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News in Brief 22 August 2013

Africa: Inclusive insurance - Bharti Airtel is partnering with MicroEnsure, a provider of mass-market insurance products, to provide insurance services to Airtel?s African subscribers. Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer for Airtel Africa: "In many of our markets, less than 5 percent of our customers have any formal insurance products and there is demand for insurance offerings that are simple, affordable and reliable. Our partnership with MicroEnsure will deepen our value added services to our customers and provide access to insurance. " The package will include life, accident, health, agriculture and other insurance.

Africa: Money hotspots - Western Union now claims to have some 27,000 agency locations in 50 African nations for its mobile banking function. Richard Malcolm, south and east African regional vice president for Western Union, was quoted by 'How We Made It In Africa' as saying: "We see Africa as being the hotbed or ground zero for some interesting technological advances. Some of the things that are happening here in Africa happened here first? ".

Africa: SingTel stake - Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) is to increase its stake in Bharti Telecom, which some 43.6 percent of Bharti Airtel. SingTel will pay INR 18.6 billion (USD 296.5 million) in cash to buy an additional 3.62 percent stake to take its indirect holding in Bharti Airtel to 32.34 percent from 30.76 percent at present. SingTel is to buy 788.5 million Bharti Telecom shares from MacRitchie Investments Pte, Singapore's state investment firm Temasek Holdings. Temasek in turn owns a 51.88 percent stake in SingTel. The deal will be completed on 28 August.

Botswana: Court case - A debt of some BWP 3 million (USD 346,000) has been the subject of a writ issued by the High Court for seizure of goods owned by Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC). The Voice reports that the court was hearing an unfair dismissal case of Edward Molemane Lekoko, Head of Network Planning and Projects, after he was demoted to Head of Technical Projects.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Local knowledge - Bharti Airtel has appointed Jean Pierre Kiwakana Kimayala as its chairman in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kiwakana Kimayala has served as an economic advisor to the DRC president. The move follows Airtel's announcement that it is devolving greater responsibility to each of its African units.

Equatorial Guinea: Partying in Poland - In mid-July the fifth meeting of the Ministry of Transport, Technology, Posts and Telecommunications board in 2013 was convened, the Information and Press Bureau of Equatorial Guinea has reported. Director General of Posts and Telecommunications, Carlos Esono Miko, had visited Poland with a delegation led by the Secretary of State for Telecommunications, Carmelo Modu Ebuka to attend the Global Symposium of Regulators of the International Union Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Ghana: Payment plan - MTN has been directed to compensate its subscribers for an outage earlier this month. The National Communications Authority (NCA) has requested a compensation plan be submitted for all voice and data subscribers who were affected. The Daily Graphic noted that the NCA has previously claimed it was difficult to supervise wholesale compensation as could not measure customers? experience to determine who had suffered from network interruptions.

Israel:  Fast-tracked FTTH - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to inaugerate the ViaEuropa AB-Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) fiber-to-the-home venture in Beersheva on 3 September 2013. The Globes news organisation has reported that the Minstery of Communications is due to grant the operating license in late August, as per its commitment to grant the licence within weeks of the application being received.

Kenya: Conditional cut-rate - Airtel is now offering the lowest cross-net call rate with all calls priced at KES 2 for at least 7-days if subscribers transact at least KES 100 on Airtel Money. Transmission of funds is already free. Airtel has 5.1 million subscribers compared to Safaricom's 19.6 million.

Kenya: Offer on-target - Dimension Data is claiming some 75 percent of AccessKenya shareholders have accepted its KES 14 (USD 0.16) per share offer for around 218 million ordinary shares, prior to the Offer Period closing on 15 August 2013. It expected to see the uptake improve before closure, BusinessDailyAfrica reported.

South Africa: Channel success - Standard Bank says its mobile banking customers rose to 3 million as at July 2013, representing a 58 percent increase from July 2012. Vuyo Mpako, head of channel design and development at Standard Bank, said it had just under 170,000 unique registered users of its app at the end of June 2013. The total value of transactions on the app was approximately ZAR 11 billion (USD 3.08 billion) in the year to date.

South Africa: Hawks still hovering - The iol news site reports that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation confirmed that it is continuing an investigation into the allegations of bribery and corruption in Iran, although MTN?s own internal probe concluded it was innocent of wrongdoing in the Middle East. Paul Ramaloko, a spokesman for the Directorate, apparently confirmed that the investigation was continuing. iol speculated on whether there was a link between the departure of Nazir Patel, the former group chief financial officer, and the investigation.

Tanzania: Better backbone promised - The Tanzania Daily News has reported TTCL Head of Sales Kisamba Tambwe as saying last week that it was determined to offer quality services after the successful roll out of the national fibre optic backbone. Already, several ministries as well as government agencies, departments and hospitals have been connected through the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB). Several banks have also been connected. Tambwe said it had improved after-sale services to ensure quality.

Tanzania: Burning battery - A fire at Vodacom Tanzania?s main switch in Dar es Salaam saw its mobile subscribers cut off for some 12 hours. Corporate Affairs Chief Officer Georgia Mutagahywa said that the fire affected the entire network. The Daily News reported that fire occurred on Friday at 16.00 hrs at its building in Oysterbay?s Kwale Street in Kinondoni District in the city, caused by a battery.

Togo: Cheaper country calls - Togo Telecom's 'Promo Prepaid' is offering a 50 percent rebate on international calls until 31 October. Mobile calls to fixed or mobile numbers in Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, the UK and US cost only XOF 55 (USD 0.11) per 45 seconds. Calls to Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Morocco and South Africa will cost XOF 55 per 30 seconds. Agence Ecofin suggests that the operator is reacting to competition from Skype and other VoIP providers.

Uganda: TV times - MultiChoice Uganda has launched mobile television in Kampala, allowing subscribers to access local as well as DStv and GOtv channels on Internet-connected devices. New Vision reported DStv had also been made available on tablets, which are designed to carry their channels. Steven Musoke, MultiChoice Uganda chairman, said: "Having been in Uganda for the past 16 years, it was time we broke another dawn of a new era and give our customers what they needed. " Uganda is the eighth African country that MultiChoice has launched mobile TV in.

Zimbabwe: Nominated numbers - Econet Wireless has launched its new prefix, 078. It is also promoting special numbers. Blocks of ten numbers featuring the same digit six times will be auctioned, while other numbers will simply be up for sale. The Know Me, Know my Number promotion has Gold and Silver packages which cost USD 89 and USD 39 respectively.

Zimbabwe: Rate restoration - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has directed Econet Wireless to cancel the tariff cuts it made last week. The operator cut its rates by 60 percent last week, with a rate of USD 0.10 a minute, down from USD 0.25 a minute. BDLive has reported that POTRAZ threatened penalties if the original rates were not restored by Friday.