News in Brief 14 February 2018

Africa:

Algeria: Trade barrier - Minister of Post, ITC and Digital, Iman Houda Faraoun last week said that Algeria would not allow foreign e-marketing commerce companies to operate in the country, in a order to preserve national economy and sovereignty. Faraoun said, while answering MPs questions over the e-commerce Bill, said: "We recognize the weak control of technology in Algeria, and this is a reality, but we will not sell the country to foreign traders over suspicious suggestions, conducted by some quasi-experts, and which likely to jeopardize national sovereignty and economy." The E-commerce bill was approved by the Council of Ministers and now awaits parliamentary approval.

Angola: Investment Opportunities - A high-ranking delegation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) visited Angola last week to indentify investment opportunities in crude-oil, telecommunications, agriculture, transports, ports infrastructures and airports, ANGOP reported. The UAE's Minister of State Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber formally met Angolan President, Joao Lourenco, described as landmark event for both states.

Cape Verde: Structural separation - The government has announced it will form a new company to manage the state's telecommunications network, a service so far managed by Cape Verde Telecom (CV Telecom) and whose contract, expiring in 2021, will also be renegotiated, Lusa reports. The intention is to separate the wholesale network from the retail business; and the latter will then be provided by CV Telecom and other telcos. The functional separation was announced by Minister Fernando Elisio Freire, after a meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Kenya: Barriers broken - Safaricom's CEO Bob Collymore has provided the thinking behind Masoko (Kiswahili for markets) which Safaricom launched a few months ago to link buyers to markets. In a statement, he said that convergence of technology and shifts in trade gives the world the opportunity to reboot its thinking around how to source and supply goods sustainably. The opportunity to use technology to open new doors for trade means that cottage industries, rural farmers, artistes and basically anyone who has access to a data connection can now participate in the global market from the comfort of their home. The traditional barriers to trade, such as distance and language, are being broken down and forming a new landscape for more inclusive and sustainable growth. To build more inclusive economies that can withstand the pressures of a changing world, business must work alongside governments to ensure that equitable growth for all does not get left behind by the e-commerce boom. Masoko therefore will unlock the untapped e-commerce market in Kenya by connecting consumers, merchants and vendors to each other using the online portal.

Kenya: Music streaming - Safaricom launched its 'Music property' music streaming service on 12 February 2018, techweez reported. It will compete with local streaming services such as Mdundo and Transsion's Boom Player have been gaining momentum but are not yet 'main stream'. Safaricom originally announced the development in June 2017.

Kenya: Timely tool-set - Nairobi-based uLima has launched a mobile app to provide farming information across Africa. uLima company CEO Sunesh Bhoola said it will provide farmers with a tool-set, information libraries, database and access to the latest market information. It will provide information on crops, seeds, soil, livestock, agro-chemicals, weather updates and market prices. Bhoola said that persistent drought and shortage of food in Kenya had motivated development of the app.

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Lesotho: Fibre footprint - Econet's SME and HVC Manager 'Makhoarai Kobiso said in an interview this last week that Econet's fibre network is being expanded to areas around Maseru. There is reported to be full fibre coverage at Lesia, Thetsane West, Thetsane East, Masowe 1, Masowe 2, Masowe 3, Masowe 4, Katlehong, Maseru West, Maseru East, Moshoeshoe II, Stadium Area, Hillsview and Florida.

Mauritius: Weather wise - On 2 February Mauritius Telecom (MT) launched its My.T Weather. MT's CEO Sherry Singh said: "We want to offer all the weather information and also be the platform where we can find information on the opening of schools and whether to go to work in cyclone and torrential rain." The app is available on Playstore and Appstore, and will provide weather alerts from the Vacoas station and useful information during extreme weather events, including road accidents and diversions. The download is free and the use of My.T Weather on a data plan is free for mobile My.T subscribers.

Nigeria: Data boost - Globacom is offering subscribers free data on 4G MiFi with its mini router, Glo MiFi, and 16 gigabytes of data for NGN 16,000 (USD 44). The device can connect up to 15 further devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and the like, all at once while it also adapts itself to offices and events venues, being able to beam the Glo 4G wireless Internet signals over a wide range. Globacom also said that subscribers would have an extra 25 percent as bonus for those who renew their data plans before expiration.

Nigeria: Electrical elections - The Nigeria Communications Satellite, NIGCOMSAT is to partner with the Independent National Electoral Commission over e-collation and e-transmission of voters results. INEC said in a statement: "In continuation of consultations with national agencies in the telecommunications sector, INEC considers this interactive meeting critical to the success of our commitment to deepening of the application of technology to elections." It requires the results from 119,973 polling units nationally are electronically transmitted, including scanned images of result sheets. Not all Polling Units are located where 3G and 4G networks are available for real-time electronic transmission of results. INEC noted that the satellite broadband service 'provides flexible bandwidth capacity that can be deployed almost anywhere and in a short period of time, including hard-to-reach and temporary locations.'

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Nigeria: Farming app aid - Startup Thrive Agric is using a crowdfunding platform to provide farmers with the finance they need to grow their businesses and offer the chance to invest in agriculture, Disrupt-Africa reports. Launched in beta at the end of 2016 and to the public early last year, Thrive Agric is designed to crowdfund investments for smallholder farmers and provide it to them in the form of inputs, tech-driven advisory and access to markets. Farms are listed on the platform, complete with details of what it takes to fund a unit, the length of time until return, and the returns themselves. Subscribers fund these units by paying online, and receive regular updates on what is happening on the farm. They can receive their funded sum and any returns after harvest. The funds are used to purchase inputs, buy insurance, and market the produce. It has a 40:40:20 profit-sharing model, with 40 percent for the farmer; 40 percent to subscribers, and Thrive taking the remaining 20 percent.

South Africa: Chair to be replaced - Minister of Communications Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane is now waiting guidance from Parliament on the steps to follow concerning the conviction for fraud of the chairman of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) council, according to ITWeb. Rubben Mohlaloga was found guilty of defrauding the Land Bank of approximately ZAR 6 million (USD 495,000) in 2008. Mohlaloga's appointment as ICASA chairman, and that of two other councillors, was effective from 1 December 2017, for a five-year term. When Mohlaloga was initially appointed as an ICASA councillor in July 2013 he had already been charged with defrauding the Land Bank although the case had yet to be heard. Meanwhile, the Sunday Times has reported that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications will meet this week to discuss Mohlaloga's future.

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South Africa: Delta appointment - Advisory and investment firm Delta Partners has appointed Sharoda Rapeti as a non-executive partner, based in its Johannesburg office. Sharoda most recently worked for Deloitte Consulting in South Africa, where she spent seven years serving as an industry leader for the TMT practice. As part of her role, Sharoda led several broadband assignments for the National Treasury, National, Provincial, and local Government clients as well as private sector clients. In her previous roles, Sharoda held senior positions in companies such as SABC and MTN; the latter of which saw her serve as General Manager of Products and Services, with Sharoda overseeing the strategy and implementation of voice, data, VAS, mCommerce as well as Business Partner solutions. She has also served as the Vice President of the Engineering Council of South Africa.

South Africa: Mobile bank - Standard Bank is to launch an MVNO, Tech Central reports, quoting industry sources. The former CEO of both Virgin Mobile South Africa and MVN-X, Steve Bailey, is working on the launch, and is reportedly 'aggressively hiring' a team. The move would make Standard Bank the second large retail bank in South Africa to launch an MVNO, following First National Bank's FNB Connect service in 2015. Standard Bank has some 11.8 million clients as of December 2016, ahead of Absa with 8.8 million and Capitec with 8.3 million.

South Africa: Refreshment receipts - Domestic low-cost carrier FlySafair now offers cashless transactions on all flights. AviaPay, a new mobile point of sale (POS) system, allows passengers to use their credit and debit cards to purchase refreshments in-flight, and was devised by BlueMarket Retail Solutions, and payment service providers, PayGate and PosMarket. Travellers can now be provided with receipts, regardless of the payment method used.

South Africa: Unhappy bill - MTN South Africa has said in its submission to the Department of Telecommunications & Postal services that the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill is unconstitutional, will create a new infrastructure monopoly in the form of a proposed wholesale open-access network (Woan) and will ultimately be detrimental to consumers. Telkom, which lacks the capital of its rivals, said the Woan is an 'ideal vehicle to level the playing field in mobile communications and challenge the power of the current duopoly. It should be designed in a manner that will lower the barriers to entry for smaller operators to effectively compete with Vodacom and MTN.' The department is due to hold a high-level meeting with stakeholders in early March to discuss the bill. Interested parties had until 31 January to make submissions to government on the bill.

South Africa: Watching and waiting - BitPesa is intending to launch the foreign exchange and payment platform in South Africa by 2Q 2018, reports ITWeb. CEO Elizabeth Rossiello says BitPesa has had informal discussions with the South African Reserve Bank through its lawyers and banking partners, which she said had been broadly positive, with a 'wait and see approach'. Rossiello started BitPesa in Nairobi in 2013, and in addition to Kenya, BitPesa operates in Uganda, Tanzania, the DRC, Nigeria, Senegal, the UK, Luxembourg and Mozambique. It recently launched in Spain, and is about to open an office in Ghana.

Tunisia: ICT integration - Tunisie Telecom (TT) has signed a new three-year contract with ICT integrator Prologic, renewing the partnership agreed in 2015, covering a wide range of IT and telecom services. TT said that the deal reinforces the mobile and data offering available to Prologic's client base, and could pave the way for new collaboration opportunities.

Zambia: Executive recruitment - Vodafone Zambia has appointed Amon Jere as its new Chief Sales and Distribution Officer with effect from 1 February. Jere was with MTN Zambia, where he was Chief Sales & Distribution Officer. He has over fifteen years of experience in commercial, sales and distribution in the telecommunications industry across Southern, Eastern and Western Africa regions. He was originally with Celtel Zambia as Sales and Distribution Director, and thereafter as Sales and Distribution Director for Celtel Kenya. He went on to join Vodafone Ghana as Sales Director. Jere then joined Zamtel as Chief Commercial Officer grew the customer base by more than 200 percent. Jere also worked for Glo Ghana as Commercial Director before joining MTN Zambia as Chief Sales and Distribution Officer.

Zimbabwe: Poor service - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has said the disruption of service on the morning of 12 February 2018 was due to issues with some of its billing nodes, NewsDay reported. The issues were resolved by noon. Econet posted notices on its social media platforms and via SMS.

Middle East:

Iran: City coverage - The Financial Tribune reports that Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI) has expanded its 3G and 4G networks, and now provides coverage in all 1,246 Iranian towns and cities. MCI launched its LTE network in September 2015.

Oman: Festival frolics - Omantel has launched offers for its Makasib customers to celebrate the Muscat festival, allowing them the chance to win prizes. The names of subscribers will be placed in a draw held at the end of the festival.

Oman: Number auction - The first 3-day auction for VIP mobile phone numbers was launched by Omantel and Ooredooo at 10:00 am on 9 February 2017. Omantel’s media department head, Mohamed Alsalimi, said: "Hundreds have registered in the last three days. Bidders can't add anything less than OMR 50 (USD 130) to the initial price of the VIP number. The auction will be won by the person with the highest bid." There was a non-refundable registration fee of OMR 20 (USD 52).

Saudi Arabia: FttH expansion - Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) has selected Corning Inc. to supply fibre to the home (FTTH) technology for fibre access network expansion. The agreement builds on an existing relationship that has seen Corning support STC's kingdom-wide network with more than 1.5 million km of fibre. Corning also will help STC develop an advanced technical training programme for the service provider's fibre engineers and technicians. STC's Chief Operations Officer Eng. Nasser Sulaiman Al Nasser said: "STC is building the largest fibre network in the history of the kingdom."

Saudi Arabia: Hot football - Saudi Telecom is reported to have agreed to pay USD 1.8 billion for rights to broadcast Saudi Arabian professional soccer matches over 10 years, Reuters reported. STC signed a memorandum of understanding with the government's General Sports Authority to pay SAR 6.6 billion (USD 1.8 billion) for exclusive rights, the authority said last week. Currently privately controlled regional broadcaster MBC group has the rights, which it obtained in July 2014.

Saudi Arabia: Pre-paid packages - ETIHAD Etisalat (Mobily) has launched its new pre-paid bundles with various features, giving subscribers more options to use local data and voice on and off the Mobily network, in addition to using social media apps to meet subscribers' needs. The new bundles will be SAR 30, 75 and 150 (USD 8, 20 and 40). The SAR 30 bundle comes with a total of 100 minutes of local calls for all networks, 1 GB Internet data and another 1 GB for social media apps. The SAR 75 bundle provides subscribers 500 minutes of local calls for all networks, 5 GB Internet data and another 5 GB for social media applications. The SAR 150 bundle will give subscriber 1,500 minutes local calls to all networks, in addition to 10 GB Internet data. Moreover, it also allows subscribers to enjoy unlimited use of the following social media applications: Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook, and YouTube.

United Arab Emirates: Helpful hub - Etisalat is working with 11 partners to offer a one-stop shop 'Hello Business Hub' for setting up a small and medium business or a start-up in the UAE. Etisalat's acting Senior Vice-President for small and medium business, Esam Mahmoud, noted that SMBs are contributing 60 percent to the UAE's GDP. The new hub will aid a series of processes ranging from company set-up to company registration, banking to insurance and VAT, office leasing to furniture, combined with the latest telecom products and services from Etisalat. The hub is located at One JLT, Jumeirah Lake Towers. A similar hub will be opened in Abu Dhabi and mini-hubs in Dubai, as well as in the northern emirates.