News in Brief 9 April 2014

Africa: B2B for the long haul - Yannick Decaux, Orange Business Services Country Manager for South Africa and Sales Director for sub-Saharan Africa, has said Orange will continue to operate its business-to-business (B2B) services units in Kenya and Uganda irrespective of any decisions made regarding its presence in the mobile markets in those countries. ITWeb reports Decaux saying the focus remains on Africa.

Bahrain: Call clarity - Last week Zain Bahrain launched high definition (HD) voice technology on its upgraded network. The feature is the first to be launched as a part of the new network services and will be followed by 4G LTE technology. Zain Bahrain said it has invested USD 100 million for the deployment of a new network.

Bahrain: Certified contact centre - Batelco has won the Best Contact Centre award at the 3rd Customer Experience Management (CEM) at the Telecoms: Middle East Summit awards ceremony, held in Dubai Monday 31 March. Batelco implemented a number of new mechanisms and systems, which raised customer satisfaction levels by up to 90 percent.

Bahrain: Notes negotiated - Batelco Group has completed a tender offer of up to USD 200 million to repurchase a portion of its notes due 2020. The transaction was launched on 24 March and was led by Citigroup and Standard Chartered Bank. At expiration on 31 March some USD 136.1 million had been tendered, and Batelco accepted USD 131.4 million of the notes at a purchase price of USD 1,000 per USD 1,000 principal amount plus accrued interest.

Cote d'Ivoire: Swiss service - Over the weekend Swiss-based YooMee Africa Group launched its operations in Côte d?Ivoire, offering LTE services to individuals and businesses. Yann Le Guen, Managing Director of YooMee Côte d?Ivoire said he was proud that its teams had deployed a quality LTE network. YooMee Africa previously launched broadband Internet in Cameroon.

Kenya: Laptop latest - After the dramatic termination of a school laptop contract last week, the Ministry of Education is now seeking investors to build a local laptop assembly plant, the BusinessDailyAfrica reports. A public-private partnership is envisaged. An expression of interest will be issued next week after the government finalises a concept paper on the framework. It was claimed that the original winner Olive did not meet the financial threshold for the tender, was not an original equipment manufacturer and it had inflated its final bid by KES 1.4 billion to KES 24.69 billion (USD 280.2 million).



Madagascar: Broadband bargain - Orange is offering free wireless Internet and has installed Wi-Fi antennas in some of its kiosks according to Agence Ecofin. Jean Paul Cottet, Chairman of Orange Madagascar, inaugurated the scheme on 27 March 2014. Six booths have been commissioned initially.

M-Pesa: Overseas development - Vodafone Romania launched M-Pesa on 31 March, representing its first foray into Europe. Michael Joseph - well known to readers following his stint as Safaricom's CEO - said that Vodafone's 7 million Romanians mobile subscribers use cash for daily payments. The majority of Romanians have at least one mobile phone, while more than a third does not have access to traditional banking services. Joseph is now director of mobile banking at Vodafone.

Mali: Strike stand down - An indefinite strike called on 31 March 2014 by Orange's wholesale vendors has ended after a deal was struck between the Orange's management and wholesalers. According to Agence Ecofin, Orange has agreed to maintain the price of wholesale recharge cards which are to remain at XOF 900 (USD 1.88), with the retail margin remaining at XOF 100, rather than the XOF 70 proposed by Orange.

Middle East: Spectrum strategies - The 8th annual TMT Finance & Investment MENA Conference and Awards focusing on growth strategies, investment and innovation across the region is to be held in Dubai on 7 May 2014. Chris Buist, Director, Coleago Consulting, noted: "There are a number of important spectrum auctions coming up across the region and operators are looking at how they best use the spectrum, infrastructure sharing, new technologies and business models, to meet the massive demand for data services. "

Middle East: Steady spending - US-based research company Gartner estimates that the Middle East?s total spend on information technology (IT) will total USD 211 billion in 2014, up 8 percent increase on 2013. It suggests that by 2018, the region will spend USD 243 billion, representing 5.6 percent of global IT spends. Telecoms services account for more than half of total spending at USD 156.4 billion, up from USD 149.2 billion in 2013.

Namibia: Ministerial meeting - The Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Hon. Joel Kaapanda in late March called on Paratus Telecom (previously Internet Technologies Namibia), local news journal The Economist reported. The Minister met Paratus Telecom CEO Barney Harmse and Chief Operating Officer Schalk Erasmus. Also present were John Walenga of Omalaeti Productions and on the right is John D?Alton, Managing Director.

Nigeria: Ballistic banking - MTN's micro-banking software MTN XaaS has recently signed Ibolo Microfinance Bank Limited, in Offa, Kwara State. The bank's MD Mustapha Adebayo described it as 'very fast and the best of all the software solutions' he has used, according to ThisDayLive. The solution was launched in 2012 by MTN Business, in collaboration with CWG.

Nigeria: Facts facilitated - Globacom has launched SMS WIKI which allows mobile users to obtain information via Short Messaging Service (SMS) without an Internet connection from the online encyclopedia. Globacom's Marketing Coordinator, Adeniyi Olukoya, described it as a 'revolution in knowledge acquisition'. The cost of the service is NGN 100 (USD 0.60) a month. Other recent launches include Glo Family and Friends Finder, a security service for people to locate one another. The Glo Games Store enables subscribers to download and play premium games on mobile devices from a mobile portal; a subscription to Glo Games Store is required. Glo Medicare is also an SMS-based service which provides regular information on a wide range of health and wellness issues.

Nigeria: Service fines - MTN, Globacom and Airtel have been fined some NGN 647 million (USD 3.9 million) for poor quality service by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The operators concerned are not to sell any new SIM cars, or run any promotions for their networks in March.

Nigeria: Top dog - Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to become the largest economy in Africa and 26th largest economy globally with a gross domestic product (GDP) of almost USD 509 billion for 2013. According to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) the telecom sector moved from 0.8 percent of GDP to 8.6 percent, and is valued at USD 19 billion.

Oman: Future funding - The government expects to raise OMR 203.85 million (USD 528.3 million) from the sale of its 19 percent stake in Omantel. The proceeds will go the State General Reserve Fund, the Times of Oman reported. The government's stake will consequently be reduced to 51 percent.

Palestine: Israeli impediments - Wataniya Mobile CEO Fayez Husseini has said that the Israeli authorities are continuing to prevent it from importing equipment into the West Bank and Gaza. He said the operator's annual losses in Gaza are estimated at approximately USD 40 million and that the total losses due to not operating in Gaza and adopting 3G are estimated at USD 400 million.

Senegal: Virtual university - The African Development Bank (ADB) is to lend XOF 2.5 billion (USD 2.5 million) to government for the Virtual University of Senegal (PAUVS). Amadou Ba, Minister of Economy and Finance, and Mamadou Lamine N'Dongo, resident representative of the ADB in Senegal signed the deal in late March, Agence Ecofin reported. The loan will be used to build the headquarters of the Virtual University, capacity building, and the construction and equipping of five digital open spaces. Ultimately the annual intake is expected to be around 6,000 young people in the suburbs of Dakar, Saint Louis, Thies, Kaolack and Ziguinchor.

South Africa: Mobile media - Media24 has announced the launch of South Africa?s first mobile celebrity news and entertainment brand, The Juice by its Media24 Weekly Magazines division.

South Africa: Senior smartphones - MyBroadband quizzed South Africa's teleco CEOs as to which smartphones they use, and found the iPhone 5s the winner with Cell C CEO Jose dos Santos and Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub using it. It is being tried out by Telkom Mobile Managing Director Attila Vitai. Other 'senior' devices include the Samsung S4 Mini Dual SIM and Galaxy S4; BlackBerry and HTC One.

Tunisia: Entrepreneurial encouragement - The Intilaq platform intended to encourage budding entrepreneurial ICT talent has been launched by the Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF) with an estimated fund of some TND 28 million (USD 17.6 million). The launch was chaired by Abdullah Al Hamidi Naceur, Ambassador of the State of Qatar to Tunisia and QFF President, Mr. Kenneth Campbell, CEO of Tunisiana and President of Intilaq, Mohamed Fkih, member of the Board of Directors of Tunisiana and Mr. Mohamed Bridaa, CEO of Microsoft Corporation.

Zimbabwe: Huawei in Harare - Last week Huawei hosted an ICT forum in Harare in collaboration with the government. Participants were to be drawn from all ministries and state owned enterprises, with Huawei experts sharing their experience with a particular focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.