News in Brief 5 September 2018

Africa:

Africa: Fast transfers - WorldRemit has launched a new African digital money transfer service, making it easier to send and receive money. WorldRemit's CEO and Co-founder Ismail Ahmed its new fast service will offer the benefits of lower cost and greater convenience. WorldRemit noted that its transfers to Africa are growing by 80 percent y-o-y, and it transfers more than USD 1.6 billion at an annualised rate to the region.

Algeria: Permanent offer - The summer promotion featuring 4G data bundles by Algerie Telecom is now a permanent offer. Users can buy 1 GB valid for 24 hours for DZD 100 (USD 0.84), and after using the data allowance can still have free access to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Linkedin at reduced speed. For DZD 200 (USD 1.68) 2 GB is offered for a period of 48 hours, and the same social media benefits. Customers can activate the offers with recharge vouchers from retailers.

Cameroon: Celebrity chat - Kirusa announced the launch of neXtCeleb and neXtSport services on the Kirusa Channels platform on 30 August with Viettel Cameroun. Kirusa Channels (previously known as InstaVoice Channels) brings celebrities and their fans together. Using the voice blogging feature, celebrities express their emotions and share their moments daily; the voice messages are delivered instantly to the fans, creating a 'Voice Twitter' like experience.

Cameroon: Money momentum growing - Mobile money transfers reached XAF 3.5 trillion (USD 6.2 billion) in 2017, up from XAF 300 billion (USD 529,000) in 2016, Business in Cameroon reported. According to the International Monetary Fund, the figure represents 17.5 percent of the country's GDP. The number of adult subscribers grew from 9 percent in 2012 to around 28 percent in 2016, with only a quarter of mobile users using mobile banking services during the period. To date only 5 banks (Afriland, Bicec, UBA, Societe Generale and Ecobank) out of 12 offer such services, and microfinance institutions are not yet allowed to do so.

Cote d'Ivoire: MNP launched - The Agence des Telecommunications de Cote d'Ivoire (ATCI) on 3 September 2018 officially launched number portability. For consumers, this is the beginning of a new era marked by their omnipotence. VIPNET, which manages the process, said that for the subscriber, there will be 'almost no break in service for users as the disconnection of the initial operator and the connection to the destination operator are transparent and automatic without any real intervention from them, except validations'. However, it cautioned that users wishing to switch must ensure their eligibility, particularly with regard to unpaid service invoices from the original operator. South Africa launched MNP in 2006; Ghana in 2011; Kenya, Nigeria and Tunisia in 2013; Senegal in 2015 and Cameroon in 2017.

Egypt: Formal welcome - A Vietnamese delegation was formally welcomed by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Amr Talaat, including the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Tran Dai Quang. The Egyptian-Vietnamese Business Forum was convened during the official visit to Egypt on 25 - 28 August 2018. Talaat noted the strengths of the Egyptian ICT sector with regard to business incentives, including a more groomed business environment; the availability of professional templates with advanced technology experience; capability for developing and delivering advanced technology solutions; competitive operating costs; and numerous communication and ICT infrastructure development projects to be undertaken. The Minister invited on investors from both countries to cooperate in areas such as software engineering and certification, integrated circuit design and technology solutions, manufacturing industrial components, the creation of data centers, etc.

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Ethiopia: Caller credit - Ethio Telecom has launched Air Time Credit Service (ACS) which allows subscribers to continue to access services when they have used up their balance or when they cannot buy vouchers because of time or money constraints. The ACS service can be activated by sending the letters A, L, or C to 810 via SMS and following the instructions. It is not available for new subscribers who have been not completed their first month and for those who consume a minimum of ETB 30 (USD 1.07) of airtime per month. The credit can be used like a recharge to make voice calls, purchase data and SMS bundles, value added services and transfer balance to another subscriber. Users can borrow between ETB 5 and 100 (USD 0.18 - 4.00) and will be charged when they top-up.

Ghana: AirtelTigo comes acalling - An AirtelTigo delegation led by Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Mitwa Ng'ambi, has paid a courtesy call on His Royal Majesty (HRM) Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene at the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi. Ng'ambi said that there was an on-going network upgrade nationally. The delegation also paid a courtesy call on the Ashanti Regional Minister Simon Osei Mensah and the Regional Coordinating Council.

Ghana: Money momentum - Mobile money transactions in 1H18 reached GHS 104 billion (USD 21.6 billion); up substantially on the GHS 68 billion (USD 14.2 billion) reported in the same period in 2017. In 2017 total transactions stood at 155.8 billion. TIC Mag reports Deputy Finance Minister Kwaku Kwarteng as saying that the government has not yet decided whether to impose additional taxes on mobile money in the next budget.

Ghana: Student screening - MTN Ghana Foundation has completed the screening of applications for its Bright Scholarship programme for tertiary students. A total of 1,367 applications were received from students from all ten regions and the number was pruned to 205 applicants. The shortlisted candidates were then interviewed by a panel of academics and accredited human resource personnel. One hundred qualified students will be awarded the MTN Bright Scholarships.

Kenya: Nairobi net boosted - Telkom Kenya is upgrading its 4G network at sites in and around Nairobi city in a move to boost the overall reliability and quality of the network, the Tech website Dignited reported. In a campaign dubbed #Bomba4G, Telkom Kenya is encouraging users in upgraded areas to try the 4G network.

Nigeria: Blind date deal - Airtel Nigeria is partnering with EbonyLife TV to sponsor the maiden edition of 'The Dating Game', which airs in over 25 countries. 'Dating Game Nigeria' will offer contestants who are single a chance to find a partner. EbonyLife TV recently reached an agreement with Sony Pictures Television to produce a modified version of 'The Dating Game' in Nigeria. The series will air later this year and culminate in the 2019 Valentine season.

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South Africa: No news - Submarine cable operator SEACOM has responded to reports that it is in talks to acquire FibreCo Telecommunications. A spokesman has said: "SEACOM cannot comment at this stage. We are committed to keeping the market abreast of developments within our business and will provide information as soon as it becomes available." TechCentral last week reported that SEACOM was in 'advanced discussions' to acquire FibreCo, which owns a 4,000km open-access network interconnecting over 59 PoPs in South Africa, including major data centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London.

South Africa: Open for business - ZTE's South African subsidiary ZTE, specialising in telecom equipment, has announced its return to business: "The recent ban led the company to suspend its commercial activities around the world, including in South Africa. On 7 June ZTE reached agreement with the US Department of Commerce, which lifted the 'decree of refusal' on 15 July 2018, ZTE said in a statement. In April 2018, the USA imposed a moratorium on ZTE to punish violations of export sanctions imposed on Iran and North Korea. ZTE paid over USD 1.4 billion in penalties, replaced all of its board and agreed to let the USA appoint compliance auditors to monitor his activities.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

South Africa: Soccer season - StarTimes has secured exclusive rights to show Bundesliga German men's football. The five-year deal includes all 306 games each season to be aired on the StarSat Sport channels. StarTimes already holds the Bundesliga rights in Tanzania. DFL Sports Enterprises, Bundesliga's commercial arm, is currently contracting its international broadcasting partners for the coming seasons. In recent days, it has agreed deals with Onet in Poland, YouTube in New Zealand, and BeIN Media Group across the Middle East, North Africa, France and Australia.

Tanzania: Not-so social media - The Permanent Secretary in the President's Office (Public Service Management), Florian Ndumbaro has issued a circular restricting access to social media platforms using Internet-linked facilities provided by the state during working hours, The Citizen reported. Ndumbaro said members of the public had complained that government employees were preoccupied with social media during working hours, rather than discharging their duties. State-run institutions that need to access social media are now required to write to his office for permission. An earlier note on the same theme was issued on 31 August 2017.

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Uganda: Rural roaming - The Uganda Communications Commission's (UCC) Director General Godfrey Mutabazi has said that a national roaming plan is to be implemented in 2019. In an interview with Daily Monitor he said that the aim is to allow a subscriber to connect automatically by default on a network in areas where their own operator has no or low presence. 3G is now offered by all operators, and national roaming is expected to improve broadband access.

Zimbabwe: Club card - The EcoFarmer Club has been launched by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. The Club offers agricultural commodity prices, farming tips, local weather information and a mobile trading platform that links farmers to buyers. Econet chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni said there would be a transactional, personalised EcoFarmer Club Card providing discounts on inputs and implements from approved suppliers. The card is linked to a bank account and can transact on ZimSwitch. Farmers will be able to link their bank account with their EcoCash wallet, thus enabling bank to wallet transactions, and vice versa. The EcoFarmer service was launched in 2013 and currently has over a million registered users.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Cut-off countdown - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has told mobile subscribers to register their post-paid SIM cards before 2 September. Those failing to register will suffer a temporary service suspension. Failure to register during the suspension period will result in final deactivation by 2 December.

Israel: Communication collaboration - Russian satellite operator Gazprom Space Systems (GSS) has signed a USD 18 million contract with Gilat Satellite Networks to provide broadband connectivity across the country. Gilat will deliver its multi-service platform and user terminals to operate over the new Yamal 601 Ka satellite. The companies also signed a cooperation agreement for joint development of communication projects such as IFC and rail transport.

Kuwait: Finance re-freshed - Zain Group has closed a USD 700 million, five-year revolving credit facility with a syndicate of regional and international banks. The deal refinances a USD 800 million revolving credit facility arranged in 2014. The money will be used for general corporate purposes. First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC (FAB) acted as the sole co-ordinator of the facility, whilst FAB and SAMBA Financial Group acted as bookrunners. Arab Banking Corporation, MUFG Bank (DIFC Branch – Dubai), Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, Citibank N.A. London Branch, Natixis, DIFC Branch and Union National Bank PJSC all acted as joint mandated lead arrangers.

MENA: Infrastructure support - IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has increased its investments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and has committing some USD 2 billion to support the region's private sector. Of this, over USD 1 billion is from its own account and it has mobilised another USD 1 billion from other investors in the region in the 2018 financial year, which ended 30 June. Key projects included a USD 653 million financing package for a solar array in Egypt, the first green-bonds programme in Lebanon and the Levant, and a solar project in Gaza, the first privately financed energy project in more than a decade. IFC also provided USD 269 million to Zain Iraq to help rebuild infrastructure.

Oman: App incentive - Subscribers recharging through the Ooredoo Oman app using a debit or credit card are to be given a 15 percent bonus credit. All pre-paid users, including those on the New Shababiah plann, can take advantage of this new offer until 18 October. Users can use the app to subscribe to bundles, pay bills, manage Nojoom points and opt into value-added services. It can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.

Qatar: Devices awaited - Vodafone Qatar has activated its first live 5G network. At the launch CEO Sheikh Hamad Abdulla Jassim Al Thani laid out Vodafone Qatar's vision for 5G. With the Middle East's first men's football World Cup coming to Qatar in 2022, Camberos said Vodafone's 5G network will support broadcasting for millions of sports fans. With the roll out now under way, Vodafone Qatar expects to connect its first customers once 5G devices are available.

United Arab Emirates: China payments - Payment solutions provider Network International has partnered with China's Alipay to provide mobile payment service to Chinese shoppers. Operating in the Middle East and Africa region, Network International said its support of Alipay, a third-party online payment solution provider, will strengthen UAE merchants' offering to the growing number of Chinese shoppers in the UAE. The service will be available from October. NI's new N-Genius platform can facilitate multiple payment methods on one device, and will act as both settlement partner and solution provider for mobile-based transactions via Alipay at points of sale and for online purchases. The UAE has a community of about 200,000 Chinese expatriates. In addition, 453,000 Chinese tourists visited Dubai in the first six months of 2018, representing a 9 percent increase y-o-y, according to the government-controlled Dubai Tourism authority.

United Arab Emirates: In-flight Internet - Etisalat has announced that subscribers of any Global Business Roaming pack can now enjoy in-flight coverage in all airlines that provide on-board connectivity at no extra cost. Etisalat's Global Business Roaming packages (both data and voice) will now include both Aeromobile and SitaOnAir in-flight coverage, providing business users increased options when airborne. Currently, Etisalat's roaming network covers 190 global destinations.