27 Nov 2014

Announcing key themes at Connecting West Africa 2015 (Dakar, Senegal, 9-10 June): Get involved now!



The 2015 Connecting West Africa conference will take place in Dakar, Senegal on 9-10 June and we are now planning the programme. 

The conference will cover the following major trends affecting West Africa’s telecoms & ICT market:

  • Developing broadband across the region: regulation, technologies (4G/LTE, satellite, fibre), investment
  • Digital migration: how is the 17th June deadline being met and how will the digital landscape change?
  • Monetising data services: building a new ecosystem & partnerships
  • Enterprise services: strategies for CIOs
  • Cost-efficiency strategies to improve affordability
  • Rural telecoms: technologies and strategies to reach under-served areas
  • Device strategies to increase access to services

In order to make the event as relevant and insightful as possible, we need your feedback! Please get in touch to send us your thoughts on the topics to include and the speakers/companies you want to hear from. If you're interested in sharing your thoughts or if you would like to speak at Connecting West Africa, please post comments in the Linkedin group or contact us.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards
Julie & the Connecting West Africa team

26 Nov 2014

Winner of Ampion Venture Bus announced at AfricaCom



After an exciting journey, this year’s Southern Africa AMPION Venture Bus winner was chosen at the final event at AfricaCom in Cape Town on 13th November.

Clean water for Africa: E-Maji tackles one of Africa's most pressing issues

In Cape Town, nine teams pitched their newly formed startup ideas at the AfricaCom masterclass stage in front of a judging panel of industry experts and an audience of ICT enthusiasts and executives from around the world. The 20 person Jury included leading business representatives such as Emilian Popa, CEO at Groupon South Africa.

Winning on the day was team E-Maji which pitched their smart water quality testing unit. It measures water quality at a drinking water source in real time. If a contamination is detected, the system then uses a built-in GPRS transmitter to send GPS coordinates of the contaminated water source to authorities to facilitate a speedy reaction, but not before the unit shuts down water supply using an electronic water valve. The team designed the unit to be used with Africa’s 700 000 boreholes which have proven very complicated and difficult for authorities to maintain and monitor.
Speaking on the sidelines of the AfricaCom event, co-founder Taf Makura narrated how the team came up with their innovation: "When we got on the bus we had a very clear and simple objective, we were going to use technology to solve a problem without focusing on the technology itself. We were aware of how technological requirements of any kind can quickly get in the way of mass adoption in Africa. Our technology had to work in the background without placing any technical requirements on the people it was meant to help.”
His partner Seida Gharsallah, co-founder of E-Maji and a banker of the year with ING Netherlands, added: “We have every intention of exploring the feasibility of this project!”

This year's AMPION Southern Africa startups are:
  • M.E.M. (Mens et Manus): online platform allowing entrepreneurs in rural areas to obtain or develop knowledge on product design and development of hardware and software consumer products via a feature phone
  • Keetla: provides a platform for schools, parents, teachers and students to be efficiently involved in the education process
  • Road Rules: mobile app to study for ones driver's license on mobile devices
  • Shining Homes: a service allowing clients to book cleaners for their homes in a simple and convenient way
  • Mlimi: platform connecting the agriculture ecosystem allowing for access to inputs, technical information, markets, funding, and a community of like minded stakeholders
  • Da-mark.com: bridges the gap between the informal and the formal sector in Africa
  • My Time for Change: easy to use, transparent web platform improving citizen engagement by connecting organisations in need and potential volunteers
  • SchoolitUp: Working on making education material ( books, uniforms etc.) accessible to everyone by providing an online platform linking both parties
  • E-Maji: see above

AMPIONeer Netia A. McCray, Founder and Executive Director of Mbadika, wrote a daily recap during the 3500km trip from Harare to Cape Town on the AMPION blog. Her impressions on the journey can be read on ampionblog.tumblr.com. The unique experience, she concludes, had everyone on the edge of their seat:"I feel not one AMPIONeer would disagree with the statement that our journey was literally a life-changing experience." Julie Rey, Conference Director of AfricaCom, said of the partnership with Ampion: "There is a great amount of creativity and entrepreneurship in Africa but ideas are not enough without financial backing and business acumen. That is why we started the Entrepreneurs Incubator Hub at AfricaCom and we partner with organisations such as Ampion, who support entrepreneurs and enable the exchange of information and contacts. We look forward to hearing of future successes of Ampion hackathon participants."

About the AMPION Venture Bus
AMPION is the leading pan-African entrepreneurship initiative to enable young Africans to start ICT companies, often creating considerable social impact. AMPION organizes 5 day Venture Bus programs accompanied by international mentors and followed by an extensive incubation program. The Venture Bus journeys are regularly covered by media such as CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera & Bloomberg TV and brought some of Africa’s most innovative companies to life.

25 Nov 2014

Challenges and Solutions for African operators – AfricaCom 2014

Written by: Anthony Vimal, VP, Sales - EMEA - Procera Networks
Source: Procera Networks Blog

AfricaCom 2014 is over and as I sit here by the sea watching the sunset over Cape Town Bay, memories of AfricaCom 2002 comes to my mind. In 2002, when I first attended the AfricaCom show, there were three key challenges faced by African operators:

  • How can we make voice telephony affordable to more people?
  • How can we increase mobile coverage to attract more subscribers?
  • How can we provide better voice quality to our existing customers?

Twelve years later, with high mobile penetration, good mobile coverage and reasonably good voice quality, these challenges have been resolved.

Now with all African operators having launched 3G, the utmost question in their mind is not about whether they should launch 4G. It’s about how can they maximize the limited 3G bandwidth they have to provide a better customer experience and better data services. Today in Sub Saharan Africa, the very first experience of Internet for most of the population will be via a wireless device. However, the high cost of international access bandwidth and limited 3G spectrums is forcing operators to look at how they can maximize the use of their existing bandwidth. In the West, the OTT services such as Netflix and YouTube have seen a rapid growth, but in Africa these types of high data consumption services have been low due to high cost of data transmission and bandwidth.

This has led to many wholesale data service providers offering managed wholesale data services to African operators using satellite and sea/land cable networks. Operators are also starting to deploy data optimization, traffic/bandwidth management and customer experience management solutions to maximize their limited bandwidth. As an example of bandwidth cost, some of the Procera customers in West Africa are paying €300 per month per Mbps for international Internet access, compared to a cost of €4 per month per Mbps in European countries. Some of the Procera customers are using the PacketLogic solution to shape their traffic in their international access links saving bandwidth by 20% to 25%, achieving pay back within 4 months on Procera solutions.

More and more undersea cables are also being laid along the East and West cost of Africa increasing bandwidth to Africa. Satellite operators are launching more geo stationary satellites to increase connectivity to land locked African countries. This combined with operators using traffic management solutions such as Procera PacketLogic and data optimization tools, is enabling end users to get better customer experience and better access to mobile data services.

The key message for any telecom vendor operating in the African market is that world solutions are not always applicable to third world challenges. The key focus for African operators for the next two years will remain reducing the cost of bandwidth and increasing better use of the available bandwidth to provide better customer experience to their subscribers. Procera’s solution RAN perspectives, which was short listed for the GSM Best Customer Experience Management award, in combination with the Procera PacketLogic solution, provides an ideal way for African operators to maximize the use of their existing bandwidth and improve customer experience.

AfricaCom this year was larger than ever with a lot of vendors and many more attendees. I have personally seen this show grow over ten fold in size over the last twelve years. The universal availability of mobile telephony in Africa has brought more benefits to the people of this continent. Long may it continue and grow!

For more information on AfricaCom, visit our website: http://africa.comworldseries.com/