Welcome to the Com World Series Blog. As producers of the leading telecoms, media and ICT events for developing markets, we focus on news & views that affect everyone operating in the telecoms ecosystem in Africa, the Middle East and Eurasia.

30 Sep 2014

Catch a sneek preview of AfricaCom 2014!


Africa's premier communications congress & exhibition returns to Cape Town for its biggest & best year yet! Here is a preview of what you can expect at the 17th annual AfricaCom on 11-13 November 2014.

If you haven't got your ticket yet, register for FREE here: http://bit.ly/AfricaCom2014

26 Sep 2014

AfricaCom speaker Nicola D'Elia on Facebook as an "on-ramp" for Africa's first-time Internet users

AfricaCom 2014 speaker Nicola D'Elia, Head of Growth and Partnerships, EMEA, Facebook on: Facebook's subscriber numbers in Africa and its biggest markets; its relationships with mobile operators and the different business models it's trying; its advertising operation in the region; the work of its strategic alliance Internet.org; and its present and future relationship with developers in the region.

Nicola D'Elia, Facebook, will be speaking at AfricaCom (11-13 November 2014). For further details and to register, go to: www.comworldseries.com/africa and follow it on #africacom

Interview by Smart Monkey TV

25 Sep 2014

Zain Sudan CEO Elfatih Erwa confident of further growth in country’s telecom sector

•    Erwa participates in keynote interview at Middle East Com conference and details Zain Sudan’s operational progress to date
•    Country’s leading mobile operator investing heavily in network upgrades as well as in development and training of staff
•    Targeting growth in mobile data and mobile money usage; ready to launch 4G services in three months upon regulatory approval

Zain Group, a leading innovator of mobile communications in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, details the headlining participation of its Zain Sudan CEO, Elfatih Erwa, at the Middle East Com conference, organized by Informa Telecoms & Media, and hosted at Mina A’Salam hotel in Dubai this week.

In a keynote interview in front of 400 industry leaders, Erwa detailed the impressive progress Zain Sudan has continued to make since his appointment as CEO in 2008, and the subsequent secession of South Sudan in 2011.

“Internally the company is doing well on all operational levels and we are investing heavily in network upgrades,” Erwa told the delegates in attendance. “We have experienced 15% revenue growth year-on-year in local currency terms, and enjoy a leading 41% customer market share that reflects a 60% share of revenues in the overall market.”

Erwa explained that Sudan’s contribution to Zain Group’s overall service revenues had fallen from a peak of 20% to now contribute around 15% given the local currency fluctuations that has seen the Sudan pound depreciate by over 120% in recent years. He also noted Zain Sudan was contributing a similar 15% of Zain Group’s net profit, highlighting the debt-free nature of the operation, which places the operator in a prime position to benefit from market opportunities as they arise.

“I believe we are coming into another take-off period in Sudan, and in some geographic regions we are already witnessing an explosion of data usage. We are interested in the growing area of mobile money, and have recently launched a commercial service with the Bank of Khartoum. We also see other good growth opportunities in the country especially in value added services and we shall be committing resources towards those also,” Erwa said.

Zain Sudan currently counts over 11.4 million customers, with an estimated 40% of them already utilizing their devices to access Internet content, with the operator awaiting approval to introduce 4G services. Erwa noted that the company has invested over US$100 million in network upgrades in the past 12 months (approximately 17% of its revenues) and recently introduced appealing data packages for its customers. Approximately 11% of Zain Sudan’s revenues are from data and Erwa expects this to grow to 15% by end of 2015 as smartphone usage picks up further.

“We could launch 4G commercially within three or four months of being given permission to do so by the regulator,” Erwa asserted. “We already have a number of competitive advantages including being one of the founding mobile operators in Sudan so we have good access to spectrum, and are viewed as a preferred provider in the country. We also benefit from significant synergies with Zain Group, and we are very fortunate to have the ongoing support of one of the leading telecom groups in the region,” he added.

On human resource issues, Erwa detailed how the company is investing heavily in the training and development of his dedicated workforce and how the company has recently increased salaries to meet rising inflation. “By doing this, we are rewarding our workforce for their dedication and successes to date. It also works as a retention tool to avoid operators abroad from poaching them. We have the best talent in the country and we strive to keep them.”

Looking ahead, Erwa said he believes the telecom sector in Sudan shall remain a significant one, if not rise even further in importance given the increase in mobile penetration rates and use of mobile data services. He also forecasts there will be little chance for the successful entry of new players, and believes in fact that the industry may be entering a period of consolidation given the three mobile and two fixed line operators already providing services in the market.

“I’m optimistic about the potential of the telecom sector in Sudan and similarly for the future of Zain Sudan. We shall continue developing our strong distribution channels and innovating with new services, focusing on providing customers the best mobile experience in the country. We remain committed to deliver our brand promise of a Wonderful World to the communities we serve,” Erwa concluded.

About Zain Sudan
Zain Sudan is the pioneer of GSM services in Sudan, being the first to offer mobile operations back in February 1997. Today it serves the largest base of mobile customers in the country with more than 11.4 million active customers, reflecting a leading market share of 41%. It is part of the Zain Group, a leading telecommunications operator across the Middle East and Africa providing mobile voice and data services to over 46.5 million active customers as of 30 June, 2014. With a commercial presence in 8 countries, Zain operates in: Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and South Sudan. In Lebanon, the Group manages ‘touch’ on behalf of the government. In Morocco, Zain has a 15.5% stake in ‘INWI’, through a joint venture. Zain is listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (stock ticker: ZAIN).
For more, please email info@zain.com or visit: www.zain.com; www.facebook.com/zain; www.twitter.com/zain; www.youtube.com/zain; www.instagram.com/zaingroup; www.linkedin.com/company/zain

22 Sep 2014

Focus on Digital in Middle East Com day one keynotes

The conference room was packed this morning at the 19th annual Middle East Com, for the opening presentation by Host Operator Etisalat’s Chief Business Officer, Salvador Anglada. Mr Anglada presented Etisalat’s view of the new opportunities available to operators in the hyper-connected world. With a forecast of 50 billion connected devices by 2020, and 4 billion new internet users in the next 10 years, operators must prepare for the benefits coming their way from the new digital environment.

Operators are no longer at the centre of the communications universe – they are part of it and need to establish what role they are going to take, and where they will build their capabilities. With the Middle East communications market still in growth phase, the time is ripe for consolidating current success and preparing for the future.

Charbel Sarkis of Google was next to present, with a speech on “Digitising the Customer Facing Value Chain”, highlighting the preference and benefits of a more digital approach to customers and customer service.

Zain Sudan’s CEO Elfatih Erwa was interviewed by Ovum’s Matthew Reed, giving a detailed insight into his operation, and was followed by the operator panel featuring Greg Young, CEO, Nawras; Mikkel Vinter, CEO, Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa; Sacha Dudler, General Manager, STC and Ahmed Mokhles, Executive Vice President, Consumer and Digital Business, du. The panel was moderated by Strategic Partner Telecom Review’s Editor in Chief Toni Eid and highlighted how telcos are contributing to business and consumer lifestyle enhancements.

Afternoon tracks focussed on Customer Experience Management, Transformation to the Networked Society and MVNOs in the Middle East.

Join us tomorrow for day 2 at the Mina A’Salam Madinat Jumeirah with keynote presentations from Ross McAuley, Vice President Brand Marketing at Jumeirah Group and Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Deputy DG of The Executive Office, Member of the Smart Dubai Executive Committee. With top level discussions on Smart Cities, Smart Services and Managed Services, we look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

19 Sep 2014

New for AfricaCom 2014: the Entrepreneurs Incubator Hub hosts the AMPION Venture Bus Finale

Young people with innovative ideas need access to investors, they need employees with technical expertise and they highly benefit from capacity building and mentorship opportunities. In Africa, in particular, it is also crucial to overcome infrastructural barriers. This is why our NGO AMPION is collaborating with startups, public institutions, partner NGOs, investors, incubators and innovation hubs (tech and co-working centers). We understand information and communications technology (ICT) not as an end in itself but as a crucial enabler reducing barriers to entry, lowering cost, speeding up growth, extending reach and thereby enhancing the potential impact of business ideas. That is why we target entrepreneurial talents across all industries, while placing special emphasis on enabling ICT experts to work with and for them.

In the Middle East and North Africa telecoms market a 2014 report by Analysys Mason shows that the mobile telecoms market is displaying signs of continued growth. While research by Deloitte and GSMA (Groupe Special Mobile Association) highlights that sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world (sporting a growth rate of 44% per year since 2000), Northern Africa and the Middle East are also benefitting from the progress of mobile penetration on the continent. Driven by strong mobile handset data growth, telecoms service revenue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will grow at a CAGR of 2.9% during 2013–2018 (mobile at 3.3% and fixed at 2.8%), to reach USD96 billion in 2018.

AMPION Venture Buses operate all across the African continent and connect coders, web designers and business experts to investors and mentors. On five-day ‘hackathons’ they create startups from scratch. The buses are equipped with electricity and Internet. Every day the Venture Bus visits innovation HUBs to get the participants in touch with the local communities for feedback and an exchange of experiences. 

A key objective for AMPION is to make startups created on the Venture Buses sustainable. For this purpose we will offer a six month fellowship program for the 10 best startups created on the AMPION Venture Buses. It will include free offices in over 30 countries, a grant and the connection to our global network of mentors. In addition, it will feature trips to the centers of the global tech and startup scene such as the Silicon Valley and Berlin. 

2014 four AMPION Venture Buses will travel a total of 16 African countries. Along their journey our participants (200 overall) get in touch with more than 5000 young Africans interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. We also cooperate with international journalists and African media channels such as the BBC, Bloomberg, A24Media and many African tech blogs. Due to this extensive media coverage and our own active social media campaigns the spirit of our Venture Buses can potentially inspire more than 25 million young people in Africa and worldwide. 

Advancements through the power of digital and innovation can help to improve the day-to-day life of many people across Africa and the Middle East and may help building a foundation for the tech markets of tomorrow.  

In 2013 eight startups where created on our bus driving from Zimbabwe to South Africa. One of them, the App "sterio.me" is an e-learning app via SMS. It takes into account the challenges of the African market: Inadequate infrastructure and a lack of internet connectivity highly affect the access to education in Africa. Sterio.me helps to overcome these obstacles as the app requires neither mobility nor internet access: The user sends an SMS to the free service and then receives a call that is sent to him by his teacher tasks and queries learning content. 

The app "Bribed", also developed in 2013 in the bus, provides access to a network that tracks exposure to bribery. They now cooperate with Transparency Germany to help them improve their Global Corruption Index.

We are looking forward to many great new ideas on our four AMPION Venture Buses in 2014!

Check out the Entrepreneurs Incubator Hub which will take place on Day Three of AfricaCom 2014 – Secure your conference pass or FREE exhibition ticket here: http://bit.ly/AfricaCom2014 

17 Sep 2014

Infrastructure leveraging, OTTs rising, and CIO's evolving role in ICT are the themes of day two at NigeriaCom

The 5th annual NigeriaCom event rolls into day two at the Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria, bringing together the leading figures in telecoms, ICT, Media and Finance, from across Nigeria and the wider region.

Speakers from the public and private sector gave a poignant discussion on broadband infrastructure to kick off. All shared the sentiment that private sector needs encouragement from government to invest in network infrastructure and in turn grow the enterprise investment across Nigeria.
On the topic of surge in OTT services, MTN's Bayo Adekanmbi sees this as the tip of the iceberg, so operators pricing must be well balanced.

Yookos coyly concluded the panel stating telcos need OOT players because they have the content!
Resuming after the morning coffee break the CIO forum began with a great panel of shared perspectives from leaders in corporate ICT. How can CIOs manage the nexus force of mobile, social, big data and cloud?

Critical thought was shared by Vodacom, Ekiti State, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Jumia, EMC and many others.

Still to come this afternoon - MVNO strategies for Nigeria and digital insights from market  king's iRoko TV, and more.

Networking is a major part of NgieriaCom: a busy Speed Networking session took place in the morning coffee break. The day’s proceeding ended with a drinks reception hosted that carried on into the event.

16 Sep 2014

Spectrum and broadband are naturally the buzz words at NigeriaCom

The 5th annual NigeriaCom event opened today at the Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lagos,Nigeria, bringing together the leading figures in telecoms, ICT, Media and Finance, from across Nigeria and the wider region.

Speakers from government and regulatory bodies, mobile operators, fixed and wireless service providers, banks and vendors shared their views on the strong growth forecast for the sector while outlining the agenda for sustained improvements and best practice in this burgeoning market.

A highlight from the morning keynotes was Nitin Anand Head of Data at Airtel, who talked about the digitisation of society and how Nigeria has the chance to be even better than any nation in the world.

Also noteworthy is Eng. Festus Daudu of the ministry supporting the notion that operators are seen as partners of the government.

Resuming after the morning coffee break the sessions became more focused on network efficiency and the connectivity breakthroughs from innovative ISPs. The strategies discussed covered challenges of the Nigerian market from spectrum allocation down to rural market telecoms improvements, meeting the demand for affordable data, with contributions from, iPNX MTN and Google to name a few.

Still to come the Central Bank of Nigeria and large representation of the banking community in mobile money this afternoon.

Networking is a major part of NigeriaCom: a busy Speed Networking session took place in the morning coffee break. The day’s proceeding ended with a drinks reception hosted that carried on into the event.

“NigeriaCom is always a great event to be part of and it reflects the buoyancy of the market at present. We are proud that it remains relevant to the speakers and attendees and that we’ve had the opportunity to build out many new features this year”, says Adam Thompson, Conf.

15 Sep 2014

AfricaCom 2014 exhibitors get a 20 percent discount off pan-African news release distribution


 CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa, September 12, 2014/ -- APO (African Press Organization) (http://www.apo-opa.com), the official wire service of AfricaCom 2014 is offering exhibitors of AfricaCom 2014 a 20 percent discount off pan-African news release distribution.

Used by some of the world's largest technology companies, including Orange, Airtel, Ericsson, Symantec, Oracle, Garmin, Gemalto, NEC Corporation, MasterCard and more, APO Africa Wire® has a potential reach of 600 million people and guarantees the most extensive outreach in Africa, acting as a channel that allows APO's clients to target audiences in all parts of the continent and also the world.

This service reaches over 50,000 journalists, bloggers and social networks, and redistributes content to more than 50 African websites, as well as to Bloomberg Terminal, Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis, Dow Jones Factiva, 250 million mobile subscribers in 30 countries and more.

More information about Africa Wire®, the service for press release distribution and monitoring in Africa, is available at http://www.apo-opa.com/services.php


Aïssatou Diallo
+41 22 534 96 97

About APO

APO (African Press Organization) (http://www.apo-opa.com) is the sole press release newswire in Africa and the global leader in media relations relating to Africa.

With offices in Senegal, Switzerland, Dubai, Hong Kong, India and Seychelles, APO has a media database comprising over 50,000 contacts and is the main online community for news relating to Africa.

It offers a complete range of services, including press release distribution and monitoring, online press conferences, interactive webcasts, media interactions, strategic advice, public diplomacy, government relations and events promotion. To find out more, please visit http://www.apo-opa.com.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apo_source

Follow us on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/african-press-organization

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/africanpressorganization

APO (African Press Organization)

11 Sep 2014

AfricaCom speaker Raul Martinez, Millicom, speaks on digital content in Africa and how it's backing start-ups

Raul Martinez, Commercial Director at Africa, Millicom speaks about drawing on its experience of rolling out Triple Play in Latin America; its investment in Rocket; its support to open the Think Incubator in Rwanda and Millicom Digital Ventures; its partnership with Facebook in Tanzania; its approach to solving payment for digital services; and the road from being a mobile operator to a digital services company.

Raul Martinez, Millicom will be speaking at AfricaCom (11-13 November 2014). For further details and to register, go to: www.comworldseries.com/africa and follow it on #africacom

10 Sep 2014

East Africa Com highlights key opportunities in the region’s digital market: innovation, partnerships and new revenue streams

East Africa Com closed today in Nairobi after two days of lively debates on opportunities in the region’s telecoms, media and ICT market.

The first day covered topics of connectivity, mobile money and enterprise services, while the second day looked at profitability, both from the point of view of cost efficiency and of new revenue streams. A presentation from Google’s Kay Wulff addressed the ever-present debate of competition vs partnership between operators and OTT players: this year the consensus was on partnership, which both operators and OTT/content players want to make work. Among new revenue opportunities, big data monetisation was a major point of discussion. Digital content (in particular music) raised the issue of the role of mobile operators within a complex ecosystem.
The programme included contributions from a wide range of companies: Airtel, Safaricom, Google, Tele10, Zain Sudan, Leo Burundi, Liquid Telecom, iWay Africa, Roke Telkom, Ericsson, Protocol Solutions, Spinlet, Mdundo, Gounna, Avanti Communications, Lumata, Ekinops, First access, Paypal Chase bank and more.

East Africa Com was a fantastic opportunity to catch up on the latest developments in East Africa and to meet leading minds and innovators in the market. More than ever, participants engaged in networking in the exhibition and during the breaks, as well as the lunches (hosted by Seacom and TEPC) and the poolside drinks hosted by East Africa Data Centre at the end of day 1. The atmosphere was both relaxed and focused: a great way of doing business!

Next year’s event will come back to its original date in May (12th and 13th), still at the beautiful Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi. The programme will provide an update on the digital economy (telco strategies, services, networks etc.), as well as a new CIO Forum covering enterprise services & Cloud.

Reactions and recommendations for East Africa Com....

"A number of interesting presentations include OTT’s taking up the mantle of communication innovation passing threat to telcos to open up partnerships. Exhibitors like Transfer-To gave an insight on how telcos have extended their sales abroad through diaspora.”
Nsaji Mwamukonda, Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd (TTLC), NICTBB Engineer

"The sessions were quite informative on the emerging telcos trends and solutions. I like the fact that operators are competing on quality and have embraced infrastructure sharing. Thanks a lot to all organizers and sponsors for a successful event!"
Samson Kamau, Orange Telkom Manager, O&M-T

“The venue and event were great, it enabled good communication and effective interaction!”
Mustafa Barai, Sudatel, Capacity & IP Manager

“An event with a lot of opportunity to meet and interact with people. Also a chance to explore, learn and develop as a whole. Interesting to understand LTE and the digital era. Well done!"
Ali Abbas Nasser, CFO, Catsnet

“Excellent organization and conference. Well planned and quality of exhibitions and presentations, very good! Looking forward to 2015 EACom.”
Ali Bufolo, Wananchi Telecom, Deputy General Manager

“The event was extremely useful, and well organized, speed networking was very good.”
Hernandez Francois, Verimatrix, Sales Director

“Great conference! A fantastic learning environment amongst peers in the telecom industry.”
Samuel Mwangi, Safaricom Kenya, Senior Solutions Architect

“Great venue, interesting discussions and networking opportunities.”
Ludovic Patraud, Intersec, Director Market Development