News in Brief 10 August 2017

Angola: Fibre link flagged off - Angola Cables is to start the installation of the SACS submarine cable on 9 August in the coastal area of Sangano, Quissama, Jornal de Angola has reported. The cable will be the first direct link between the Africa and South American.

Angola: Financial service focus - The National Bank of Angola (BNA) has signed a cooperation agreement to facilitating the transfer of money and payments via mobile phones, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technologies said. The aim is see the introduction of financial services using mobile phones. There are already some 13 million users in the country.

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Cote d'Ivoire: Free Facebook - MTN's mobile subscribers can now access Facebook's Free Basics service, Jeune Afrique reported. Users can access several of the social network's features without paying mobile data charges, based on the Facebook Flex option, and can browse Facebook messages, post comments and make status updates.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Capacity cut - Internet capacity is to been retarded to prevent the transmission of images via social media, Reuters has reported a senior telecoms official based in Kinshasa as saying. The development comes as opposition grows to President Joseph Kabila, who has said that he will not step down when his mandate expires in December, with national strikes planned for this week. Regulator chief Oscar Manikunda Musata made the request in a letter seen by Reuters, which listed Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Twitter.

Ethiopia: Revenue generators - Ethio-telecom is introducing new services for enterprise and individual customers. The services include Virtual ISP (VISP) which allows the sale of Internet services to end users without fully deploying physical telecom infrastructure. The company is hoping to generate revenue of some ETB 5.8 million (USD 245 million) from VISP with a customer base of 5,000. VPN access for some 4,000 enterprise customers is expected to generate estimated revenues of ETB 4.7 million (USD 198.1 million). The Night Mobile Internet Package is aimed at pre- and post-paid students. ET also announced 'Keep my Number', a service for mobile and fixed line users intended to reduce the number termination rate.

Ghana: Centre restored - MTN has renovated Hajj Village following a proposal from the Hajj Board to renovate the logging area for the pilgrims at a cost of over GHS 200,000 (USD 45,150). Communication devices worth GHS 30,000 were presented, along with MTN airtime worth GHS 1,500. General Manager for Distributive Trade Abubakar Mohammed, noted that the Hajj Board was preparing for this year's holy journey to Saudi Arabia. MTN is to set up Mobile Money stands at the Hajj Village in Accra, Tamale and Saudi Arabia.

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Kenya: Better API promised - Safaricom is developing a modern API platform to provide a better on-boarding for developers. Safaricom's Chief Technology Officer Thibaud Rerolle told ITWeb Africa that the new Daraja platform will allow businesses to easily integrate with M-Pesa and will take less than the 60 days it took previously to link to the service. Businesses will be able to seamlessly integrate both Lipa Na M-Pesa's BuyGoods and PayBill cashless payments into mobile applications, Websites, point of sale terminals and other business solutions. Equity launched its API platform in December 2016 to support a range of services, including airtime purchases, online remittance, payment status notification and create payment.

Kenya: Cash substitute - Kenyan mobile money platform cash transactions hit KES 3.57 trillion (USD 33.8 billion) between July 2016 and June 2017 involving some 1.7 billion transactions, Central Bank of Kenya reported. The value had risen some 15.8 percent over the previous year's KES 3.086 trillion (USD 29.3 billion). The transactions therefore represented 48.76 percent of Kenya's estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of KES 7.33 trillion (USD 69.5 triilion) as of December 2016 using World Bank Group data.

Kenya: Comic Convention courted - Liquid Telecom Kenya partnered with the Nairobi Comic Convention (Naiccon) to host Africa’s first international multi player video game tournament in Nairobi. A total of 16 PC and console gaming teams from Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya participated in the tournament 29-30 July. Liquid provided 200Mbps of uninterrupted Internet supply to enable streaming on different sites within the event and hosted a LAN Party on the same connectivity.

Kenya: Pole station coverage - A quarter of all polling stations in the country did not have adequate mobile network coverage for transmission of elections results, the electoral commission was reported as saying by The Nation. Consequently election officials in 11,155 polling centres out of a total of 40,883 had to move to other areas to transmit results, while returning officers in affected tallying centres used satellite phones, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission commenting last week. Telkom Kenya has been contracted to manage its servers on which the tallying will take place before the results are made available. The principle counties with polling stations that do not have network coverage are: Kisii (922), Murang'a (916), Homa Bay (892), Siaya (775), Busia (641), Kisumu (579), Migori (528), Turkana (468), Kirinyaga (461) and Vihiga (440).


Kenya: Reliable results - Mobile operators Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom provided the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with a secure network coverage for the 8 August General Election. In a joint statement issued on Sunday, 6 August, the three along with the IEBC acknowledged that their main responsibility is to 'provide a secure conduit to transmit the encrypted results between the polling stations and the IEBC's data centre which is the National Tallying Center in Nairobi'. The commission has said that it has divided the country into zones to ensure that the electronic transmission of the results has a greater degree of resilience.

Middle East: New head named - A new General Manager and Head of Channel for the Middle East region has been named by Zyxel Communications. Mamoun Abdullah will oversee the Middle East's channel operations, with a focus on identifying, mentoring and managing potential as well as current partners. He has over sixteen years of relevent experience.

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Nigeria: Sales shelter - MTN Nigeria has launched Bus Shelter Kiosks to support unemployed young people in Lagos and commuters in the state, Punch reported. MTN is to construct 50 major bus-stops fitted with modern sales kiosks where young people will retail phones and MTN products. Services like SIM swaps and bill payments will also be added as soon as possible.

Nigeria: Satellite application - The government has applied to the China Import Export Bank for a loan of USD 550 million to acquire two new communications satellites to complete the Galaxy Backbone project, CommunicationsWeek reported. Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu said that Galaxy Backbone needed about USD 350 million to complete the funding so that the country would be properly covered.

Oman: Social media data - Omantel has launched a social media data add-on for all new and existing customers on Baqati post-paid packages for only OMR 5 (USD 12.94); customers will get up to 15GB of data to be used in social media apps. Customers subscribed to any Baqati plan will get independent data for social media apps as follows: Baqati Basic subscribers will get 1.5GB, and 2.5GB on Baqati Small, 5GB on Baqati Medium, 10GB on Baqati Large and 15GB on Baqati XL.

Qatar: CFO confirmed - Vodafone Qatar's new Chief Financial Officer is Brett Goschen. Goschen served as CFO for the MTN Group in South Africa for three years prior to which he was CEO of MTN in Nigeria and Ghana. After leaving MTN, Goschen was CEO of Digicel Papua New Guinea. He is a chartered accountant and obtained his Finance degrees from the University of South Africa and University of Natal, South Africa.

Qatar: Hi-speed Mall - Ooredoo Oman has signed with the Buraimi Governorate's retailer China Mall Shopping Village, to connect more than 200 of its stores to its fibre services in the 21,000 square metre commercial centre. Top-tier speeds of up to 1 Gbps will be available.

Qatar: Pakistan package - A new Hala Pakistan Key is being offered by Ooredoo Qatar. The key is intended to help the estimated 90,000 Pakistani expatriates in Qatar to stay connected with friends and family at home. The permanent facility will be available from 1 August and subscribers can enjoy a fixed rate of QAR 20 (USD 5.52) per minute to all Pakistan networks for QAR 2 (USD 0.54) per week. Subscription will be renewed automatically every week until cancelled by sending SMS 'STOP PK' to 121.

Rwanda: Better bundles - Airtel's Managing Director, Michael Adjei told Business Times last week that it is to offer tailored data packages to combat the fall in traditional revenues. He noted that low voice earnings are being compounded by the declining active subscriber numbers and the increasing popularity of messaging services such as WhatsApp, Messenger or Viber. He noted that SMS usage has fallen drastically over the last four years.

Senegal: Decree for dead deal - President Macky Sall has signed a decree approving the transfer of the mobile licence held by Tigo Senegal to Wari Group, Agence Ecofin reported. The decree, passed on 1 August, represents a personal victory for Wari's CEO Kabirou Mbodje, who was received by Sall in February in support of the acquisition of Millicom's Tigo announced in February. However Tigo Senegal has defended its decision to abandon its sale to Wari Group, saying the termination complies with the sale deal terms. Tigo Senegal has also said that claims by Wari Group of an ongoing due diligence process are also incorrect, as no such process was outstanding as part of the SPA.

South Africa: High flyer - The Treasury said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday that Vuyani Jarana will take the helm at South African Airways when Vodacom releases him of his current duties. Jarana was previously the Chief Operating Officer of Vodacom and has been the head of its enterprise division since 2012. Musa Zwane, SAA's Chief Technical Officer, has been the airline's temporary leader and is the seventh permanent or acting CEO since 2010.

South Africa: Hybrid plans - From 1 August MTN's subscribers who want the convenience of a post-paid contract and the flexibility of a PayAsYouGo will be given greater choice with the MTN Top Up on selected existing price plans. The contract provides users with a contract value of either a combination of voice, SMS and data value or a Rand value only option per month for the duration of the contract.

South Africa: More metro for Seacom - Seacom has acquired ISP and managed services provider MacroLan. The acquisition is part of Seacom's strategy to extend the reach of its fibre network to additional metropolitan areas in South Africa and to bolster its managed services capability for business customers. MacroLan will become Seacom's Cape Town regional office. MacroLan serves corporate users in Cape Town, and owns and manages fibre infrastructure and access at numerous commercial buildings. Seacom's Business unit offers connectivity and cloud services in South African metros, with Fibre Internet Access options ranging from 25 Mbps to 1 Gbps, based on Seacom's submarine cable system and continent-wide IP-MPLS network.

South Africa: Smart meter move - Huawei has confirmed it intends to replicate the recent implementation of the first operational NB-IOT electrical energy smart meter in Lisbon, Portugal, starting in South Africa. The meter was developed in partnership with JANZ CE and u-blox, and the implementation was part of a pilot project linked to an UPGRID initiative under the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme. Huawei IOT expert David Hoelscher said Huawei is working on partnering with tier one service providers focused on electrical metering or the next level of the ecosystem, and is currently in negotiation with prospective NB-IOT partners and service providers in Africa.

South Africa: To glide or not to glide - Reuters has reported ICASA councillor and acting Chairman, Rubben Mohlaloga, has said options for lower mobile call termination rates when the current three-year regulations end on 30 September are being considered. He said the decision on a new glide path or whether to regulate certain aspects of the voice market, will be known on 1 October.

South Africa: Vodacom VIPs downgraded - Vodacom South Africa has started phasing out 'VIP' contracts for high-profile South Africans, replacing them with a loyalty programme, MyBroadband reported. The operator used these plans to reward high-spending individuals as well as Vodacom ambassadors, such as players in sporting teams sponsored by Vodacom. Packages forming the loyalty programme include the Onyx and Platinum. A Platinum Membership is awarded when a user achieves an average spend of ZAR 2,400 (USD 185) or more per month, over a six-month period. If the user does not meet the required average spend, the Platinum membership will lapse. It will only reactivate when the criteria is met again. The Onyx programme is an annual membership provided by Vodacom via personal invitation. All benefits apply for the current year only, and the membership is reviewed annually.

South Africa, Kenya: Done deal - Vodacom records that its ZAR 35 billion acquisition of an effective 35 percet stake in Safaricom, has been completed. All regulatory approvals and conditions precedent in both Kenya and South Africa have now been met. In May Vodacom announced its plans to acquire a 34.94 percent strategic stake from the Vodafone group, by issuing new Vodacom ordinary shares to Vodafone. As a result, the interest held by Vodafone in the Vodacom group has risen from 65 to 69.6 percent. A general meeting on 18 July 2017 approved the deal.

Swaziland: Flexible money management - Swazi MTN Swaziland and the Swaziland Building Society (SBS) are to introduce what is described as a 'landmark' integration between financial institutions and Mobile Money, The Swazi Observer reported. The society launched of the 'Bank Push-Pull' product, which exclusively allows SBS account holders to transfer money from their bank accounts to their Mobile Money wallets and vice versa. It also launched Mobile Money ATM cash out, a one-time-pin based transaction that allows any registered Mobile Money subscriber to initiate and withdraw at any SBS ATM regardless of their bank. MTN Chief Consumer Officer Sam Shongwe said the mobile money cash out product will serve mutual customers better by creating greater flexibility. The SBS has 47 ATMs country, with three more to be commissioned by the end of 2017.

Tanzania: Cellular childcare - The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children has partnered with the Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC) and the GSM Association to promote proper nutrition, Citizen reported. The 'Wazazi Nipendeni SMS Service' provides free text messages in Swahili for pregnant women, mothers with children under five years of age, and new mothers. It also provides a wide-range of information concerning healthy pregnancy and early childhood care.

Tunisia: Agro boost - Tunisie Telecom is to provide the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries (UTAP) and its affiliates exclusive telecommunications services. The services include tailored offers for mobile, 4G, fixed, VoIP as well as Internet on fibre optic and messaging until 2020. Tunisie Telecom's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nizar Bouguila said the partnership is important as UTAP is a key player in the country's economy. The signing comes just weeks after The World Bank announced a USD 150 million financial boost to the ICT programme for Uganda's agriculture sector through the Export-Import Bank of Korea.

Turkey: Internet growth - Internet subscribers have increased by 126 percent over the past four years, according to data from the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). The number of subscribers has grown from 27 million in 2012 to 62 million in 2016, and 2 million new subscribers were added in 1Q17, the Hurriyet Daily News reported. The number of fixed Internet subscribers, which stood at 7.9 million in 2012, rose by 33 percent to nearly 10.9 million. In 2016, the number of mobile Internet users rose to 51.7 million from 19.7 million in 2012. Some 90 percent of the 2016 subscribers were corporate clients and 10 percent were individual.

United Arab Emirates: Banking apps ascendant - Banking customers prefer making transactions via mobile banking channels rather than dealing with an adviser by phone, according to the 'Customer Experience in Banking Survey' by smart solutions provider Avaya has found. Some 61 percent of UAE consumers preferred their bank's Website or mobile app to make a transaction, with a quarter saying they would choose an app service over talking to a customer agent on the phone. Forty one percent said they would change bank if they experienced bad customer service. Avaya polled 5,000 banking customers in the UAE, UK, Australia and India.

Zimbabwe: Card cash curtailment - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe's EcoCash has reduced its international ATM withdrawal limits on its MasterCard Debit card to USD 50 a month, NewsDay has reported. Econet said cardholders could withdraw USD 50 from international ATMs, USD 200 on point-of-sale terminals and USD 50 for online payments with effect from 2 August 2017.

Zimbabwe: Electronic transactions - Internet and mobile based transactions  reached USD 1.56 billion in May, nearly double from USD 814 million in January driven by massive uptake of the electronic payments, the Source reported Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services Supa Mandiwanzira telling a mobile money and digital payments conference last week. Internet banking transaction volumes increased to 323,000 in May from 82,200 during the same month last year. Point of Sales volumes stood at 16.6 million as at May compared to 2.8 million over the same period in 2016. Mobile money transactions, however, fell 1.6 percent to 3,2 million in the first quarter from 3.3 million in the 2016 fourth quarter, with Econet Wireless holding 98 percent of the market share. Revenue for Internet access providers grew 11.4 percent to USD 45.6 million in 1Q 2017.

Zimbabwe: Rural roll-out - Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is to roll-out a multi-million dollar project under the Universal Services Fund (USF) to provide communications services to 2 million people living in outlying areas where there is no access to the facilities, New Ziana reported. According to an expression of interest that it published in local media, POTRAZ intends to construct some 250 sites across the country.

Zimbabwe: Telecel stakes - Empowerment Corporation stakeholder James Makamba is reported to have sold his shares to a local consortium for an undisclosed sum. It holds a 40 percent stake in Telecel Zimbabwe. Business Week has reported that the Government is understood to have made a USD 26 million offer to buy out the local consortium, which is owned by indirectly by George Manyere and Gerald Mlotshwa.