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Is Africa poised to become world’s low-cost manufacturing hub?

The amount of investment flowing into African countries and the number of global brands investing in Africa has risen sharply in recent years, according to the latest analysis from IDC Manufacturing Insights. For many low-cost manufacturers, the future lies in undeveloped regions such as Africa. These manufacturers will encounter various issues and risks along the way, but many proven, profitable examples exist of successful manufacturing investments in African countries. The inherent proposition of the low-cost manufacturing model is forcing many global manufacturers to re-align their strategies and constantly seek new, low-cost manufacturing opportunities in emerging economies.

Africa: 10 Things You Need to Know About Africa in 2014

On Tuesday 7th January I attended a fascinating event organised by the Royal African Society: "Africa in 2014: Prospects & Forecasts". The speakers were Patrick Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Africa Confidential and Africa-Asia Confidential; Razia Khan, Regional Head of Economics, Africa at Standard Chartered Bank; Lanre Akinola, Editor of This is Africa; and Yemisi Mokuolu, Founder of Hatch Events. Here are 10 of the things I found instructive. 1. A vaccination for malaria might become a reality - Mosquirix, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, is being touted as the most advanced and effective malaria vaccine for infants and children to date. Targeting the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which causes the most deadly strain of malaria, the introduction of Mosquirix has the potential to radically alter the treatment of the disease in Africa.

Bringing satellite internet to the masses

Despite an increase in internet connectivity across the continent, there are still pockets of users who have yet to benefit from access to broadband or any form of connectivity. This is not because they cannot afford the running cost - it is because there are no fibre cables or mobile broadband in their areas. This is where SatADSL comes in – the company has initiated a project to provide satellite internet connectivity to thousands of users who do not have access to a stable connection.The SatADSL project started about two years ago after the company identified a need to service the middle-layer users. “

Protecting e-interests within dotAfrica

The Mark Validation System (MVS) of the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) 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). 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 (gTLD).

dotAfrica receives boost from African governments

African governments through the African Union Commission (AUC) have endorsed the plan to create the dotAfrica initiative through issuing an official statement by African ICT ministers announcing their support. The communique is one of the outcomes of the ministerial round table held at the African Union Conference Centre in Addis Ababa during December’s 2013 African ICT Week.

African Tech Villain of the Year

Rising cybercrime and the increasing number of credit card fraud cases make the technology industry appealing for undesirables, but governments and companies also have the ability to let the electorate or their customers down. HumanIPO reporters pick out their top baddies. Gabriella Mulligan: South Africa’s former communications minister Dina Pule has plagued the department of communications (DoC) and betrayed the South African public for almost two years, finally resulting in her removal from her position this year. Under Pule’s (lack of) direction, the DoC missed 46 per cent of targets in 2012/2013, the auditor-general revealed. An unprecedented scandal caused by the misappropriation of ICT indaba funds ran all year, with multiple investigations into Pule’s involvement.

CES to spotlight startups and entrepreneurs

The 2014 International CES will spotlight the promise, power and future of technology through innovative startups and entrepreneurs. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) today announced new areas and events at CES dedicated to the startup community, including the Indiegogo Zone and UP Global LIVE Stage. Owned and produced by CEA, the 2014 CES, the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies, will run January 7-10, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Biggest tech triumphs of 2013

Looking back at the year that’s been, it isn’t always easy to pick out a single development in the world of high technology as the biggest triumph of the year. Opinions from a panel of analysts and South African tech company bosses seemed to confirm this, with a range of events and trends being mentioned. From stock market listings to open source distributed storage engines, the panel highlighted the breadth of exciting work being done in all aspects of technology. Interestingly, of the topics mentioned only Twitter’s initial public offering came up twice. Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx said that the successful listing of Twitter and the market’s growing confidence in its potential was one of the year’s triumphs in the technology sector.

Tech failures of 2013

While 2013 has seen some exciting developments in technology, there have also been some failures in the tech sector. From blunders in so-called “Big Data” and companies losing their edge to failures on the consumer-facing side of things, there were a number of incidents and trends to choose from. In the end a panel of South African analysts and technology industry executives highlighted the loss of personal relationships with customers and the faltering of BlackBerry The coverage of technology news received in mainstream media, lack of consumer-level battery technology improvements, and slow adoption of NoSQL databases for unstructured data also got a mention.

The 20 Most Expensive Domain Names of 2013

In 2012, Investing.com was the highest selling domain name at $2,450,000. By comparison, the highest selling domain name this year is IG.com and cost $4,7 million. In the first half of 2013, Booker.com was the highest selling domain name at just $375,000.Most of the big-value domain name sales were brokered in the second hald of 2013. The top 20 domain name sales add up to a total of $18 million in 2013,compared to $9,7 million in 2012. Here are the highest reported domain name sales of 2013:

African Union Set to Get Tougher On Cybercrime

When African Union (AU) heads of state meet for their summit in January they are expected to vote on a draft cybersecurity convention aiming to protect their nations from cyberattacks on institutions and protect people from cybercrimes. The Draft Convention on the Confidence and Security in Cyberspace due to be discussed at the summit in Ethiopia next month (24-31 January) would set a common cybersecurity framework for the continent. The US National Security Agency (NSA) scandal and the revelations about Internet-based international spying have fostered a sense of urgency to improve cybersecurity in Africa, says Robert Njathika, a researcher at Strathmore Law School's Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law in Kenya.

Biggest broadband news in 2013

2013 saw numerous game changing developments in the South African broadband market, which included the launch of new broadband products, ADSL speed upgrades and the launch of 20Mbps and 40Mbps VDSL services. As the year is drawing to a close, it is valuable to look back at some of the biggest developments in the local broadband market. Telkom 20Mbps and 40Mbps VDSL services launched On 4 March 2013 Telkom launched its 20Mbps and 40Mbps VDSL services in selected areas in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban.

African Tech Personality of the Year

In an industry which often depends on the motivation and energy of decision-makers, one person has the ability to make a significant impact. HumanIPO picks out some of the most important players of 2013. Richard Cutcher: Mxit bagged themselves a stellar name in September when former FNB chief executive officer (CEO) Michael Jordaan joined the social network’s board as chairman. 2013 started off with denials from Jordaan that he was to leave “the most innovative bank in the world”, but when did leave it was the tech space at the forefront of his mind. In November, he added to his Mxit position by launching Stellenbosch-based MonteGrey Capital to invest in “disruptive technologies or disruptive business models”. By the end of the year Jordaan, already an influential man and proven success story in the continent’s banking sector, had introduced himself as a new player to the growing tech sector, setting himself up as a big force for 2014.

Google Translate in more African languages

Google Translate is now available in five more African languages. Google says in its Africa blog that it has launched nine new languages that span Africa, Asia, and Oceania and have over 200 million native speakers, collectively. In Africa, Google has added Somali, Zulu, and the three major languages of Nigeria. This is the largest expansion into African languages to date. Google Translate already supports Swahili and Afrikaans.

African Tech Company of the Year

Technology in Africa is constantly evolving and companies face unique challenges on the continent as they try to keep up with international competitors while providing suitable services to the African consumer. The HumanIPO team picks out which companies it believes have performed best. Tom Jackson: Any from Facebook, Nokia, Opera, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Samsung, MediaTek, Google, Omidyar Network, Cisco, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Alcatel-Lucent (and probably many more), each of whom have played a role in one or both of Internet.org or the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI). Internet access as a universal right is now on the global agenda, and through these initiatives these companies have put it there.

Zambian govt urges companies to embrace ICT

The Zambian government has called on companies in the country to embrace Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance efficiency in service delivery. Communications and Transport deputy minister Col. Panji Kaunda said at the launch of the National Council for Construction website that technology has simplified the way companies do business. Kaunda said contractors will now be able to register their companies and renew their certificates through the website as opposed to physically going to the National Council for Construction offices for registration.

African Tech Startup of the Year

Africa has seen a surge in technology startups in the past year and HumanIPO has tried to bring news on as many as possible. From those in their infancy to others making an impact across the continent and beyond, here is the HumanIPO team’s pick of the startups of the year. Paul Adepoju: This year, Konga.com has been impressive and consistent as it continues to remain relevant, pivotal and key to the nation’s e-commerce sector despite the invasion of the sector by several international companies with bigger wallets and deeper pockets. The Konga story simply proves that money is not all a startup needs to remain relevant, better understanding of the local market may be the key. Richard Cutcher: For sheer ambition and drive to put the Wasamundi stamp on all elements of Cameroonian life, Nara Laurence’s startup has proved itself to be one of the most talked about African enterprises of 2013. The online city guide already provides information on areas such as housing, restaurants, hotels and health and is now exploring the world of education. It also runs wasaTEXTO, which links businesses to consumers through instant SMS updates. Laurence is already targeting Nigeria and ultimately plans to make Wasamundi a pan-African guide.

African Tech Story of the Year

Technology is increasingly touching people’s lives and the workplace in different ways, meaning even the most subtle changes or developments can have big impacts on millions of people. The HumanIPO team picks out its stand-out stories of 2013. Nanine Steenkamp: Togolese W. Afate’s creation of the world’s first 3D printer from e-waste has received marginal media attention in comparison to its immense potential for Africans. Fading are the days where Africans wait for overseas ‘market giants’ to develop or drop technologies to solve local needs on their own continent. This invention is one of the examples which young Africans can live up to in using what they have around them to create something most could not generally afford. The Fab Lab where Afate and his comrades roam is open to assisting the public in building their own printer as modeled on the original. The Togolese group is also passionate about inspiring youth to make their ideas reality and have plans to involve schools for the promotion of a tech culture in the local society.

Africa: Poor Countries Struggling to Harness Cloud Computing

A lack of access to affordable broadband and data servers in developing countries severely limits the scope of 'cloud computing' that uses vast, shared virtual servers instead of localised hardware to run applications and store data, according to a UN report. Cloud computing enables users to access flexible data storage and computing resources as and when required, and is considered to be among the most significant disruptive technologies over the next two decades, with major implications for markets, economies and societies, says the report published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) this month (3 December). It notes that, while people in developing countries use free cloud services, such as webmail and online social networks, the scope for cloud computing adoption is much smaller than in developed countries.

What lies ahead for business and IT in 2014?

Everyone loves making predictions. Like pulling the proverbial Christmas cracker and reading the awful joke inside it’s a perennial favorite, that anticipation to see what ‘those in the know’ will say about the trends that will lead the digital enterprise revolution in 2014. While I can easily pull together a Top xx list and talk the ears off a donkey I've selected only 3 and for good reason, they are so closely related you’ll reap the benefits when combined as a complete strategy. The first is that Big Data and Analytics will finally deliver on their promises. There has been a lot of talk for years about them but it’s now being understood as one of the key drivers of competitive differentiation.