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Latest update: dotAfrica Launch Plan approved, Sunrise Phase commences on 4 April, 2017

All eyes on the PIC's big push into Africa

THE nondescript building housing the South African Public Investment Corporation (PIC) in a business park in Pretoria gives little indication of its power. Yet from his office inside it, Elias Masilela controls nearly $150bn (R1.6-trillion) that he is increasingly channelling into investments across Africa. When the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, a US-based consultancy, published a list of the world's "most significant and impactful public investor executives" last year, the usual names filled the top rankings. Sandwiched between the heads of sovereign wealth funds from oil-rich Norway and Abu Dhabi were the heads of Chinese and Kuwaiti state-owned funds. But there was one standout: Elias Masilela. The chief executive of the PIC ranked 14 out of 100. The corporation's ascendancy marked the rapid rise of an entity that for most of its 103-year history was little known outside South Africa. But it has become Africa's largest asset manager and can match the fire-power of the best-known Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds.

Cisco sees silver lining in cloud take up in Africa

An ICT research analyst from Frost & Sullivan has reiterated the strategic importance of a projected increase in cloud computing in key markets throughout Africa to global networking company Cisco. Cisco released its Q2 2014 results yesterday. Cisco reported second quarter revenue of $11.2 billion, net income on a generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) basis of $1.4 billion or $0.27 per share, and non-GAAP net income of $2.5 billion or $0.47 per share. This was a 7.8 percent decrease in revenue, 54.5 percent decrease in net income & 54.2 percent decrease in earnings per share respectively from Q2 2013. This is predominantly attributed to an inconsistent macro economic environment in emerging markets and soft software-defined networks (SDNs) gradually gaining in prominence.

Top ADSL ISP in South Africa – survey

MyBroadband conducted its latest broadband survey in February 2014, showing that Afrihost and Vox Telecom are the top ADSL ISPs according to customer rankings. The survey was successfully completed by 5,356 South African broadband users, who rated their broadband service on value for money, network quality, billing, support, and overall satisfaction. The broadband survey tested users’ satisfaction with and perception of their ADSL ISP accounts, rather than the actual performance of the service. To ensure accuracy and avoid duplicate entries, a unique token system was used through which only invited users were allowed to complete the survey.

Mobile is a moneymaker – Mobile East Africa

Mobile is a profitable business as long as aggregation of all that pertains to it, such as consumers, markets and employees, takes place alongside other factors such as the addressing of security concerns, according to participants at the ongoing Mobile East Africa 2014 event in Nairobi. Mobile expert Tomi Ahonen, director of product management at IBM Cory Wiegert and Dr Bitange Ndemo, honorary chairperson at Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), were speaking at a side interview at the event. Ahonen said there are now increasing revenues from data, though in order to maximise these revenues there must be a multiplier effect. “We understand individual data. The main thing is the social dispensation of data collected,” he said, adding that when working with data it is important to use it to find solutions for crucial concerns which have not previously been addressed.

Calls for affordable internet at Mobile East Africa

The Mobile East Africa 2014 conference opened in Nairobi on Wednesday with calls for affordable Internet and more end user centered innovations. The meeting has brought together industry players seeking to expand mobile data usage and drive monetisation through collaboration. In his keynote address, Mobile expert Tomi Ahonen showcased statistics that proved that mobile is the future for companies that want to remain relevant and profitable. Ahonen said advertisers are increasingly leveraging on mobile to reach potential customers and the trend is penetrating insurance, banking, media, Gaming, music and telecommunications sectors. "My theory is that smartphones that cost $600 now would cost $10 in 2019. That has been the trend and more and more people even the illiterate are using mobile," said Ahonen.

Best mobile broadband service in South Africa

MyBroadband conducted its latest broadband survey in February 2014, which showed that Telkom Mobile’s 3G and LTE products were the top rated mobile services in South Africa. The survey was successfully completed by 5,356 South African broadband users, who rated their mobile broadband service on cost, reliability, performance, support, billing and overall satisfaction. The survey therefore tested users’ satisfaction and perception of their mobile broadband service, rather than the actual performance of the service. The broadband survey used a unique token system through which only invited users were allowed to complete the survey. This eliminated multiple responses from one person and ensured more accurate results.

Challengers may own Africa’s Internet future

For more than a year, I have been saying to anyone that will listen that long-term evolution and video will be a game changer in Africa. The logic for arguing this case was based on the fact that YouTube was in the top five of every country measured by Alexa, despite poor Internet access speeds. You only had to imagine the demand if you took away the speed constraint. I’ve been about a week in Kampala in Uganda with a Mi-Fi device supplied by Smile Telecoms. The device allows me to run my smartphone, laptop and iPad using a shared data connection. This means none of that irritation of some hotels charging me more for each connected device in that rather grasping way I’ve come to associate with some African hotel Wi-Fi. The Mi-Fi is about the size of an iPod and creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot. You turn it on and pop it in your pocket, and you have Wi-Fi wherever there’s mobile coverage. My driver and I couldn’t find a particular address. Whip out the iPad and there’s the little blue dot on Google maps guiding us in. You can’t do this with data roaming because you’d need a financial facility underwritten by three Wall Street banks to pay for it. It works indoors or outdoors, which is not something every WiMax vendor could say with confidence.

Best mobile data deals in South Africa

All of the mobile operators and service providers are offering subscribers promotional prices on their mobile data products. Vodacom, MTN, Telkom Mobile, Cell C, MWEB and Afrihost have slashed their normal data prices to attract subscribers by offering more data for less money. Afrihost has also recently announced that their “double data” promotion, which was set to expire next month, will continue until 30 June 2014. This raises the question of how the promotional products stack up against each other. The following table answers that question.

African Nations Establish Council to Improve Policy Implementation

Addis Ababa — Cabinet secretaries from a dozen African countries have established a council to improve government decision making and increase the successful implementation of new policy on the continent. African Cabinet Government Network Director Mark Johnston says the group will focus on practical issues to improve implementation processes across Africa. "It is about how do you get more technical advice to the cabinet ministers, how do you get evidence on really what the problem is, not just the symptoms?" Johnston said. "How do you actually address the problem by understanding the causes, how do you get information on what has worked elsewhere in Africa?" Momo Rogers, a cabinet secretary from Liberia, says funding is a key reason implementation levels are low on the African continent. "Sometimes we have good ideas but then we do not take into consideration the costs," Rogers said. "And if you start before that checklist of where your gaps are in funding, you are going to end up starting a project but you can not finish it. And therefore the implementation will not be complete."

How to grab Africa’s opportunity

IN the two decades since I attended my first World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in the mid-nineties, there has been a sea-change in the way that Africa is viewed. This year, the contrast was starker than ever, cementing the view that Africa has moved from being the world’s economic problem to the world’s economic opportunity. The agenda about Africa is no longer dominated by subjects such as aid and corruption. The talk now is about opportunity. In corridor conversations, on platforms and in papers presented to the delegates, what came through sharply is that there is enormous interest and enthusiasm for what is going on in countries on the continent. The reason for this is that, despite many challenges, we live on a continent that has shown remarkable economic expansion. West Africa is the fastest-growing sub-region in the world. Economic growth of more than 5% is expected in sub-Saharan Africa this year. Most of this turnaround is due to improvements in macroeconomic policies, stronger macroeconomic fundamentals and improved governance and business environments.

Vodacom sees surge in mobile data usage

Mobile phone operator Vodacom Group [JSE:VOD] on Wednesday reported a 40% jump in revenue from data usage in the fourth quarter, as smartphone use continued to grow. The Johannesburg-based firm - majority owned by Britain's Vodafone - said 7.2 million customers were using smartphones in its main market, South Africa, by the end of the year. That was up 600 000 from the third quarter, with the average data used increasing 83.5% to 254 megabytes per month. The average US customer uses about 1.4 gigabytes a month. Vodacom's operations elsewhere in Africa - Mozambique, Nigeria, Lesotho, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo - also saw an increase in data customers, said CEO Shameel Joosub. "Data revenue more than doubled with data traffic now three times higher than a year ago," he said. That will be seen as good news for mobile phone companies who are banking on increased data revenue to offset a fall in cellphone calls.

IBM fuels innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa

IBM is further expanding its operations across Africa with the opening of two new IBM Innovation Centers in Lagos, Nigeria and Casablanca, Morocco. These new centers aim to spur local growth and fuel an ecosystem of development and entrepreneurship around Big Data and analytics and cloud computing in the region. Approximately one in every two medium to large businesses in both South Africa and Kenya already use the cloud. In Nigeria, cloud usage is expected to more than double to 80 percent of businesses by the end of next year. At the same time, organizations around Africa are looking for ways to improve their analytics skills and more accurately tap into the data being produced by mobile devices and tablets - and, better anticipate the needs of their customers by delivering improved services. As the local demand for these types of advanced technologies and skills increases, Africa is quickly moving to the center of global attention as the last big emerging market of the current economic era. According to the IMF, Africa is set to be the world's second fastest growing region with projected growth of over five percent this year.

What the Future of African Broadband Could Look Like - Testing Real-Life Lte in Kampala

For over a year I have been saying to anyone that will listen that LTE and video will be a game-changer in Africa. Friends and colleagues (particularly those in ICT4D tribe) have listened patiently, whilst their body language betrayed the thought that I might be in need of specialist medical intervention. The logic for arguing this case was based on the fact that You Tube was in the Top 5 of every country measured by Alexa.com and that was with the fairly terrible Internet speeds available. You only had to imagine the demand if you took away the speed constraint: the swirling circle of buffering just puts off people who don't have the time or patience. I hadn't actually used LTE myself before, just looked over people's shoulders at it. So I've been just under a week in Kampala with a Mi-Fi device supplied by Smile Telecom. The Mi-Fi device means that I can run my smartphone, laptop and iPad using a data connection. This means none of that irritating thing in some hotels where they charge you more for each device in that rather grasping way I've come to associate with some African hotel Wi-Fi.

Use of Solar Telecom power heats up in Africa

Africa has an abundance of sunshine. What it does not have is an abundance of electricity. This is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are vast stretches of remote, sparsely populated terrain. Solar technology is just beginning to play a role in bringing power to the continent – not only for grid-based energy to power homes and businesses, but also as primary or back-up power for mobile telecom basestation. The mobile telecoms market in Africa has been growing substantially, and analysts have assessed its 2013 value at approximately $75 billion. Although smartphone adoption has been more rapid in specific sub-Saharan urban regions such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, mobile network operators (MNOs) throughout Africa have begun to build more basestations and upgrade their network infrastructures by implementing 3G and 4G LTE services.

Dotafrica Trademark Protection Measures Well Received At Global Conference

The Mark Validation System of the ZA Central Registry was the subject of a great deal of interest from African, Middle Eastern and South Asian trade marks and intellectual property law firms who were participating in the recent Dubai gathering of the International Trademark Association. INTA usually hosts an annual conference for trademark holders and brand owners. However, the Dubai conference was the first installment to focus on trademarks issues in Africa, Middle East and South East Asia. The ZACR's MVS is designed to protect African brands in the run-up to, and following, the imminent commercial launch of the new dotAfrica generic Top Level Domain.

Microsoft 4Afrika provides grants to 5 startups

Microsoft has announced five African startups that will receive grants as part of the company’s 4Afrika initiative, aiming to provide financial support to the next generation of African entrepreneurs. The startups include mobile technology solutions provider access.mobile LLC from Uganda, mobile directory service Africa 118 and digital textbook leasing application firm Kytabu from Kenya, and mobile game producer Gamsole and online saving platform Save & Buy from Nigeria. “As part of the 4Afrika initiative, we are excited to be supporting startups that have developed innovative solutions that address key issues in Africa,” said Amrote Abdella, director of startup engagement and Partnerships for 4Afrika. “Our support is aimed to showcase the importance of local innovation, but, more important, it highlights the great potential that African innovators have in competing with world-class developers and entrepreneurs.”

dotAfrica set for May 2014 launch

The general availability of the dotAfrica (.africa) Top Level Domain (TLD) is expected to commence in September 2014, following the expiry of the Sunrise and Land Rush periods, which are scheduled to commence in May 2014. That's according to Neil Dundas, ZA Central Registry (ZACR) Chief Operating Officer.

Delays hit .africa sunrise launch phase

The planned sunrise launch of the .africa internet domain name has been postponed by up to two months, resulting in its general availability being pushed forward to late 2014. South Africa’s ZA Central Registry (ZACR) says it has received an invitation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to “commence contracting” the generic top-level domain (gTLD) dotAfrica. Last year; though, ZACR said it expected the commencement of the .africa ‘sunrise’ phase in March 2013. But two factors have delayed this phase to April or even May after which the general availability of the domain is expected to commence 90 days thereafter, according to the ZACR in a statement emailed to ITWeb Africa.

Shocking state of South Africa’s broadband: report

Akamai Technologies released its Third Quarter, 2013 State of the Internet Report, which shows that South Africa performed poorly against other surveyed nations – both globally and in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Akamai’s State of the Internet report is based on data gathered from the company’s “Intelligent Platform”. The report provides insight into key global statistics such as network connectivity and connection speeds, attack traffic, and broadband adoption and Internet availability. Broadband speeds The global average connection speed continued its upward trend in the third quarter of 2013, climbing 10% over the previous quarter to 3.6Mbps. The global average peak connection speeds showed a slight decline in the third quarter of 2013, dropping 5.2 percent to 17.9 Mbps. South Africa had an average connection speed of 2.3Mbps, and an average peak connection speed of 6.8Mbps. This is significantly lower than the global and regional speeds.

Monthly income of SA’s Internet users revealed

Effective Measure released its demographic statistics for November 2013 recently, showing that over 40% of South Africa’s Internet users have a monthly household income of over R20,000. Effective Measure is the official traffic measurement partner of the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA), and provides accurate demographic statistics for South Africa’s top websites. The November 2013 Effective Measure statistics are based on 112,875 surveys conducted through the company’s online survey tools. According to the results, 40.46% of Internet users in South Africa have a household income of over R20,000 per month. 7.54% of these users have a household income of over R70,000 per month