News in Brief 31 August 2017

Africa:

Congo Brazzaville: Ministerial retention - On 17 August 2017, the new government of the Republic of Congo was formally announced. Still headed by Prime Minister Clement Mouamba, this government saw the entry of four new members, while seven departing members were thanked. Leon Juste Ibombo continues to hold the post of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, which now includes the digital economy portfolio. This Ministerial post was previously occupied by Benoit Bati. Ibombo has made Congo's connectivity a priority and is calling for and working towards a diversification of digital infrastructure, notably with fibre.

Ghana: Customs simplification - Tax-customs administration is to be 'dematerialization', as the government re-launches its plan to provode paperless computerized customs services in major ports from 1 September 2017. Its first attempt in 2012 failed. The Ghana Revenue Authority's Ghana Revenue Commissioner Emmanuel Kofi Nti has said that Accra International Airport and other ports of entry will follow in a timely manner, the La Tribune reported. The aim is to reduce delays and eliminate corruption with a 'transparent and fair' mechanism to optimize Ghana's incomes. The move will eliminate internal customs barriers in all transit corridors, and so make Ghana more globally competitive.

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Ghana: Ticket to travel - MTN Ghana's Mobile Money and Brussels Airlines have partnered to allow customers in Ghana to purchase Brussels Airline tickets for travel to over 100 destinations. Travellers can now purchase tickets with their mobile device using MTN Mobile Money.

Nigeria: Operator healthcheck - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to audit the financial and technical status of all licensed telecommunications operators, THISDAY reported. The NCC's Director of Stakeholder Management, Sunday Dare, said this was necessary to prevent any recurrence of the Etisalat failure, where the operator was indebted to a consortium of thirteen banks that lent it USD 1.2 billion, which it was unable to repay.

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Nigeria: Re-branding required - Mobile operator 9Mobile is seeking a new public relations agency to consolidate its brand and Improve its presence in the market. It recently parted company with public relations agency Chain Reaction Nigeria. This Day reports that the decision was taken as it is "natural for companies to review their activities and with the latest developments 9Mobile, in particular In terms of restructuring and rebranding, we believe it is strategic for us to look for new ways to strengthen the brand in the market."

Nigeria: Technical troubles - A network outage at one of 9mobile its data centres caused service disruption on 23 August, causing problems with voice, SMS and data services. It said its technical teams were working to resolve the issue, although it did not detail any compensation that might be offered.

South Africa: Corporate contracts courted - Euphoria Telecom (ET) will offer its core services free of charge to help businesses exit existing contracts. ET will assist business customers to reduce the costs and resources while waiting for the long-term contract period to terminate. COO Rafal Janik said Euphoria has a strict 'no long term contract' policy. ET is a provider of proprietary Cloud PBX communication services for businesses in South Africa formed in 2010. The solution combines the characteristics of sophisticated PBX with the cost efficiency of VoIP. It currently claims to have some 600 enterprise customers.

South Africa: Billing system error - Thousands of Vodacom users are reported to have seen saw data bundles and airtime disappear overnight on 21 August. The system error, which impacted certain pre-paid and top up accounts, was caused by a configuration change on Vodacom's billing system. Vodacom isolated the problem and rolled the process back. It has now given 500 MB data to customers affected by the error.

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South Africa: HR Head - Cell-C has named Juliet Mhango as its new Chief Human Resources Officer from 1 September. She joins Cell-C from Life Healthcare, where she had been Group HR Executive since 2015.

South Africa: Surveillance society - The Right 2 Know (R2K) lobbying group has released statistics from MTN, Vodacom, Cell-C and Telkom that show that the government accesses some 70,000 subscriber's records annually, using a loophole in surveillance policies.

Togo: Staff seek security - The Syndicat des Agents de Togo Telecom (SAT) and the Telecommunications Union of Togo (Syntel) have been meeting the staff of Togo Telecom working in other regions to discover their views on the transformation plan for the telco. It is reported that the staff meetings rejected to formation of the Togocom holding company and also called for the resignation of Minister of Post and Digital Economy Cina Lawson. The plans are described as a 'unilateral' transformation of the state-owned entity which is expected to see more than half the staff of Togo Telecom and its mobile branch Togocel lose their jobs.

Uganda: Money manager - MTN Uganda has named Elsa Muzzolini as the General Manager for Mobile Financial Services. Muzzolini worked previously at McKinsey and prior to that as CMO at Orange Centrafrique and Orange Money project manager at Orange Cameroon. There Muzzolini formally launched commercial mobile payments under the co-operative venture with the International Bank of Cameroon (BICEC) in September 2011.

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Uganda: Village radio - Uganda Communications Commission's (UCC) Head of Legal Affairs Abdusalam Waiswa has said that plans are in hand to start licensing low-power, long-range radio stations (bizindalo) capable of operating in a radius as small as a village. Waiswa made the comments to the National Association of Broadcasters Uganda AGM in Kampala last week. Offering small radio stations frequencies, the problems caused by bizindalo such as noise-related pollution and tax evasion would be eliminated.

Zimbabwe: Licence limbo - Econet has suspended the sale of Kwese TV in Zimbabwe, TechZim reported. The move comes after a statement issued by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe which said Kwese does not have a valid satellite TV broadcasting licence.

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Zimbabwe: Mobile deregulation - Ecobank said last week obtained regulatory approvals to downgrade the Know Your Customer requirements on the back of a significant up-take of mobile and Internet banking platforms. Ecobank Zimbabwe's Managing Director Moses Kurenjekwa said that the bank's non-interest income for the half year period to end June had strengthened by 43 percent owing to 'higher customer transaction volumes on electronic channels' in response to cash shortages. The non-interest income for the period amounted to USD 10.1 million, while net interest income was USD 12.1 million.

Middle East:

Iran: Twitter talks - New Minister of Telecommunications Javad Azari Jahromi said Twitter has said that it is ready to talk about unblocking access to the service, state-owned agency IRAN has reported. The Ministry also said that it is not responsible for blocking the Website, but will negotiate with the relevant authorities (the judiciary) on the matter. The previous Minister, Mahmoud Vaezi, also called for unblocking of Twitter.

Jordan: Student support - Orange Jordan and Al-Balqa Applied University (BAU) have signed a strategic agreement to provide financial support to underprivileged students. In addition, it will inaugurate the Innovation Incubator at BAU to promote creativity, entrepreneurship and scientific excellence in the field of ICT, through connecting engineering graduates with the needs of local industry.

Oman: Stake loan - Omantel plans to use a bridge loan facility to fund the acquisition of a 9.84 percent stake in Zain, which was valued at USD 846.1 million, Arab News reported. It would be taken through a long-term loan facility or combined with a capital market instrument, Omantel said. Omantel said both Moody's Investors Services and S&P have confirmed Omantel's current ratings after the announcement.

Turkey: NB IOT first - Turkcell is continuing to invest in LTE-A infrastructure, and claims to be the first Turkish operator to support NB IOT (NarrowBand-Internet of Things) required for new-gen innovative applications on LTE-A networks. With the NarrowBand IoT technology, sensors in smart cities will communicate data to a platform with short delay times provided by LTE-A, so allowing big data analyses.