News in Brief 28 August 2019

Africa:

Benin: Money rules tightened - MTN has blocked unregistered SIM cards from its Mobile Money network. To be a user, a valid national identity document, a Lepi card, a passport, a business card and a driving license are required, the beninwebtv Website reported.

Cameroon: Cameras commissioned - The new National Command Centre for CCTV was inaugurated on 22 August in Yaounde by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute. The centre is located in the new administrative district of Etoudi. Contractor Huawei has already installed some 2,000 cameras at major centres and at border posts. Cameras have already been installed in the cities of Yaounde (Centre), Douala (Littoral), Kousseri , Waza (Far-North), Lim Garoua-Boulai (East) and Garoua (North). Cameroonian Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute said: "Eventually, 7,000 cameras will be connected and networked to transmit information to the national centre. Huawei worked with Camtel on the implementation.

Egypt: Better rates - Telecom Egypt (TE) will save 20 percent on financing costs after the Central Bank of Egypt cut interest rates, Reuters reported a company official as saying. Reuters quoted the official as saying: "The interest rate cut positively affects Telecom Egypt's profits, as it will reduce financing expenses by 20 percent on the company's loans, estimated at EGP 11.7 billion (USD 708 million)". The central bank cut key interest rates by 150 basis points on 22 August for the first time since February. It cut the overnight deposit rate to 14.25 percent from 15.75 percent and the overnight lending rate to 15.25 percent from 16.75 percent.

Kenya: A million trees a year - Safaricom has seen a 9 percent increase in the number of jobs sustained in the last financial year, both directly and indirectly, to 979,000. According to its 2019 Sustainable Business Report, these jobs were supported by an 11 percent rise in the telco's contribution to the economy, which rose to KES 601 billion (USD 5.8 billion); 9.6 times the profit earned in FY2018-2019. Initiatives included a sustained focus on increasing the number of people with disabilities within Safaricom's workforce from 1.7 percent in FY2017/2018 to 2.1 percent last year, and growing the number of women-owned women-led businesses within the company's supply chain as part of the Safaricom Women in Business initiative. Expenditure on goods and services supplied by these business from KES 1.9 billion (USD 18.2 million) to KES 2.4 billion (USD 23.0 billion) within the period under review, contributing to growth in the number of jobs sustained by Safaricom by over 80,000 from the previous year, and setting the record as the highest number of jobs the telco has supported both directly and indirectly in a 12 month period since 2016. Safaricom has committed to plant 5 million trees in gazetted forests over the next 5 years in partnership with Kenya Forest Service and Community Forest Associations, as part of a carbon offset programme designed to help the company achieve net zero carbon-emitting status by 2050.

Kenya: Tax wars - Google has warned that Kenya risks trade wars with other countries if it imposes tax on digital transactions, Business Daily reported. The government has proposed review the law through the Finance Bill 2019, which would impose an income tax on online businesses. Google told Members of Parliament that the amendments are contrary to the international tax system, which requires companies to pay the bulk of their corporate tax in the countries where their products and services are created, as opposed to where they are used. However, the winds of change of blowing and this might not always be the case, particularly if the EU decides it is time for change...

Kenya: Tower toppled - Last week suspected Al-Shabaab militants blew up a Safaricom mast at Jabi, The Nation reported. Wankara MCA, Ahmed Gabnan Ali, said it was the only telecommunications mast in the area, and had been completely destroyed in the attack. It was reported that there was a shootout between the Al-Shabaab militants and police reservists before an explosion was heard from the direction of the mast.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Maldives: Pre-orders invited - Ooredoo Maldives says subscribers can now order the latest Galaxy Note 10 series bundled starting at MVR 1,100 (USD 70) per month with the Postpaid 200 plan on a twelve-month contract. Ooredoo offers 12 GB free data for use on its 4G+ network. Subscribers who order the smartphone in advance will receive a 50 percent discount on the new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. Customers can purchase the Galaxy Note 10 with 256 GB for MVR 15,899 (USD 1,007) and the Note 10+ with 256 GB for MVR 18,399 (USD 1,165), combined with 1 GB of free data per month, throughout the year.

Morocco: Investment initiative - Maroc Telecom has signed its sixth investment agreement with the government for the development of telecommunications. Maroc has undertaken to carry out an investment programme of MAD 10 billion over the next three years (2019-2021). The programme aims to develop and improve the telecommunications infrastructure, deploy mobile and fixed broadband and create jobs. Maroc Telecom has invested over MAD 58 billion under the last five agreements. This agreement will bring the cumulative total of investments to more than MAD 68 billion (USD 7 billion).

Niger: Assurances sought - Orange staff started a two-day strike on 20 August as part of action to re-negotiate wages and discuss the future of the company, the voaafrique news site reported. Orange Niger staff delegate, Ali Hachimou, said that some 388 of the approximately 530 staff of Orange Niger represented. Talks failed when the company was closed down in November 2018 for non-payment of tax, and where subsequently when company management were suspended for five months. Assurances are also being sought that jobs are secure. It was announced last week that Orange Niger had signed a sale agreement with Telecel RCA, owned by Niel Telecom. The conclusion of the sale was expected to take place over the next few days after validation by the authorities.

another fine mess for african telecoms

South Africa: 5G training - Huawei South Africa is working with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies to launch free online and on-site training in 5G technology, MyBroadband reported. Some 6,000 postgraduate ICT students and practitioners are the target audience, and Huawei will also send ten university students on a study trip to China as part of its annual 'Seeds for the Future' scheme. Huawei SA CEO Spawn Fan said it is partnering with the Department to deliver a 5G and 4IR online training platform with an accredited certification for 5,000 ICT students and professionals in South Africa. Fan said it aims to train another 1,000 students in its on-site programme.

Somali: Money outage - The mobile money platform EVC Plus was reported to have crashed on 20 August, denying subscribers access to some USD 1 billion monthly, according to Hiiraan. The EVC platform is operated by Hormuud Telecom and could not be accessed in many parts of Somalia. Hormuud Telecom failed to comment on the outage, although the service was later restored.

South Africa: SSA entry - Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Lycamobile has finalised a network agreement with Cell-C. South Africa is Lycamobile's 23rd market entry, and is its first operation in sub-Saharan Africa. Lycamobile will offer mobile services including basic voice, data, SMS, USSD, and other value-added services. Lycamobile has also been allocated the number range 065 4, and the portability routing code D932.

Uganda: No dealings - In a three-page letter to the Inspector General of Government dated 19 August, the State Minister for Investment, Ms Evelyn Anite, has hit back at people she described as 'hired detractors' and dismissed allegations of influence peddling, corruption and abuse of office levelled, the ntv news portal reported. She confirmed that she had undertaken a the study trip to Mauritius for a week in early August as part of a contingent of students on a three-month Senior Executive programme - Africa, run by the Harvard Business School and Gordon Institute of Business Science. Anite's letter follows a whistleblower's petition to the Inspectorate of Government, calling for investigations into the junior minister after the whistle blower informed the IGG that Anite visited Mauritius to negotiate a secret pact to sell UTL at a discount to Mauritius Telecom.

Uganda: Site censored - Online access to Rwanda's main state-owned newspaper New Times' Website has been blocked on national security grounds, two days after the countries signed a pact to end tensions that closed their busiest border crossing for six months, Reuters reported. The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) asked all ISPs in the country to block access to the Website. UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi told Reuters that the newspaper had been identified as 'a hostile platform that is likely to cause insecurity in this country.' On 21 August, the Presidents of Rwanda and Uganda signed a deal to respect each other's sovereignty, refrain from actions that destabilise the other's territory and resume 'as soon as possible' cross-border activities.

Middle East:

Bahrain: E-shop electronics - Zain Bahrain has partnered with Sharaf DG Bahrain, a regional electronics retailer, to offer selected items directly from the Zain E-shop. Customers can now buy TVs, laptops, accessories, cameras, software and gaming consoles directly through Zain Bahrain E-shop portal. Goods will be delivered directly to customers within 48 hours, upon availability. Extended warranties running from 12 to 24 months are also available. Zain's subscribers can also renew their post-paid plans, sign up for ones, and have SIMs and devices delivered straight to them via the Zain Bahrain E-Shop and Zain Bahrain app.

Israel: Corruption case - State prosecutors held a pre-indictment hearing on 19 August for two key suspects in the Bezeq corruption probe, The Times of Israel reported. The hearing for Shaul Elovitch and his wife Iris was held at the prosecution's economic unit in Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Netanyahu is suspected of an illicit quid pro quo with Elovitch, the majority shareholder in telco Bezeq, and the owner of the Walla news Website. The alleged understanding saw Elovitch ensure favourable coverage of Netanyahu at Walla, Israel's second largest news site, and critical coverage of Netanyahu's rivals, especially in the 2013 and 2015 election periods. The Elovitchs were not present at the hearing and were represented by their attorneys. Netanyahu is scheduled to attend his own pre-indictment hearing in the case on 2 - 3 October, which will also cover two other corruption probes against him in which the PM faces additional fraud and breach of trust charges.

Israel: Evening outage - Pelephone subscribers on the evening of 20 August evening reported difficulties in making and receiving calls from their mobile devices. The operator said it was looking into the problem and shortly before midnight announced that the 'malfunction' had been corrected, and services restored. In September of 2018 Pelephone customers experienced difficulties in making and receiving calls for several hours after the company's servers crashed.

Jordan: Cyber security schooling - Mobile network operator Umniah has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) under which the MNO will provide free specialised training courses in cyber security to students and new graduates, and so preparing them for international accreditation certificates. Umniah's experts will provide workshops that merge practice with theory, with the aim to sign similar agreements with other universities.

Qatar: Elite offer - Ooredoo Qatar said users on its Ooredoo One 500 Mbps plan or above will now get premium entertainment for the whole family with BeIN Elite. This is on top of the high speed Internet, smart Wi-Fi and unlimited fixed calls that are standard with the complete home package Ooredoo One. BeIN Elite offers all the BeIN Sports channels, BeIN Movies, BeIN Series, Fox, Fatafeat, Baraem and BeJunior and more.