London — Orange is one of a handful of mobile operators on the continent that has taken its relationship with Africa’s emerging start-up ecosystem seriously. It has launched its own incubators, supported pitch competitions and begun to open up its APIs. It sees these relationships as part of a broader digital transformation of Africa.
Sylvain Béletre talked to Roger-Edgar KRA, in charge of Business Development API (Innovation Tech Hub, Open Web Services, Middle East and Africa, Innovation Marketing Technology) in the MEA zone at Orange’s Technocentre.
Q. From your experience in the field, how is the digital transformation of the African continent happening?
A. Local businesses that want to take advantage of new mobile uses, or international companies that see Africa as a growth hub, are designing new products and services using the new digital tools: e-commerce platforms, e-health services, job search platforms, MOOCs, mobile advertising, video and music streaming platforms, money transfer, online insurance, smart metering, etc.
Q. Are these digital solutions meeting the major challenges faced by companies in the region?
A. Digital tools answer some of the major challenges faced by companies in the region: How to better monetize your solutions? How to make your business more attractive, visible and expand internationally, especially at the pan-African level? How to remove intermediaries? How to reduce distribution costs? How to improve customer experience?
These challenges concern all industry sectors: entertainment, agriculture, health, education, transport, energy, retail, etc.
However, creating a digital service in Africa is a real challenge: IT projects dedicated to the integration of technical platforms require investment and time. In a context where smartphones and the use of data are still emerging, and where the majority of customers do not have a credit card, the context is quite different from other regions in the World. Designing a website or an Android application for smartphones and tablets is only a small part of the answer, you must also know how to monetize them, but also design a version for low cost mobile phone/feature phones, via SMS, Vocal or even USSD.
In order to deploy on a large scale, partnering with local telecom operators can boost your footprint. Finally, your media must include the most common payment services. Orange has taken action accordingly.
Q. How does Orange respond to these challenges?
A. Orange has for years set up large infrastructure projects within its African subsidiaries in order to simplify and accelerate access to its resources. With these platforms deployed, Orange is now very active in partnering with local players (entrepreneurs, developers, digital agencies, media, etc.), and creating an open innovation ecosystem, bringing together startups and large corporates.
In order to support developers and save them time and money, Orange offers a suite of new business solutions based on three blocks: communication, distribution and payment.
On payment, the ‘Pay With Orange’ offer allows an Orange mobile customer to be charged for a digital service, by debiting his Orange telephone credit, either once or several times. Orange Money Web Payment allows you to charge an Orange Money customer for a physical or digital service by debiting its Orange Money account.
On improving their communications, Orange’s SMS offer allows companies to send customized and automated SMS, for example an appointment reminder, an order confirmation, or a forgotten password.
To support their distribution, our Offer # 303 # My Store is a pan-African “appstore” in USSD, which allows companies to reference a service in a given category, and to charge for subscription through Pay With Orange and soon via Orange Money.
These offers have been deployed on the continent since 2014, with already strong coverage (12 countries for SMS API, 6 for Orange Money Web Payment).
Q. How many partnerships have you established?
A. To date, more than 700 African startups have subscribed to Orange’s SMS notification service. And 40 services are ‘live’ on portal # 203 # in Cameroon. Dozens of services use our means of payment, monetize video streaming platforms, information portals, video games…
Q. Do you have examples of success stories in Africa?
A. In Senegal, the MLouma startup has created a virtual agricultural platform that publishes real-time information on the price, location and availability of farm products. At its launch, the platform was only available on the Web – making it difficult to access and costly for rural users. Integrating # 303 # My Store has given a very strong impulse to the service: now accessible from any phone, MLouma has gone from 1,000 to 75,000 users in 6 months! In addition, MLouma will be able to federate new users in all the other countries where the platform # 303 # My Store is available without requiring further development. MLouma also integrated the SMS API to alert users of the availability of new products, as well as the MEA DCB service to bill USSD requests.
In Cameroon, the pan-African media group ‘Jeune Afrique’ has produced a USSD version of its news service, referenced on # 203 # in Cameroon; Just like RFI, TV channel ‘France 24’, thus allowing 100% of the Orange customer base to access this service, updated in real time. The pan-African deployment of these services is in progress, on short code # 303 #.
For developers ready to use the Orange APIs, the portal is here:
You can discover other Orange programs related to startups and digital entrepreneurs across Africa, here:
And do not forget, if you are a young startup, you can currently apply for the Orange Social Entrepreneur Prize.
Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Technology
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By Phillimon Mhlanga
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s embattled administration has for the first time admitted printing money in the form of a virtual currency through the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), acknowledging this cannot be backed by United States dollar bank notes imported by local banks, the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets (C&M) can report.
Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, made the disclosures in Parliament. He said: “Government funds its employees’ salary accounts through electronic transfers over the Real Time Gross Settlement platform. On the contrary, employees would want to obtain physical cash from the banks. This misalignment is the greatest cause of queues at banks for cash as both the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and banks would be required to withdraw foreign exchange from their nostro accounts to meet local cash demand.”
Nostro accounts are accounts held by local banks with offshore financial institutions. They are used predominantly to settle international obligations, including import of goods. Banks have used their nostro accounts to import US dollar bank notes but these have always been used to support real US dollar bank balances for local deposits.
Government had always been denying that it has been creating or printing its own money to pay wages and salaries for its strong workforce of more than 300 000. The salary bill is gobbling more than 90 percent of revenue, leaving very little for infrastructure development.
The printing of money through the RTGS platform can only be backed by local currency, rather than foreign currency which has to be earned through exports of other foreign currency receipts. It would therefore appear the introduction of bond notes, despite public protestations, was meant primarily to fund the virtual currency, which has been described by some analysts as phantom money.
The reason for government resorting to creation of money in the domestic economy has largely been its huge budget deficits, which it started incurring following the collapse of the inclusive government in 2013.
During the inclusive government, then finance minister, Tendai Biti, insisted that government would only spend what it collected in the form of revenue under his famous “we eat what we gather” policy.
He managed to keep government expenditure under check, despite protestations from colleagues, ensuring stability in the economy.
But since the collapse of the inclusive government, the budget deficit problem, which largely funded recurrent expenditure, emerged. In fact, the size of the civil service suddenly shot up, increasing the salary and wage bill.
Although Chinamasa has tried to curb this cost by reducing the size of the civil service through retrenchments, he has faced opposition from Cabinet colleagues.
Chinamasa has indicated that government employment costs are currently at over 93 percent of tax revenue. When government’s debt of over 40 percent of tax revenue is added to this cost, government expenditure far outstrips revenue.
“This shows that we are living beyond our means through borrowing from the market by way of Treasury Bills that translate into government overdraft at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on maturity,” Chinamasa said.
There is indeed an increasing risk that the country may now be drifting towards an inflationary crisis.
Zimbabwe’s inflation was in deflation since October 2014, but since last year, especially after introduction of bond notes, there has been a significant increase in basic food prices.
Annual inflation rate went into positive territory for the first time in over two years in February this year, gaining 0,71 percentage points on the January 2017 rate of -0,7 percent to 0,6 percent.
It went up to 0,21 percent in March, sparking fears among economists of a return to the previous hyperinflationary period that saw inflation reaching a peak of 231 million percent in August 2008.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that the country’s inflation is likely to hit three percent this year and 6,6 percent next year. Given the situation on the ground, this could be a generous assessment from the IMF because it could get worse.
Economists told C&M that the situation is likely to worsen because of the impending elections set for next year.
Prosper Chitambara, an economist with Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, said: “The economy is in a roller coaster. It’s in a crisis which will require bold structural reforms. Government knows what’s needed to be done but the will and commitment does not exist.”
He said there were foreign currency leakages because hard cash was going out of the country and not coming back.
“Businesses that are looking to receive money from outside the country are opening accounts outside the country because they have no confidence in government policies and the banking system. With elections coming up next year, we are going to see acceleration of leakages. Inflation, it’s a reflection of bond notes or it pushes inflation factors. In fact, there is a lot of temptation to print more bond notes outside the US$200 million threshold,” he said.
He was referring to the announced $200 million limit in bond notes by the central bank, whose basis is an alleged US$200 facility from the African Export and Import Bank to support exports.
The liquidity squeeze in the country has left many companies unable to pay foreign suppliers, driving many out of business.
According to the IMF, Zimbabwe’s economy is likely to grow by two percent this year.
In March this year, government reviewed Zimbabwe’s economic growth projection from 1,7 percent announced in the 2017 National Budget to 3,7 percent, on the back of a good agricultural season and firming metal prices.
An independent economist, Tinashe Masunda, said: “Zimbabwe has run out of foreign currency resulting in the country completely losing the ability to pay for imports. This means that productivity will continue to suffer as companies fail to access vital inputs because there’s no foreign currency to pay for them. As long as government continues to do things that discourage both local and foreign investment into the productive sector, the situation can only get worse.”
The country abandoned the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009 and adopted a multi-currency regime to escape hyperinflation.
But the foreign currency has been disappearing from the financial market, prompting the central bank to introduce bond notes last year. However, the bond notes appear to be disappearing from the banking system as well.
The severe cash crisis has resulted in banks limiting the amount of cash depositors can withdraw. Most banks have also suspended dispensing money through automated teller machines. In some cases, depositors spend days in bank queues but fail to access cash.
The situation is likely to persist until government urgently fixes the country’s economic fundamentals.
Chinamasa told Parliament that one of the reasons for the shortage of bank notes was that businesses were not banking cash. This, he said, has resulted in long queues for cash at banks.
“This indiscipline is counter-productive and cannot continue to be tolerated. Money is like blood, it needs to circulate for the economy to survive. Money should be circulating in order to deal with queues at banks,” said Chinamasa.
“To date, three traders have been hauled before the courts for not banking their sales proceeds in line with the laws of the country from as far back as June 2016. They have all pleaded guilty to the offence and they now await their sentences,” he said.
Chinamasa implored depositors to make use of plastic money. This, inevitably, would ensure that there is no pressure for the RBZ to print more bond notes to support cash it is creating through the RTGS.
He said: “The factors underpinning cash challenges are beyond banks. Banks find themselves in a difficult position where they are compelled to ration cash withdrawals in order to meet their customers’ demands. Banks have therefore continued to explore pragmatic measures to meet their customers’ demand for cash.
“Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, is advocating for the use of plastic money in order to ameliorate the mismatch or gap between electronic salary transfers and the demand for cash from banks. Embracing plastic money preserves foreign exchange in the nostro accounts for use for foreign payments whilst at the same time mitigating against non-banking of cash by traders.
Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Banking
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By Brian Ngugi
Kenya is among the countries poised to lead in wind energy investment in Africa this year according to a new report.
Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the international trade association for the wind power industry, says Kenya is setting the pace in the region in the use of wind as a renewable source of energy by initiating the generation of 700 megawatts for the national grid.
“For the Middle East and Africa, the main drivers will continue to be South Africa, Morocco (and we hope) Egypt, with strong contributions from Kenya and Ethiopia as some of the smaller markets are just getting off the ground,” says GWEC in its latest annual Global Wind Report market update.
It notes that at the end of 2016, over 99 per cent of Middle East and Africa region’s total wind energy installations were spread across 10 countries – South Africa, Morocco (787 megawatts), Egypt (810 megawatts), Tunisia (245 megawatts), Ethiopia (171 megawatts), Jordan (119 megawatts), Iran (91 megawatts), Cape Verde (24 megawatts), Kenya (19 megawatts), Israel (6.25 megawatts) and Algeria (10 megawatts).
The report cites Kenya’s Lake Turkana wind project, now completed and set to be commissioning in the coming months, as an example.
The 310-megawatt project will account for almost 18 per cent of Kenya’s total installed power generation capacity.
The German Development Bank and Agence Française de Développement of France are also doing due diligence of a wind farm of the KenGen in Meru with plan to construct a 400-megawatt plant.
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Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Energy
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By Phillimon Mhlanga
A FORENSIC audit of the struggling National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), the country’s sole railway transport operator, has been completed, the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets (C&M) has established.
The company’s board chairman, Larry Mavhima, revealed that the report, which covered the past five years, was handed over to his board last week.
Mavhima, however, declined to reveal details of the report, saying the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Joram Gumbo, needed to be briefed first before the document becomes public.
He said: “Yes, the independent auditors have completed their investigations. Now we want the NRZ management to respond to the findings and then we will share it with the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. The minister will then share the contents of the audit in Cabinet. That’s when we can share with you the results of the audit.”
The audit focused on three areas namely procurement, real estate and property as well as human resources and staffing.
It sought to determine any leakages in these specific areas as well as how revenue was being collected in the parastatal and to determine whether there were ghost workers on the NRZ payroll.
The company has over 5 000 workers. Over 1 000 NRZ non essential workers are expected to be retrenched to ease the burden on the ailing parastatal.
Several manufacturing companies, which had been the backbone of the NRZ’s business, have closed and shipment of coal from Hwange Colliery Company, which sustained the NRZ, has declined significantly.
The company is also in serious debt, making it impossible to turn the corner without government or external help.
The NRZ is saddled with a legacy debt of more than US$140 million, and requires about US$2 billion in the long-term to be fully transformed.
Options available for the NRZ recapitalisation include joint ventures with non State players.
At present, the NRZ is in discussions with the Development Bank of Southern Africa for a US$650 million rescue package to rehabilitate its ageing infrastructure and equipment that has surpassed the designed lifespan.
Currently, the NRZ, which provides passenger and freight services, is operating below 30 percent of installed capacity due to lack of capital and has been failing to pay salaries.
The NRZ’s goods transport business, which at its peak was raking in about 95 percent of the company’s revenue, has declined to an average of one million tonnes of cargo annually from a peak of 18 million tonnes shipped in 1998.
A number of Chinese investors are keen to partner the parastatal but no deal has been finalised due to an absence of government guarantees.
Out of the NRZ’s 166 locomotives, only 60 are functional, while only 108 passenger coaches, out of 332, are in usable condition.
It has performed poorly in recent years, and has incurred losses of over US$200 million between 2009 and 2013.
Its 2014 accounts showed that its freight unit was generating annual revenue of US$91,2 million, but incurring costs of US$103 million.
The passenger unit had annual revenues of US$3,2 million, with costs over three times more at US$10,9 million.
Its loss widened in 2015 to US$40,88 million from US$31,6 million in the prior year contributing to a cumulative loss of US$276,43 million since 2009 when the country ditched the Zimbabwe dollar due to hyperinflationary pressures.
The NRZ closed 2015 with net current liabilities of US$170,91 million, from US$131,13 million in 2014.
Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Transportation
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Every day, ordinary people are producing extraordinary new things to change the world for the better for instance the mobile money transfer revolution and microfinancing service from Kenya. Innovation is perceived as a human force that knows no limits. It turns problems into progress and pushes the boundaries of possibility, creating unprecedented new capabilities.
It is in regards to this that the World Intellectual Property Day 2017 marked on 26th April 2017, focused on Innovation and explored how some of the world’s most extraordinary innovations have improved our lives; and how new ideas are helping tackle shared global challenges.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Website, the organisation sought to look into how the intellectual property system supports innovation by attracting investment, rewarding creators, encouraging them to develop their ideas, and ensuring that their new knowledge is freely available so that tomorrow’s innovators can build on today’s new technology.
“Intellectual property is a crucial part of a successful innovation system. It provides a return for those who take the risk to introduce the “new” – in terms of products and services – into the economy. It provides a framework for the rather difficult and challenging journey that any idea has to undertake before becoming a commercially available product or service,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry in a statement.
He further added, “With this year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign we are celebrating innovation and how it improves our lives. We are also celebrating all the risk-takers, all those who have dared to bring about positive change through innovation.”
World IP Day 2017 was themed “Innovation – Improving Lives.” This year’s campaign will also be an opportunity for people to think about what it actually takes to invent something and the challenges associated with that process. It is also a chance for us to consider how we can make innovation really work for the benefit of the whole of society.
WIPO’s member states initiated World IP Day in 2000 to raise public awareness about the role of IP in daily life, and to celebrate the contribution made by innovators and creators to the development of societies across the globe.
My Life Is in Danger, Says Opposition Leader
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Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Technology
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By Yahaya Ibrahim
Lagos — Five pregnant school children were assisted to access antenatal and delivery services in the last one year, Lagos State Commissioner for Youths and Social Development Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf has said.
She was speaking yesterday as part of the ongoing ministerial briefing to mark the two years in office of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
The commissioner also disclosed that 237 children, comprising 106 males and 131 females, abandoned in different parts of the state were rescued.
“This figure is higher than the corresponding figure of 149 children that were rescued in 2015 while between January 2017 till date, 53 children have been rescued,” Akinbile-Yussuf said.
The commissioner also said that 150 reported cases of sexual and physical abuse were handled by the ministry in the year under review.
Economy Would Be Out of Recession By Second Quarter – Central Bank
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Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Health
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[This Day] A frontline advocacy group in the Niger Delta region, the Niger Delta Development Initiative (NDDI), has written to President Muhammadu Buhari, criticising the recent committee set up by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, to restructure the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Akwa Ibom State. The organisation described it as an action done in bad faith.
Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Transportation
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Luanda — The Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, José Carvalho da Rocha, said Thursday in Luanda that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) represent a useful tool in the development of the daily activities of women, especially in the field of business.
According to the minister, who was speaking at the 5th forum on girls and ICT, many women are nowadays developing their business as the aid of new technologies, which shows their interest in this market.
José Carvalho da Rocha said that nowadays in many parts of the world there are women who create their companies with these tools and do not even need to leave their homes.
Today, with the advancement of new technologies, the minister continued, women have already realized that new information technologies are part of their lives and of their companies and that it is increasingly difficult to live without them.
For this reason, José Carvalho da Rocha explained that the United Nations guides the member countries to encourage women to use more and more information and communication technologies.
The forum aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages women to consider careers in the growing field of information and communication technologies.
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Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Technology
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ABOUT 20 agricultural students at the government’s Mashare Development Institute Training Centre near Rundu say they had to beg for a bag of maize from the Divundu Correctional Service after going for two months without their staple food.
The training centre, which produces vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, spinach, tomatoes and green pepper, is run and funded by the ministry of agriculture.
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Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Agriculture
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By Tausi Nakato
Jinja — Jinja High Court has dismissed with costs the election petition filed by Social Development Party candidate Mr John Bosco Aseya Ozuma against the incumbent NRM’s Deo Mwesigye over election malpractices.
Mr Aseya in his petition accused the Mr Mwesigye and the Electoral Commission of not following the law, voter bribery, vote rigging, defacing of posters, intimidation, assault and tampering with the seals of the ballot boxes.
However, court on Thursday dismissed the petition after Mr Aseya failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the first respondent (Mr Mwesigye) and the second respondent (EC) committed the said offences.
Mr Aseya had also accused Mr Mweisgye of donating an ambulance registration number UAT 512F to residents of Lugazi Municipality, a vehicle registration number UAH 755F aimed at teaching an unemployed Youth how to drive , a tractor to boost farmers productivity but court dismissed the allegations.
In the ruling, Mr Jessy Byaruhanga, the deputy registrar of the High Court declared Mr Mwesigye as the rightful elected mayor of Lugazi Municipality.
“In accordance with section 139 of the local Government Act, I dismiss the petition with costs because the petition did not comply with the standards of the law regarding the affidavits, and no proper evidence to support all the allegations,” said Mr Byaruhanga while reading the ruling.
Mr Wycliffe Birungi of Birungi and Co. Advocates who represented Mr Mwesigye said they are happy with the Court ruling and they are to charge the petitioner over Shs100m for the costs they have incurred.
Mr Fred Kato Lukwago of Alaka and Company Advocates who represented Mr Aseya said they are to sit with their client and decide whether they will appeal against the ruling or not.
In the election conducted in March last year, Mr Mwesigye was declared by the electoral commission as a winner after garnering 15,002 votes against Mr Aseya’s 11,011 votes.
Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Tells Museveni to be Careful With Oil
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Apr 28 2017 | Posted in Uganda
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