Issue no 540 Kenya’s Jamii Telecom to launch Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Fibre-To-The-Home offering

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  • Jamii Telecom is breaking the mould by launching a GPON network that will deliver Fibre-To-The-Home for the first time in Sub-Saharan African. It plans to deliver a host of services on it including, VoIP, Internet, video and security applications. This will give the Kenyan market two players at the high-bandwidth end of the market: Jamii Telecom and Wananchi. On a recent trip Russell Southwood spoke to Jamii’s General Manager John Kamau  and Wananchi’s CEO Richard Bell about their respective ambitions.

    Five years ago it would have been hard to imagine that there would be two high-bandwidth players vying for consumers attention in Kenya. You would have assumed that Telkom Kenya or Kenya Data Networks (KDN) would have been the natural players to emerge in this part of the market. But Telkom Kenya’s management from Orange is struggling with getting it right in the mobile market and KDN which seemed to have the wind in its sails, now seems becalmed.

    Jamii Telecom has steadily built itself a set of fibre metronets and connecting pieces of national backbone. So why Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH)? According to General Manager John Kamau:”We asked ourselves what is the next big application? We can’t go for more spectrum (to deliver wirelessly). The mobile operators already have an edge there. So we though a GPON network enabling FTTH would draw new excitement.”

    The network will be able to deliver 2.4 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream. The residential or SME customer will get a CPE that has 5-6 ports, delivering video content, VoIP, Internet, and a Wi-Fi hot-spot (just for your own house or flat):”It will enable the user to have massive bandwidth of over 100 mbps. It will deliver Video On Demand and be able to power 3-4 TVs, offering HD delivery. It will offer things like plug-and-play VoIP, video conferencing and security cameras. The network can provide an ecosystem for IPTV and this presents a considerably opportunity. Also you can do things like remote teleworking.” Many of these services and applications are things that WiMAX simply cannot support.

    Jamii Telecom’s stated aim is to “bulletproof the future” and it has been doing trials for 18 months with 200 households, all in Nairobi:”These people are so happy with the service that they don’t want to be cut off as we put up the new network.” The vendor for the project is Chinese-owned ZTE. The aim is to invest US$15 million in stages, targeting 100,000 households and to have the service ready to launch in Q2, 2011. It will cost between US$100-150 to connect each household. Rates will be benchmarked against prevailing rates which are currently between US$5,000-7,000 for between 512 kbps to 1 mbps:”The most expensive component of building the network is the civil works.”

    It sees itself as a “transport company” carrying other people’s signals, rather than a vertically integrated company offering content as well as networks. It is in discussion with DStv and others on the content side and has a relationship with Safaricom to deliver data that is causing some nervousness in the market. But Kamau says:”Our philosophy is open access. It’s a whole new market and it needs a new philosophy. It’s a mass market that needs a head-end, a call centre and a web portal to deliver.”

    In the other corner of this particular ring is Wananchi led by long-time industry veteran Richard Bell. It has rolled out an HFC cable network which will has already passed 45,000 households in Nairobi and the this figure will rise to 100,000 in three years time. The ultimate target is a million households by 2015. According to Bell:”The HFC network can deliver 250 channels, 50 in HD and 120 mbps into every household.”

    In technology terms, the strategy also has two other prongs to reach those beyond the cable network: WiMAX for voice and data and DTH satellite for television:”Half our channels will be in HD and we’re enhancing HD on our satellite platform.”

    Wananchi’s strategy differs from Jamii in that it sees content as the cornerstone for its success and has its own content division:”We will be offering 10 new channels for general African entertainment, documentary and sports. These will be launched between September and December of this year. We’re offering the first multi-channel African content since M-Net. Our strategy is around localizing content and we have a platform to produce our own content and it won’t be copied in a hurry. So our mission is both to find and make rich local content”.

    “We’ve made a decision not to go after premium sports rights as we believe the market will always want alternatives. We’re going to go out of our way to be strong in the family and childrens’ space. South Africa’s Top TV is making significant inroads into that market and Nigeria’s HiTV is still getting subs on a different positioning. Women are the decision-makers and the education of children is the biggest draw.”

    The Programming Group is headed up by Hannelei Bekker, a South African who formerly worked for Telkom Media and the Retail Group is headed by Peter Reinertz who used to be at Orange Kenya:”Currently we’re doing double play (voice and Internet) and triple play (adding television) will come on stream in Q3 this year.” It also plans to roll out a similar networks in Dar es Salaam and Kampala. So far it has invested US$120 million:”It’s an infrastructure business with a need for continuous additional investment.”

    It is a sign of how fast the market is changing that two seasoned independents have seized the initiative by investing in the high bandwidth space.

    Correction: Telegeography last week published a story suggesting that Vodacom was taking over Lap Green. This was based on an article in issue 393 published over two years ago (which was picked up by New Times, Rwanda) that was denied by both parties at the time. We are happy to make this clear to our readers.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top telecoms personalities. There are interviews in both English and French:

    Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore on customer care shortfalls, its local record label and LTE:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#grid/uploads

    iHub founder Erik Hersman on creating an ICT entrepreneur community in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/78/BUlgKrGqToc

    John Kamau of Kenya’s Jamii Telecom on Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Fibre-To-The-Home network
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/32/1ygqFP-VXJ0

    Eric Kamau of True African on dodgy practices in the SMS market in Uganda and on the banking products they are selling
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/74/ppb3C8KSvKY

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on M-Money services in Africa
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/17/0gHelksND38

    NOTE:

    If you want to receive daily news tweets from around the continent, please follow us on Twitter:

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  • The President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria, (ITAN), Dr Jimson Olufuye has been appointed by United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) as a representative to the new Working Group on Internet Governance.

    Incumbent operator Tunisie Télécom has lost its boss. Montasser Ouaili resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the group. Mr. Ouaili sent, on Monday, January 31, 2011, an open letter to the Industry and Technology Minister.

    A Telecel Zimbabwe senior official has been arrested and deported for working illegally in the country while three Chinese from another telecommunications company were arrested for working without permits. The Telecel official, Simon Payne, was arrested by immigration officials last Friday and appeared before a Harare magistrate on Monday. He was fined US$1 000 or six months in prison for violating the Immigration Act for working in the country without a requisite permit.

    Shake up at NCC, as Juwah Redeploys Nine Directors

    In an effort to infuse new lease of life into the telecommunication regulatory house, the executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, reorganised the management, which saw some directors being moved.

    Conforming this, head, media and public relations at NCC, Reuben Muoka said the movement of directors to in the recent re-shuffle takes immediate effect.

    He said the latest redeployment of directors and the creation of a new department were done to refocus the commission, in line with the vision of the new management.

    The new changes announced through an official memo sent to the affected staff at the commission, showed that Engr. Maska Ubale, a deputy director, was drafted to head the compliance, monitoring and enforcement department; an area which Dr. Juwah said would receive a lot of attention in his regime as most of the issues confronting the industry are traced to poor level of compliance by the operators.

    Juwah also in the memo proclaimed the creation of a new department, projects office, which would oversee the implementation of the various project of the commission, including SIM Card registration, emergency communication centres and number portability among others.

    Abdullahi Maikano is to assume the head of the department and report directly to his office.

    Others affected in he redeployment include the swapping of positions between former director of policy, competition and economic analysis (PCEA), Mary Uduma, who was moved to head the consumer affairs department; while Lolia Emakpore now heads the PCEA.

    Former director of compliance and enforcement monitoring, Funlola Akiode, was also moved to head the department of corporate planning and strategy, while Efosa Idehen, an assistant director in corporate planning department, takes her place at the compliance monitoring and enforcement department to head the enforcement unit.

    Additionally, the assistant director, formally of the PCEA, Abubakar Yakubu, takes over at the corporate planning department as the head, consultancy unit of the department, whereas another assistant director, Augustine Odoh, formerly of the compliance monitoring department now heads the NCC's zonal office in Port Harcourt.

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telecoms

  • The African Union (AU) has unveiled its plans for a single standardized SIM card for all African mobile phone operators. According to AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Elham Ibrahim, a study on the introduction of a single African SIM card has been underway and is expected to be completed within a month. The Commission would then hold a validation workshop with the key industry players in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to agree on the technical details for the SIM card, which it hopes would reduce the cost of roaming phone services.

    According to AU’s Head of Telecommunication Division, Moctar Yedaly, funds for the assessment of the technical requirements to be fulfilled before the launch of the SIM are estimated at US$100,000.

    He added that the plan includes an agreement on revenue-sharing and the validity of prepaid airtime if the users of the single SIM card migrate to other operators in the various African countries. The AU is looking at the networks operated by the South African multinational MTN Group, which has operations in over 16 African countries.

    The AU is also working on the registration of the domain name dot Africa, which it hopes to register. Yedely noted that a taskforce has been established to work out the modalities of registering the dot Africa internet domain.

  • MTN has had its application for a 3G license in Swaziland rejected by the incumbent telco, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), which also managed the regulatory regime in the country.

    The phone company and the regulator did not say why the license was rejected. MTN's CEO, Ambrose Dlamini had said last year that the company was at an advanced stage in negotiations for a 3G license and had hoped to be awarded the license by the end of last year.

    MTN has been lobbying for an independent regulator for some years, saying that the combination of phone company and regulator causes obvious conflicts of interest. As we reported last year, MTN dropped its objection to SPTC building a fixed wireless network, in exchange for the government pressing ahead with splitting the phone company from its regulatory role.

    SPTC is also the majority shareholder of MTN Swaziland with 51% of the shares. Of the remainder, 30% is owned by South Africa's MTN and 19% by a local Swaziland Empowerment group.

  • Forced to comply with a government order to disrupt their own services, mobile operators have looked far from comfortable in Egypt. Last Friday, the Egyptian government ordered the country’s three mobile operators – Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil and Etisalat Misr – to blackout their services in selected parts of the country. The government’s objective was to stifle the opposition that has rocked the regime in recent days. Protesters used mobile networks (as well as the internet and social networks) to organise the large-scale demonstrations that have threatened the position of President Hosni Mubarak. By Saturday, the three operators were able to resume service, although there have been subsequent rumours that another suspension might be imposed by the government.

    The mobile phone networks have fared better than the internet which has been closed down for longer by the government. In fact, Google has announced a special service that allows Egyptians to send Twitter messages by voicemail. However while bypassing the blocked internet, the new service would still be undone by another phone blackout.

    Vodafone emphasised how it had no choice – either technically or legally – but to follow the government’s order last week. The company said in a statement: “We would like to make it clear that the authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network...It has been made clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone, or any of the mobile operators in Egypt, but to comply with the demands of the authorities." The company also introduced another dimension to the debate by mentioning its staff whose “safety” is the company’s “other priority”.

    It should be noted that although Vodafone Egypt is 55 percent owned by the operator itself, the remaining stake is held by state-controlled Telecom Egypt. France Telecom, which is the largest shareholder in Mobinil, spoke to its Egyptian customers rather than an international audience, when it emphasised how the authorities had taken “technical measures” to prevent it from offering a service. Etisalat, the majority shareholder in Etisalat Misr, made a statement too that it had been told to suspend service by the government.

    At other times, Egypt has been a less stressful place to work. In the third quarter of 2010 (the most recent period for which figures are available) Vodafone led the market with record-breaking net additions of 2.4 million, according to figures from Wireless Intelligence. Mobinil, also breaking its quarterly record, made 2.3 million net additions, said the research firm. Meanwhile Etisalat had to settle for merely gaining its best results for nearly a year, a total of 260,000 net additions.

  • Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam unveiled his 2011 plan of action Friday while receiving New Year Wishes. Government during the ongoing fiscal year plans to set up 120 community telecommunication centres nationwide and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL) is determined to take additional measures to step up telecommunications, at reduced cost.

    MINPOSTEL boss, Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam, reiterated the commitment to strive for excellence last Friday January 28, 2011 as he received best wishes for 2011 from his staff during a colourful and crowd-pulling ceremony on the campus of the Yaounde School of Posts and Telecommunications.

    Drawing the ministry's balance sheet for 2011, MINPOSTEL's Secretary General, Edouard Abbah, said strides were recorded especially with the national optical fibre and the Central African Backbone projects which, he said, greatly improved the quality of telecommunications.

    Control, he added, was also made in the use of mobile telephones with a call on users to register their numbers as well as order set in the use of air frequencies. The country's postal services were also revived with the appointment of a new management team at CAMPOST and the bringing in of a French international postal company, SOFREPOST, to give technical boost to CAMPOST activities.

internet

  • The US$600-million West African Cable System (WACS) linking parts of Africa to Europe has reached the shores of Namibia. Local telecommunications operator, Telecom Namibia, partner in the intercontinental project through the WACS consortium, is ready to connect the fibre-optic cable to its network grid nationwide.

    The WACS consortium consists of 12 companies: Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, MTN, Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom, Tata Communications/Neotel, Telecom Namibia, Telkom SA, Togo Tele-com and Vodacom.

    The landing station in Namibia is Swakopmund where Telecom has already established infrastructure to route the under-sea cable to its networks.

    It will connect Namibia to Europe through its landing station in Swakopmund, similarly Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, and Portugal. It will also provide Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and the Republic of Congo with the first direct access to the global submarine cable communication network.

    WACS, which was initially supposed to end in Portugal but has now been extended to the United Kingdom, will provide mega spaces of broadband to Africa and enable the continent reliable, faster and cost-effective connectivity, says Telecom Managing Director Frans Ndoroma.

    Ndoroma, joined by Information and Communication Minister, Joel Kaapanda, recently assessed Namibia's readiness when they visited the coastal region to see the progress being made on the cable. Paris-based French company, Alcatel-Lucent, is responsible for installing the 2000-kilometre line on the west African coast.

    It would be operating at 40 gigabit per second (40G), to increase the overall design capacity from 3.8 Terabit/s (Tbit/s) to 5.12 Tbit/s, equal to the download of 8 million MP3 files or more than 8000 DVDs in 60 seconds.

    This would bolster connectivity along the Africa-Europe route, by enabling improved communications and Internet services that are crucial for social and economic development, revealed Kaapanda.

    Commercial service is expected before the second quarter of this year.

  • Glo has announced a reduction in the price of its 3G Internet modem from N8,500 to N5,000 (US$32), making it the most affordable product of its kind in the market. The modems are available in all Gloworld Shops nationwide and some selected dealers.

    The company also reduced the monthly rental fee for its Always Max plan and increased the data volume for the package. Details of the revised offer show that subscribers to Always Max package will now enjoy a 25% reduction in rental fee as they will henceforth pay N7,500 instead of N10,000 charged previously. In addition to the reduced tariff, the data volume for the package which gives all-day Internet access for 30 days has been increased from 5GB to 6GB.

    Glo also announced that data volume on the G300 pack with 90 days validity has been increased by over 100% from 4GB to 9GB. This enables subscribers to the package to download much more than they did before now at no additional cost.

    The revised packages give more value to the customer and are the best 3G internet packages in the industry in terms of value and pricing, stated Wunmi Jewesimi, Head of Glo 3G/Blackberry Sales.

    "The Always Max subscriber makes a savings of N2,500 every month and is able to do more with the increased data volume. The G300 customer has also been empowered to do much more with the additional 5 gigabytes," Jewesimi added.

    Other packages on the Glo 3G Plus High Speed Internet offer include the Always Min package which gives the user a month all-day access to the internet for N5,000, the Always Day pack with a fee of N500 for all day access for 24 hours and the G100 which has a monthly fee of N6,000 with 100 hours, all day access.

  • After public outrage over the sell of Somalia’s domain to a Japanese firm by Somali officials, the Ministry of Information denied recent reports saying that a Japanese company has purchased the Internet domain of Somalia.

    Speaking at a recent news conference he held in Mogadishu, the minister of information, posts and telecommunication, Abdikarin Hassan Jama, denied that the Internet domain of Somalia had been sold to a Japanese company. Saying those reports to that effect were baseless. “That’s not true and we as Somali government cannot allow such grubby deals” he said.

    Similarly, the Director General of the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunication, Eng Ahmad Mohammad Adan, who spoke on the occasion, said that the previous government had signed a contract with a Japanese company which, he said, maintains the Somali Internet. However, he said there are people being trained for the TFG government of Somalia and their training was going on in Nairobi, Kenya.

    However, there have been allegations in recent times that the Internet domain of Somalia had been selling to a Japanese company although the minister strongly denied it.

computing

  • Local technology firms are cashing in on demand from the financial sector as banks move to automate their processes and streamline operations.

    While the development has seen a number of institutions whittle down their employee numbers as technology takes over key functions, local technology firms have recorded a corresponding upswing in the number of requests for customised software solutions.

    Some of the companies that are positioning themselves to take advantage of the spending surge are Seven Seas Technologies, Alliance Technologies, Turnkey Africa and Craft Silicon, who are betting on a continued automation drive by Kenyan firms to create more demand for locally developed solutions.

    "Increased confidence in local developers has meant that our offering has come of age. Banks are now localising their software products and we expect that the continued rise in spending will continue to benefit local software houses, said Patrick Njenga of Alliance Technologies.

    Most Kenyan banks have in the past two years introduced electronic banking products that have not only increased the efficiency of transactions but also significantly reduced the number of people going to the banking halls for services.

    This has called for a revamp of their core banking systems--with some spending between Sh600 and Sh750 million to comply with new regulations or to offer new services--reducing the need for paper work and back room offices Increasingly, the drive to automate branches has rendered a number of workers redundant.

    Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that banks increased their branch count by 12 per cent in 2009 compared to 20 per cent and 28 per cent in 2008 and 2007 respectively with analyst predicting a growth of less than 10 per cent this year.

    These developments have positioned local and international software firms in a position to reap from heavy spending by banks, with many taking on international firms in the race to win business from financial firms.

    "We expect more localisation of global approaches to fit the Kenyan context. Out of this will also come capital infusion into local firms via private equity investors, and potentially strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions may happen which will enable local businesses to cash in on their investments and generate more cash-flow into the Kenyan economy," said Michael Macharia, CEO of Seven Seas Technologies.

    Last year, Craft Silicon, run by Kamal Budhabati, raked in a record Sh600 million, with the majority of earnings coming from its software development while the remaining 10 percent of its revenues come from installations, support and maintenance services. The company expects that number to increase exponentially over the next 12 months.

    The most popular software suites being bought by Kenyan institutions are those that can automate core banking systems, manage risk in various processes and reduce paperwork across the operation.

    For many local banks, the spending is being driven by the regulatory effect of Basel standards, the set of recommendations created by the Bank for International Settlements to streamline global banking operations, which has pushed more investment in technology solutions

    In addition, the last five years has seen a number of realignments in the financial services sector through mergers and acquisitions, calling for integrated services that merge bank functions across regions and borders.

    Local banks like Kenya Commercial Bank have extended their presence regionally in countries like Southern Sudan, while others like CFC Bank who merged with the South African Standard Bank to form CFC Stanbic a few years ago leaned heavily on technology solutions to integrate processes across operations.

    "We are now able to introduce new products rapidly and boost our capabilities in areas such as business intelligence and automation of our trade finance and treasury operations. We will count on a new system developed by Misys to provide the technological support needed to expand our presence across more market segments not just in Kenya, but across the region," said Gideon Muriuki, Group Managing Director & CEO, Co-operative Bank of Kenya.

    Recently, Misys, a global application software and services company, deployed an integrated BankFusion Universal Banking solution for Co-operative Bank that will cover retail banking, trade finance and treasury functions at the institution.

    Enhanced ICT platforms have helped banks to introduce internet and mobile banking services that enable customers to check their statements of accounts, make inquiries on status of cheques, cheque book requests, transfer of funds between designated accounts and make utility payments.

  • Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body for IT professionals in the country, has blamed the observed irregularities and difficulties encountered by Nigerians in the ongoing voter registration exercise, on the software deployed.

    Worried by the difficulties, which range from long delay in registration, non-functioning and low sensitivity of fingerprint scanners, insufficient ink to print voter's card, low battery back-up, over-heating and malfunctioning of computers, insufficient Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, poor managerial skills in handling the machines by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to the inability of INEC officials to test the machines for troubleshooting, NCS said the problems are more of software than computer hardware.

    President of NCS, Prof. Charles Uwadia, while addressing a press conference last weekend in Lagos on the performance of INEC in handling the voter registration, equally blamed INEC for not being transparent enough in its strategies for deploying IT for the entire electoral process.

    According to him, if INEC was transparent enough, it would have worked with IT professionals in the country for advice in key technical areas to avoid the problems currently being experienced.

    Uwadia faulted the type of software deployed and its specifications. Software, he said, remained the main driver of the hardware, and that once the specification of the software is wrong, it would affect the performance of the hardware itself.

    Linux, which is Open Source Software, does not have high security features needed for a nation's voter registration exercise, he said.

    He explained further that NCS offered to bring in its professional competence to bear, for free, and wrote INEC severally, but INEC turned down its letters, only to consult and employ the services of people who are not registered with or known by the computer professional body in the country.

    Such action, he said, was a violation of the ethics of the IT profession in the country and not tolerated anywhere in the world.

  • Technology firms, Computer Point and IBM, have signed an agreement aimed at improving Uganda's information and communication technology (ICT) to transform the country's business operations.

    "This partnership is a positive step in closing the ICT gap, especially among businesses operating in the East African Community. The move will speed up economic development across the region through our enhanced services," said Anil Kuruvilla, the Computer Point managing director.

    The partnership mandates Computer Point, an IT systems integrator, to offer IT solutions including infrastructure, application maintenance and development to willing financial institutions, the Government, telecoms and other corporate companies in Uganda on behalf of IBM.

    Tony Mwai, the IBM country general manager for East Africa, said the alliance will leverage the firm's IT expertise to support Ugandan businesses.

    On September 2010, IBM and Bharti Airtel signed a 10 year contract, where IBM will consolidate and transform the 16 different IT environments across Airtel's African operations into an integrated system.

    Mwai says IBM's cutting edge technology can unite business and IT, offering seamless access to IT services and resources, and cohesively integrating and managing the exploding volume of information.

    "IBM's goal is all about making businesses and IT environments ready to be part of a planet that is becoming smarter. It will do this by helping with unique technologies and services for virtualisation, energy efficiency, data management and business resiliency," he added.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR16.03 billion (USD2.24 billion) for the three months ended 31 December 2010. This figure represents an increase of 3.9% year-on-year. Vodacom’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa accounted for ZAR14.07 billion in sales, or 87.7% of the group’s total quarterly revenues. The telecoms firm has yet to release figures for EBITDA or net profit. Of Vodacom South Africa’s revenues, mobile voice traffic was responsible for the lion’s share of the takings, generating ZAR7.43 billion, whilst mobile interconnection fees contributed ZAR1.78 billion, mobile data ZAR1.75 billion and mobile messaging ZAR644 million. Data exhibited the largest increase year-on-year, growing 50.5%.

    In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, although its customer base dropped 6.6% year-on-year, to 25.3 million. However, any losses have been offset by the company’s enlarged post-paid subscriber base which grew 14.8% year-on-year. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their subscriber bases in the twelve months ended 31 December. Lesotho contributed the largest proportion of growth, increasing its customer base 28.6% to 823,000. Tanzania grew its subscriber base 26%, to end the year with 8.7 million subscribers, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.9 million customers (up 27.7%) and Democratic Republic of Congo 3.8 million subscribers (up 9.2%). Vodacom Group ended the calendar year with a consolidated wireless subscriber base of 41.6 million.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘Our strategy of focusing on operational delivery and offering increased value to customers has paid off with group customers increasing by more than two million to 41.6 million. In South Africa, the data business was a star performer, with growth in mobile connect cards and smartphones driving a 33.8% increase in overall data revenue. The international operations also continued to respond well to management actions with service revenue growth of 13.2%’.

  • The pattern of consumption in Uganda is increasingly being dictated by mobile phone usage, shifting emphasis away from food. As a result, the consumer price index was restructured to accommodate communication as a separate basket. A market basket is a collection of goods and services. Communication was previously part of the transport and communication basket. Food weighs 28% in the consumer price index. Communication, which hardly existed in the index a decade a go, weighs 6%.

    Communication comprises mobile phone air time, fixed line telephones and Internet services. Other components of the consumer price index include housing, water and electricity, clothing and foot wear, recreation and culture. Others are restaurants and hotels, health, furnishing and household equipment, alcohol beverages, tobacco, education, narcotics and miscellaneous goods and services.

    David Katende,who runs a small business in Kampala, says several years ago, he was not spending on airtime. "Now I have two mobile phones. One for Warid and the other for MTN. I spend between sh5,000 to sh10,00 on airtime daily. However, I plan for all the money I use to buy airtime, but on a busy day when I have to make a lot of calls, I spend about sh25,000," he explains. Katende says he ensures that all his phones have airtime in case of an emergency.

    The reduction in mobile phone call charges last October caused a major fall in inflation rates. The effect of this reduction will keep inflation low for the whole of 2011 even if there are pressures pushing it up, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) officials have predicted. In October, there was a 46% reduction in call charges because of the stiff and growing competition among the telecom firms. "During that month, we discovered that the consumer price index fell by 0.3% and, hence reducing the October inflation rate.This resulted in the annual inflation rate falling by 0.1%," Ronald Ssombwe, a senior statistician UBOS told Business Vision.

    In 2009, the annual average headline inflation rate stood at 13%, but fell to 4% in 2010. Ssombwe said mobile phone call charges contributed about nine percentage points to the reduction of the inflation rate between 2009 and 2010.

    Twelve months ago, the industry average mobile call rate was sh11 per second, which fell to sh5 and then to sh3 per second. Orange, Airtel and Warid have promised to keep their rates at three shillings per second. Warid is offering sh1 per second from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

    For the short message service (SMS), Airtel is offering unlimited short messages to its subscribers for sh200 per day and sh50 to other networks.

    Ssombwe says the impact of the telecommunications sector can no longer be underrated in the consumer price index.

    "There was excitement among various stakeholders, especially the customers, but airtime sellers were not happy with the result of the competition," he explains.

    He, however, revealed that last November inflation had started rising. "Although it went up, it was supressed by the fall in call charges," Ssobwe says.

    He adds that this effect would take a year to phase out, and that inflation was rising at a declining rate. There will be a one-year effect on inflation because of this drop in call charges. There have been questions whether the effect of the one-month drop of charges has had any effect on the economy.

    "The new innovations in the telecom sector, like giving customers airtime on credit, may drive the call charges even lower. "If we get more competitors in the sector, it will also drive the charges lower. It will have a direct impact in reducing the total inflation rate."

  • Vox Telecom, listed on the JSE’s AltX exchange, is becoming well known for its inventive annual reports, which each year resemble a popular magazine. The 2010 annual report, released this week, is no exception. The report, called Vox Stuff, has been designed by agency Xfacta to look like an edition of the popular gadgets magazine, Stuff.

    Previous annual reports have mimicked magazines such as Time (“Team”), National Geographic (“Vox Geographic”) and Sports Illustrated (“Vox Illustrated”).

    The latest annual report, printed on high-quality glossy paper and edited by Vox’s head of marketing, Clayton Timcke, features a full-page spread of the company’s directors hamming it up while playing Guitar Hero.

    CEO Tony van Marken is seen deejaying in the picture, with fellow executives Douglas Reed and Jacques du Toit hamming it up on guitar. Tony van Marken, Jacques du Toit and Gary Sweidan ham it up.

    There are the usual directors’ reports, but even these are done in a fun way, with a conversation between Van Marken and Reed laid out as if the two men were writing on each other’s walls on Facebook.

    However, Vox’s 2010 report has been toned down slightly from the material used in the real Stuff magazine, which is known for its covers featuring scantily clad women. The Vox report has a beautiful model — Jennifer Bettencourt from the Heads modelling agency — on its cover, but she has more clothing on than the models that appear in the real Stuff. That’s perhaps not surprising given that this is, after all, still an annual report of financial results. We don’t want the bean counters to get too hot under the collar, do we?

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Subscribers with Airtel Africa in Tanzania will soon be able to make online purchases from MasterCard merchants around the world, thanks to an initiative by the mobile communication firm in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard Worldwide. The three firms have partnered to provide a virtual card that operates off a wallet residing on a mobile phone.

    According to figures published by Ghana’s telecoms regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), fixed and mobile penetration in the country reached 75.4% at the end of last year, up from around 71% at the start of 2010. The watchdog’s figures show that the primary driver of growth is mobile usage: the cellular penetration rate stood at 74.2% at the same date, with more than 17.436 million registered SIM cards. Mobile growth in the second half of last year came despite a compulsory SIM registration scheme, which entered into effect on 1 July, and which was expected to dampen growth for the year, compared with 2009. The scheme is also expected to have pruned out a number of inactive and/or unregistered mobile users.

    Airtel Zambia, the recently acquired unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, is planning to invest up to USD150 million on the development of new infrastructure with a view to bolstering its customers, according to Bloomberg, which cites the former’s managing director, Fayaz King.

    Green Network Sierra Leone has gone live. Green Network Chief Executive Officer, Elmabruk S. Elgembari, said they were committed in partnering with the government to bring world-class telecommunications services to Sierra Leoneans. The operator currently has approximately 86 sites in the city and 42 in the provinces.

    Subscribers that are hoping to port their GSM numbers from one network to another and still retain their original numbers, under the Number Portability platform, may have to wait for more time before enjoying such service. The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) say number portability across all networks must wait until Nigeria completes her SIM registration and obtains a national database of users.

    The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)  could soon crack down on mobile phone operators following numerous complaints from the public about the quality of services, vis-à-vis costs, they are being given. POTRAZ is currently carrying out its own evaluation of the services on offer. Complaints by mobile technology users have become commonplace, with people decrying crossed lines, dropped calls, slow Internet connectivity, the cost of services and network unavailability.

    In Tanzania, Sasatel has launched a new promotion. The company will offer a new price of TS39,900/- (US$26( for the internet modem to new individual customers while business firms will have to pay a new price of TS179,000/- for the wireless Internet router. Sasatel was licensed to provide wireless telecommunication services in June 2008 and it officially launched its CDMA technology for commercial operation in June 2009.

    Zimbabwe's Barnfords Financial Services has partnered with UK-based WorldRemit to launch a new Internet-based money transfer service for Zimbabweans living abroad.

Digital Content

  • Cellphone banking has surged in the past year, as South African consumers gain confidence in their handheld devices as a tool for both communications and efficiency.

    Among urban cellphone users, 44% now use cellphone banking services, compared to 27% a year earlier, according to the Mobility 2011 research project conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank. In smaller centres and towns, 27% now use cellphone banking, suggesting that rural areas lag urban users by about a year in take-up of these services. In total, 37% of South Africans in urban and rural areas aged 16 and above now use cellphone banking.

    "Our predominant customer base resides within the mainstream market: 65% of FNB's 2.6 million customer base earns less than R100 000 per annum and are between the ages of 18 - 40 years old. Cellphone Banking is becoming the preferred alternative as people across the board are driven by the 'anywhere, anytime' concept of banking." says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO FNB Cellphone Banking Solutions

    Usage of cellphone banking peaks in the 26-34 age group, at 41%, and drops to 11% in the over-45 group. Male usage far outpaces that of females, at 56% against 44%. While education is a factor in usage of cellphone banking, with 43% of cellphone banking users having matric, and 38% with post-matric qualifications, the biggest proportion of cellphone banking users - no less than 27% - earn less than a R1000 a month.

    The vast majority of cellphone banking customers still use the basic services, such as balance enquiries (78%) and notifications (58%).

    However, transactional services are for the first time major components of cellphone banking services, with half of respondents buying airtime, 24% paying accounts, and 17% transferring funds between accounts. Emerging Mobile commerce transactions such as purchases and sending money to another persons' cellphone are also appearing on the radar screen for the first time. 12% of cellphone banking users also sending money to other individuals, and 11% making a purchase via their cellphone.

    For most of these services, urban respondents are far more likely to have made use of them, except in the case of sending airtime to someone: 33% of rural users of cellphone banking have done so, versus 22% of urban users.

    "Products like the FNB eWallet are allowing us to bridge the gap between the banked and the unbanked and address the real need of access to financial services. This also allows for the transfer of cash and airtime to be done safely and easily." says Yolande van Wyk CEO of FNB Smart Services.

    Most of this growth in usage comes off the back of another surprising finding: more than 80% of cellphone banking users are satisfied with the security of cellphone banking. The proportion of urban users slightly outweighs that of rural users, but not significantly so.

    "Previous studies had shown satisfaction with security as below 60%, indicating that market education and experience has made the difference in uptake," says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

    The Mobility 2011 project comprises two reports, namely the Mobile Consumer in SA 2011 and the Mobile Internet in SA 2011. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South Africans, conducted towards the end of 2010.

  • Mobile phone firms offering money transfer services will be required to lower their charges as a pre-condition for being allowed to send higher amounts in a single transaction, the banking sector regulator has said.

    Central Bank of Kenya governor Njuguna Ndung'u on Monday said that mobile phone operators who have applied for CBK's approval to raise their transaction thresholds have been told to cut their costs.

    Prof Ndung'u said the requirement is meant to promote inclusion of a majority of Kenyans -- including low income earners- in the formal financial system.

    Safaricom announced last year that it had doubled the daily transaction limits on its M-Pesa service to Sh140,000 from Sh70,000. Users of the service are only however allowed to send up to Sh70,000 in a single transaction, meaning that they incur double transaction charges to send the daily limit.

    Safaricom currently charges a maximum of Sh300 to withdraw between Sh50,001 and Sh70,000 for registered users and Sh400 for non-registered users. The telecommunication company's CEO, Bob Collymore, said that the company had been working closely with the CBK on transaction charges for M-Pesa.

    "Safaricom works closely with the Central Bank of Kenya, in determining the pricing for M-Pesa services. We have regular reviews of M-Pesa and we will take into account the Governor's concerns going forward," said Collymore in an e-mail response.

    He said that the company had reviewed its charges following the change of upper and lower limits of transactions. "We did (revise charges for various transaction amounts) following a revision of the upper and lower limits on transactions and the amount that can be held as M-Pesa in one's account," said Collymore.

    The revision of the transaction amounts showed that a customer can keep up to Sh100,000 in their account while doing a maximum daily transaction of Sh140,000. Customers who send the new lower limit amount of Sh50 are charged Sh15 for withdrawal.

    Safaricom declined to disclose the new charges it intends to implement. Airtel and Yu, the other mobile phone operators offering money transfer services, are yet to announce changes of their transaction limits.

Issue no 540 4th February 2011 Kenya’s Jamii Telecom to launch Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Fibre-To-The-Home offering

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Top story

  • Jamii Telecom is breaking the mould by launching a GPON network that will deliver Fibre-To-The-Home for the first time in Sub-Saharan African. It plans to deliver a host of services on it including, VoIP, Internet, video and security applications. This will give the Kenyan market two players at the high-bandwidth end of the market: Jamii Telecom and Wananchi. On a recent trip Russell Southwood spoke to Jamii’s General Manager John Kamau  and Wananchi’s CEO Richard Bell about their respective ambitions.

    Five years ago it would have been hard to imagine that there would be two high-bandwidth players vying for consumers attention in Kenya. You would have assumed that Telkom Kenya or Kenya Data Networks (KDN) would have been the natural players to emerge in this part of the market. But Telkom Kenya’s management from Orange is struggling with getting it right in the mobile market and KDN which seemed to have the wind in its sails, now seems becalmed.

    Jamii Telecom has steadily built itself a set of fibre metronets and connecting pieces of national backbone. So why Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH)? According to General Manager John Kamau:”We asked ourselves what is the next big application? We can’t go for more spectrum (to deliver wirelessly). The mobile operators already have an edge there. So we though a GPON network enabling FTTH would draw new excitement.”

    The network will be able to deliver 2.4 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream. The residential or SME customer will get a CPE that has 5-6 ports, delivering video content, VoIP, Internet, and a Wi-Fi hot-spot (just for your own house or flat):”It will enable the user to have massive bandwidth of over 100 mbps. It will deliver Video On Demand and be able to power 3-4 TVs, offering HD delivery. It will offer things like plug-and-play VoIP, video conferencing and security cameras. The network can provide an ecosystem for IPTV and this presents a considerably opportunity. Also you can do things like remote teleworking.” Many of these services and applications are things that WiMAX simply cannot support.

    Jamii Telecom’s stated aim is to “bulletproof the future” and it has been doing trials for 18 months with 200 households, all in Nairobi:”These people are so happy with the service that they don’t want to be cut off as we put up the new network.” The vendor for the project is Chinese-owned ZTE. The aim is to invest US$15 million in stages, targeting 100,000 households and to have the service ready to launch in Q2, 2011. It will cost between US$100-150 to connect each household. Rates will be benchmarked against prevailing rates which are currently between US$5,000-7,000 for between 512 kbps to 1 mbps:”The most expensive component of building the network is the civil works.”

    It sees itself as a “transport company” carrying other people’s signals, rather than a vertically integrated company offering content as well as networks. It is in discussion with DStv and others on the content side and has a relationship with Safaricom to deliver data that is causing some nervousness in the market. But Kamau says:”Our philosophy is open access. It’s a whole new market and it needs a new philosophy. It’s a mass market that needs a head-end, a call centre and a web portal to deliver.”

    In the other corner of this particular ring is Wananchi led by long-time industry veteran Richard Bell. It has rolled out an HFC cable network which will has already passed 45,000 households in Nairobi and the this figure will rise to 100,000 in three years time. The ultimate target is a million households by 2015. According to Bell:”The HFC network can deliver 250 channels, 50 in HD and 120 mbps into every household.”

    In technology terms, the strategy also has two other prongs to reach those beyond the cable network: WiMAX for voice and data and DTH satellite for television:”Half our channels will be in HD and we’re enhancing HD on our satellite platform.”

    Wananchi’s strategy differs from Jamii in that it sees content as the cornerstone for its success and has its own content division:”We will be offering 10 new channels for general African entertainment, documentary and sports. These will be launched between September and December of this year. We’re offering the first multi-channel African content since M-Net. Our strategy is around localizing content and we have a platform to produce our own content and it won’t be copied in a hurry. So our mission is both to find and make rich local content”.

    “We’ve made a decision not to go after premium sports rights as we believe the market will always want alternatives. We’re going to go out of our way to be strong in the family and childrens’ space. South Africa’s Top TV is making significant inroads into that market and Nigeria’s HiTV is still getting subs on a different positioning. Women are the decision-makers and the education of children is the biggest draw.”

    The Programming Group is headed up by Hannelei Bekker, a South African who formerly worked for Telkom Media and the Retail Group is headed by Peter Reinertz who used to be at Orange Kenya:”Currently we’re doing double play (voice and Internet) and triple play (adding television) will come on stream in Q3 this year.” It also plans to roll out a similar networks in Dar es Salaam and Kampala. So far it has invested US$120 million:”It’s an infrastructure business with a need for continuous additional investment.”

    It is a sign of how fast the market is changing that two seasoned independents have seized the initiative by investing in the high bandwidth space.

    Correction: Telegeography last week published a story suggesting that Vodacom was taking over Lap Green. This was based on an article in issue 393 published over two years ago (which was picked up by New Times, Rwanda) that was denied by both parties at the time. We are happy to make this clear to our readers.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top telecoms personalities. There are interviews in both English and French:

    Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore on customer care shortfalls, its local record label and LTE:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#grid/uploads

    iHub founder Erik Hersman on creating an ICT entrepreneur community in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/78/BUlgKrGqToc

    John Kamau of Kenya’s Jamii Telecom on Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Fibre-To-The-Home network
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/32/1ygqFP-VXJ0

    Eric Kamau of True African on dodgy practices in the SMS market in Uganda and on the banking products they are selling
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/74/ppb3C8KSvKY

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on M-Money services in Africa
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/17/0gHelksND38

    NOTE:

    If you want to receive daily news tweets from around the continent, please follow us on Twitter:

    In English: @BalancingActAfr
    In French: @sylvainbeletre

    If you are putting out information about your company on Twitter, please send us your details so that we can follow you.

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    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
    For further 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.
    For more information please visit here:  or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.

    Broadband World Forum MEA
    14-15 March 2011, Dubai UAE

    The conference programme features 60+ visionary speakers presenting across keynote plenary sessions, 4 in-depth technology tracks and a Rural Coverage and Connectivity focus day.  Co-located to the conference is a 35+ stand technology exhibition showcasing some of the region’s latest cutting-edge broadband technologies, applications, solutions and services to hit the market. Limited FREE passes for operators and early booking discounts apply to all others.  Register with VIP code: BBM11BAA
    For further information 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.
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    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:

    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?
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  • The President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria, (ITAN), Dr Jimson Olufuye has been appointed by United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) as a representative to the new Working Group on Internet Governance.

    Incumbent operator Tunisie Télécom has lost its boss. Montasser Ouaili resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the group. Mr. Ouaili sent, on Monday, January 31, 2011, an open letter to the Industry and Technology Minister.

    A Telecel Zimbabwe senior official has been arrested and deported for working illegally in the country while three Chinese from another telecommunications company were arrested for working without permits. The Telecel official, Simon Payne, was arrested by immigration officials last Friday and appeared before a Harare magistrate on Monday. He was fined US$1 000 or six months in prison for violating the Immigration Act for working in the country without a requisite permit.

    Shake up at NCC, as Juwah Redeploys Nine Directors

    In an effort to infuse new lease of life into the telecommunication regulatory house, the executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, reorganised the management, which saw some directors being moved.

    Conforming this, head, media and public relations at NCC, Reuben Muoka said the movement of directors to in the recent re-shuffle takes immediate effect.

    He said the latest redeployment of directors and the creation of a new department were done to refocus the commission, in line with the vision of the new management.

    The new changes announced through an official memo sent to the affected staff at the commission, showed that Engr. Maska Ubale, a deputy director, was drafted to head the compliance, monitoring and enforcement department; an area which Dr. Juwah said would receive a lot of attention in his regime as most of the issues confronting the industry are traced to poor level of compliance by the operators.

    Juwah also in the memo proclaimed the creation of a new department, projects office, which would oversee the implementation of the various project of the commission, including SIM Card registration, emergency communication centres and number portability among others.

    Abdullahi Maikano is to assume the head of the department and report directly to his office.

    Others affected in he redeployment include the swapping of positions between former director of policy, competition and economic analysis (PCEA), Mary Uduma, who was moved to head the consumer affairs department; while Lolia Emakpore now heads the PCEA.

    Former director of compliance and enforcement monitoring, Funlola Akiode, was also moved to head the department of corporate planning and strategy, while Efosa Idehen, an assistant director in corporate planning department, takes her place at the compliance monitoring and enforcement department to head the enforcement unit.

    Additionally, the assistant director, formally of the PCEA, Abubakar Yakubu, takes over at the corporate planning department as the head, consultancy unit of the department, whereas another assistant director, Augustine Odoh, formerly of the compliance monitoring department now heads the NCC's zonal office in Port Harcourt.

    Odoh takes over from Inatimi Spiff, an assistant director and formerly the head of the Port Harcourt Zonal Office who has been redeployed to the PCEA department.

    Okoh Aihe, formerly the head of the Corporate Services Unit of the Universal Services Provision Fund (USPF), moves over to the office of the executive vice chairman as the special assistant to the EVC on media.

    Daily Champion gathered that Dr. Juwah in the memo informed the affected staff that the "exercise is meant to re-energise the departments and functional lines of the commission to re-inject dynamism and functional mobility in the deployment of staff, geared towards making the workforce more rounded and challenges them to optimal performance."

  • ITU: HIPSSA CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

    Opened positions and requests for proposal:

     - G-3.1 (d) [WA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.1[WA].pdf

    - G-3.1 (d) [EA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.3[EA].pdf

    - G-3.3 (d) [CA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.2[CA].pdf

    - G-3.4 (d) [SA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.4[SA].pdf

    - G-3.5 (d) [INT]: International spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)

    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.5[INT].pdf

    - G-3.6 (d) [PM]: Senior international spectrum management expert [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3%206[PM].pdf

    [HIPSSA/G-6] Call for Application related to ICT statistics

    The expert will be responsible for designing regional statistical reports about ICT/telecommunication indicators with a specific focus in regional organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistical reports shall include factsheets for each member country of the identified regional organisations and an aggregated and comparative view for each of the regions.

    To download the job description, please click on the link below or copy the URL in your browser: http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-6.1...

    For further information visit the ITU's website.

  • SEA-ME-WE and Alcatel-Lucent – North Africa
    The co-owners of the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) international submarine cable system have selected Alcatel-Lucent and Ciena Corporation for a network expansion project. Alcatel-Lucent was selected for an upgrade to 40Gbps (40G) transmission of all submarine segments. Ciena was selected to supply optical switching equipment for all 16 cable landing sites as well as for 100Gbps (100G) transport for an upgrade of the terrestrial link connecting Alexandria to Suez in Egypt. The deployment will commence in the first quarter of 2011, providing a substantial capacity increase to the existing cable system (ultimate capacity of 2.4Tbps per fibre pair), which supports the delivery of high speed internet and other broadband-based services along the approximately 20,000km route connecting Europe to the Middle East and South East Asia.

telecoms

  • The African Union (AU) has unveiled its plans for a single standardized SIM card for all African mobile phone operators. According to AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Elham Ibrahim, a study on the introduction of a single African SIM card has been underway and is expected to be completed within a month. The Commission would then hold a validation workshop with the key industry players in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to agree on the technical details for the SIM card, which it hopes would reduce the cost of roaming phone services.

    According to AU’s Head of Telecommunication Division, Moctar Yedaly, funds for the assessment of the technical requirements to be fulfilled before the launch of the SIM are estimated at US$100,000.

    He added that the plan includes an agreement on revenue-sharing and the validity of prepaid airtime if the users of the single SIM card migrate to other operators in the various African countries. The AU is looking at the networks operated by the South African multinational MTN Group, which has operations in over 16 African countries.

    The AU is also working on the registration of the domain name dot Africa, which it hopes to register. Yedely noted that a taskforce has been established to work out the modalities of registering the dot Africa internet domain.

  • MTN has had its application for a 3G license in Swaziland rejected by the incumbent telco, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), which also managed the regulatory regime in the country.

    The phone company and the regulator did not say why the license was rejected. MTN's CEO, Ambrose Dlamini had said last year that the company was at an advanced stage in negotiations for a 3G license and had hoped to be awarded the license by the end of last year.

    MTN has been lobbying for an independent regulator for some years, saying that the combination of phone company and regulator causes obvious conflicts of interest. As we reported last year, MTN dropped its objection to SPTC building a fixed wireless network, in exchange for the government pressing ahead with splitting the phone company from its regulatory role.

    SPTC is also the majority shareholder of MTN Swaziland with 51% of the shares. Of the remainder, 30% is owned by South Africa's MTN and 19% by a local Swaziland Empowerment group.

  • Forced to comply with a government order to disrupt their own services, mobile operators have looked far from comfortable in Egypt. Last Friday, the Egyptian government ordered the country’s three mobile operators – Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil and Etisalat Misr – to blackout their services in selected parts of the country. The government’s objective was to stifle the opposition that has rocked the regime in recent days. Protesters used mobile networks (as well as the internet and social networks) to organise the large-scale demonstrations that have threatened the position of President Hosni Mubarak. By Saturday, the three operators were able to resume service, although there have been subsequent rumours that another suspension might be imposed by the government.

    The mobile phone networks have fared better than the internet which has been closed down for longer by the government. In fact, Google has announced a special service that allows Egyptians to send Twitter messages by voicemail. However while bypassing the blocked internet, the new service would still be undone by another phone blackout.

    Vodafone emphasised how it had no choice – either technically or legally – but to follow the government’s order last week. The company said in a statement: “We would like to make it clear that the authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network...It has been made clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone, or any of the mobile operators in Egypt, but to comply with the demands of the authorities." The company also introduced another dimension to the debate by mentioning its staff whose “safety” is the company’s “other priority”.

    It should be noted that although Vodafone Egypt is 55 percent owned by the operator itself, the remaining stake is held by state-controlled Telecom Egypt. France Telecom, which is the largest shareholder in Mobinil, spoke to its Egyptian customers rather than an international audience, when it emphasised how the authorities had taken “technical measures” to prevent it from offering a service. Etisalat, the majority shareholder in Etisalat Misr, made a statement too that it had been told to suspend service by the government.

    At other times, Egypt has been a less stressful place to work. In the third quarter of 2010 (the most recent period for which figures are available) Vodafone led the market with record-breaking net additions of 2.4 million, according to figures from Wireless Intelligence. Mobinil, also breaking its quarterly record, made 2.3 million net additions, said the research firm. Meanwhile Etisalat had to settle for merely gaining its best results for nearly a year, a total of 260,000 net additions.

  • Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam unveiled his 2011 plan of action Friday while receiving New Year Wishes. Government during the ongoing fiscal year plans to set up 120 community telecommunication centres nationwide and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL) is determined to take additional measures to step up telecommunications, at reduced cost.

    MINPOSTEL boss, Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam, reiterated the commitment to strive for excellence last Friday January 28, 2011 as he received best wishes for 2011 from his staff during a colourful and crowd-pulling ceremony on the campus of the Yaounde School of Posts and Telecommunications.

    Drawing the ministry's balance sheet for 2011, MINPOSTEL's Secretary General, Edouard Abbah, said strides were recorded especially with the national optical fibre and the Central African Backbone projects which, he said, greatly improved the quality of telecommunications.

    Control, he added, was also made in the use of mobile telephones with a call on users to register their numbers as well as order set in the use of air frequencies. The country's postal services were also revived with the appointment of a new management team at CAMPOST and the bringing in of a French international postal company, SOFREPOST, to give technical boost to CAMPOST activities.

internet

  • The US$600-million West African Cable System (WACS) linking parts of Africa to Europe has reached the shores of Namibia. Local telecommunications operator, Telecom Namibia, partner in the intercontinental project through the WACS consortium, is ready to connect the fibre-optic cable to its network grid nationwide.

    The WACS consortium consists of 12 companies: Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, MTN, Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom, Tata Communications/Neotel, Telecom Namibia, Telkom SA, Togo Tele-com and Vodacom.

    The landing station in Namibia is Swakopmund where Telecom has already established infrastructure to route the under-sea cable to its networks.

    It will connect Namibia to Europe through its landing station in Swakopmund, similarly Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, and Portugal. It will also provide Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and the Republic of Congo with the first direct access to the global submarine cable communication network.

    WACS, which was initially supposed to end in Portugal but has now been extended to the United Kingdom, will provide mega spaces of broadband to Africa and enable the continent reliable, faster and cost-effective connectivity, says Telecom Managing Director Frans Ndoroma.

    Ndoroma, joined by Information and Communication Minister, Joel Kaapanda, recently assessed Namibia's readiness when they visited the coastal region to see the progress being made on the cable. Paris-based French company, Alcatel-Lucent, is responsible for installing the 2000-kilometre line on the west African coast.

    It would be operating at 40 gigabit per second (40G), to increase the overall design capacity from 3.8 Terabit/s (Tbit/s) to 5.12 Tbit/s, equal to the download of 8 million MP3 files or more than 8000 DVDs in 60 seconds.

    This would bolster connectivity along the Africa-Europe route, by enabling improved communications and Internet services that are crucial for social and economic development, revealed Kaapanda.

    Commercial service is expected before the second quarter of this year.

  • Glo has announced a reduction in the price of its 3G Internet modem from N8,500 to N5,000 (US$32), making it the most affordable product of its kind in the market. The modems are available in all Gloworld Shops nationwide and some selected dealers.

    The company also reduced the monthly rental fee for its Always Max plan and increased the data volume for the package. Details of the revised offer show that subscribers to Always Max package will now enjoy a 25% reduction in rental fee as they will henceforth pay N7,500 instead of N10,000 charged previously. In addition to the reduced tariff, the data volume for the package which gives all-day Internet access for 30 days has been increased from 5GB to 6GB.

    Glo also announced that data volume on the G300 pack with 90 days validity has been increased by over 100% from 4GB to 9GB. This enables subscribers to the package to download much more than they did before now at no additional cost.

    The revised packages give more value to the customer and are the best 3G internet packages in the industry in terms of value and pricing, stated Wunmi Jewesimi, Head of Glo 3G/Blackberry Sales.

    "The Always Max subscriber makes a savings of N2,500 every month and is able to do more with the increased data volume. The G300 customer has also been empowered to do much more with the additional 5 gigabytes," Jewesimi added.

    Other packages on the Glo 3G Plus High Speed Internet offer include the Always Min package which gives the user a month all-day access to the internet for N5,000, the Always Day pack with a fee of N500 for all day access for 24 hours and the G100 which has a monthly fee of N6,000 with 100 hours, all day access.

  • After public outrage over the sell of Somalia’s domain to a Japanese firm by Somali officials, the Ministry of Information denied recent reports saying that a Japanese company has purchased the Internet domain of Somalia.

    Speaking at a recent news conference he held in Mogadishu, the minister of information, posts and telecommunication, Abdikarin Hassan Jama, denied that the Internet domain of Somalia had been sold to a Japanese company. Saying those reports to that effect were baseless. “That’s not true and we as Somali government cannot allow such grubby deals” he said.

    Similarly, the Director General of the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunication, Eng Ahmad Mohammad Adan, who spoke on the occasion, said that the previous government had signed a contract with a Japanese company which, he said, maintains the Somali Internet. However, he said there are people being trained for the TFG government of Somalia and their training was going on in Nairobi, Kenya.

    However, there have been allegations in recent times that the Internet domain of Somalia had been selling to a Japanese company although the minister strongly denied it.

computing

  • Local technology firms are cashing in on demand from the financial sector as banks move to automate their processes and streamline operations.

    While the development has seen a number of institutions whittle down their employee numbers as technology takes over key functions, local technology firms have recorded a corresponding upswing in the number of requests for customised software solutions.

    Some of the companies that are positioning themselves to take advantage of the spending surge are Seven Seas Technologies, Alliance Technologies, Turnkey Africa and Craft Silicon, who are betting on a continued automation drive by Kenyan firms to create more demand for locally developed solutions.

    "Increased confidence in local developers has meant that our offering has come of age. Banks are now localising their software products and we expect that the continued rise in spending will continue to benefit local software houses, said Patrick Njenga of Alliance Technologies.

    Most Kenyan banks have in the past two years introduced electronic banking products that have not only increased the efficiency of transactions but also significantly reduced the number of people going to the banking halls for services.

    This has called for a revamp of their core banking systems--with some spending between Sh600 and Sh750 million to comply with new regulations or to offer new services--reducing the need for paper work and back room offices Increasingly, the drive to automate branches has rendered a number of workers redundant.

    Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that banks increased their branch count by 12 per cent in 2009 compared to 20 per cent and 28 per cent in 2008 and 2007 respectively with analyst predicting a growth of less than 10 per cent this year.

    These developments have positioned local and international software firms in a position to reap from heavy spending by banks, with many taking on international firms in the race to win business from financial firms.

    "We expect more localisation of global approaches to fit the Kenyan context. Out of this will also come capital infusion into local firms via private equity investors, and potentially strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions may happen which will enable local businesses to cash in on their investments and generate more cash-flow into the Kenyan economy," said Michael Macharia, CEO of Seven Seas Technologies.

    Last year, Craft Silicon, run by Kamal Budhabati, raked in a record Sh600 million, with the majority of earnings coming from its software development while the remaining 10 percent of its revenues come from installations, support and maintenance services. The company expects that number to increase exponentially over the next 12 months.

    The most popular software suites being bought by Kenyan institutions are those that can automate core banking systems, manage risk in various processes and reduce paperwork across the operation.

    For many local banks, the spending is being driven by the regulatory effect of Basel standards, the set of recommendations created by the Bank for International Settlements to streamline global banking operations, which has pushed more investment in technology solutions

    In addition, the last five years has seen a number of realignments in the financial services sector through mergers and acquisitions, calling for integrated services that merge bank functions across regions and borders.

    Local banks like Kenya Commercial Bank have extended their presence regionally in countries like Southern Sudan, while others like CFC Bank who merged with the South African Standard Bank to form CFC Stanbic a few years ago leaned heavily on technology solutions to integrate processes across operations.

    "We are now able to introduce new products rapidly and boost our capabilities in areas such as business intelligence and automation of our trade finance and treasury operations. We will count on a new system developed by Misys to provide the technological support needed to expand our presence across more market segments not just in Kenya, but across the region," said Gideon Muriuki, Group Managing Director & CEO, Co-operative Bank of Kenya.

    Recently, Misys, a global application software and services company, deployed an integrated BankFusion Universal Banking solution for Co-operative Bank that will cover retail banking, trade finance and treasury functions at the institution.

    Enhanced ICT platforms have helped banks to introduce internet and mobile banking services that enable customers to check their statements of accounts, make inquiries on status of cheques, cheque book requests, transfer of funds between designated accounts and make utility payments.

  • Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body for IT professionals in the country, has blamed the observed irregularities and difficulties encountered by Nigerians in the ongoing voter registration exercise, on the software deployed.

    Worried by the difficulties, which range from long delay in registration, non-functioning and low sensitivity of fingerprint scanners, insufficient ink to print voter's card, low battery back-up, over-heating and malfunctioning of computers, insufficient Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, poor managerial skills in handling the machines by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to the inability of INEC officials to test the machines for troubleshooting, NCS said the problems are more of software than computer hardware.

    President of NCS, Prof. Charles Uwadia, while addressing a press conference last weekend in Lagos on the performance of INEC in handling the voter registration, equally blamed INEC for not being transparent enough in its strategies for deploying IT for the entire electoral process.

    According to him, if INEC was transparent enough, it would have worked with IT professionals in the country for advice in key technical areas to avoid the problems currently being experienced.

    Uwadia faulted the type of software deployed and its specifications. Software, he said, remained the main driver of the hardware, and that once the specification of the software is wrong, it would affect the performance of the hardware itself.

    Linux, which is Open Source Software, does not have high security features needed for a nation's voter registration exercise, he said.

    He explained further that NCS offered to bring in its professional competence to bear, for free, and wrote INEC severally, but INEC turned down its letters, only to consult and employ the services of people who are not registered with or known by the computer professional body in the country.

    Such action, he said, was a violation of the ethics of the IT profession in the country and not tolerated anywhere in the world.

  • Technology firms, Computer Point and IBM, have signed an agreement aimed at improving Uganda's information and communication technology (ICT) to transform the country's business operations.

    "This partnership is a positive step in closing the ICT gap, especially among businesses operating in the East African Community. The move will speed up economic development across the region through our enhanced services," said Anil Kuruvilla, the Computer Point managing director.

    The partnership mandates Computer Point, an IT systems integrator, to offer IT solutions including infrastructure, application maintenance and development to willing financial institutions, the Government, telecoms and other corporate companies in Uganda on behalf of IBM.

    Tony Mwai, the IBM country general manager for East Africa, said the alliance will leverage the firm's IT expertise to support Ugandan businesses.

    On September 2010, IBM and Bharti Airtel signed a 10 year contract, where IBM will consolidate and transform the 16 different IT environments across Airtel's African operations into an integrated system.

    Mwai says IBM's cutting edge technology can unite business and IT, offering seamless access to IT services and resources, and cohesively integrating and managing the exploding volume of information.

    "IBM's goal is all about making businesses and IT environments ready to be part of a planet that is becoming smarter. It will do this by helping with unique technologies and services for virtualisation, energy efficiency, data management and business resiliency," he added.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR16.03 billion (USD2.24 billion) for the three months ended 31 December 2010. This figure represents an increase of 3.9% year-on-year. Vodacom’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa accounted for ZAR14.07 billion in sales, or 87.7% of the group’s total quarterly revenues. The telecoms firm has yet to release figures for EBITDA or net profit. Of Vodacom South Africa’s revenues, mobile voice traffic was responsible for the lion’s share of the takings, generating ZAR7.43 billion, whilst mobile interconnection fees contributed ZAR1.78 billion, mobile data ZAR1.75 billion and mobile messaging ZAR644 million. Data exhibited the largest increase year-on-year, growing 50.5%.

    In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, although its customer base dropped 6.6% year-on-year, to 25.3 million. However, any losses have been offset by the company’s enlarged post-paid subscriber base which grew 14.8% year-on-year. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their subscriber bases in the twelve months ended 31 December. Lesotho contributed the largest proportion of growth, increasing its customer base 28.6% to 823,000. Tanzania grew its subscriber base 26%, to end the year with 8.7 million subscribers, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.9 million customers (up 27.7%) and Democratic Republic of Congo 3.8 million subscribers (up 9.2%). Vodacom Group ended the calendar year with a consolidated wireless subscriber base of 41.6 million.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘Our strategy of focusing on operational delivery and offering increased value to customers has paid off with group customers increasing by more than two million to 41.6 million. In South Africa, the data business was a star performer, with growth in mobile connect cards and smartphones driving a 33.8% increase in overall data revenue. The international operations also continued to respond well to management actions with service revenue growth of 13.2%’.

  • The pattern of consumption in Uganda is increasingly being dictated by mobile phone usage, shifting emphasis away from food. As a result, the consumer price index was restructured to accommodate communication as a separate basket. A market basket is a collection of goods and services. Communication was previously part of the transport and communication basket. Food weighs 28% in the consumer price index. Communication, which hardly existed in the index a decade a go, weighs 6%.

    Communication comprises mobile phone air time, fixed line telephones and Internet services. Other components of the consumer price index include housing, water and electricity, clothing and foot wear, recreation and culture. Others are restaurants and hotels, health, furnishing and household equipment, alcohol beverages, tobacco, education, narcotics and miscellaneous goods and services.

    David Katende,who runs a small business in Kampala, says several years ago, he was not spending on airtime. "Now I have two mobile phones. One for Warid and the other for MTN. I spend between sh5,000 to sh10,00 on airtime daily. However, I plan for all the money I use to buy airtime, but on a busy day when I have to make a lot of calls, I spend about sh25,000," he explains. Katende says he ensures that all his phones have airtime in case of an emergency.

    The reduction in mobile phone call charges last October caused a major fall in inflation rates. The effect of this reduction will keep inflation low for the whole of 2011 even if there are pressures pushing it up, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) officials have predicted. In October, there was a 46% reduction in call charges because of the stiff and growing competition among the telecom firms. "During that month, we discovered that the consumer price index fell by 0.3% and, hence reducing the October inflation rate.This resulted in the annual inflation rate falling by 0.1%," Ronald Ssombwe, a senior statistician UBOS told Business Vision.

    In 2009, the annual average headline inflation rate stood at 13%, but fell to 4% in 2010. Ssombwe said mobile phone call charges contributed about nine percentage points to the reduction of the inflation rate between 2009 and 2010.

    Twelve months ago, the industry average mobile call rate was sh11 per second, which fell to sh5 and then to sh3 per second. Orange, Airtel and Warid have promised to keep their rates at three shillings per second. Warid is offering sh1 per second from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

    For the short message service (SMS), Airtel is offering unlimited short messages to its subscribers for sh200 per day and sh50 to other networks.

    Ssombwe says the impact of the telecommunications sector can no longer be underrated in the consumer price index.

    "There was excitement among various stakeholders, especially the customers, but airtime sellers were not happy with the result of the competition," he explains.

    He, however, revealed that last November inflation had started rising. "Although it went up, it was supressed by the fall in call charges," Ssobwe says.

    He adds that this effect would take a year to phase out, and that inflation was rising at a declining rate. There will be a one-year effect on inflation because of this drop in call charges. There have been questions whether the effect of the one-month drop of charges has had any effect on the economy.

    "The new innovations in the telecom sector, like giving customers airtime on credit, may drive the call charges even lower. "If we get more competitors in the sector, it will also drive the charges lower. It will have a direct impact in reducing the total inflation rate."

  • Vox Telecom, listed on the JSE’s AltX exchange, is becoming well known for its inventive annual reports, which each year resemble a popular magazine. The 2010 annual report, released this week, is no exception. The report, called Vox Stuff, has been designed by agency Xfacta to look like an edition of the popular gadgets magazine, Stuff.

    Previous annual reports have mimicked magazines such as Time (“Team”), National Geographic (“Vox Geographic”) and Sports Illustrated (“Vox Illustrated”).

    The latest annual report, printed on high-quality glossy paper and edited by Vox’s head of marketing, Clayton Timcke, features a full-page spread of the company’s directors hamming it up while playing Guitar Hero.

    CEO Tony van Marken is seen deejaying in the picture, with fellow executives Douglas Reed and Jacques du Toit hamming it up on guitar. Tony van Marken, Jacques du Toit and Gary Sweidan ham it up.

    There are the usual directors’ reports, but even these are done in a fun way, with a conversation between Van Marken and Reed laid out as if the two men were writing on each other’s walls on Facebook.

    However, Vox’s 2010 report has been toned down slightly from the material used in the real Stuff magazine, which is known for its covers featuring scantily clad women. The Vox report has a beautiful model — Jennifer Bettencourt from the Heads modelling agency — on its cover, but she has more clothing on than the models that appear in the real Stuff. That’s perhaps not surprising given that this is, after all, still an annual report of financial results. We don’t want the bean counters to get too hot under the collar, do we?

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Subscribers with Airtel Africa in Tanzania will soon be able to make online purchases from MasterCard merchants around the world, thanks to an initiative by the mobile communication firm in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard Worldwide. The three firms have partnered to provide a virtual card that operates off a wallet residing on a mobile phone.

    According to figures published by Ghana’s telecoms regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), fixed and mobile penetration in the country reached 75.4% at the end of last year, up from around 71% at the start of 2010. The watchdog’s figures show that the primary driver of growth is mobile usage: the cellular penetration rate stood at 74.2% at the same date, with more than 17.436 million registered SIM cards. Mobile growth in the second half of last year came despite a compulsory SIM registration scheme, which entered into effect on 1 July, and which was expected to dampen growth for the year, compared with 2009. The scheme is also expected to have pruned out a number of inactive and/or unregistered mobile users.

    Airtel Zambia, the recently acquired unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, is planning to invest up to USD150 million on the development of new infrastructure with a view to bolstering its customers, according to Bloomberg, which cites the former’s managing director, Fayaz King.

    Green Network Sierra Leone has gone live. Green Network Chief Executive Officer, Elmabruk S. Elgembari, said they were committed in partnering with the government to bring world-class telecommunications services to Sierra Leoneans. The operator currently has approximately 86 sites in the city and 42 in the provinces.

    Subscribers that are hoping to port their GSM numbers from one network to another and still retain their original numbers, under the Number Portability platform, may have to wait for more time before enjoying such service. The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) say number portability across all networks must wait until Nigeria completes her SIM registration and obtains a national database of users.

    The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)  could soon crack down on mobile phone operators following numerous complaints from the public about the quality of services, vis-à-vis costs, they are being given. POTRAZ is currently carrying out its own evaluation of the services on offer. Complaints by mobile technology users have become commonplace, with people decrying crossed lines, dropped calls, slow Internet connectivity, the cost of services and network unavailability.

    In Tanzania, Sasatel has launched a new promotion. The company will offer a new price of TS39,900/- (US$26( for the internet modem to new individual customers while business firms will have to pay a new price of TS179,000/- for the wireless Internet router. Sasatel was licensed to provide wireless telecommunication services in June 2008 and it officially launched its CDMA technology for commercial operation in June 2009.

    Zimbabwe's Barnfords Financial Services has partnered with UK-based WorldRemit to launch a new Internet-based money transfer service for Zimbabweans living abroad.

Digital Content

  • Cellphone banking has surged in the past year, as South African consumers gain confidence in their handheld devices as a tool for both communications and efficiency.

    Among urban cellphone users, 44% now use cellphone banking services, compared to 27% a year earlier, according to the Mobility 2011 research project conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank. In smaller centres and towns, 27% now use cellphone banking, suggesting that rural areas lag urban users by about a year in take-up of these services. In total, 37% of South Africans in urban and rural areas aged 16 and above now use cellphone banking.

    "Our predominant customer base resides within the mainstream market: 65% of FNB's 2.6 million customer base earns less than R100 000 per annum and are between the ages of 18 - 40 years old. Cellphone Banking is becoming the preferred alternative as people across the board are driven by the 'anywhere, anytime' concept of banking." says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO FNB Cellphone Banking Solutions

    Usage of cellphone banking peaks in the 26-34 age group, at 41%, and drops to 11% in the over-45 group. Male usage far outpaces that of females, at 56% against 44%. While education is a factor in usage of cellphone banking, with 43% of cellphone banking users having matric, and 38% with post-matric qualifications, the biggest proportion of cellphone banking users - no less than 27% - earn less than a R1000 a month.

    The vast majority of cellphone banking customers still use the basic services, such as balance enquiries (78%) and notifications (58%).

    However, transactional services are for the first time major components of cellphone banking services, with half of respondents buying airtime, 24% paying accounts, and 17% transferring funds between accounts. Emerging Mobile commerce transactions such as purchases and sending money to another persons' cellphone are also appearing on the radar screen for the first time. 12% of cellphone banking users also sending money to other individuals, and 11% making a purchase via their cellphone.

    For most of these services, urban respondents are far more likely to have made use of them, except in the case of sending airtime to someone: 33% of rural users of cellphone banking have done so, versus 22% of urban users.

    "Products like the FNB eWallet are allowing us to bridge the gap between the banked and the unbanked and address the real need of access to financial services. This also allows for the transfer of cash and airtime to be done safely and easily." says Yolande van Wyk CEO of FNB Smart Services.

    Most of this growth in usage comes off the back of another surprising finding: more than 80% of cellphone banking users are satisfied with the security of cellphone banking. The proportion of urban users slightly outweighs that of rural users, but not significantly so.

    "Previous studies had shown satisfaction with security as below 60%, indicating that market education and experience has made the difference in uptake," says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

    The Mobility 2011 project comprises two reports, namely the Mobile Consumer in SA 2011 and the Mobile Internet in SA 2011. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South Africans, conducted towards the end of 2010.

  • Mobile phone firms offering money transfer services will be required to lower their charges as a pre-condition for being allowed to send higher amounts in a single transaction, the banking sector regulator has said.

    Central Bank of Kenya governor Njuguna Ndung'u on Monday said that mobile phone operators who have applied for CBK's approval to raise their transaction thresholds have been told to cut their costs.

    Prof Ndung'u said the requirement is meant to promote inclusion of a majority of Kenyans -- including low income earners- in the formal financial system.

    Safaricom announced last year that it had doubled the daily transaction limits on its M-Pesa service to Sh140,000 from Sh70,000. Users of the service are only however allowed to send up to Sh70,000 in a single transaction, meaning that they incur double transaction charges to send the daily limit.

    Safaricom currently charges a maximum of Sh300 to withdraw between Sh50,001 and Sh70,000 for registered users and Sh400 for non-registered users. The telecommunication company's CEO, Bob Collymore, said that the company had been working closely with the CBK on transaction charges for M-Pesa.

    "Safaricom works closely with the Central Bank of Kenya, in determining the pricing for M-Pesa services. We have regular reviews of M-Pesa and we will take into account the Governor's concerns going forward," said Collymore in an e-mail response.

    He said that the company had reviewed its charges following the change of upper and lower limits of transactions. "We did (revise charges for various transaction amounts) following a revision of the upper and lower limits on transactions and the amount that can be held as M-Pesa in one's account," said Collymore.

    The revision of the transaction amounts showed that a customer can keep up to Sh100,000 in their account while doing a maximum daily transaction of Sh140,000. Customers who send the new lower limit amount of Sh50 are charged Sh15 for withdrawal.

    Safaricom declined to disclose the new charges it intends to implement. Airtel and Yu, the other mobile phone operators offering money transfer services, are yet to announce changes of their transaction limits.

Issue no 540 4th February 2011 Kenya’s Jamii Telecom to launch Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Fibre-To-The-Home offering

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Top story

  • Jamii Telecom is breaking the mould by launching a GPON network that will deliver Fibre-To-The-Home for the first time in Sub-Saharan African. It plans to deliver a host of services on it including, VoIP, Internet, video and security applications. This will give the Kenyan market two players at the high-bandwidth end of the market: Jamii Telecom and Wananchi. On a recent trip Russell Southwood spoke to Jamii’s General Manager John Kamau  and Wananchi’s CEO Richard Bell about their respective ambitions.

    Five years ago it would have been hard to imagine that there would be two high-bandwidth players vying for consumers attention in Kenya. You would have assumed that Telkom Kenya or Kenya Data Networks (KDN) would have been the natural players to emerge in this part of the market. But Telkom Kenya’s management from Orange is struggling with getting it right in the mobile market and KDN which seemed to have the wind in its sails, now seems becalmed.

    Jamii Telecom has steadily built itself a set of fibre metronets and connecting pieces of national backbone. So why Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH)? According to General Manager John Kamau:”We asked ourselves what is the next big application? We can’t go for more spectrum (to deliver wirelessly). The mobile operators already have an edge there. So we though a GPON network enabling FTTH would draw new excitement.”

    The network will be able to deliver 2.4 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream. The residential or SME customer will get a CPE that has 5-6 ports, delivering video content, VoIP, Internet, and a Wi-Fi hot-spot (just for your own house or flat):”It will enable the user to have massive bandwidth of over 100 mbps. It will deliver Video On Demand and be able to power 3-4 TVs, offering HD delivery. It will offer things like plug-and-play VoIP, video conferencing and security cameras. The network can provide an ecosystem for IPTV and this presents a considerably opportunity. Also you can do things like remote teleworking.” Many of these services and applications are things that WiMAX simply cannot support.

    Jamii Telecom’s stated aim is to “bulletproof the future” and it has been doing trials for 18 months with 200 households, all in Nairobi:”These people are so happy with the service that they don’t want to be cut off as we put up the new network.” The vendor for the project is Chinese-owned ZTE. The aim is to invest US$15 million in stages, targeting 100,000 households and to have the service ready to launch in Q2, 2011. It will cost between US$100-150 to connect each household. Rates will be benchmarked against prevailing rates which are currently between US$5,000-7,000 for between 512 kbps to 1 mbps:”The most expensive component of building the network is the civil works.”

    It sees itself as a “transport company” carrying other people’s signals, rather than a vertically integrated company offering content as well as networks. It is in discussion with DStv and others on the content side and has a relationship with Safaricom to deliver data that is causing some nervousness in the market. But Kamau says:”Our philosophy is open access. It’s a whole new market and it needs a new philosophy. It’s a mass market that needs a head-end, a call centre and a web portal to deliver.”

    In the other corner of this particular ring is Wananchi led by long-time industry veteran Richard Bell. It has rolled out an HFC cable network which will has already passed 45,000 households in Nairobi and the this figure will rise to 100,000 in three years time. The ultimate target is a million households by 2015. According to Bell:”The HFC network can deliver 250 channels, 50 in HD and 120 mbps into every household.”

    In technology terms, the strategy also has two other prongs to reach those beyond the cable network: WiMAX for voice and data and DTH satellite for television:”Half our channels will be in HD and we’re enhancing HD on our satellite platform.”

    Wananchi’s strategy differs from Jamii in that it sees content as the cornerstone for its success and has its own content division:”We will be offering 10 new channels for general African entertainment, documentary and sports. These will be launched between September and December of this year. We’re offering the first multi-channel African content since M-Net. Our strategy is around localizing content and we have a platform to produce our own content and it won’t be copied in a hurry. So our mission is both to find and make rich local content”.

    “We’ve made a decision not to go after premium sports rights as we believe the market will always want alternatives. We’re going to go out of our way to be strong in the family and childrens’ space. South Africa’s Top TV is making significant inroads into that market and Nigeria’s HiTV is still getting subs on a different positioning. Women are the decision-makers and the education of children is the biggest draw.”

    The Programming Group is headed up by Hannelei Bekker, a South African who formerly worked for Telkom Media and the Retail Group is headed by Peter Reinertz who used to be at Orange Kenya:”Currently we’re doing double play (voice and Internet) and triple play (adding television) will come on stream in Q3 this year.” It also plans to roll out a similar networks in Dar es Salaam and Kampala. So far it has invested US$120 million:”It’s an infrastructure business with a need for continuous additional investment.”

    It is a sign of how fast the market is changing that two seasoned independents have seized the initiative by investing in the high bandwidth space.

    Correction: Telegeography last week published a story suggesting that Vodacom was taking over Lap Green. This was based on an article in issue 393 published over two years ago (which was picked up by New Times, Rwanda) that was denied by both parties at the time. We are happy to make this clear to our readers.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top telecoms personalities. There are interviews in both English and French:

    Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore on customer care shortfalls, its local record label and LTE:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#grid/uploads

    iHub founder Erik Hersman on creating an ICT entrepreneur community in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/78/BUlgKrGqToc

    John Kamau of Kenya’s Jamii Telecom on Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Fibre-To-The-Home network
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/32/1ygqFP-VXJ0

    Eric Kamau of True African on dodgy practices in the SMS market in Uganda and on the banking products they are selling
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/74/ppb3C8KSvKY

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on M-Money services in Africa
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/17/0gHelksND38

    NOTE:

    If you want to receive daily news tweets from around the continent, please follow us on Twitter:

    In English: @BalancingActAfr
    In French: @sylvainbeletre

    If you are putting out information about your company on Twitter, please send us your details so that we can follow you.

More

  • 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
    For further 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.
    For more information please visit here:  or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.

    Broadband World Forum MEA
    14-15 March 2011, Dubai UAE

    The conference programme features 60+ visionary speakers presenting across keynote plenary sessions, 4 in-depth technology tracks and a Rural Coverage and Connectivity focus day.  Co-located to the conference is a 35+ stand technology exhibition showcasing some of the region’s latest cutting-edge broadband technologies, applications, solutions and services to hit the market. Limited FREE passes for operators and early booking discounts apply to all others.  Register with VIP code: BBM11BAA
    For further information 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:

    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 President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria, (ITAN), Dr Jimson Olufuye has been appointed by United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) as a representative to the new Working Group on Internet Governance.

    Incumbent operator Tunisie Télécom has lost its boss. Montasser Ouaili resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the group. Mr. Ouaili sent, on Monday, January 31, 2011, an open letter to the Industry and Technology Minister.

    A Telecel Zimbabwe senior official has been arrested and deported for working illegally in the country while three Chinese from another telecommunications company were arrested for working without permits. The Telecel official, Simon Payne, was arrested by immigration officials last Friday and appeared before a Harare magistrate on Monday. He was fined US$1 000 or six months in prison for violating the Immigration Act for working in the country without a requisite permit.

    Shake up at NCC, as Juwah Redeploys Nine Directors

    In an effort to infuse new lease of life into the telecommunication regulatory house, the executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, reorganised the management, which saw some directors being moved.

    Conforming this, head, media and public relations at NCC, Reuben Muoka said the movement of directors to in the recent re-shuffle takes immediate effect.

    He said the latest redeployment of directors and the creation of a new department were done to refocus the commission, in line with the vision of the new management.

    The new changes announced through an official memo sent to the affected staff at the commission, showed that Engr. Maska Ubale, a deputy director, was drafted to head the compliance, monitoring and enforcement department; an area which Dr. Juwah said would receive a lot of attention in his regime as most of the issues confronting the industry are traced to poor level of compliance by the operators.

    Juwah also in the memo proclaimed the creation of a new department, projects office, which would oversee the implementation of the various project of the commission, including SIM Card registration, emergency communication centres and number portability among others.

    Abdullahi Maikano is to assume the head of the department and report directly to his office.

    Others affected in he redeployment include the swapping of positions between former director of policy, competition and economic analysis (PCEA), Mary Uduma, who was moved to head the consumer affairs department; while Lolia Emakpore now heads the PCEA.

    Former director of compliance and enforcement monitoring, Funlola Akiode, was also moved to head the department of corporate planning and strategy, while Efosa Idehen, an assistant director in corporate planning department, takes her place at the compliance monitoring and enforcement department to head the enforcement unit.

    Additionally, the assistant director, formally of the PCEA, Abubakar Yakubu, takes over at the corporate planning department as the head, consultancy unit of the department, whereas another assistant director, Augustine Odoh, formerly of the compliance monitoring department now heads the NCC's zonal office in Port Harcourt.

    Odoh takes over from Inatimi Spiff, an assistant director and formerly the head of the Port Harcourt Zonal Office who has been redeployed to the PCEA department.

    Okoh Aihe, formerly the head of the Corporate Services Unit of the Universal Services Provision Fund (USPF), moves over to the office of the executive vice chairman as the special assistant to the EVC on media.

    Daily Champion gathered that Dr. Juwah in the memo informed the affected staff that the "exercise is meant to re-energise the departments and functional lines of the commission to re-inject dynamism and functional mobility in the deployment of staff, geared towards making the workforce more rounded and challenges them to optimal performance."

  • ITU: HIPSSA CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

    Opened positions and requests for proposal:

     - G-3.1 (d) [WA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.1[WA].pdf

    - G-3.1 (d) [EA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.3[EA].pdf

    - G-3.3 (d) [CA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.2[CA].pdf

    - G-3.4 (d) [SA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.4[SA].pdf

    - G-3.5 (d) [INT]: International spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)

    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.5[INT].pdf

    - G-3.6 (d) [PM]: Senior international spectrum management expert [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3%206[PM].pdf

    [HIPSSA/G-6] Call for Application related to ICT statistics

    The expert will be responsible for designing regional statistical reports about ICT/telecommunication indicators with a specific focus in regional organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistical reports shall include factsheets for each member country of the identified regional organisations and an aggregated and comparative view for each of the regions.

    To download the job description, please click on the link below or copy the URL in your browser: http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-6.1...

    For further information visit the ITU's website.

  • SEA-ME-WE and Alcatel-Lucent – North Africa
    The co-owners of the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) international submarine cable system have selected Alcatel-Lucent and Ciena Corporation for a network expansion project. Alcatel-Lucent was selected for an upgrade to 40Gbps (40G) transmission of all submarine segments. Ciena was selected to supply optical switching equipment for all 16 cable landing sites as well as for 100Gbps (100G) transport for an upgrade of the terrestrial link connecting Alexandria to Suez in Egypt. The deployment will commence in the first quarter of 2011, providing a substantial capacity increase to the existing cable system (ultimate capacity of 2.4Tbps per fibre pair), which supports the delivery of high speed internet and other broadband-based services along the approximately 20,000km route connecting Europe to the Middle East and South East Asia.

telecoms

  • The African Union (AU) has unveiled its plans for a single standardized SIM card for all African mobile phone operators. According to AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Elham Ibrahim, a study on the introduction of a single African SIM card has been underway and is expected to be completed within a month. The Commission would then hold a validation workshop with the key industry players in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to agree on the technical details for the SIM card, which it hopes would reduce the cost of roaming phone services.

    According to AU’s Head of Telecommunication Division, Moctar Yedaly, funds for the assessment of the technical requirements to be fulfilled before the launch of the SIM are estimated at US$100,000.

    He added that the plan includes an agreement on revenue-sharing and the validity of prepaid airtime if the users of the single SIM card migrate to other operators in the various African countries. The AU is looking at the networks operated by the South African multinational MTN Group, which has operations in over 16 African countries.

    The AU is also working on the registration of the domain name dot Africa, which it hopes to register. Yedely noted that a taskforce has been established to work out the modalities of registering the dot Africa internet domain.

  • MTN has had its application for a 3G license in Swaziland rejected by the incumbent telco, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), which also managed the regulatory regime in the country.

    The phone company and the regulator did not say why the license was rejected. MTN's CEO, Ambrose Dlamini had said last year that the company was at an advanced stage in negotiations for a 3G license and had hoped to be awarded the license by the end of last year.

    MTN has been lobbying for an independent regulator for some years, saying that the combination of phone company and regulator causes obvious conflicts of interest. As we reported last year, MTN dropped its objection to SPTC building a fixed wireless network, in exchange for the government pressing ahead with splitting the phone company from its regulatory role.

    SPTC is also the majority shareholder of MTN Swaziland with 51% of the shares. Of the remainder, 30% is owned by South Africa's MTN and 19% by a local Swaziland Empowerment group.

  • Forced to comply with a government order to disrupt their own services, mobile operators have looked far from comfortable in Egypt. Last Friday, the Egyptian government ordered the country’s three mobile operators – Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil and Etisalat Misr – to blackout their services in selected parts of the country. The government’s objective was to stifle the opposition that has rocked the regime in recent days. Protesters used mobile networks (as well as the internet and social networks) to organise the large-scale demonstrations that have threatened the position of President Hosni Mubarak. By Saturday, the three operators were able to resume service, although there have been subsequent rumours that another suspension might be imposed by the government.

    The mobile phone networks have fared better than the internet which has been closed down for longer by the government. In fact, Google has announced a special service that allows Egyptians to send Twitter messages by voicemail. However while bypassing the blocked internet, the new service would still be undone by another phone blackout.

    Vodafone emphasised how it had no choice – either technically or legally – but to follow the government’s order last week. The company said in a statement: “We would like to make it clear that the authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network...It has been made clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone, or any of the mobile operators in Egypt, but to comply with the demands of the authorities." The company also introduced another dimension to the debate by mentioning its staff whose “safety” is the company’s “other priority”.

    It should be noted that although Vodafone Egypt is 55 percent owned by the operator itself, the remaining stake is held by state-controlled Telecom Egypt. France Telecom, which is the largest shareholder in Mobinil, spoke to its Egyptian customers rather than an international audience, when it emphasised how the authorities had taken “technical measures” to prevent it from offering a service. Etisalat, the majority shareholder in Etisalat Misr, made a statement too that it had been told to suspend service by the government.

    At other times, Egypt has been a less stressful place to work. In the third quarter of 2010 (the most recent period for which figures are available) Vodafone led the market with record-breaking net additions of 2.4 million, according to figures from Wireless Intelligence. Mobinil, also breaking its quarterly record, made 2.3 million net additions, said the research firm. Meanwhile Etisalat had to settle for merely gaining its best results for nearly a year, a total of 260,000 net additions.

  • Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam unveiled his 2011 plan of action Friday while receiving New Year Wishes. Government during the ongoing fiscal year plans to set up 120 community telecommunication centres nationwide and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL) is determined to take additional measures to step up telecommunications, at reduced cost.

    MINPOSTEL boss, Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam, reiterated the commitment to strive for excellence last Friday January 28, 2011 as he received best wishes for 2011 from his staff during a colourful and crowd-pulling ceremony on the campus of the Yaounde School of Posts and Telecommunications.

    Drawing the ministry's balance sheet for 2011, MINPOSTEL's Secretary General, Edouard Abbah, said strides were recorded especially with the national optical fibre and the Central African Backbone projects which, he said, greatly improved the quality of telecommunications.

    Control, he added, was also made in the use of mobile telephones with a call on users to register their numbers as well as order set in the use of air frequencies. The country's postal services were also revived with the appointment of a new management team at CAMPOST and the bringing in of a French international postal company, SOFREPOST, to give technical boost to CAMPOST activities.

internet

  • The US$600-million West African Cable System (WACS) linking parts of Africa to Europe has reached the shores of Namibia. Local telecommunications operator, Telecom Namibia, partner in the intercontinental project through the WACS consortium, is ready to connect the fibre-optic cable to its network grid nationwide.

    The WACS consortium consists of 12 companies: Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, MTN, Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom, Tata Communications/Neotel, Telecom Namibia, Telkom SA, Togo Tele-com and Vodacom.

    The landing station in Namibia is Swakopmund where Telecom has already established infrastructure to route the under-sea cable to its networks.

    It will connect Namibia to Europe through its landing station in Swakopmund, similarly Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, and Portugal. It will also provide Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and the Republic of Congo with the first direct access to the global submarine cable communication network.

    WACS, which was initially supposed to end in Portugal but has now been extended to the United Kingdom, will provide mega spaces of broadband to Africa and enable the continent reliable, faster and cost-effective connectivity, says Telecom Managing Director Frans Ndoroma.

    Ndoroma, joined by Information and Communication Minister, Joel Kaapanda, recently assessed Namibia's readiness when they visited the coastal region to see the progress being made on the cable. Paris-based French company, Alcatel-Lucent, is responsible for installing the 2000-kilometre line on the west African coast.

    It would be operating at 40 gigabit per second (40G), to increase the overall design capacity from 3.8 Terabit/s (Tbit/s) to 5.12 Tbit/s, equal to the download of 8 million MP3 files or more than 8000 DVDs in 60 seconds.

    This would bolster connectivity along the Africa-Europe route, by enabling improved communications and Internet services that are crucial for social and economic development, revealed Kaapanda.

    Commercial service is expected before the second quarter of this year.

  • Glo has announced a reduction in the price of its 3G Internet modem from N8,500 to N5,000 (US$32), making it the most affordable product of its kind in the market. The modems are available in all Gloworld Shops nationwide and some selected dealers.

    The company also reduced the monthly rental fee for its Always Max plan and increased the data volume for the package. Details of the revised offer show that subscribers to Always Max package will now enjoy a 25% reduction in rental fee as they will henceforth pay N7,500 instead of N10,000 charged previously. In addition to the reduced tariff, the data volume for the package which gives all-day Internet access for 30 days has been increased from 5GB to 6GB.

    Glo also announced that data volume on the G300 pack with 90 days validity has been increased by over 100% from 4GB to 9GB. This enables subscribers to the package to download much more than they did before now at no additional cost.

    The revised packages give more value to the customer and are the best 3G internet packages in the industry in terms of value and pricing, stated Wunmi Jewesimi, Head of Glo 3G/Blackberry Sales.

    "The Always Max subscriber makes a savings of N2,500 every month and is able to do more with the increased data volume. The G300 customer has also been empowered to do much more with the additional 5 gigabytes," Jewesimi added.

    Other packages on the Glo 3G Plus High Speed Internet offer include the Always Min package which gives the user a month all-day access to the internet for N5,000, the Always Day pack with a fee of N500 for all day access for 24 hours and the G100 which has a monthly fee of N6,000 with 100 hours, all day access.

  • After public outrage over the sell of Somalia’s domain to a Japanese firm by Somali officials, the Ministry of Information denied recent reports saying that a Japanese company has purchased the Internet domain of Somalia.

    Speaking at a recent news conference he held in Mogadishu, the minister of information, posts and telecommunication, Abdikarin Hassan Jama, denied that the Internet domain of Somalia had been sold to a Japanese company. Saying those reports to that effect were baseless. “That’s not true and we as Somali government cannot allow such grubby deals” he said.

    Similarly, the Director General of the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunication, Eng Ahmad Mohammad Adan, who spoke on the occasion, said that the previous government had signed a contract with a Japanese company which, he said, maintains the Somali Internet. However, he said there are people being trained for the TFG government of Somalia and their training was going on in Nairobi, Kenya.

    However, there have been allegations in recent times that the Internet domain of Somalia had been selling to a Japanese company although the minister strongly denied it.

computing

  • Local technology firms are cashing in on demand from the financial sector as banks move to automate their processes and streamline operations.

    While the development has seen a number of institutions whittle down their employee numbers as technology takes over key functions, local technology firms have recorded a corresponding upswing in the number of requests for customised software solutions.

    Some of the companies that are positioning themselves to take advantage of the spending surge are Seven Seas Technologies, Alliance Technologies, Turnkey Africa and Craft Silicon, who are betting on a continued automation drive by Kenyan firms to create more demand for locally developed solutions.

    "Increased confidence in local developers has meant that our offering has come of age. Banks are now localising their software products and we expect that the continued rise in spending will continue to benefit local software houses, said Patrick Njenga of Alliance Technologies.

    Most Kenyan banks have in the past two years introduced electronic banking products that have not only increased the efficiency of transactions but also significantly reduced the number of people going to the banking halls for services.

    This has called for a revamp of their core banking systems--with some spending between Sh600 and Sh750 million to comply with new regulations or to offer new services--reducing the need for paper work and back room offices Increasingly, the drive to automate branches has rendered a number of workers redundant.

    Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that banks increased their branch count by 12 per cent in 2009 compared to 20 per cent and 28 per cent in 2008 and 2007 respectively with analyst predicting a growth of less than 10 per cent this year.

    These developments have positioned local and international software firms in a position to reap from heavy spending by banks, with many taking on international firms in the race to win business from financial firms.

    "We expect more localisation of global approaches to fit the Kenyan context. Out of this will also come capital infusion into local firms via private equity investors, and potentially strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions may happen which will enable local businesses to cash in on their investments and generate more cash-flow into the Kenyan economy," said Michael Macharia, CEO of Seven Seas Technologies.

    Last year, Craft Silicon, run by Kamal Budhabati, raked in a record Sh600 million, with the majority of earnings coming from its software development while the remaining 10 percent of its revenues come from installations, support and maintenance services. The company expects that number to increase exponentially over the next 12 months.

    The most popular software suites being bought by Kenyan institutions are those that can automate core banking systems, manage risk in various processes and reduce paperwork across the operation.

    For many local banks, the spending is being driven by the regulatory effect of Basel standards, the set of recommendations created by the Bank for International Settlements to streamline global banking operations, which has pushed more investment in technology solutions

    In addition, the last five years has seen a number of realignments in the financial services sector through mergers and acquisitions, calling for integrated services that merge bank functions across regions and borders.

    Local banks like Kenya Commercial Bank have extended their presence regionally in countries like Southern Sudan, while others like CFC Bank who merged with the South African Standard Bank to form CFC Stanbic a few years ago leaned heavily on technology solutions to integrate processes across operations.

    "We are now able to introduce new products rapidly and boost our capabilities in areas such as business intelligence and automation of our trade finance and treasury operations. We will count on a new system developed by Misys to provide the technological support needed to expand our presence across more market segments not just in Kenya, but across the region," said Gideon Muriuki, Group Managing Director & CEO, Co-operative Bank of Kenya.

    Recently, Misys, a global application software and services company, deployed an integrated BankFusion Universal Banking solution for Co-operative Bank that will cover retail banking, trade finance and treasury functions at the institution.

    Enhanced ICT platforms have helped banks to introduce internet and mobile banking services that enable customers to check their statements of accounts, make inquiries on status of cheques, cheque book requests, transfer of funds between designated accounts and make utility payments.

  • Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body for IT professionals in the country, has blamed the observed irregularities and difficulties encountered by Nigerians in the ongoing voter registration exercise, on the software deployed.

    Worried by the difficulties, which range from long delay in registration, non-functioning and low sensitivity of fingerprint scanners, insufficient ink to print voter's card, low battery back-up, over-heating and malfunctioning of computers, insufficient Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, poor managerial skills in handling the machines by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to the inability of INEC officials to test the machines for troubleshooting, NCS said the problems are more of software than computer hardware.

    President of NCS, Prof. Charles Uwadia, while addressing a press conference last weekend in Lagos on the performance of INEC in handling the voter registration, equally blamed INEC for not being transparent enough in its strategies for deploying IT for the entire electoral process.

    According to him, if INEC was transparent enough, it would have worked with IT professionals in the country for advice in key technical areas to avoid the problems currently being experienced.

    Uwadia faulted the type of software deployed and its specifications. Software, he said, remained the main driver of the hardware, and that once the specification of the software is wrong, it would affect the performance of the hardware itself.

    Linux, which is Open Source Software, does not have high security features needed for a nation's voter registration exercise, he said.

    He explained further that NCS offered to bring in its professional competence to bear, for free, and wrote INEC severally, but INEC turned down its letters, only to consult and employ the services of people who are not registered with or known by the computer professional body in the country.

    Such action, he said, was a violation of the ethics of the IT profession in the country and not tolerated anywhere in the world.

  • Technology firms, Computer Point and IBM, have signed an agreement aimed at improving Uganda's information and communication technology (ICT) to transform the country's business operations.

    "This partnership is a positive step in closing the ICT gap, especially among businesses operating in the East African Community. The move will speed up economic development across the region through our enhanced services," said Anil Kuruvilla, the Computer Point managing director.

    The partnership mandates Computer Point, an IT systems integrator, to offer IT solutions including infrastructure, application maintenance and development to willing financial institutions, the Government, telecoms and other corporate companies in Uganda on behalf of IBM.

    Tony Mwai, the IBM country general manager for East Africa, said the alliance will leverage the firm's IT expertise to support Ugandan businesses.

    On September 2010, IBM and Bharti Airtel signed a 10 year contract, where IBM will consolidate and transform the 16 different IT environments across Airtel's African operations into an integrated system.

    Mwai says IBM's cutting edge technology can unite business and IT, offering seamless access to IT services and resources, and cohesively integrating and managing the exploding volume of information.

    "IBM's goal is all about making businesses and IT environments ready to be part of a planet that is becoming smarter. It will do this by helping with unique technologies and services for virtualisation, energy efficiency, data management and business resiliency," he added.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR16.03 billion (USD2.24 billion) for the three months ended 31 December 2010. This figure represents an increase of 3.9% year-on-year. Vodacom’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa accounted for ZAR14.07 billion in sales, or 87.7% of the group’s total quarterly revenues. The telecoms firm has yet to release figures for EBITDA or net profit. Of Vodacom South Africa’s revenues, mobile voice traffic was responsible for the lion’s share of the takings, generating ZAR7.43 billion, whilst mobile interconnection fees contributed ZAR1.78 billion, mobile data ZAR1.75 billion and mobile messaging ZAR644 million. Data exhibited the largest increase year-on-year, growing 50.5%.

    In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, although its customer base dropped 6.6% year-on-year, to 25.3 million. However, any losses have been offset by the company’s enlarged post-paid subscriber base which grew 14.8% year-on-year. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their subscriber bases in the twelve months ended 31 December. Lesotho contributed the largest proportion of growth, increasing its customer base 28.6% to 823,000. Tanzania grew its subscriber base 26%, to end the year with 8.7 million subscribers, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.9 million customers (up 27.7%) and Democratic Republic of Congo 3.8 million subscribers (up 9.2%). Vodacom Group ended the calendar year with a consolidated wireless subscriber base of 41.6 million.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘Our strategy of focusing on operational delivery and offering increased value to customers has paid off with group customers increasing by more than two million to 41.6 million. In South Africa, the data business was a star performer, with growth in mobile connect cards and smartphones driving a 33.8% increase in overall data revenue. The international operations also continued to respond well to management actions with service revenue growth of 13.2%’.

  • The pattern of consumption in Uganda is increasingly being dictated by mobile phone usage, shifting emphasis away from food. As a result, the consumer price index was restructured to accommodate communication as a separate basket. A market basket is a collection of goods and services. Communication was previously part of the transport and communication basket. Food weighs 28% in the consumer price index. Communication, which hardly existed in the index a decade a go, weighs 6%.

    Communication comprises mobile phone air time, fixed line telephones and Internet services. Other components of the consumer price index include housing, water and electricity, clothing and foot wear, recreation and culture. Others are restaurants and hotels, health, furnishing and household equipment, alcohol beverages, tobacco, education, narcotics and miscellaneous goods and services.

    David Katende,who runs a small business in Kampala, says several years ago, he was not spending on airtime. "Now I have two mobile phones. One for Warid and the other for MTN. I spend between sh5,000 to sh10,00 on airtime daily. However, I plan for all the money I use to buy airtime, but on a busy day when I have to make a lot of calls, I spend about sh25,000," he explains. Katende says he ensures that all his phones have airtime in case of an emergency.

    The reduction in mobile phone call charges last October caused a major fall in inflation rates. The effect of this reduction will keep inflation low for the whole of 2011 even if there are pressures pushing it up, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) officials have predicted. In October, there was a 46% reduction in call charges because of the stiff and growing competition among the telecom firms. "During that month, we discovered that the consumer price index fell by 0.3% and, hence reducing the October inflation rate.This resulted in the annual inflation rate falling by 0.1%," Ronald Ssombwe, a senior statistician UBOS told Business Vision.

    In 2009, the annual average headline inflation rate stood at 13%, but fell to 4% in 2010. Ssombwe said mobile phone call charges contributed about nine percentage points to the reduction of the inflation rate between 2009 and 2010.

    Twelve months ago, the industry average mobile call rate was sh11 per second, which fell to sh5 and then to sh3 per second. Orange, Airtel and Warid have promised to keep their rates at three shillings per second. Warid is offering sh1 per second from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

    For the short message service (SMS), Airtel is offering unlimited short messages to its subscribers for sh200 per day and sh50 to other networks.

    Ssombwe says the impact of the telecommunications sector can no longer be underrated in the consumer price index.

    "There was excitement among various stakeholders, especially the customers, but airtime sellers were not happy with the result of the competition," he explains.

    He, however, revealed that last November inflation had started rising. "Although it went up, it was supressed by the fall in call charges," Ssobwe says.

    He adds that this effect would take a year to phase out, and that inflation was rising at a declining rate. There will be a one-year effect on inflation because of this drop in call charges. There have been questions whether the effect of the one-month drop of charges has had any effect on the economy.

    "The new innovations in the telecom sector, like giving customers airtime on credit, may drive the call charges even lower. "If we get more competitors in the sector, it will also drive the charges lower. It will have a direct impact in reducing the total inflation rate."

  • Vox Telecom, listed on the JSE’s AltX exchange, is becoming well known for its inventive annual reports, which each year resemble a popular magazine. The 2010 annual report, released this week, is no exception. The report, called Vox Stuff, has been designed by agency Xfacta to look like an edition of the popular gadgets magazine, Stuff.

    Previous annual reports have mimicked magazines such as Time (“Team”), National Geographic (“Vox Geographic”) and Sports Illustrated (“Vox Illustrated”).

    The latest annual report, printed on high-quality glossy paper and edited by Vox’s head of marketing, Clayton Timcke, features a full-page spread of the company’s directors hamming it up while playing Guitar Hero.

    CEO Tony van Marken is seen deejaying in the picture, with fellow executives Douglas Reed and Jacques du Toit hamming it up on guitar. Tony van Marken, Jacques du Toit and Gary Sweidan ham it up.

    There are the usual directors’ reports, but even these are done in a fun way, with a conversation between Van Marken and Reed laid out as if the two men were writing on each other’s walls on Facebook.

    However, Vox’s 2010 report has been toned down slightly from the material used in the real Stuff magazine, which is known for its covers featuring scantily clad women. The Vox report has a beautiful model — Jennifer Bettencourt from the Heads modelling agency — on its cover, but she has more clothing on than the models that appear in the real Stuff. That’s perhaps not surprising given that this is, after all, still an annual report of financial results. We don’t want the bean counters to get too hot under the collar, do we?

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Subscribers with Airtel Africa in Tanzania will soon be able to make online purchases from MasterCard merchants around the world, thanks to an initiative by the mobile communication firm in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard Worldwide. The three firms have partnered to provide a virtual card that operates off a wallet residing on a mobile phone.

    According to figures published by Ghana’s telecoms regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), fixed and mobile penetration in the country reached 75.4% at the end of last year, up from around 71% at the start of 2010. The watchdog’s figures show that the primary driver of growth is mobile usage: the cellular penetration rate stood at 74.2% at the same date, with more than 17.436 million registered SIM cards. Mobile growth in the second half of last year came despite a compulsory SIM registration scheme, which entered into effect on 1 July, and which was expected to dampen growth for the year, compared with 2009. The scheme is also expected to have pruned out a number of inactive and/or unregistered mobile users.

    Airtel Zambia, the recently acquired unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, is planning to invest up to USD150 million on the development of new infrastructure with a view to bolstering its customers, according to Bloomberg, which cites the former’s managing director, Fayaz King.

    Green Network Sierra Leone has gone live. Green Network Chief Executive Officer, Elmabruk S. Elgembari, said they were committed in partnering with the government to bring world-class telecommunications services to Sierra Leoneans. The operator currently has approximately 86 sites in the city and 42 in the provinces.

    Subscribers that are hoping to port their GSM numbers from one network to another and still retain their original numbers, under the Number Portability platform, may have to wait for more time before enjoying such service. The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) say number portability across all networks must wait until Nigeria completes her SIM registration and obtains a national database of users.

    The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)  could soon crack down on mobile phone operators following numerous complaints from the public about the quality of services, vis-à-vis costs, they are being given. POTRAZ is currently carrying out its own evaluation of the services on offer. Complaints by mobile technology users have become commonplace, with people decrying crossed lines, dropped calls, slow Internet connectivity, the cost of services and network unavailability.

    In Tanzania, Sasatel has launched a new promotion. The company will offer a new price of TS39,900/- (US$26( for the internet modem to new individual customers while business firms will have to pay a new price of TS179,000/- for the wireless Internet router. Sasatel was licensed to provide wireless telecommunication services in June 2008 and it officially launched its CDMA technology for commercial operation in June 2009.

    Zimbabwe's Barnfords Financial Services has partnered with UK-based WorldRemit to launch a new Internet-based money transfer service for Zimbabweans living abroad.

Digital Content

  • Cellphone banking has surged in the past year, as South African consumers gain confidence in their handheld devices as a tool for both communications and efficiency.

    Among urban cellphone users, 44% now use cellphone banking services, compared to 27% a year earlier, according to the Mobility 2011 research project conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank. In smaller centres and towns, 27% now use cellphone banking, suggesting that rural areas lag urban users by about a year in take-up of these services. In total, 37% of South Africans in urban and rural areas aged 16 and above now use cellphone banking.

    "Our predominant customer base resides within the mainstream market: 65% of FNB's 2.6 million customer base earns less than R100 000 per annum and are between the ages of 18 - 40 years old. Cellphone Banking is becoming the preferred alternative as people across the board are driven by the 'anywhere, anytime' concept of banking." says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO FNB Cellphone Banking Solutions

    Usage of cellphone banking peaks in the 26-34 age group, at 41%, and drops to 11% in the over-45 group. Male usage far outpaces that of females, at 56% against 44%. While education is a factor in usage of cellphone banking, with 43% of cellphone banking users having matric, and 38% with post-matric qualifications, the biggest proportion of cellphone banking users - no less than 27% - earn less than a R1000 a month.

    The vast majority of cellphone banking customers still use the basic services, such as balance enquiries (78%) and notifications (58%).

    However, transactional services are for the first time major components of cellphone banking services, with half of respondents buying airtime, 24% paying accounts, and 17% transferring funds between accounts. Emerging Mobile commerce transactions such as purchases and sending money to another persons' cellphone are also appearing on the radar screen for the first time. 12% of cellphone banking users also sending money to other individuals, and 11% making a purchase via their cellphone.

    For most of these services, urban respondents are far more likely to have made use of them, except in the case of sending airtime to someone: 33% of rural users of cellphone banking have done so, versus 22% of urban users.

    "Products like the FNB eWallet are allowing us to bridge the gap between the banked and the unbanked and address the real need of access to financial services. This also allows for the transfer of cash and airtime to be done safely and easily." says Yolande van Wyk CEO of FNB Smart Services.

    Most of this growth in usage comes off the back of another surprising finding: more than 80% of cellphone banking users are satisfied with the security of cellphone banking. The proportion of urban users slightly outweighs that of rural users, but not significantly so.

    "Previous studies had shown satisfaction with security as below 60%, indicating that market education and experience has made the difference in uptake," says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

    The Mobility 2011 project comprises two reports, namely the Mobile Consumer in SA 2011 and the Mobile Internet in SA 2011. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South Africans, conducted towards the end of 2010.

  • Mobile phone firms offering money transfer services will be required to lower their charges as a pre-condition for being allowed to send higher amounts in a single transaction, the banking sector regulator has said.

    Central Bank of Kenya governor Njuguna Ndung'u on Monday said that mobile phone operators who have applied for CBK's approval to raise their transaction thresholds have been told to cut their costs.

    Prof Ndung'u said the requirement is meant to promote inclusion of a majority of Kenyans -- including low income earners- in the formal financial system.

    Safaricom announced last year that it had doubled the daily transaction limits on its M-Pesa service to Sh140,000 from Sh70,000. Users of the service are only however allowed to send up to Sh70,000 in a single transaction, meaning that they incur double transaction charges to send the daily limit.

    Safaricom currently charges a maximum of Sh300 to withdraw between Sh50,001 and Sh70,000 for registered users and Sh400 for non-registered users. The telecommunication company's CEO, Bob Collymore, said that the company had been working closely with the CBK on transaction charges for M-Pesa.

    "Safaricom works closely with the Central Bank of Kenya, in determining the pricing for M-Pesa services. We have regular reviews of M-Pesa and we will take into account the Governor's concerns going forward," said Collymore in an e-mail response.

    He said that the company had reviewed its charges following the change of upper and lower limits of transactions. "We did (revise charges for various transaction amounts) following a revision of the upper and lower limits on transactions and the amount that can be held as M-Pesa in one's account," said Collymore.

    The revision of the transaction amounts showed that a customer can keep up to Sh100,000 in their account while doing a maximum daily transaction of Sh140,000. Customers who send the new lower limit amount of Sh50 are charged Sh15 for withdrawal.

    Safaricom declined to disclose the new charges it intends to implement. Airtel and Yu, the other mobile phone operators offering money transfer services, are yet to announce changes of their transaction limits.

Issue no 540 4th February 2011

node ref id: 21074

Top story

  • Jamii Telecom is breaking the mould by launching a GPON network that will deliver Fibre-To-The-Home for the first time in Sub-Saharan African. It plans to deliver a host of services on it including, VoIP, Internet, video and security applications. This will give the Kenyan market two players at the high-bandwidth end of the market: Jamii Telecom and Wananchi. On a recent trip Russell Southwood spoke to Jamii’s General Manager John Kamau  and Wananchi’s CEO Richard Bell about their respective ambitions.

    Five years ago it would have been hard to imagine that there would be two high-bandwidth players vying for consumers attention in Kenya. You would have assumed that Telkom Kenya or Kenya Data Networks (KDN) would have been the natural players to emerge in this part of the market. But Telkom Kenya’s management from Orange is struggling with getting it right in the mobile market and KDN which seemed to have the wind in its sails, now seems becalmed.

    Jamii Telecom has steadily built itself a set of fibre metronets and connecting pieces of national backbone. So why Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH)? According to General Manager John Kamau:”We asked ourselves what is the next big application? We can’t go for more spectrum (to deliver wirelessly). The mobile operators already have an edge there. So we though a GPON network enabling FTTH would draw new excitement.”

    The network will be able to deliver 2.4 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream. The residential or SME customer will get a CPE that has 5-6 ports, delivering video content, VoIP, Internet, and a Wi-Fi hot-spot (just for your own house or flat):”It will enable the user to have massive bandwidth of over 100 mbps. It will deliver Video On Demand and be able to power 3-4 TVs, offering HD delivery. It will offer things like plug-and-play VoIP, video conferencing and security cameras. The network can provide an ecosystem for IPTV and this presents a considerably opportunity. Also you can do things like remote teleworking.” Many of these services and applications are things that WiMAX simply cannot support.

    Jamii Telecom’s stated aim is to “bulletproof the future” and it has been doing trials for 18 months with 200 households, all in Nairobi:”These people are so happy with the service that they don’t want to be cut off as we put up the new network.” The vendor for the project is Chinese-owned ZTE. The aim is to invest US$15 million in stages, targeting 100,000 households and to have the service ready to launch in Q2, 2011. It will cost between US$100-150 to connect each household. Rates will be benchmarked against prevailing rates which are currently between US$5,000-7,000 for between 512 kbps to 1 mbps:”The most expensive component of building the network is the civil works.”

    It sees itself as a “transport company” carrying other people’s signals, rather than a vertically integrated company offering content as well as networks. It is in discussion with DStv and others on the content side and has a relationship with Safaricom to deliver data that is causing some nervousness in the market. But Kamau says:”Our philosophy is open access. It’s a whole new market and it needs a new philosophy. It’s a mass market that needs a head-end, a call centre and a web portal to deliver.”

    In the other corner of this particular ring is Wananchi led by long-time industry veteran Richard Bell. It has rolled out an HFC cable network which will has already passed 45,000 households in Nairobi and the this figure will rise to 100,000 in three years time. The ultimate target is a million households by 2015. According to Bell:”The HFC network can deliver 250 channels, 50 in HD and 120 mbps into every household.”

    In technology terms, the strategy also has two other prongs to reach those beyond the cable network: WiMAX for voice and data and DTH satellite for television:”Half our channels will be in HD and we’re enhancing HD on our satellite platform.”

    Wananchi’s strategy differs from Jamii in that it sees content as the cornerstone for its success and has its own content division:”We will be offering 10 new channels for general African entertainment, documentary and sports. These will be launched between September and December of this year. We’re offering the first multi-channel African content since M-Net. Our strategy is around localizing content and we have a platform to produce our own content and it won’t be copied in a hurry. So our mission is both to find and make rich local content”.

    “We’ve made a decision not to go after premium sports rights as we believe the market will always want alternatives. We’re going to go out of our way to be strong in the family and childrens’ space. South Africa’s Top TV is making significant inroads into that market and Nigeria’s HiTV is still getting subs on a different positioning. Women are the decision-makers and the education of children is the biggest draw.”

    The Programming Group is headed up by Hannelei Bekker, a South African who formerly worked for Telkom Media and the Retail Group is headed by Peter Reinertz who used to be at Orange Kenya:”Currently we’re doing double play (voice and Internet) and triple play (adding television) will come on stream in Q3 this year.” It also plans to roll out a similar networks in Dar es Salaam and Kampala. So far it has invested US$120 million:”It’s an infrastructure business with a need for continuous additional investment.”

    It is a sign of how fast the market is changing that two seasoned independents have seized the initiative by investing in the high bandwidth space.

    Correction: Telegeography last week published a story suggesting that Vodacom was taking over Lap Green. This was based on an article in issue 393 published over two years ago (which was picked up by New Times, Rwanda) that was denied by both parties at the time. We are happy to make this clear to our readers.

    News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top telecoms personalities. There are interviews in both English and French:

    Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore on customer care shortfalls, its local record label and LTE:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#grid/uploads

    iHub founder Erik Hersman on creating an ICT entrepreneur community in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/78/BUlgKrGqToc

    John Kamau of Kenya’s Jamii Telecom on Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Fibre-To-The-Home network
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/32/1ygqFP-VXJ0

    Eric Kamau of True African on dodgy practices in the SMS market in Uganda and on the banking products they are selling
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/74/ppb3C8KSvKY

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on M-Money services in Africa
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/17/0gHelksND38

    NOTE:

    If you want to receive daily news tweets from around the continent, please follow us on Twitter:

    In English: @BalancingActAfr
    In French: @sylvainbeletre

    If you are putting out information about your company on Twitter, please send us your details so that we can follow you.

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    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa
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    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.
    For more information please visit here:  or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.

    Broadband World Forum MEA
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    ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach
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    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.
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    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:

    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?
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  • The President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria, (ITAN), Dr Jimson Olufuye has been appointed by United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) as a representative to the new Working Group on Internet Governance.

    Incumbent operator Tunisie Télécom has lost its boss. Montasser Ouaili resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the group. Mr. Ouaili sent, on Monday, January 31, 2011, an open letter to the Industry and Technology Minister.

    A Telecel Zimbabwe senior official has been arrested and deported for working illegally in the country while three Chinese from another telecommunications company were arrested for working without permits. The Telecel official, Simon Payne, was arrested by immigration officials last Friday and appeared before a Harare magistrate on Monday. He was fined US$1 000 or six months in prison for violating the Immigration Act for working in the country without a requisite permit.

    Shake up at NCC, as Juwah Redeploys Nine Directors

    In an effort to infuse new lease of life into the telecommunication regulatory house, the executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, reorganised the management, which saw some directors being moved.

    Conforming this, head, media and public relations at NCC, Reuben Muoka said the movement of directors to in the recent re-shuffle takes immediate effect.

    He said the latest redeployment of directors and the creation of a new department were done to refocus the commission, in line with the vision of the new management.

    The new changes announced through an official memo sent to the affected staff at the commission, showed that Engr. Maska Ubale, a deputy director, was drafted to head the compliance, monitoring and enforcement department; an area which Dr. Juwah said would receive a lot of attention in his regime as most of the issues confronting the industry are traced to poor level of compliance by the operators.

    Juwah also in the memo proclaimed the creation of a new department, projects office, which would oversee the implementation of the various project of the commission, including SIM Card registration, emergency communication centres and number portability among others.

    Abdullahi Maikano is to assume the head of the department and report directly to his office.

    Others affected in he redeployment include the swapping of positions between former director of policy, competition and economic analysis (PCEA), Mary Uduma, who was moved to head the consumer affairs department; while Lolia Emakpore now heads the PCEA.

    Former director of compliance and enforcement monitoring, Funlola Akiode, was also moved to head the department of corporate planning and strategy, while Efosa Idehen, an assistant director in corporate planning department, takes her place at the compliance monitoring and enforcement department to head the enforcement unit.

    Additionally, the assistant director, formally of the PCEA, Abubakar Yakubu, takes over at the corporate planning department as the head, consultancy unit of the department, whereas another assistant director, Augustine Odoh, formerly of the compliance monitoring department now heads the NCC's zonal office in Port Harcourt.

    Odoh takes over from Inatimi Spiff, an assistant director and formerly the head of the Port Harcourt Zonal Office who has been redeployed to the PCEA department.

    Okoh Aihe, formerly the head of the Corporate Services Unit of the Universal Services Provision Fund (USPF), moves over to the office of the executive vice chairman as the special assistant to the EVC on media.

    Daily Champion gathered that Dr. Juwah in the memo informed the affected staff that the "exercise is meant to re-energise the departments and functional lines of the commission to re-inject dynamism and functional mobility in the deployment of staff, geared towards making the workforce more rounded and challenges them to optimal performance."

  • ITU: HIPSSA CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

    Opened positions and requests for proposal:

     - G-3.1 (d) [WA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.1[WA].pdf

    - G-3.1 (d) [EA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.3[EA].pdf

    - G-3.3 (d) [CA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.2[CA].pdf

    - G-3.4 (d) [SA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.4[SA].pdf

    - G-3.5 (d) [INT]: International spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)

    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.5[INT].pdf

    - G-3.6 (d) [PM]: Senior international spectrum management expert [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3%206[PM].pdf

    [HIPSSA/G-6] Call for Application related to ICT statistics

    The expert will be responsible for designing regional statistical reports about ICT/telecommunication indicators with a specific focus in regional organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistical reports shall include factsheets for each member country of the identified regional organisations and an aggregated and comparative view for each of the regions.

    To download the job description, please click on the link below or copy the URL in your browser: http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-6.1...

    For further information visit the ITU's website.

  • SEA-ME-WE and Alcatel-Lucent – North Africa
    The co-owners of the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) international submarine cable system have selected Alcatel-Lucent and Ciena Corporation for a network expansion project. Alcatel-Lucent was selected for an upgrade to 40Gbps (40G) transmission of all submarine segments. Ciena was selected to supply optical switching equipment for all 16 cable landing sites as well as for 100Gbps (100G) transport for an upgrade of the terrestrial link connecting Alexandria to Suez in Egypt. The deployment will commence in the first quarter of 2011, providing a substantial capacity increase to the existing cable system (ultimate capacity of 2.4Tbps per fibre pair), which supports the delivery of high speed internet and other broadband-based services along the approximately 20,000km route connecting Europe to the Middle East and South East Asia.

telecoms

  • The African Union (AU) has unveiled its plans for a single standardized SIM card for all African mobile phone operators. According to AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Elham Ibrahim, a study on the introduction of a single African SIM card has been underway and is expected to be completed within a month. The Commission would then hold a validation workshop with the key industry players in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to agree on the technical details for the SIM card, which it hopes would reduce the cost of roaming phone services.

    According to AU’s Head of Telecommunication Division, Moctar Yedaly, funds for the assessment of the technical requirements to be fulfilled before the launch of the SIM are estimated at US$100,000.

    He added that the plan includes an agreement on revenue-sharing and the validity of prepaid airtime if the users of the single SIM card migrate to other operators in the various African countries. The AU is looking at the networks operated by the South African multinational MTN Group, which has operations in over 16 African countries.

    The AU is also working on the registration of the domain name dot Africa, which it hopes to register. Yedely noted that a taskforce has been established to work out the modalities of registering the dot Africa internet domain.

  • MTN has had its application for a 3G license in Swaziland rejected by the incumbent telco, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), which also managed the regulatory regime in the country.

    The phone company and the regulator did not say why the license was rejected. MTN's CEO, Ambrose Dlamini had said last year that the company was at an advanced stage in negotiations for a 3G license and had hoped to be awarded the license by the end of last year.

    MTN has been lobbying for an independent regulator for some years, saying that the combination of phone company and regulator causes obvious conflicts of interest. As we reported last year, MTN dropped its objection to SPTC building a fixed wireless network, in exchange for the government pressing ahead with splitting the phone company from its regulatory role.

    SPTC is also the majority shareholder of MTN Swaziland with 51% of the shares. Of the remainder, 30% is owned by South Africa's MTN and 19% by a local Swaziland Empowerment group.

  • Forced to comply with a government order to disrupt their own services, mobile operators have looked far from comfortable in Egypt. Last Friday, the Egyptian government ordered the country’s three mobile operators – Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil and Etisalat Misr – to blackout their services in selected parts of the country. The government’s objective was to stifle the opposition that has rocked the regime in recent days. Protesters used mobile networks (as well as the internet and social networks) to organise the large-scale demonstrations that have threatened the position of President Hosni Mubarak. By Saturday, the three operators were able to resume service, although there have been subsequent rumours that another suspension might be imposed by the government.

    The mobile phone networks have fared better than the internet which has been closed down for longer by the government. In fact, Google has announced a special service that allows Egyptians to send Twitter messages by voicemail. However while bypassing the blocked internet, the new service would still be undone by another phone blackout.

    Vodafone emphasised how it had no choice – either technically or legally – but to follow the government’s order last week. The company said in a statement: “We would like to make it clear that the authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network...It has been made clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone, or any of the mobile operators in Egypt, but to comply with the demands of the authorities." The company also introduced another dimension to the debate by mentioning its staff whose “safety” is the company’s “other priority”.

    It should be noted that although Vodafone Egypt is 55 percent owned by the operator itself, the remaining stake is held by state-controlled Telecom Egypt. France Telecom, which is the largest shareholder in Mobinil, spoke to its Egyptian customers rather than an international audience, when it emphasised how the authorities had taken “technical measures” to prevent it from offering a service. Etisalat, the majority shareholder in Etisalat Misr, made a statement too that it had been told to suspend service by the government.

    At other times, Egypt has been a less stressful place to work. In the third quarter of 2010 (the most recent period for which figures are available) Vodafone led the market with record-breaking net additions of 2.4 million, according to figures from Wireless Intelligence. Mobinil, also breaking its quarterly record, made 2.3 million net additions, said the research firm. Meanwhile Etisalat had to settle for merely gaining its best results for nearly a year, a total of 260,000 net additions.

  • Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam unveiled his 2011 plan of action Friday while receiving New Year Wishes. Government during the ongoing fiscal year plans to set up 120 community telecommunication centres nationwide and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL) is determined to take additional measures to step up telecommunications, at reduced cost.

    MINPOSTEL boss, Jean Pierre Biyiti-bi Essam, reiterated the commitment to strive for excellence last Friday January 28, 2011 as he received best wishes for 2011 from his staff during a colourful and crowd-pulling ceremony on the campus of the Yaounde School of Posts and Telecommunications.

    Drawing the ministry's balance sheet for 2011, MINPOSTEL's Secretary General, Edouard Abbah, said strides were recorded especially with the national optical fibre and the Central African Backbone projects which, he said, greatly improved the quality of telecommunications.

    Control, he added, was also made in the use of mobile telephones with a call on users to register their numbers as well as order set in the use of air frequencies. The country's postal services were also revived with the appointment of a new management team at CAMPOST and the bringing in of a French international postal company, SOFREPOST, to give technical boost to CAMPOST activities.

internet

  • The US$600-million West African Cable System (WACS) linking parts of Africa to Europe has reached the shores of Namibia. Local telecommunications operator, Telecom Namibia, partner in the intercontinental project through the WACS consortium, is ready to connect the fibre-optic cable to its network grid nationwide.

    The WACS consortium consists of 12 companies: Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, MTN, Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom, Tata Communications/Neotel, Telecom Namibia, Telkom SA, Togo Tele-com and Vodacom.

    The landing station in Namibia is Swakopmund where Telecom has already established infrastructure to route the under-sea cable to its networks.

    It will connect Namibia to Europe through its landing station in Swakopmund, similarly Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, and Portugal. It will also provide Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and the Republic of Congo with the first direct access to the global submarine cable communication network.

    WACS, which was initially supposed to end in Portugal but has now been extended to the United Kingdom, will provide mega spaces of broadband to Africa and enable the continent reliable, faster and cost-effective connectivity, says Telecom Managing Director Frans Ndoroma.

    Ndoroma, joined by Information and Communication Minister, Joel Kaapanda, recently assessed Namibia's readiness when they visited the coastal region to see the progress being made on the cable. Paris-based French company, Alcatel-Lucent, is responsible for installing the 2000-kilometre line on the west African coast.

    It would be operating at 40 gigabit per second (40G), to increase the overall design capacity from 3.8 Terabit/s (Tbit/s) to 5.12 Tbit/s, equal to the download of 8 million MP3 files or more than 8000 DVDs in 60 seconds.

    This would bolster connectivity along the Africa-Europe route, by enabling improved communications and Internet services that are crucial for social and economic development, revealed Kaapanda.

    Commercial service is expected before the second quarter of this year.

  • Glo has announced a reduction in the price of its 3G Internet modem from N8,500 to N5,000 (US$32), making it the most affordable product of its kind in the market. The modems are available in all Gloworld Shops nationwide and some selected dealers.

    The company also reduced the monthly rental fee for its Always Max plan and increased the data volume for the package. Details of the revised offer show that subscribers to Always Max package will now enjoy a 25% reduction in rental fee as they will henceforth pay N7,500 instead of N10,000 charged previously. In addition to the reduced tariff, the data volume for the package which gives all-day Internet access for 30 days has been increased from 5GB to 6GB.

    Glo also announced that data volume on the G300 pack with 90 days validity has been increased by over 100% from 4GB to 9GB. This enables subscribers to the package to download much more than they did before now at no additional cost.

    The revised packages give more value to the customer and are the best 3G internet packages in the industry in terms of value and pricing, stated Wunmi Jewesimi, Head of Glo 3G/Blackberry Sales.

    "The Always Max subscriber makes a savings of N2,500 every month and is able to do more with the increased data volume. The G300 customer has also been empowered to do much more with the additional 5 gigabytes," Jewesimi added.

    Other packages on the Glo 3G Plus High Speed Internet offer include the Always Min package which gives the user a month all-day access to the internet for N5,000, the Always Day pack with a fee of N500 for all day access for 24 hours and the G100 which has a monthly fee of N6,000 with 100 hours, all day access.

  • After public outrage over the sell of Somalia’s domain to a Japanese firm by Somali officials, the Ministry of Information denied recent reports saying that a Japanese company has purchased the Internet domain of Somalia.

    Speaking at a recent news conference he held in Mogadishu, the minister of information, posts and telecommunication, Abdikarin Hassan Jama, denied that the Internet domain of Somalia had been sold to a Japanese company. Saying those reports to that effect were baseless. “That’s not true and we as Somali government cannot allow such grubby deals” he said.

    Similarly, the Director General of the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunication, Eng Ahmad Mohammad Adan, who spoke on the occasion, said that the previous government had signed a contract with a Japanese company which, he said, maintains the Somali Internet. However, he said there are people being trained for the TFG government of Somalia and their training was going on in Nairobi, Kenya.

    However, there have been allegations in recent times that the Internet domain of Somalia had been selling to a Japanese company although the minister strongly denied it.

computing

  • Local technology firms are cashing in on demand from the financial sector as banks move to automate their processes and streamline operations.

    While the development has seen a number of institutions whittle down their employee numbers as technology takes over key functions, local technology firms have recorded a corresponding upswing in the number of requests for customised software solutions.

    Some of the companies that are positioning themselves to take advantage of the spending surge are Seven Seas Technologies, Alliance Technologies, Turnkey Africa and Craft Silicon, who are betting on a continued automation drive by Kenyan firms to create more demand for locally developed solutions.

    "Increased confidence in local developers has meant that our offering has come of age. Banks are now localising their software products and we expect that the continued rise in spending will continue to benefit local software houses, said Patrick Njenga of Alliance Technologies.

    Most Kenyan banks have in the past two years introduced electronic banking products that have not only increased the efficiency of transactions but also significantly reduced the number of people going to the banking halls for services.

    This has called for a revamp of their core banking systems--with some spending between Sh600 and Sh750 million to comply with new regulations or to offer new services--reducing the need for paper work and back room offices Increasingly, the drive to automate branches has rendered a number of workers redundant.

    Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that banks increased their branch count by 12 per cent in 2009 compared to 20 per cent and 28 per cent in 2008 and 2007 respectively with analyst predicting a growth of less than 10 per cent this year.

    These developments have positioned local and international software firms in a position to reap from heavy spending by banks, with many taking on international firms in the race to win business from financial firms.

    "We expect more localisation of global approaches to fit the Kenyan context. Out of this will also come capital infusion into local firms via private equity investors, and potentially strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions may happen which will enable local businesses to cash in on their investments and generate more cash-flow into the Kenyan economy," said Michael Macharia, CEO of Seven Seas Technologies.

    Last year, Craft Silicon, run by Kamal Budhabati, raked in a record Sh600 million, with the majority of earnings coming from its software development while the remaining 10 percent of its revenues come from installations, support and maintenance services. The company expects that number to increase exponentially over the next 12 months.

    The most popular software suites being bought by Kenyan institutions are those that can automate core banking systems, manage risk in various processes and reduce paperwork across the operation.

    For many local banks, the spending is being driven by the regulatory effect of Basel standards, the set of recommendations created by the Bank for International Settlements to streamline global banking operations, which has pushed more investment in technology solutions

    In addition, the last five years has seen a number of realignments in the financial services sector through mergers and acquisitions, calling for integrated services that merge bank functions across regions and borders.

    Local banks like Kenya Commercial Bank have extended their presence regionally in countries like Southern Sudan, while others like CFC Bank who merged with the South African Standard Bank to form CFC Stanbic a few years ago leaned heavily on technology solutions to integrate processes across operations.

    "We are now able to introduce new products rapidly and boost our capabilities in areas such as business intelligence and automation of our trade finance and treasury operations. We will count on a new system developed by Misys to provide the technological support needed to expand our presence across more market segments not just in Kenya, but across the region," said Gideon Muriuki, Group Managing Director & CEO, Co-operative Bank of Kenya.

    Recently, Misys, a global application software and services company, deployed an integrated BankFusion Universal Banking solution for Co-operative Bank that will cover retail banking, trade finance and treasury functions at the institution.

    Enhanced ICT platforms have helped banks to introduce internet and mobile banking services that enable customers to check their statements of accounts, make inquiries on status of cheques, cheque book requests, transfer of funds between designated accounts and make utility payments.

  • Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body for IT professionals in the country, has blamed the observed irregularities and difficulties encountered by Nigerians in the ongoing voter registration exercise, on the software deployed.

    Worried by the difficulties, which range from long delay in registration, non-functioning and low sensitivity of fingerprint scanners, insufficient ink to print voter's card, low battery back-up, over-heating and malfunctioning of computers, insufficient Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, poor managerial skills in handling the machines by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to the inability of INEC officials to test the machines for troubleshooting, NCS said the problems are more of software than computer hardware.

    President of NCS, Prof. Charles Uwadia, while addressing a press conference last weekend in Lagos on the performance of INEC in handling the voter registration, equally blamed INEC for not being transparent enough in its strategies for deploying IT for the entire electoral process.

    According to him, if INEC was transparent enough, it would have worked with IT professionals in the country for advice in key technical areas to avoid the problems currently being experienced.

    Uwadia faulted the type of software deployed and its specifications. Software, he said, remained the main driver of the hardware, and that once the specification of the software is wrong, it would affect the performance of the hardware itself.

    Linux, which is Open Source Software, does not have high security features needed for a nation's voter registration exercise, he said.

    He explained further that NCS offered to bring in its professional competence to bear, for free, and wrote INEC severally, but INEC turned down its letters, only to consult and employ the services of people who are not registered with or known by the computer professional body in the country.

    Such action, he said, was a violation of the ethics of the IT profession in the country and not tolerated anywhere in the world.

  • Technology firms, Computer Point and IBM, have signed an agreement aimed at improving Uganda's information and communication technology (ICT) to transform the country's business operations.

    "This partnership is a positive step in closing the ICT gap, especially among businesses operating in the East African Community. The move will speed up economic development across the region through our enhanced services," said Anil Kuruvilla, the Computer Point managing director.

    The partnership mandates Computer Point, an IT systems integrator, to offer IT solutions including infrastructure, application maintenance and development to willing financial institutions, the Government, telecoms and other corporate companies in Uganda on behalf of IBM.

    Tony Mwai, the IBM country general manager for East Africa, said the alliance will leverage the firm's IT expertise to support Ugandan businesses.

    On September 2010, IBM and Bharti Airtel signed a 10 year contract, where IBM will consolidate and transform the 16 different IT environments across Airtel's African operations into an integrated system.

    Mwai says IBM's cutting edge technology can unite business and IT, offering seamless access to IT services and resources, and cohesively integrating and managing the exploding volume of information.

    "IBM's goal is all about making businesses and IT environments ready to be part of a planet that is becoming smarter. It will do this by helping with unique technologies and services for virtualisation, energy efficiency, data management and business resiliency," he added.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR16.03 billion (USD2.24 billion) for the three months ended 31 December 2010. This figure represents an increase of 3.9% year-on-year. Vodacom’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa accounted for ZAR14.07 billion in sales, or 87.7% of the group’s total quarterly revenues. The telecoms firm has yet to release figures for EBITDA or net profit. Of Vodacom South Africa’s revenues, mobile voice traffic was responsible for the lion’s share of the takings, generating ZAR7.43 billion, whilst mobile interconnection fees contributed ZAR1.78 billion, mobile data ZAR1.75 billion and mobile messaging ZAR644 million. Data exhibited the largest increase year-on-year, growing 50.5%.

    In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, although its customer base dropped 6.6% year-on-year, to 25.3 million. However, any losses have been offset by the company’s enlarged post-paid subscriber base which grew 14.8% year-on-year. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their subscriber bases in the twelve months ended 31 December. Lesotho contributed the largest proportion of growth, increasing its customer base 28.6% to 823,000. Tanzania grew its subscriber base 26%, to end the year with 8.7 million subscribers, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.9 million customers (up 27.7%) and Democratic Republic of Congo 3.8 million subscribers (up 9.2%). Vodacom Group ended the calendar year with a consolidated wireless subscriber base of 41.6 million.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘Our strategy of focusing on operational delivery and offering increased value to customers has paid off with group customers increasing by more than two million to 41.6 million. In South Africa, the data business was a star performer, with growth in mobile connect cards and smartphones driving a 33.8% increase in overall data revenue. The international operations also continued to respond well to management actions with service revenue growth of 13.2%’.

  • The pattern of consumption in Uganda is increasingly being dictated by mobile phone usage, shifting emphasis away from food. As a result, the consumer price index was restructured to accommodate communication as a separate basket. A market basket is a collection of goods and services. Communication was previously part of the transport and communication basket. Food weighs 28% in the consumer price index. Communication, which hardly existed in the index a decade a go, weighs 6%.

    Communication comprises mobile phone air time, fixed line telephones and Internet services. Other components of the consumer price index include housing, water and electricity, clothing and foot wear, recreation and culture. Others are restaurants and hotels, health, furnishing and household equipment, alcohol beverages, tobacco, education, narcotics and miscellaneous goods and services.

    David Katende,who runs a small business in Kampala, says several years ago, he was not spending on airtime. "Now I have two mobile phones. One for Warid and the other for MTN. I spend between sh5,000 to sh10,00 on airtime daily. However, I plan for all the money I use to buy airtime, but on a busy day when I have to make a lot of calls, I spend about sh25,000," he explains. Katende says he ensures that all his phones have airtime in case of an emergency.

    The reduction in mobile phone call charges last October caused a major fall in inflation rates. The effect of this reduction will keep inflation low for the whole of 2011 even if there are pressures pushing it up, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) officials have predicted. In October, there was a 46% reduction in call charges because of the stiff and growing competition among the telecom firms. "During that month, we discovered that the consumer price index fell by 0.3% and, hence reducing the October inflation rate.This resulted in the annual inflation rate falling by 0.1%," Ronald Ssombwe, a senior statistician UBOS told Business Vision.

    In 2009, the annual average headline inflation rate stood at 13%, but fell to 4% in 2010. Ssombwe said mobile phone call charges contributed about nine percentage points to the reduction of the inflation rate between 2009 and 2010.

    Twelve months ago, the industry average mobile call rate was sh11 per second, which fell to sh5 and then to sh3 per second. Orange, Airtel and Warid have promised to keep their rates at three shillings per second. Warid is offering sh1 per second from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

    For the short message service (SMS), Airtel is offering unlimited short messages to its subscribers for sh200 per day and sh50 to other networks.

    Ssombwe says the impact of the telecommunications sector can no longer be underrated in the consumer price index.

    "There was excitement among various stakeholders, especially the customers, but airtime sellers were not happy with the result of the competition," he explains.

    He, however, revealed that last November inflation had started rising. "Although it went up, it was supressed by the fall in call charges," Ssobwe says.

    He adds that this effect would take a year to phase out, and that inflation was rising at a declining rate. There will be a one-year effect on inflation because of this drop in call charges. There have been questions whether the effect of the one-month drop of charges has had any effect on the economy.

    "The new innovations in the telecom sector, like giving customers airtime on credit, may drive the call charges even lower. "If we get more competitors in the sector, it will also drive the charges lower. It will have a direct impact in reducing the total inflation rate."

  • Vox Telecom, listed on the JSE’s AltX exchange, is becoming well known for its inventive annual reports, which each year resemble a popular magazine. The 2010 annual report, released this week, is no exception. The report, called Vox Stuff, has been designed by agency Xfacta to look like an edition of the popular gadgets magazine, Stuff.

    Previous annual reports have mimicked magazines such as Time (“Team”), National Geographic (“Vox Geographic”) and Sports Illustrated (“Vox Illustrated”).

    The latest annual report, printed on high-quality glossy paper and edited by Vox’s head of marketing, Clayton Timcke, features a full-page spread of the company’s directors hamming it up while playing Guitar Hero.

    CEO Tony van Marken is seen deejaying in the picture, with fellow executives Douglas Reed and Jacques du Toit hamming it up on guitar. Tony van Marken, Jacques du Toit and Gary Sweidan ham it up.

    There are the usual directors’ reports, but even these are done in a fun way, with a conversation between Van Marken and Reed laid out as if the two men were writing on each other’s walls on Facebook.

    However, Vox’s 2010 report has been toned down slightly from the material used in the real Stuff magazine, which is known for its covers featuring scantily clad women. The Vox report has a beautiful model — Jennifer Bettencourt from the Heads modelling agency — on its cover, but she has more clothing on than the models that appear in the real Stuff. That’s perhaps not surprising given that this is, after all, still an annual report of financial results. We don’t want the bean counters to get too hot under the collar, do we?

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Subscribers with Airtel Africa in Tanzania will soon be able to make online purchases from MasterCard merchants around the world, thanks to an initiative by the mobile communication firm in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard Worldwide. The three firms have partnered to provide a virtual card that operates off a wallet residing on a mobile phone.

    According to figures published by Ghana’s telecoms regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), fixed and mobile penetration in the country reached 75.4% at the end of last year, up from around 71% at the start of 2010. The watchdog’s figures show that the primary driver of growth is mobile usage: the cellular penetration rate stood at 74.2% at the same date, with more than 17.436 million registered SIM cards. Mobile growth in the second half of last year came despite a compulsory SIM registration scheme, which entered into effect on 1 July, and which was expected to dampen growth for the year, compared with 2009. The scheme is also expected to have pruned out a number of inactive and/or unregistered mobile users.

    Airtel Zambia, the recently acquired unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, is planning to invest up to USD150 million on the development of new infrastructure with a view to bolstering its customers, according to Bloomberg, which cites the former’s managing director, Fayaz King.

    Green Network Sierra Leone has gone live. Green Network Chief Executive Officer, Elmabruk S. Elgembari, said they were committed in partnering with the government to bring world-class telecommunications services to Sierra Leoneans. The operator currently has approximately 86 sites in the city and 42 in the provinces.

    Subscribers that are hoping to port their GSM numbers from one network to another and still retain their original numbers, under the Number Portability platform, may have to wait for more time before enjoying such service. The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) say number portability across all networks must wait until Nigeria completes her SIM registration and obtains a national database of users.

    The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)  could soon crack down on mobile phone operators following numerous complaints from the public about the quality of services, vis-à-vis costs, they are being given. POTRAZ is currently carrying out its own evaluation of the services on offer. Complaints by mobile technology users have become commonplace, with people decrying crossed lines, dropped calls, slow Internet connectivity, the cost of services and network unavailability.

    In Tanzania, Sasatel has launched a new promotion. The company will offer a new price of TS39,900/- (US$26( for the internet modem to new individual customers while business firms will have to pay a new price of TS179,000/- for the wireless Internet router. Sasatel was licensed to provide wireless telecommunication services in June 2008 and it officially launched its CDMA technology for commercial operation in June 2009.

    Zimbabwe's Barnfords Financial Services has partnered with UK-based WorldRemit to launch a new Internet-based money transfer service for Zimbabweans living abroad.

Digital Content

  • Cellphone banking has surged in the past year, as South African consumers gain confidence in their handheld devices as a tool for both communications and efficiency.

    Among urban cellphone users, 44% now use cellphone banking services, compared to 27% a year earlier, according to the Mobility 2011 research project conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank. In smaller centres and towns, 27% now use cellphone banking, suggesting that rural areas lag urban users by about a year in take-up of these services. In total, 37% of South Africans in urban and rural areas aged 16 and above now use cellphone banking.

    "Our predominant customer base resides within the mainstream market: 65% of FNB's 2.6 million customer base earns less than R100 000 per annum and are between the ages of 18 - 40 years old. Cellphone Banking is becoming the preferred alternative as people across the board are driven by the 'anywhere, anytime' concept of banking." says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO FNB Cellphone Banking Solutions

    Usage of cellphone banking peaks in the 26-34 age group, at 41%, and drops to 11% in the over-45 group. Male usage far outpaces that of females, at 56% against 44%. While education is a factor in usage of cellphone banking, with 43% of cellphone banking users having matric, and 38% with post-matric qualifications, the biggest proportion of cellphone banking users - no less than 27% - earn less than a R1000 a month.

    The vast majority of cellphone banking customers still use the basic services, such as balance enquiries (78%) and notifications (58%).

    However, transactional services are for the first time major components of cellphone banking services, with half of respondents buying airtime, 24% paying accounts, and 17% transferring funds between accounts. Emerging Mobile commerce transactions such as purchases and sending money to another persons' cellphone are also appearing on the radar screen for the first time. 12% of cellphone banking users also sending money to other individuals, and 11% making a purchase via their cellphone.

    For most of these services, urban respondents are far more likely to have made use of them, except in the case of sending airtime to someone: 33% of rural users of cellphone banking have done so, versus 22% of urban users.

    "Products like the FNB eWallet are allowing us to bridge the gap between the banked and the unbanked and address the real need of access to financial services. This also allows for the transfer of cash and airtime to be done safely and easily." says Yolande van Wyk CEO of FNB Smart Services.

    Most of this growth in usage comes off the back of another surprising finding: more than 80% of cellphone banking users are satisfied with the security of cellphone banking. The proportion of urban users slightly outweighs that of rural users, but not significantly so.

    "Previous studies had shown satisfaction with security as below 60%, indicating that market education and experience has made the difference in uptake," says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

    The Mobility 2011 project comprises two reports, namely the Mobile Consumer in SA 2011 and the Mobile Internet in SA 2011. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South Africans, conducted towards the end of 2010.

  • Mobile phone firms offering money transfer services will be required to lower their charges as a pre-condition for being allowed to send higher amounts in a single transaction, the banking sector regulator has said.

    Central Bank of Kenya governor Njuguna Ndung'u on Monday said that mobile phone operators who have applied for CBK's approval to raise their transaction thresholds have been told to cut their costs.

    Prof Ndung'u said the requirement is meant to promote inclusion of a majority of Kenyans -- including low income earners- in the formal financial system.

    Safaricom announced last year that it had doubled the daily transaction limits on its M-Pesa service to Sh140,000 from Sh70,000. Users of the service are only however allowed to send up to Sh70,000 in a single transaction, meaning that they incur double transaction charges to send the daily limit.

    Safaricom currently charges a maximum of Sh300 to withdraw between Sh50,001 and Sh70,000 for registered users and Sh400 for non-registered users. The telecommunication company's CEO, Bob Collymore, said that the company had been working closely with the CBK on transaction charges for M-Pesa.

    "Safaricom works closely with the Central Bank of Kenya, in determining the pricing for M-Pesa services. We have regular reviews of M-Pesa and we will take into account the Governor's concerns going forward," said Collymore in an e-mail response.

    He said that the company had reviewed its charges following the change of upper and lower limits of transactions. "We did (revise charges for various transaction amounts) following a revision of the upper and lower limits on transactions and the amount that can be held as M-Pesa in one's account," said Collymore.

    The revision of the transaction amounts showed that a customer can keep up to Sh100,000 in their account while doing a maximum daily transaction of Sh140,000. Customers who send the new lower limit amount of Sh50 are charged Sh15 for withdrawal.

    Safaricom declined to disclose the new charges it intends to implement. Airtel and Yu, the other mobile phone operators offering money transfer services, are yet to announce changes of their transaction limits.

Issue No 97 3 February 2011

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  • Sylvain Beletre interviewed South African Kevin Kriedemann, Editor at Film & Event Publishing (The Call Sheet) about how African cinema – in particular South African cinema - is doing and how it can overcome the challenges it faces.

    Q: How can African film producers survive today, and who should fund the industry?

    Ultimately, the goal is to create a self-sustaining film industry, where we make films for less money than we receive back from their audiences. This is starting to happen in South Africa. Last year, 23 local films were released.
    One positive sign was better box office returns. Of these, Shucks Tshabalala’s Survival Guide to 2010 set a new box office record for South African films, raking in R37.5 million (US$5.2 m), while Spud topped R16 million (US$2.2m), Liefling is over R10 million (US$1.4 m), Bakgat topped R5 million (US$700,000) and Jakhalsdans earned over R2 million (US$280,000).

    The other positive sign was lower production budgets, as South Africans showed they are learning how to make films for around R1 million (US$140,000), which is starting to seem recoupable while still able to create acceptable production budgets. Of course, Spud cost substantially more than that.

    Those figures are for South Africa, which has a population of 50 million. Add in the one billion people in Africa and everyone in the diaspora, and there should be a profitable market on the continent, without us having to rely on foreign audiences.

    Sadly, this isn’t the case at the moment, due to a number of factors, from the lack of distribution structures to the diversity of the continent, especially in terms of language, to the challenge of piracy.

    But it was good to see the emergence of African co-productions like the Kenyan-SA co-pros The First Grader and Pumzi and the Rwandan-South Africa coproduction Africa United. It was also good to see Durban FilmMart attract strong projects from across Africa.

    There are also positive signs in terms of foreign audiences. There’s been a sense that foreign audiences don’t always understand South Africans, especially their humour, but 2010 saw South Africa’s culture (and the continent’s) exposed massively through the 2010 FIFA World Cup and through District 9, among other things, and there’s a sense that they’re starting to “get us”. The fact that the new Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds film, Safe House, was rewritten to be set in Cape Town is a sign that the studios think there’s genuine global interest in stories set in Africa.

    South Africa’s recent inclusion in BRICS will also help to keep us top of mind, as will the fact that Africa is increasingly being talked about as the final untapped investment market.

    While a profitable, self-sustaining film industry is the goal, film can make a strong case that it deserves support and soft funding from government, the tourism industry and cultural institutions.

    In 2010 South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (dti) doubled the cap on its two rebates to R20 million (US$2.8 m), as the research showed that their rebate scheme, which has committed R1 billion (US$139m) to 188 approved projects since 2004, attracted a positive cash flow to South Africa and was self-sustaining.

    This is based on research that in 2006-2007 year, the industry was worth R2.65 billion in The Western Cape,  R1.1 billion in Gauteng, and R236 million in KZN, with a multiplier effect on the broader economy of R2.5 for every rand spent.

    Apart from the dti, the other main source of financing is The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), a self-financing, state-owned national development finance institution, which caps its investment at 49% of the overall budget.

    The National Film and Video Foundation is another source of funding. On documentaries, they fund development up to R50 000 and production up to R100 000. On feature films, they fund development up to R150 000 and production up to R1 million. There are a lot of European funds that African cinema can apply for. These include The Goethe Institute, The World Cinema Fund, The Hubert Bals Fund, The Jan Vrijman Fund and ‘Fonds Images Afrique’. I’d love to see more specific African funds though, like the one FEPACI is busy launching.

    We keep tabs of the various application deadlines click here:  and of the various funds click here:

    South African Tourism’s research this year found that one of the top reasons people came to South Africa was because they had seen it on television. New Zealand, as another example, saw tourism spike after the success of The Lord of the Rings. And since trade follows film and tourism, film’s potential impact is immense, so it makes sense for government to do everything possible to promote it.

    Film can also play a key role in nation-building (Invictus is a good example of a film that helped build community) and can be used to spark dialogue around morality, like Hopeville, which won the Rose d’Or last year for Best Drama, after being funded by an NGO to start a discussion around the impact of doing good on an entire community.

    Q: Some African governments do not see local film production as a priority. Which African states support their national film makers?

    Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia and Morocco all have film commissions, which is a good start as it gives people wanting to work there a central conduit to connect with. Morocco has the most successful studios on the continent, with South Africa having just launched Cape Town Film Studios and Namibia possibly also launching another soon. I understand Rwanda government helped support ‘Africa United’ too.

    Government involvement can lead to increased funding for both films and infrastructure developments like studios, but there’s often a cost involved: government bureaucracy doesn’t always mix well with film industry creativity and immediacy, while there’s always a risk that government will start to pay attention to how labour law would apply to the film industry, which has stayed remarkably unregulated.

    Q: African TV stations have had the reputation of not being able to fund local productions. Is this changing?

    I can only really speak for South Africa. The public broadcaster, SABC, has been in a state of paralysis for the last two years, funding very little local content, but the more promising development has been the increase in both channels and demand for local content. South African content regularly tops the TAMS (survey) in South Africa and DStv has been launching a lot more African content on its satellite channels as a result, like the Mzansi Magic channel. Similarly, TopTV, their new competitor, is starting to license content, even if the actual commissions have been slower than hoped. But there’s still a feeling that local content quotas aren’t monitored or enforced effectively, We expect more and more diversification of platforms, but the problem is in figuring out how to monetize this, as it’s not easy to make money online, especially given Africa’s bandwidth challenges, and if the new broadcasters aren’t making money they’re not going to be spending it either.

    Q: African film makers and TV stations often have difficulty accessing African audiences. Have there been any measures put in place recently to solve this issue? 

    It’s still a massive challenge. DStv has certainly started paying attention to Africa as a market, buying up African content for the African Film Library, etc, and seems to be making some headway.

    I think DISCOP Africa has been a positive development in this regard, as a sales platform for African content.

    Q: With the arrival of internet, reduced budgets from global broadcasters/TV stations, channel multiplication and limited government funding, the global film industry is at a turning point. Will it affect African productions?
     
    Absolutely. One of my sadnesses is that when the web arrived, we thought it would level the playing field between Africa and the rest of the world. But the bandwidth, cost and access problems means that once again we have a situation where we are playing catch up and relying on foreign distribution platforms like iTunes and YouTube and Amazon. It’s very sad for me that iTunes doesn’t sell content to Africa – if they don’t think there’s a viable market in the 1 billion people here, that’s either a scary indictment of Africa or of them. I think these sorts of brands – iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple – will be far more important to our industry’s future than the traditional broadcasters that currently exist.

    It’s easier than ever to make, broadcast and distribute your content, but the challenge is in making it stand out amongst more competition than ever, and then monetize that. But it’s also easier to target a niche than ever before, so I’m both excited and daunted by the possibilities involved.

    I think we’re far behind the curve here, so there’s a lot to learn from overseas. I attended Entertainment Master Class in Cape Town, where all the talk was about two-screen TV and interactivity, and incorporating social media into programming. I haven’t heard as much of that from local content, apart from maybe a show like Hectic Nine-9 in South Africa, which is the third biggest local brand on Facebook, with over 1,650,148 post views. .

    What’s exciting for me is that there’s less difference between sectors than ever before. In the past, feature films were shot on film and corporate videos on home video, but now everyone’s shooting on 5D. That creates more opportunities for the different sectors to work together more fluidly.

    I also think there’ll be a lot closer links with video games in the future – their graphics are catching up with film all the time and film is looking for ways to become interactive, so video games and film have a lot to talk to each other about.

    Q: How is the South African film industry evolving today?

    Documentaries had a tough couple of years here because of the collapse of SABC. One of the positive moves is their negotiations with the Department of Trade and Industry to lower the threshold for the incentives so that documentaries will qualify. We’re also seeing a lot more documentaries made for theatrical release, although the box office numbers here are still dismal for those.

    The visual effects industry has largely collapsed, with the closure of both Condor and BlackGinger’s long form divisions. The cost of labour in South Africa seemingly meant we just couldn’t compete with China and India on VFX service work.

    We’ve got a big year ahead for animation, with three 3D features set to be released: Jock, Zambezia and Lion of Judah.

    I think TV globally is in its golden age, because the format has changed; So with PVR and VOD and DVD, people now watch series’ episodes back to back, which allows screenwriters to write much more complex story arcs. But this has largely passed SA by, as most people are still forced to watch on TV at a set time, once a week. We desperately need the SABC to start functioning again as a commissioning body, but with a revised IP strategy that allows filmmakers to maintain some rights and explore avenues like DVD sales that the SABC has never optimized.

    Q: Since independence, several African filmmakers (for example Ousmane Sembène) highlighted African history, focusing on colonialism, slavery and the resistance to European and Islamic domination. Since Obama’s election, do you think African films' mission is changing direction nowadays? and do African filmmakers feel more confident to express themselves?

    In South Africa, the early films we made at the start of the last decade predominantly explored Apartheid. There were some great films, but the audience figures were disappointing – the creatives wanted to explore and dissect the past; the general population, for better or worse, wanted to forget it and look to the future.

    We still have Apartheid-era films like Skin and Endgame being made, and rightly so, but there’s more variety than ever before in South Africa.
    We had every type of comedy: black comedy (Jozi), romantic comedies (I Now Pronounce You Black and White), Bollywood romantic comedies (For Better For Worse), standup comedy documentaries (Outrageous), Afrikaans teen comedies (Bakgat 2), and candid camera (Schucks Tshabalala’s Survival Guide to 2010). Comedy seems to be where the safe money is.

    We also had a run of Afrikaans musicals or musical-themed films (Liefling, Susanna van Biljon, and Jakhalsdans) and genre films like Eternity, a vampire thriller set in Jo’burg; The Unforgiving, South Africa’s first splatter film; and The Race-ist, a Fast and Furious-type racing movie.

    There have also been a number of TV spinoffs (Egoli: The Movie; Hopeville; and Stoute Boudjies). You can add in wildlife family films (White Lion), art-house drama (Shirley Adams and Long Street), soccer films (Themba), and coming of age book adaptations (Spud, Die Ongelooflike Avontuure van Hanna Hoekom).

    Q: Some recent African films were well received in the developed world. Some critics stated that certain filmmakers were adapting their film to suit the tastes of western audiences. What is your feeling?

    The South African films that have travelled the best in the developed world have tended to be genre films. Last year, the films that were released overseas were a romantic comedy (White Wedding), a crime drama (Jerusalema), and a science fiction film (District 9). Most South Africans grew up watching American and British TV, so it’s inevitable that we’ll be influenced by that. But I think even the films I mentioned above didn’t just meekly accept a Western genre: For instance, District 9 was such a success because it undermined the idea that aliens would automatically land above America, and because it’s picture of a science fictional universe was so aesthetically third world. I’m not a purist, so I think as long as there’s a dialogue between Western conventions and African stories, not just the West dictating, that’s a healthy place to be.

    In the past, there were limited venues where African audiences have had access to African films, e.g. at the Pan African film festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. There seems to be more African film festivals and trade markets around the world nowadays, which ones are not to be missed for African film makers?

    Our budget doesn’t allow us to attend nearly as many of these as I’d like. FESPACO, The AMAAs, The Pan African Film Festival in the US, DISCOP, and The Durban Film Festival are the ones we’re paying the most attention to. DIFF launched The Durban FilmMart this year, with projects from all over Africa and an impressive array of funders, so I’m really hoping that continues to grow as a Pan-African event, rather than just a South African one. I’d also love to see some African sales agents starting to emerge, who specialize in these sorts of festivals.

    Q: In 2010, which African films have been really successful in South Africa?

    None, other than the SA ones I mentioned. This is one of the biggest problems – we need the distributors to start building an audience for African films, not just South African ones, but that only seems to be happening on DVD. There’s a lot I’m dying to see, but just can’t get my hands on.

    Q: What can we (the media focused on African films) do to improve the industry?

    We need to create platforms for the industry across the continent to speak to each other. We’d love our website, www.thecallsheet.co.za, to become that sort of a platform. Any African filmmakers can load their own stories, with embedded videos and images, here:

    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:

    Jessica Verrilli on broadcast media using Twitter in Africa:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/8/jJXEDHREQFg

    Matthew Brown whose spent a year researching in Nigeria, talks about changing Nollywood business models:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/18/g04yGua86F8

    John Kamau of Kenya’s Jamii Telecom on delivery broadcast content using its Fibre-To-The-Home network:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/32/1ygqFP-VXJ0

    TV Afrique: les défis du marché selon CFI’s Laurent Allary:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/36/PKfnfs_4Tn0

    Fespaco 2011 : vente et piratage des films:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/74/lVf8FjeXhaQ

    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: 6.00 pm, Wednesday 9 February, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.
    Top story Extract:

  • The most coveted prizes in African cinema are up for grabs every two years, and will be awarded again at the end of Feb 2011. Fespaco, the biennial pan-African festival of film and television, will get under way from 26 February to 5 March 2011 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. It says it has a new formula this time so Sylvain Béletre interviewed its organisers on what’s really different this year.

    You can watch video extracts from the press conference which took place in Paris ahead of the event here (all in French)

    It is quite a paradox that Ouagadougou, the “African Cannes”, is also the capital of one of the poorest countries in the world. But Burkina Faso – the land of honest people – is also one of the few African countries that support African film makers and audiovisual content diversity. FESPACO is important for African film professionals because it is the biggest and oldest cultural event on the African continent, and it is focused on African films and filmmakers. The event attracts visitors from across the globe. Launched in 1969 under the name "African Cinema Week" in Ouagadougou, Fespaco aims in particular to promote the distribution of film.

    The festival is a public event held under the patronage of the Burkina Faso Minister of Culture, Tourism and Communication, Filippe Savadogo. Its main prize is "Étalon de Yennenga" (Stallion of Yennenga), named with reference to the legendary founder of the Mossi empire, the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso. It is awarded to the African film that best shows "Africa's realities". Since ever 1972 when the competition was launched at FESPACO, the Yennenga Stallion worth 10,000,000 F CFA or approximatively 15,251 Euros was awarded to 17 films.

    Other special awards include the Oumarou Ganda Prize, given for the best first film, and the Paul Robeson Prize for the best film by a director of the African diaspora.

    In the fringes of the Festival, the African International Film and TV Market (MICA) has grown today into one of the largest pan-African Film trade markets, offering numerous meeting opportunities both with professional buyers and distributors. The market is a platform for African films as well as programmes about Africa. MICA has about 2,000 video cassettes in store, most of which are VHS. Films entered into the market are archived and presented in a catalogue in English and French, the festival's working languages.

    As the festival became more prominent, its budget and sponsors increased; current  donor countries include Burkina Faso, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Republic of China, and the donor organizations include AIF(ACCT), UNDP, OIF, Stichting Doen, Prince Claus fund, UNESCO, UNICEF, European Union and Africalia.

    “Burkina Faso has contributed to the event through a 500,000 FCFA investment, completed with security, location, logistic, ceremony and staff availability during the event. In overall, the Burkina Faso government provides 65-70% of the festival organisation.” said the managing director of Fespaco, Michel Ouédraogo.
     
    So what’s really new this year? Michel Ouédraogo, outlined that this festival will consolidate what has been launched at the previous edition. Productions from twenty eight countries will be included in the selection. But several innovations will mark this edition:

    - Associated with the official selections, four African film schools will discuss film production issues in Africa.

    - The previous edition included 324 films; this year will refocused the event to 195 films only, in order to drive more quality. 475 films were originally received and viewed, but only 111 were retained in seven official sections, and 84 were selected for parallel sections. Ouédraogo noted the emergence of productions from Central and East Africa.

    - Additionally, the organiser will host a special homage to great African film personalities that have recently passed away. Ten related films will be shown during the festival.

    Dr. Stanislas Meda, member of the Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Culture  also said that there will be a special international jury to enlarge the event’s visibility and film qualification inputs and that the organisers have hired an artistic director to shape the programme content.

    FESPACO is indirectly associated with the new African film fund which is currently being put in place. FESPACO’s team is still working on African film heritage through the “cinémathèque” it has set up in Ouagadougou.
    Ouédraogo also mentioned that the organisers are “considering a stronger partnership with the first film industry in Africa, Nollywood; however, “Nollywood is still considered as quite controversial when it comes to quality and piracy” he noted.  Professor Elikia M'Bokolo, Congolese writer and historian will sponsor this 22nd Edition of the Festival.

    FESPACO provides three main “accreditation” forms: one for cinema professionals (anyone specialized or involved in the movie-making industry), one for the press and one for festival-goers. Sadly, it will be radio silence from Ivory Coast: FESPACO will not present Ivorian films at the official selection this year.

  • Fully operational since October 2010, the recently completed Cape Town Film Studios (CTFS), headed by Nico Dekker will be making Eldorado as its next film production.

    R430-million was injected into CTFS, the biggest facility investment in South Africa’s film history. Over 90 film service companies already committed to move permanently to the site. Research carried out by the site’s leaders found that it was 35% more affordable than Los Angeles (in 2010).

    The studios are also conveniently located 25 minutes from Cape Town City Centre and only 10 minutes away from Cape Town International Airport. It is also central to a variety of landscapes and locations including beaches, mountain ranges, country, urban and industrial settings.

    Largely supported by the government and the City of Cape Town, its majority shareholding come form Sabido Investments (ETV) and Videovision Entertainment, media, film and entertainment leaders in their respective fields.

    The studios have the following facilities: 64,500 sq ft workshops including store rooms and mini-factories, 18,300 sq ft fully furnished production offices, art department facilities, wardrobe & make-up facilities, green rooms, star rooms, dimmer rooms, backlot facilities for outdoor set-building, high-speed broadband connections to all major international cities, blue screen on request, and water paddock on request.

  • Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi in French) is a drama film which came out with much publicity in France last year. The film will represent Algeria at the 83rd Academy Awards, where it is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

    Directed by Rachid Bouchareb, starring Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem and Sami Bouajila, the plot focuses on the Algerian crisis with colonial power France. The film was met by political controversy much before it was released. Some said it was one-sided, whilst others said it reflected the reality of what had happened,

    The story is about the lives of three Algerian brothers in France between 1945 and 1962. It is a follow-up to Bouchareb's 2006 film ‘Days of Glory’. Outside the Law was a French majority production with co-producers in Algeria, Tunisia and Belgium. A historically unorthodox portrayal of the 1945 Sétif massacre made the film particularly controversial in France.

    Many said that Outside the Law was written as a direct sequel to Rachid Bouchareb's 2006 film Days of Glory, about Africans who fought for France in World War II. The film shares many of the main actors, and starts at the place in history where Days of Glory- his previous film - ended.

    The 19.5 million euro production was led by France's Tessalit Productions in co-production with France 2, France 3 and companies in Algeria, Tunisia and Belgium. Funding was granted by the National Center of Cinematography (commonly known as CNC in France) and via pre-sales to Canal+ TV channel in France. Out of the total investment, 59% came from France, 21% Algeria, 10% Tunisia and 10% Belgium.

    Over screening, 393,335 tickets were sold which was considerably less than the 3,227,502 that Days of Glory had attained four years earlier.
    As of 27 January 2011, Box Office Mojo reported that the worldwide revenues of Outside the Law were 3,292,518 US dollars.

    Bouchareb explained that his team researched the subject for nine months including through interviews, and it took him two years to finish the script. Filming started at the end of July 2009 and lasted five months. The filming locations took place in Paris, Algeria, Tunisia, Belgian cities Charleroi and Brussels, Germany and the United States, with scenes set at the United Nations Headquarters. Approximately 90% of the scenes were shot in studio.

    The other African film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (US) is Life, Above All from South Africa (Oliver Schmitz). But the South African Academy Awards Selection Committee and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) learned with disappointment that Life Above All has not made the final cut for the 83rd Oscars awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the Foreign Language Film category. In the same category, Danish director Susanne Bier's upcoming drama, In a Better World, partly shot in Kenya, got the nod and was nominated.

  • Balancing Act’s Sylvain Béletre met up with Hermann Djoumessi, a 35 year old French film maker and writer of Cameroonian origin. Watch the full interviews on Balancing Act's YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Hermann+Djoumessi&aq=f

    Q:What work experience do you have so far?
    A: I have gained experience as a producer, assistant film maker, film maker and film production trainer. I worked in London on such things as ‘Midsummer murders’, BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’, SWAT TV, …

    Q:What are your current projects?
    A: I am currently working on four projects where I need further support. These all have an African element.

    'Coupe' is my latest production. Directed by Osita Aneke, I produced it. It is a heartfelt documentary charting the rise of 'Coupé', a cultural movement - electronic music, dance and more now - that sprang out of Ivory Coast during the 2003-5 civil war and spread all over the world. The film should come out in 2011.

    The production has attracted interests and finances from the European Union (Media - Babylon program) and won the Cine-Euro Co-Prod panel & pitching competition. It also has support from the UK Film Center and was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. We made a basic trailer on this link: http://www.youtube.com/user/aspectratio

    Right now, the film is almost complete and we need the following to be able to complete it: footage of the 2003-5 civil war in Ivory Coast. These are historical archives showing what happened on the field and what was broadcast on TV at the time. We need global rights for these archives. We also need: additional finances to complete the film;
    large global distributors (TV and DVD); private sponsorship which would allow the distribution of the film at a very low price in Africa.

    Q:How did you finance the film?
     
    A: The European Union came to our help via MEDIA and the Babylon project, as well as Screen South, a UK screen agency, the British Film Council, Relocations, my own production outfit came up with 20% of the budget…F3K another production outfit set-up by Osita Aneke the director also chipped in…All in all, the total film budget is in the region of £200 000.

    Q Why did you make this film?

    A: We made the film in order to showcase a vibrant and modern Africa in tune with the 21st century and the digital age - Most of the music from ‘Coupé’ was made digitally- It has a positive message beamed to the Ivorian, African and world youth: You can do it, if you want it badly enough…. despite the war…despite the struggle that plagues the development of any African country. Of course, the movement veers towards a ‘bling’ culture and carries a materialist message with it, as well as creating deep barriers between generations opposing old vs. modern, acoustic vs. digital, war vs. peace. In the end, what came out of it, from a lot of people’s viewpoint was that ‘Coupé’ was the party music that silenced the guns

    We’ve approached the top peoples in that field…the list reads like a who’s who of the players, movers, shakers, and true ‘Boucantiers’ from IVC and Europe: Magic System (57 million hits. Source: Google), Molare (425.000 hits. Source, Google), Lino Versace (108. 000 hit), DJ Caloudji (300.000 hits. Source: Youtube),Mariam Coulibaly (70 000 hits. Source: Youtube), Sagacite, (700.000 hits. Source:Youtube), Ronaldo (120 000 hits. Source: Youtube) Ouattara Nielben, Muluku DJ, DJ Tevecinq, JJK, Marechal, Claude Thamo, David Tayroult, MelTheodore,Tati Kenny, Soum Bill, Isabelle Anoh and many more.

    To my knowledge, we are the first filmmakers to draw such a comprehensive picture of the movement and its influence, from all sides of the perspectives. It is a unique cinematic experience with stunning pictures and compelling storytelling. We were not afraid to draw on the civil war that blighted the country at the start of the 21st century, nor did we refrain from looking at the darkest aspect of the movement.

    Q: What are the other productions you are working on?

    Tokolosh, which is  made by “Barking Dogs productions”, it is directed by Marco Nicoletti and produced by Amos Rozenberg and co-produced by me, H. Djoumessi. The format is 16/9 HD and it is 52minutes long. We have a French broadcaster interested, ‘France O’. It should be financed by France O/CNC and the final budget is 200 000 Euros.

    Set out in South Africa, this film is about a mysterious sexual beast that jumps into people's bed at night. As a true legend, this film explores broader sexuality in South Africa. Desmond Tutu will have a guest-staring role. We have not started filming as yet and the project needs finances and wide distribution.

    The third project is Assange or Devil (Assange ou Demon). This is a book and script related to the Wikileaks covering Africa. This book will come out around May 2011. It will look at the people behind the website and the philosophy of its founder, Julian Assange, his team and contributors, as well as those who tried to prevent the site from succeeding. It is being written as a ‘docu-drama’ based on hard facts with fictional elements.

    TUNISBOOK is a documentary about the rise of social network in Africa and mostly in Tunisia. It will look at the people behind the ‘Social Revolution’ that took place in Tunisia in the shape of a ‘How to’ guide to modern revolution.

    Q: Did you study film production?

    A: I have obtained a Master’s degree in Audiovisual Production from London Metropolitan University and a “Maîtrise” from IHECS / Haute Ecole Galilée (Brussels, Belgium). I have also gained professional training from EU/Media programme and from the UK Film Council on the same topics.

    Q: What are your favourite African films?

    A: ‘Les indigènes’, ‘Hors la Loi’ (R Boutareb), ‘District 9’, ‘Sango Malo’ (Bassek Ba Kobio),  Lumumba (R. Peck), ‘Bamako’ ‘Mobutu Roi du Zaïre’, ‘Quartier Mozart’ (Bekolo), ‘Tsotsi’, ‘Yeleen’ and many more. 'Hors la loi' has been accepted as Algeria’s submission to the Oscars 2011. We are in Jan 2011 and I hope that they will win it in the foreign film category!

    Q: Where are you located?

    A: Nowadays I live between London and Paris and travel around the globe to undertake my projects.

    For more details, contact Hermann at:  djhermann@ hotmail.com

  • On 25 January 2010, one of the television industry’s leading content providers and distributors - Sony Pictures Television - and MultiChoice, the number 1 multi-channel digital satellite pay television operator across the African continent, announced the launch of a new channel, Sony Max, available to DStv Compact and Premium subscribers on MultiChoice’s network in Africa.

    Sylvain Béletre at Balancing Act interviewed Eddie Nelson, Senior Vice President, EMEA Networks, Sony Pictures Television.

    Discussing the new channel, Eddie Nelson said:  "We have had long talks with MultiChoice and we have done extensive market research to put together this new channel.  This 24-hour action and reality channel is aimed mostly at a male audience, providing high quality, compelling programming.”
     
    “Sony will launch on DStv channel 126 on 1 February 2011 at 21:00” mentioned Eddie, with the movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”.

    Eddie added: “Multichoice will be pushing the channel out to more than 40 African countries” including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania. Balancing Act’s recent “African pay TV” report counted 5 million pay TV subscribers across Africa, and MultiChoice has the most of them. It has grown its business across South Africa alone to over 3.2 million subscribers.  

    The new channel will focus on action-oriented movies, game shows, series and reality programmes. Hit films on the cards for the next few months run the gamut from comedy and martial arts to horror and adventure, and include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Zoolander, Jackass, Shaolin Temple, Congo and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    Sony Max’s menu will also include Mexican professional wrestling (known as Lucha Libre) in CMLL Presents: Arena Mexico as well as the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts in TKO Major League MMA.

    In addition, aficionados of quality television series can look forward to the South African premiere of the quirky Canadian comedy Call Me Fitz, starring Jason Priestley as a charismatic but slightly bent used-car salesman. Another choice addition to the schedule is the gritty police drama The Shield, which has won both Emmy and Golden Globe awards for lead actor Michael Chiklis.

    A number of cult Japanese game shows and sports reality contests such as Unbeatable Banzuke, Ninja Warrior and Takeshi’s Castle also make a welcome return to our screens on Sony Max in February. Also look out for the futuristic-styled reality show Solitary, in which contestants have to test their physical and mental endurance while in solitary confinement.

    Aletta Alberts, MultiChoice General Manager of Content, says: “We are excited about the launch of another Sony-branded channel on the DStv platform. Sony Max will provide more adrenaline-filled, action programming which our viewers love; with the welcome return of several viewer favourites such as Ninja Warriors and Takeshi’s Castle.” 

  • The BBC World Service Trust presented broadcast equipment to four of its partner stations in Abuja under its media support for strengthening advocacy, good governance and empowerment project. The equipments were presented to the benefiting stations at the conference room of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN).

    The country director of BBCWST, Ms. Linda Nwoke, represented by Tom Odemwingie, said the BBC World Service Trust decided to help the partner stations with the equipments because their assessment shown that they were lagging behind. "We discovered that most of our partners in Nigeria are battling with dilapidated equipments and that is why we decided to help them with some broadcast equipments," he said.

    He urged the benefitting stations to ensure that the equipments are used for what they are meant for, adding that the equipments will enhance their production. Earlier, FRCN's Director General, Barrister Yusuf Nuhu, thanked BBC for its continuous assistance to the broadcasting industry in Nigeria, adding that FRCN has been a complimentary partner with the BBC. FRCN, Hot FM, Vision FM and Love FM benefitted from the assistance.

  • For FESPACO 2011 French TV channel TV5Monde will celebrate the event by broadcasting a special “African Film Cycle” in February and March 2011. The cycle will be offering five of the best films from the greatest directors of the continent. All films are award-winning, rare or unreleased on television. This includes: Moolaade, Ousmane Sembene, 2004;Tableau feraille (Table metal), Moussa Sene Absa,1995; Finyé (Wind) Souleymane Cissé, 1982;
    L’Absence  (The Absence) Mama Keita, 2009; and Le Fleuve (River), Mama Keita, 2002.

  • The Star channels were encrypted earlier in Jan 2011, making Star the first Indian television network to launch four channels in South Africa. It has joined hands with South African DStv competitor Top TV.

    The Top Star pack consists of four brand new channels in the South African market. Star Plus (a Hindi general entertainment channel), Star Gold (the best Bollywood movies), Vijay (a Tamil general entertainment channel) as well as Channel V (a music channel).

    Talking about the successful launch, Rajan Singh - Executive Vice President, Star International says, "Viewers are responding to the increased choice now available in the market with the launch of Star channels on Top TV. The Top Star pack offers affordable and innovative content for both the Tamil and Hindi viewers in South Africa. This makes us the first Indian television network to launch four channels on pay television in South Africa."

    The entire Top Star bouquet is available at a competitive price point of R60 per month.

  • The next three FIFA World Cup tournaments will be televised by Al Jazeera Sports across the Middle East and North Africa after football’s world governing body struck a new deal with the satellite broadcaster to air the competitions in 2018 and 2022.

    The move represents the first transmission rights package be settled by FIFA for the two events – to be hosted in Russia and Qatar respectively. Al Jazeera will also transmit live matches from the next World Cup finals, to be held in 2014 in Brazil, through an existing agreement.

    Certain matches from these prestigious football competitions will be made available free-to-air, in line with FIFA policy – although a fee is expected to be levied by the Qatar-based broadcaster for complete live coverage of all the matches.

    “FIFA’s aim is to make the World Cup as accessible to as many people around the world as possible – and for this we thankfully have an immensely strong partner in Al Jazeera Sport for the Middle East and North Africa,” said Jerome Volcker, FIFA secretary general.

    Nasser Al Khelaifi, general manager, Al Jazeera Sport said the latest agreement with FIFA covers cable, satellite, mobile TV and broadband internet transmission across 23 countries in the region. Furthermore, that the channel will “continue its policy to maintain qualitative coverage of the FIFA World Cup and to invest in production to bring the very best programming of the world’s most watched event in the region.”

    The final of last summer’s World Cup between Spain and Holland was watched by 162 million viewers across the Middle East and North Africa – representing the single largest TV audience ever recorded in the region, according to the broadcaster.

    Financial details have not been disclosed for the latest deal, which also bestows exclusive rights on Al Jazeera Sport to broadcast the FIFA Confederation Cup, FIFA Under-20 World Cup, FIFA Women’s World Cup and FIFA Beach Soccer in the region.

    Al Jazeera Sport nets FIFA World Cup TV rights Read more: 

  • With the transition from analogue to digital, Senegalese audiovisual media should be prepared to make more local content, the Senegalese Minister of Communication and Telecommunication, Moustapha Guirassy said in Daka.

    With the digital transition deadline set for June 2015 for the whole of Africa, "we must prepare for a content battle" he said. Guirassy was speaking during a meeting between the president and members of the Council of broadcasters and newspaper editors in Senegal (CDEP).

    Guirassy invited concerned media to develop new programs in perspective, to allow expression of "cultural ethos" of Senegal, from new opportunities, including technology, created by the digital switchover.  The Ministry of Communication has to work together in the short and medium term on other topics including television rights, the digitization of archival sound and cable, he added.

    Among other projects already undertaken by his department, he cited the new "consensual» press code, the Public Information Act and the construction of the Press House, which should be approved soon.

  • On 26 January 2011, it was announced that 5FM and SABC 3 have joined forces to bring an innovative entertainment show to South African audiences. Marking the start of a new chapter in local television programming, 5FM and SABC3 will launch (TV)5 on Friday, 4 February at 19:30.
     
    Billed as ‘The television face of 5FM’, (TV)5 will bring much-loved 5FM radio personalities to television screens across the country, to present a new magazine, lifestyle and music show.

    Offering world class entertainment, (TV)5 will be driven by 5FM DJs and will cover the latest music, news, gossip, hot events, tours, best parties, latest fashions and gigs both in South Africa and abroad. On a more personal note, the show will also give its viewers a sneak peek into the lives of some of the biggest radio DJs and presenters in the country. Many of the features that 5FM listeners have come to know and love will be brought to life visually on (TV)5, including Gareth Cliff’s News to Use or Lose; and 5FM’s Power Nite DJs will present their relevant music genre’s top five tracks each week. (TV)5 will also bring the character of Tyren to life, a popular on-air feature on The Fresh Drive who delivers Tyren’s Top Five on a daily basis.

    5FM Station Manager, Aisha Mohamed, says: “5FM has always taken a unique approach to radio, viewing it as a brand rather than just a radio platform. 5FM aims to be a multi-platform youth offering which is accessible on many levels; (TV)5 is a part of this 360 degree approach to radio, adding an exciting new dimension to 5FM’s brand offering.”

    SABC3 Marketing Manager, Risuna Mayimele, says that (TV)5 is an exciting new addition to the channel’s Friday night entertainment line-up. “SABC3 is excited to be launching a local entertainment programme powered by an innovative and edgy brand like 5FM. This is a powerful media platform that brings the power of radio to TV, and we believe that the fusion of these two brands will enable SABC3 to connect with the younger market in a fresh manner.”

    With 5FM’s Grant Nash and Anele Mdoda as anchors, features will also include Thomas Msengana on sports, Sureshnie’s Top 3 of the Top 40 and Power Nites presenters (DJ Fresh, Euphonik, Bongi Mbelu, C-Live and Jon Savage) with the best of their weekly shows, as well as a number of packaged inserts lead by 5FM DJs as they gig, party, travel, promote and grab headlines around the country.
    For more information, visit www.5fm.co.za or www.sabc3.co.za.

  • The legendary ‘Normandy’ cinema theatre has been renovated and was inaugurated in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena on January 8,  2011, after thirty years of closure. This event could be one of several events signalling the return of large cinema theatres in several African capitals.

    President Idriss Deby cut the ribbon himself to mark the event, after a top to bottom renovation of the Normandy. The new cinema director is director Issa Serge Coelo (Tartina City, 2006). A man who cries from Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – a Chadian film awarded at the Cannes Film Festival and screened for the first time in Chad -  is the first film that got projected in the brand new room.

    The renovation cost 1.2 bn F CFA (1.8 million Euros) and was financed by the Chadian Government. The theatre was presented over the 50th anniversary of the country’s Independence. It is « the gift » that the Chadian government chose to finance with on the occasion. The new Normandie has 470 comfortable seats, a 12 metre large screen, and Dolby Stereo sound. Two top of the range projectors allow it to show either 35 mm or digital films.

    The Ultramodern complex will present 6 new films per month; the latest US and European productions, at least one African film, an animation, a Bollywood or another Asian film. The distributor behind it is Jean-Pierre Lemoine. The government plans to invest in renovating three other film theatres in the country.

  • A consumer has filed a complaint against Next Generation Broadcasting (branded Smart TV) for selling obsolete television signals and exposing Kenyans to financial losses. The company has vigorously denied the charge, saying consumers will still be able to access a digital signal once the transition to DVB-T2 is complete.

    In a letter to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), Florence Wangeci said the anti-graft body should investigate the pay television firm for selling banned television signals that will be obsolete once Kenya shifts from analogue to digital broadcasting. Ms Wangeci says KACC should probe the digital migration process and seek answers why the government has not taken action against the company.

    Early this month, the Ministry of Information banned the importation and sale of television set top boxes based on the Digital Video Broadcasting –Terrestrial (DVBT1) due to technology shift and encouraged the next version, DVBT-2. “Vendors of equipment should cease with immediate effect any further importation and sale of the DVBT1 set top boxes hence forth, must comply with DVB-2 system specification now available from the Digital Kenya Secretariat,” said government when it announced the ban.

    However, Smart TV continues to sell the receivers.  “The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission should protect the public from the said traders,” Ms Wangeci said in correspondence seen by the Business Daily.

    However, Kenya Digital secretariat which is in charge of the implementation of the switch from analogue to digital said there is nothing wrong with Smart TV continuing to sell its set top boxes it brought in the country before the ban.

    “There is nothing wrong with Smart TV selling its set to boxes as the country has not fully switched to the advanced technology which will happen on June 2012, ” said a source at the digital secretariat who declined to be named as he is not the official spokesperson.

    The government has warned consumers against buying devices that are not compatible with the new digital platform. “Those who have already purchased are advised to continue using them until June 2012 when the country shall exclusively switch over to the DVBT2 platform in 2012, ” read the statement from the government.

    However, Dan Kagwe, the Chief Executive of Next Generation Broadcasting, has dismissed Ms Wangeci’s allegations that consumers will lose their money by investing in the set top boxes.

    “At a consumer level they can still be able to access the digital signals using our set top boxes and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Mr Kagwe. “Come 2012, what will happen is that set top boxes on the lower version will be able to read the channels on the superior platform,” he said.

  • Sanogo Aboubakar and Kangbe Yayoro Charles Lopez, pro-Ouattara of the Television Notre Patrie (TVN) in Bouake, the second largest city in Cote d’Ivoire, have been detained by security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo since their arrest on January 28, 2011.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the two journalists were picked up at the airbase of the Liaison Transport Air Group in Abidjan where they were to board a flight belonging to the United Nations Operations in Cote d’Ivoire (ONUCI) to cover story at the Golf hotel, the seat of government of the internationally recogined president, Alhassane Ouattara in Abidjan.

    The correspondent said the two Abubakar and Lopez who are yet to be released were accused described in the pro-Gbagbo media as being rebels Forces Nouvelles who are controlling the northern part of the country.

    In a statement issued on January 29, the Ivorian Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CIPJ) condemned the arrest and subsequent detention of the two journalists and called for their unconditional release. CIPJ also appealed to the international media to help secure the release of the two journalists.

  • Digital Broadcasting is upon us and with a vengeance. High Definition, Broadband, Digital terrestrial Broadcasting, IPTV and Mobile. BOBTV 2011 will mark the eighth edition of the African Film and Television Programmes Expo and Market. The theme Chosen for 2011 is 'New Media'. This reflects the realities of the convergence enabled by digital delivery channel that have redefined the media content industry.

    Each year, BobTV welcomes visitors and delegates from all over the world, to a five-day fiesta, of premieres, workshops, conferences, markets and shows. We are happy with the attendance figures at the 7th market. BobTV 2010 attracted a total of 3,704 delegates, a seven per cent increase in comparison to 2009. This figure was surpassed only once before in the history of the market, when 4,786 participants attended in 2007. Participating companies were at a record of 58, from 13 different countries - an 11 per cent increase when compared to 45 companies from the previous year. Also, the good news for producers was that there were 350 acquisition heads in comparison to 2009 and the number of buyers present in Abuja posted a rise of seven per cent.

  • Balancing Act’s new report Data Centres in Africa reveals that the continent now has 108 shared commercial data centre in various locations. The report indicates that the facilities are already running or set to open for business in the next few months.

    Local telecoms service providers, content aggregators and media owners will soon be able to start offering new video solutions: VOD, IPTV, webTV, video e-commerce portals, and video sharing and uploading - where telecoms networks allow it.

    Local hosting solutions that data centres enable also introduce the concept of better film preservation to private and public institutions such as African TV stations that have large collections of current affairs videos and motion picture films but lack information about how to take care of them. Films preserved are digitized and can then be re-used in education, or sold to be inserted in new film production. Old films can then be seen widely through screenings, exhibits, DVDs, televisions broadcasts, and the Internet. Governments, public or private TV stations and national history foundations should be the primary clients for those audiovisual archiving services.

    This comes at the time when the need to keep filmed reports archived for future generations becomes urgent. In several African countries, national TV stations often can’t provide their archives because these were either destroyed or damaged.

    If these video solutions take place across the continent, the outcome will be a much greater strain on local data centre servers, thus creating demand for added space. It should also translate into more clients and revenues for media companies to support their business cases.

    But data centres can also enable several other applications in most sectors such as IT hosting, agriculture, health, entertainment and game, social networking and more…

    The arrival of several international cables on both sides of the continent was what set the stage for growth in Africa's data centre market. Several new undersea cables will land at points along the continent in the next few years, in addition to current cables Seacom and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System. These include the West Africa Cable System, Main One and the Africa Coast to Europe cable.

    Balancing-Act says data centres are a key ingredient of the nascent telecoms, IT and media infrastructure in Africa. “In 2011, the outlook for the growing data centre market in Africa is very promising” wrote Pablo Diantina, data centre expert and co-author of the report.

    According to the research, some parts of Africa, such as SA, are seeing a “booming” data centre market in anticipation of cables that will land shortly. However, says Balancing-Act, several regions on the continent are still untapped, despite growth in demand for data centre services. Balancing Act says Africa can benefit from a growing demand, as Internet traffic from Africa grows due to lower connectivity costs, thanks to the new cables.

    More Internet traffic will drive Internet companies to localise some of their operations in Africa instead of using facilities in Europe or in North America. Balancing-Act says a move to cloud computing and the need to trim costs through outsourcing will also drive demand for data centres. Regulatory changes that will require data to be stored in-country are another growth driver, the report cites.

    Researchers spent seven months closing the report because it was really hard to identify where these data centres were. It took three researchers going through Balancing Act’s network and engaging on social networks such as LinkedIn to identify the shared facilities. Only a few data centres – especially in South Africa and in Egypt – are visible on the net.

    More information on the report's content are available on the following link

    To purchase the report online click here

  • 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.
    http://www.ccm.ma/fnf12/index.html

    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#

    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.
    http://www.berlinale.de

    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

    26 February - 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
    http://www.fespaco.bf/

    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
    click for details

    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 - 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

    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/ -


    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.
    More info 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.
    http://www.africanfilmny.org/index.html

    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
    http://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

    Venue: Tarifa, Spain
    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

    3 - 8 Octobre 2011
    « Festival du Court Métrage Méditerranéen de Tanger »

    Venue: Tangier, Morocco
    A festival focused on short films.
    E-mail : ccm@menara.ma


    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, 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/

    Dec 2011 (final date tba)
    Festival International du Film de Marrakech

    Venue : Marrakech, Morocco
    http://www.ccm.ma/inter/festival.html

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

    http://www.cineazrou.org

  • In Dakar, Senegal, President Abdoulaye Wade was present at a meeting with the “Conseil des diffuseurs et éditeurs de presse du Sénégal (CDEPS)”, mid-Jan 2011. He asked Senegalese televisions to "moderate the broadcast of some dances that border on obscenity" and to refocus on information, education and life’s realities.

    In Tunisia, Hannibal TV’s owner and his son have been released on Jan 25 2011. Larbi Nasra, who founded private television channel Hannibal TV wondered out loud why his TV channel had been shut down. He said the key objectives of his channel was to participate in the liberalization of information in Tunisia, to get closer to the average citizen and to address social issues. His channel has now resumed broadcasting.

    Management of Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC) has directed its Director of News, Radio Services, Smollete Shittu-Alamu, to proceed on an indefinite suspension without pay for anchoring what was tagged “embarrassing news” to the state government.

  • Last call for entry – Apply by 25 February 2011-01-27
    The Tarifa African Film Festival.

    The 8th African Film Festival of Tarifa (www.fcat.es) will take place from June 11th to June 19th, 2011, in Tarifa-Cadix (Spain).

    The Festival will propose three competition sections, which includes “The African Dream” (feature films), “On the other side of the Strait” (documentaries), and “Africa in Short” (short films).

    “Open Screen”, a selection of the best and more diverse films; “Africa in Rhythm”, selection of films about African music and/or dance, “Animafrica”, a selection of full-length animation films, will be the sections out of competition sections.

    Finally and as usual, the festival will present several thematic and monographic retrospectives: “Monographic Abdellatif Ben Ammar” (complete filmography of the Tunisian filmmaker) ; “Cinema and the City” (The African city seen through cinema); the two “Special Nights”, devoted to Moroccan Documentary and Congolese cinema, and the traditional “African Diaspora in Latin America”.

    The festival is sponsored by the Spanish government.

    For more information: http://www.fcat.es
    Application form:
    Festival de Cine Africano
    Calle Montecarmelo, 5 bajo
    41011 Sevilla
    ESPAÑA
    T: +34 954 27 28 00

    Over the FESPACO brief held in Paris back in Jan. 2011, the « Union Internationale des Journalistes Africains » (UIJA) urged film makers to represent the reality of African government people, issues about the Diaspora over the recent years and further developments related to a better education for young African people. UIJA is based in Paris and its head, Lanciné Camara is also the director of a publication called “Le Devoir Africain”.

    In Tunisia, to set up effective communication with Tunisian journalists, from their different positions, and ease access for them to needed information, as quickly as possible, the Communication Ministry announces that a toll-free number /80 107 000/ has been made available for journalists seeking information or clarifications to help them discharge their mission under best conditions.

    In SA, the 4th Talent Campus Durban calls for filmmaker applications. The event will take place from 22-26 July 2011, during the 32nd Durban International Film Festival (21-31 July).

    The deadline for the submissions for the second annual Durban FilmMart is looming. Set to take place in Durban from 22-26 July 2011, during the 32nd edition of the Durban International Film Festival, the closing date for entries is 15 February 2011.

    The premier documentary Festival in the African region, Encounters South African International Documentary Festival is proud to announce its 13th edition.

Issue No 97 3 February 2011

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  • Sylvain Beletre interviewed South African Kevin Kriedemann, Editor at Film & Event Publishing (The Call Sheet) about how African cinema – in particular South African cinema - is doing and how it can overcome the challenges it faces.

    Q: How can African film producers survive today, and who should fund the industry?

    Ultimately, the goal is to create a self-sustaining film industry, where we make films for less money than we receive back from their audiences. This is starting to happen in South Africa. Last year, 23 local films were released.
    One positive sign was better box office returns. Of these, Shucks Tshabalala’s Survival Guide to 2010 set a new box office record for South African films, raking in R37.5 million (US$5.2 m), while Spud topped R16 million (US$2.2m), Liefling is over R10 million (US$1.4 m), Bakgat topped R5 million (US$700,000) and Jakhalsdans earned over R2 million (US$280,000).

    The other positive sign was lower production budgets, as South Africans showed they are learning how to make films for around R1 million (US$140,000), which is starting to seem recoupable while still able to create acceptable production budgets. Of course, Spud cost substantially more than that.

    Those figures are for South Africa, which has a population of 50 million. Add in the one billion people in Africa and everyone in the diaspora, and there should be a profitable market on the continent, without us having to rely on foreign audiences.

    Sadly, this isn’t the case at the moment, due to a number of factors, from the lack of distribution structures to the diversity of the continent, especially in terms of language, to the challenge of piracy.

    But it was good to see the emergence of African co-productions like the Kenyan-SA co-pros The First Grader and Pumzi and the Rwandan-South Africa coproduction Africa United. It was also good to see Durban FilmMart attract strong projects from across Africa.

    There are also positive signs in terms of foreign audiences. There’s been a sense that foreign audiences don’t always understand South Africans, especially their humour, but 2010 saw South Africa’s culture (and the continent’s) exposed massively through the 2010 FIFA World Cup and through District 9, among other things, and there’s a sense that they’re starting to “get us”. The fact that the new Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds film, Safe House, was rewritten to be set in Cape Town is a sign that the studios think there’s genuine global interest in stories set in Africa.

    South Africa’s recent inclusion in BRICS will also help to keep us top of mind, as will the fact that Africa is increasingly being talked about as the final untapped investment market.

    While a profitable, self-sustaining film industry is the goal, film can make a strong case that it deserves support and soft funding from government, the tourism industry and cultural institutions.

    In 2010 South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (dti) doubled the cap on its two rebates to R20 million (US$2.8 m), as the research showed that their rebate scheme, which has committed R1 billion (US$139m) to 188 approved projects since 2004, attracted a positive cash flow to South Africa and was self-sustaining.

    This is based on research that in 2006-2007 year, the industry was worth R2.65 billion in The Western Cape,  R1.1 billion in Gauteng, and R236 million in KZN, with a multiplier effect on the broader economy of R2.5 for every rand spent.

    Apart from the dti, the other main source of financing is The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), a self-financing, state-owned national development finance institution, which caps its investment at 49% of the overall budget.

    The National Film and Video Foundation is another source of funding. On documentaries, they fund development up to R50 000 and production up to R100 000. On feature films, they fund development up to R150 000 and production up to R1 million. There are a lot of European funds that African cinema can apply for. These include The Goethe Institute, The World Cinema Fund, The Hubert Bals Fund, The Jan Vrijman Fund and ‘Fonds Images Afrique’. I’d love to see more specific African funds though, like the one FEPACI is busy launching.

    We keep tabs of the various application deadlines click here:  and of the various funds click here:

    South African Tourism’s research this year found that one of the top reasons people came to South Africa was because they had seen it on television. New Zealand, as another example, saw tourism spike after the success of The Lord of the Rings. And since trade follows film and tourism, film’s potential impact is immense, so it makes sense for government to do everything possible to promote it.

    Film can also play a key role in nation-building (Invictus is a good example of a film that helped build community) and can be used to spark dialogue around morality, like Hopeville, which won the Rose d’Or last year for Best Drama, after being funded by an NGO to start a discussion around the impact of doing good on an entire community.

    Q: Some African governments do not see local film production as a priority. Which African states support their national film makers?

    Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia and Morocco all have film commissions, which is a good start as it gives people wanting to work there a central conduit to connect with. Morocco has the most successful studios on the continent, with South Africa having just launched Cape Town Film Studios and Namibia possibly also launching another soon. I understand Rwanda government helped support ‘Africa United’ too.

    Government involvement can lead to increased funding for both films and infrastructure developments like studios, but there’s often a cost involved: government bureaucracy doesn’t always mix well with film industry creativity and immediacy, while there’s always a risk that government will start to pay attention to how labour law would apply to the film industry, which has stayed remarkably unregulated.

    Q: African TV stations have had the reputation of not being able to fund local productions. Is this changing?

    I can only really speak for South Africa. The public broadcaster, SABC, has been in a state of paralysis for the last two years, funding very little local content, but the more promising development has been the increase in both channels and demand for local content. South African content regularly tops the TAMS (survey) in South Africa and DStv has been launching a lot more African content on its satellite channels as a result, like the Mzansi Magic channel. Similarly, TopTV, their new competitor, is starting to license content, even if the actual commissions have been slower than hoped. But there’s still a feeling that local content quotas aren’t monitored or enforced effectively, We expect more and more diversification of platforms, but the problem is in figuring out how to monetize this, as it’s not easy to make money online, especially given Africa’s bandwidth challenges, and if the new broadcasters aren’t making money they’re not going to be spending it either.

    Q: African film makers and TV stations often have difficulty accessing African audiences. Have there been any measures put in place recently to solve this issue? 

    It’s still a massive challenge. DStv has certainly started paying attention to Africa as a market, buying up African content for the African Film Library, etc, and seems to be making some headway.

    I think DISCOP Africa has been a positive development in this regard, as a sales platform for African content.

    Q: With the arrival of internet, reduced budgets from global broadcasters/TV stations, channel multiplication and limited government funding, the global film industry is at a turning point. Will it affect African productions?
     
    Absolutely. One of my sadnesses is that when the web arrived, we thought it would level the playing field between Africa and the rest of the world. But the bandwidth, cost and access problems means that once again we have a situation where we are playing catch up and relying on foreign distribution platforms like iTunes and YouTube and Amazon. It’s very sad for me that iTunes doesn’t sell content to Africa – if they don’t think there’s a viable market in the 1 billion people here, that’s either a scary indictment of Africa or of them. I think these sorts of brands – iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple – will be far more important to our industry’s future than the traditional broadcasters that currently exist.

    It’s easier than ever to make, broadcast and distribute your content, but the challenge is in making it stand out amongst more competition than ever, and then monetize that. But it’s also easier to target a niche than ever before, so I’m both excited and daunted by the possibilities involved.

    I think we’re far behind the curve here, so there’s a lot to learn from overseas. I attended Entertainment Master Class in Cape Town, where all the talk was about two-screen TV and interactivity, and incorporating social media into programming. I haven’t heard as much of that from local content, apart from maybe a show like Hectic Nine-9 in South Africa, which is the third biggest local brand on Facebook, with over 1,650,148 post views. .

    What’s exciting for me is that there’s less difference between sectors than ever before. In the past, feature films were shot on film and corporate videos on home video, but now everyone’s shooting on 5D. That creates more opportunities for the different sectors to work together more fluidly.

    I also think there’ll be a lot closer links with video games in the future – their graphics are catching up with film all the time and film is looking for ways to become interactive, so video games and film have a lot to talk to each other about.

    Q: How is the South African film industry evolving today?

    Documentaries had a tough couple of years here because of the collapse of SABC. One of the positive moves is their negotiations with the Department of Trade and Industry to lower the threshold for the incentives so that documentaries will qualify. We’re also seeing a lot more documentaries made for theatrical release, although the box office numbers here are still dismal for those.

    The visual effects industry has largely collapsed, with the closure of both Condor and BlackGinger’s long form divisions. The cost of labour in South Africa seemingly meant we just couldn’t compete with China and India on VFX service work.

    We’ve got a big year ahead for animation, with three 3D features set to be released: Jock, Zambezia and Lion of Judah.

    I think TV globally is in its golden age, because the format has changed; So with PVR and VOD and DVD, people now watch series’ episodes back to back, which allows screenwriters to write much more complex story arcs. But this has largely passed SA by, as most people are still forced to watch on TV at a set time, once a week. We desperately need the SABC to start functioning again as a commissioning body, but with a revised IP strategy that allows filmmakers to maintain some rights and explore avenues like DVD sales that the SABC has never optimized.

    Q: Since independence, several African filmmakers (for example Ousmane Sembène) highlighted African history, focusing on colonialism, slavery and the resistance to European and Islamic domination. Since Obama’s election, do you think African films' mission is changing direction nowadays? and do African filmmakers feel more confident to express themselves?

    In South Africa, the early films we made at the start of the last decade predominantly explored Apartheid. There were some great films, but the audience figures were disappointing – the creatives wanted to explore and dissect the past; the general population, for better or worse, wanted to forget it and look to the future.

    We still have Apartheid-era films like Skin and Endgame being made, and rightly so, but there’s more variety than ever before in South Africa.
    We had every type of comedy: black comedy (Jozi), romantic comedies (I Now Pronounce You Black and White), Bollywood romantic comedies (For Better For Worse), standup comedy documentaries (Outrageous), Afrikaans teen comedies (Bakgat 2), and candid camera (Schucks Tshabalala’s Survival Guide to 2010). Comedy seems to be where the safe money is.

    We also had a run of Afrikaans musicals or musical-themed films (Liefling, Susanna van Biljon, and Jakhalsdans) and genre films like Eternity, a vampire thriller set in Jo’burg; The Unforgiving, South Africa’s first splatter film; and The Race-ist, a Fast and Furious-type racing movie.

    There have also been a number of TV spinoffs (Egoli: The Movie; Hopeville; and Stoute Boudjies). You can add in wildlife family films (White Lion), art-house drama (Shirley Adams and Long Street), soccer films (Themba), and coming of age book adaptations (Spud, Die Ongelooflike Avontuure van Hanna Hoekom).

    Q: Some recent African films were well received in the developed world. Some critics stated that certain filmmakers were adapting their film to suit the tastes of western audiences. What is your feeling?

    The South African films that have travelled the best in the developed world have tended to be genre films. Last year, the films that were released overseas were a romantic comedy (White Wedding), a crime drama (Jerusalema), and a science fiction film (District 9). Most South Africans grew up watching American and British TV, so it’s inevitable that we’ll be influenced by that. But I think even the films I mentioned above didn’t just meekly accept a Western genre: For instance, District 9 was such a success because it undermined the idea that aliens would automatically land above America, and because it’s picture of a science fictional universe was so aesthetically third world. I’m not a purist, so I think as long as there’s a dialogue between Western conventions and African stories, not just the West dictating, that’s a healthy place to be.

    In the past, there were limited venues where African audiences have had access to African films, e.g. at the Pan African film festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. There seems to be more African film festivals and trade markets around the world nowadays, which ones are not to be missed for African film makers?

    Our budget doesn’t allow us to attend nearly as many of these as I’d like. FESPACO, The AMAAs, The Pan African Film Festival in the US, DISCOP, and The Durban Film Festival are the ones we’re paying the most attention to. DIFF launched The Durban FilmMart this year, with projects from all over Africa and an impressive array of funders, so I’m really hoping that continues to grow as a Pan-African event, rather than just a South African one. I’d also love to see some African sales agents starting to emerge, who specialize in these sorts of festivals.

    Q: In 2010, which African films have been really successful in South Africa?

    None, other than the SA ones I mentioned. This is one of the biggest problems – we need the distributors to start building an audience for African films, not just South African ones, but that only seems to be happening on DVD. There’s a lot I’m dying to see, but just can’t get my hands on.

    Q: What can we (the media focused on African films) do to improve the industry?

    We need to create platforms for the industry across the continent to speak to each other. We’d love our website, www.thecallsheet.co.za, to become that sort of a platform. Any African filmmakers can load their own stories, with embedded videos and images, here:

    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:

    Jessica Verrilli on broadcast media using Twitter in Africa:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/8/jJXEDHREQFg

    Matthew Brown whose spent a year researching in Nigeria, talks about changing Nollywood business models:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/18/g04yGua86F8

    John Kamau of Kenya’s Jamii Telecom on delivery broadcast content using its Fibre-To-The-Home network:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/32/1ygqFP-VXJ0

    TV Afrique: les défis du marché selon CFI’s Laurent Allary:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/36/PKfnfs_4Tn0

    Fespaco 2011 : vente et piratage des films:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=BalancingActAfrica#p/u/74/lVf8FjeXhaQ

    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: 6.00 pm, Wednesday 9 February, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.
    Top story Extract:

  • The most coveted prizes in African cinema are up for grabs every two years, and will be awarded again at the end of Feb 2011. Fespaco, the biennial pan-African festival of film and television, will get under way from 26 February to 5 March 2011 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. It says it has a new formula this time so Sylvain Béletre interviewed its organisers on what’s really different this year.

    You can watch video extracts from the press conference which took place in Paris ahead of the event here (all in French)

    It is quite a paradox that Ouagadougou, the “African Cannes”, is also the capital of one of the poorest countries in the world. But Burkina Faso – the land of honest people – is also one of the few African countries that support African film makers and audiovisual content diversity. FESPACO is important for African film professionals because it is the biggest and oldest cultural event on the African continent, and it is focused on African films and filmmakers. The event attracts visitors from across the globe. Launched in 1969 under the name "African Cinema Week" in Ouagadougou, Fespaco aims in particular to promote the distribution of film.

    The festival is a public event held under the patronage of the Burkina Faso Minister of Culture, Tourism and Communication, Filippe Savadogo. Its main prize is "Étalon de Yennenga" (Stallion of Yennenga), named with reference to the legendary founder of the Mossi empire, the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso. It is awarded to the African film that best shows "Africa's realities". Since ever 1972 when the competition was launched at FESPACO, the Yennenga Stallion worth 10,000,000 F CFA or approximatively 15,251 Euros was awarded to 17 films.

    Other special awards include the Oumarou Ganda Prize, given for the best first film, and the Paul Robeson Prize for the best film by a director of the African diaspora.

    In the fringes of the Festival, the African International Film and TV Market (MICA) has grown today into one of the largest pan-African Film trade markets, offering numerous meeting opportunities both with professional buyers and distributors. The market is a platform for African films as well as programmes about Africa. MICA has about 2,000 video cassettes in store, most of which are VHS. Films entered into the market are archived and presented in a catalogue in English and French, the festival's working languages.

    As the festival became more prominent, its budget and sponsors increased; current  donor countries include Burkina Faso, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Republic of China, and the donor organizations include AIF(ACCT), UNDP, OIF, Stichting Doen, Prince Claus fund, UNESCO, UNICEF, European Union and Africalia.

    “Burkina Faso has contributed to the event through a 500,000 FCFA investment, completed with security, location, logistic, ceremony and staff availability during the event. In overall, the Burkina Faso government provides 65-70% of the festival organisation.” said the managing director of Fespaco, Michel Ouédraogo.
     
    So what’s really new this year? Michel Ouédraogo, outlined that this festival will consolidate what has been launched at the previous edition. Productions from twenty eight countries will be included in the selection. But several innovations will mark this edition:

    - Associated with the official selections, four African film schools will discuss film production issues in Africa.

    - The previous edition included 324 films; this year will refocused the event to 195 films only, in order to drive more quality. 475 films were originally received and viewed, but only 111 were retained in seven official sections, and 84 were selected for parallel sections. Ouédraogo noted the emergence of productions from Central and East Africa.

    - Additionally, the organiser will host a special homage to great African film personalities that have recently passed away. Ten related films will be shown during the festival.

    Dr. Stanislas Meda, member of the Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Culture  also said that there will be a special international jury to enlarge the event’s visibility and film qualification inputs and that the organisers have hired an artistic director to shape the programme content.

    FESPACO is indirectly associated with the new African film fund which is currently being put in place. FESPACO’s team is still working on African film heritage through the “cinémathèque” it has set up in Ouagadougou.
    Ouédraogo also mentioned that the organisers are “considering a stronger partnership with the first film industry in Africa, Nollywood; however, “Nollywood is still considered as quite controversial when it comes to quality and piracy” he noted.  Professor Elikia M'Bokolo, Congolese writer and historian will sponsor this 22nd Edition of the Festival.

    FESPACO provides three main “accreditation” forms: one for cinema professionals (anyone specialized or involved in the movie-making industry), one for the press and one for festival-goers. Sadly, it will be radio silence from Ivory Coast: FESPACO will not present Ivorian films at the official selection this year.

  • Fully operational since October 2010, the recently completed Cape Town Film Studios (CTFS), headed by Nico Dekker will be making Eldorado as its next film production.

    R430-million was injected into CTFS, the biggest facility investment in South Africa’s film history. Over 90 film service companies already committed to move permanently to the site. Research carried out by the site’s leaders found that it was 35% more affordable than Los Angeles (in 2010).

    The studios are also conveniently located 25 minutes from Cape Town City Centre and only 10 minutes away from Cape Town International Airport. It is also central to a variety of landscapes and locations including beaches, mountain ranges, country, urban and industrial settings.

    Largely supported by the government and the City of Cape Town, its majority shareholding come form Sabido Investments (ETV) and Videovision Entertainment, media, film and entertainment leaders in their respective fields.

    The studios have the following facilities: 64,500 sq ft workshops including store rooms and mini-factories, 18,300 sq ft fully furnished production offices, art department facilities, wardrobe & make-up facilities, green rooms, star rooms, dimmer rooms, backlot facilities for outdoor set-building, high-speed broadband connections to all major international cities, blue screen on request, and water paddock on request.

  • Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi in French) is a drama film which came out with much publicity in France last year. The film will represent Algeria at the 83rd Academy Awards, where it is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

    Directed by Rachid Bouchareb, starring Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem and Sami Bouajila, the plot focuses on the Algerian crisis with colonial power France. The film was met by political controversy much before it was released. Some said it was one-sided, whilst others said it reflected the reality of what had happened,

    The story is about the lives of three Algerian brothers in France between 1945 and 1962. It is a follow-up to Bouchareb's 2006 film ‘Days of Glory’. Outside the Law was a French majority production with co-producers in Algeria, Tunisia and Belgium. A historically unorthodox portrayal of the 1945 Sétif massacre made the film particularly controversial in France.

    Many said that Outside the Law was written as a direct sequel to Rachid Bouchareb's 2006 film Days of Glory, about Africans who fought for France in World War II. The film shares many of the main actors, and starts at the place in history where Days of Glory- his previous film - ended.

    The 19.5 million euro production was led by France's Tessalit Productions in co-production with France 2, France 3 and companies in Algeria, Tunisia and Belgium. Funding was granted by the National Center of Cinematography (commonly known as CNC in France) and via pre-sales to Canal+ TV channel in France. Out of the total investment, 59% came from France, 21% Algeria, 10% Tunisia and 10% Belgium.

    Over screening, 393,335 tickets were sold which was considerably less than the 3,227,502 that Days of Glory had attained four years earlier.
    As of 27 January 2011, Box Office Mojo reported that the worldwide revenues of Outside the Law were 3,292,518 US dollars.

    Bouchareb explained that his team researched the subject for nine months including through interviews, and it took him two years to finish the script. Filming started at the end of July 2009 and lasted five months. The filming locations took place in Paris, Algeria, Tunisia, Belgian cities Charleroi and Brussels, Germany and the United States, with scenes set at the United Nations Headquarters. Approximately 90% of the scenes were shot in studio.

    The other African film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (US) is Life, Above All from South Africa (Oliver Schmitz). But the South African Academy Awards Selection Committee and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) learned with disappointment that Life Above All has not made the final cut for the 83rd Oscars awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the Foreign Language Film category. In the same category, Danish director Susanne Bier's upcoming drama, In a Better World, partly shot in Kenya, got the nod and was nominated.

  • Balancing Act’s Sylvain Béletre met up with Hermann Djoumessi, a 35 year old French film maker and writer of Cameroonian origin. Watch the full interviews on Balancing Act's YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Hermann+Djoumessi&aq=f

    Q:What work experience do you have so far?
    A: I have gained experience as a producer, assistant film maker, film maker and film production trainer. I worked in London on such things as ‘Midsummer murders’, BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’, SWAT TV, …

    Q:What are your current projects?
    A: I am currently working on four projects where I need further support. These all have an African element.

    'Coupe' is my latest production. Directed by Osita Aneke, I produced it. It is a heartfelt documentary charting the rise of 'Coupé', a cultural movement - electronic music, dance and more now - that sprang out of Ivory Coast during the 2003-5 civil war and spread all over the world. The film should come out in 2011.

    The production has attracted interests and finances from the European Union (Media - Babylon program) and won the Cine-Euro Co-Prod panel & pitching competition. It also has support from the UK Film Center and was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. We made a basic trailer on this link: http://www.youtube.com/user/aspectratio

    Right now, the film is almost complete and we need the following to be able to complete it: footage of the 2003-5 civil war in Ivory Coast. These are historical archives showing what happened on the field and what was broadcast on TV at the time. We need global rights for these archives. We also need: additional finances to complete the film;
    large global distributors (TV and DVD); private sponsorship which would allow the distribution of the film at a very low price in Africa.

    Q:How did you finance the film?
     
    A: The European Union came to our help via MEDIA and the Babylon project, as well as Screen South, a UK screen agency, the British Film Council, Relocations, my own production outfit came up with 20% of the budget…F3K another production outfit set-up by Osita Aneke the director also chipped in…All in all, the total film budget is in the region of £200 000.

    Q Why did you make this film?

    A: We made the film in order to showcase a vibrant and modern Africa in tune with the 21st century and the digital age - Most of the music from ‘Coupé’ was made digitally- It has a positive message beamed to the Ivorian, African and world youth: You can do it, if you want it badly enough…. despite the war…despite the struggle that plagues the development of any African country. Of course, the movement veers towards a ‘bling’ culture and carries a materialist message with it, as well as creating deep barriers between generations opposing old vs. modern, acoustic vs. digital, war vs. peace. In the end, what came out of it, from a lot of people’s viewpoint was that ‘Coupé’ was the party music that silenced the guns

    We’ve approached the top peoples in that field…the list reads like a who’s who of the players, movers, shakers, and true ‘Boucantiers’ from IVC and Europe: Magic System (57 million hits. Source: Google), Molare (425.000 hits. Source, Google), Lino Versace (108. 000 hit), DJ Caloudji (300.000 hits. Source: Youtube),Mariam Coulibaly (70 000 hits. Source: Youtube), Sagacite, (700.000 hits. Source:Youtube), Ronaldo (120 000 hits. Source: Youtube) Ouattara Nielben, Muluku DJ, DJ Tevecinq, JJK, Marechal, Claude Thamo, David Tayroult, MelTheodore,Tati Kenny, Soum Bill, Isabelle Anoh and many more.

    To my knowledge, we are the first filmmakers to draw such a comprehensive picture of the movement and its influence, from all sides of the perspectives. It is a unique cinematic experience with stunning pictures and compelling storytelling. We were not afraid to draw on the civil war that blighted the country at the start of the 21st century, nor did we refrain from looking at the darkest aspect of the movement.

    Q: What are the other productions you are working on?

    Tokolosh, which is  made by “Barking Dogs productions”, it is directed by Marco Nicoletti and produced by Amos Rozenberg and co-produced by me, H. Djoumessi. The format is 16/9 HD and it is 52minutes long. We have a French broadcaster interested, ‘France O’. It should be financed by France O/CNC and the final budget is 200 000 Euros.

    Set out in South Africa, this film is about a mysterious sexual beast that jumps into people's bed at night. As a true legend, this film explores broader sexuality in South Africa. Desmond Tutu will have a guest-staring role. We have not started filming as yet and the project needs finances and wide distribution.

    The third project is Assange or Devil (Assange ou Demon). This is a book and script related to the Wikileaks covering Africa. This book will come out around May 2011. It will look at the people behind the website and the philosophy of its founder, Julian Assange, his team and contributors, as well as those who tried to prevent the site from succeeding. It is being written as a ‘docu-drama’ based on hard facts with fictional elements.

    TUNISBOOK is a documentary about the rise of social network in Africa and mostly in Tunisia. It will look at the people behind the ‘Social Revolution’ that took place in Tunisia in the shape of a ‘How to’ guide to modern revolution.

    Q: Did you study film production?

    A: I have obtained a Master’s degree in Audiovisual Production from London Metropolitan University and a “Maîtrise” from IHECS / Haute Ecole Galilée (Brussels, Belgium). I have also gained professional training from EU/Media programme and from the UK Film Council on the same topics.

    Q: What are your favourite African films?

    A: ‘Les indigènes’, ‘Hors la Loi’ (R Boutareb), ‘District 9’, ‘Sango Malo’ (Bassek Ba Kobio),  Lumumba (R. Peck), ‘Bamako’ ‘Mobutu Roi du Zaïre’, ‘Quartier Mozart’ (Bekolo), ‘Tsotsi’, ‘Yeleen’ and many more. 'Hors la loi' has been accepted as Algeria’s submission to the Oscars 2011. We are in Jan 2011 and I hope that they will win it in the foreign film category!

    Q: Where are you located?

    A: Nowadays I live between London and Paris and travel around the globe to undertake my projects.

    For more details, contact Hermann at:  djhermann@ hotmail.com

  • On 25 January 2010, one of the television industry’s leading content providers and distributors - Sony Pictures Television - and MultiChoice, the number 1 multi-channel digital satellite pay television operator across the African continent, announced the launch of a new channel, Sony Max, available to DStv Compact and Premium subscribers on MultiChoice’s network in Africa.

    Sylvain Béletre at Balancing Act interviewed Eddie Nelson, Senior Vice President, EMEA Networks, Sony Pictures Television.

    Discussing the new channel, Eddie Nelson said:  "We have had long talks with MultiChoice and we have done extensive market research to put together this new channel.  This 24-hour action and reality channel is aimed mostly at a male audience, providing high quality, compelling programming.”
     
    “Sony will launch on DStv channel 126 on 1 February 2011 at 21:00” mentioned Eddie, with the movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”.

    Eddie added: “Multichoice will be pushing the channel out to more than 40 African countries” including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania. Balancing Act’s recent “African pay TV” report counted 5 million pay TV subscribers across Africa, and MultiChoice has the most of them. It has grown its business across South Africa alone to over 3.2 million subscribers.  

    The new channel will focus on action-oriented movies, game shows, series and reality programmes. Hit films on the cards for the next few months run the gamut from comedy and martial arts to horror and adventure, and include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Zoolander, Jackass, Shaolin Temple, Congo and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    Sony Max’s menu will also include Mexican professional wrestling (known as Lucha Libre) in CMLL Presents: Arena Mexico as well as the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts in TKO Major League MMA.

    In addition, aficionados of quality television series can look forward to the South African premiere of the quirky Canadian comedy Call Me Fitz, starring Jason Priestley as a charismatic but slightly bent used-car salesman. Another choice addition to the schedule is the gritty police drama The Shield, which has won both Emmy and Golden Globe awards for lead actor Michael Chiklis.

    A number of cult Japanese game shows and sports reality contests such as Unbeatable Banzuke, Ninja Warrior and Takeshi’s Castle also make a welcome return to our screens on Sony Max in February. Also look out for the futuristic-styled reality show Solitary, in which contestants have to test their physical and mental endurance while in solitary confinement.

    Aletta Alberts, MultiChoice General Manager of Content, says: “We are excited about the launch of another Sony-branded channel on the DStv platform. Sony Max will provide more adrenaline-filled, action programming which our viewers love; with the welcome return of several viewer favourites such as Ninja Warriors and Takeshi’s Castle.” 

  • The BBC World Service Trust presented broadcast equipment to four of its partner stations in Abuja under its media support for strengthening advocacy, good governance and empowerment project. The equipments were presented to the benefiting stations at the conference room of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN).

    The country director of BBCWST, Ms. Linda Nwoke, represented by Tom Odemwingie, said the BBC World Service Trust decided to help the partner stations with the equipments because their assessment shown that they were lagging behind. "We discovered that most of our partners in Nigeria are battling with dilapidated equipments and that is why we decided to help them with some broadcast equipments," he said.

    He urged the benefitting stations to ensure that the equipments are used for what they are meant for, adding that the equipments will enhance their production. Earlier, FRCN's Director General, Barrister Yusuf Nuhu, thanked BBC for its continuous assistance to the broadcasting industry in Nigeria, adding that FRCN has been a complimentary partner with the BBC. FRCN, Hot FM, Vision FM and Love FM benefitted from the assistance.

  • For FESPACO 2011 French TV channel TV5Monde will celebrate the event by broadcasting a special “African Film Cycle” in February and March 2011. The cycle will be offering five of the best films from the greatest directors of the continent. All films are award-winning, rare or unreleased on television. This includes: Moolaade, Ousmane Sembene, 2004;Tableau feraille (Table metal), Moussa Sene Absa,1995; Finyé (Wind) Souleymane Cissé, 1982;
    L’Absence  (The Absence) Mama Keita, 2009; and Le Fleuve (River), Mama Keita, 2002.

  • The Star channels were encrypted earlier in Jan 2011, making Star the first Indian television network to launch four channels in South Africa. It has joined hands with South African DStv competitor Top TV.

    The Top Star pack consists of four brand new channels in the South African market. Star Plus (a Hindi general entertainment channel), Star Gold (the best Bollywood movies), Vijay (a Tamil general entertainment channel) as well as Channel V (a music channel).

    Talking about the successful launch, Rajan Singh - Executive Vice President, Star International says, "Viewers are responding to the increased choice now available in the market with the launch of Star channels on Top TV. The Top Star pack offers affordable and innovative content for both the Tamil and Hindi viewers in South Africa. This makes us the first Indian television network to launch four channels on pay television in South Africa."

    The entire Top Star bouquet is available at a competitive price point of R60 per month.

  • The next three FIFA World Cup tournaments will be televised by Al Jazeera Sports across the Middle East and North Africa after football’s world governing body struck a new deal with the satellite broadcaster to air the competitions in 2018 and 2022.

    The move represents the first transmission rights package be settled by FIFA for the two events – to be hosted in Russia and Qatar respectively. Al Jazeera will also transmit live matches from the next World Cup finals, to be held in 2014 in Brazil, through an existing agreement.

    Certain matches from these prestigious football competitions will be made available free-to-air, in line with FIFA policy – although a fee is expected to be levied by the Qatar-based broadcaster for complete live coverage of all the matches.

    “FIFA’s aim is to make the World Cup as accessible to as many people around the world as possible – and for this we thankfully have an immensely strong partner in Al Jazeera Sport for the Middle East and North Africa,” said Jerome Volcker, FIFA secretary general.

    Nasser Al Khelaifi, general manager, Al Jazeera Sport said the latest agreement with FIFA covers cable, satellite, mobile TV and broadband internet transmission across 23 countries in the region. Furthermore, that the channel will “continue its policy to maintain qualitative coverage of the FIFA World Cup and to invest in production to bring the very best programming of the world’s most watched event in the region.”

    The final of last summer’s World Cup between Spain and Holland was watched by 162 million viewers across the Middle East and North Africa – representing the single largest TV audience ever recorded in the region, according to the broadcaster.

    Financial details have not been disclosed for the latest deal, which also bestows exclusive rights on Al Jazeera Sport to broadcast the FIFA Confederation Cup, FIFA Under-20 World Cup, FIFA Women’s World Cup and FIFA Beach Soccer in the region.

    Al Jazeera Sport nets FIFA World Cup TV rights Read more: 

  • With the transition from analogue to digital, Senegalese audiovisual media should be prepared to make more local content, the Senegalese Minister of Communication and Telecommunication, Moustapha Guirassy said in Daka.

    With the digital transition deadline set for June 2015 for the whole of Africa, "we must prepare for a content battle" he said. Guirassy was speaking during a meeting between the president and members of the Council of broadcasters and newspaper editors in Senegal (CDEP).

    Guirassy invited concerned media to develop new programs in perspective, to allow expression of "cultural ethos" of Senegal, from new opportunities, including technology, created by the digital switchover.  The Ministry of Communication has to work together in the short and medium term on other topics including television rights, the digitization of archival sound and cable, he added.

    Among other projects already undertaken by his department, he cited the new "consensual» press code, the Public Information Act and the construction of the Press House, which should be approved soon.

  • On 26 January 2011, it was announced that 5FM and SABC 3 have joined forces to bring an innovative entertainment show to South African audiences. Marking the start of a new chapter in local television programming, 5FM and SABC3 will launch (TV)5 on Friday, 4 February at 19:30.
     
    Billed as ‘The television face of 5FM’, (TV)5 will bring much-loved 5FM radio personalities to television screens across the country, to present a new magazine, lifestyle and music show.

    Offering world class entertainment, (TV)5 will be driven by 5FM DJs and will cover the latest music, news, gossip, hot events, tours, best parties, latest fashions and gigs both in South Africa and abroad. On a more personal note, the show will also give its viewers a sneak peek into the lives of some of the biggest radio DJs and presenters in the country. Many of the features that 5FM listeners have come to know and love will be brought to life visually on (TV)5, including Gareth Cliff’s News to Use or Lose; and 5FM’s Power Nite DJs will present their relevant music genre’s top five tracks each week. (TV)5 will also bring the character of Tyren to life, a popular on-air feature on The Fresh Drive who delivers Tyren’s Top Five on a daily basis.

    5FM Station Manager, Aisha Mohamed, says: “5FM has always taken a unique approach to radio, viewing it as a brand rather than just a radio platform. 5FM aims to be a multi-platform youth offering which is accessible on many levels; (TV)5 is a part of this 360 degree approach to radio, adding an exciting new dimension to 5FM’s brand offering.”

    SABC3 Marketing Manager, Risuna Mayimele, says that (TV)5 is an exciting new addition to the channel’s Friday night entertainment line-up. “SABC3 is excited to be launching a local entertainment programme powered by an innovative and edgy brand like 5FM. This is a powerful media platform that brings the power of radio to TV, and we believe that the fusion of these two brands will enable SABC3 to connect with the younger market in a fresh manner.”

    With 5FM’s Grant Nash and Anele Mdoda as anchors, features will also include Thomas Msengana on sports, Sureshnie’s Top 3 of the Top 40 and Power Nites presenters (DJ Fresh, Euphonik, Bongi Mbelu, C-Live and Jon Savage) with the best of their weekly shows, as well as a number of packaged inserts lead by 5FM DJs as they gig, party, travel, promote and grab headlines around the country.
    For more information, visit www.5fm.co.za or www.sabc3.co.za.

  • The legendary ‘Normandy’ cinema theatre has been renovated and was inaugurated in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena on January 8,  2011, after thirty years of closure. This event could be one of several events signalling the return of large cinema theatres in several African capitals.

    President Idriss Deby cut the ribbon himself to mark the event, after a top to bottom renovation of the Normandy. The new cinema director is director Issa Serge Coelo (Tartina City, 2006). A man who cries from Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – a Chadian film awarded at the Cannes Film Festival and screened for the first time in Chad -  is the first film that got projected in the brand new room.

    The renovation cost 1.2 bn F CFA (1.8 million Euros) and was financed by the Chadian Government. The theatre was presented over the 50th anniversary of the country’s Independence. It is « the gift » that the Chadian government chose to finance with on the occasion. The new Normandie has 470 comfortable seats, a 12 metre large screen, and Dolby Stereo sound. Two top of the range projectors allow it to show either 35 mm or digital films.

    The Ultramodern complex will present 6 new films per month; the latest US and European productions, at least one African film, an animation, a Bollywood or another Asian film. The distributor behind it is Jean-Pierre Lemoine. The government plans to invest in renovating three other film theatres in the country.

  • A consumer has filed a complaint against Next Generation Broadcasting (branded Smart TV) for selling obsolete television signals and exposing Kenyans to financial losses. The company has vigorously denied the charge, saying consumers will still be able to access a digital signal once the transition to DVB-T2 is complete.

    In a letter to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), Florence Wangeci said the anti-graft body should investigate the pay television firm for selling banned television signals that will be obsolete once Kenya shifts from analogue to digital broadcasting. Ms Wangeci says KACC should probe the digital migration process and seek answers why the government has not taken action against the company.

    Early this month, the Ministry of Information banned the importation and sale of television set top boxes based on the Digital Video Broadcasting –Terrestrial (DVBT1) due to technology shift and encouraged the next version, DVBT-2. “Vendors of equipment should cease with immediate effect any further importation and sale of the DVBT1 set top boxes hence forth, must comply with DVB-2 system specification now available from the Digital Kenya Secretariat,” said government when it announced the ban.

    However, Smart TV continues to sell the receivers.  “The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission should protect the public from the said traders,” Ms Wangeci said in correspondence seen by the Business Daily.

    However, Kenya Digital secretariat which is in charge of the implementation of the switch from analogue to digital said there is nothing wrong with Smart TV continuing to sell its set top boxes it brought in the country before the ban.

    “There is nothing wrong with Smart TV selling its set to boxes as the country has not fully switched to the advanced technology which will happen on June 2012, ” said a source at the digital secretariat who declined to be named as he is not the official spokesperson.

    The government has warned consumers against buying devices that are not compatible with the new digital platform. “Those who have already purchased are advised to continue using them until June 2012 when the country shall exclusively switch over to the DVBT2 platform in 2012, ” read the statement from the government.

    However, Dan Kagwe, the Chief Executive of Next Generation Broadcasting, has dismissed Ms Wangeci’s allegations that consumers will lose their money by investing in the set top boxes.

    “At a consumer level they can still be able to access the digital signals using our set top boxes and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Mr Kagwe. “Come 2012, what will happen is that set top boxes on the lower version will be able to read the channels on the superior platform,” he said.

  • Sanogo Aboubakar and Kangbe Yayoro Charles Lopez, pro-Ouattara of the Television Notre Patrie (TVN) in Bouake, the second largest city in Cote d’Ivoire, have been detained by security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo since their arrest on January 28, 2011.

    The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the two journalists were picked up at the airbase of the Liaison Transport Air Group in Abidjan where they were to board a flight belonging to the United Nations Operations in Cote d’Ivoire (ONUCI) to cover story at the Golf hotel, the seat of government of the internationally recogined president, Alhassane Ouattara in Abidjan.

    The correspondent said the two Abubakar and Lopez who are yet to be released were accused described in the pro-Gbagbo media as being rebels Forces Nouvelles who are controlling the northern part of the country.

    In a statement issued on January 29, the Ivorian Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CIPJ) condemned the arrest and subsequent detention of the two journalists and called for their unconditional release. CIPJ also appealed to the international media to help secure the release of the two journalists.

  • Digital Broadcasting is upon us and with a vengeance. High Definition, Broadband, Digital terrestrial Broadcasting, IPTV and Mobile. BOBTV 2011 will mark the eighth edition of the African Film and Television Programmes Expo and Market. The theme Chosen for 2011 is 'New Media'. This reflects the realities of the convergence enabled by digital delivery channel that have redefined the media content industry.

    Each year, BobTV welcomes visitors and delegates from all over the world, to a five-day fiesta, of premieres, workshops, conferences, markets and shows. We are happy with the attendance figures at the 7th market. BobTV 2010 attracted a total of 3,704 delegates, a seven per cent increase in comparison to 2009. This figure was surpassed only once before in the history of the market, when 4,786 participants attended in 2007. Participating companies were at a record of 58, from 13 different countries - an 11 per cent increase when compared to 45 companies from the previous year. Also, the good news for producers was that there were 350 acquisition heads in comparison to 2009 and the number of buyers present in Abuja posted a rise of seven per cent.

  • Balancing Act’s new report Data Centres in Africa reveals that the continent now has 108 shared commercial data centre in various locations. The report indicates that the facilities are already running or set to open for business in the next few months.

    Local telecoms service providers, content aggregators and media owners will soon be able to start offering new video solutions: VOD, IPTV, webTV, video e-commerce portals, and video sharing and uploading - where telecoms networks allow it.

    Local hosting solutions that data centres enable also introduce the concept of better film preservation to private and public institutions such as African TV stations that have large collections of current affairs videos and motion picture films but lack information about how to take care of them. Films preserved are digitized and can then be re-used in education, or sold to be inserted in new film production. Old films can then be seen widely through screenings, exhibits, DVDs, televisions broadcasts, and the Internet. Governments, public or private TV stations and national history foundations should be the primary clients for those audiovisual archiving services.

    This comes at the time when the need to keep filmed reports archived for future generations becomes urgent. In several African countries, national TV stations often can’t provide their archives because these were either destroyed or damaged.

    If these video solutions take place across the continent, the outcome will be a much greater strain on local data centre servers, thus creating demand for added space. It should also translate into more clients and revenues for media companies to support their business cases.

    But data centres can also enable several other applications in most sectors such as IT hosting, agriculture, health, entertainment and game, social networking and more…

    The arrival of several international cables on both sides of the continent was what set the stage for growth in Africa's data centre market. Several new undersea cables will land at points along the continent in the next few years, in addition to current cables Seacom and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System. These include the West Africa Cable System, Main One and the Africa Coast to Europe cable.

    Balancing-Act says data centres are a key ingredient of the nascent telecoms, IT and media infrastructure in Africa. “In 2011, the outlook for the growing data centre market in Africa is very promising” wrote Pablo Diantina, data centre expert and co-author of the report.

    According to the research, some parts of Africa, such as SA, are seeing a “booming” data centre market in anticipation of cables that will land shortly. However, says Balancing-Act, several regions on the continent are still untapped, despite growth in demand for data centre services. Balancing Act says Africa can benefit from a growing demand, as Internet traffic from Africa grows due to lower connectivity costs, thanks to the new cables.

    More Internet traffic will drive Internet companies to localise some of their operations in Africa instead of using facilities in Europe or in North America. Balancing-Act says a move to cloud computing and the need to trim costs through outsourcing will also drive demand for data centres. Regulatory changes that will require data to be stored in-country are another growth driver, the report cites.

    Researchers spent seven months closing the report because it was really hard to identify where these data centres were. It took three researchers going through Balancing Act’s network and engaging on social networks such as LinkedIn to identify the shared facilities. Only a few data centres – especially in South Africa and in Egypt – are visible on the net.

    More information on the report's content are available on the following link

    To purchase the report online click here

  • 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.
    http://www.ccm.ma/fnf12/index.html

    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#

    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.
    http://www.berlinale.de

    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

    26 February - 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
    http://www.fespaco.bf/

    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
    click for details

    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 - 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

    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/ -


    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.
    More info 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.
    http://www.africanfilmny.org/index.html

    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
    http://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

    Venue: Tarifa, Spain
    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

    3 - 8 Octobre 2011
    « Festival du Court Métrage Méditerranéen de Tanger »

    Venue: Tangier, Morocco
    A festival focused on short films.
    E-mail : ccm@menara.ma


    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, 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/

    Dec 2011 (final date tba)
    Festival International du Film de Marrakech

    Venue : Marrakech, Morocco
    http://www.ccm.ma/inter/festival.html

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

    http://www.cineazrou.org

  • In Dakar, Senegal, President Abdoulaye Wade was present at a meeting with the “Conseil des diffuseurs et éditeurs de presse du Sénégal (CDEPS)”, mid-Jan 2011. He asked Senegalese televisions to "moderate the broadcast of some dances that border on obscenity" and to refocus on information, education and life’s realities.

    In Tunisia, Hannibal TV’s owner and his son have been released on Jan 25 2011. Larbi Nasra, who founded private television channel Hannibal TV wondered out loud why his TV channel had been shut down. He said the key objectives of his channel was to participate in the liberalization of information in Tunisia, to get closer to the average citizen and to address social issues. His channel has now resumed broadcasting.

    Management of Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC) has directed its Director of News, Radio Services, Smollete Shittu-Alamu, to proceed on an indefinite suspension without pay for anchoring what was tagged “embarrassing news” to the state government.

  • Last call for entry – Apply by 25 February 2011-01-27
    The Tarifa African Film Festival.

    The 8th African Film Festival of Tarifa (www.fcat.es) will take place from June 11th to June 19th, 2011, in Tarifa-Cadix (Spain).

    The Festival will propose three competition sections, which includes “The African Dream” (feature films), “On the other side of the Strait” (documentaries), and “Africa in Short” (short films).

    “Open Screen”, a selection of the best and more diverse films; “Africa in Rhythm”, selection of films about African music and/or dance, “Animafrica”, a selection of full-length animation films, will be the sections out of competition sections.

    Finally and as usual, the festival will present several thematic and monographic retrospectives: “Monographic Abdellatif Ben Ammar” (complete filmography of the Tunisian filmmaker) ; “Cinema and the City” (The African city seen through cinema); the two “Special Nights”, devoted to Moroccan Documentary and Congolese cinema, and the traditional “African Diaspora in Latin America”.

    The festival is sponsored by the Spanish government.

    For more information: http://www.fcat.es
    Application form:
    Festival de Cine Africano
    Calle Montecarmelo, 5 bajo
    41011 Sevilla
    ESPAÑA
    T: +34 954 27 28 00

    Over the FESPACO brief held in Paris back in Jan. 2011, the « Union Internationale des Journalistes Africains » (UIJA) urged film makers to represent the reality of African government people, issues about the Diaspora over the recent years and further developments related to a better education for young African people. UIJA is based in Paris and its head, Lanciné Camara is also the director of a publication called “Le Devoir Africain”.

    In Tunisia, to set up effective communication with Tunisian journalists, from their different positions, and ease access for them to needed information, as quickly as possible, the Communication Ministry announces that a toll-free number /80 107 000/ has been made available for journalists seeking information or clarifications to help them discharge their mission under best conditions.

    In SA, the 4th Talent Campus Durban calls for filmmaker applications. The event will take place from 22-26 July 2011, during the 32nd Durban International Film Festival (21-31 July).

    The deadline for the submissions for the second annual Durban FilmMart is looming. Set to take place in Durban from 22-26 July 2011, during the 32nd edition of the Durban International Film Festival, the closing date for entries is 15 February 2011.

    The premier documentary Festival in the African region, Encounters South African International Documentary Festival is proud to announce its 13th edition.

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  • Many crystal-ball gazers in 2011 point to what they see as the low penetration rates of African mobile telephony as an indication that there is plenty of room for future growth in the sector. On the face of it, the statistics for individual countries give some support to these optimistic prognostications. Taking the overall population as the potential target market, the penetration rate of mobile telephony in Uganda is now only 35%, while in Liberia, it was around 31% in 2009. In Cameroon, where MTN and Orange have a duopoly, the penetration rate was around 38% in June 2010. In Kenya, it just passed the magic 50% level at around this time, while in Rwanda, it was about 25% in early 2010. It is nonetheless worth asking whether it is realistic to infer vigorous future growth on the back of calculations that see the whole population as a vast untapped market. Isabelle Gross cautions that for the foreseeable future, other factors, such as demographics and related economic aspects will keep penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa lower than those in developed countries. This in turn implies both opportunities and challenges for African telcos.

    In Liberia, which has a population of about 3.5 million and a mobile phone penetration rate of around 31%, the Johnson Sirleaf-led Government organised a census in 2008: the first after two decades of civil war. This exercise revealed a striking "youth bulge" in the population structure: 42% of the total population, or around 1,458,072 people, were less than 15 years old; 54% were aged between 15 et 64; while less than 4% (118,111 people) were in the 64+ age group. In Kenya, where a 2009 census put the overall population at 38,610,097, the age structure is almost identical. Almost 43% of the total population, or around 16.5 million inhabitants, were less than 15 years old; a little more than 55%, or around 20.6 million fell into the 15-64 bracket, while less than 4% (1.3 million) were older than 65.

    The situation in Senegal is not very different. The last census, carried out in 2002, showed that 55% of the population were less than 19 years old, while 43% were aged between 20 and 69. These few examples demonstrate the preponderance of youth in the demographic make-up of African countries: a position which is in marked contrast to that in developed nations, where populations are clearly ageing. In France, where I was born, the population stood at 62.8 million in 2010. Detailed statistics provided by INSEE reveal that only 19% of this total, or 11.5 million, were less than 15 years of age. In the country where I live – the UK – the position is similar: in 2009, the total population was 61.8 million, of which only 18.6% were less than 15 years old. As a percentage of the overall population, in Sub-Saharan Africa there are more than twice as many under-15s as there are in developed countries.

    This contrast means that it is not realistic to expect the progress of mobile telephony in Africa to follow an identical path to that in the developed world. In particular, the fact that many African families do not have the money to send their children to school, let alone buy them phones, puts a major question mark over the conventional model for mobile telephony penetration. In interview in December 2010 with local newspaper New Vision, Themba Khumalo, the CEO of MTN Uganda said “these statistics (mobile penetration rate) should be read with the knowledge that about 50% of the population are below 15 years and have no spending power. In terms of addressable market, we have gone way above 70% of penetration, we have done well as a country". If one looks again at the statistics described above in the light of the addressable market - in other words, the 15-64 age bracket - it becomes obvious that "true" penetration levels are not as low as many market commentators would have us believe.

    In Kenya, there were a little more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers in June 2010. Comparing this to the total number of 15-64 year olds (20,685,000 according to the 2009 census), one arrives at a true penetration rate of around 100%. In Liberia, there were around one million mobile phone subscribers in 2009, making a mobile penetration rate as a percentage of the overall population of 31%. However, if one re-calculates this rate as a percentage of the addressable market, the figure climbs to 60%. According to the telecoms regulator in Ghana, the NCA, the number of mobile subscribers reached nearly 17 million in October 2010, out of a total population of 24 million. Although there are no detailed demographic data available from 2010, the last census from 2000 found that the 15-64 age bracket made up about 54% of the total population. While the population may have aged somewhat, it seems likely that there were around 13-14 million 15-64 year-olds in 2010. On this basis, it would appear that the mobile penetration rate in Ghana in 2010 has reached the heady heights of 130%.

    One can therefore conclude that penetration levels are higher than would appear at first glance, and that this will present both opportunities and challenges for African telcos. In terms of opportunities, African operators are more or less certain to be able to count on a regular and substantial stream of new young customers, who will be eager to buy a phone and some call credits as soon as they have made a little money. In the meantime, however, the fact that the under-15s make up such a large percentage of the overall population limits the size of the addressable market. And as we have seen, a hard look at the statistics shows that the addressable market in some countries such as Ghana may already be approaching saturation. It will be interesting to see what commercial and marketing strategies the telcos can adopt to attract children to the world of mobile telephony when their parents have barely enough money to pay for basic schooling.

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telecoms

  • Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, last week said that the commission had not given licence to any operator in Nigeria to do LTE.

    However, Juwah explained that though operators can do LTE on the platform of the 2.3Ghz licence which they already have, it was not as if there was no licence meant specifically for LTE services.

    According to Juwah, NCC deliberately did not want to issue licenses on this platform because it needed to see that 3G services were properly deployed by the operators and the potentials fully harnessed by users before joining the next service level.

    Juwah's explanation was a fall out of questions by ICT journalists in Lagos, on how operators can be assisted to deploy cutting edge services like 4G LTE in the rural areas to help transform their economies. He boasted that he wanted his regime at NCC to be remembered for allowing services achieve full potentials before lumping another one on the users, thereby creating opportunity for half-baked services.

    Juwah, who exuded much confidence as he interacted with ICT reporters for the first time since he assumed office as NCC EVC six months ago, said that as a thorough professional, he believed in allowing users to understand every technology and personally analyse what benefits such technologies can give them before bombarding them with another.

    He said the time to issue licences for LTE was only when the NCC was convinced that users had grown accustomed to the 3G services and needed services that offered more. This is even as he noted that his explanation was not to condemn those who have taken pains to go extra miles in providing the services.

    Juwah noted: "Please understand me, I am not saying that 4G-LTE cannot be deployed by operators now on the platform they already have licence for, but that would only mean doing it on the frequency that it is not internationally specified for. Besides, doing LTE on the 2.3Ghz would cost the operators more. We have not issued license for LTE. You can agree with me that even 3G has not been fully harnessed here."

  • Cell C has been the biggest net beneficiary of mobile number portability. Nearly a quarter of a million consumers have ported their numbers to Cell C’s network since number portability was introduced in November 2006, latest statistics show. Mobile number portability was introduced to allow consumers to switch between cellular networks without losing their telephone numbers.

    The figures, which are not published officially but have been leaked to TechCentral by a source in the telecommunications industry, show that Cell C has won nearly 240 000 subscribers to its network through consumers porting their numbers. At the other end of the spectrum, just over 1 000 people have ported to Telkom’s new mobile network, 8ta. However, 8ta has only been in the market since August 2010. The figures exclude customers who ported, and then ported back to their original operator.

    Since portability was introduced, just over 200,000 people have ported to Vodacom. MTN is in third place with about 130,000 subscribers switching to its network.

    Cell C’s investment in a new national network may have been a factor in the operator convincing customers to port to its network. Also, smaller operators like Cell C tend to benefit more from portability than their bigger rivals.

  • Gamtel last week inaugurated its new 3G services, making it the second telecommunication provider to introduce such services in the country. The inauguration ceremony was held at the Gamtel head office in Banjul.

    The new services -'Nafaa', Express, and Bantaba enable customers to access the Internet in the fastest form anywhere. It is ideal for home and small-scale business that requires broadband speed daily.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Jamal Micknas, the managing director of Gamtel, described the day as historic. He said Gamtel over the years has been working tirelessly to regain its lost glory noting that the coming of the 3G services will enable it provide more Internet services in the country.

    Minister Kah said that the management of Gamtel deemed it necessary to upgrade their network services to their customers. He explained that the upgrading includes a high-speed Internet access; and that the 3G services have different tariffs to meet the diverse customers.

    In a statement read on behalf of the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Alhaji Cham, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure noted that Gamtel, as the leading and first Internet service provider in The Gambia, has paved the way through a level playing field for other service providers to join the Internet market, which has benefited not only Gamtel but the entire nation. "Following the establishment of Gamtel as a government-owned limited liability company, with an authorised share capital of D6 million, there has been a remarkable and significant development in the industry especially with fixed telephone services entirely monopolised by Gamtel," he said.

    He also noted that the monopoly at the time coupled with efficient and effective management of services, culminated in the proliferation of projects on fixed lines expansion and improvement. He emphasised that Gamtel being a fixed line provider, finds it very difficult to compete on voice and data effectively, because of these highly competitive services offered by the mobile service. He continued: "Further to these coping strategies, Gamtel in year 2005 established the first ever CDMA network in The Gambia with wireless voice telephony and data services in the form of wireless broadband internet connection.

    The CDMA network locally known as 'Jamano' services is a complementary network for Gamtel fixed lines which came purposely to rescue the aging fixed line network of the time. This was needed to minimise the downward trend in revenue, due to the fixed nature of the copper network."

    The Communication Minister further went on to state that Gamtel CDMA network like most other GSM operators had 2.5G network and as the need for customers' taste changes, Gamtel did not hesitate to improve on its network to match such customers' needs and expectations, thus an upgrade of the current network of 2.5G to a 3G network with more advanced version of the CDMA system named Release A put in place.

  • Installation of an undersea cable between Brazil and Angola could cost up to US$200 million, the Angolan deputy minister for Telecommunications and Information Technology said in Brasilia Wednesday.

    Aristides Safeca took part in a meeting in the Brazilian capital with Brazilian minister for Communications, Paulo Bernardo, representatives of Angolan consortium Angola Cable and Brazilian telecommunications group Oi. According to Safeca, the project is open to the participation of other business groups, and that the project's feasibility studies would be concluded by the end of the end of the first half of this year.

    Last week, Angolan Minister for Telecommunication and Information Technology, José Carvalho da Rocha, said in Luanda that installation of the new cable, linking South Africa to the United Kingdom, with an anchor point in Angola, could solve some of the country’s telecommunications problems, mainly international data and voice connections.

    The cable will be extended to Angola in February, but services due to be provided based on the terminal stations by project manager Angola Cable will only be available in the first quarter of 2012.

    The project for the new undersea cable is a public-private partnership between the Angolan state, represented by Angola Telecom, and operators Movicel, Unitel, Mundo Sartel and Mstelcom.

internet

  • Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests and physical attacks that journalists suffered while covering demonstrations last week and today in various Egyptian cities. The authorities have been doing everything possible to keep the media at a distance in order prevent the circulation of images of protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak's departure. No TV station was able to film yesterday's big protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

    The authorities began jamming mobile phone communications early yesterday afternoon in places where protesters had gathered in Cairo. Representatives of the Vodafone and Mobile Nile phone companies last week denied any involvement in the disruption of service, blaming the Egyptian authorities.

    The social-networking website Twitter and the livestreaming service Bambuser.com were both blocked. The hashtag #jan25, referring to protest, was widely used on Twitter.

    Access to Facebook was intermittently blocked, with the degree of blocking varying from one ISP to another. Egyptian dissidents and civil society groups have been using Facebook for years to disseminate information and organize protests, including the 6 April 2009 strike.

    Slow Internet connections were reported, especially during attempts to access the online newspapers Al-Badil, Al-Dustour and Al-Masry Al-Youm. Access to Al-Badil and Al-Dustour was subsequently blocked altogether while Al-Masry Al-Youm experienced major problems that prevented it from operating.

    Egypt is on the Reporters Without Borders list of Enemies of the Internet, above all for harassing and arresting bloggers, but it has not as yet set up Internet filtering systems as Tunisia and Iran have done. Many Egyptians posted messages on social networks in the past 24 hours voicing exasperation with the unusual level of censorship and began using proxies and other censorship circumvention tools to access blocked sites see here:

  • The fibre backbone of the City of Johannesburg’s R1bn broadband infastructure project, being built in conjunction with Ericsson SA, should be completed within the next three months.

    BWired, a telecommunications operator set up by the city and Ericsson, is running the project. It’s being managed in collaboration with several small Internet service providers.

    The company began digging trenches and laying its fibre backbone network in April last year. However, the digging was put on hold during the soccer World Cup in June and July and the roll-out only got underway in earnest from August. Since then, BWired has built 300km of fibre in various areas around Johannesburg. Executive director Musa Nkosi says the backbone should be completed in the next three months.

    So far, R240m has been ploughed into the network. Ericsson is funding the bulk of the project, with the City of Johannesburg paying for the physical fibre. Once the backbone has been completed, BWired will begin laying another 700km of fibre, which will ring underserviced areas such as Soweto and Orange Farm.

    Nkosi says the project is well on track to providing Internet access to those areas. “Last mile-access, or final user access, is scheduled for late 2012,” he says. “However, we will have test sites and accounts set up during the last quarter of this year [and] test network topology and the management of the fibre network,” he says.

    The connectivity will be used to connect small businesses and consumers in areas that have not had access to high-speed Internet access before. The company will also host several kiosks for users without access to computers and on-site support.

    Programmes will also be set up at a number of technology hubs in areas such as Soweto and Alexandra, to help school children, adults and business owners develop computer, entrepreneurial and job-seeking skills.

    Johannesburg residents in Sandton and parts of Randburg will already have noticed BWired signboards and workers trenching to lay cable. According to Nkosi, the fibre that is being laid in these areas is being used for its backbone network.

    Part of the plan is to connect the City of Johannesburg’s main offices to branch sites through the metropolitan area.

    Under an agreement, BWired will run the broadband network for the City of Johannesburg for a period of five years after the network is built and will then hand over the telecoms operator to the city.

    Consumers hoping for an alternative access technology to Telkom’s last-mile copper network shouldn’t get too excited, however. The network is aimed mainly at providing access in underserviced areas and not as a direct rival to products from commercial network operators.

    There are no plans to offer fibre-to-the-home; rather last-mile access, where it is exists, will be wireless. To bring affordable access to residents of underserviced areas, BWired has entered agreements with several Internet service providers and hopes to add cheap international capacity, probably through Seacom.

    The City of Johannesburg is also hoping to use Internet access to provide e-government and e-health services to Johannesburg residents.

  • Kenya has the highest number of people accessing Internet facilities and services within the East African Community. According to a study conducted by TNS Research International in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu from September to November 2010, out of a population of 40 million, about four million (10 per cent) have access to the Internet.

    The study, titled "Digital Life" and conducted to establish people's online behaviour and activities, found that in Uganda, out of a population of 33 million, about 3.3 million (10 percent) have a access to the Internet while Tanzania comes last -- out of a population of 42 million, only 672,000 people (1.6 per cent) have had an online experience.

    The study found that based on an adult sample in each of the covered EAC towns, an average of 45 per cent of the urban population have used the Internet, with Kampala having the highest number at 53 per cent; Arusha and Nairobi at 49 per cent; Mombasa at 42 per cent while Dar es Salaam has the least number of people using the Internet at 31 per cent.

    The TNS study revealed that in Kenya, mobile devices and Internet cafes are the primary points of access. The results of the study show that 60 per cent of Kenyans online use mobile phones as compared with those who use PCs at home (29 per cent); PCs at work (33 per cent); and cyber cafes (41 per cent), thereby indicating high potential for growth in the mobile Internet business in Kenya.

    The study found that though e-mail accessing remains the top online activity in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa, usage of Internet for social media and education as well as knowledge access is growing steadily.

    "The demography covered frequent users falling within the 16-60 age bracket, which represents the active online population. The study showed huge growth in Internet use, indicating that once Kenyans get online, they are highly engaged," noted Melissa Baker, TNS Research International's East Africa chief executive.

    However, the study notes that barriers to Internet access -- like lack of Internet-enabled handsets and PCs as well as lack of awareness of the benefits of the Internet -- need to be addressed to raise the level of frequency of accessing Internet services as penetration is still low at between 10 and 15 per cent.

computing

  • The Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) is allegedly embroiled in a new crisis, with a source saying that the main computer server has been hacked into and important details changed and 'distorted'. The information on the server contains the views of Zimbabweans across the country about what they'd like to see in a new constitution.

    This month in Harare COPAC teams began uploading the information gathered during the countrywide outreach meetings, so that it can be ready for analysis. COPAC said the process would take two weeks, but this latest set back might delay it.

    On Tuesday SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa said COPAC discovered that the data had been 'distorted' on Sunday morning but was trying not to divulge this latest problem for fear it would disrupt everything.

    "The server administrator indicated that there was a problem with the server: information which had been uploaded onto the server was mixed up. For instance, you would get information coming from Murhewa appearing at a centre in Bulawayo."

    Muchemwa said that within COPAC it's believed that ZANU PF is behind the hacking of the data to make sure it reflects the party's views, or completely distorts the information so that it is not credible. "Centres which had information which was not actually linking with the interests of ZANU PF, the information was changed and in some instances it was deleted," Muchemwa said.

    It's been reported that information from 3,600 out of about 4,600 centres has been uploaded, and that last week a ZANU PF COPAC official was overheard saying this information so far is not favourable towards their party.

    "This came as a surprise to so many people who heard that information because they had lied to President Mugabe," Muchemwa said. "He believed that the information which had been gathered throughout the whole country was favourable to ZANU PF, especially on the issue of land and resources."

    "But now they are discovering that the survey they (ZANU PF) carried out was misleading for President Mugabe, and they believe within COPAC itself that some elements in ZANU PF could have tampered with the server so that at least the whole process will be rendered null and void," Muchemwa added.

    On Tuesday COPAC co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that some data has gone missing. "Some of the information in the server is missing. The technicians have attributed this to the system failure. What we were doing is to make sure that the teams authenticate the information that they recovered," Mwonzora said.

    It has also been reported that 70 COPAC technicians were fired because of this security breach, but Mwonzora has denied this.

    COPAC has already faced many problems and has been heavily criticised. Its outreach programmes were marred by numerous incidents of violent attacks on civilians and MDC supporters, by ZANU PF militants and war vets. COPAC has also been accused of poor management of funds, with its rapporteurs going unpaid and some being evicted from hotels because bills had not been paid.

  • Camara Rwanda, a social enterprise based in Kigali, has been awarded with 'Most Innovative Development Project Award' by the Global Development Network (GDN).
    The firm received the award during the 12th annual GDN Conference held in Bogota, Colombia last week.

    "With over 250 projects that submitted their proposals, Camara's operation model appealed to the jurors drawn from reputable institutions such as the World Bank, JICA, AUSI-AID and Kenya's Central Bank, as a result of its simple yet self-sustainable approach," said Edward Rwagasore, a senior official at Camara Rwanda.

    Rwagasore added that, Camara's operations focus on establishing e-learning centres in schools across the country. "We are currently working with 33 academic institutions spread across the country, with numbers set to grow. We have set up computer labs in all those schools which are equipped with Camara PCs that are fine-tuned and installed with pre-configured Linux software based on the educational package, Edubuntu," said Rwagasore.

    Camarabuntu, as it is known, is loaded with numerous applications that prove handy in enhancing computer literacy. They include programmes that develop mouse and keyboard skills, interactive software and an offline version of Wikipedia among many other programmes.

    "Schools partnering with Camara Rwanda receive a wide range of support services that include teacher training on ICT usage as a pedagogical tool, technical support on PCs and parts as well as supply of relevant software and material," said Rwagasore.

    He also noted that ownership and responsibility is bestowed on the schools through payment of a levy on the machines. Explaining one of the reasons why his organization emerged best, Rwagasore said that volunteers, drawn from the local youth, are responsible for a lot of what Camara does.

  • A computer laboratory, constructed by MTN, to provide computer skills for the inmates of the Ankaful Prisons Complex, is being wasted, as the inmates are not currently using the computer centre for training, The Chronicle has learnt. The inmates claimed that the computer laboratory had been shut down following its inauguration last year, to the disappointment of the inmates.

    When The Chronicle contacted the Central Regional Prisons Commander, Ahwa Yankey, on Tuesday, he explained that the officer in-charge of the laboratory had been transferred, leading to the temporary stoppage of training. According Yankey, his outfit had found a replacement for the officer who was transferred, to train the inmates.

    Yankey disclosed that the new trainer for the laboratory was competent in the hardware, and would ensure that the inmates also acquired the skills they needed. He told this reporter that not all the inmates were educated, therefore, they select those who are educated, and train them in computer skills.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The World Bank board of directors has approved three major projects for three West African countries, totaling US$71.5 million dollars. The projects are aimed at boosting Information Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and access to services in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe.

    The Republic of Liberia and Sierra Leone will receive line of credits from the World Bank to the tune of US$25.6 million and US$31.0 million, respectively, to boost their ICT communications sectors. The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome will receive a grant of US$ 14.9 million from the Bank for its component of the Central African Backbone Program.

    The money, according to the World Bank, is part of a US$300 million West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP).

    “The projects have two main components. The first component will seek to create an enabling environment through provision of technical assistance and capacity building for legal and regulatory reform; and will develop public private partnership arrangements for the infrastructure to be developed,” noted a World Bank statement issued over the weekend.

    The Bank pointed out that the second component, which focuses on connectivity, will provide financing for the countries' contribution (consortium fee) for participating in the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable on an open access basis, using public private partnerships, leveraging private sector investment, and associated investments.

    The Projects will provide support to modernize legal, regulatory and institutional framework and improve overall competitive environment in the telecommunications sector and improve the viability of public incumbent operators where necessary, to make them more competitive.

    In Sierra Leone, for example, the commercialization of SierraTel, the state-owned telecom operator, and the liberalization of access to the country's international gateway will be supported, while in São Tomé and Príncipe the project will help to introduce competition through the launch of a second global telecommunications operator license to provide fixed and mobile services.

    World Bank Africa Region director for regional integration, Yusupha B. Crookes, added: "the growth of ICTs in Africa has been phenomenal over the past decade. Mobile penetration in particular is astronomical now, with many countries recording as high as 80%. The mobile network now constitutes the largest ever service delivery platform available to reach citizens, and is boosting Africans' ability to connect to the information super highway, thereby, creating opportunities for ordinary people to connect for social, economic and political reasons.”

    Crookes noted: “better days are ahead, as prices drop, broadband improves, internet access scales up, overall quality of communication is enhanced and broader and more innovative applications become available to solve problems facing ordinary people and governments in Africa."

    Last year, the Liberian government through the Ministries of Planning and Economic Affairs, Postal Affairs and the LIBTELCO as well as the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) signed the country onto the broadband connectivity which is expected to be provided by the France Telecom’s ACE cable.

    Liberia needs about US$26 million dollars in order to join this connectivity. It was in this regard that the World Bank and other stakeholders promised to pay the US$26 million.

    The total cost of the project for several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at US$700 million dollars. Construction of infrastructure for this project is expected to be completed in Liberia in 2012, the government said.

    Meanwhile the World Bank says it will provide support to 15 additional countries within Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region to increase the geographical reach of broadband networks and reduce costs of communications services.

    This new Program complements, the Regional Infrastructure Connectivity Program and the Central African Backbone, targets respectively Eastern & Southern African countries (25 eligible countries for a total amount of US$424 million) and Central African Countries (11 eligible countries for a total amount of $215 million).

    The World Bank observed that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe, are countries that currently have some of the highest connectivity costs in the world and are among a handful of countries in West and Central Africa which are not connected to the global network of broadband optical fiber infrastructure.

    The projects will help to bring a major infrastructural revolution as the countries will for the first time be connected to the best of global internet broadband services network as well as develop their national backbone infrastructure for distributing broadband internet to their urban and rural masses.

    Small countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe are typically ignored by private submarine cable consortia who consider their markets as too small and not attractive enough.

    Currently the three countries depend on costly satellite connectivity to the tune of US$4,000-5,000/Mbps per month while those connected to submarine cables can access international capacity at much lower prices as low as US$ 600 in East Africa and US$100 in Morocco. This, coupled with a lack of national backbone infrastructure, has created a difficult environment for expanding availability of Internet services and advanced applications.

  • Safaricom has raised Sh4.5 billion it had targeted through a bond issued last month, boosting the telecommunication company's war chest for making new capital investments to safeguard its market share in a fiercely competitive industry.

    Transaction advisors said the firm had just about hit its target, indicating a high appetite for investment opportunities given the high competition for funds from offers floated in December.

    Treasury, Safaricom, CFC Stanbic Bank, and power firm KPLC all sought to raise an estimated Sh31 billion through bond and rights issue offers last month.

    "We received just about the amount we were seeking," said Nkoregamba Mwebesa, the managing director of CFC Stanbic Financial Services who were lead arrangers of the issue.

    Subscription results of the Sh2.5 billion medium term note issued by CFC Stanbic Bank are yet to be announced. This was the second tranche of a three-note bond that originally opened in 2009 targeting to raise Sh12 billion. The first issue dated November 2009 was oversubscribed.

    The offer sought to raise Sh5 billion, but received applications worth Sh7.5 billion, which the company took up fully by exercising the "green shoe option."

    "The second issue did not attract as many applications mainly due to its timing but it was successful still," said Kabaki Wamwea, an executive director at Dyer and Blair Investment Bank.

    The second half of last year saw heightened fund raising in the capital markets including a KCB Bank rights issue and a Housing Finance corporate bond. The first tranche paid an interest rate of 12.25 per cent, while the second note will be paying less than seven per cent.

    A vicious price war started by Safaricom's main rival Airtel on calling tariffs have put pressure on the firm's dominance as the largest mobile phone service provider. The fluid telephony market has seen the share of Safaricom trade at below the initial offer price of Sh5 for most of the time since the global financial crisis. The government's two-and fifteen-year bonds also issued last month were oversubscribed, netting Sh24.3 billion, but Treasury took up Sh15.2 billion.

  • Neotel’s ability to continue as a going concern has been questioned by its independent auditors, Deloitte & Touche. But CEO Ajay Pandey, speaking to TechCentral in an exclusive interview, says there’s no reason for alarm and insists that the company is broadly meeting the targets set out in its business plan.

    Deloitte & Touche’s warning is contained in Neotel’s 2010 annual report, a copy of which is in TechCentral’s possession. The annual report, submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by its parent, India’s Tata Communications, paints a less than flattering picture of Neotel’s financial position as it prepares a round of retrenchments driven by an internal restructuring. Tata Communications has to submit the annual report under SEC rules.

    Deloitte & Touche warns in its auditors’ report that Neotel’s “recurring losses and shareholders’ deficit raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern”.

    The annual report shows Neotel’s debt is mounting, too. Net debt stood at R5.3bn at the 2010 financial year-end in March, up from R3.1bn a year earlier. Shareholders’ deficit, also known as negative shareholders’ equity, climbed from R782m in 2009 to R1.7bn in 2010.

    But Pandey insists there is no reason for investors or customers to worry and points out that the company is delivering strong top-line growth. He says December was Neotel’s best sales month on record with revenues of about R250m. The growth in revenue will eventually flow through to the bottom line, Pandey says.

    The company will turn Ebitda positive by the second quarter of calendar 2012, he predicts. Ebitda is earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation and is a key measure in evaluating the performance of companies still in their growth and investment phase.

    The annual report shows that at the end of March 2010 Neotel had drawn R3.2bn of R4.4bn in debt facilities available to it from various financial institutions, including Nedbank and Investec. About R1.2bn of those facilities remained. The facilities expire on 30 September 2012. Pandey says Neotel’s bankers remain “fully supportive” of the company and are backing its restructuring programme.

    Neotel had also drawn R2.3bn of R2.9bn in sanctioned funding from shareholders, leaving R633m available from this source of funding at the end of March. Pandey says Neotel was not expected to be profitable yet in terms of its business plan. He says the company is on the right track, despite the restructuring exercise and looming redundancies.

    He emphasises that Deloitte & Touche has not issued a qualified audit, but has simply expressed an “observation” about its ability to continue as a going concern. He says this is common practice in the auditing profession. Neotel continues to enjoy the support of its parent company, Tata Communications, Pandey says, a fact that is borne out by the Indian company’s recent decision to increase its stake to above 50%.

    However, the operator, licensed as the first competitor in fixed lines to Telkom, is clearly facing challenges. On two separate occasions last year it failed to meet targets for Ebitda agreed to with its external funders.

    Pandey says disruptions caused by the soccer World Cup — like other telecoms companies, it was prohibited from working on its network for about three months around the football extravaganza, negatively affecting its ability to deliver on contracts to customers — played a part in its missing the targets. The economic recession also played a role.

    Neotel is not the only telecoms company that has felt the economic pinch, Pandey says, pointing to recent job cuts at MTN, Nashua Mobile and Altech Autopage Cellular. He says the company has not missed any interest payments on its debt. In 2010, Neotel paid R523.9m in interest on loans.

    Of more concern, perhaps, is that Neotel’s cash position fell precipitously in the 2010 financial year. Cash and cash equivalents fell from R433.6m in 2009 to just R64.7m in 2010. But Pandey insists Neotel is not facing a debt trap. In the annual report, Neotel’s directors say they are “satisfied the company has access to adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future”.

    They base this on the fact that the company still had undrawn, committed funding facilities of R1.8bn at its 2010 financial year-end. They also cite the strength of Neotel shareholders Tata Communications and Tata Africa Holdings, which together hold 56% of the company’s equity. The directors say they are confident they can manage the cash outflows stemming from Neotel’s heavy investment in telecoms infrastructure.

    Neotel chief technology officer Angus Hay tells TechCentral that the 2010 financial year was one of heavy investment in infrastructure. This included big spending on undersea cables and data centres. Hay says capital expenditure has now peaked and has begun falling. This will flow through to the bottom line.

    The annual report shows Neotel incurred a loss before tax in 2010 of R1.58bn, growing from losses of R1.03bn in 2009 and R432,3m in 2008. Revenues, however, have surged in the same period, climbing from R1.1bn in 2009 to R1,8bn in 2010. Pandey says Neotel will be a US$1bn-revenue company within three years.

    Neotel generated most of its revenue from enterprise and wholesale services in 2010. This business area contributed R1,.3bn to the company’s R1,8bn in sales. Network services added R280m to the top line, with consumer services contributing R169m.

    Though it’s a small player in the consumer market, Pandey dismisses suggestions that its retail consumer strategy has failed. He says it’s unfair to compare its subscriber numbers — estimated at about 50 000 — to the mobile operators, which have racked up millions of customers. He says Neotel is going after niche consumer markets that are not adequately served by other operators.

    Turning to the planned retrenchments, Pandey says Neotel needs to restructure to address “imbalances in some functions and departments”. He says Neotel is focusing more strongly on providing managed services to clients, and it needs to build capacity in that area. Some staff will be redeployed as part of this process; others will be retrenched. Hay says the retrenchments are as a result of the need to refocus and restructure and are not being driven by the need simply to cut costs.

  • JSE-listed IT services company EOH has acquired Belay, a 200-person IT solutions provider based in Midrand that specialises in Microsoft technology.

    The value of the deal has not been disclosed and the transaction is still subject to approval by the Competition Commission.

    Belay is involved in custom software development, data management, business intelligence, server management, enterprise content magement and other specialist IT areas. The acquisition will give Belay access to a broader customer and skills base and strengthen the company’s empowerment credentials, says Belay CEO George Grimes.

    EOH CEO Asher Bohbot says Belay is will add “significant weight” to the company’s Microsoft and enterprise content management offerings. EOH, a darling among local technology investors, has about 2 300 staff and revenues of over R2bn/year. It listed on the JSE in 1998.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • EriTel, Eritrea’s state-owned incumbent telecoms operator, has completed the first phase of its network expansion and upgrade project, local newspaper Shabait reports. To ease mobile network congestion, the company has constructed additional stations in Asmara, Keren, Mendefera and Massawa, among other areas, while new telephone stations have been installed in Merhano, Tsaeda Kristian, Arbaete Asmera, Bisha, Foro and Massawa to accommodate more customers. Additionally, EriTel is rolling out a third-generation mobile network in order to upgrade data and internet services, and is also considering expanding its 2G network nationwide.

    Prepaid TopUp firm, Seamless has announce the successful launch of MTN Rwanda's Prepaid TopUP Solution on Seamless’ carrier class platform, ERS 360◦.

    South Africa’s mobile operator, Cell C, announced the launch of its online dashboard called MyTools which promises to provide functionality similar to that of Google Voice to Cell C subscribers. The major difference from Google Voice is that it's integrated into an operator, said Lars Reichelt, CEO of Cell C.

Digital Content

  • According to the latest survey on online shopping habits from MasterCard Worldwide, 51% of South Africans who have access to the Internet are shopping online and 75% of those have done so in the past three months.

    While the number of South Africans accessing the Internet to shop online is up 9% from the previous survey, the number of those who made purchases in the last three months has decreased by a marginal 2% from 77% a year ago.

    The survey was conducted from 3 September 2010 to 1 October 2010 and reached 8,500 consumers from 15 markets across APMEA. The survey and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

    In early 2010, South African research company World Wide Worx reported that the number of South Africans with access to the Internet grew by 15% between 2009 and the beginning of 2010 from 4.6m users to 5.3m users with similar growth predicted for the remainder of 2010.

    According to the latest survey by MasterCard, a majority (89%) of South African online shoppers are satisfied with their overall online shopping experience and 73% of active online shoppers intend to make an online purchase in the next six months. Both these figures have shown improvements over the previous year, where satisfaction was 83%, with the likelihood of continued online shopping at 72%.

    South Africans who shop online also feel that making purchases on the Internet is more convenient, user-friendly and easier than walking into a store or ordering from a catalogue or via a call centre.

    "Those who shop online are largely satisfied with their experiences with just over half of South Africa's Internet-connected population logging on to shop online. This presents a great opportunity for MasterCard to leverage on this Internet revolution to bring more people into the online shopping fray," says Dougie Henderson, VP Product Delivery, MasterCard Worldwide in the Middle East & Africa.

    The survey revealed that more people are making use of broadband access technologies. ADSL usage has increased from 55% to 60% while 3G/HSDPA usage increased from 49% to 63%.

    Conversely, the number of users who said that they utilise dial-up dropped substantially from 16% in 2009 to just 6% in 2010.

    Interestingly, respondents who said they use their mobile phones to access the Internet has shown significant growth, climbing from 13% in 2009 to 39% in 2010 - which is the highest score for mobile phone Internet usage across the APMEA region. Singapore follows at 33%, India (25%), Malaysia (20%), Thailand (20%), and UAE (20%)

    This corresponds with extensive changes and upgrades that have been apparent in the South African mobile broadband market throughout much of 2009 and 2010, including increased price competition between the cellular operators, vastly upgraded networks and the growth in smart phones as a handset category.

    This is according to a research study released by World Wide Worx, which revealed that three quarters of South African companies have deployed smart phones within their organisations, compared to almost none two years ago.

    That said, MasterCard survey found that just 11% of online shoppers actually made purchases using their mobile phones and only 13% intend on doing so in the next six months.

    When asked for what purposes respondents accessed the Internet, sending or receiving e-mail (95%) topped the list, followed by browsing for materials for study purposes (74%), checking their bank balance (73%), browsing for leisure (73%) and reading the news (70%). Online shopping was cited by 51% of users.

    According to the latest MasterCard survey, South African online shoppers prefer to plan and research their online purchases in advance, and fewer people are making impulse purchases online. The number of online impulse shoppers dropped substantially from 22% to just 8%.

    The majority of those shopping online (84%) conduct research about their purchases on the Internet before buying, 69% use the merchant or company's website for their research and 57% speak to family or friends beforehand.

    CDs and DVDs are still what South Africa's online shoppers seek out most on the Web with 50% citing so. Closely following CDs and DVDs is the purchase of books and art by 45% of respondents. Airline tickets saw a 1% decline to 43% of online purchases, while movie/concert tickets shot past home appliances and electronics to tie third place with 43%. Home appliances and electronics dropped a substantial 14% to just 29% of online purchases from last year's level of 43%.

    When it comes to payment for online purchases, credit cards are the most widely-preferred payment method online with just under half of the respondents (48%) using this payment method.  Paying using a debit card (29%) is the second most preferred payment method.

    According to 55% of the respondents not shopping online, the number one reason was that they prefer to shop in-store in order to look at the physical product.

    Encouragingly, fears about online safety and security have decreased substantially, dropping to second position from 63% in 2009 to 51% in 2010, while 44% of respondents reported not having a credit card as their reason for not shopping online.

    Interestingly, there was a significant jump from 24% to 41% in the number of respondents who cited "additional administration and delivery charges" as their reasons for not shopping online, while there was also an increase in people who said that they did not find anything online that interested them.

    South Africans who do shop online are quick to offer advice on how online stores can improve their current offerings, and potentially attract new customers.

    At the top of their list of recommendations were:

    1. Continue to enhance payment security and improve users' confidence in online transactions,

    2. Don't charge additional service charges on purchases and

    3. Make websites easier to use.

    "Online shopping has come a long way in South Africa. Access to the Internet is becoming easier and more cost effective, the overall online shopping experience is viewed positively and people are gaining trust in online security.

    "However, online retailers also need to be cognisant of the concerns of and feedback from their customers and continue to improve their offerings to further enhance the overall online shopping experience in order to attract new customers and retain existing ones," Henderson concludes.

  • Ugandans can now check their voting status via their mobile phones, at a cheap cost, across all networks, thanks to the new Electoral Commission service.

    The simple sms sent to 8683 will avail the recipient all details about their voting status as indicted in the voters' register like polling station, district, sub-county and county.

    The Electoral Commission (EC) chairman, Dr Badru Kiggundu launched the service, which cuts across all mobile phone networks, in Kampala yesterday.

    Financed by the US government, the service costs Shs120 on MTN and UTL while Orange and Warid charge Shs220. Airtel charges Shs160 for each sms sent.

    However, the first one million people to send the sms receive the service free of charge, but the subsequent subscribers will be charged.

    All one has to do is text his or her voter identity number to 8683. For the newly-registered voters who have not been given voter numbers, they are required to send the 17 digit number on their registration receipt to 8683.

    One can also get the same service by sending his surname followed by their dates of birth.

    The service, which started yesterday afternoon, will go on until the voting day on February 18. The deputy EC chairman, Mr Joseph Biribonwa, said all political parties shall be availed copies of voters' register at least two weeks to the voting day.

More

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011

    BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa  

    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 For more information please visit  here:

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa
    March 9, 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.
    For more information please visit here:  or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.

    Broadband World Forum MEA
    14-15 March 2011

    Dubai UAE
     
    Network, learn and do business with 750+ decision-makers from across the regional Broadband ecosystem. The conference programme features 60+ visionary speakers presenting across keynote plenary sessions, 4 in-depth technology tracks and a Rural Coverage and Connectivity focus day.  Co-located to the conference is a 35+ stand technology exhibition showcasing some of the region’s latest cutting-edge broadband technologies, applications, solutions and services to hit the market.
    Limited FREE passes for operators and early booking discounts apply to all others.  Register with VIP code: BBM11BAA
    For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011
    4 - 5 April

    Moevenpick 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.  
For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

  • ITU: HIPSSA CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

    Opened positions and requests for proposal:

     - G-3.1 (d) [WA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.1[WA].pdf

    - G-3.1 (d) [EA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.3[EA].pdf

    - G-3.3 (d) [CA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.2[CA].pdf

    - G-3.4 (d) [SA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.4[SA].pdf

    - G-3.5 (d) [INT]: International spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.5[INT].pdf

    - G-3.6 (d) [PM]: Senior international spectrum management expert [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3%206[PM].pdf

    [HIPSSA/G-6] Call for Application related to ICT statistics

    The expert will be responsible for designing regional statistical reports about ICT/telecommunication indicators with a specific focus in regional organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistical reports shall include factsheets for each member country of the identified regional organisations and an aggregated and comparative view for each of the regions.

    To download the job description, please click on the link below or copy the URL in your browser: http://htmlnews.balancingact-africa.com/JD HIPSSA_G-3 6 1 a ST 110128 final _2_ _3_.pdf

    For further information visit the ITU's website.

     

    Google hires across Africa
    Google South Africa is no exception and the company is most likely looking to significantly strengthen its local presence in the country.

    Until fairly recently, Google SA had less than 10 employees, but the local arm has started to grow its workforce and is advertising no less than 15 positions for its Johannesburg office.

    Julie Taylor, Google’s Communications Manager for Sub Saharan Africa, says that Google’s South African office is still small but growing fast. “We expect it to grow by as much as double in size during the coming year, across different functions,” said Taylor.

    The positions advertised for the Google SA office in Bryanston, Johannesburg are as follows:

       1. Account Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       2. Account Manager - Johannesburg
       3. Account Strategist - Johannesburg
       4. Agency Relationship Manager - Johannesburg
       5. Business Development Manager, Southern Africa - Johannesburg
       6. Country Marketing Manager South Africa - Johannesburg
       7. Developer Relations Program Manager - Johannesburg
       8. Human Resources Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       9. Industry Analyst - Johannesburg
      10. Industry Manager - Johannesburg
      11. Legal Counsel, Sub-Saharan Africa - Nairobi, Lagos or Johannesburg
      12. Policy Manager - Johannesburg
      13. Recruiting Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
      14. Sales Engineer - Nairobi, Accra, Lagos or Johannesburg
      15. Training Development Specialist for Africa Programs – Johannesburg

    Google is also growing its African presence with positions advertised at Google offices in Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. For more information on these positions, visit the Google Africa jobs page here:

  • Mobinil and iBwave - Egypt
    Egypt's Mobinil has selected an in-building wireless planning suite from iBwave. The company says that 70% of its calls originating from within buildings, hence the need to improve indoor coverage. "As the demands on our network continue to grow, we firmly believe that expanding our in-building coverage is a key strategy for us to be able to continue delivering that positive experience to our mobile subscribers and strengthen our leading position in Egypt," said Hassan Kabbani, CEO at Mobinil.

  • Côte d’Ivoire:  Michel Hebert has been appointed as the new CEO of mobile operator Comium (Koz) while Dr Nizar Dalloul has been appointed as the chair of the Board.

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  • Many crystal-ball gazers in 2011 point to what they see as the low penetration rates of African mobile telephony as an indication that there is plenty of room for future growth in the sector. On the face of it, the statistics for individual countries give some support to these optimistic prognostications. Taking the overall population as the potential target market, the penetration rate of mobile telephony in Uganda is now only 35%, while in Liberia, it was around 31% in 2009. In Cameroon, where MTN and Orange have a duopoly, the penetration rate was around 38% in June 2010. In Kenya, it just passed the magic 50% level at around this time, while in Rwanda, it was about 25% in early 2010. It is nonetheless worth asking whether it is realistic to infer vigorous future growth on the back of calculations that see the whole population as a vast untapped market. Isabelle Gross cautions that for the foreseeable future, other factors, such as demographics and related economic aspects will keep penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa lower than those in developed countries. This in turn implies both opportunities and challenges for African telcos.

    In Liberia, which has a population of about 3.5 million and a mobile phone penetration rate of around 31%, the Johnson Sirleaf-led Government organised a census in 2008: the first after two decades of civil war. This exercise revealed a striking "youth bulge" in the population structure: 42% of the total population, or around 1,458,072 people, were less than 15 years old; 54% were aged between 15 et 64; while less than 4% (118,111 people) were in the 64+ age group. In Kenya, where a 2009 census put the overall population at 38,610,097, the age structure is almost identical. Almost 43% of the total population, or around 16.5 million inhabitants, were less than 15 years old; a little more than 55%, or around 20.6 million fell into the 15-64 bracket, while less than 4% (1.3 million) were older than 65.

    The situation in Senegal is not very different. The last census, carried out in 2002, showed that 55% of the population were less than 19 years old, while 43% were aged between 20 and 69. These few examples demonstrate the preponderance of youth in the demographic make-up of African countries: a position which is in marked contrast to that in developed nations, where populations are clearly ageing. In France, where I was born, the population stood at 62.8 million in 2010. Detailed statistics provided by INSEE reveal that only 19% of this total, or 11.5 million, were less than 15 years of age. In the country where I live – the UK – the position is similar: in 2009, the total population was 61.8 million, of which only 18.6% were less than 15 years old. As a percentage of the overall population, in Sub-Saharan Africa there are more than twice as many under-15s as there are in developed countries.

    This contrast means that it is not realistic to expect the progress of mobile telephony in Africa to follow an identical path to that in the developed world. In particular, the fact that many African families do not have the money to send their children to school, let alone buy them phones, puts a major question mark over the conventional model for mobile telephony penetration. In interview in December 2010 with local newspaper New Vision, Themba Khumalo, the CEO of MTN Uganda said “these statistics (mobile penetration rate) should be read with the knowledge that about 50% of the population are below 15 years and have no spending power. In terms of addressable market, we have gone way above 70% of penetration, we have done well as a country". If one looks again at the statistics described above in the light of the addressable market - in other words, the 15-64 age bracket - it becomes obvious that "true" penetration levels are not as low as many market commentators would have us believe.

    In Kenya, there were a little more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers in June 2010. Comparing this to the total number of 15-64 year olds (20,685,000 according to the 2009 census), one arrives at a true penetration rate of around 100%. In Liberia, there were around one million mobile phone subscribers in 2009, making a mobile penetration rate as a percentage of the overall population of 31%. However, if one re-calculates this rate as a percentage of the addressable market, the figure climbs to 60%. According to the telecoms regulator in Ghana, the NCA, the number of mobile subscribers reached nearly 17 million in October 2010, out of a total population of 24 million. Although there are no detailed demographic data available from 2010, the last census from 2000 found that the 15-64 age bracket made up about 54% of the total population. While the population may have aged somewhat, it seems likely that there were around 13-14 million 15-64 year-olds in 2010. On this basis, it would appear that the mobile penetration rate in Ghana in 2010 has reached the heady heights of 130%.

    One can therefore conclude that penetration levels are higher than would appear at first glance, and that this will present both opportunities and challenges for African telcos. In terms of opportunities, African operators are more or less certain to be able to count on a regular and substantial stream of new young customers, who will be eager to buy a phone and some call credits as soon as they have made a little money. In the meantime, however, the fact that the under-15s make up such a large percentage of the overall population limits the size of the addressable market. And as we have seen, a hard look at the statistics shows that the addressable market in some countries such as Ghana may already be approaching saturation. It will be interesting to see what commercial and marketing strategies the telcos can adopt to attract children to the world of mobile telephony when their parents have barely enough money to pay for basic schooling.

    NOTE:

    If you want to receive daily news tweets from around the continent, please follow us on Twitter:

    In English: @BalancingActAfr
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telecoms

  • Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, last week said that the commission had not given licence to any operator in Nigeria to do LTE.

    However, Juwah explained that though operators can do LTE on the platform of the 2.3Ghz licence which they already have, it was not as if there was no licence meant specifically for LTE services.

    According to Juwah, NCC deliberately did not want to issue licenses on this platform because it needed to see that 3G services were properly deployed by the operators and the potentials fully harnessed by users before joining the next service level.

    Juwah's explanation was a fall out of questions by ICT journalists in Lagos, on how operators can be assisted to deploy cutting edge services like 4G LTE in the rural areas to help transform their economies. He boasted that he wanted his regime at NCC to be remembered for allowing services achieve full potentials before lumping another one on the users, thereby creating opportunity for half-baked services.

    Juwah, who exuded much confidence as he interacted with ICT reporters for the first time since he assumed office as NCC EVC six months ago, said that as a thorough professional, he believed in allowing users to understand every technology and personally analyse what benefits such technologies can give them before bombarding them with another.

    He said the time to issue licences for LTE was only when the NCC was convinced that users had grown accustomed to the 3G services and needed services that offered more. This is even as he noted that his explanation was not to condemn those who have taken pains to go extra miles in providing the services.

    Juwah noted: "Please understand me, I am not saying that 4G-LTE cannot be deployed by operators now on the platform they already have licence for, but that would only mean doing it on the frequency that it is not internationally specified for. Besides, doing LTE on the 2.3Ghz would cost the operators more. We have not issued license for LTE. You can agree with me that even 3G has not been fully harnessed here."

  • Cell C has been the biggest net beneficiary of mobile number portability. Nearly a quarter of a million consumers have ported their numbers to Cell C’s network since number portability was introduced in November 2006, latest statistics show. Mobile number portability was introduced to allow consumers to switch between cellular networks without losing their telephone numbers.

    The figures, which are not published officially but have been leaked to TechCentral by a source in the telecommunications industry, show that Cell C has won nearly 240 000 subscribers to its network through consumers porting their numbers. At the other end of the spectrum, just over 1 000 people have ported to Telkom’s new mobile network, 8ta. However, 8ta has only been in the market since August 2010. The figures exclude customers who ported, and then ported back to their original operator.

    Since portability was introduced, just over 200,000 people have ported to Vodacom. MTN is in third place with about 130,000 subscribers switching to its network.

    Cell C’s investment in a new national network may have been a factor in the operator convincing customers to port to its network. Also, smaller operators like Cell C tend to benefit more from portability than their bigger rivals.

  • Gamtel last week inaugurated its new 3G services, making it the second telecommunication provider to introduce such services in the country. The inauguration ceremony was held at the Gamtel head office in Banjul.

    The new services -'Nafaa', Express, and Bantaba enable customers to access the Internet in the fastest form anywhere. It is ideal for home and small-scale business that requires broadband speed daily.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Jamal Micknas, the managing director of Gamtel, described the day as historic. He said Gamtel over the years has been working tirelessly to regain its lost glory noting that the coming of the 3G services will enable it provide more Internet services in the country.

    Minister Kah said that the management of Gamtel deemed it necessary to upgrade their network services to their customers. He explained that the upgrading includes a high-speed Internet access; and that the 3G services have different tariffs to meet the diverse customers.

    In a statement read on behalf of the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Alhaji Cham, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure noted that Gamtel, as the leading and first Internet service provider in The Gambia, has paved the way through a level playing field for other service providers to join the Internet market, which has benefited not only Gamtel but the entire nation. "Following the establishment of Gamtel as a government-owned limited liability company, with an authorised share capital of D6 million, there has been a remarkable and significant development in the industry especially with fixed telephone services entirely monopolised by Gamtel," he said.

    He also noted that the monopoly at the time coupled with efficient and effective management of services, culminated in the proliferation of projects on fixed lines expansion and improvement. He emphasised that Gamtel being a fixed line provider, finds it very difficult to compete on voice and data effectively, because of these highly competitive services offered by the mobile service. He continued: "Further to these coping strategies, Gamtel in year 2005 established the first ever CDMA network in The Gambia with wireless voice telephony and data services in the form of wireless broadband internet connection.

    The CDMA network locally known as 'Jamano' services is a complementary network for Gamtel fixed lines which came purposely to rescue the aging fixed line network of the time. This was needed to minimise the downward trend in revenue, due to the fixed nature of the copper network."

    The Communication Minister further went on to state that Gamtel CDMA network like most other GSM operators had 2.5G network and as the need for customers' taste changes, Gamtel did not hesitate to improve on its network to match such customers' needs and expectations, thus an upgrade of the current network of 2.5G to a 3G network with more advanced version of the CDMA system named Release A put in place.

  • Installation of an undersea cable between Brazil and Angola could cost up to US$200 million, the Angolan deputy minister for Telecommunications and Information Technology said in Brasilia Wednesday.

    Aristides Safeca took part in a meeting in the Brazilian capital with Brazilian minister for Communications, Paulo Bernardo, representatives of Angolan consortium Angola Cable and Brazilian telecommunications group Oi. According to Safeca, the project is open to the participation of other business groups, and that the project's feasibility studies would be concluded by the end of the end of the first half of this year.

    Last week, Angolan Minister for Telecommunication and Information Technology, José Carvalho da Rocha, said in Luanda that installation of the new cable, linking South Africa to the United Kingdom, with an anchor point in Angola, could solve some of the country’s telecommunications problems, mainly international data and voice connections.

    The cable will be extended to Angola in February, but services due to be provided based on the terminal stations by project manager Angola Cable will only be available in the first quarter of 2012.

    The project for the new undersea cable is a public-private partnership between the Angolan state, represented by Angola Telecom, and operators Movicel, Unitel, Mundo Sartel and Mstelcom.

internet

  • Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests and physical attacks that journalists suffered while covering demonstrations last week and today in various Egyptian cities. The authorities have been doing everything possible to keep the media at a distance in order prevent the circulation of images of protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak's departure. No TV station was able to film yesterday's big protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

    The authorities began jamming mobile phone communications early yesterday afternoon in places where protesters had gathered in Cairo. Representatives of the Vodafone and Mobile Nile phone companies last week denied any involvement in the disruption of service, blaming the Egyptian authorities.

    The social-networking website Twitter and the livestreaming service Bambuser.com were both blocked. The hashtag #jan25, referring to protest, was widely used on Twitter.

    Access to Facebook was intermittently blocked, with the degree of blocking varying from one ISP to another. Egyptian dissidents and civil society groups have been using Facebook for years to disseminate information and organize protests, including the 6 April 2009 strike.

    Slow Internet connections were reported, especially during attempts to access the online newspapers Al-Badil, Al-Dustour and Al-Masry Al-Youm. Access to Al-Badil and Al-Dustour was subsequently blocked altogether while Al-Masry Al-Youm experienced major problems that prevented it from operating.

    Egypt is on the Reporters Without Borders list of Enemies of the Internet, above all for harassing and arresting bloggers, but it has not as yet set up Internet filtering systems as Tunisia and Iran have done. Many Egyptians posted messages on social networks in the past 24 hours voicing exasperation with the unusual level of censorship and began using proxies and other censorship circumvention tools to access blocked sites see here:

  • The fibre backbone of the City of Johannesburg’s R1bn broadband infastructure project, being built in conjunction with Ericsson SA, should be completed within the next three months.

    BWired, a telecommunications operator set up by the city and Ericsson, is running the project. It’s being managed in collaboration with several small Internet service providers.

    The company began digging trenches and laying its fibre backbone network in April last year. However, the digging was put on hold during the soccer World Cup in June and July and the roll-out only got underway in earnest from August. Since then, BWired has built 300km of fibre in various areas around Johannesburg. Executive director Musa Nkosi says the backbone should be completed in the next three months.

    So far, R240m has been ploughed into the network. Ericsson is funding the bulk of the project, with the City of Johannesburg paying for the physical fibre. Once the backbone has been completed, BWired will begin laying another 700km of fibre, which will ring underserviced areas such as Soweto and Orange Farm.

    Nkosi says the project is well on track to providing Internet access to those areas. “Last mile-access, or final user access, is scheduled for late 2012,” he says. “However, we will have test sites and accounts set up during the last quarter of this year [and] test network topology and the management of the fibre network,” he says.

    The connectivity will be used to connect small businesses and consumers in areas that have not had access to high-speed Internet access before. The company will also host several kiosks for users without access to computers and on-site support.

    Programmes will also be set up at a number of technology hubs in areas such as Soweto and Alexandra, to help school children, adults and business owners develop computer, entrepreneurial and job-seeking skills.

    Johannesburg residents in Sandton and parts of Randburg will already have noticed BWired signboards and workers trenching to lay cable. According to Nkosi, the fibre that is being laid in these areas is being used for its backbone network.

    Part of the plan is to connect the City of Johannesburg’s main offices to branch sites through the metropolitan area.

    Under an agreement, BWired will run the broadband network for the City of Johannesburg for a period of five years after the network is built and will then hand over the telecoms operator to the city.

    Consumers hoping for an alternative access technology to Telkom’s last-mile copper network shouldn’t get too excited, however. The network is aimed mainly at providing access in underserviced areas and not as a direct rival to products from commercial network operators.

    There are no plans to offer fibre-to-the-home; rather last-mile access, where it is exists, will be wireless. To bring affordable access to residents of underserviced areas, BWired has entered agreements with several Internet service providers and hopes to add cheap international capacity, probably through Seacom.

    The City of Johannesburg is also hoping to use Internet access to provide e-government and e-health services to Johannesburg residents.

  • Kenya has the highest number of people accessing Internet facilities and services within the East African Community. According to a study conducted by TNS Research International in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu from September to November 2010, out of a population of 40 million, about four million (10 per cent) have access to the Internet.

    The study, titled "Digital Life" and conducted to establish people's online behaviour and activities, found that in Uganda, out of a population of 33 million, about 3.3 million (10 percent) have a access to the Internet while Tanzania comes last -- out of a population of 42 million, only 672,000 people (1.6 per cent) have had an online experience.

    The study found that based on an adult sample in each of the covered EAC towns, an average of 45 per cent of the urban population have used the Internet, with Kampala having the highest number at 53 per cent; Arusha and Nairobi at 49 per cent; Mombasa at 42 per cent while Dar es Salaam has the least number of people using the Internet at 31 per cent.

    The TNS study revealed that in Kenya, mobile devices and Internet cafes are the primary points of access. The results of the study show that 60 per cent of Kenyans online use mobile phones as compared with those who use PCs at home (29 per cent); PCs at work (33 per cent); and cyber cafes (41 per cent), thereby indicating high potential for growth in the mobile Internet business in Kenya.

    The study found that though e-mail accessing remains the top online activity in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa, usage of Internet for social media and education as well as knowledge access is growing steadily.

    "The demography covered frequent users falling within the 16-60 age bracket, which represents the active online population. The study showed huge growth in Internet use, indicating that once Kenyans get online, they are highly engaged," noted Melissa Baker, TNS Research International's East Africa chief executive.

    However, the study notes that barriers to Internet access -- like lack of Internet-enabled handsets and PCs as well as lack of awareness of the benefits of the Internet -- need to be addressed to raise the level of frequency of accessing Internet services as penetration is still low at between 10 and 15 per cent.

computing

  • The Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) is allegedly embroiled in a new crisis, with a source saying that the main computer server has been hacked into and important details changed and 'distorted'. The information on the server contains the views of Zimbabweans across the country about what they'd like to see in a new constitution.

    This month in Harare COPAC teams began uploading the information gathered during the countrywide outreach meetings, so that it can be ready for analysis. COPAC said the process would take two weeks, but this latest set back might delay it.

    On Tuesday SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa said COPAC discovered that the data had been 'distorted' on Sunday morning but was trying not to divulge this latest problem for fear it would disrupt everything.

    "The server administrator indicated that there was a problem with the server: information which had been uploaded onto the server was mixed up. For instance, you would get information coming from Murhewa appearing at a centre in Bulawayo."

    Muchemwa said that within COPAC it's believed that ZANU PF is behind the hacking of the data to make sure it reflects the party's views, or completely distorts the information so that it is not credible. "Centres which had information which was not actually linking with the interests of ZANU PF, the information was changed and in some instances it was deleted," Muchemwa said.

    It's been reported that information from 3,600 out of about 4,600 centres has been uploaded, and that last week a ZANU PF COPAC official was overheard saying this information so far is not favourable towards their party.

    "This came as a surprise to so many people who heard that information because they had lied to President Mugabe," Muchemwa said. "He believed that the information which had been gathered throughout the whole country was favourable to ZANU PF, especially on the issue of land and resources."

    "But now they are discovering that the survey they (ZANU PF) carried out was misleading for President Mugabe, and they believe within COPAC itself that some elements in ZANU PF could have tampered with the server so that at least the whole process will be rendered null and void," Muchemwa added.

    On Tuesday COPAC co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that some data has gone missing. "Some of the information in the server is missing. The technicians have attributed this to the system failure. What we were doing is to make sure that the teams authenticate the information that they recovered," Mwonzora said.

    It has also been reported that 70 COPAC technicians were fired because of this security breach, but Mwonzora has denied this.

    COPAC has already faced many problems and has been heavily criticised. Its outreach programmes were marred by numerous incidents of violent attacks on civilians and MDC supporters, by ZANU PF militants and war vets. COPAC has also been accused of poor management of funds, with its rapporteurs going unpaid and some being evicted from hotels because bills had not been paid.

  • Camara Rwanda, a social enterprise based in Kigali, has been awarded with 'Most Innovative Development Project Award' by the Global Development Network (GDN).
    The firm received the award during the 12th annual GDN Conference held in Bogota, Colombia last week.

    "With over 250 projects that submitted their proposals, Camara's operation model appealed to the jurors drawn from reputable institutions such as the World Bank, JICA, AUSI-AID and Kenya's Central Bank, as a result of its simple yet self-sustainable approach," said Edward Rwagasore, a senior official at Camara Rwanda.

    Rwagasore added that, Camara's operations focus on establishing e-learning centres in schools across the country. "We are currently working with 33 academic institutions spread across the country, with numbers set to grow. We have set up computer labs in all those schools which are equipped with Camara PCs that are fine-tuned and installed with pre-configured Linux software based on the educational package, Edubuntu," said Rwagasore.

    Camarabuntu, as it is known, is loaded with numerous applications that prove handy in enhancing computer literacy. They include programmes that develop mouse and keyboard skills, interactive software and an offline version of Wikipedia among many other programmes.

    "Schools partnering with Camara Rwanda receive a wide range of support services that include teacher training on ICT usage as a pedagogical tool, technical support on PCs and parts as well as supply of relevant software and material," said Rwagasore.

    He also noted that ownership and responsibility is bestowed on the schools through payment of a levy on the machines. Explaining one of the reasons why his organization emerged best, Rwagasore said that volunteers, drawn from the local youth, are responsible for a lot of what Camara does.

  • A computer laboratory, constructed by MTN, to provide computer skills for the inmates of the Ankaful Prisons Complex, is being wasted, as the inmates are not currently using the computer centre for training, The Chronicle has learnt. The inmates claimed that the computer laboratory had been shut down following its inauguration last year, to the disappointment of the inmates.

    When The Chronicle contacted the Central Regional Prisons Commander, Ahwa Yankey, on Tuesday, he explained that the officer in-charge of the laboratory had been transferred, leading to the temporary stoppage of training. According Yankey, his outfit had found a replacement for the officer who was transferred, to train the inmates.

    Yankey disclosed that the new trainer for the laboratory was competent in the hardware, and would ensure that the inmates also acquired the skills they needed. He told this reporter that not all the inmates were educated, therefore, they select those who are educated, and train them in computer skills.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The World Bank board of directors has approved three major projects for three West African countries, totaling US$71.5 million dollars. The projects are aimed at boosting Information Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and access to services in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe.

    The Republic of Liberia and Sierra Leone will receive line of credits from the World Bank to the tune of US$25.6 million and US$31.0 million, respectively, to boost their ICT communications sectors. The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome will receive a grant of US$ 14.9 million from the Bank for its component of the Central African Backbone Program.

    The money, according to the World Bank, is part of a US$300 million West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP).

    “The projects have two main components. The first component will seek to create an enabling environment through provision of technical assistance and capacity building for legal and regulatory reform; and will develop public private partnership arrangements for the infrastructure to be developed,” noted a World Bank statement issued over the weekend.

    The Bank pointed out that the second component, which focuses on connectivity, will provide financing for the countries' contribution (consortium fee) for participating in the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable on an open access basis, using public private partnerships, leveraging private sector investment, and associated investments.

    The Projects will provide support to modernize legal, regulatory and institutional framework and improve overall competitive environment in the telecommunications sector and improve the viability of public incumbent operators where necessary, to make them more competitive.

    In Sierra Leone, for example, the commercialization of SierraTel, the state-owned telecom operator, and the liberalization of access to the country's international gateway will be supported, while in São Tomé and Príncipe the project will help to introduce competition through the launch of a second global telecommunications operator license to provide fixed and mobile services.

    World Bank Africa Region director for regional integration, Yusupha B. Crookes, added: "the growth of ICTs in Africa has been phenomenal over the past decade. Mobile penetration in particular is astronomical now, with many countries recording as high as 80%. The mobile network now constitutes the largest ever service delivery platform available to reach citizens, and is boosting Africans' ability to connect to the information super highway, thereby, creating opportunities for ordinary people to connect for social, economic and political reasons.”

    Crookes noted: “better days are ahead, as prices drop, broadband improves, internet access scales up, overall quality of communication is enhanced and broader and more innovative applications become available to solve problems facing ordinary people and governments in Africa."

    Last year, the Liberian government through the Ministries of Planning and Economic Affairs, Postal Affairs and the LIBTELCO as well as the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) signed the country onto the broadband connectivity which is expected to be provided by the France Telecom’s ACE cable.

    Liberia needs about US$26 million dollars in order to join this connectivity. It was in this regard that the World Bank and other stakeholders promised to pay the US$26 million.

    The total cost of the project for several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at US$700 million dollars. Construction of infrastructure for this project is expected to be completed in Liberia in 2012, the government said.

    Meanwhile the World Bank says it will provide support to 15 additional countries within Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region to increase the geographical reach of broadband networks and reduce costs of communications services.

    This new Program complements, the Regional Infrastructure Connectivity Program and the Central African Backbone, targets respectively Eastern & Southern African countries (25 eligible countries for a total amount of US$424 million) and Central African Countries (11 eligible countries for a total amount of $215 million).

    The World Bank observed that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe, are countries that currently have some of the highest connectivity costs in the world and are among a handful of countries in West and Central Africa which are not connected to the global network of broadband optical fiber infrastructure.

    The projects will help to bring a major infrastructural revolution as the countries will for the first time be connected to the best of global internet broadband services network as well as develop their national backbone infrastructure for distributing broadband internet to their urban and rural masses.

    Small countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe are typically ignored by private submarine cable consortia who consider their markets as too small and not attractive enough.

    Currently the three countries depend on costly satellite connectivity to the tune of US$4,000-5,000/Mbps per month while those connected to submarine cables can access international capacity at much lower prices as low as US$ 600 in East Africa and US$100 in Morocco. This, coupled with a lack of national backbone infrastructure, has created a difficult environment for expanding availability of Internet services and advanced applications.

  • Safaricom has raised Sh4.5 billion it had targeted through a bond issued last month, boosting the telecommunication company's war chest for making new capital investments to safeguard its market share in a fiercely competitive industry.

    Transaction advisors said the firm had just about hit its target, indicating a high appetite for investment opportunities given the high competition for funds from offers floated in December.

    Treasury, Safaricom, CFC Stanbic Bank, and power firm KPLC all sought to raise an estimated Sh31 billion through bond and rights issue offers last month.

    "We received just about the amount we were seeking," said Nkoregamba Mwebesa, the managing director of CFC Stanbic Financial Services who were lead arrangers of the issue.

    Subscription results of the Sh2.5 billion medium term note issued by CFC Stanbic Bank are yet to be announced. This was the second tranche of a three-note bond that originally opened in 2009 targeting to raise Sh12 billion. The first issue dated November 2009 was oversubscribed.

    The offer sought to raise Sh5 billion, but received applications worth Sh7.5 billion, which the company took up fully by exercising the "green shoe option."

    "The second issue did not attract as many applications mainly due to its timing but it was successful still," said Kabaki Wamwea, an executive director at Dyer and Blair Investment Bank.

    The second half of last year saw heightened fund raising in the capital markets including a KCB Bank rights issue and a Housing Finance corporate bond. The first tranche paid an interest rate of 12.25 per cent, while the second note will be paying less than seven per cent.

    A vicious price war started by Safaricom's main rival Airtel on calling tariffs have put pressure on the firm's dominance as the largest mobile phone service provider. The fluid telephony market has seen the share of Safaricom trade at below the initial offer price of Sh5 for most of the time since the global financial crisis. The government's two-and fifteen-year bonds also issued last month were oversubscribed, netting Sh24.3 billion, but Treasury took up Sh15.2 billion.

  • Neotel’s ability to continue as a going concern has been questioned by its independent auditors, Deloitte & Touche. But CEO Ajay Pandey, speaking to TechCentral in an exclusive interview, says there’s no reason for alarm and insists that the company is broadly meeting the targets set out in its business plan.

    Deloitte & Touche’s warning is contained in Neotel’s 2010 annual report, a copy of which is in TechCentral’s possession. The annual report, submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by its parent, India’s Tata Communications, paints a less than flattering picture of Neotel’s financial position as it prepares a round of retrenchments driven by an internal restructuring. Tata Communications has to submit the annual report under SEC rules.

    Deloitte & Touche warns in its auditors’ report that Neotel’s “recurring losses and shareholders’ deficit raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern”.

    The annual report shows Neotel’s debt is mounting, too. Net debt stood at R5.3bn at the 2010 financial year-end in March, up from R3.1bn a year earlier. Shareholders’ deficit, also known as negative shareholders’ equity, climbed from R782m in 2009 to R1.7bn in 2010.

    But Pandey insists there is no reason for investors or customers to worry and points out that the company is delivering strong top-line growth. He says December was Neotel’s best sales month on record with revenues of about R250m. The growth in revenue will eventually flow through to the bottom line, Pandey says.

    The company will turn Ebitda positive by the second quarter of calendar 2012, he predicts. Ebitda is earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation and is a key measure in evaluating the performance of companies still in their growth and investment phase.

    The annual report shows that at the end of March 2010 Neotel had drawn R3.2bn of R4.4bn in debt facilities available to it from various financial institutions, including Nedbank and Investec. About R1.2bn of those facilities remained. The facilities expire on 30 September 2012. Pandey says Neotel’s bankers remain “fully supportive” of the company and are backing its restructuring programme.

    Neotel had also drawn R2.3bn of R2.9bn in sanctioned funding from shareholders, leaving R633m available from this source of funding at the end of March. Pandey says Neotel was not expected to be profitable yet in terms of its business plan. He says the company is on the right track, despite the restructuring exercise and looming redundancies.

    He emphasises that Deloitte & Touche has not issued a qualified audit, but has simply expressed an “observation” about its ability to continue as a going concern. He says this is common practice in the auditing profession. Neotel continues to enjoy the support of its parent company, Tata Communications, Pandey says, a fact that is borne out by the Indian company’s recent decision to increase its stake to above 50%.

    However, the operator, licensed as the first competitor in fixed lines to Telkom, is clearly facing challenges. On two separate occasions last year it failed to meet targets for Ebitda agreed to with its external funders.

    Pandey says disruptions caused by the soccer World Cup — like other telecoms companies, it was prohibited from working on its network for about three months around the football extravaganza, negatively affecting its ability to deliver on contracts to customers — played a part in its missing the targets. The economic recession also played a role.

    Neotel is not the only telecoms company that has felt the economic pinch, Pandey says, pointing to recent job cuts at MTN, Nashua Mobile and Altech Autopage Cellular. He says the company has not missed any interest payments on its debt. In 2010, Neotel paid R523.9m in interest on loans.

    Of more concern, perhaps, is that Neotel’s cash position fell precipitously in the 2010 financial year. Cash and cash equivalents fell from R433.6m in 2009 to just R64.7m in 2010. But Pandey insists Neotel is not facing a debt trap. In the annual report, Neotel’s directors say they are “satisfied the company has access to adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future”.

    They base this on the fact that the company still had undrawn, committed funding facilities of R1.8bn at its 2010 financial year-end. They also cite the strength of Neotel shareholders Tata Communications and Tata Africa Holdings, which together hold 56% of the company’s equity. The directors say they are confident they can manage the cash outflows stemming from Neotel’s heavy investment in telecoms infrastructure.

    Neotel chief technology officer Angus Hay tells TechCentral that the 2010 financial year was one of heavy investment in infrastructure. This included big spending on undersea cables and data centres. Hay says capital expenditure has now peaked and has begun falling. This will flow through to the bottom line.

    The annual report shows Neotel incurred a loss before tax in 2010 of R1.58bn, growing from losses of R1.03bn in 2009 and R432,3m in 2008. Revenues, however, have surged in the same period, climbing from R1.1bn in 2009 to R1,8bn in 2010. Pandey says Neotel will be a US$1bn-revenue company within three years.

    Neotel generated most of its revenue from enterprise and wholesale services in 2010. This business area contributed R1,.3bn to the company’s R1,8bn in sales. Network services added R280m to the top line, with consumer services contributing R169m.

    Though it’s a small player in the consumer market, Pandey dismisses suggestions that its retail consumer strategy has failed. He says it’s unfair to compare its subscriber numbers — estimated at about 50 000 — to the mobile operators, which have racked up millions of customers. He says Neotel is going after niche consumer markets that are not adequately served by other operators.

    Turning to the planned retrenchments, Pandey says Neotel needs to restructure to address “imbalances in some functions and departments”. He says Neotel is focusing more strongly on providing managed services to clients, and it needs to build capacity in that area. Some staff will be redeployed as part of this process; others will be retrenched. Hay says the retrenchments are as a result of the need to refocus and restructure and are not being driven by the need simply to cut costs.

  • JSE-listed IT services company EOH has acquired Belay, a 200-person IT solutions provider based in Midrand that specialises in Microsoft technology.

    The value of the deal has not been disclosed and the transaction is still subject to approval by the Competition Commission.

    Belay is involved in custom software development, data management, business intelligence, server management, enterprise content magement and other specialist IT areas. The acquisition will give Belay access to a broader customer and skills base and strengthen the company’s empowerment credentials, says Belay CEO George Grimes.

    EOH CEO Asher Bohbot says Belay is will add “significant weight” to the company’s Microsoft and enterprise content management offerings. EOH, a darling among local technology investors, has about 2 300 staff and revenues of over R2bn/year. It listed on the JSE in 1998.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • EriTel, Eritrea’s state-owned incumbent telecoms operator, has completed the first phase of its network expansion and upgrade project, local newspaper Shabait reports. To ease mobile network congestion, the company has constructed additional stations in Asmara, Keren, Mendefera and Massawa, among other areas, while new telephone stations have been installed in Merhano, Tsaeda Kristian, Arbaete Asmera, Bisha, Foro and Massawa to accommodate more customers. Additionally, EriTel is rolling out a third-generation mobile network in order to upgrade data and internet services, and is also considering expanding its 2G network nationwide.

    Prepaid TopUp firm, Seamless has announce the successful launch of MTN Rwanda's Prepaid TopUP Solution on Seamless’ carrier class platform, ERS 360◦.

    South Africa’s mobile operator, Cell C, announced the launch of its online dashboard called MyTools which promises to provide functionality similar to that of Google Voice to Cell C subscribers. The major difference from Google Voice is that it's integrated into an operator, said Lars Reichelt, CEO of Cell C.

Digital Content

  • According to the latest survey on online shopping habits from MasterCard Worldwide, 51% of South Africans who have access to the Internet are shopping online and 75% of those have done so in the past three months.

    While the number of South Africans accessing the Internet to shop online is up 9% from the previous survey, the number of those who made purchases in the last three months has decreased by a marginal 2% from 77% a year ago.

    The survey was conducted from 3 September 2010 to 1 October 2010 and reached 8,500 consumers from 15 markets across APMEA. The survey and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

    In early 2010, South African research company World Wide Worx reported that the number of South Africans with access to the Internet grew by 15% between 2009 and the beginning of 2010 from 4.6m users to 5.3m users with similar growth predicted for the remainder of 2010.

    According to the latest survey by MasterCard, a majority (89%) of South African online shoppers are satisfied with their overall online shopping experience and 73% of active online shoppers intend to make an online purchase in the next six months. Both these figures have shown improvements over the previous year, where satisfaction was 83%, with the likelihood of continued online shopping at 72%.

    South Africans who shop online also feel that making purchases on the Internet is more convenient, user-friendly and easier than walking into a store or ordering from a catalogue or via a call centre.

    "Those who shop online are largely satisfied with their experiences with just over half of South Africa's Internet-connected population logging on to shop online. This presents a great opportunity for MasterCard to leverage on this Internet revolution to bring more people into the online shopping fray," says Dougie Henderson, VP Product Delivery, MasterCard Worldwide in the Middle East & Africa.

    The survey revealed that more people are making use of broadband access technologies. ADSL usage has increased from 55% to 60% while 3G/HSDPA usage increased from 49% to 63%.

    Conversely, the number of users who said that they utilise dial-up dropped substantially from 16% in 2009 to just 6% in 2010.

    Interestingly, respondents who said they use their mobile phones to access the Internet has shown significant growth, climbing from 13% in 2009 to 39% in 2010 - which is the highest score for mobile phone Internet usage across the APMEA region. Singapore follows at 33%, India (25%), Malaysia (20%), Thailand (20%), and UAE (20%)

    This corresponds with extensive changes and upgrades that have been apparent in the South African mobile broadband market throughout much of 2009 and 2010, including increased price competition between the cellular operators, vastly upgraded networks and the growth in smart phones as a handset category.

    This is according to a research study released by World Wide Worx, which revealed that three quarters of South African companies have deployed smart phones within their organisations, compared to almost none two years ago.

    That said, MasterCard survey found that just 11% of online shoppers actually made purchases using their mobile phones and only 13% intend on doing so in the next six months.

    When asked for what purposes respondents accessed the Internet, sending or receiving e-mail (95%) topped the list, followed by browsing for materials for study purposes (74%), checking their bank balance (73%), browsing for leisure (73%) and reading the news (70%). Online shopping was cited by 51% of users.

    According to the latest MasterCard survey, South African online shoppers prefer to plan and research their online purchases in advance, and fewer people are making impulse purchases online. The number of online impulse shoppers dropped substantially from 22% to just 8%.

    The majority of those shopping online (84%) conduct research about their purchases on the Internet before buying, 69% use the merchant or company's website for their research and 57% speak to family or friends beforehand.

    CDs and DVDs are still what South Africa's online shoppers seek out most on the Web with 50% citing so. Closely following CDs and DVDs is the purchase of books and art by 45% of respondents. Airline tickets saw a 1% decline to 43% of online purchases, while movie/concert tickets shot past home appliances and electronics to tie third place with 43%. Home appliances and electronics dropped a substantial 14% to just 29% of online purchases from last year's level of 43%.

    When it comes to payment for online purchases, credit cards are the most widely-preferred payment method online with just under half of the respondents (48%) using this payment method.  Paying using a debit card (29%) is the second most preferred payment method.

    According to 55% of the respondents not shopping online, the number one reason was that they prefer to shop in-store in order to look at the physical product.

    Encouragingly, fears about online safety and security have decreased substantially, dropping to second position from 63% in 2009 to 51% in 2010, while 44% of respondents reported not having a credit card as their reason for not shopping online.

    Interestingly, there was a significant jump from 24% to 41% in the number of respondents who cited "additional administration and delivery charges" as their reasons for not shopping online, while there was also an increase in people who said that they did not find anything online that interested them.

    South Africans who do shop online are quick to offer advice on how online stores can improve their current offerings, and potentially attract new customers.

    At the top of their list of recommendations were:

    1. Continue to enhance payment security and improve users' confidence in online transactions,

    2. Don't charge additional service charges on purchases and

    3. Make websites easier to use.

    "Online shopping has come a long way in South Africa. Access to the Internet is becoming easier and more cost effective, the overall online shopping experience is viewed positively and people are gaining trust in online security.

    "However, online retailers also need to be cognisant of the concerns of and feedback from their customers and continue to improve their offerings to further enhance the overall online shopping experience in order to attract new customers and retain existing ones," Henderson concludes.

  • Ugandans can now check their voting status via their mobile phones, at a cheap cost, across all networks, thanks to the new Electoral Commission service.

    The simple sms sent to 8683 will avail the recipient all details about their voting status as indicted in the voters' register like polling station, district, sub-county and county.

    The Electoral Commission (EC) chairman, Dr Badru Kiggundu launched the service, which cuts across all mobile phone networks, in Kampala yesterday.

    Financed by the US government, the service costs Shs120 on MTN and UTL while Orange and Warid charge Shs220. Airtel charges Shs160 for each sms sent.

    However, the first one million people to send the sms receive the service free of charge, but the subsequent subscribers will be charged.

    All one has to do is text his or her voter identity number to 8683. For the newly-registered voters who have not been given voter numbers, they are required to send the 17 digit number on their registration receipt to 8683.

    One can also get the same service by sending his surname followed by their dates of birth.

    The service, which started yesterday afternoon, will go on until the voting day on February 18. The deputy EC chairman, Mr Joseph Biribonwa, said all political parties shall be availed copies of voters' register at least two weeks to the voting day.

More

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011

    BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa  

    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 For more information please visit  here:

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa
    March 9, 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.
    For more information please visit here:  or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.

    Broadband World Forum MEA
    14-15 March 2011

    Dubai UAE
     
    Network, learn and do business with 750+ decision-makers from across the regional Broadband ecosystem. The conference programme features 60+ visionary speakers presenting across keynote plenary sessions, 4 in-depth technology tracks and a Rural Coverage and Connectivity focus day.  Co-located to the conference is a 35+ stand technology exhibition showcasing some of the region’s latest cutting-edge broadband technologies, applications, solutions and services to hit the market.
    Limited FREE passes for operators and early booking discounts apply to all others.  Register with VIP code: BBM11BAA
    For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011
    4 - 5 April

    Moevenpick 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.  
For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

  • ITU: HIPSSA CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

    Opened positions and requests for proposal:

     - G-3.1 (d) [WA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.1[WA].pdf

    - G-3.1 (d) [EA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.3[EA].pdf

    - G-3.3 (d) [CA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.2[CA].pdf

    - G-3.4 (d) [SA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.4[SA].pdf

    - G-3.5 (d) [INT]: International spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.5[INT].pdf

    - G-3.6 (d) [PM]: Senior international spectrum management expert [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3%206[PM].pdf

    [HIPSSA/G-6] Call for Application related to ICT statistics

    The expert will be responsible for designing regional statistical reports about ICT/telecommunication indicators with a specific focus in regional organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistical reports shall include factsheets for each member country of the identified regional organisations and an aggregated and comparative view for each of the regions.

    To download the job description, please click on the link below or copy the URL in your browser: http://htmlnews.balancingact-africa.com/JD HIPSSA_G-3 6 1 a ST 110128 final _2_ _3_.pdf

    For further information visit the ITU's website.

     

    Google hires across Africa
    Google South Africa is no exception and the company is most likely looking to significantly strengthen its local presence in the country.

    Until fairly recently, Google SA had less than 10 employees, but the local arm has started to grow its workforce and is advertising no less than 15 positions for its Johannesburg office.

    Julie Taylor, Google’s Communications Manager for Sub Saharan Africa, says that Google’s South African office is still small but growing fast. “We expect it to grow by as much as double in size during the coming year, across different functions,” said Taylor.

    The positions advertised for the Google SA office in Bryanston, Johannesburg are as follows:

       1. Account Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       2. Account Manager - Johannesburg
       3. Account Strategist - Johannesburg
       4. Agency Relationship Manager - Johannesburg
       5. Business Development Manager, Southern Africa - Johannesburg
       6. Country Marketing Manager South Africa - Johannesburg
       7. Developer Relations Program Manager - Johannesburg
       8. Human Resources Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       9. Industry Analyst - Johannesburg
      10. Industry Manager - Johannesburg
      11. Legal Counsel, Sub-Saharan Africa - Nairobi, Lagos or Johannesburg
      12. Policy Manager - Johannesburg
      13. Recruiting Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
      14. Sales Engineer - Nairobi, Accra, Lagos or Johannesburg
      15. Training Development Specialist for Africa Programs – Johannesburg

    Google is also growing its African presence with positions advertised at Google offices in Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. For more information on these positions, visit the Google Africa jobs page here:

  • Mobinil and iBwave - Egypt
    Egypt's Mobinil has selected an in-building wireless planning suite from iBwave. The company says that 70% of its calls originating from within buildings, hence the need to improve indoor coverage. "As the demands on our network continue to grow, we firmly believe that expanding our in-building coverage is a key strategy for us to be able to continue delivering that positive experience to our mobile subscribers and strengthen our leading position in Egypt," said Hassan Kabbani, CEO at Mobinil.

  • Côte d’Ivoire:  Michel Hebert has been appointed as the new CEO of mobile operator Comium (Koz) while Dr Nizar Dalloul has been appointed as the chair of the Board.

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  • Many crystal-ball gazers in 2011 point to what they see as the low penetration rates of African mobile telephony as an indication that there is plenty of room for future growth in the sector. On the face of it, the statistics for individual countries give some support to these optimistic prognostications. Taking the overall population as the potential target market, the penetration rate of mobile telephony in Uganda is now only 35%, while in Liberia, it was around 31% in 2009. In Cameroon, where MTN and Orange have a duopoly, the penetration rate was around 38% in June 2010. In Kenya, it just passed the magic 50% level at around this time, while in Rwanda, it was about 25% in early 2010. It is nonetheless worth asking whether it is realistic to infer vigorous future growth on the back of calculations that see the whole population as a vast untapped market. Isabelle Gross cautions that for the foreseeable future, other factors, such as demographics and related economic aspects will keep penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa lower than those in developed countries. This in turn implies both opportunities and challenges for African telcos.

    In Liberia, which has a population of about 3.5 million and a mobile phone penetration rate of around 31%, the Johnson Sirleaf-led Government organised a census in 2008: the first after two decades of civil war. This exercise revealed a striking "youth bulge" in the population structure: 42% of the total population, or around 1,458,072 people, were less than 15 years old; 54% were aged between 15 et 64; while less than 4% (118,111 people) were in the 64+ age group. In Kenya, where a 2009 census put the overall population at 38,610,097, the age structure is almost identical. Almost 43% of the total population, or around 16.5 million inhabitants, were less than 15 years old; a little more than 55%, or around 20.6 million fell into the 15-64 bracket, while less than 4% (1.3 million) were older than 65.

    The situation in Senegal is not very different. The last census, carried out in 2002, showed that 55% of the population were less than 19 years old, while 43% were aged between 20 and 69. These few examples demonstrate the preponderance of youth in the demographic make-up of African countries: a position which is in marked contrast to that in developed nations, where populations are clearly ageing. In France, where I was born, the population stood at 62.8 million in 2010. Detailed statistics provided by INSEE reveal that only 19% of this total, or 11.5 million, were less than 15 years of age. In the country where I live – the UK – the position is similar: in 2009, the total population was 61.8 million, of which only 18.6% were less than 15 years old. As a percentage of the overall population, in Sub-Saharan Africa there are more than twice as many under-15s as there are in developed countries.

    This contrast means that it is not realistic to expect the progress of mobile telephony in Africa to follow an identical path to that in the developed world. In particular, the fact that many African families do not have the money to send their children to school, let alone buy them phones, puts a major question mark over the conventional model for mobile telephony penetration. In interview in December 2010 with local newspaper New Vision, Themba Khumalo, the CEO of MTN Uganda said “these statistics (mobile penetration rate) should be read with the knowledge that about 50% of the population are below 15 years and have no spending power. In terms of addressable market, we have gone way above 70% of penetration, we have done well as a country". If one looks again at the statistics described above in the light of the addressable market - in other words, the 15-64 age bracket - it becomes obvious that "true" penetration levels are not as low as many market commentators would have us believe.

    In Kenya, there were a little more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers in June 2010. Comparing this to the total number of 15-64 year olds (20,685,000 according to the 2009 census), one arrives at a true penetration rate of around 100%. In Liberia, there were around one million mobile phone subscribers in 2009, making a mobile penetration rate as a percentage of the overall population of 31%. However, if one re-calculates this rate as a percentage of the addressable market, the figure climbs to 60%. According to the telecoms regulator in Ghana, the NCA, the number of mobile subscribers reached nearly 17 million in October 2010, out of a total population of 24 million. Although there are no detailed demographic data available from 2010, the last census from 2000 found that the 15-64 age bracket made up about 54% of the total population. While the population may have aged somewhat, it seems likely that there were around 13-14 million 15-64 year-olds in 2010. On this basis, it would appear that the mobile penetration rate in Ghana in 2010 has reached the heady heights of 130%.

    One can therefore conclude that penetration levels are higher than would appear at first glance, and that this will present both opportunities and challenges for African telcos. In terms of opportunities, African operators are more or less certain to be able to count on a regular and substantial stream of new young customers, who will be eager to buy a phone and some call credits as soon as they have made a little money. In the meantime, however, the fact that the under-15s make up such a large percentage of the overall population limits the size of the addressable market. And as we have seen, a hard look at the statistics shows that the addressable market in some countries such as Ghana may already be approaching saturation. It will be interesting to see what commercial and marketing strategies the telcos can adopt to attract children to the world of mobile telephony when their parents have barely enough money to pay for basic schooling.

    NOTE:

    If you want to receive daily news tweets from around the continent, please follow us on Twitter:

    In English: @BalancingActAfr
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telecoms

  • Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, last week said that the commission had not given licence to any operator in Nigeria to do LTE.

    However, Juwah explained that though operators can do LTE on the platform of the 2.3Ghz licence which they already have, it was not as if there was no licence meant specifically for LTE services.

    According to Juwah, NCC deliberately did not want to issue licenses on this platform because it needed to see that 3G services were properly deployed by the operators and the potentials fully harnessed by users before joining the next service level.

    Juwah's explanation was a fall out of questions by ICT journalists in Lagos, on how operators can be assisted to deploy cutting edge services like 4G LTE in the rural areas to help transform their economies. He boasted that he wanted his regime at NCC to be remembered for allowing services achieve full potentials before lumping another one on the users, thereby creating opportunity for half-baked services.

    Juwah, who exuded much confidence as he interacted with ICT reporters for the first time since he assumed office as NCC EVC six months ago, said that as a thorough professional, he believed in allowing users to understand every technology and personally analyse what benefits such technologies can give them before bombarding them with another.

    He said the time to issue licences for LTE was only when the NCC was convinced that users had grown accustomed to the 3G services and needed services that offered more. This is even as he noted that his explanation was not to condemn those who have taken pains to go extra miles in providing the services.

    Juwah noted: "Please understand me, I am not saying that 4G-LTE cannot be deployed by operators now on the platform they already have licence for, but that would only mean doing it on the frequency that it is not internationally specified for. Besides, doing LTE on the 2.3Ghz would cost the operators more. We have not issued license for LTE. You can agree with me that even 3G has not been fully harnessed here."

  • Cell C has been the biggest net beneficiary of mobile number portability. Nearly a quarter of a million consumers have ported their numbers to Cell C’s network since number portability was introduced in November 2006, latest statistics show. Mobile number portability was introduced to allow consumers to switch between cellular networks without losing their telephone numbers.

    The figures, which are not published officially but have been leaked to TechCentral by a source in the telecommunications industry, show that Cell C has won nearly 240 000 subscribers to its network through consumers porting their numbers. At the other end of the spectrum, just over 1 000 people have ported to Telkom’s new mobile network, 8ta. However, 8ta has only been in the market since August 2010. The figures exclude customers who ported, and then ported back to their original operator.

    Since portability was introduced, just over 200,000 people have ported to Vodacom. MTN is in third place with about 130,000 subscribers switching to its network.

    Cell C’s investment in a new national network may have been a factor in the operator convincing customers to port to its network. Also, smaller operators like Cell C tend to benefit more from portability than their bigger rivals.

  • Gamtel last week inaugurated its new 3G services, making it the second telecommunication provider to introduce such services in the country. The inauguration ceremony was held at the Gamtel head office in Banjul.

    The new services -'Nafaa', Express, and Bantaba enable customers to access the Internet in the fastest form anywhere. It is ideal for home and small-scale business that requires broadband speed daily.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Jamal Micknas, the managing director of Gamtel, described the day as historic. He said Gamtel over the years has been working tirelessly to regain its lost glory noting that the coming of the 3G services will enable it provide more Internet services in the country.

    Minister Kah said that the management of Gamtel deemed it necessary to upgrade their network services to their customers. He explained that the upgrading includes a high-speed Internet access; and that the 3G services have different tariffs to meet the diverse customers.

    In a statement read on behalf of the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Alhaji Cham, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure noted that Gamtel, as the leading and first Internet service provider in The Gambia, has paved the way through a level playing field for other service providers to join the Internet market, which has benefited not only Gamtel but the entire nation. "Following the establishment of Gamtel as a government-owned limited liability company, with an authorised share capital of D6 million, there has been a remarkable and significant development in the industry especially with fixed telephone services entirely monopolised by Gamtel," he said.

    He also noted that the monopoly at the time coupled with efficient and effective management of services, culminated in the proliferation of projects on fixed lines expansion and improvement. He emphasised that Gamtel being a fixed line provider, finds it very difficult to compete on voice and data effectively, because of these highly competitive services offered by the mobile service. He continued: "Further to these coping strategies, Gamtel in year 2005 established the first ever CDMA network in The Gambia with wireless voice telephony and data services in the form of wireless broadband internet connection.

    The CDMA network locally known as 'Jamano' services is a complementary network for Gamtel fixed lines which came purposely to rescue the aging fixed line network of the time. This was needed to minimise the downward trend in revenue, due to the fixed nature of the copper network."

    The Communication Minister further went on to state that Gamtel CDMA network like most other GSM operators had 2.5G network and as the need for customers' taste changes, Gamtel did not hesitate to improve on its network to match such customers' needs and expectations, thus an upgrade of the current network of 2.5G to a 3G network with more advanced version of the CDMA system named Release A put in place.

  • Installation of an undersea cable between Brazil and Angola could cost up to US$200 million, the Angolan deputy minister for Telecommunications and Information Technology said in Brasilia Wednesday.

    Aristides Safeca took part in a meeting in the Brazilian capital with Brazilian minister for Communications, Paulo Bernardo, representatives of Angolan consortium Angola Cable and Brazilian telecommunications group Oi. According to Safeca, the project is open to the participation of other business groups, and that the project's feasibility studies would be concluded by the end of the end of the first half of this year.

    Last week, Angolan Minister for Telecommunication and Information Technology, José Carvalho da Rocha, said in Luanda that installation of the new cable, linking South Africa to the United Kingdom, with an anchor point in Angola, could solve some of the country’s telecommunications problems, mainly international data and voice connections.

    The cable will be extended to Angola in February, but services due to be provided based on the terminal stations by project manager Angola Cable will only be available in the first quarter of 2012.

    The project for the new undersea cable is a public-private partnership between the Angolan state, represented by Angola Telecom, and operators Movicel, Unitel, Mundo Sartel and Mstelcom.

internet

  • Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests and physical attacks that journalists suffered while covering demonstrations last week and today in various Egyptian cities. The authorities have been doing everything possible to keep the media at a distance in order prevent the circulation of images of protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak's departure. No TV station was able to film yesterday's big protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

    The authorities began jamming mobile phone communications early yesterday afternoon in places where protesters had gathered in Cairo. Representatives of the Vodafone and Mobile Nile phone companies last week denied any involvement in the disruption of service, blaming the Egyptian authorities.

    The social-networking website Twitter and the livestreaming service Bambuser.com were both blocked. The hashtag #jan25, referring to protest, was widely used on Twitter.

    Access to Facebook was intermittently blocked, with the degree of blocking varying from one ISP to another. Egyptian dissidents and civil society groups have been using Facebook for years to disseminate information and organize protests, including the 6 April 2009 strike.

    Slow Internet connections were reported, especially during attempts to access the online newspapers Al-Badil, Al-Dustour and Al-Masry Al-Youm. Access to Al-Badil and Al-Dustour was subsequently blocked altogether while Al-Masry Al-Youm experienced major problems that prevented it from operating.

    Egypt is on the Reporters Without Borders list of Enemies of the Internet, above all for harassing and arresting bloggers, but it has not as yet set up Internet filtering systems as Tunisia and Iran have done. Many Egyptians posted messages on social networks in the past 24 hours voicing exasperation with the unusual level of censorship and began using proxies and other censorship circumvention tools to access blocked sites see here:

  • The fibre backbone of the City of Johannesburg’s R1bn broadband infastructure project, being built in conjunction with Ericsson SA, should be completed within the next three months.

    BWired, a telecommunications operator set up by the city and Ericsson, is running the project. It’s being managed in collaboration with several small Internet service providers.

    The company began digging trenches and laying its fibre backbone network in April last year. However, the digging was put on hold during the soccer World Cup in June and July and the roll-out only got underway in earnest from August. Since then, BWired has built 300km of fibre in various areas around Johannesburg. Executive director Musa Nkosi says the backbone should be completed in the next three months.

    So far, R240m has been ploughed into the network. Ericsson is funding the bulk of the project, with the City of Johannesburg paying for the physical fibre. Once the backbone has been completed, BWired will begin laying another 700km of fibre, which will ring underserviced areas such as Soweto and Orange Farm.

    Nkosi says the project is well on track to providing Internet access to those areas. “Last mile-access, or final user access, is scheduled for late 2012,” he says. “However, we will have test sites and accounts set up during the last quarter of this year [and] test network topology and the management of the fibre network,” he says.

    The connectivity will be used to connect small businesses and consumers in areas that have not had access to high-speed Internet access before. The company will also host several kiosks for users without access to computers and on-site support.

    Programmes will also be set up at a number of technology hubs in areas such as Soweto and Alexandra, to help school children, adults and business owners develop computer, entrepreneurial and job-seeking skills.

    Johannesburg residents in Sandton and parts of Randburg will already have noticed BWired signboards and workers trenching to lay cable. According to Nkosi, the fibre that is being laid in these areas is being used for its backbone network.

    Part of the plan is to connect the City of Johannesburg’s main offices to branch sites through the metropolitan area.

    Under an agreement, BWired will run the broadband network for the City of Johannesburg for a period of five years after the network is built and will then hand over the telecoms operator to the city.

    Consumers hoping for an alternative access technology to Telkom’s last-mile copper network shouldn’t get too excited, however. The network is aimed mainly at providing access in underserviced areas and not as a direct rival to products from commercial network operators.

    There are no plans to offer fibre-to-the-home; rather last-mile access, where it is exists, will be wireless. To bring affordable access to residents of underserviced areas, BWired has entered agreements with several Internet service providers and hopes to add cheap international capacity, probably through Seacom.

    The City of Johannesburg is also hoping to use Internet access to provide e-government and e-health services to Johannesburg residents.

  • Kenya has the highest number of people accessing Internet facilities and services within the East African Community. According to a study conducted by TNS Research International in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu from September to November 2010, out of a population of 40 million, about four million (10 per cent) have access to the Internet.

    The study, titled "Digital Life" and conducted to establish people's online behaviour and activities, found that in Uganda, out of a population of 33 million, about 3.3 million (10 percent) have a access to the Internet while Tanzania comes last -- out of a population of 42 million, only 672,000 people (1.6 per cent) have had an online experience.

    The study found that based on an adult sample in each of the covered EAC towns, an average of 45 per cent of the urban population have used the Internet, with Kampala having the highest number at 53 per cent; Arusha and Nairobi at 49 per cent; Mombasa at 42 per cent while Dar es Salaam has the least number of people using the Internet at 31 per cent.

    The TNS study revealed that in Kenya, mobile devices and Internet cafes are the primary points of access. The results of the study show that 60 per cent of Kenyans online use mobile phones as compared with those who use PCs at home (29 per cent); PCs at work (33 per cent); and cyber cafes (41 per cent), thereby indicating high potential for growth in the mobile Internet business in Kenya.

    The study found that though e-mail accessing remains the top online activity in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa, usage of Internet for social media and education as well as knowledge access is growing steadily.

    "The demography covered frequent users falling within the 16-60 age bracket, which represents the active online population. The study showed huge growth in Internet use, indicating that once Kenyans get online, they are highly engaged," noted Melissa Baker, TNS Research International's East Africa chief executive.

    However, the study notes that barriers to Internet access -- like lack of Internet-enabled handsets and PCs as well as lack of awareness of the benefits of the Internet -- need to be addressed to raise the level of frequency of accessing Internet services as penetration is still low at between 10 and 15 per cent.

computing

  • The Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) is allegedly embroiled in a new crisis, with a source saying that the main computer server has been hacked into and important details changed and 'distorted'. The information on the server contains the views of Zimbabweans across the country about what they'd like to see in a new constitution.

    This month in Harare COPAC teams began uploading the information gathered during the countrywide outreach meetings, so that it can be ready for analysis. COPAC said the process would take two weeks, but this latest set back might delay it.

    On Tuesday SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa said COPAC discovered that the data had been 'distorted' on Sunday morning but was trying not to divulge this latest problem for fear it would disrupt everything.

    "The server administrator indicated that there was a problem with the server: information which had been uploaded onto the server was mixed up. For instance, you would get information coming from Murhewa appearing at a centre in Bulawayo."

    Muchemwa said that within COPAC it's believed that ZANU PF is behind the hacking of the data to make sure it reflects the party's views, or completely distorts the information so that it is not credible. "Centres which had information which was not actually linking with the interests of ZANU PF, the information was changed and in some instances it was deleted," Muchemwa said.

    It's been reported that information from 3,600 out of about 4,600 centres has been uploaded, and that last week a ZANU PF COPAC official was overheard saying this information so far is not favourable towards their party.

    "This came as a surprise to so many people who heard that information because they had lied to President Mugabe," Muchemwa said. "He believed that the information which had been gathered throughout the whole country was favourable to ZANU PF, especially on the issue of land and resources."

    "But now they are discovering that the survey they (ZANU PF) carried out was misleading for President Mugabe, and they believe within COPAC itself that some elements in ZANU PF could have tampered with the server so that at least the whole process will be rendered null and void," Muchemwa added.

    On Tuesday COPAC co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that some data has gone missing. "Some of the information in the server is missing. The technicians have attributed this to the system failure. What we were doing is to make sure that the teams authenticate the information that they recovered," Mwonzora said.

    It has also been reported that 70 COPAC technicians were fired because of this security breach, but Mwonzora has denied this.

    COPAC has already faced many problems and has been heavily criticised. Its outreach programmes were marred by numerous incidents of violent attacks on civilians and MDC supporters, by ZANU PF militants and war vets. COPAC has also been accused of poor management of funds, with its rapporteurs going unpaid and some being evicted from hotels because bills had not been paid.

  • Camara Rwanda, a social enterprise based in Kigali, has been awarded with 'Most Innovative Development Project Award' by the Global Development Network (GDN).
    The firm received the award during the 12th annual GDN Conference held in Bogota, Colombia last week.

    "With over 250 projects that submitted their proposals, Camara's operation model appealed to the jurors drawn from reputable institutions such as the World Bank, JICA, AUSI-AID and Kenya's Central Bank, as a result of its simple yet self-sustainable approach," said Edward Rwagasore, a senior official at Camara Rwanda.

    Rwagasore added that, Camara's operations focus on establishing e-learning centres in schools across the country. "We are currently working with 33 academic institutions spread across the country, with numbers set to grow. We have set up computer labs in all those schools which are equipped with Camara PCs that are fine-tuned and installed with pre-configured Linux software based on the educational package, Edubuntu," said Rwagasore.

    Camarabuntu, as it is known, is loaded with numerous applications that prove handy in enhancing computer literacy. They include programmes that develop mouse and keyboard skills, interactive software and an offline version of Wikipedia among many other programmes.

    "Schools partnering with Camara Rwanda receive a wide range of support services that include teacher training on ICT usage as a pedagogical tool, technical support on PCs and parts as well as supply of relevant software and material," said Rwagasore.

    He also noted that ownership and responsibility is bestowed on the schools through payment of a levy on the machines. Explaining one of the reasons why his organization emerged best, Rwagasore said that volunteers, drawn from the local youth, are responsible for a lot of what Camara does.

  • A computer laboratory, constructed by MTN, to provide computer skills for the inmates of the Ankaful Prisons Complex, is being wasted, as the inmates are not currently using the computer centre for training, The Chronicle has learnt. The inmates claimed that the computer laboratory had been shut down following its inauguration last year, to the disappointment of the inmates.

    When The Chronicle contacted the Central Regional Prisons Commander, Ahwa Yankey, on Tuesday, he explained that the officer in-charge of the laboratory had been transferred, leading to the temporary stoppage of training. According Yankey, his outfit had found a replacement for the officer who was transferred, to train the inmates.

    Yankey disclosed that the new trainer for the laboratory was competent in the hardware, and would ensure that the inmates also acquired the skills they needed. He told this reporter that not all the inmates were educated, therefore, they select those who are educated, and train them in computer skills.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The World Bank board of directors has approved three major projects for three West African countries, totaling US$71.5 million dollars. The projects are aimed at boosting Information Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and access to services in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe.

    The Republic of Liberia and Sierra Leone will receive line of credits from the World Bank to the tune of US$25.6 million and US$31.0 million, respectively, to boost their ICT communications sectors. The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome will receive a grant of US$ 14.9 million from the Bank for its component of the Central African Backbone Program.

    The money, according to the World Bank, is part of a US$300 million West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP).

    “The projects have two main components. The first component will seek to create an enabling environment through provision of technical assistance and capacity building for legal and regulatory reform; and will develop public private partnership arrangements for the infrastructure to be developed,” noted a World Bank statement issued over the weekend.

    The Bank pointed out that the second component, which focuses on connectivity, will provide financing for the countries' contribution (consortium fee) for participating in the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable on an open access basis, using public private partnerships, leveraging private sector investment, and associated investments.

    The Projects will provide support to modernize legal, regulatory and institutional framework and improve overall competitive environment in the telecommunications sector and improve the viability of public incumbent operators where necessary, to make them more competitive.

    In Sierra Leone, for example, the commercialization of SierraTel, the state-owned telecom operator, and the liberalization of access to the country's international gateway will be supported, while in São Tomé and Príncipe the project will help to introduce competition through the launch of a second global telecommunications operator license to provide fixed and mobile services.

    World Bank Africa Region director for regional integration, Yusupha B. Crookes, added: "the growth of ICTs in Africa has been phenomenal over the past decade. Mobile penetration in particular is astronomical now, with many countries recording as high as 80%. The mobile network now constitutes the largest ever service delivery platform available to reach citizens, and is boosting Africans' ability to connect to the information super highway, thereby, creating opportunities for ordinary people to connect for social, economic and political reasons.”

    Crookes noted: “better days are ahead, as prices drop, broadband improves, internet access scales up, overall quality of communication is enhanced and broader and more innovative applications become available to solve problems facing ordinary people and governments in Africa."

    Last year, the Liberian government through the Ministries of Planning and Economic Affairs, Postal Affairs and the LIBTELCO as well as the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) signed the country onto the broadband connectivity which is expected to be provided by the France Telecom’s ACE cable.

    Liberia needs about US$26 million dollars in order to join this connectivity. It was in this regard that the World Bank and other stakeholders promised to pay the US$26 million.

    The total cost of the project for several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at US$700 million dollars. Construction of infrastructure for this project is expected to be completed in Liberia in 2012, the government said.

    Meanwhile the World Bank says it will provide support to 15 additional countries within Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region to increase the geographical reach of broadband networks and reduce costs of communications services.

    This new Program complements, the Regional Infrastructure Connectivity Program and the Central African Backbone, targets respectively Eastern & Southern African countries (25 eligible countries for a total amount of US$424 million) and Central African Countries (11 eligible countries for a total amount of $215 million).

    The World Bank observed that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe, are countries that currently have some of the highest connectivity costs in the world and are among a handful of countries in West and Central Africa which are not connected to the global network of broadband optical fiber infrastructure.

    The projects will help to bring a major infrastructural revolution as the countries will for the first time be connected to the best of global internet broadband services network as well as develop their national backbone infrastructure for distributing broadband internet to their urban and rural masses.

    Small countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe are typically ignored by private submarine cable consortia who consider their markets as too small and not attractive enough.

    Currently the three countries depend on costly satellite connectivity to the tune of US$4,000-5,000/Mbps per month while those connected to submarine cables can access international capacity at much lower prices as low as US$ 600 in East Africa and US$100 in Morocco. This, coupled with a lack of national backbone infrastructure, has created a difficult environment for expanding availability of Internet services and advanced applications.

  • Safaricom has raised Sh4.5 billion it had targeted through a bond issued last month, boosting the telecommunication company's war chest for making new capital investments to safeguard its market share in a fiercely competitive industry.

    Transaction advisors said the firm had just about hit its target, indicating a high appetite for investment opportunities given the high competition for funds from offers floated in December.

    Treasury, Safaricom, CFC Stanbic Bank, and power firm KPLC all sought to raise an estimated Sh31 billion through bond and rights issue offers last month.

    "We received just about the amount we were seeking," said Nkoregamba Mwebesa, the managing director of CFC Stanbic Financial Services who were lead arrangers of the issue.

    Subscription results of the Sh2.5 billion medium term note issued by CFC Stanbic Bank are yet to be announced. This was the second tranche of a three-note bond that originally opened in 2009 targeting to raise Sh12 billion. The first issue dated November 2009 was oversubscribed.

    The offer sought to raise Sh5 billion, but received applications worth Sh7.5 billion, which the company took up fully by exercising the "green shoe option."

    "The second issue did not attract as many applications mainly due to its timing but it was successful still," said Kabaki Wamwea, an executive director at Dyer and Blair Investment Bank.

    The second half of last year saw heightened fund raising in the capital markets including a KCB Bank rights issue and a Housing Finance corporate bond. The first tranche paid an interest rate of 12.25 per cent, while the second note will be paying less than seven per cent.

    A vicious price war started by Safaricom's main rival Airtel on calling tariffs have put pressure on the firm's dominance as the largest mobile phone service provider. The fluid telephony market has seen the share of Safaricom trade at below the initial offer price of Sh5 for most of the time since the global financial crisis. The government's two-and fifteen-year bonds also issued last month were oversubscribed, netting Sh24.3 billion, but Treasury took up Sh15.2 billion.

  • Neotel’s ability to continue as a going concern has been questioned by its independent auditors, Deloitte & Touche. But CEO Ajay Pandey, speaking to TechCentral in an exclusive interview, says there’s no reason for alarm and insists that the company is broadly meeting the targets set out in its business plan.

    Deloitte & Touche’s warning is contained in Neotel’s 2010 annual report, a copy of which is in TechCentral’s possession. The annual report, submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by its parent, India’s Tata Communications, paints a less than flattering picture of Neotel’s financial position as it prepares a round of retrenchments driven by an internal restructuring. Tata Communications has to submit the annual report under SEC rules.

    Deloitte & Touche warns in its auditors’ report that Neotel’s “recurring losses and shareholders’ deficit raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern”.

    The annual report shows Neotel’s debt is mounting, too. Net debt stood at R5.3bn at the 2010 financial year-end in March, up from R3.1bn a year earlier. Shareholders’ deficit, also known as negative shareholders’ equity, climbed from R782m in 2009 to R1.7bn in 2010.

    But Pandey insists there is no reason for investors or customers to worry and points out that the company is delivering strong top-line growth. He says December was Neotel’s best sales month on record with revenues of about R250m. The growth in revenue will eventually flow through to the bottom line, Pandey says.

    The company will turn Ebitda positive by the second quarter of calendar 2012, he predicts. Ebitda is earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation and is a key measure in evaluating the performance of companies still in their growth and investment phase.

    The annual report shows that at the end of March 2010 Neotel had drawn R3.2bn of R4.4bn in debt facilities available to it from various financial institutions, including Nedbank and Investec. About R1.2bn of those facilities remained. The facilities expire on 30 September 2012. Pandey says Neotel’s bankers remain “fully supportive” of the company and are backing its restructuring programme.

    Neotel had also drawn R2.3bn of R2.9bn in sanctioned funding from shareholders, leaving R633m available from this source of funding at the end of March. Pandey says Neotel was not expected to be profitable yet in terms of its business plan. He says the company is on the right track, despite the restructuring exercise and looming redundancies.

    He emphasises that Deloitte & Touche has not issued a qualified audit, but has simply expressed an “observation” about its ability to continue as a going concern. He says this is common practice in the auditing profession. Neotel continues to enjoy the support of its parent company, Tata Communications, Pandey says, a fact that is borne out by the Indian company’s recent decision to increase its stake to above 50%.

    However, the operator, licensed as the first competitor in fixed lines to Telkom, is clearly facing challenges. On two separate occasions last year it failed to meet targets for Ebitda agreed to with its external funders.

    Pandey says disruptions caused by the soccer World Cup — like other telecoms companies, it was prohibited from working on its network for about three months around the football extravaganza, negatively affecting its ability to deliver on contracts to customers — played a part in its missing the targets. The economic recession also played a role.

    Neotel is not the only telecoms company that has felt the economic pinch, Pandey says, pointing to recent job cuts at MTN, Nashua Mobile and Altech Autopage Cellular. He says the company has not missed any interest payments on its debt. In 2010, Neotel paid R523.9m in interest on loans.

    Of more concern, perhaps, is that Neotel’s cash position fell precipitously in the 2010 financial year. Cash and cash equivalents fell from R433.6m in 2009 to just R64.7m in 2010. But Pandey insists Neotel is not facing a debt trap. In the annual report, Neotel’s directors say they are “satisfied the company has access to adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future”.

    They base this on the fact that the company still had undrawn, committed funding facilities of R1.8bn at its 2010 financial year-end. They also cite the strength of Neotel shareholders Tata Communications and Tata Africa Holdings, which together hold 56% of the company’s equity. The directors say they are confident they can manage the cash outflows stemming from Neotel’s heavy investment in telecoms infrastructure.

    Neotel chief technology officer Angus Hay tells TechCentral that the 2010 financial year was one of heavy investment in infrastructure. This included big spending on undersea cables and data centres. Hay says capital expenditure has now peaked and has begun falling. This will flow through to the bottom line.

    The annual report shows Neotel incurred a loss before tax in 2010 of R1.58bn, growing from losses of R1.03bn in 2009 and R432,3m in 2008. Revenues, however, have surged in the same period, climbing from R1.1bn in 2009 to R1,8bn in 2010. Pandey says Neotel will be a US$1bn-revenue company within three years.

    Neotel generated most of its revenue from enterprise and wholesale services in 2010. This business area contributed R1,.3bn to the company’s R1,8bn in sales. Network services added R280m to the top line, with consumer services contributing R169m.

    Though it’s a small player in the consumer market, Pandey dismisses suggestions that its retail consumer strategy has failed. He says it’s unfair to compare its subscriber numbers — estimated at about 50 000 — to the mobile operators, which have racked up millions of customers. He says Neotel is going after niche consumer markets that are not adequately served by other operators.

    Turning to the planned retrenchments, Pandey says Neotel needs to restructure to address “imbalances in some functions and departments”. He says Neotel is focusing more strongly on providing managed services to clients, and it needs to build capacity in that area. Some staff will be redeployed as part of this process; others will be retrenched. Hay says the retrenchments are as a result of the need to refocus and restructure and are not being driven by the need simply to cut costs.

  • JSE-listed IT services company EOH has acquired Belay, a 200-person IT solutions provider based in Midrand that specialises in Microsoft technology.

    The value of the deal has not been disclosed and the transaction is still subject to approval by the Competition Commission.

    Belay is involved in custom software development, data management, business intelligence, server management, enterprise content magement and other specialist IT areas. The acquisition will give Belay access to a broader customer and skills base and strengthen the company’s empowerment credentials, says Belay CEO George Grimes.

    EOH CEO Asher Bohbot says Belay is will add “significant weight” to the company’s Microsoft and enterprise content management offerings. EOH, a darling among local technology investors, has about 2 300 staff and revenues of over R2bn/year. It listed on the JSE in 1998.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • EriTel, Eritrea’s state-owned incumbent telecoms operator, has completed the first phase of its network expansion and upgrade project, local newspaper Shabait reports. To ease mobile network congestion, the company has constructed additional stations in Asmara, Keren, Mendefera and Massawa, among other areas, while new telephone stations have been installed in Merhano, Tsaeda Kristian, Arbaete Asmera, Bisha, Foro and Massawa to accommodate more customers. Additionally, EriTel is rolling out a third-generation mobile network in order to upgrade data and internet services, and is also considering expanding its 2G network nationwide.

    Prepaid TopUp firm, Seamless has announce the successful launch of MTN Rwanda's Prepaid TopUP Solution on Seamless’ carrier class platform, ERS 360◦.

    South Africa’s mobile operator, Cell C, announced the launch of its online dashboard called MyTools which promises to provide functionality similar to that of Google Voice to Cell C subscribers. The major difference from Google Voice is that it's integrated into an operator, said Lars Reichelt, CEO of Cell C.

Digital Content

  • According to the latest survey on online shopping habits from MasterCard Worldwide, 51% of South Africans who have access to the Internet are shopping online and 75% of those have done so in the past three months.

    While the number of South Africans accessing the Internet to shop online is up 9% from the previous survey, the number of those who made purchases in the last three months has decreased by a marginal 2% from 77% a year ago.

    The survey was conducted from 3 September 2010 to 1 October 2010 and reached 8,500 consumers from 15 markets across APMEA. The survey and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

    In early 2010, South African research company World Wide Worx reported that the number of South Africans with access to the Internet grew by 15% between 2009 and the beginning of 2010 from 4.6m users to 5.3m users with similar growth predicted for the remainder of 2010.

    According to the latest survey by MasterCard, a majority (89%) of South African online shoppers are satisfied with their overall online shopping experience and 73% of active online shoppers intend to make an online purchase in the next six months. Both these figures have shown improvements over the previous year, where satisfaction was 83%, with the likelihood of continued online shopping at 72%.

    South Africans who shop online also feel that making purchases on the Internet is more convenient, user-friendly and easier than walking into a store or ordering from a catalogue or via a call centre.

    "Those who shop online are largely satisfied with their experiences with just over half of South Africa's Internet-connected population logging on to shop online. This presents a great opportunity for MasterCard to leverage on this Internet revolution to bring more people into the online shopping fray," says Dougie Henderson, VP Product Delivery, MasterCard Worldwide in the Middle East & Africa.

    The survey revealed that more people are making use of broadband access technologies. ADSL usage has increased from 55% to 60% while 3G/HSDPA usage increased from 49% to 63%.

    Conversely, the number of users who said that they utilise dial-up dropped substantially from 16% in 2009 to just 6% in 2010.

    Interestingly, respondents who said they use their mobile phones to access the Internet has shown significant growth, climbing from 13% in 2009 to 39% in 2010 - which is the highest score for mobile phone Internet usage across the APMEA region. Singapore follows at 33%, India (25%), Malaysia (20%), Thailand (20%), and UAE (20%)

    This corresponds with extensive changes and upgrades that have been apparent in the South African mobile broadband market throughout much of 2009 and 2010, including increased price competition between the cellular operators, vastly upgraded networks and the growth in smart phones as a handset category.

    This is according to a research study released by World Wide Worx, which revealed that three quarters of South African companies have deployed smart phones within their organisations, compared to almost none two years ago.

    That said, MasterCard survey found that just 11% of online shoppers actually made purchases using their mobile phones and only 13% intend on doing so in the next six months.

    When asked for what purposes respondents accessed the Internet, sending or receiving e-mail (95%) topped the list, followed by browsing for materials for study purposes (74%), checking their bank balance (73%), browsing for leisure (73%) and reading the news (70%). Online shopping was cited by 51% of users.

    According to the latest MasterCard survey, South African online shoppers prefer to plan and research their online purchases in advance, and fewer people are making impulse purchases online. The number of online impulse shoppers dropped substantially from 22% to just 8%.

    The majority of those shopping online (84%) conduct research about their purchases on the Internet before buying, 69% use the merchant or company's website for their research and 57% speak to family or friends beforehand.

    CDs and DVDs are still what South Africa's online shoppers seek out most on the Web with 50% citing so. Closely following CDs and DVDs is the purchase of books and art by 45% of respondents. Airline tickets saw a 1% decline to 43% of online purchases, while movie/concert tickets shot past home appliances and electronics to tie third place with 43%. Home appliances and electronics dropped a substantial 14% to just 29% of online purchases from last year's level of 43%.

    When it comes to payment for online purchases, credit cards are the most widely-preferred payment method online with just under half of the respondents (48%) using this payment method.  Paying using a debit card (29%) is the second most preferred payment method.

    According to 55% of the respondents not shopping online, the number one reason was that they prefer to shop in-store in order to look at the physical product.

    Encouragingly, fears about online safety and security have decreased substantially, dropping to second position from 63% in 2009 to 51% in 2010, while 44% of respondents reported not having a credit card as their reason for not shopping online.

    Interestingly, there was a significant jump from 24% to 41% in the number of respondents who cited "additional administration and delivery charges" as their reasons for not shopping online, while there was also an increase in people who said that they did not find anything online that interested them.

    South Africans who do shop online are quick to offer advice on how online stores can improve their current offerings, and potentially attract new customers.

    At the top of their list of recommendations were:

    1. Continue to enhance payment security and improve users' confidence in online transactions,

    2. Don't charge additional service charges on purchases and

    3. Make websites easier to use.

    "Online shopping has come a long way in South Africa. Access to the Internet is becoming easier and more cost effective, the overall online shopping experience is viewed positively and people are gaining trust in online security.

    "However, online retailers also need to be cognisant of the concerns of and feedback from their customers and continue to improve their offerings to further enhance the overall online shopping experience in order to attract new customers and retain existing ones," Henderson concludes.

  • Ugandans can now check their voting status via their mobile phones, at a cheap cost, across all networks, thanks to the new Electoral Commission service.

    The simple sms sent to 8683 will avail the recipient all details about their voting status as indicted in the voters' register like polling station, district, sub-county and county.

    The Electoral Commission (EC) chairman, Dr Badru Kiggundu launched the service, which cuts across all mobile phone networks, in Kampala yesterday.

    Financed by the US government, the service costs Shs120 on MTN and UTL while Orange and Warid charge Shs220. Airtel charges Shs160 for each sms sent.

    However, the first one million people to send the sms receive the service free of charge, but the subsequent subscribers will be charged.

    All one has to do is text his or her voter identity number to 8683. For the newly-registered voters who have not been given voter numbers, they are required to send the 17 digit number on their registration receipt to 8683.

    One can also get the same service by sending his surname followed by their dates of birth.

    The service, which started yesterday afternoon, will go on until the voting day on February 18. The deputy EC chairman, Mr Joseph Biribonwa, said all political parties shall be availed copies of voters' register at least two weeks to the voting day.

More

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011

    BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa  

    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 For more information please visit  here:

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa
    March 9, 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.
    For more information please visit here:  or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.

    Broadband World Forum MEA
    14-15 March 2011

    Dubai UAE
     
    Network, learn and do business with 750+ decision-makers from across the regional Broadband ecosystem. The conference programme features 60+ visionary speakers presenting across keynote plenary sessions, 4 in-depth technology tracks and a Rural Coverage and Connectivity focus day.  Co-located to the conference is a 35+ stand technology exhibition showcasing some of the region’s latest cutting-edge broadband technologies, applications, solutions and services to hit the market.
    Limited FREE passes for operators and early booking discounts apply to all others.  Register with VIP code: BBM11BAA
    For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011
    4 - 5 April

    Moevenpick 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.  
For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

  • ITU: HIPSSA CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

    Opened positions and requests for proposal:

     - G-3.1 (d) [WA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.1[WA].pdf

    - G-3.1 (d) [EA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.3[EA].pdf

    - G-3.3 (d) [CA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.2[CA].pdf

    - G-3.4 (d) [SA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.4[SA].pdf

    - G-3.5 (d) [INT]: International spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.5[INT].pdf

    - G-3.6 (d) [PM]: Senior international spectrum management expert [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3%206[PM].pdf

    [HIPSSA/G-6] Call for Application related to ICT statistics

    The expert will be responsible for designing regional statistical reports about ICT/telecommunication indicators with a specific focus in regional organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistical reports shall include factsheets for each member country of the identified regional organisations and an aggregated and comparative view for each of the regions.

    To download the job description, please click on the link below or copy the URL in your browser: http://htmlnews.balancingact-africa.com/JD HIPSSA_G-3 6 1 a ST 110128 final _2_ _3_.pdf

    For further information visit the ITU's website.

     

    Google hires across Africa
    Google South Africa is no exception and the company is most likely looking to significantly strengthen its local presence in the country.

    Until fairly recently, Google SA had less than 10 employees, but the local arm has started to grow its workforce and is advertising no less than 15 positions for its Johannesburg office.

    Julie Taylor, Google’s Communications Manager for Sub Saharan Africa, says that Google’s South African office is still small but growing fast. “We expect it to grow by as much as double in size during the coming year, across different functions,” said Taylor.

    The positions advertised for the Google SA office in Bryanston, Johannesburg are as follows:

       1. Account Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       2. Account Manager - Johannesburg
       3. Account Strategist - Johannesburg
       4. Agency Relationship Manager - Johannesburg
       5. Business Development Manager, Southern Africa - Johannesburg
       6. Country Marketing Manager South Africa - Johannesburg
       7. Developer Relations Program Manager - Johannesburg
       8. Human Resources Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       9. Industry Analyst - Johannesburg
      10. Industry Manager - Johannesburg
      11. Legal Counsel, Sub-Saharan Africa - Nairobi, Lagos or Johannesburg
      12. Policy Manager - Johannesburg
      13. Recruiting Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
      14. Sales Engineer - Nairobi, Accra, Lagos or Johannesburg
      15. Training Development Specialist for Africa Programs – Johannesburg

    Google is also growing its African presence with positions advertised at Google offices in Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. For more information on these positions, visit the Google Africa jobs page here:

  • Mobinil and iBwave - Egypt
    Egypt's Mobinil has selected an in-building wireless planning suite from iBwave. The company says that 70% of its calls originating from within buildings, hence the need to improve indoor coverage. "As the demands on our network continue to grow, we firmly believe that expanding our in-building coverage is a key strategy for us to be able to continue delivering that positive experience to our mobile subscribers and strengthen our leading position in Egypt," said Hassan Kabbani, CEO at Mobinil.

  • Côte d’Ivoire:  Michel Hebert has been appointed as the new CEO of mobile operator Comium (Koz) while Dr Nizar Dalloul has been appointed as the chair of the Board.

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  • Many crystal-ball gazers in 2011 point to what they see as the low penetration rates of African mobile telephony as an indication that there is plenty of room for future growth in the sector. On the face of it, the statistics for individual countries give some support to these optimistic prognostications. Taking the overall population as the potential target market, the penetration rate of mobile telephony in Uganda is now only 35%, while in Liberia, it was around 31% in 2009. In Cameroon, where MTN and Orange have a duopoly, the penetration rate was around 38% in June 2010. In Kenya, it just passed the magic 50% level at around this time, while in Rwanda, it was about 25% in early 2010. It is nonetheless worth asking whether it is realistic to infer vigorous future growth on the back of calculations that see the whole population as a vast untapped market. Isabelle Gross cautions that for the foreseeable future, other factors, such as demographics and related economic aspects will keep penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa lower than those in developed countries. This in turn implies both opportunities and challenges for African telcos.

    In Liberia, which has a population of about 3.5 million and a mobile phone penetration rate of around 31%, the Johnson Sirleaf-led Government organised a census in 2008: the first after two decades of civil war. This exercise revealed a striking "youth bulge" in the population structure: 42% of the total population, or around 1,458,072 people, were less than 15 years old; 54% were aged between 15 et 64; while less than 4% (118,111 people) were in the 64+ age group. In Kenya, where a 2009 census put the overall population at 38,610,097, the age structure is almost identical. Almost 43% of the total population, or around 16.5 million inhabitants, were less than 15 years old; a little more than 55%, or around 20.6 million fell into the 15-64 bracket, while less than 4% (1.3 million) were older than 65.

    The situation in Senegal is not very different. The last census, carried out in 2002, showed that 55% of the population were less than 19 years old, while 43% were aged between 20 and 69. These few examples demonstrate the preponderance of youth in the demographic make-up of African countries: a position which is in marked contrast to that in developed nations, where populations are clearly ageing. In France, where I was born, the population stood at 62.8 million in 2010. Detailed statistics provided by INSEE reveal that only 19% of this total, or 11.5 million, were less than 15 years of age. In the country where I live – the UK – the position is similar: in 2009, the total population was 61.8 million, of which only 18.6% were less than 15 years old. As a percentage of the overall population, in Sub-Saharan Africa there are more than twice as many under-15s as there are in developed countries.

    This contrast means that it is not realistic to expect the progress of mobile telephony in Africa to follow an identical path to that in the developed world. In particular, the fact that many African families do not have the money to send their children to school, let alone buy them phones, puts a major question mark over the conventional model for mobile telephony penetration. In interview in December 2010 with local newspaper New Vision, Themba Khumalo, the CEO of MTN Uganda said “these statistics (mobile penetration rate) should be read with the knowledge that about 50% of the population are below 15 years and have no spending power. In terms of addressable market, we have gone way above 70% of penetration, we have done well as a country". If one looks again at the statistics described above in the light of the addressable market - in other words, the 15-64 age bracket - it becomes obvious that "true" penetration levels are not as low as many market commentators would have us believe.

    In Kenya, there were a little more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers in June 2010. Comparing this to the total number of 15-64 year olds (20,685,000 according to the 2009 census), one arrives at a true penetration rate of around 100%. In Liberia, there were around one million mobile phone subscribers in 2009, making a mobile penetration rate as a percentage of the overall population of 31%. However, if one re-calculates this rate as a percentage of the addressable market, the figure climbs to 60%. According to the telecoms regulator in Ghana, the NCA, the number of mobile subscribers reached nearly 17 million in October 2010, out of a total population of 24 million. Although there are no detailed demographic data available from 2010, the last census from 2000 found that the 15-64 age bracket made up about 54% of the total population. While the population may have aged somewhat, it seems likely that there were around 13-14 million 15-64 year-olds in 2010. On this basis, it would appear that the mobile penetration rate in Ghana in 2010 has reached the heady heights of 130%.

    One can therefore conclude that penetration levels are higher than would appear at first glance, and that this will present both opportunities and challenges for African telcos. In terms of opportunities, African operators are more or less certain to be able to count on a regular and substantial stream of new young customers, who will be eager to buy a phone and some call credits as soon as they have made a little money. In the meantime, however, the fact that the under-15s make up such a large percentage of the overall population limits the size of the addressable market. And as we have seen, a hard look at the statistics shows that the addressable market in some countries such as Ghana may already be approaching saturation. It will be interesting to see what commercial and marketing strategies the telcos can adopt to attract children to the world of mobile telephony when their parents have barely enough money to pay for basic schooling.

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telecoms

  • Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, last week said that the commission had not given licence to any operator in Nigeria to do LTE.

    However, Juwah explained that though operators can do LTE on the platform of the 2.3Ghz licence which they already have, it was not as if there was no licence meant specifically for LTE services.

    According to Juwah, NCC deliberately did not want to issue licenses on this platform because it needed to see that 3G services were properly deployed by the operators and the potentials fully harnessed by users before joining the next service level.

    Juwah's explanation was a fall out of questions by ICT journalists in Lagos, on how operators can be assisted to deploy cutting edge services like 4G LTE in the rural areas to help transform their economies. He boasted that he wanted his regime at NCC to be remembered for allowing services achieve full potentials before lumping another one on the users, thereby creating opportunity for half-baked services.

    Juwah, who exuded much confidence as he interacted with ICT reporters for the first time since he assumed office as NCC EVC six months ago, said that as a thorough professional, he believed in allowing users to understand every technology and personally analyse what benefits such technologies can give them before bombarding them with another.

    He said the time to issue licences for LTE was only when the NCC was convinced that users had grown accustomed to the 3G services and needed services that offered more. This is even as he noted that his explanation was not to condemn those who have taken pains to go extra miles in providing the services.

    Juwah noted: "Please understand me, I am not saying that 4G-LTE cannot be deployed by operators now on the platform they already have licence for, but that would only mean doing it on the frequency that it is not internationally specified for. Besides, doing LTE on the 2.3Ghz would cost the operators more. We have not issued license for LTE. You can agree with me that even 3G has not been fully harnessed here."

  • Cell C has been the biggest net beneficiary of mobile number portability. Nearly a quarter of a million consumers have ported their numbers to Cell C’s network since number portability was introduced in November 2006, latest statistics show. Mobile number portability was introduced to allow consumers to switch between cellular networks without losing their telephone numbers.

    The figures, which are not published officially but have been leaked to TechCentral by a source in the telecommunications industry, show that Cell C has won nearly 240 000 subscribers to its network through consumers porting their numbers. At the other end of the spectrum, just over 1 000 people have ported to Telkom’s new mobile network, 8ta. However, 8ta has only been in the market since August 2010. The figures exclude customers who ported, and then ported back to their original operator.

    Since portability was introduced, just over 200,000 people have ported to Vodacom. MTN is in third place with about 130,000 subscribers switching to its network.

    Cell C’s investment in a new national network may have been a factor in the operator convincing customers to port to its network. Also, smaller operators like Cell C tend to benefit more from portability than their bigger rivals.

  • Gamtel last week inaugurated its new 3G services, making it the second telecommunication provider to introduce such services in the country. The inauguration ceremony was held at the Gamtel head office in Banjul.

    The new services -'Nafaa', Express, and Bantaba enable customers to access the Internet in the fastest form anywhere. It is ideal for home and small-scale business that requires broadband speed daily.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Jamal Micknas, the managing director of Gamtel, described the day as historic. He said Gamtel over the years has been working tirelessly to regain its lost glory noting that the coming of the 3G services will enable it provide more Internet services in the country.

    Minister Kah said that the management of Gamtel deemed it necessary to upgrade their network services to their customers. He explained that the upgrading includes a high-speed Internet access; and that the 3G services have different tariffs to meet the diverse customers.

    In a statement read on behalf of the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Alhaji Cham, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure noted that Gamtel, as the leading and first Internet service provider in The Gambia, has paved the way through a level playing field for other service providers to join the Internet market, which has benefited not only Gamtel but the entire nation. "Following the establishment of Gamtel as a government-owned limited liability company, with an authorised share capital of D6 million, there has been a remarkable and significant development in the industry especially with fixed telephone services entirely monopolised by Gamtel," he said.

    He also noted that the monopoly at the time coupled with efficient and effective management of services, culminated in the proliferation of projects on fixed lines expansion and improvement. He emphasised that Gamtel being a fixed line provider, finds it very difficult to compete on voice and data effectively, because of these highly competitive services offered by the mobile service. He continued: "Further to these coping strategies, Gamtel in year 2005 established the first ever CDMA network in The Gambia with wireless voice telephony and data services in the form of wireless broadband internet connection.

    The CDMA network locally known as 'Jamano' services is a complementary network for Gamtel fixed lines which came purposely to rescue the aging fixed line network of the time. This was needed to minimise the downward trend in revenue, due to the fixed nature of the copper network."

    The Communication Minister further went on to state that Gamtel CDMA network like most other GSM operators had 2.5G network and as the need for customers' taste changes, Gamtel did not hesitate to improve on its network to match such customers' needs and expectations, thus an upgrade of the current network of 2.5G to a 3G network with more advanced version of the CDMA system named Release A put in place.

  • Installation of an undersea cable between Brazil and Angola could cost up to US$200 million, the Angolan deputy minister for Telecommunications and Information Technology said in Brasilia Wednesday.

    Aristides Safeca took part in a meeting in the Brazilian capital with Brazilian minister for Communications, Paulo Bernardo, representatives of Angolan consortium Angola Cable and Brazilian telecommunications group Oi. According to Safeca, the project is open to the participation of other business groups, and that the project's feasibility studies would be concluded by the end of the end of the first half of this year.

    Last week, Angolan Minister for Telecommunication and Information Technology, José Carvalho da Rocha, said in Luanda that installation of the new cable, linking South Africa to the United Kingdom, with an anchor point in Angola, could solve some of the country’s telecommunications problems, mainly international data and voice connections.

    The cable will be extended to Angola in February, but services due to be provided based on the terminal stations by project manager Angola Cable will only be available in the first quarter of 2012.

    The project for the new undersea cable is a public-private partnership between the Angolan state, represented by Angola Telecom, and operators Movicel, Unitel, Mundo Sartel and Mstelcom.

internet

  • Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests and physical attacks that journalists suffered while covering demonstrations last week and today in various Egyptian cities. The authorities have been doing everything possible to keep the media at a distance in order prevent the circulation of images of protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak's departure. No TV station was able to film yesterday's big protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

    The authorities began jamming mobile phone communications early yesterday afternoon in places where protesters had gathered in Cairo. Representatives of the Vodafone and Mobile Nile phone companies last week denied any involvement in the disruption of service, blaming the Egyptian authorities.

    The social-networking website Twitter and the livestreaming service Bambuser.com were both blocked. The hashtag #jan25, referring to protest, was widely used on Twitter.

    Access to Facebook was intermittently blocked, with the degree of blocking varying from one ISP to another. Egyptian dissidents and civil society groups have been using Facebook for years to disseminate information and organize protests, including the 6 April 2009 strike.

    Slow Internet connections were reported, especially during attempts to access the online newspapers Al-Badil, Al-Dustour and Al-Masry Al-Youm. Access to Al-Badil and Al-Dustour was subsequently blocked altogether while Al-Masry Al-Youm experienced major problems that prevented it from operating.

    Egypt is on the Reporters Without Borders list of Enemies of the Internet, above all for harassing and arresting bloggers, but it has not as yet set up Internet filtering systems as Tunisia and Iran have done. Many Egyptians posted messages on social networks in the past 24 hours voicing exasperation with the unusual level of censorship and began using proxies and other censorship circumvention tools to access blocked sites see here:

  • The fibre backbone of the City of Johannesburg’s R1bn broadband infastructure project, being built in conjunction with Ericsson SA, should be completed within the next three months.

    BWired, a telecommunications operator set up by the city and Ericsson, is running the project. It’s being managed in collaboration with several small Internet service providers.

    The company began digging trenches and laying its fibre backbone network in April last year. However, the digging was put on hold during the soccer World Cup in June and July and the roll-out only got underway in earnest from August. Since then, BWired has built 300km of fibre in various areas around Johannesburg. Executive director Musa Nkosi says the backbone should be completed in the next three months.

    So far, R240m has been ploughed into the network. Ericsson is funding the bulk of the project, with the City of Johannesburg paying for the physical fibre. Once the backbone has been completed, BWired will begin laying another 700km of fibre, which will ring underserviced areas such as Soweto and Orange Farm.

    Nkosi says the project is well on track to providing Internet access to those areas. “Last mile-access, or final user access, is scheduled for late 2012,” he says. “However, we will have test sites and accounts set up during the last quarter of this year [and] test network topology and the management of the fibre network,” he says.

    The connectivity will be used to connect small businesses and consumers in areas that have not had access to high-speed Internet access before. The company will also host several kiosks for users without access to computers and on-site support.

    Programmes will also be set up at a number of technology hubs in areas such as Soweto and Alexandra, to help school children, adults and business owners develop computer, entrepreneurial and job-seeking skills.

    Johannesburg residents in Sandton and parts of Randburg will already have noticed BWired signboards and workers trenching to lay cable. According to Nkosi, the fibre that is being laid in these areas is being used for its backbone network.

    Part of the plan is to connect the City of Johannesburg’s main offices to branch sites through the metropolitan area.

    Under an agreement, BWired will run the broadband network for the City of Johannesburg for a period of five years after the network is built and will then hand over the telecoms operator to the city.

    Consumers hoping for an alternative access technology to Telkom’s last-mile copper network shouldn’t get too excited, however. The network is aimed mainly at providing access in underserviced areas and not as a direct rival to products from commercial network operators.

    There are no plans to offer fibre-to-the-home; rather last-mile access, where it is exists, will be wireless. To bring affordable access to residents of underserviced areas, BWired has entered agreements with several Internet service providers and hopes to add cheap international capacity, probably through Seacom.

    The City of Johannesburg is also hoping to use Internet access to provide e-government and e-health services to Johannesburg residents.

  • Kenya has the highest number of people accessing Internet facilities and services within the East African Community. According to a study conducted by TNS Research International in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu from September to November 2010, out of a population of 40 million, about four million (10 per cent) have access to the Internet.

    The study, titled "Digital Life" and conducted to establish people's online behaviour and activities, found that in Uganda, out of a population of 33 million, about 3.3 million (10 percent) have a access to the Internet while Tanzania comes last -- out of a population of 42 million, only 672,000 people (1.6 per cent) have had an online experience.

    The study found that based on an adult sample in each of the covered EAC towns, an average of 45 per cent of the urban population have used the Internet, with Kampala having the highest number at 53 per cent; Arusha and Nairobi at 49 per cent; Mombasa at 42 per cent while Dar es Salaam has the least number of people using the Internet at 31 per cent.

    The TNS study revealed that in Kenya, mobile devices and Internet cafes are the primary points of access. The results of the study show that 60 per cent of Kenyans online use mobile phones as compared with those who use PCs at home (29 per cent); PCs at work (33 per cent); and cyber cafes (41 per cent), thereby indicating high potential for growth in the mobile Internet business in Kenya.

    The study found that though e-mail accessing remains the top online activity in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa, usage of Internet for social media and education as well as knowledge access is growing steadily.

    "The demography covered frequent users falling within the 16-60 age bracket, which represents the active online population. The study showed huge growth in Internet use, indicating that once Kenyans get online, they are highly engaged," noted Melissa Baker, TNS Research International's East Africa chief executive.

    However, the study notes that barriers to Internet access -- like lack of Internet-enabled handsets and PCs as well as lack of awareness of the benefits of the Internet -- need to be addressed to raise the level of frequency of accessing Internet services as penetration is still low at between 10 and 15 per cent.

computing

  • The Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) is allegedly embroiled in a new crisis, with a source saying that the main computer server has been hacked into and important details changed and 'distorted'. The information on the server contains the views of Zimbabweans across the country about what they'd like to see in a new constitution.

    This month in Harare COPAC teams began uploading the information gathered during the countrywide outreach meetings, so that it can be ready for analysis. COPAC said the process would take two weeks, but this latest set back might delay it.

    On Tuesday SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa said COPAC discovered that the data had been 'distorted' on Sunday morning but was trying not to divulge this latest problem for fear it would disrupt everything.

    "The server administrator indicated that there was a problem with the server: information which had been uploaded onto the server was mixed up. For instance, you would get information coming from Murhewa appearing at a centre in Bulawayo."

    Muchemwa said that within COPAC it's believed that ZANU PF is behind the hacking of the data to make sure it reflects the party's views, or completely distorts the information so that it is not credible. "Centres which had information which was not actually linking with the interests of ZANU PF, the information was changed and in some instances it was deleted," Muchemwa said.

    It's been reported that information from 3,600 out of about 4,600 centres has been uploaded, and that last week a ZANU PF COPAC official was overheard saying this information so far is not favourable towards their party.

    "This came as a surprise to so many people who heard that information because they had lied to President Mugabe," Muchemwa said. "He believed that the information which had been gathered throughout the whole country was favourable to ZANU PF, especially on the issue of land and resources."

    "But now they are discovering that the survey they (ZANU PF) carried out was misleading for President Mugabe, and they believe within COPAC itself that some elements in ZANU PF could have tampered with the server so that at least the whole process will be rendered null and void," Muchemwa added.

    On Tuesday COPAC co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that some data has gone missing. "Some of the information in the server is missing. The technicians have attributed this to the system failure. What we were doing is to make sure that the teams authenticate the information that they recovered," Mwonzora said.

    It has also been reported that 70 COPAC technicians were fired because of this security breach, but Mwonzora has denied this.

    COPAC has already faced many problems and has been heavily criticised. Its outreach programmes were marred by numerous incidents of violent attacks on civilians and MDC supporters, by ZANU PF militants and war vets. COPAC has also been accused of poor management of funds, with its rapporteurs going unpaid and some being evicted from hotels because bills had not been paid.

  • Camara Rwanda, a social enterprise based in Kigali, has been awarded with 'Most Innovative Development Project Award' by the Global Development Network (GDN).
    The firm received the award during the 12th annual GDN Conference held in Bogota, Colombia last week.

    "With over 250 projects that submitted their proposals, Camara's operation model appealed to the jurors drawn from reputable institutions such as the World Bank, JICA, AUSI-AID and Kenya's Central Bank, as a result of its simple yet self-sustainable approach," said Edward Rwagasore, a senior official at Camara Rwanda.

    Rwagasore added that, Camara's operations focus on establishing e-learning centres in schools across the country. "We are currently working with 33 academic institutions spread across the country, with numbers set to grow. We have set up computer labs in all those schools which are equipped with Camara PCs that are fine-tuned and installed with pre-configured Linux software based on the educational package, Edubuntu," said Rwagasore.

    Camarabuntu, as it is known, is loaded with numerous applications that prove handy in enhancing computer literacy. They include programmes that develop mouse and keyboard skills, interactive software and an offline version of Wikipedia among many other programmes.

    "Schools partnering with Camara Rwanda receive a wide range of support services that include teacher training on ICT usage as a pedagogical tool, technical support on PCs and parts as well as supply of relevant software and material," said Rwagasore.

    He also noted that ownership and responsibility is bestowed on the schools through payment of a levy on the machines. Explaining one of the reasons why his organization emerged best, Rwagasore said that volunteers, drawn from the local youth, are responsible for a lot of what Camara does.

  • A computer laboratory, constructed by MTN, to provide computer skills for the inmates of the Ankaful Prisons Complex, is being wasted, as the inmates are not currently using the computer centre for training, The Chronicle has learnt. The inmates claimed that the computer laboratory had been shut down following its inauguration last year, to the disappointment of the inmates.

    When The Chronicle contacted the Central Regional Prisons Commander, Ahwa Yankey, on Tuesday, he explained that the officer in-charge of the laboratory had been transferred, leading to the temporary stoppage of training. According Yankey, his outfit had found a replacement for the officer who was transferred, to train the inmates.

    Yankey disclosed that the new trainer for the laboratory was competent in the hardware, and would ensure that the inmates also acquired the skills they needed. He told this reporter that not all the inmates were educated, therefore, they select those who are educated, and train them in computer skills.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The World Bank board of directors has approved three major projects for three West African countries, totaling US$71.5 million dollars. The projects are aimed at boosting Information Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and access to services in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe.

    The Republic of Liberia and Sierra Leone will receive line of credits from the World Bank to the tune of US$25.6 million and US$31.0 million, respectively, to boost their ICT communications sectors. The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome will receive a grant of US$ 14.9 million from the Bank for its component of the Central African Backbone Program.

    The money, according to the World Bank, is part of a US$300 million West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP).

    “The projects have two main components. The first component will seek to create an enabling environment through provision of technical assistance and capacity building for legal and regulatory reform; and will develop public private partnership arrangements for the infrastructure to be developed,” noted a World Bank statement issued over the weekend.

    The Bank pointed out that the second component, which focuses on connectivity, will provide financing for the countries' contribution (consortium fee) for participating in the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable on an open access basis, using public private partnerships, leveraging private sector investment, and associated investments.

    The Projects will provide support to modernize legal, regulatory and institutional framework and improve overall competitive environment in the telecommunications sector and improve the viability of public incumbent operators where necessary, to make them more competitive.

    In Sierra Leone, for example, the commercialization of SierraTel, the state-owned telecom operator, and the liberalization of access to the country's international gateway will be supported, while in São Tomé and Príncipe the project will help to introduce competition through the launch of a second global telecommunications operator license to provide fixed and mobile services.

    World Bank Africa Region director for regional integration, Yusupha B. Crookes, added: "the growth of ICTs in Africa has been phenomenal over the past decade. Mobile penetration in particular is astronomical now, with many countries recording as high as 80%. The mobile network now constitutes the largest ever service delivery platform available to reach citizens, and is boosting Africans' ability to connect to the information super highway, thereby, creating opportunities for ordinary people to connect for social, economic and political reasons.”

    Crookes noted: “better days are ahead, as prices drop, broadband improves, internet access scales up, overall quality of communication is enhanced and broader and more innovative applications become available to solve problems facing ordinary people and governments in Africa."

    Last year, the Liberian government through the Ministries of Planning and Economic Affairs, Postal Affairs and the LIBTELCO as well as the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) signed the country onto the broadband connectivity which is expected to be provided by the France Telecom’s ACE cable.

    Liberia needs about US$26 million dollars in order to join this connectivity. It was in this regard that the World Bank and other stakeholders promised to pay the US$26 million.

    The total cost of the project for several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at US$700 million dollars. Construction of infrastructure for this project is expected to be completed in Liberia in 2012, the government said.

    Meanwhile the World Bank says it will provide support to 15 additional countries within Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region to increase the geographical reach of broadband networks and reduce costs of communications services.

    This new Program complements, the Regional Infrastructure Connectivity Program and the Central African Backbone, targets respectively Eastern & Southern African countries (25 eligible countries for a total amount of US$424 million) and Central African Countries (11 eligible countries for a total amount of $215 million).

    The World Bank observed that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe, are countries that currently have some of the highest connectivity costs in the world and are among a handful of countries in West and Central Africa which are not connected to the global network of broadband optical fiber infrastructure.

    The projects will help to bring a major infrastructural revolution as the countries will for the first time be connected to the best of global internet broadband services network as well as develop their national backbone infrastructure for distributing broadband internet to their urban and rural masses.

    Small countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe are typically ignored by private submarine cable consortia who consider their markets as too small and not attractive enough.

    Currently the three countries depend on costly satellite connectivity to the tune of US$4,000-5,000/Mbps per month while those connected to submarine cables can access international capacity at much lower prices as low as US$ 600 in East Africa and US$100 in Morocco. This, coupled with a lack of national backbone infrastructure, has created a difficult environment for expanding availability of Internet services and advanced applications.

  • Safaricom has raised Sh4.5 billion it had targeted through a bond issued last month, boosting the telecommunication company's war chest for making new capital investments to safeguard its market share in a fiercely competitive industry.

    Transaction advisors said the firm had just about hit its target, indicating a high appetite for investment opportunities given the high competition for funds from offers floated in December.

    Treasury, Safaricom, CFC Stanbic Bank, and power firm KPLC all sought to raise an estimated Sh31 billion through bond and rights issue offers last month.

    "We received just about the amount we were seeking," said Nkoregamba Mwebesa, the managing director of CFC Stanbic Financial Services who were lead arrangers of the issue.

    Subscription results of the Sh2.5 billion medium term note issued by CFC Stanbic Bank are yet to be announced. This was the second tranche of a three-note bond that originally opened in 2009 targeting to raise Sh12 billion. The first issue dated November 2009 was oversubscribed.

    The offer sought to raise Sh5 billion, but received applications worth Sh7.5 billion, which the company took up fully by exercising the "green shoe option."

    "The second issue did not attract as many applications mainly due to its timing but it was successful still," said Kabaki Wamwea, an executive director at Dyer and Blair Investment Bank.

    The second half of last year saw heightened fund raising in the capital markets including a KCB Bank rights issue and a Housing Finance corporate bond. The first tranche paid an interest rate of 12.25 per cent, while the second note will be paying less than seven per cent.

    A vicious price war started by Safaricom's main rival Airtel on calling tariffs have put pressure on the firm's dominance as the largest mobile phone service provider. The fluid telephony market has seen the share of Safaricom trade at below the initial offer price of Sh5 for most of the time since the global financial crisis. The government's two-and fifteen-year bonds also issued last month were oversubscribed, netting Sh24.3 billion, but Treasury took up Sh15.2 billion.

  • Neotel’s ability to continue as a going concern has been questioned by its independent auditors, Deloitte & Touche. But CEO Ajay Pandey, speaking to TechCentral in an exclusive interview, says there’s no reason for alarm and insists that the company is broadly meeting the targets set out in its business plan.

    Deloitte & Touche’s warning is contained in Neotel’s 2010 annual report, a copy of which is in TechCentral’s possession. The annual report, submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by its parent, India’s Tata Communications, paints a less than flattering picture of Neotel’s financial position as it prepares a round of retrenchments driven by an internal restructuring. Tata Communications has to submit the annual report under SEC rules.

    Deloitte & Touche warns in its auditors’ report that Neotel’s “recurring losses and shareholders’ deficit raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern”.

    The annual report shows Neotel’s debt is mounting, too. Net debt stood at R5.3bn at the 2010 financial year-end in March, up from R3.1bn a year earlier. Shareholders’ deficit, also known as negative shareholders’ equity, climbed from R782m in 2009 to R1.7bn in 2010.

    But Pandey insists there is no reason for investors or customers to worry and points out that the company is delivering strong top-line growth. He says December was Neotel’s best sales month on record with revenues of about R250m. The growth in revenue will eventually flow through to the bottom line, Pandey says.

    The company will turn Ebitda positive by the second quarter of calendar 2012, he predicts. Ebitda is earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation and is a key measure in evaluating the performance of companies still in their growth and investment phase.

    The annual report shows that at the end of March 2010 Neotel had drawn R3.2bn of R4.4bn in debt facilities available to it from various financial institutions, including Nedbank and Investec. About R1.2bn of those facilities remained. The facilities expire on 30 September 2012. Pandey says Neotel’s bankers remain “fully supportive” of the company and are backing its restructuring programme.

    Neotel had also drawn R2.3bn of R2.9bn in sanctioned funding from shareholders, leaving R633m available from this source of funding at the end of March. Pandey says Neotel was not expected to be profitable yet in terms of its business plan. He says the company is on the right track, despite the restructuring exercise and looming redundancies.

    He emphasises that Deloitte & Touche has not issued a qualified audit, but has simply expressed an “observation” about its ability to continue as a going concern. He says this is common practice in the auditing profession. Neotel continues to enjoy the support of its parent company, Tata Communications, Pandey says, a fact that is borne out by the Indian company’s recent decision to increase its stake to above 50%.

    However, the operator, licensed as the first competitor in fixed lines to Telkom, is clearly facing challenges. On two separate occasions last year it failed to meet targets for Ebitda agreed to with its external funders.

    Pandey says disruptions caused by the soccer World Cup — like other telecoms companies, it was prohibited from working on its network for about three months around the football extravaganza, negatively affecting its ability to deliver on contracts to customers — played a part in its missing the targets. The economic recession also played a role.

    Neotel is not the only telecoms company that has felt the economic pinch, Pandey says, pointing to recent job cuts at MTN, Nashua Mobile and Altech Autopage Cellular. He says the company has not missed any interest payments on its debt. In 2010, Neotel paid R523.9m in interest on loans.

    Of more concern, perhaps, is that Neotel’s cash position fell precipitously in the 2010 financial year. Cash and cash equivalents fell from R433.6m in 2009 to just R64.7m in 2010. But Pandey insists Neotel is not facing a debt trap. In the annual report, Neotel’s directors say they are “satisfied the company has access to adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future”.

    They base this on the fact that the company still had undrawn, committed funding facilities of R1.8bn at its 2010 financial year-end. They also cite the strength of Neotel shareholders Tata Communications and Tata Africa Holdings, which together hold 56% of the company’s equity. The directors say they are confident they can manage the cash outflows stemming from Neotel’s heavy investment in telecoms infrastructure.

    Neotel chief technology officer Angus Hay tells TechCentral that the 2010 financial year was one of heavy investment in infrastructure. This included big spending on undersea cables and data centres. Hay says capital expenditure has now peaked and has begun falling. This will flow through to the bottom line.

    The annual report shows Neotel incurred a loss before tax in 2010 of R1.58bn, growing from losses of R1.03bn in 2009 and R432,3m in 2008. Revenues, however, have surged in the same period, climbing from R1.1bn in 2009 to R1,8bn in 2010. Pandey says Neotel will be a US$1bn-revenue company within three years.

    Neotel generated most of its revenue from enterprise and wholesale services in 2010. This business area contributed R1,.3bn to the company’s R1,8bn in sales. Network services added R280m to the top line, with consumer services contributing R169m.

    Though it’s a small player in the consumer market, Pandey dismisses suggestions that its retail consumer strategy has failed. He says it’s unfair to compare its subscriber numbers — estimated at about 50 000 — to the mobile operators, which have racked up millions of customers. He says Neotel is going after niche consumer markets that are not adequately served by other operators.

    Turning to the planned retrenchments, Pandey says Neotel needs to restructure to address “imbalances in some functions and departments”. He says Neotel is focusing more strongly on providing managed services to clients, and it needs to build capacity in that area. Some staff will be redeployed as part of this process; others will be retrenched. Hay says the retrenchments are as a result of the need to refocus and restructure and are not being driven by the need simply to cut costs.

  • JSE-listed IT services company EOH has acquired Belay, a 200-person IT solutions provider based in Midrand that specialises in Microsoft technology.

    The value of the deal has not been disclosed and the transaction is still subject to approval by the Competition Commission.

    Belay is involved in custom software development, data management, business intelligence, server management, enterprise content magement and other specialist IT areas. The acquisition will give Belay access to a broader customer and skills base and strengthen the company’s empowerment credentials, says Belay CEO George Grimes.

    EOH CEO Asher Bohbot says Belay is will add “significant weight” to the company’s Microsoft and enterprise content management offerings. EOH, a darling among local technology investors, has about 2 300 staff and revenues of over R2bn/year. It listed on the JSE in 1998.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • EriTel, Eritrea’s state-owned incumbent telecoms operator, has completed the first phase of its network expansion and upgrade project, local newspaper Shabait reports. To ease mobile network congestion, the company has constructed additional stations in Asmara, Keren, Mendefera and Massawa, among other areas, while new telephone stations have been installed in Merhano, Tsaeda Kristian, Arbaete Asmera, Bisha, Foro and Massawa to accommodate more customers. Additionally, EriTel is rolling out a third-generation mobile network in order to upgrade data and internet services, and is also considering expanding its 2G network nationwide.

    Prepaid TopUp firm, Seamless has announce the successful launch of MTN Rwanda's Prepaid TopUP Solution on Seamless’ carrier class platform, ERS 360◦.

    South Africa’s mobile operator, Cell C, announced the launch of its online dashboard called MyTools which promises to provide functionality similar to that of Google Voice to Cell C subscribers. The major difference from Google Voice is that it's integrated into an operator, said Lars Reichelt, CEO of Cell C.

Digital Content

  • According to the latest survey on online shopping habits from MasterCard Worldwide, 51% of South Africans who have access to the Internet are shopping online and 75% of those have done so in the past three months.

    While the number of South Africans accessing the Internet to shop online is up 9% from the previous survey, the number of those who made purchases in the last three months has decreased by a marginal 2% from 77% a year ago.

    The survey was conducted from 3 September 2010 to 1 October 2010 and reached 8,500 consumers from 15 markets across APMEA. The survey and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

    In early 2010, South African research company World Wide Worx reported that the number of South Africans with access to the Internet grew by 15% between 2009 and the beginning of 2010 from 4.6m users to 5.3m users with similar growth predicted for the remainder of 2010.

    According to the latest survey by MasterCard, a majority (89%) of South African online shoppers are satisfied with their overall online shopping experience and 73% of active online shoppers intend to make an online purchase in the next six months. Both these figures have shown improvements over the previous year, where satisfaction was 83%, with the likelihood of continued online shopping at 72%.

    South Africans who shop online also feel that making purchases on the Internet is more convenient, user-friendly and easier than walking into a store or ordering from a catalogue or via a call centre.

    "Those who shop online are largely satisfied with their experiences with just over half of South Africa's Internet-connected population logging on to shop online. This presents a great opportunity for MasterCard to leverage on this Internet revolution to bring more people into the online shopping fray," says Dougie Henderson, VP Product Delivery, MasterCard Worldwide in the Middle East & Africa.

    The survey revealed that more people are making use of broadband access technologies. ADSL usage has increased from 55% to 60% while 3G/HSDPA usage increased from 49% to 63%.

    Conversely, the number of users who said that they utilise dial-up dropped substantially from 16% in 2009 to just 6% in 2010.

    Interestingly, respondents who said they use their mobile phones to access the Internet has shown significant growth, climbing from 13% in 2009 to 39% in 2010 - which is the highest score for mobile phone Internet usage across the APMEA region. Singapore follows at 33%, India (25%), Malaysia (20%), Thailand (20%), and UAE (20%)

    This corresponds with extensive changes and upgrades that have been apparent in the South African mobile broadband market throughout much of 2009 and 2010, including increased price competition between the cellular operators, vastly upgraded networks and the growth in smart phones as a handset category.

    This is according to a research study released by World Wide Worx, which revealed that three quarters of South African companies have deployed smart phones within their organisations, compared to almost none two years ago.

    That said, MasterCard survey found that just 11% of online shoppers actually made purchases using their mobile phones and only 13% intend on doing so in the next six months.

    When asked for what purposes respondents accessed the Internet, sending or receiving e-mail (95%) topped the list, followed by browsing for materials for study purposes (74%), checking their bank balance (73%), browsing for leisure (73%) and reading the news (70%). Online shopping was cited by 51% of users.

    According to the latest MasterCard survey, South African online shoppers prefer to plan and research their online purchases in advance, and fewer people are making impulse purchases online. The number of online impulse shoppers dropped substantially from 22% to just 8%.

    The majority of those shopping online (84%) conduct research about their purchases on the Internet before buying, 69% use the merchant or company's website for their research and 57% speak to family or friends beforehand.

    CDs and DVDs are still what South Africa's online shoppers seek out most on the Web with 50% citing so. Closely following CDs and DVDs is the purchase of books and art by 45% of respondents. Airline tickets saw a 1% decline to 43% of online purchases, while movie/concert tickets shot past home appliances and electronics to tie third place with 43%. Home appliances and electronics dropped a substantial 14% to just 29% of online purchases from last year's level of 43%.

    When it comes to payment for online purchases, credit cards are the most widely-preferred payment method online with just under half of the respondents (48%) using this payment method.  Paying using a debit card (29%) is the second most preferred payment method.

    According to 55% of the respondents not shopping online, the number one reason was that they prefer to shop in-store in order to look at the physical product.

    Encouragingly, fears about online safety and security have decreased substantially, dropping to second position from 63% in 2009 to 51% in 2010, while 44% of respondents reported not having a credit card as their reason for not shopping online.

    Interestingly, there was a significant jump from 24% to 41% in the number of respondents who cited "additional administration and delivery charges" as their reasons for not shopping online, while there was also an increase in people who said that they did not find anything online that interested them.

    South Africans who do shop online are quick to offer advice on how online stores can improve their current offerings, and potentially attract new customers.

    At the top of their list of recommendations were:

    1. Continue to enhance payment security and improve users' confidence in online transactions,

    2. Don't charge additional service charges on purchases and

    3. Make websites easier to use.

    "Online shopping has come a long way in South Africa. Access to the Internet is becoming easier and more cost effective, the overall online shopping experience is viewed positively and people are gaining trust in online security.

    "However, online retailers also need to be cognisant of the concerns of and feedback from their customers and continue to improve their offerings to further enhance the overall online shopping experience in order to attract new customers and retain existing ones," Henderson concludes.

  • Ugandans can now check their voting status via their mobile phones, at a cheap cost, across all networks, thanks to the new Electoral Commission service.

    The simple sms sent to 8683 will avail the recipient all details about their voting status as indicted in the voters' register like polling station, district, sub-county and county.

    The Electoral Commission (EC) chairman, Dr Badru Kiggundu launched the service, which cuts across all mobile phone networks, in Kampala yesterday.

    Financed by the US government, the service costs Shs120 on MTN and UTL while Orange and Warid charge Shs220. Airtel charges Shs160 for each sms sent.

    However, the first one million people to send the sms receive the service free of charge, but the subsequent subscribers will be charged.

    All one has to do is text his or her voter identity number to 8683. For the newly-registered voters who have not been given voter numbers, they are required to send the 17 digit number on their registration receipt to 8683.

    One can also get the same service by sending his surname followed by their dates of birth.

    The service, which started yesterday afternoon, will go on until the voting day on February 18. The deputy EC chairman, Mr Joseph Biribonwa, said all political parties shall be availed copies of voters' register at least two weeks to the voting day.

More

  • 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011

    BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa  

    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 For more information please visit  here:

    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa
    March 9, 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.
    For more information please visit here:  or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.

    Broadband World Forum MEA
    14-15 March 2011

    Dubai UAE
     
    Network, learn and do business with 750+ decision-makers from across the regional Broadband ecosystem. The conference programme features 60+ visionary speakers presenting across keynote plenary sessions, 4 in-depth technology tracks and a Rural Coverage and Connectivity focus day.  Co-located to the conference is a 35+ stand technology exhibition showcasing some of the region’s latest cutting-edge broadband technologies, applications, solutions and services to hit the market.
    Limited FREE passes for operators and early booking discounts apply to all others.  Register with VIP code: BBM11BAA
    For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011
    4 - 5 April

    Moevenpick 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.  
For more information please 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 more information please visit here:

  • ITU: HIPSSA CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

    Opened positions and requests for proposal:

     - G-3.1 (d) [WA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.1[WA].pdf

    - G-3.1 (d) [EA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.3[EA].pdf

    - G-3.3 (d) [CA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.2[CA].pdf

    - G-3.4 (d) [SA]: Spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.4[SA].pdf

    - G-3.5 (d) [INT]: International spectrum management expert specialized in cross-border coordination [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3.5[INT].pdf

    - G-3.6 (d) [PM]: Senior international spectrum management expert [EN] (Deadline February 11, 2011)
    click on the link below to download the application or copy the URL in your browser
    http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/projects/ITU_EC_ACP/hipssa/tor/G-3/HIPSSA_G-3%206[PM].pdf

    [HIPSSA/G-6] Call for Application related to ICT statistics

    The expert will be responsible for designing regional statistical reports about ICT/telecommunication indicators with a specific focus in regional organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistical reports shall include factsheets for each member country of the identified regional organisations and an aggregated and comparative view for each of the regions.

    To download the job description, please click on the link below or copy the URL in your browser: http://htmlnews.balancingact-africa.com/JD HIPSSA_G-3 6 1 a ST 110128 final _2_ _3_.pdf

    For further information visit the ITU's website.

     

    Google hires across Africa
    Google South Africa is no exception and the company is most likely looking to significantly strengthen its local presence in the country.

    Until fairly recently, Google SA had less than 10 employees, but the local arm has started to grow its workforce and is advertising no less than 15 positions for its Johannesburg office.

    Julie Taylor, Google’s Communications Manager for Sub Saharan Africa, says that Google’s South African office is still small but growing fast. “We expect it to grow by as much as double in size during the coming year, across different functions,” said Taylor.

    The positions advertised for the Google SA office in Bryanston, Johannesburg are as follows:

       1. Account Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       2. Account Manager - Johannesburg
       3. Account Strategist - Johannesburg
       4. Agency Relationship Manager - Johannesburg
       5. Business Development Manager, Southern Africa - Johannesburg
       6. Country Marketing Manager South Africa - Johannesburg
       7. Developer Relations Program Manager - Johannesburg
       8. Human Resources Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
       9. Industry Analyst - Johannesburg
      10. Industry Manager - Johannesburg
      11. Legal Counsel, Sub-Saharan Africa - Nairobi, Lagos or Johannesburg
      12. Policy Manager - Johannesburg
      13. Recruiting Coordinator (Temporary) - Johannesburg
      14. Sales Engineer - Nairobi, Accra, Lagos or Johannesburg
      15. Training Development Specialist for Africa Programs – Johannesburg

    Google is also growing its African presence with positions advertised at Google offices in Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. For more information on these positions, visit the Google Africa jobs page here:

  • Mobinil and iBwave - Egypt
    Egypt's Mobinil has selected an in-building wireless planning suite from iBwave. The company says that 70% of its calls originating from within buildings, hence the need to improve indoor coverage. "As the demands on our network continue to grow, we firmly believe that expanding our in-building coverage is a key strategy for us to be able to continue delivering that positive experience to our mobile subscribers and strengthen our leading position in Egypt," said Hassan Kabbani, CEO at Mobinil.

  • Côte d’Ivoire:  Michel Hebert has been appointed as the new CEO of mobile operator Comium (Koz) while Dr Nizar Dalloul has been appointed as the chair of the Board.

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