News in Brief 31 July 2014

Africa: Healthy interest - Gemalto has joined the GSMA's pan-African mHealth Initiative (PAMI), a mobile ecosystem that aims to improve maternal and child health and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. Gemalto is contributing its digital security expertise to two key mHealth programs: the United Nations Every Women Every Child Global Strategy and the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact. The first phase will be launched in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia in September 2014, and will be extended to Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania in early 2015.

Africa: Tax take - According to research by Performance Management and Consulting (PMC), sub-Saharan Africa?s mobile operators pay 30 percent taxes on their revenues, on average, with the highest rates in Zambia (53 percent), Madagascar (45 percent), Tanzania and Gabon (40 percent) and Cameroon (39 percent). In Cameroon, for example, the two main mobile operators paid XAF 485 billion (USD 992 million) of income and other taxes, on top of the XAF 23.5 billion (USD 48.1 million) as 2 percent of revenue for the USF. The latter has now been raised to 3 percent. Mobile operators also pay 1.5 percent of revenue to fund the regulator.

Algeria: Fixed focus - Algerie Telecom (AT) is to lay round 20,000 km of fibre in 2014 and 2015, according to CEO Azouaou Mehmel speaking at the opening of the first Cybercafe connected to the Internet through its fixed LTE service. AT has already installed 57,000 km of fibre nationally. Fibre is being used to upgrade existing links through reconfiguration and to extend the network into new areas. AT has installed more than a million MSANs nationally this year.

Algeria: Rapid uptake - Djezzy signed up 60,000 subscribers to its 3G service within two weeks of launch on 5 July, according to parent Orascom Telecom Algerie's CEO, Viccenzo Nesci. Djezzy staff participated in a 3G training program at Italian operator Wind, the first VimpelCom unit to obtain a 3G licence. Agence Ecofin reported Nesci saying staff from other units also provided input on individual network rollouts.

Cote d'Ivoire: Second centre - MTN Cote d?Ivoire has opened a XOF 1 billion (USD 2.04 million) modular data centre provided by Flexenclosure and its local partner Leadcom/STA. The 336 square metre data centre is located in the industrial park of Yopougon. Some 82 sq metres are allocated to servers, 168 sq metres for the switching centre and 84 sq metres for power plant. All of the modules were produced in Sweden, and it will be used to offer fully managed cloud computing, Telecom Reseaux reported. MTN opened its first data centre in 2011 at its Technology Centre in Zone 4, and intends to open its third facility at Cocody Riviera before the end of 2014.

Egypt: Rotating readies - Mobinil is to sign a EGP 1 billion loan contract with the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) for financing capital expansions to continue network growth. The loan will finance part of the bonds maturing in 2015. NBE is acting as a lead arranger for the loan facility. Egyptian Gulf Bank, Industrial Development & Workers Bank of Egypt and Blom Bank Egypt have also agreed to participate.

Gabon: Moov money - Moov Gabon has launched the Flooz mobile money service in partnership with Orabank. Customers can carry out transactions on Moov and other operators' networks. Flooz has already been launched in Cote d'Ivoire, Benin, Niger and Togo.

 

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Ghana: Data delivery - Airtel Ghana is to invest some GHS 200 million (USD 58.5 million) for network expansion with the emphasis on revamping data services. Airtel Ghana Marketing Director, Manu Rajan, said last week that some GHS 150 million (USD 43.9 million) would go towards the expansion of the network's footprint.

Ghana: Tigo transactions - Tigo Cash can now be used as a mode of payment for all online transactions at Kaymu's online marketplace. Both Tigo and non-Tigo customers can buy or sell their products on Kaymu.com.gh. Commercial Manager and Head of Mobile Financial Services at Tigo Ghana, Selorm Adadevoh, said the partnership would enable Ghanaians to transact seamless online business at the site.

Kenya: Telecoms spur ICT - Information and communications technology (ICT) spending in Kenya has grown from 8.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006 to 12.1 percent in 2013, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). It noted that telecoms accounted for the bulk of ICT revenues in Kenya. It noted: "Prior to the liberalisation of the market in 1999, there were only 15,000 mobile subscribers in the country, compared to the current figure of around 31.3 million, which clearly indicates extremely rapid growth ".

Malawi: More banks - Airtel Malawi says it is linking its Airtel Money wallet service to banks. Airtel Money Country Director, Andrew Santhe said it would be linking it to three more banks. Airtel Malawi claims to have some 700,000 Money service clients two years after starting services.

Nigeria: Local levy - MTN Nigeria has agreed to pay the Plateau State Internal Revenue Service (PSIRS) NGN 15.9 million, according to the Daily Trust. MTN had earlier declined to pay the 1 percent development levy, prompting the PSIRS to seal off access to MTN's Jos office and eight base stations in the state. PSIRS Chairman Samuel Pam said he was happy with the outcome.

Saudi Arabia: Executive exit - Mobily has said Saleh Bin Nasser Al-Jasser, an independent non-executive board member, is to step down for due to personal and business reasons. His resignation was accepted on 23 July, effective from 31 July. The new appointee will be announced in due course.

Saudi Arabia: Financial finesse - Etihad Etisalat Company (Mobily) has been advised by Latham & Watkins in connection with a USD 200 million Murabaha facility from Export Development Canada for the purchase of eligible goods and services supplied by Alcatel Lucent, including Alcatel Lucent Canada. This is Mobily?s third ECA-backed Islamic financing following on from its USD 646 million Murabaha facility with the support of Exportkreditnämnden and Finnvera in August 2013. In 2014 Latham & Watkins advised Mobily in connection with its USD 561 million Murabaha facilities made available by Exportkreditnämnden and Finnvera plc.

Somalia: Mega merger - According to the Geeska Afrika Online reporter in Mogadishu, telcos Hormuud, Somtel and National link have signed a co-operation agreement. The three said at a joint press conference that the co-operation would pave way for easier communication for customers. The three are reported to have also agreed to form Somali Telecommunication Company (STC) to implement and facilitate the pact.

South Africa: Popular pulse - MTN South Africa has launched its MTN Pulse service, offering calls to other MTN Pulse subscribers for as little as ZAR 0.29 (USD 0.03) per minute. Subscribers call for ZAR 0.79 (USD 0.075) per minute for the first 60 seconds of the day and ZAR 0.29 per minute for any other MTN Pulse calls thereafter. All calls are billed per second. MTN Pulse to other MTN customers costs ZAR 0.79 per minute, and MTN Pulse to other local networks is ZAR 1.20 per minute. The first million subscribers also get free Social Networking Internet Services as well as a 500MB data bundle valid for 30 days. The million mark was achieved late on 22 July.

South Africa: DoT post for President's daughter - President Jacob Zuma's daughter, Thuthukile Zuma, has been named Chief of Staff at the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, according to the Techmoran news portal. Thuthukile is the President's youngest daughter whose mother is his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union Commission who was a former Cabinet Minister. She graduated from The University of the Witwatersrand in April 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and received in June 2012 an honors' degree in anthropology. Apparently the post was given to her in May.

Tanzania: Savings solution - Vodacom Tanzania has also said that more than 500,000 users have so far subscribed to its M-Pawa banking service, the Daily News reported. Deposits have reached TZS 4 billion (USD 2.41 million) less than three months since launch in Dar es Salaam. The service is operated jointly by Vodacom Tanzania and the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA). M-Pawa makes it possible to save and borrow money on a mobile phone. Access is possible through the over 70,000 M-Pesa agents.

Tunisia: SIM strictures - Orange Tunisia has been told to observe the rules governing the sale of SIM cards, and conclusion of contracts following a meeting on 22 July 2014 by the National Telecommunications Authority.

Uganda: Airtime advance - Uganda Telecom has launched an airtime credit service under the 'Topowa' moniker, which allows subscribers to borrow airtime to make calls, send messages across all networks, enjoy data services and pay back later. The service is free to all UTL subscribers that have been on the network for at least ninety days. Mr. Shailendra; Chief Commercial Officer at Uganda Telecom said it had been the most requested service by customers.

Uganda: Whistleblower windfall - Uganda Telecom has presented a whistleblower who prevented a major cable theft with UGX 1 million (USD 380). The private security guard prevented cables from being vandalised by a group of unidentified criminals. Jackie Kihuguru, Head of Customer Operations Uganda Telecom, made the award as part of a UT initiative launched in May 2014.

United Arab Emirates: National networks - Mobile operator du has said that it is to start offering broadband services nationally from October in a network-sharing deal with Etisalat. Negotiations and technical preparations have been on going since 2009. du's CEO Osman Sultan said customers will be able to switch between operators for some services before the end of 2014. Initially, services will include VoIP and broadband, while television will be added later.

Zimbabwe: Cash-centricity - Mobile operator Telecel has transferred some USD 17 million through its mobile money in a month. Telecel Zimbabwe Marketing Director, Octivius Kahiya, says it is focusing on improving the value proposition. It has also launched a gold credit card for its Telecash mobile money system. Kahiya noted that some Telecash agents are still having issues selling services for multiple mobile money systems, despite the reserve bank saying that exclusive contracts were not valid, and were only appropriate for franchise agents and those receiving start-up funding from an operator, said Ncube.

Zimbabwe: Privacy protected - Last week parliament outlawed provisions, which would have allowed the police to approach mobile operators for information private data obtained through the SIM card registration process. The move followed an adverse report prepared by the Parliamentary Legal Committee against the Statutory Instrument on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations. It was judged that information given to a mobile operator by a customer was for internal use and could not be accessed by a third party without a court order, The Herald reported.

United Arab Emirates: Safe smartphone - Etisalat has launched a Smartphone Protection Plan, which protects users from theft and accidental damage. For AED 120 (USD 33), users get 6-months cover or for AED 250, 12 months. Accidental damage cover includes cracked screen, forced theft, liquid damage and defects not covered under the existing warranty. The plans are underwritten by AXA Insurance.

Zimbabwe: Revenues fall - The Posts and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has said that sector revenues in 1Q14 fell to USD 213 million from USD 249 million. NewsDay reported the regulator logging total investment at USD 27.91 million, down 53 percent on the USD 59.1 recorded in 4Q13. Econet Wireless was recorded with a market share of 65.3 percent, ahead of Telecel Zimbabwe with 17.7 percent and Net One at 17.0 percent.

Zimbabwe: Regulated rates - The Postal Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is talking to the mobile network operators about cutting their tariffs. The regulator is looking for a 30 percent reduction. POTRAZ Acting Director General Alfred Marisa expected the dialogue to tale 1-2 years. A POTRAZ study had shown that the country's voice rates were high due to operational inefficiencies.