and users in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Bernard Sheahan, IFC Director of Infrastructure & Natural Resources in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Broadening access to affordable mobile telecommunications services remains a crucial part of development across Africa. With this investment, IFC is further lowering the barriers to accessing the knowledge, innovation, and improved government and business services that mobile communications can bring.”

    The reduced costs of leasing towers gives new, smaller companies access to existing tower facilities and allows larger operators to expand into remote areas that would normally by unprofitable.  Lower tower costs should result in enhanced service offerings and declining mobile prices for African consumers.

    HTA was established by Helios Investment Partners in 2009 to replicate the success achieved by its affiliate, Helios Towers Nigeria, which in 2005 became the first independent tower company in Africa. In 2010, HTA formed Helios Towers Ghana Limited to purchase and lease back approximately 750 towers in Ghana to mobile operator Millicom, the first transaction of its kind in Africa. The company recently announced that it will acquire an additional 1,020 sites from Millicom in Tanzania.

    The investment follows IFC’s 2009 investment in Helios Towers Nigeria, where IFC made available $250 million in syndicated loans, mezzanine financing and senior debt, allowing the company to build, maintain, and lease space on its network of telecommunications towers in Nigeria.

  • Two alleged accomplices of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, have pleaded guilty to V-Mobile shares theft charges. Daniel McCann and Mr. De Boer were charged for forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares owned by Akwa Ibom and Delta States. They are accused of violating the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act of the UK by creating fake documents between Delta State and "Africa Finance Ltd," and also between Delta and "African Development Company."

    They are also accused of creating a false account that used both men's names as beneficiaries as part of a scheme to hide the fraudulent nature of the transactions. Daniel McCann pleaded guilty before the Southwark Crown Court judge, last week, while Mr. De Boer had pleaded guilty in a similar trial last December

    Late last year, Ibori's UK-based lawyer, Bhadreh Gohil, who was accused of participating in the laundering of funds realised from the sale of V-Mobile shares owned by the governments of Delta and Akwa Ibom had also pleaded guilty.

    Others who are accused in the scam include Mr. Ibori, David Edevbie, a former Principal Secretary to Umaru Yar'Adua; Love Ojakovo, a former Commissioner of Finance to Ibori and Henry Imashekka, a business associate of Ibori.

    The accused face 14 counts of forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares by two from the Niger Delta region. The accused men reportedly used front companies to defraud the Nigerian states of a total of $37.8 million realised from the sale of the shares.

    Prosecutors alleged that a company named "Africa Development Finance Company" was the major conduit used to steal the funds.

    In an instance cited in the case summary, prosecutors state that an $11 million loan was purportedly granted to an aviation company that assisted Mr. Ibori in purchasing a jet from Canada; $10 million was given to "Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited," the company that Ibori used to purchase Wilbros; and another $790,000 was granted to another fake firm "Africa Development Co." and an offshore nominee firm.

    The two men alongside Mr. Gohil will be sentenced on February 21, 2011. UK prosecutors expect that Mr. Ibori would be coming to London soon after the United Emirates Authorities give a green for UK Metropolitan Police to move him over to London where he is expected to face three separate trials for money laundering, forgery and graft. The successful prosecution of Ibori has so far netted his wife, mistress and older sister.

  • Safaricom shares accounted for more than half of the market turnover recorded at the Nairobi Stock Exchange last year, indicating strong investor interest in the telecommunications firm and bearing heavily on overall movement at the bourse.

    Research by Sterling Investment Bank indicates that more than 3.4 billion shares of the listed mobile phone service provider were traded out of the 5.9 billion shares moved at the Nairobi bourse, translating into about 57 per cent of the total market volumes.

    Fund managers attributed the high turnover at the counter to the high float of the company's shares in the market. "Safaricom traded the highest volumes because it is a 'cheap' stock offering investors relative stability," said Reginald Kadzutu, a senior fund manager.

    The trend was upheld in the first week of trading at the NSE as more than 47 million of the company's shares were sold, out of a total of 77 million in trade dominated by foreign investors.

    This comes amid calls from institutional investors to have the share consolidated to mop up the high volumes of the stock that have been blamed for the sluggish price appreciation that has kept the stock trading below its Sh5 per share offer price.

    The company's chief executive, Bob Collymore, held investor road shows in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Barcelona, New York, Boston and Washington DC where he made presentations to institutional investors who are seen as having the financial muscle to buy the stock in bulk and lead to its natural consolidation. "Given its complexity and legal implications, our board of directors is still deliberating and consulting relevant parties on how best to approach it," said Collymore in an interview.

    The firm's shareholder records indicate that local corporate investors owned 86 per cent of the company at the beginning of December, while foreign corporate investors owned 6.2 per cent.

    At the time of listing in 2008, the company introduced 10 billion shares to the NSE out of the total 40 billion issued shares in a move meant to ensure that shares of the corporation, then majority owned by the State, were spread to more Kenyans.

    The IPO was massively oversubscribed with investors placing offers worth Sh226 billion as compared to the Sh50 billion that the government's 25 per cent stake was worth.

    In the share allocation, foreign investors got less than an eighth of the bids they collectively put in, and have generally been strong on the buy side despite the stock's slow price growth which has only managed an all time high of Sh6.

    Einsten Kihanda, a fund manager at ICEA Asset Management, said that the high volumes attributed to the counter indicate there is an oversupply of the stock in the market, which has further depressed prices.

    "There are too many Safaricom shares in the market which have resulted in the stock selling below its real value," said Mr Kihanda.

    He, however, said that a share buy-back could be the only way that the oversupply of the stock could be resolved to pave way for a price appreciation to reflect on the firm's fundamentals.

    In the half year results for the period ending June 2010, the company had grown its revenue 15.9 per cent to Sh47 billion at a time when income from non-voice shot up by more than 71 per cent to Sh14.6 billion.

    It is expected that revenue from the voice segment would take a hit as call rates declined by more than 50 per cent in the course of the second half of the year.

    The company has, however, sought to reduce dependency on airtime sales for revenue and has diversified into data and retail sales of gadgets to plug the income leaks.

    The regulatory framework would have to be changed to allow for share buy back, according to Mr Kihanda, who noted that the current set of laws in Kenya do not allow for share consolidation.

    "It is definite that Safaricom would drive the volumes this year again," he added.

    Demand for the share is likely to push the stock price up to its offer price of Sh5 in the foreseeable future, while a protracted price war in the second half of last year in the mobile telephone industry had dampened the company's prospects.

    This saw investors wary of the implications of the price war flee the counter, suppressing the stock price to an all-time low of Sh2.75.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom has stepped up its foray into mobile commerce by introducing M-Pesa-based booking of travel tickets and hotel accommodation - a new service that also promises to open additional revenue opportunities for the company's agents. Though the telecommunications operator had introduced a similar ticket-payment service almost one year ago, the new system is an improvement on the earlier "Easy Travel" version in that it allows customers to obtain ticket printouts from Safaricom's customer care shops and later from M-Pesa dealers. "We have launched the service with the necessary infrastructure at over 30 Safaricom shops countrywide for now. Plans are under way to recruit strategic agent outlets which will offer the service," said Bob Collymore, the company's chief executive. In addition, parents and guardians can now remit school fees for their children to the learning institutions through Safaricom's mobile phone money transfer service, M-Pesa.

    - The signal of the cellphone company, Movicel, has reached Caimbambo district, in central Benguela province, thus connecting the locality to the rest of Angola and the world.

    - Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom, the country's largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, has announced that it has reduced the price of sending an on-network SMS to KES1 (USD0.01), down from KES3.5. An SMS sent to an alternative operator's network will cost KES2, down from KES5. Safaricom has confirmed that the newly reduced rates will be permanent, and apply to both pre-paid and post-paid customers.

    - InMobi, a leading mobile ad network, has released its updated network research report.It provides a snapshot of mobile advertising trends in Africa between July 2010 and October 2010. “Africa continues to be a major market in the global mobile ad ecosystem. With nearly 19 per cent – growth in mobile ad impression inventory in just 90 days, it’s clear Africans are increasingly connecting to the Internet via their mobile phone. Key findings include breaking of the 3 billion impressions mark to reach 3.3 billion monthly impressions saying this represented an 18.8% growth over just 90 days.

    - AdMob, the mobile advertising agency now owned by Google says that it is now handling in excess of 2 billion ad requests per day, more than quadrupling the daily rate over the last twelve months. The growth is global. Nine countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in December 2010, up from just one country a year ago. The strongest regional growth in monthly ad requests over the past year has come from Asia (564%), Western Europe (471%) and Oceania (363%). Growth in Africa was recorded at 81%.

    - Namibia’s mobile operator, MTC Namibia has broadened its customer service capacity by introducing an Outbound Call Centre as from mid-December 2010. Before the opening of the Outbound Call Centre, MTC only had an Inbound Call Centre which caters for customers calling in to seek solutions and understanding of various queries that they may have with the company’s products and/or services.

    - A research team at the University of Dar es Salaam says half the Tanzanian population is currently hooked to mobile phones, and that it takes just a handset to run a business in the country. Led by Prof Ophelia Mascarenhas of the university, there is no need for offices, visiting cards or huge capital investments. The Tanzanian study is part of four-nation initiative code-named Picture-Africa. The other countries currently doing similar studies are Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – all financed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Digital Content

  • Pumwani Maternity Hospital, in the impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood of Eastlands, is the site of a trial project using mobile phones to help HIV-positive mothers avoid passing the virus on to their children. Juliet Wangari Njuguna is a research nurse with Kenya Aids Control Project. She works at the Pumwani clinic to assist HIV-positive mothers.

    "We help with the enrolment, and as the patients are coming in they are sifted. We talk to the ones who happen to be HIV positive, and we find out how long they have known their status and if they have disclosed it to anyone." They also find out if the women have a mobile phone.

    In July, the Kenya Aids Control Project started using the Pumwani Hospital as a site to study the potential of following up with HIV positive patients using mobile phones.

    The phone contact is intended to make sure that mothers are keeping up with taking their antiretroviral medicines and stay informed on what they need to do during their pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to their child.

    Mobile phones have become a popular means of communication in Kenya. The recent lowering of costs by the various service providers is encouraging even more people to embrace the mobile phone.

    Pediatrician Frida Govedi, the chief executive officer of Pumwani Maternity Hospital, says, "through this telephony they are being empowered with information. How they should eat, when they should take their vitamins, when they should come for their CD4 counts, it is an interactive medium between the mother and the healthcare worker."

    Ms Njuguna and the other research nurses at Pumwani guide HIV-positive mothers at the clinic through a questionnaire to determine if they are candidates for the mobile phone programme. The questionnaire records details such as the woman's age, her general health, how long she has known that she is HIV positive and if she is already on any medication.

    The mother also has to live within a reasonable distance of the hospital and be able to understand English or Kiswahili. The questionnaire responses are entered into a database. All the women will receive antiretroviral therapy, but a randomly selected group will also receive SMS messages.

    All the women will be followed-up after they give birth to assess the success of the course of treatment. This is also aimed at measuring the effectiveness of the SMS prompts to the mothers receiving the messages against the results of a control group.

    "The women start receiving one message per week reminding them to come for their antenatal care visit," says Ms Njuguna. "Then in their last month of pregnancy, the message changes to remind them to take their drugs.

    "But we write, 'Remember to take your vitamins.' We don't want to put 'ARVs' in a text message, because we don't know who can come across their phones." Ms Njuguna says stigma and the pressure to hide one's HIV status are a major challenge for HIV positive women.

    Extreme poverty is another challenge, with women sometimes missing appointments due to a lack of money for transport or at times not being able to make it as they struggle to make ends meet.

    Literacy is yet another obstacle. "Another thing is that some of them understand English and Kiswahili, but they can't read, so the text messages will not help them. So there are some who feel like we should do calls in the future."

    Dr Govedi worries that the potential advantages of the SMS notification system are also limited by the late enrolment into the programme of many of the women, who are far into their pregnancy by the time they first come to Pumwani.

    "We would have loved to have gotten them as early as 14 weeks, when we are able to institute their antiretroviral therapy for PMTCT. But you find most of the mothers are coming to us well after 20 weeks," says Dr Govedi.

    A day in the life of the health workers providing mobile support is busy. Njuguna must keep up with responding to various text messages and calls from the over 90 women enrolled in the programme, as well as ensuring crucial information is sent out at the right time.

    The routine messages are programmed into a computer and sent out automatically, but when that system is down, a health worker must send them out manually to the women who depend on the reminders.

    She feels it's worth the extra work. "It feels good that you are doing something and they are grateful.

    Then they tend to ask you all sorts of questions, which is better than being at home and assuming things. So you feel like you are having an impact in people's lives."

    The initiative is expected to end in mid-2013. Researchers hope to find positive results in empowering women living with HIV to protect their own health and that of their newborn children.

  • Traffic lights have become attractive targets for thieves in Johannesburg. Some 400 high-tech South African traffic lights are out of action after thieves in Johannesburg stole the mobile phone Sim cards they contain. The thieves ran up bills amounting to thousands of dollars by using the stolen cards to make calls.

    Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) said it is investigating the possibility of an "inside job" after only the Sim card-fitted traffic lights were targeted. The cards were fitted to notify JRA when the traffic lights were faulty. JRA believes a syndicate "with links on the inside" is behind the thefts.

    "We have 2,000 major intersections in Johannesburg and only 600 of those were fitted with the cards," the agency's spokesperson Thulani Makhubela told the BBC. "No-one apart from JRA and our supplier knows which intersections have that system." He described the thefts as "systematic and co-ordinated".

    "The vandalism began with a few lights in November and we repaired them. Over December the thieves struck again, this time hitting hundreds more, including the ones we had repaired," he said. "These people know what they are doing."

    Repairing the faulty traffic lights will cost JRA about 9m rand ($1.3m; £870,000).
    JRA has said it has blocked all the stolen Sim cards so that they cannot be used to make further calls - but this was not before the thieves had run up huge bills.

    "One card had a bill of 30,000 rand ($4,500; £2,900) and we are talking about no less than 150 Sim card bills. Whichever way we look at it we are talking about a lot of money," said Mr Makhubela. Several cases of theft and vandalism have apparently been opened across Johannesburg.

    Johannesburg's roads have been fairly quiet over December but with hundreds of holiday-makers expected to return over the weekend, the damaged lights pose a hazard in the city's major roads says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

More

  • - Jin Moo Lee has been appointed as LG Electronics SA's new CEO, replacing Peet van Rooyen as part of a global restructuring process of the multinational group's operations.

    - The new fixed line service company Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) CEO, replaces expatriate Bernd Flack who left last month. Charles Chuka becomes the second indigenous Malawian to take over the running of a telecommunications company in the country. He is preceded by Saulos Chilima who took over as executive director of Celtel, now Airtel, a mobile telecommunications service provider, last year.

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011, Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
    Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition is a landmark Conference on Africa and significant business networking occasion for the top corporate players active in, across and involved with the development of the African continent - Cape-to-Cairo, with Governments and officials in key industries and state institutions.
    Contact: babette@glopac.com or visit here

    ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach

    23-26 March 2011, Ota, Nigeria
    The conference will initiate research and practice agenda where ICTs will aid the academia, organizations - public and private and non-governmental to improve socio-economic conditions and directly benefit the disadvantaged in some manner.
    For further information visit here

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011

    4-5 April, Movenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE
    Now in its 4th year and attended by over 200 attendees in 2010, Informa Telecoms and Media’s Managed Services for Growth Markets event will take place on 4th - 5th April at the Moevenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE.With a proven track-record and repeat sponsorship from leading suppliers Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NokiaSiemens Networks and Motorola, this event is truly established as the ultimate meeting-place for the Managed Services industry in the growth markets.A 50% discount for operators ensures a high percentage operator attendance.  Extended break times and additional social functions will guarantee a further enhancement to the already unique networking opportunities. Informa’s Managed Services for Growth Markets conference is the only established event in the region, proven to deliver an industry focussed agenda, the highest level speakers, superior networking opportunities, and top class delegates year on year.
For more information visit here

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa

    9 March  2011, Grand Millennium Hotel, Dubai
     Taking place on the 9th March 2011, the Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East and Africa is a Free-to-attend event and will feature all of the key players within the Cloud Computing and SaaS market providing an introduction, discussion and look into the future for the ICT industry.
    This one day conference will provide the most complete and comprehensive platform for the global Cloud Computing and SaaS industry. Register Free today and get inspiration on how to address your latest issues with advice from real-life end-user case studies and practical examples.
    Show Highlights include:
    1 Day Conference on Cloud Computing and SaaS
    Featuring presentations on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Applications, IaaS, Virtualization and PaaS
    Keynote theatre featuring leading industry speakers
    More case studies than any other like event
    Learn from the key players offering leading products and services
    Pre-show online meeting planner
    Evening networking reception for all attendees
    For more information please contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com. Or visit here

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit here

  • The Tech Awards
    The Tech Awards is a programme that aims to honour and award innovators from around the world who use technology to benefit humanity. Three Laureates in each category are honoured, and one Laureate per category receives US$50 000.

    Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

    The purpose of The Tech Awards programme is to inspire global engagement in applying technology to humanity's most pressing problems by recognising individuals, organisations, and companies that are utilising innovative technology solutions to address the most urgent issues facing our planet.

    The categories are: environment, economic development, education, equality and heath.

    The submission deadline is 31 March 2011.

    For nomination form,  For more information about the award,
    To view other opportunities, visit:

    Request for Expressions of Interest - Maputo ICT Incubator Program
    The Government of Mozambique (GoM) has received a Credit from the International Development Association (IDA) toward the cost of the Mozambique eGovernment and Communications Infrastructure Project (MEGCIP) and intends to apply part of the proceeds for contracting of services and infrastructure to establish the “Maputo ICT Incubation Program”. Other complementary funds to be used in this project will be obtained from the Finnish Government, channeled through infoDev.              

    OBJECTIVE OF ASSIGNMENT
    To select a host organization (incubation partner) capable of supporting emerging ICT-enabled businesses and incubating them towards growth and success. The vision for the pilot incubator is that it will eventually become a national ICT small business support center, including additional physical and virtual facilities, contributing strategically to the sector’s growth.

    SCOPE OF SERVICES
    The Incubator will be guided by a business plan, agreed upon with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). It is expected that the Incubator manager will be selected via a competitive process. The incubation model to be agreed upon with MCT will be expected to deliver on the following:

    - Create affordable office space and facilities for small and medium-sized ICT companies. If a virtual/outreach model is proposed, then the minimum space requirement must be specified and made available free of charge

    - Provide Human Resources to manage the Maputo ICT Incubator facilities and services. Where these resources will be “in sourced” indicate which organization will be providing these resources.
    - Grow the ICT industry by facilitating the development and successful growth of early stage companies
    - Attract investment into local ICT companies and services providers
    - Build understanding among the broader business community in terms of the relevance and importance of small, innovative ICT companies in their value chains
    - Position Mozambique as an ICT innovator on the African continent
    - Develop a business model that generates revenue streams to ensure the sustainability of the incubator
    - Generate funds in the medium to long term to support the expansion of the incubator
    - Create linkages with strategic partners in building a sustainable ecosystem
    - Support extension on the Maputo incubator through virtual support services and expansion to other physical locations (such as the Maluana Science Park or incubator facilities in other provinces throughout the country)

    MCT acting as beneficiary institution now invites host organizations interested in managing the Maputo ICT incubator using their own facilities or those of their consortium partners. Interested host organizations must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services. This should include evidence of:
    - The availability of free space and facilities that can be used, with relatively little adaptation, to accommodate start-ups and SMEs , and which can be scaled up over time as the incubator grows;
    - A close link to innovation and to entrepreneurs and the ability to generate, or attract, a steady flow of ICT business start-ups and requisite funding.
    - Energetic, inspired and capable management able to stimulate the development of the ICT small business community. This team should be composed at least by the Maputo ICT Incubator Manager, Business Development Manager, Financial Manager, Administrative Officer and Secretary (the Incubator manager however may be selected in parallel),
    - The host or at least one consortium partner should be of Mozambican origin and the institution based in Mozambique; and provide a viable business plan, geared towards meeting the objectives and purposes outlined above, and be capable of sustaining growth after the expiry of the grant-support period.

    This assignment is estimated to cover an initial two-year engagement for grant support with the possibility of extension, depending on the overall success of the program.

    Host organizations will be selected in accordance with the procedures set out in the World Bank’s guidelines:

    Selection and employment of consultants by World Bank Borrowers, May 2004 (revised October 2006, and May 2010). Interested consultants may obtain additional information at the address indicated below during the working days from 7:30 a.m. to 15:30 p.m. (local time) and on MCT web page www.mct.gov.mz.

    Expression of interest must be delivered to the address below until 15:30 p.m. (local time) of January 23rd, 2011

    Ministry of Science and Technology
    Directorate of Infrastructure and Information Systems (DISI )
    Av. Patrice Lumumba, 770
    Maputo-Mozambique
    Tel.: +258 21 352800
    Fax: +258 21 352860
    E-mail: secretariado@mct.gov.mz

  • Vodafone and Huawei - Ghana
    Ghanaian fixed and mobile operator Vodafone Ghana has awarded China’s Huawei a five-year managed services agreement under which it will take over responsibilities for the operations and maintenance of the Vodafone mobile, microwave, SDH and fixed switching networks. It is hoped the long term partnership will provide the telco with a sustainable operating model, reducing its operating expenses and enabling it to focus further on providing more attractive new services to its customers. The network operations agreement signed by the pair also guarantees performance and service quality of the Vodafone network, which is used by multiple vendors across the country, the vendor said.


    Synchronica and handset manufacturer - Africa

    Synchronica, the international provider of next-generation mobile messaging services, has secured an initial contract worth more than USD 500,000 with a device manufacturer targeting the African mass market. The device manufacturer will bundle the white-labelled Synchronica Mobile Gateway with a number of MediaTek-based handsets, enabling consumers in Africa to experience a BlackBerry-like service on a range of low-cost devices.

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Top story

  • The dirty downside of the ICT industry is that computers have to go somewhere when they die and because they are full of potentially toxic materials they cannot simply be dumped in landfills. Uganda’s Government has sought to tackle part of the problem by banning the import of secondhand computers and sparked the law of unintended consequences. Russell Southwood talked to Shakeel Padamsey of Camara and Kyle Spencer of the Uganda Linux Group about what’s happened.

    In June 2009 the Ugandan Government passed the Financial Bill which prohibited the import of  “used refrigerators, freezers, computers and television sets” from October 2009. The background to the legislation was a concern that Uganda was not dealing properly with the issue of e-waste.

    In May 2008 a report called “e-Waste Assessment in Uganda - A situational analysis of e-waste management and generation with special emphasis on personal computers authored by the Uganda Cleaner Production Centre and EMPA from Switzerland (and sponsored by UNID0 and Microsoft draw attention to the issue. It concluded that:”… only around 10% of those computers (estimated 300,000 in 2007) reach the waste stream, whereas the rest is kept in storage without being used. The 10% in the waste stream gets collected by individuals, whereas material and parts are sold informally and the rest gets dumped informally…This (is) equal to about 2,000 tons of computer waste (desktop unit
    and CRT screen) in total, which contains e.g. 80 tons of printed circuit boards and 400 tons of plastic. These numbers are hypothetical but represent a realistic order of magnitude”. The report’s recommendation was that it be dealt with by a UNIDO/Microsoft refurbishment initiative.

    However, the Government’s complete ban on used computers has had significant unintended consequences. According to a position paper in December 2010 from the E-Waste Special Interest Group is comprised of over 200 traders, importers, suppliers, recyclers, and ICT-Education charitable organisations involved with refurbished ICT equipment:” The vast majority of educational institutions, SMEs, and the public rely upon NGOs and other used-computer importers for affordable high-quality ICT equipment. This ban especially affects thousands of schools and millions of
    students who rely upon these organisations for their ICT needs”.

    “The six-fold price difference between the cheapest refurbished computer (supplied with educational software, training and maintenance), means that schools that
    would have been able to afford 10 or 20 computers now can only afford 2 or 3, making teaching ICT impossible and affecting generations of Ugandans. As a result of the work of organisations which were operating before the ban was implemented, over 2 million
    individuals now have access to high quality branded ICT equipment”.

    “Due to these efforts, educational software and the Internet is now more widely accessible, providing access for 1.8 million students across 4500 schools – working towards targets set out within a number of Millennium Development Goals (2 and 8f). Furthermore, these organisations have trained approximately 32,000 individuals, including 4000 teachers. As a result of the ban, it is estimated that per year at least 1,500 teachers will not be trained and more than 500,000 students will not gain access to ICT equipment”.

    But is not just the education sector that will feel the consequences but also Uganda’s economy:”According to our research, we estimate that the ban immediately eliminates over one thousand skilled jobs and annually removes $17 million from the local economy. A 2009 study by Private Sector Foundation Uganda, projects
    that losses as a result of the ban will total $60 million in revenue and 100,000 jobs in Uganda, compared to the EAC and other African countries without a ban”. All lobby groups are prone to exaggerate slightly for effect but the points are well made.

    The e-Waste Special Interest Group is arguing that the alternative is to produce sound and enforceable regulations on the importation of all electronic goods through licensing of businesses, ensuring only high quality goods are brought into the country. Elements of this approach would include: licensing importers of electronic goods; verification of equipment sent to Uganda by organizations like such Bureau Veritas, SGS, and Intertek; and a system of independent auditing procedures to be adopted with the help of
    relevant Government institutions to ensure that each organisation is actively
    involved in recycling activities; and a recycling “deposit” that would be refunded when the defunct computer was delivered to a recycling centre.

    The Government’s response to these points has been somewhat ill-thought-out. In the response from the Government Minister, NEMA (the environmental agency) and the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee, it said:”Uganda is being used as a dumping ground by developed countries and yet we do not have capacity to dispose E- waste”.

    Two points are very clear: Firstly, why would anyone go to the time and trouble of exporting e-waste to an inland country like Uganda? What is currently being exported are secondhand computers that have a 2-3 year life. Secondly, if Uganda genuinely becomes the ICT society it aspires to be, it will build up a steady stream of defunct computers (and fridges, freezers and televisions) and as every year passes the number will increase. Therefore surely now is the moment to start creating recycling facilities as one of the unfortunate consequences of getting wealthier is that you have to deal with a different type of waste.

    The response also said “that government plans to distribute free computers to government aided schools. It will also ensure that computers are assembled locally at affordable prices”. Sad to say, in our view pigs will fly before this starts happening. Again encouraging a local assembly industry is laudable but Uganda is a relatively small market in which to make it financially viable.

    Kyle Spencer estimates that out of an estimated 350,000-500,000 computers in the country, 130,000 are computers that were bought secondhand. Of these, 1 in seven were refurbished computers:”They simply don’t have the data to support their argument.” Currently an average refurbished computer costs between US$60-70 whereas a new computer at the low end costs around US$350, a price differential of 5-6 times.

    If the Government wants to encourage computer ownership then giving access at the lower price is surely worthy of consideration. Indeed Padamsey’s own organization sold refurbished computers to schools for just US$50. Padamsey says:”The Government wanted to give a waiver to one organization to import refurbished computers. But what can be given by Government can be taken away and a waiver system would be open to corruption.”

    Padamsey went to one of the major landfill sites North of Kampala:”There was some eWaste like dot matrix printers and TVs but most of it was very old. There’s a Chinese company that has been trying to buy plastics and metals at US25 cents a kilo. Things like this would be the basis for a new recycling industry. NEMA doesn’t seem to distinguish between refurbishing and recycling. Our organization runs an e-waste facility in Mombasa and when computers in schools reach the end of their life, they have to return them to us”.

    This is story without heroes and villains but a classic case where legislation has created unintended consequences. The Government has put itself in the position where it is cutting off a supply of cheap, working computers and will need to take on the task of supplying computers to schools (Which part of the budget will that come out of?). It is seeking to deal with a small amount of the refurbished waste stream without anticipating the huge increase in e-waste that the successful adoption of new computers will bring about. Creating recycling capacity has to be the way to go and is probably cheaper than the current legal corner that the politicians have backed themselves into.

    For more market news and insights, go to Balancing Act’s Web TV channel:

    Clips include:

    * Main One’s Michael Iyayi on extending the cable to South Africa and Cameroon.
    * Bouzaine Zaid on the use of You Tube in Morocco
    * Tito Alai on a B2B GPRS sales tracking tool.
    * Praveen Sadalage of Busy Internet on Ghana’s first third party data centre,
    * The CEO of Hadera Tech on green approaches to data servers for Africa.

    There are 51 clips in both English and French that contain news and information that does not appear in our e-letter or on our web site.

telecoms

  • Sudan Vote Monitor, a Web platform that allows ordinary citizens to report on electoral fraud and violence in real time via text message, went live on January 7, 2011, ahead of the January 9 independence referendum in South Sudan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor uses open source software to transmit, collect and interpret information from volunteer observers at polling stations, and also allows users to upload video to a YouTube site, or link directly to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in addition to several Sudan-specific sites.

     “Our technology will provide the closest thing that exists to a real-time snapshot of what is happening on the ground during the referendum,” says Fareed Zein, spokesperson for Sudan Vote Monitor. “Our role is to make it possible for ordinary people to monitor the process.”

    Powering the Sudan Vote Monitor Website is Ushahidi.com, a Web portal that allows anyone to gather data via SMS messaging, e-mail or the internet and
    visualize it on a map. Since the Ushahidi platform was first deployed during the 2008 political crisis in Kenya, it has been used for election monitoring in
    India, Burundi, Mexico and Afghanistan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor is a collaboration of several Sudanese civil society organizations led by the Sudan Institute for Policy and Research (SIRP)
    http://www.sudaninstitute.org and the Asmaa Society for Development http://asmaasociety.org.

  • Brymedia Consortium, one of the initial bidders for state-run incumbent telco Nitel, is looking to acquire the ailing operator, should the preferred buyer fail to make the initial payment, local newspaper Daily Independent reports, citing sources close to the consortium. Brymedia came third during the bidding process for Nitel in February 2010, after offering USD551 million for a 75% stake in Nitel (excluding its CDMA network) and its mobile arm M-Tel. The report follows the failure of Nitel’s preferred bidder, New Generation Telecommunications, to meet its extended deadline for payment of a USD750 million bid security on 23 December 2010.

    President Goodluck Jonathon finally approved New Generation’s bid of USD2.5 billion in October 2010, after an investigation into the bidding process led to an eight-month delay. New Generation – which comprises Minerva Group of Dubai, Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless and technical partner China Unicom – was asked to pay a bid security of USD750 million within ten days from 25 October and was given 60 days to pay the remaining USD1.75 billion.

    On 5 November the bid security deadline was extended by 20 working days and subsequently to 23 December 2010, after the consortium failed to come up with the funds in time. However, Usman Gumi, GiCell’s managing director, said that New Generation was able to secure financial documentation from a foreign investor – which he said showed evidence of imminent payment of the funds following processing by the banks – and submit it to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on 23 December. The BPE is due to meet to discuss the fate of NITEL shortly.

  • The High Court of Malawi has reportedly upheld a decision by telecoms regulator Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to introduce a new interconnection law governing calls across both fixed and mobile networks.

    Two mobile operators, Airtel Malawi (formerly Zain/Celtel) and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), had attained an injunction against the introduction of the Sender Keeps All (SKA) interconnection regime, in which the operator originating the call keeps all of the revenues it collects. However, having heard arguments from MACRA and the operators, the court has now lifted the injunction.

    According to a statement from MACRA following the 23 December 2010 ruling, this means therefore that the court’s decision vindicates the legality and rationale of MACRA’s decision to intervene in the interconnection dispute that currently exists among operators. The regulator has now instructed all fixed and wireless operators to abide by the new interconnection law.

  • Tigo Rwanda has announced that it is now providing mico-SIM cards for subscribers with smart phones particularly those using the 3G iPad and latest iPhone 4.  The company’s Marketing Manager Nina Ndabaneze said on 10th January 2011 that the micro-SIM is now available for Tigo Rwanda subscribers wishing to acquire new numbers and those who wish to swap and retain their old numbers.

    She said that the company has also slashed prices on the Tigo Go Wireless data modem from Rwf25,000 to Rwf19,700  making the device the most affordable 3G modem in Rwanda. From the 10th to the 16th of January, the price per megabyte for our Go Wireless modem subscribers will be Rwf15 from Rwf30/MB

    According to Ndabaneze the company is set to introduce two ZTE low-cost smart phones which are equally useful as any other smart phone when browsing the Internet. The phones including the G-R352 that costs Rwf33,700 (US$56) and the F102 that goes for Rwf35,700 (US$59) which each handset coming with free internet subscription for one month.

    Officials at the Muhima based company also said that Tigo Rwanda was the first to introduce the micro-SIM in Rwanda.  “We have had in our stock the micro-SIM for more than two months. With the use of the new micro-SIM, mobile devices can store a larger battery, and we already see that in the new iPhone which has 16 percent more capacity. With Facebook, Twitter and all these utilities, users browse the Internet all day so they want a large screen, and that kills the battery of most smart phones,” Ndabaneze said.

    “The micro-SIM can be significantly used with Apple products like the 3G iPad or with the new iPhone 4. It is sold at the same price of Rwf350. Tigo subscribers can purchase and use the card as new or also by swap,” Nabaneze added.

    The new iPhone 4 is the first mobile phone to forgo the use of the usual SIM card and move to micro-SIM. Tigo officials said that subscriber who have recently purchased or intend to purchase the iPhone 4 don’t need to worry about the availability of the micro-SIM.

    Tigo and all the other telecom companies in Rwanda already provide the usual mini-SIM card. The new micro-SIM card is basically over 50 percent smaller, measuring only 15 mm × 12 mm × 0.76 mm.

    The micro-SIM standard is the creation of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and it’s been a standard since late 2003.

    In addition to new technology offerings, Tigo is this week launching a portfolio of products under the banner “Tigo My Choice”.  Subscribers will be able to buy bulk packages of voice minutes, SMS or data by simply sending an SMS to the relevant short-code for each package.

    “With these new packages we are telling our subscribers that we understand their unique needs and we will always do our best to provide the most personalized experience for each of them as possible.  Our customers can get more information by dialing *505# on their Tigo mobile, or calling or visiting any of our customer care centres,” Ndabaneze said.   

internet

  • Construction of the national information communication technology broadband backbone is expected to be completed this December, according to a senior government official. The move brings the hope of increased broadband uptake and reduced Internet tariffs in the Tanzanian hinterland and beyond.

    The backbone, which is the terrestrial continuation of the fibre optic submarine cables that landed in the Dar es Salaam coast last year has already contributed to a significant drop in Internet capacity charges. The NICTBB project was embarked on in 2008 and is expected to cost about Sh251 billion when it is completed at the end of this year.

    "The construction of the backbone was divided in two phases to cover the whole country. Phase I became operational in July 2010 and covers the northern ring of the network with ten Points of Presence (POP) which include Dar es Salaam, Morogoro,Singida, Iringa, Babati, Arusha, Namanga, Moshi and Tanga," Gilder Kibola, Head of the National ICT Broadband Backbone told The Citizen in an interview recently in Dar es Salaam.

    "Phase II is expected to be completed by December 2011 with operational PoPs at Lindi, Mtwara, Tunduru, Songea, Sumbawanga, Tabora, Kigoma, Manyovu," she added. The project is funded by a $170 million soft loan from China and Sh30 billion from government sources.

    The government intends to turn the country into the regional ICT hub, according to Ms Kibola. Since phase I of the backbone became operational last July four major locally licensed cellular and data operators were subscribed to NICTBB services, with other two companies from landlocked countries of Malawi and Zambia getting access to NICTBB through licensed local operators.

    According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, the broadband subscriptions stood at four million by the end of last year.

  • Vodacom Business has begun rolling out its optical fibre network in towns across the Western Cape, with over 120km of cable trenched across Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Paarl and Wellington.

    Ermano Quartero, Managing Executive of Products and Marketing at Vodacom Business, explains that the fibre-optic cabling enables the rapid transfer of large amounts of data, and is ideal for services that require smooth data provisioning, such as video conferencing.

    Quartero says the current network covers 23km of cable in Stellenbosch, 48km of cable in Somerset West, and 49km in Paarl and Wellington. There are also 38km of optic spurs in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Somerset West, he notes.

    Parent company Vodacom has been investing heavily in its network infrastructure, reporting R4.573 billion in network expenditure, according to the company's last year-end financial results. Over the past six months, Vodacom laid 831km of fibre and has to date encircled 11 metro rings with optical technology across the country.

  • Nigeria internet Registration Association (NiRA), managers of the Nigerian name space on the internet, the dot ng domain name has released 50, 000 free domain names for Nigerians as part of efforts to identify with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the country. Registration of free domains commenced formally on Friday, December 31, 2010 and will run till March 21, 2011.

    President of NiRA, Mary Uduma, who disclosed this in Abuja saying: "This sense of identification is tied to our perceptiveness of the collective responsibility required to project the true and appropriate Nigerian image and our conviction that the nation's country code, Top Level Domain .ng, is a veritable tool towards achieving this. To this effect, we have chosen to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communications in the re-branding Nigeria Project with the offer of 50,000 free .ng domains in 50 days."

    She said the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) who will provide the necessary funding for the project implementation would champion the project.

    The Agency, she said is committed to training a substantial number of Nigerian youths as web developers in readiness for an envisaged increased demand for the services of web developers with the registration of 50,000 .ng domains in the first quarter of 2011, and the target population of the .ng registry with 250,000 domains by the end of 2011, thereby preparing them for gainful employment.

    The project is expected to be launched this month by NITDA who will also sponsor the capacity building effort of NiRA in the setting up of a datacenter and co-location facility to support the activation of the 250,000 domains.

    NITDA promises to use the project in promoting the adoption of government policy to recognise only .ng e-mails for Government-to-Government, Government-to-Business, and Government-to-Citizens transactions.

    While the free domain name offer lasts, registrars will register domains at no cost to registrants for a period of one year. The offer of free domains is restricted to the following second level domains (SLDs): .com.ng, .org.ng, .name.ng, .mobi.ng, and .sch.ng.

    Registrations outside the listed SLDs will attract the usual charges and other activities in the registry such as renewal and transfer shall attract the normal fees. Recipients are expected to renew their domains at the usual fees at the expiration of the one-year period.

    Since NiRA operates the Registry/Registrar module, domains can only be registered through NiRA accredited registrars, Uduma said. She listed conditions for participation in the free domain name registration to include compliance of all domain names with the NiRA domain name policy; All registrants are subject to the NiRA registrants policy; Domains that are not put to use within six months of the registration shall be withdrawn/deleted. The waiver on the domain registration fee is for a period of one year, only.

    Registrants are expected to pay the necessary renewal fee at the expiration of the one-year period; Registrars may offer some value-added services to the recipients beyond the offer of free domains from NiRA. Other guidelines include the right of registrants to choose, with regard to the freebies they are willing to accept from registrars, particularly on the hosting of their domains; and that registrants may park their .ng free domains on their existing sites since it is completely disallowed to park domains on sites other than theirs.

computing

  • Software giant Microsoft SA expects to name the first four or five winning partners in its multimillion-rand empowerment deal by next February. This comes after it dispelled government's concerns, which had held up the announcement for several months.

    Microsoft's scheme is anticipated to further transform empowerment in South Africa, as the company has already had calls from other multinationals seeking advice on how they can implement similar empowerment structures.

    The software company first announced its R472 million empowerment deal in April, saying it will partner with a handful of software developers, providing investment and advice, in a bid to grow start-up firms into multinational giants.

    Analysts previously described the deal as “unique in SA” and it has been hailed for empowering smaller companies instead of the usual suspects. Microsoft will fund start-up enterprises and provide business knowledge to help them become global software players, but will not take equity stakes in the companies in return.

    It received more than 680 applications from prospective companies in response to its nationwide request for proposals. Of these, 141 met the qualifying criteria, and were whittled down further through a selection panel.

    The company expected to announce the first handful of partners in October, but this was held up when concerns arose within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) over how to measure the outcomes of the equity equivalency plan.

    Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati says he met with DTI acting director-general Lionel October early last month and the parties agreed on a memorandum of understanding that now only needs to be signed off.

    Once the deal has been signed, the company will receive 20 ownership points, which it will earn in return for offering the equity-equivalency plan, says Nyati. He hopes to be in a position to announce the first four or five companies that will benefit from investment and assistance in the middle of next month.

    Nyati says another one or two companies could benefit from the deal this year and Microsoft will open up the offer for new applications. However, after wrapping up the DTI's concerns, the process is expected to run faster.

    Microsoft SA has had a number of enquiries from companies seeking guidance on how to implement a similar deal, says Nyati. His sense is that some multinationals may replicate Microsoft's deal to some degree.

  • A commuter bus service company, Kigali Bus Services (KBS), effective today started issuing electronic cards for its passengers, a technology that is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes region.

    According to the company's marketing manager, Thierry Ngarambe, the service will relieve passengers the risk of having to travel with money in their pocket and help them with effective budgeting.

    Ngarambe also said that the cards, known as twende card are in two categories; e-pass which allows a passenger to load any amount of money from Rwf 200 to 60,000 which is the maximum and seasonal card which ranges from Rwf10,000 valid for one month and to 60,000 for six months. They can be accessed through mobile phone agents, FINA Bank, KBS bus conductors and at the Union Trade Centre.

    He explained that the system was in line with the government policies of technological advancement and environmental cleanliness and as well fulfilling the Central Bank campaign of discouraging people to move with cash in their pockets. The system, according to Ngarambe will also help the company maximize profits due to cases of dishonest taxi touts.

    "This is the most convenient way to achieve efficiency, the card can be used by a passenger swiping it in an electronic device at the bus entrance and deducts the fare automatically for e-passes and the date of expiry for a seasonal card," he said.

    Ngarambe also revealed that the use of paper tickets will not be immediately stopped but passengers using the new system will given priority. He further pointed that a 20 percent discount is guaranteed for the first season card buyers.

    In case of one's card loss or misplacement, passengers are assured of refund with a new card loaded with the previous amount only after the owner had reported the loss to the management who will then cancel the lost card.

  • The Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) on Monday rolled out its electronic connectivity agenda for 2011, which includes setting Information, Communication and Technology centres in all nurses training institutions.

    “GIFEC partnering with the Ministry of Health would equip all nursing training institutions with modern computer laboratory to ensure that trainees have unhindered access to the internet and other electronic facilities,” Kofi Attor, GIFEC Administrator, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview in Accra.

    He said the project involved providing the institutions with high speed computers, printers, scanners, projectors and servers, linking them with the internet in consonance with government’s policy.

    Attoh said under the “Better Ghana Agenda,” and in the Action Year of the government, the President had acknowledged the urgent need for the development and implementation of a comprehensive and integrated ICT for accelerated development policies, strategies and plans.

    In view of these, GIFEC will set up ICT Centres at Agricultural Training Institutions, Security Agencies and National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and also set up more Community Information Centres (CIC).

    Attor said the government in effect had identified ICT as the driver and enabler of a sustained and co-ordinated socio-economic development in Ghana. He said other projects such as Common Telecommunication Facilities, School Connectivity, CIC, Post Office Connectivity, Prison Connectivity, and the Library projects would continue in 2011.
    “We are currently working under the School Connectivity Project with 38

    Colleges of Education, 10 Youth Centres, 37 National Vocational Training Institutes, 37 Technical Schools and a number of Junior and Senior High Schools.” Attoh said GIFEC was set up to facilitate the spread of ICT and its use in rural Ghana to help promote research and reading culture, train rural schoolchildren and teachers in and the use of ICT and empower rural communities by providing access to information.

    He said GIFEC was collaborating with all the major telecommunications operators in the provision of common telecommunications site facilities in selected areas across the country under the Universal Access to Telecommunications Programme (UATP).

    The collaboration involves the award of subsidies to willing and eligible telecommunications operators for the provision of Common Telecommunications Site Facilities.

    He said GIFEC would also continue to educate both the public and telecommunication operators on the erection of masts, their impact on community and health of the people and also monitor the situation to ensure that operators adhered to safety mechanism.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced a $25 million equity investment in Helios Towers Africa Limited (HTA) to help the company build and maintain mobile phone towers in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, increasing mobile phone coverage and reducing communication costs in the region.

    HTA is building a pan-Africa tower company starting in Ghana and expanding into other countries such as Tanzania. The company leases space on its mobile towers to telecom companies, helping widen access to mobile telephony, and other communications technologies, bringing new opportunities, including voice services, market information, financial services, and health services, to developing countries in Africa.

    Helios CEO, Charles Green, said, “IFC understands the unique needs of growing companies in Africa’s telecoms sector and has provided us with a finance package that will allow us to continue our role as the leading independent tower company in Africa, expanding and providing benefits to mobile operators and users in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Bernard Sheahan, IFC Director of Infrastructure & Natural Resources in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Broadening access to affordable mobile telecommunications services remains a crucial part of development across Africa. With this investment, IFC is further lowering the barriers to accessing the knowledge, innovation, and improved government and business services that mobile communications can bring.”

    The reduced costs of leasing towers gives new, smaller companies access to existing tower facilities and allows larger operators to expand into remote areas that would normally by unprofitable.  Lower tower costs should result in enhanced service offerings and declining mobile prices for African consumers.

    HTA was established by Helios Investment Partners in 2009 to replicate the success achieved by its affiliate, Helios Towers Nigeria, which in 2005 became the first independent tower company in Africa. In 2010, HTA formed Helios Towers Ghana Limited to purchase and lease back approximately 750 towers in Ghana to mobile operator Millicom, the first transaction of its kind in Africa. The company recently announced that it will acquire an additional 1,020 sites from Millicom in Tanzania.

    The investment follows IFC’s 2009 investment in Helios Towers Nigeria, where IFC made available $250 million in syndicated loans, mezzanine financing and senior debt, allowing the company to build, maintain, and lease space on its network of telecommunications towers in Nigeria.

  • Two alleged accomplices of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, have pleaded guilty to V-Mobile shares theft charges. Daniel McCann and Mr. De Boer were charged for forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares owned by Akwa Ibom and Delta States. They are accused of violating the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act of the UK by creating fake documents between Delta State and "Africa Finance Ltd," and also between Delta and "African Development Company."

    They are also accused of creating a false account that used both men's names as beneficiaries as part of a scheme to hide the fraudulent nature of the transactions. Daniel McCann pleaded guilty before the Southwark Crown Court judge, last week, while Mr. De Boer had pleaded guilty in a similar trial last December

    Late last year, Ibori's UK-based lawyer, Bhadreh Gohil, who was accused of participating in the laundering of funds realised from the sale of V-Mobile shares owned by the governments of Delta and Akwa Ibom had also pleaded guilty.

    Others who are accused in the scam include Mr. Ibori, David Edevbie, a former Principal Secretary to Umaru Yar'Adua; Love Ojakovo, a former Commissioner of Finance to Ibori and Henry Imashekka, a business associate of Ibori.

    The accused face 14 counts of forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares by two from the Niger Delta region. The accused men reportedly used front companies to defraud the Nigerian states of a total of $37.8 million realised from the sale of the shares.

    Prosecutors alleged that a company named "Africa Development Finance Company" was the major conduit used to steal the funds.

    In an instance cited in the case summary, prosecutors state that an $11 million loan was purportedly granted to an aviation company that assisted Mr. Ibori in purchasing a jet from Canada; $10 million was given to "Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited," the company that Ibori used to purchase Wilbros; and another $790,000 was granted to another fake firm "Africa Development Co." and an offshore nominee firm.

    The two men alongside Mr. Gohil will be sentenced on February 21, 2011. UK prosecutors expect that Mr. Ibori would be coming to London soon after the United Emirates Authorities give a green for UK Metropolitan Police to move him over to London where he is expected to face three separate trials for money laundering, forgery and graft. The successful prosecution of Ibori has so far netted his wife, mistress and older sister.

  • Safaricom shares accounted for more than half of the market turnover recorded at the Nairobi Stock Exchange last year, indicating strong investor interest in the telecommunications firm and bearing heavily on overall movement at the bourse.

    Research by Sterling Investment Bank indicates that more than 3.4 billion shares of the listed mobile phone service provider were traded out of the 5.9 billion shares moved at the Nairobi bourse, translating into about 57 per cent of the total market volumes.

    Fund managers attributed the high turnover at the counter to the high float of the company's shares in the market. "Safaricom traded the highest volumes because it is a 'cheap' stock offering investors relative stability," said Reginald Kadzutu, a senior fund manager.

    The trend was upheld in the first week of trading at the NSE as more than 47 million of the company's shares were sold, out of a total of 77 million in trade dominated by foreign investors.

    This comes amid calls from institutional investors to have the share consolidated to mop up the high volumes of the stock that have been blamed for the sluggish price appreciation that has kept the stock trading below its Sh5 per share offer price.

    The company's chief executive, Bob Collymore, held investor road shows in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Barcelona, New York, Boston and Washington DC where he made presentations to institutional investors who are seen as having the financial muscle to buy the stock in bulk and lead to its natural consolidation. "Given its complexity and legal implications, our board of directors is still deliberating and consulting relevant parties on how best to approach it," said Collymore in an interview.

    The firm's shareholder records indicate that local corporate investors owned 86 per cent of the company at the beginning of December, while foreign corporate investors owned 6.2 per cent.

    At the time of listing in 2008, the company introduced 10 billion shares to the NSE out of the total 40 billion issued shares in a move meant to ensure that shares of the corporation, then majority owned by the State, were spread to more Kenyans.

    The IPO was massively oversubscribed with investors placing offers worth Sh226 billion as compared to the Sh50 billion that the government's 25 per cent stake was worth.

    In the share allocation, foreign investors got less than an eighth of the bids they collectively put in, and have generally been strong on the buy side despite the stock's slow price growth which has only managed an all time high of Sh6.

    Einsten Kihanda, a fund manager at ICEA Asset Management, said that the high volumes attributed to the counter indicate there is an oversupply of the stock in the market, which has further depressed prices.

    "There are too many Safaricom shares in the market which have resulted in the stock selling below its real value," said Mr Kihanda.

    He, however, said that a share buy-back could be the only way that the oversupply of the stock could be resolved to pave way for a price appreciation to reflect on the firm's fundamentals.

    In the half year results for the period ending June 2010, the company had grown its revenue 15.9 per cent to Sh47 billion at a time when income from non-voice shot up by more than 71 per cent to Sh14.6 billion.

    It is expected that revenue from the voice segment would take a hit as call rates declined by more than 50 per cent in the course of the second half of the year.

    The company has, however, sought to reduce dependency on airtime sales for revenue and has diversified into data and retail sales of gadgets to plug the income leaks.

    The regulatory framework would have to be changed to allow for share buy back, according to Mr Kihanda, who noted that the current set of laws in Kenya do not allow for share consolidation.

    "It is definite that Safaricom would drive the volumes this year again," he added.

    Demand for the share is likely to push the stock price up to its offer price of Sh5 in the foreseeable future, while a protracted price war in the second half of last year in the mobile telephone industry had dampened the company's prospects.

    This saw investors wary of the implications of the price war flee the counter, suppressing the stock price to an all-time low of Sh2.75.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom has stepped up its foray into mobile commerce by introducing M-Pesa-based booking of travel tickets and hotel accommodation - a new service that also promises to open additional revenue opportunities for the company's agents. Though the telecommunications operator had introduced a similar ticket-payment service almost one year ago, the new system is an improvement on the earlier "Easy Travel" version in that it allows customers to obtain ticket printouts from Safaricom's customer care shops and later from M-Pesa dealers. "We have launched the service with the necessary infrastructure at over 30 Safaricom shops countrywide for now. Plans are under way to recruit strategic agent outlets which will offer the service," said Bob Collymore, the company's chief executive. In addition, parents and guardians can now remit school fees for their children to the learning institutions through Safaricom's mobile phone money transfer service, M-Pesa.

    - The signal of the cellphone company, Movicel, has reached Caimbambo district, in central Benguela province, thus connecting the locality to the rest of Angola and the world.

    - Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom, the country's largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, has announced that it has reduced the price of sending an on-network SMS to KES1 (USD0.01), down from KES3.5. An SMS sent to an alternative operator's network will cost KES2, down from KES5. Safaricom has confirmed that the newly reduced rates will be permanent, and apply to both pre-paid and post-paid customers.

    - InMobi, a leading mobile ad network, has released its updated network research report.It provides a snapshot of mobile advertising trends in Africa between July 2010 and October 2010. “Africa continues to be a major market in the global mobile ad ecosystem. With nearly 19 per cent – growth in mobile ad impression inventory in just 90 days, it’s clear Africans are increasingly connecting to the Internet via their mobile phone. Key findings include breaking of the 3 billion impressions mark to reach 3.3 billion monthly impressions saying this represented an 18.8% growth over just 90 days.

    - AdMob, the mobile advertising agency now owned by Google says that it is now handling in excess of 2 billion ad requests per day, more than quadrupling the daily rate over the last twelve months. The growth is global. Nine countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in December 2010, up from just one country a year ago. The strongest regional growth in monthly ad requests over the past year has come from Asia (564%), Western Europe (471%) and Oceania (363%). Growth in Africa was recorded at 81%.

    - Namibia’s mobile operator, MTC Namibia has broadened its customer service capacity by introducing an Outbound Call Centre as from mid-December 2010. Before the opening of the Outbound Call Centre, MTC only had an Inbound Call Centre which caters for customers calling in to seek solutions and understanding of various queries that they may have with the company’s products and/or services.

    - A research team at the University of Dar es Salaam says half the Tanzanian population is currently hooked to mobile phones, and that it takes just a handset to run a business in the country. Led by Prof Ophelia Mascarenhas of the university, there is no need for offices, visiting cards or huge capital investments. The Tanzanian study is part of four-nation initiative code-named Picture-Africa. The other countries currently doing similar studies are Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – all financed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Digital Content

  • Pumwani Maternity Hospital, in the impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood of Eastlands, is the site of a trial project using mobile phones to help HIV-positive mothers avoid passing the virus on to their children. Juliet Wangari Njuguna is a research nurse with Kenya Aids Control Project. She works at the Pumwani clinic to assist HIV-positive mothers.

    "We help with the enrolment, and as the patients are coming in they are sifted. We talk to the ones who happen to be HIV positive, and we find out how long they have known their status and if they have disclosed it to anyone." They also find out if the women have a mobile phone.

    In July, the Kenya Aids Control Project started using the Pumwani Hospital as a site to study the potential of following up with HIV positive patients using mobile phones.

    The phone contact is intended to make sure that mothers are keeping up with taking their antiretroviral medicines and stay informed on what they need to do during their pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to their child.

    Mobile phones have become a popular means of communication in Kenya. The recent lowering of costs by the various service providers is encouraging even more people to embrace the mobile phone.

    Pediatrician Frida Govedi, the chief executive officer of Pumwani Maternity Hospital, says, "through this telephony they are being empowered with information. How they should eat, when they should take their vitamins, when they should come for their CD4 counts, it is an interactive medium between the mother and the healthcare worker."

    Ms Njuguna and the other research nurses at Pumwani guide HIV-positive mothers at the clinic through a questionnaire to determine if they are candidates for the mobile phone programme. The questionnaire records details such as the woman's age, her general health, how long she has known that she is HIV positive and if she is already on any medication.

    The mother also has to live within a reasonable distance of the hospital and be able to understand English or Kiswahili. The questionnaire responses are entered into a database. All the women will receive antiretroviral therapy, but a randomly selected group will also receive SMS messages.

    All the women will be followed-up after they give birth to assess the success of the course of treatment. This is also aimed at measuring the effectiveness of the SMS prompts to the mothers receiving the messages against the results of a control group.

    "The women start receiving one message per week reminding them to come for their antenatal care visit," says Ms Njuguna. "Then in their last month of pregnancy, the message changes to remind them to take their drugs.

    "But we write, 'Remember to take your vitamins.' We don't want to put 'ARVs' in a text message, because we don't know who can come across their phones." Ms Njuguna says stigma and the pressure to hide one's HIV status are a major challenge for HIV positive women.

    Extreme poverty is another challenge, with women sometimes missing appointments due to a lack of money for transport or at times not being able to make it as they struggle to make ends meet.

    Literacy is yet another obstacle. "Another thing is that some of them understand English and Kiswahili, but they can't read, so the text messages will not help them. So there are some who feel like we should do calls in the future."

    Dr Govedi worries that the potential advantages of the SMS notification system are also limited by the late enrolment into the programme of many of the women, who are far into their pregnancy by the time they first come to Pumwani.

    "We would have loved to have gotten them as early as 14 weeks, when we are able to institute their antiretroviral therapy for PMTCT. But you find most of the mothers are coming to us well after 20 weeks," says Dr Govedi.

    A day in the life of the health workers providing mobile support is busy. Njuguna must keep up with responding to various text messages and calls from the over 90 women enrolled in the programme, as well as ensuring crucial information is sent out at the right time.

    The routine messages are programmed into a computer and sent out automatically, but when that system is down, a health worker must send them out manually to the women who depend on the reminders.

    She feels it's worth the extra work. "It feels good that you are doing something and they are grateful.

    Then they tend to ask you all sorts of questions, which is better than being at home and assuming things. So you feel like you are having an impact in people's lives."

    The initiative is expected to end in mid-2013. Researchers hope to find positive results in empowering women living with HIV to protect their own health and that of their newborn children.

  • Traffic lights have become attractive targets for thieves in Johannesburg. Some 400 high-tech South African traffic lights are out of action after thieves in Johannesburg stole the mobile phone Sim cards they contain. The thieves ran up bills amounting to thousands of dollars by using the stolen cards to make calls.

    Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) said it is investigating the possibility of an "inside job" after only the Sim card-fitted traffic lights were targeted. The cards were fitted to notify JRA when the traffic lights were faulty. JRA believes a syndicate "with links on the inside" is behind the thefts.

    "We have 2,000 major intersections in Johannesburg and only 600 of those were fitted with the cards," the agency's spokesperson Thulani Makhubela told the BBC. "No-one apart from JRA and our supplier knows which intersections have that system." He described the thefts as "systematic and co-ordinated".

    "The vandalism began with a few lights in November and we repaired them. Over December the thieves struck again, this time hitting hundreds more, including the ones we had repaired," he said. "These people know what they are doing."

    Repairing the faulty traffic lights will cost JRA about 9m rand ($1.3m; £870,000).
    JRA has said it has blocked all the stolen Sim cards so that they cannot be used to make further calls - but this was not before the thieves had run up huge bills.

    "One card had a bill of 30,000 rand ($4,500; £2,900) and we are talking about no less than 150 Sim card bills. Whichever way we look at it we are talking about a lot of money," said Mr Makhubela. Several cases of theft and vandalism have apparently been opened across Johannesburg.

    Johannesburg's roads have been fairly quiet over December but with hundreds of holiday-makers expected to return over the weekend, the damaged lights pose a hazard in the city's major roads says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

More

  • - Jin Moo Lee has been appointed as LG Electronics SA's new CEO, replacing Peet van Rooyen as part of a global restructuring process of the multinational group's operations.

    - The new fixed line service company Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) CEO, replaces expatriate Bernd Flack who left last month. Charles Chuka becomes the second indigenous Malawian to take over the running of a telecommunications company in the country. He is preceded by Saulos Chilima who took over as executive director of Celtel, now Airtel, a mobile telecommunications service provider, last year.

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011, Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
    Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition is a landmark Conference on Africa and significant business networking occasion for the top corporate players active in, across and involved with the development of the African continent - Cape-to-Cairo, with Governments and officials in key industries and state institutions.
    Contact: babette@glopac.com or visit here

    ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach

    23-26 March 2011, Ota, Nigeria
    The conference will initiate research and practice agenda where ICTs will aid the academia, organizations - public and private and non-governmental to improve socio-economic conditions and directly benefit the disadvantaged in some manner.
    For further information visit here

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011

    4-5 April, Movenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE
    Now in its 4th year and attended by over 200 attendees in 2010, Informa Telecoms and Media’s Managed Services for Growth Markets event will take place on 4th - 5th April at the Moevenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE.With a proven track-record and repeat sponsorship from leading suppliers Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NokiaSiemens Networks and Motorola, this event is truly established as the ultimate meeting-place for the Managed Services industry in the growth markets.A 50% discount for operators ensures a high percentage operator attendance.  Extended break times and additional social functions will guarantee a further enhancement to the already unique networking opportunities. Informa’s Managed Services for Growth Markets conference is the only established event in the region, proven to deliver an industry focussed agenda, the highest level speakers, superior networking opportunities, and top class delegates year on year.
For more information visit here

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa

    9 March  2011, Grand Millennium Hotel, Dubai
     Taking place on the 9th March 2011, the Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East and Africa is a Free-to-attend event and will feature all of the key players within the Cloud Computing and SaaS market providing an introduction, discussion and look into the future for the ICT industry.
    This one day conference will provide the most complete and comprehensive platform for the global Cloud Computing and SaaS industry. Register Free today and get inspiration on how to address your latest issues with advice from real-life end-user case studies and practical examples.
    Show Highlights include:
    1 Day Conference on Cloud Computing and SaaS
    Featuring presentations on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Applications, IaaS, Virtualization and PaaS
    Keynote theatre featuring leading industry speakers
    More case studies than any other like event
    Learn from the key players offering leading products and services
    Pre-show online meeting planner
    Evening networking reception for all attendees
    For more information please contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com. Or visit here

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit here

  • The Tech Awards
    The Tech Awards is a programme that aims to honour and award innovators from around the world who use technology to benefit humanity. Three Laureates in each category are honoured, and one Laureate per category receives US$50 000.

    Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

    The purpose of The Tech Awards programme is to inspire global engagement in applying technology to humanity's most pressing problems by recognising individuals, organisations, and companies that are utilising innovative technology solutions to address the most urgent issues facing our planet.

    The categories are: environment, economic development, education, equality and heath.

    The submission deadline is 31 March 2011.

    For nomination form,  For more information about the award,
    To view other opportunities, visit:

    Request for Expressions of Interest - Maputo ICT Incubator Program
    The Government of Mozambique (GoM) has received a Credit from the International Development Association (IDA) toward the cost of the Mozambique eGovernment and Communications Infrastructure Project (MEGCIP) and intends to apply part of the proceeds for contracting of services and infrastructure to establish the “Maputo ICT Incubation Program”. Other complementary funds to be used in this project will be obtained from the Finnish Government, channeled through infoDev.              

    OBJECTIVE OF ASSIGNMENT
    To select a host organization (incubation partner) capable of supporting emerging ICT-enabled businesses and incubating them towards growth and success. The vision for the pilot incubator is that it will eventually become a national ICT small business support center, including additional physical and virtual facilities, contributing strategically to the sector’s growth.

    SCOPE OF SERVICES
    The Incubator will be guided by a business plan, agreed upon with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). It is expected that the Incubator manager will be selected via a competitive process. The incubation model to be agreed upon with MCT will be expected to deliver on the following:

    - Create affordable office space and facilities for small and medium-sized ICT companies. If a virtual/outreach model is proposed, then the minimum space requirement must be specified and made available free of charge

    - Provide Human Resources to manage the Maputo ICT Incubator facilities and services. Where these resources will be “in sourced” indicate which organization will be providing these resources.
    - Grow the ICT industry by facilitating the development and successful growth of early stage companies
    - Attract investment into local ICT companies and services providers
    - Build understanding among the broader business community in terms of the relevance and importance of small, innovative ICT companies in their value chains
    - Position Mozambique as an ICT innovator on the African continent
    - Develop a business model that generates revenue streams to ensure the sustainability of the incubator
    - Generate funds in the medium to long term to support the expansion of the incubator
    - Create linkages with strategic partners in building a sustainable ecosystem
    - Support extension on the Maputo incubator through virtual support services and expansion to other physical locations (such as the Maluana Science Park or incubator facilities in other provinces throughout the country)

    MCT acting as beneficiary institution now invites host organizations interested in managing the Maputo ICT incubator using their own facilities or those of their consortium partners. Interested host organizations must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services. This should include evidence of:
    - The availability of free space and facilities that can be used, with relatively little adaptation, to accommodate start-ups and SMEs , and which can be scaled up over time as the incubator grows;
    - A close link to innovation and to entrepreneurs and the ability to generate, or attract, a steady flow of ICT business start-ups and requisite funding.
    - Energetic, inspired and capable management able to stimulate the development of the ICT small business community. This team should be composed at least by the Maputo ICT Incubator Manager, Business Development Manager, Financial Manager, Administrative Officer and Secretary (the Incubator manager however may be selected in parallel),
    - The host or at least one consortium partner should be of Mozambican origin and the institution based in Mozambique; and provide a viable business plan, geared towards meeting the objectives and purposes outlined above, and be capable of sustaining growth after the expiry of the grant-support period.

    This assignment is estimated to cover an initial two-year engagement for grant support with the possibility of extension, depending on the overall success of the program.

    Host organizations will be selected in accordance with the procedures set out in the World Bank’s guidelines:

    Selection and employment of consultants by World Bank Borrowers, May 2004 (revised October 2006, and May 2010). Interested consultants may obtain additional information at the address indicated below during the working days from 7:30 a.m. to 15:30 p.m. (local time) and on MCT web page www.mct.gov.mz.

    Expression of interest must be delivered to the address below until 15:30 p.m. (local time) of January 23rd, 2011

    Ministry of Science and Technology
    Directorate of Infrastructure and Information Systems (DISI )
    Av. Patrice Lumumba, 770
    Maputo-Mozambique
    Tel.: +258 21 352800
    Fax: +258 21 352860
    E-mail: secretariado@mct.gov.mz

  • Vodafone and Huawei - Ghana
    Ghanaian fixed and mobile operator Vodafone Ghana has awarded China’s Huawei a five-year managed services agreement under which it will take over responsibilities for the operations and maintenance of the Vodafone mobile, microwave, SDH and fixed switching networks. It is hoped the long term partnership will provide the telco with a sustainable operating model, reducing its operating expenses and enabling it to focus further on providing more attractive new services to its customers. The network operations agreement signed by the pair also guarantees performance and service quality of the Vodafone network, which is used by multiple vendors across the country, the vendor said.


    Synchronica and handset manufacturer - Africa

    Synchronica, the international provider of next-generation mobile messaging services, has secured an initial contract worth more than USD 500,000 with a device manufacturer targeting the African mass market. The device manufacturer will bundle the white-labelled Synchronica Mobile Gateway with a number of MediaTek-based handsets, enabling consumers in Africa to experience a BlackBerry-like service on a range of low-cost devices.

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  • The dirty downside of the ICT industry is that computers have to go somewhere when they die and because they are full of potentially toxic materials they cannot simply be dumped in landfills. Uganda’s Government has sought to tackle part of the problem by banning the import of secondhand computers and sparked the law of unintended consequences. Russell Southwood talked to Shakeel Padamsey of Camara and Kyle Spencer of the Uganda Linux Group about what’s happened.

    In June 2009 the Ugandan Government passed the Financial Bill which prohibited the import of  “used refrigerators, freezers, computers and television sets” from October 2009. The background to the legislation was a concern that Uganda was not dealing properly with the issue of e-waste.

    In May 2008 a report called “e-Waste Assessment in Uganda - A situational analysis of e-waste management and generation with special emphasis on personal computers authored by the Uganda Cleaner Production Centre and EMPA from Switzerland (and sponsored by UNID0 and Microsoft draw attention to the issue. It concluded that:”… only around 10% of those computers (estimated 300,000 in 2007) reach the waste stream, whereas the rest is kept in storage without being used. The 10% in the waste stream gets collected by individuals, whereas material and parts are sold informally and the rest gets dumped informally…This (is) equal to about 2,000 tons of computer waste (desktop unit
    and CRT screen) in total, which contains e.g. 80 tons of printed circuit boards and 400 tons of plastic. These numbers are hypothetical but represent a realistic order of magnitude”. The report’s recommendation was that it be dealt with by a UNIDO/Microsoft refurbishment initiative.

    However, the Government’s complete ban on used computers has had significant unintended consequences. According to a position paper in December 2010 from the E-Waste Special Interest Group is comprised of over 200 traders, importers, suppliers, recyclers, and ICT-Education charitable organisations involved with refurbished ICT equipment:” The vast majority of educational institutions, SMEs, and the public rely upon NGOs and other used-computer importers for affordable high-quality ICT equipment. This ban especially affects thousands of schools and millions of
    students who rely upon these organisations for their ICT needs”.

    “The six-fold price difference between the cheapest refurbished computer (supplied with educational software, training and maintenance), means that schools that
    would have been able to afford 10 or 20 computers now can only afford 2 or 3, making teaching ICT impossible and affecting generations of Ugandans. As a result of the work of organisations which were operating before the ban was implemented, over 2 million
    individuals now have access to high quality branded ICT equipment”.

    “Due to these efforts, educational software and the Internet is now more widely accessible, providing access for 1.8 million students across 4500 schools – working towards targets set out within a number of Millennium Development Goals (2 and 8f). Furthermore, these organisations have trained approximately 32,000 individuals, including 4000 teachers. As a result of the ban, it is estimated that per year at least 1,500 teachers will not be trained and more than 500,000 students will not gain access to ICT equipment”.

    But is not just the education sector that will feel the consequences but also Uganda’s economy:”According to our research, we estimate that the ban immediately eliminates over one thousand skilled jobs and annually removes $17 million from the local economy. A 2009 study by Private Sector Foundation Uganda, projects
    that losses as a result of the ban will total $60 million in revenue and 100,000 jobs in Uganda, compared to the EAC and other African countries without a ban”. All lobby groups are prone to exaggerate slightly for effect but the points are well made.

    The e-Waste Special Interest Group is arguing that the alternative is to produce sound and enforceable regulations on the importation of all electronic goods through licensing of businesses, ensuring only high quality goods are brought into the country. Elements of this approach would include: licensing importers of electronic goods; verification of equipment sent to Uganda by organizations like such Bureau Veritas, SGS, and Intertek; and a system of independent auditing procedures to be adopted with the help of
    relevant Government institutions to ensure that each organisation is actively
    involved in recycling activities; and a recycling “deposit” that would be refunded when the defunct computer was delivered to a recycling centre.

    The Government’s response to these points has been somewhat ill-thought-out. In the response from the Government Minister, NEMA (the environmental agency) and the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee, it said:”Uganda is being used as a dumping ground by developed countries and yet we do not have capacity to dispose E- waste”.

    Two points are very clear: Firstly, why would anyone go to the time and trouble of exporting e-waste to an inland country like Uganda? What is currently being exported are secondhand computers that have a 2-3 year life. Secondly, if Uganda genuinely becomes the ICT society it aspires to be, it will build up a steady stream of defunct computers (and fridges, freezers and televisions) and as every year passes the number will increase. Therefore surely now is the moment to start creating recycling facilities as one of the unfortunate consequences of getting wealthier is that you have to deal with a different type of waste.

    The response also said “that government plans to distribute free computers to government aided schools. It will also ensure that computers are assembled locally at affordable prices”. Sad to say, in our view pigs will fly before this starts happening. Again encouraging a local assembly industry is laudable but Uganda is a relatively small market in which to make it financially viable.

    Kyle Spencer estimates that out of an estimated 350,000-500,000 computers in the country, 130,000 are computers that were bought secondhand. Of these, 1 in seven were refurbished computers:”They simply don’t have the data to support their argument.” Currently an average refurbished computer costs between US$60-70 whereas a new computer at the low end costs around US$350, a price differential of 5-6 times.

    If the Government wants to encourage computer ownership then giving access at the lower price is surely worthy of consideration. Indeed Padamsey’s own organization sold refurbished computers to schools for just US$50. Padamsey says:”The Government wanted to give a waiver to one organization to import refurbished computers. But what can be given by Government can be taken away and a waiver system would be open to corruption.”

    Padamsey went to one of the major landfill sites North of Kampala:”There was some eWaste like dot matrix printers and TVs but most of it was very old. There’s a Chinese company that has been trying to buy plastics and metals at US25 cents a kilo. Things like this would be the basis for a new recycling industry. NEMA doesn’t seem to distinguish between refurbishing and recycling. Our organization runs an e-waste facility in Mombasa and when computers in schools reach the end of their life, they have to return them to us”.

    This is story without heroes and villains but a classic case where legislation has created unintended consequences. The Government has put itself in the position where it is cutting off a supply of cheap, working computers and will need to take on the task of supplying computers to schools (Which part of the budget will that come out of?). It is seeking to deal with a small amount of the refurbished waste stream without anticipating the huge increase in e-waste that the successful adoption of new computers will bring about. Creating recycling capacity has to be the way to go and is probably cheaper than the current legal corner that the politicians have backed themselves into.

    For more market news and insights, go to Balancing Act’s Web TV channel:

    Clips include:

    * Main One’s Michael Iyayi on extending the cable to South Africa and Cameroon.
    * Bouzaine Zaid on the use of You Tube in Morocco
    * Tito Alai on a B2B GPRS sales tracking tool.
    * Praveen Sadalage of Busy Internet on Ghana’s first third party data centre,
    * The CEO of Hadera Tech on green approaches to data servers for Africa.

    There are 51 clips in both English and French that contain news and information that does not appear in our e-letter or on our web site.

telecoms

  • Sudan Vote Monitor, a Web platform that allows ordinary citizens to report on electoral fraud and violence in real time via text message, went live on January 7, 2011, ahead of the January 9 independence referendum in South Sudan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor uses open source software to transmit, collect and interpret information from volunteer observers at polling stations, and also allows users to upload video to a YouTube site, or link directly to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in addition to several Sudan-specific sites.

     “Our technology will provide the closest thing that exists to a real-time snapshot of what is happening on the ground during the referendum,” says Fareed Zein, spokesperson for Sudan Vote Monitor. “Our role is to make it possible for ordinary people to monitor the process.”

    Powering the Sudan Vote Monitor Website is Ushahidi.com, a Web portal that allows anyone to gather data via SMS messaging, e-mail or the internet and
    visualize it on a map. Since the Ushahidi platform was first deployed during the 2008 political crisis in Kenya, it has been used for election monitoring in
    India, Burundi, Mexico and Afghanistan.

    Sudan Vote Monitor is a collaboration of several Sudanese civil society organizations led by the Sudan Institute for Policy and Research (SIRP)
    http://www.sudaninstitute.org and the Asmaa Society for Development http://asmaasociety.org.

  • Brymedia Consortium, one of the initial bidders for state-run incumbent telco Nitel, is looking to acquire the ailing operator, should the preferred buyer fail to make the initial payment, local newspaper Daily Independent reports, citing sources close to the consortium. Brymedia came third during the bidding process for Nitel in February 2010, after offering USD551 million for a 75% stake in Nitel (excluding its CDMA network) and its mobile arm M-Tel. The report follows the failure of Nitel’s preferred bidder, New Generation Telecommunications, to meet its extended deadline for payment of a USD750 million bid security on 23 December 2010.

    President Goodluck Jonathon finally approved New Generation’s bid of USD2.5 billion in October 2010, after an investigation into the bidding process led to an eight-month delay. New Generation – which comprises Minerva Group of Dubai, Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless and technical partner China Unicom – was asked to pay a bid security of USD750 million within ten days from 25 October and was given 60 days to pay the remaining USD1.75 billion.

    On 5 November the bid security deadline was extended by 20 working days and subsequently to 23 December 2010, after the consortium failed to come up with the funds in time. However, Usman Gumi, GiCell’s managing director, said that New Generation was able to secure financial documentation from a foreign investor – which he said showed evidence of imminent payment of the funds following processing by the banks – and submit it to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on 23 December. The BPE is due to meet to discuss the fate of NITEL shortly.

  • The High Court of Malawi has reportedly upheld a decision by telecoms regulator Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to introduce a new interconnection law governing calls across both fixed and mobile networks.

    Two mobile operators, Airtel Malawi (formerly Zain/Celtel) and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), had attained an injunction against the introduction of the Sender Keeps All (SKA) interconnection regime, in which the operator originating the call keeps all of the revenues it collects. However, having heard arguments from MACRA and the operators, the court has now lifted the injunction.

    According to a statement from MACRA following the 23 December 2010 ruling, this means therefore that the court’s decision vindicates the legality and rationale of MACRA’s decision to intervene in the interconnection dispute that currently exists among operators. The regulator has now instructed all fixed and wireless operators to abide by the new interconnection law.

  • Tigo Rwanda has announced that it is now providing mico-SIM cards for subscribers with smart phones particularly those using the 3G iPad and latest iPhone 4.  The company’s Marketing Manager Nina Ndabaneze said on 10th January 2011 that the micro-SIM is now available for Tigo Rwanda subscribers wishing to acquire new numbers and those who wish to swap and retain their old numbers.

    She said that the company has also slashed prices on the Tigo Go Wireless data modem from Rwf25,000 to Rwf19,700  making the device the most affordable 3G modem in Rwanda. From the 10th to the 16th of January, the price per megabyte for our Go Wireless modem subscribers will be Rwf15 from Rwf30/MB

    According to Ndabaneze the company is set to introduce two ZTE low-cost smart phones which are equally useful as any other smart phone when browsing the Internet. The phones including the G-R352 that costs Rwf33,700 (US$56) and the F102 that goes for Rwf35,700 (US$59) which each handset coming with free internet subscription for one month.

    Officials at the Muhima based company also said that Tigo Rwanda was the first to introduce the micro-SIM in Rwanda.  “We have had in our stock the micro-SIM for more than two months. With the use of the new micro-SIM, mobile devices can store a larger battery, and we already see that in the new iPhone which has 16 percent more capacity. With Facebook, Twitter and all these utilities, users browse the Internet all day so they want a large screen, and that kills the battery of most smart phones,” Ndabaneze said.

    “The micro-SIM can be significantly used with Apple products like the 3G iPad or with the new iPhone 4. It is sold at the same price of Rwf350. Tigo subscribers can purchase and use the card as new or also by swap,” Nabaneze added.

    The new iPhone 4 is the first mobile phone to forgo the use of the usual SIM card and move to micro-SIM. Tigo officials said that subscriber who have recently purchased or intend to purchase the iPhone 4 don’t need to worry about the availability of the micro-SIM.

    Tigo and all the other telecom companies in Rwanda already provide the usual mini-SIM card. The new micro-SIM card is basically over 50 percent smaller, measuring only 15 mm × 12 mm × 0.76 mm.

    The micro-SIM standard is the creation of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and it’s been a standard since late 2003.

    In addition to new technology offerings, Tigo is this week launching a portfolio of products under the banner “Tigo My Choice”.  Subscribers will be able to buy bulk packages of voice minutes, SMS or data by simply sending an SMS to the relevant short-code for each package.

    “With these new packages we are telling our subscribers that we understand their unique needs and we will always do our best to provide the most personalized experience for each of them as possible.  Our customers can get more information by dialing *505# on their Tigo mobile, or calling or visiting any of our customer care centres,” Ndabaneze said.   

internet

  • Construction of the national information communication technology broadband backbone is expected to be completed this December, according to a senior government official. The move brings the hope of increased broadband uptake and reduced Internet tariffs in the Tanzanian hinterland and beyond.

    The backbone, which is the terrestrial continuation of the fibre optic submarine cables that landed in the Dar es Salaam coast last year has already contributed to a significant drop in Internet capacity charges. The NICTBB project was embarked on in 2008 and is expected to cost about Sh251 billion when it is completed at the end of this year.

    "The construction of the backbone was divided in two phases to cover the whole country. Phase I became operational in July 2010 and covers the northern ring of the network with ten Points of Presence (POP) which include Dar es Salaam, Morogoro,Singida, Iringa, Babati, Arusha, Namanga, Moshi and Tanga," Gilder Kibola, Head of the National ICT Broadband Backbone told The Citizen in an interview recently in Dar es Salaam.

    "Phase II is expected to be completed by December 2011 with operational PoPs at Lindi, Mtwara, Tunduru, Songea, Sumbawanga, Tabora, Kigoma, Manyovu," she added. The project is funded by a $170 million soft loan from China and Sh30 billion from government sources.

    The government intends to turn the country into the regional ICT hub, according to Ms Kibola. Since phase I of the backbone became operational last July four major locally licensed cellular and data operators were subscribed to NICTBB services, with other two companies from landlocked countries of Malawi and Zambia getting access to NICTBB through licensed local operators.

    According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, the broadband subscriptions stood at four million by the end of last year.

  • Vodacom Business has begun rolling out its optical fibre network in towns across the Western Cape, with over 120km of cable trenched across Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Paarl and Wellington.

    Ermano Quartero, Managing Executive of Products and Marketing at Vodacom Business, explains that the fibre-optic cabling enables the rapid transfer of large amounts of data, and is ideal for services that require smooth data provisioning, such as video conferencing.

    Quartero says the current network covers 23km of cable in Stellenbosch, 48km of cable in Somerset West, and 49km in Paarl and Wellington. There are also 38km of optic spurs in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Somerset West, he notes.

    Parent company Vodacom has been investing heavily in its network infrastructure, reporting R4.573 billion in network expenditure, according to the company's last year-end financial results. Over the past six months, Vodacom laid 831km of fibre and has to date encircled 11 metro rings with optical technology across the country.

  • Nigeria internet Registration Association (NiRA), managers of the Nigerian name space on the internet, the dot ng domain name has released 50, 000 free domain names for Nigerians as part of efforts to identify with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the country. Registration of free domains commenced formally on Friday, December 31, 2010 and will run till March 21, 2011.

    President of NiRA, Mary Uduma, who disclosed this in Abuja saying: "This sense of identification is tied to our perceptiveness of the collective responsibility required to project the true and appropriate Nigerian image and our conviction that the nation's country code, Top Level Domain .ng, is a veritable tool towards achieving this. To this effect, we have chosen to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communications in the re-branding Nigeria Project with the offer of 50,000 free .ng domains in 50 days."

    She said the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) who will provide the necessary funding for the project implementation would champion the project.

    The Agency, she said is committed to training a substantial number of Nigerian youths as web developers in readiness for an envisaged increased demand for the services of web developers with the registration of 50,000 .ng domains in the first quarter of 2011, and the target population of the .ng registry with 250,000 domains by the end of 2011, thereby preparing them for gainful employment.

    The project is expected to be launched this month by NITDA who will also sponsor the capacity building effort of NiRA in the setting up of a datacenter and co-location facility to support the activation of the 250,000 domains.

    NITDA promises to use the project in promoting the adoption of government policy to recognise only .ng e-mails for Government-to-Government, Government-to-Business, and Government-to-Citizens transactions.

    While the free domain name offer lasts, registrars will register domains at no cost to registrants for a period of one year. The offer of free domains is restricted to the following second level domains (SLDs): .com.ng, .org.ng, .name.ng, .mobi.ng, and .sch.ng.

    Registrations outside the listed SLDs will attract the usual charges and other activities in the registry such as renewal and transfer shall attract the normal fees. Recipients are expected to renew their domains at the usual fees at the expiration of the one-year period.

    Since NiRA operates the Registry/Registrar module, domains can only be registered through NiRA accredited registrars, Uduma said. She listed conditions for participation in the free domain name registration to include compliance of all domain names with the NiRA domain name policy; All registrants are subject to the NiRA registrants policy; Domains that are not put to use within six months of the registration shall be withdrawn/deleted. The waiver on the domain registration fee is for a period of one year, only.

    Registrants are expected to pay the necessary renewal fee at the expiration of the one-year period; Registrars may offer some value-added services to the recipients beyond the offer of free domains from NiRA. Other guidelines include the right of registrants to choose, with regard to the freebies they are willing to accept from registrars, particularly on the hosting of their domains; and that registrants may park their .ng free domains on their existing sites since it is completely disallowed to park domains on sites other than theirs.

computing

  • Software giant Microsoft SA expects to name the first four or five winning partners in its multimillion-rand empowerment deal by next February. This comes after it dispelled government's concerns, which had held up the announcement for several months.

    Microsoft's scheme is anticipated to further transform empowerment in South Africa, as the company has already had calls from other multinationals seeking advice on how they can implement similar empowerment structures.

    The software company first announced its R472 million empowerment deal in April, saying it will partner with a handful of software developers, providing investment and advice, in a bid to grow start-up firms into multinational giants.

    Analysts previously described the deal as “unique in SA” and it has been hailed for empowering smaller companies instead of the usual suspects. Microsoft will fund start-up enterprises and provide business knowledge to help them become global software players, but will not take equity stakes in the companies in return.

    It received more than 680 applications from prospective companies in response to its nationwide request for proposals. Of these, 141 met the qualifying criteria, and were whittled down further through a selection panel.

    The company expected to announce the first handful of partners in October, but this was held up when concerns arose within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) over how to measure the outcomes of the equity equivalency plan.

    Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati says he met with DTI acting director-general Lionel October early last month and the parties agreed on a memorandum of understanding that now only needs to be signed off.

    Once the deal has been signed, the company will receive 20 ownership points, which it will earn in return for offering the equity-equivalency plan, says Nyati. He hopes to be in a position to announce the first four or five companies that will benefit from investment and assistance in the middle of next month.

    Nyati says another one or two companies could benefit from the deal this year and Microsoft will open up the offer for new applications. However, after wrapping up the DTI's concerns, the process is expected to run faster.

    Microsoft SA has had a number of enquiries from companies seeking guidance on how to implement a similar deal, says Nyati. His sense is that some multinationals may replicate Microsoft's deal to some degree.

  • A commuter bus service company, Kigali Bus Services (KBS), effective today started issuing electronic cards for its passengers, a technology that is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes region.

    According to the company's marketing manager, Thierry Ngarambe, the service will relieve passengers the risk of having to travel with money in their pocket and help them with effective budgeting.

    Ngarambe also said that the cards, known as twende card are in two categories; e-pass which allows a passenger to load any amount of money from Rwf 200 to 60,000 which is the maximum and seasonal card which ranges from Rwf10,000 valid for one month and to 60,000 for six months. They can be accessed through mobile phone agents, FINA Bank, KBS bus conductors and at the Union Trade Centre.

    He explained that the system was in line with the government policies of technological advancement and environmental cleanliness and as well fulfilling the Central Bank campaign of discouraging people to move with cash in their pockets. The system, according to Ngarambe will also help the company maximize profits due to cases of dishonest taxi touts.

    "This is the most convenient way to achieve efficiency, the card can be used by a passenger swiping it in an electronic device at the bus entrance and deducts the fare automatically for e-passes and the date of expiry for a seasonal card," he said.

    Ngarambe also revealed that the use of paper tickets will not be immediately stopped but passengers using the new system will given priority. He further pointed that a 20 percent discount is guaranteed for the first season card buyers.

    In case of one's card loss or misplacement, passengers are assured of refund with a new card loaded with the previous amount only after the owner had reported the loss to the management who will then cancel the lost card.

  • The Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) on Monday rolled out its electronic connectivity agenda for 2011, which includes setting Information, Communication and Technology centres in all nurses training institutions.

    “GIFEC partnering with the Ministry of Health would equip all nursing training institutions with modern computer laboratory to ensure that trainees have unhindered access to the internet and other electronic facilities,” Kofi Attor, GIFEC Administrator, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview in Accra.

    He said the project involved providing the institutions with high speed computers, printers, scanners, projectors and servers, linking them with the internet in consonance with government’s policy.

    Attoh said under the “Better Ghana Agenda,” and in the Action Year of the government, the President had acknowledged the urgent need for the development and implementation of a comprehensive and integrated ICT for accelerated development policies, strategies and plans.

    In view of these, GIFEC will set up ICT Centres at Agricultural Training Institutions, Security Agencies and National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and also set up more Community Information Centres (CIC).

    Attor said the government in effect had identified ICT as the driver and enabler of a sustained and co-ordinated socio-economic development in Ghana. He said other projects such as Common Telecommunication Facilities, School Connectivity, CIC, Post Office Connectivity, Prison Connectivity, and the Library projects would continue in 2011.
    “We are currently working under the School Connectivity Project with 38

    Colleges of Education, 10 Youth Centres, 37 National Vocational Training Institutes, 37 Technical Schools and a number of Junior and Senior High Schools.” Attoh said GIFEC was set up to facilitate the spread of ICT and its use in rural Ghana to help promote research and reading culture, train rural schoolchildren and teachers in and the use of ICT and empower rural communities by providing access to information.

    He said GIFEC was collaborating with all the major telecommunications operators in the provision of common telecommunications site facilities in selected areas across the country under the Universal Access to Telecommunications Programme (UATP).

    The collaboration involves the award of subsidies to willing and eligible telecommunications operators for the provision of Common Telecommunications Site Facilities.

    He said GIFEC would also continue to educate both the public and telecommunication operators on the erection of masts, their impact on community and health of the people and also monitor the situation to ensure that operators adhered to safety mechanism.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced a $25 million equity investment in Helios Towers Africa Limited (HTA) to help the company build and maintain mobile phone towers in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, increasing mobile phone coverage and reducing communication costs in the region.

    HTA is building a pan-Africa tower company starting in Ghana and expanding into other countries such as Tanzania. The company leases space on its mobile towers to telecom companies, helping widen access to mobile telephony, and other communications technologies, bringing new opportunities, including voice services, market information, financial services, and health services, to developing countries in Africa.

    Helios CEO, Charles Green, said, “IFC understands the unique needs of growing companies in Africa’s telecoms sector and has provided us with a finance package that will allow us to continue our role as the leading independent tower company in Africa, expanding and providing benefits to mobile operators and users in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Bernard Sheahan, IFC Director of Infrastructure & Natural Resources in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Broadening access to affordable mobile telecommunications services remains a crucial part of development across Africa. With this investment, IFC is further lowering the barriers to accessing the knowledge, innovation, and improved government and business services that mobile communications can bring.”

    The reduced costs of leasing towers gives new, smaller companies access to existing tower facilities and allows larger operators to expand into remote areas that would normally by unprofitable.  Lower tower costs should result in enhanced service offerings and declining mobile prices for African consumers.

    HTA was established by Helios Investment Partners in 2009 to replicate the success achieved by its affiliate, Helios Towers Nigeria, which in 2005 became the first independent tower company in Africa. In 2010, HTA formed Helios Towers Ghana Limited to purchase and lease back approximately 750 towers in Ghana to mobile operator Millicom, the first transaction of its kind in Africa. The company recently announced that it will acquire an additional 1,020 sites from Millicom in Tanzania.

    The investment follows IFC’s 2009 investment in Helios Towers Nigeria, where IFC made available $250 million in syndicated loans, mezzanine financing and senior debt, allowing the company to build, maintain, and lease space on its network of telecommunications towers in Nigeria.

  • Two alleged accomplices of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, have pleaded guilty to V-Mobile shares theft charges. Daniel McCann and Mr. De Boer were charged for forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares owned by Akwa Ibom and Delta States. They are accused of violating the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act of the UK by creating fake documents between Delta State and "Africa Finance Ltd," and also between Delta and "African Development Company."

    They are also accused of creating a false account that used both men's names as beneficiaries as part of a scheme to hide the fraudulent nature of the transactions. Daniel McCann pleaded guilty before the Southwark Crown Court judge, last week, while Mr. De Boer had pleaded guilty in a similar trial last December

    Late last year, Ibori's UK-based lawyer, Bhadreh Gohil, who was accused of participating in the laundering of funds realised from the sale of V-Mobile shares owned by the governments of Delta and Akwa Ibom had also pleaded guilty.

    Others who are accused in the scam include Mr. Ibori, David Edevbie, a former Principal Secretary to Umaru Yar'Adua; Love Ojakovo, a former Commissioner of Finance to Ibori and Henry Imashekka, a business associate of Ibori.

    The accused face 14 counts of forgery and money laundering in relation to the sale of V-Mobile telecoms shares by two from the Niger Delta region. The accused men reportedly used front companies to defraud the Nigerian states of a total of $37.8 million realised from the sale of the shares.

    Prosecutors alleged that a company named "Africa Development Finance Company" was the major conduit used to steal the funds.

    In an instance cited in the case summary, prosecutors state that an $11 million loan was purportedly granted to an aviation company that assisted Mr. Ibori in purchasing a jet from Canada; $10 million was given to "Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited," the company that Ibori used to purchase Wilbros; and another $790,000 was granted to another fake firm "Africa Development Co." and an offshore nominee firm.

    The two men alongside Mr. Gohil will be sentenced on February 21, 2011. UK prosecutors expect that Mr. Ibori would be coming to London soon after the United Emirates Authorities give a green for UK Metropolitan Police to move him over to London where he is expected to face three separate trials for money laundering, forgery and graft. The successful prosecution of Ibori has so far netted his wife, mistress and older sister.

  • Safaricom shares accounted for more than half of the market turnover recorded at the Nairobi Stock Exchange last year, indicating strong investor interest in the telecommunications firm and bearing heavily on overall movement at the bourse.

    Research by Sterling Investment Bank indicates that more than 3.4 billion shares of the listed mobile phone service provider were traded out of the 5.9 billion shares moved at the Nairobi bourse, translating into about 57 per cent of the total market volumes.

    Fund managers attributed the high turnover at the counter to the high float of the company's shares in the market. "Safaricom traded the highest volumes because it is a 'cheap' stock offering investors relative stability," said Reginald Kadzutu, a senior fund manager.

    The trend was upheld in the first week of trading at the NSE as more than 47 million of the company's shares were sold, out of a total of 77 million in trade dominated by foreign investors.

    This comes amid calls from institutional investors to have the share consolidated to mop up the high volumes of the stock that have been blamed for the sluggish price appreciation that has kept the stock trading below its Sh5 per share offer price.

    The company's chief executive, Bob Collymore, held investor road shows in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Barcelona, New York, Boston and Washington DC where he made presentations to institutional investors who are seen as having the financial muscle to buy the stock in bulk and lead to its natural consolidation. "Given its complexity and legal implications, our board of directors is still deliberating and consulting relevant parties on how best to approach it," said Collymore in an interview.

    The firm's shareholder records indicate that local corporate investors owned 86 per cent of the company at the beginning of December, while foreign corporate investors owned 6.2 per cent.

    At the time of listing in 2008, the company introduced 10 billion shares to the NSE out of the total 40 billion issued shares in a move meant to ensure that shares of the corporation, then majority owned by the State, were spread to more Kenyans.

    The IPO was massively oversubscribed with investors placing offers worth Sh226 billion as compared to the Sh50 billion that the government's 25 per cent stake was worth.

    In the share allocation, foreign investors got less than an eighth of the bids they collectively put in, and have generally been strong on the buy side despite the stock's slow price growth which has only managed an all time high of Sh6.

    Einsten Kihanda, a fund manager at ICEA Asset Management, said that the high volumes attributed to the counter indicate there is an oversupply of the stock in the market, which has further depressed prices.

    "There are too many Safaricom shares in the market which have resulted in the stock selling below its real value," said Mr Kihanda.

    He, however, said that a share buy-back could be the only way that the oversupply of the stock could be resolved to pave way for a price appreciation to reflect on the firm's fundamentals.

    In the half year results for the period ending June 2010, the company had grown its revenue 15.9 per cent to Sh47 billion at a time when income from non-voice shot up by more than 71 per cent to Sh14.6 billion.

    It is expected that revenue from the voice segment would take a hit as call rates declined by more than 50 per cent in the course of the second half of the year.

    The company has, however, sought to reduce dependency on airtime sales for revenue and has diversified into data and retail sales of gadgets to plug the income leaks.

    The regulatory framework would have to be changed to allow for share buy back, according to Mr Kihanda, who noted that the current set of laws in Kenya do not allow for share consolidation.

    "It is definite that Safaricom would drive the volumes this year again," he added.

    Demand for the share is likely to push the stock price up to its offer price of Sh5 in the foreseeable future, while a protracted price war in the second half of last year in the mobile telephone industry had dampened the company's prospects.

    This saw investors wary of the implications of the price war flee the counter, suppressing the stock price to an all-time low of Sh2.75.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom has stepped up its foray into mobile commerce by introducing M-Pesa-based booking of travel tickets and hotel accommodation - a new service that also promises to open additional revenue opportunities for the company's agents. Though the telecommunications operator had introduced a similar ticket-payment service almost one year ago, the new system is an improvement on the earlier "Easy Travel" version in that it allows customers to obtain ticket printouts from Safaricom's customer care shops and later from M-Pesa dealers. "We have launched the service with the necessary infrastructure at over 30 Safaricom shops countrywide for now. Plans are under way to recruit strategic agent outlets which will offer the service," said Bob Collymore, the company's chief executive. In addition, parents and guardians can now remit school fees for their children to the learning institutions through Safaricom's mobile phone money transfer service, M-Pesa.

    - The signal of the cellphone company, Movicel, has reached Caimbambo district, in central Benguela province, thus connecting the locality to the rest of Angola and the world.

    - Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom, the country's largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, has announced that it has reduced the price of sending an on-network SMS to KES1 (USD0.01), down from KES3.5. An SMS sent to an alternative operator's network will cost KES2, down from KES5. Safaricom has confirmed that the newly reduced rates will be permanent, and apply to both pre-paid and post-paid customers.

    - InMobi, a leading mobile ad network, has released its updated network research report.It provides a snapshot of mobile advertising trends in Africa between July 2010 and October 2010. “Africa continues to be a major market in the global mobile ad ecosystem. With nearly 19 per cent – growth in mobile ad impression inventory in just 90 days, it’s clear Africans are increasingly connecting to the Internet via their mobile phone. Key findings include breaking of the 3 billion impressions mark to reach 3.3 billion monthly impressions saying this represented an 18.8% growth over just 90 days.

    - AdMob, the mobile advertising agency now owned by Google says that it is now handling in excess of 2 billion ad requests per day, more than quadrupling the daily rate over the last twelve months. The growth is global. Nine countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in December 2010, up from just one country a year ago. The strongest regional growth in monthly ad requests over the past year has come from Asia (564%), Western Europe (471%) and Oceania (363%). Growth in Africa was recorded at 81%.

    - Namibia’s mobile operator, MTC Namibia has broadened its customer service capacity by introducing an Outbound Call Centre as from mid-December 2010. Before the opening of the Outbound Call Centre, MTC only had an Inbound Call Centre which caters for customers calling in to seek solutions and understanding of various queries that they may have with the company’s products and/or services.

    - A research team at the University of Dar es Salaam says half the Tanzanian population is currently hooked to mobile phones, and that it takes just a handset to run a business in the country. Led by Prof Ophelia Mascarenhas of the university, there is no need for offices, visiting cards or huge capital investments. The Tanzanian study is part of four-nation initiative code-named Picture-Africa. The other countries currently doing similar studies are Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – all financed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Digital Content

  • Pumwani Maternity Hospital, in the impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood of Eastlands, is the site of a trial project using mobile phones to help HIV-positive mothers avoid passing the virus on to their children. Juliet Wangari Njuguna is a research nurse with Kenya Aids Control Project. She works at the Pumwani clinic to assist HIV-positive mothers.

    "We help with the enrolment, and as the patients are coming in they are sifted. We talk to the ones who happen to be HIV positive, and we find out how long they have known their status and if they have disclosed it to anyone." They also find out if the women have a mobile phone.

    In July, the Kenya Aids Control Project started using the Pumwani Hospital as a site to study the potential of following up with HIV positive patients using mobile phones.

    The phone contact is intended to make sure that mothers are keeping up with taking their antiretroviral medicines and stay informed on what they need to do during their pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to their child.

    Mobile phones have become a popular means of communication in Kenya. The recent lowering of costs by the various service providers is encouraging even more people to embrace the mobile phone.

    Pediatrician Frida Govedi, the chief executive officer of Pumwani Maternity Hospital, says, "through this telephony they are being empowered with information. How they should eat, when they should take their vitamins, when they should come for their CD4 counts, it is an interactive medium between the mother and the healthcare worker."

    Ms Njuguna and the other research nurses at Pumwani guide HIV-positive mothers at the clinic through a questionnaire to determine if they are candidates for the mobile phone programme. The questionnaire records details such as the woman's age, her general health, how long she has known that she is HIV positive and if she is already on any medication.

    The mother also has to live within a reasonable distance of the hospital and be able to understand English or Kiswahili. The questionnaire responses are entered into a database. All the women will receive antiretroviral therapy, but a randomly selected group will also receive SMS messages.

    All the women will be followed-up after they give birth to assess the success of the course of treatment. This is also aimed at measuring the effectiveness of the SMS prompts to the mothers receiving the messages against the results of a control group.

    "The women start receiving one message per week reminding them to come for their antenatal care visit," says Ms Njuguna. "Then in their last month of pregnancy, the message changes to remind them to take their drugs.

    "But we write, 'Remember to take your vitamins.' We don't want to put 'ARVs' in a text message, because we don't know who can come across their phones." Ms Njuguna says stigma and the pressure to hide one's HIV status are a major challenge for HIV positive women.

    Extreme poverty is another challenge, with women sometimes missing appointments due to a lack of money for transport or at times not being able to make it as they struggle to make ends meet.

    Literacy is yet another obstacle. "Another thing is that some of them understand English and Kiswahili, but they can't read, so the text messages will not help them. So there are some who feel like we should do calls in the future."

    Dr Govedi worries that the potential advantages of the SMS notification system are also limited by the late enrolment into the programme of many of the women, who are far into their pregnancy by the time they first come to Pumwani.

    "We would have loved to have gotten them as early as 14 weeks, when we are able to institute their antiretroviral therapy for PMTCT. But you find most of the mothers are coming to us well after 20 weeks," says Dr Govedi.

    A day in the life of the health workers providing mobile support is busy. Njuguna must keep up with responding to various text messages and calls from the over 90 women enrolled in the programme, as well as ensuring crucial information is sent out at the right time.

    The routine messages are programmed into a computer and sent out automatically, but when that system is down, a health worker must send them out manually to the women who depend on the reminders.

    She feels it's worth the extra work. "It feels good that you are doing something and they are grateful.

    Then they tend to ask you all sorts of questions, which is better than being at home and assuming things. So you feel like you are having an impact in people's lives."

    The initiative is expected to end in mid-2013. Researchers hope to find positive results in empowering women living with HIV to protect their own health and that of their newborn children.

  • Traffic lights have become attractive targets for thieves in Johannesburg. Some 400 high-tech South African traffic lights are out of action after thieves in Johannesburg stole the mobile phone Sim cards they contain. The thieves ran up bills amounting to thousands of dollars by using the stolen cards to make calls.

    Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) said it is investigating the possibility of an "inside job" after only the Sim card-fitted traffic lights were targeted. The cards were fitted to notify JRA when the traffic lights were faulty. JRA believes a syndicate "with links on the inside" is behind the thefts.

    "We have 2,000 major intersections in Johannesburg and only 600 of those were fitted with the cards," the agency's spokesperson Thulani Makhubela told the BBC. "No-one apart from JRA and our supplier knows which intersections have that system." He described the thefts as "systematic and co-ordinated".

    "The vandalism began with a few lights in November and we repaired them. Over December the thieves struck again, this time hitting hundreds more, including the ones we had repaired," he said. "These people know what they are doing."

    Repairing the faulty traffic lights will cost JRA about 9m rand ($1.3m; £870,000).
    JRA has said it has blocked all the stolen Sim cards so that they cannot be used to make further calls - but this was not before the thieves had run up huge bills.

    "One card had a bill of 30,000 rand ($4,500; £2,900) and we are talking about no less than 150 Sim card bills. Whichever way we look at it we are talking about a lot of money," said Mr Makhubela. Several cases of theft and vandalism have apparently been opened across Johannesburg.

    Johannesburg's roads have been fairly quiet over December but with hundreds of holiday-makers expected to return over the weekend, the damaged lights pose a hazard in the city's major roads says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

More

  • - Jin Moo Lee has been appointed as LG Electronics SA's new CEO, replacing Peet van Rooyen as part of a global restructuring process of the multinational group's operations.

    - The new fixed line service company Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) CEO, replaces expatriate Bernd Flack who left last month. Charles Chuka becomes the second indigenous Malawian to take over the running of a telecommunications company in the country. He is preceded by Saulos Chilima who took over as executive director of Celtel, now Airtel, a mobile telecommunications service provider, last year.

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011, Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
    Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition is a landmark Conference on Africa and significant business networking occasion for the top corporate players active in, across and involved with the development of the African continent - Cape-to-Cairo, with Governments and officials in key industries and state institutions.
    Contact: babette@glopac.com or visit here

    ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach

    23-26 March 2011, Ota, Nigeria
    The conference will initiate research and practice agenda where ICTs will aid the academia, organizations - public and private and non-governmental to improve socio-economic conditions and directly benefit the disadvantaged in some manner.
    For further information visit here

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011

    4-5 April, Movenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE
    Now in its 4th year and attended by over 200 attendees in 2010, Informa Telecoms and Media’s Managed Services for Growth Markets event will take place on 4th - 5th April at the Moevenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE.With a proven track-record and repeat sponsorship from leading suppliers Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NokiaSiemens Networks and Motorola, this event is truly established as the ultimate meeting-place for the Managed Services industry in the growth markets.A 50% discount for operators ensures a high percentage operator attendance.  Extended break times and additional social functions will guarantee a further enhancement to the already unique networking opportunities. Informa’s Managed Services for Growth Markets conference is the only established event in the region, proven to deliver an industry focussed agenda, the highest level speakers, superior networking opportunities, and top class delegates year on year.
For more information visit here

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa

    9 March  2011, Grand Millennium Hotel, Dubai
     Taking place on the 9th March 2011, the Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East and Africa is a Free-to-attend event and will feature all of the key players within the Cloud Computing and SaaS market providing an introduction, discussion and look into the future for the ICT industry.
    This one day conference will provide the most complete and comprehensive platform for the global Cloud Computing and SaaS industry. Register Free today and get inspiration on how to address your latest issues with advice from real-life end-user case studies and practical examples.
    Show Highlights include:
    1 Day Conference on Cloud Computing and SaaS
    Featuring presentations on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Applications, IaaS, Virtualization and PaaS
    Keynote theatre featuring leading industry speakers
    More case studies than any other like event
    Learn from the key players offering leading products and services
    Pre-show online meeting planner
    Evening networking reception for all attendees
    For more information please contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com. Or visit here

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit here

  • The Tech Awards
    The Tech Awards is a programme that aims to honour and award innovators from around the world who use technology to benefit humanity. Three Laureates in each category are honoured, and one Laureate per category receives US$50 000.

    Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

    The purpose of The Tech Awards programme is to inspire global engagement in applying technology to humanity's most pressing problems by recognising individuals, organisations, and companies that are utilising innovative technology solutions to address the most urgent issues facing our planet.

    The categories are: environment, economic development, education, equality and heath.

    The submission deadline is 31 March 2011.

    For nomination form,  For more information about the award,
    To view other opportunities, visit:

    Request for Expressions of Interest - Maputo ICT Incubator Program
    The Government of Mozambique (GoM) has received a Credit from the International Development Association (IDA) toward the cost of the Mozambique eGovernment and Communications Infrastructure Project (MEGCIP) and intends to apply part of the proceeds for contracting of services and infrastructure to establish the “Maputo ICT Incubation Program”. Other complementary funds to be used in this project will be obtained from the Finnish Government, channeled through infoDev.              

    OBJECTIVE OF ASSIGNMENT
    To select a host organization (incubation partner) capable of supporting emerging ICT-enabled businesses and incubating them towards growth and success. The vision for the pilot incubator is that it will eventually become a national ICT small business support center, including additional physical and virtual facilities, contributing strategically to the sector’s growth.

    SCOPE OF SERVICES
    The Incubator will be guided by a business plan, agreed upon with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). It is expected that the Incubator manager will be selected via a competitive process. The incubation model to be agreed upon with MCT will be expected to deliver on the following:

    - Create affordable office space and facilities for small and medium-sized ICT companies. If a virtual/outreach model is proposed, then the minimum space requirement must be specified and made available free of charge

    - Provide Human Resources to manage the Maputo ICT Incubator facilities and services. Where these resources will be “in sourced” indicate which organization will be providing these resources.
    - Grow the ICT industry by facilitating the development and successful growth of early stage companies
    - Attract investment into local ICT companies and services providers
    - Build understanding among the broader business community in terms of the relevance and importance of small, innovative ICT companies in their value chains
    - Position Mozambique as an ICT innovator on the African continent
    - Develop a business model that generates revenue streams to ensure the sustainability of the incubator
    - Generate funds in the medium to long term to support the expansion of the incubator
    - Create linkages with strategic partners in building a sustainable ecosystem
    - Support extension on the Maputo incubator through virtual support services and expansion to other physical locations (such as the Maluana Science Park or incubator facilities in other provinces throughout the country)

    MCT acting as beneficiary institution now invites host organizations interested in managing the Maputo ICT incubator using their own facilities or those of their consortium partners. Interested host organizations must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services. This should include evidence of:
    - The availability of free space and facilities that can be used, with relatively little adaptation, to accommodate start-ups and SMEs , and which can be scaled up over time as the incubator grows;
    - A close link to innovation and to entrepreneurs and the ability to generate, or attract, a steady flow of ICT business start-ups and requisite funding.
    - Energetic, inspired and capable management able to stimulate the development of the ICT small business community. This team should be composed at least by the Maputo ICT Incubator Manager, Business Development Manager, Financial Manager, Administrative Officer and Secretary (the Incubator manager however may be selected in parallel),
    - The host or at least one consortium partner should be of Mozambican origin and the institution based in Mozambique; and provide a viable business plan, geared towards meeting the objectives and purposes outlined above, and be capable of sustaining growth after the expiry of the grant-support period.

    This assignment is estimated to cover an initial two-year engagement for grant support with the possibility of extension, depending on the overall success of the program.

    Host organizations will be selected in accordance with the procedures set out in the World Bank’s guidelines:

    Selection and employment of consultants by World Bank Borrowers, May 2004 (revised October 2006, and May 2010). Interested consultants may obtain additional information at the address indicated below during the working days from 7:30 a.m. to 15:30 p.m. (local time) and on MCT web page www.mct.gov.mz.

    Expression of interest must be delivered to the address below until 15:30 p.m. (local time) of January 23rd, 2011

    Ministry of Science and Technology
    Directorate of Infrastructure and Information Systems (DISI )
    Av. Patrice Lumumba, 770
    Maputo-Mozambique
    Tel.: +258 21 352800
    Fax: +258 21 352860
    E-mail: secretariado@mct.gov.mz

  • Vodafone and Huawei - Ghana
    Ghanaian fixed and mobile operator Vodafone Ghana has awarded China’s Huawei a five-year managed services agreement under which it will take over responsibilities for the operations and maintenance of the Vodafone mobile, microwave, SDH and fixed switching networks. It is hoped the long term partnership will provide the telco with a sustainable operating model, reducing its operating expenses and enabling it to focus further on providing more attractive new services to its customers. The network operations agreement signed by the pair also guarantees performance and service quality of the Vodafone network, which is used by multiple vendors across the country, the vendor said.


    Synchronica and handset manufacturer - Africa

    Synchronica, the international provider of next-generation mobile messaging services, has secured an initial contract worth more than USD 500,000 with a device manufacturer targeting the African mass market. The device manufacturer will bundle the white-labelled Synchronica Mobile Gateway with a number of MediaTek-based handsets, enabling consumers in Africa to experience a BlackBerry-like service on a range of low-cost devices.

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