Telecoms in Africa – September 2012

October 3rd, 2012, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

Compiled by Matthew White, Iona Press Services 

UN promotes food-voucher system for Africa

The future of humanitarian food assistance is digital, according to Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the UN World Food Programme. Cousin, who spoke at a global leaders’ forum to launch a new aid alliance, said: “By 2015, WFP expects 30% of its assistance programmes to be delivered in the form of cash and digital food.” Digital food refers to the use of food vouchers, which will untimately be paid for largely by taxpayers in donor countries. Called “Better than Cash”, the alliance brings together a cross-section of private sector companies, host-country governments, multilateral and bilateral donors, UN Agencies and international NGOs to empower people by shifting from cash to electronic payments. According to a UN press release, cash and vouchers are preferred by those receiving WFP food assistance “because they allow for greater choice and variety”. However, the US voucher system known as
“food stamps” has proved extraordinarily vulnerable to corruption, as they can easily be traded for other goods and services, including tattoos, pornography and even bail money.

Illegal optical-fibre network discovered in Cameroon

Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel) claims to have unmasked “an impostor’ which has buried more than 150 km of optical-fibre cable along the Douala-Yaounde road. According to Camtel it was alerted to the problem when more than 100 people came to Camtel’s head office in Yaounde asking to be paid for digging trenches and planting optical fibre along the road. The cables were found to have Camtel markings, but the work had not been authorised by the utility.

Egyptian firm seeks to shut down Google over “offensive” film

As protests continue in Muslim countries around the world, an Egyptian company specialising in electronic systems has filed a lawsuit before the State Council in Cairo to shut down Google’s website in Egypt. The move follows Google’s refusal to withdraw a controversial US-made film that many Muslims find insulting and disrespectful to the Prophet Mohammad, and which can be seen on the site of Google’s Youtube subsidiary.

Kenya switches off 1,9-million counterfeit phones

The Communications Commission of Kenya has ordered the cutting off of some 1,9-million counterfeit handsets, meaning they can no longer receive or make calls, send messages, or access mobile money services. Their sim cards can, however, be transferred to genuine mobiles and will retain their data. CCK said Safaricom had switched off 754 269 phones, Airtel 588 831, Orange 72 000 and yuMobile, 470 000. Industry leaders assured subscribers that their lines will be restored as soon as they replace the fake handsets. A global database has registered the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers of all GSM handsets manufactured. Counterfeit handsets carry IMEI numbers duplicated from original ones.

New Nigerian broadband strategy due within three months

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has restated his government’s commitment to build a digital economy, where technology will drive government and private businesses. Jonathan said this at the inauguration a 15-man broadband committee to develop a comprehensive broadband strategy and roadmap for Nigeria. He urged members of the committee to work assiduously to perform the task of attaining full broadband access for Nigeria. Jonathan said the National ICT policy had set a target of a five-fold increase in broadband penetration by 2017. The committee has three months to complete its assignment.

Ghana tops African broadband penetration log

The seven top ranked African countries for active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2011 were Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mauritius Morocco and Rwanda, in that order, according to the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development. The commission’s 2012 report, “The State of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion for All”, is the first-ever country-by-country snapshot of the state of broadband deployment worldwide. Although Ghana topped the rankings in Africa with 23 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, it is only 40th in the world. Topping the world log was Singapore with 110,9.

Good and bad news for China’s Huawei Technologies

Ghana has given Chinese firm Huawei Technologies more than US$43-million in tax waivers in return for building the country’s US$127-million e-Government Platform Project, which is designed to bridge the digital divide by means of a nationwide ICT infrastructure. The waivers include income tax of almost US$5-million, output VAT of US$7,3-million, input VAT of US$4,4-million, and customs duties of US$26,4-million. The gift follows the signing of a preferential buyer’s credit facility agreement between the government of Ghana and the Export/Import Bank of China for an amount of US$127,5-million to finance the project. Meanwhile, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has ordered an investigation into his country’s national backbone optic-fibre project, which is being undertaken by Huawei. In a letter to the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Museveni objected to several aspects of the project, notably Huawei’s “overpricing”.

Ethio Telecom warned that “world class” ambition threatened

Ethiopian telecoms monopoly Ethio Telecom needs to look into itself and seriously examine problems in order to devise lasting solutions, according to outgoing CEO Jean-Michel Laute, otherwise its vision of transforming the telecom industry of the nation into a world class standard will remain an illusion. Noting that the parastatal is reaping huge profits, Laute questioned Ethio Telecom’s commitment to quality of service. “The profit gained would have been much convincing if it had been coupled with real customer satisfaction.” he said. “If the profit is secured at the expense of public effective communication, it compromises company’s reputation.” Leaving aside facilitation of the rural-urban network, mobile phone users in Addis Ababa and its environs are heard seriously complaining about the poor network service and very slow internet connection. There are also days when the internet service completely stops functioning.

Airtel inaugurates solar-powered towers in Tanzania

Airtel Tanzania has launched solar-powered technology, striking a significant milestone in its endeavour to build an environmentally- friendly mobile network in the country. The aim of the project is to reduce the number of sites that are completely reliant on diesel generators.


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