18 Dec 2015

Meet Lilian Makoi, first winner of the AHUB Pitch & Win award at AfricaCom 2015 with bimaAFYA mobile micro health insurance

Last month’s AHUB at AfricaCom included the first Pitch & Win session, a chance for African tech start-ups to pitch their concept to a panel of judges and get recognised by Africa’s premier tech community.  Tech entrepreneurs from the whole continent applied and 6 finalists were chosen by our panel of judges for the chance of winning a membership to Mlab and a range of promotional opportunities.

The winning pitch was bimaAFYA (health:insurance) a mobile micro health insurance product launched by EdgePoint for the low income and informal sector population in Tanzania. Co-Founder Lilian Makoi received the award and talks to us about her journey.

AHUB: What is your background and how did you become a tech entrepreneur?
Lilian Makoi: I worked for Mobile value Added Services Global companies for the past 6 years. I started at Spice VAS Africa as an administration Officer right after my degree, then was promoted to a Content Manager, dealing with Tanzania Artists, then promoted to an Account Manager where I managed Tigo Tanzania , Airtel Tanzania and Zantel companies as an account, all within my 1st year at Spice. I then moved to OnMobileGlobal, another VAS Global Company where I managed Vodacom Tanzania as an account, then joined Flytxt International where I handled big data analysis for Airtel Tanzania, then Airtel Rwanda and Airtel Malawi.
My entrepreneurship journey started from the time I was doing my Bachelor’s degree. Despite coming from a privileged family, I always wanted to achieve more of my own. I was renting out movies/ DVDs for tsh.500 per day from my dorm room at 19 years old. When I got my first job (Spice VAS) I opened a diet and cleaning company where I cooked and delivered diet programme meals to over 300 clients at that time, simultaneously doing domestic cleaning for busy moms and newlyweds who did not want the bother of a sleep in maid for privacy. Both business idea came from personal experiences as I grew into a mother and realized the struggle of losing weight and managing a household.

A How did the idea of bimaAFYA start and grow?
LM: By 2014, I started seeing opportunities in my employment area (Telecommunications and technology) and thought it is time I try something more professional and achieve the huge dreams I had. The passion to create solutions for the low income population and informal sector came after witnessing a motorist die because he could not afford treatment from a road accident, then a colleague introduced me to the subject of ‘financial inclusion’ researched about it, reading over 30 articles and papers and the Mobile Micro-health Insurance product was in the making!
It got more exciting realizing that of 49 million Tanzania’s only 4.5% were health insured, and these were from the formal sector only, insured through their employers! 19% was the middle income population who could afford health insurance and out of pocket expenses anyways, leaving out 76.5% low income and informal sector population, uninsured and most dying from curable diseases.
Building bimaAFYA, we did a research with top health insurers to understand why no insurer tried to build a solution for the ignored 23million population, and all insurers came back with one reason, insurance administration costs hinders low premium covers affordable to the low income population. That is where the idea of moving the entire administration work from paperwork and man power to 100% paperless over the mobile phone solution. We were able to cut administration costs by 99% and come up with insurance covers of up to $1 premium per month with benefits/ free health services of up to $80.
Two years later, I feel technology is home for me.

A: When and how did it move from being an idea to becoming a product and a business?
LM: It took me 1 week to visualize what the solution would look like, 2 months of back and forth research and designing, 3 months of product build up. I was running an entire Company, as the delivery manager, account manager, finance manager and the MD. These were 6 months of sleepless nights, working two jobs (I was still employed) building the product most times I would come from work and work on my project until 6am, but I was enjoying it! It got exciting each step of the way.
The next step was getting a buy-in from the biggest insurer in the country for insurance underwriting and relationship with hospitals across the country. My partner (Chris Rabi) and I started the hunt, walking in door to door selling an idea and convincing we are the best technology company to partner with. This wasn’t tough, the idea being solid and God’s grace, we got The Jubilee Insurance ofTanzania Ltd onboard. They were very excited and the partnership marked the beginning of a serious venture. Partnering with the telecom Companies, Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel were the next mile stones we were able to achieve.
By January 2015, we were ready for a launch. It is when I had a technology business to run then. I stopped running a one man show in February and hired 4 employees to run the business.

A: What are your plans for bimaAFYA in the coming years?
LM: BimaAFYA gives over 23million Tanzania’s access to covered hospital care, set to reduce home births by 70%, reduce infant and children deaths by 30%, improve maternal care and reduce poverty. We plan to increase our base in Tanzania, after the recently acquired funding from The Bill and Melinda GatesFoundation and further funding from Startup Boot Camp – UK of over $ 500,000, we plan to cover 2 million of Tanzania’s  by the end of 2016.
2016 will also include new partnerships and set ups in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Hence, by 2017, we will be providing health insurance and improving lives of about 10 million Africans!

A: How do you feel about winning the AfricaCom Ahub ‘pitch & win’ session?
LM: The Competition was tight, each candidate had a strong innovation, it was immense pleasure knowing that the judges understood and saw the value of our proposition! Getting access to Ahub services is a win we understand will move EdgePoint to a different level of a startup!

A: Would you recommend the AHUB to other start-ups and why?
LM: AHUB brought an amazing experience to start ups who needed to get their innovation exposed to possible partners and investors. It gives you the skills and experience of pitching to a potential investor while exposing you to other startups to learn from them.
Winning the AfricaComAwards dinner pass gives the startup an opportunity to network with potential partners, investors and big names in the technology industry. AHUB lab facilities are again a unique set of services set to increase the value of your startup and equip you with business enhancement facilities. I recommend every technology star up to participate next time and enjoy all these benefits.

The AHUB will take place again at AfricaCom on 15-17 November 2016.

7 Dec 2015

Record-breaking AfricaCom highlights the strength of Africa’s tech sector

This year’s AfricaCom was all about innovation, transformation and leadership, and what a year it has been! Africa's, digital & ICT community gathered in Cape Town last week to be inspired by the continent’s tech leaders, to meet the most innovative minds and to do even more business than usual.

Here are some of the highlights of this year:

1. The busiest event so far: AfricaCom and the co-located events took over the CTICC and seemingly the whole city, with people from across the world and across all tech and related industries mingling

2. The launch of the Ericsson AHUB: dubbed by many ‘the best new thing at AfricaCom’, this is where the continent’s top tech entrepreneurs met with established innovators, investors, incubators and more

3. The Ministerial speech: The Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, took to the stage at to highlight the importance of ICT for socio-economic development in Africa

4. SDN & NFV taking off: a busier conference session, mentions in the keynote talks and the new PoC zone, showcasing proof-of-concept demos

5. The first CIO Forum: heads of ICT from a broad range of organisations (large corporations, public sector, SMEs) got together to share 'war stories' and learn from peers in this Checkpoint-sponsored new feature

6. The CEO of the Year’s inspiring speech: Roshi Motman, CEO of Tigo Ghana won the prestigious AfricaCom Awards and dedicated it to her team and inspiring people

7. Sustainability and ICT for development a major focus for the industry: speakers from organisations as varied Facebook, Ericsson, Vodacom, minister and regulators called for more action to promote ICT as a key development tool

8. The biggest party at the AfricaCom Awards: live music, contortionists, dancers, comedy, seaview, great food and inspirational finalists and winners all in one night!

9. The regulatory panel: bringing together the heads of some of the most influential regulators across Africa (ICASA, ECOWAS, BOCRA) let the industry know what their ambitions are

10. The bigger-than-ever Mobile Money conference, Shaping an ecosystem for digital commerce in africa through remittances, m-commerce, digital currencies and MFS interoperability.

Keep an eye out for the photos and videos of this year’s AfricaCom to be released in the next few days, and mark your agenda for the next top events in tech Africa:

- East Africa Com, Nairobi, Kenya, 18-19 May 2016
- West Africa Com, Dakar, Senegal, 8-9 June 2016
- NigeriaCom, Lagos, Nigeria, 21-22 September 2016
- AfricaCom, Cape Town, South Africa, 15-17 November 2016

We look forward to seeing you again next year

The AfricaCom team

18 Nov 2015

Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize highlights the importance of ICT for development in a keynote at AfricaCom

The Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, took to the stage at AfricaCom this morning to highlight the importance of information and communications technologies for socio-economic development in Africa.
“As a newly established Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, we appreciate an opportunity to come and share ideas with such a distinguished audience” the Minister said.
She highlighted the Department’s objectives: “Much of the ICT revolution is driven by the private sector but as a government we have realised that we have an important role to play in aligning policies with the possibilities emerging from the private sector. What we’ve struggled with is the digital divide. The cost of communications is unreasonably high in societies where it is needed the most".
Broadband access is a key priority: “In 2014 South Africa had an internet penetration rate of about 40%. There is a significant growth but it tends to be concentrated in the ‘golden’ cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and East London. Our target in terms to achieve 100% broadband penetration by 2020”.
She mentioned education, e-government, e-health and mobile financial services as key elements of ICT development: “We are investing a lot in e-government. We see the use of technology as a real enabler. People who access services online tend to have higher levels of satisfaction, so it calls for a clear e-strategy.”
She called for increased cooperation between industry stakeholders and recognised the important support that regulators and governments can give the industry: “we are aligning our policy strategies with the regulators and ensuring we promote a competitive environment.  I invite you to look carefully at partnerships and to take advantage of the tax breaks and the many opportunities that governments are availing.” In terms of spectrum allocation, the department is in the process of auditing the needs and she acknowledged the clear need for new allocation toward ICT development.
Overall the Minister emphasized the importance of developmental goals: “The biggest commodity in the world today is knowledge. Strategic investment in the ICT sector will allow Africa to take its right place in the world”.
AfricaCom continues in Cape Town until Thursday 19th November.

17 Nov 2015

Innovation needs more support in Africa, say keynote speakers at AfricaCom

AfricaCom 2015 opened today with a keynote panel on innovation leadership, asking how to support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in digital Africa.
Moderated by Larry Madowo, tech editor at NTV Kenya, the panel brought together Christian de Faria, CEO of Airtel Africa, Markku Makelinen, Director of Global Operator Partnerships at Facebook, Marc Rennard, EVP of AMEA at Orange and Bright Simons, President of mPedigree and award-winning entrepreneur.
Christian de Faria started by stating “We’re not doing enough in terms of innovation. There’s a lot of talent in Africa so how do we support it?” He mentioned the partnership Airtel developed with Facebook as a way of supporting innovators and called for the gian OTT brand to expand its presence in Africa beyond the new office opened recently in South Africa.
According to Markku Makelinen, the driver for all innovation is connectivity to the internet.
For Marc Rennard, innovation is part of our Orange’s DNA: “We support local innovation through partnerships with incubators, venture prizes, technocentres etc. The most important thing is to create a favourable local environment as the innovation coming from the field in Africa meets actual needs of local people”
Bright Simons said governments are uniquely positioned to support innovation: “Africa is very fragmented so the market isn’t the best place to transform innovation into a scalable market-winning product. Governments can create the initial spark for local innovation and the market will follow.” Other panellists agreed on the lack of support from governments, who don’t always have the will or ability to look at long-term objectives. Taxation was once again mentioned as an issue in the tech field.

To wrap up the discussion, Bright called for ecosystem innovation; Marc said the future will be API, open innovation and a multi-cultural approach to innovation; Markku advised entrepreneurs to innovate not imitate; and Christian called for the industry to get together in a more meaningful manner and encourage the bright minds we have on the continent.

13 Nov 2015

The role of ICT in enabling socio-economic development – Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services at AfricaCom 2015

There can be little doubt that the burgeoning Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector is shaping the future of socio-economic development across Africa. So much so, that governments the continent over, have recognized that access to the ‘Internet is a basic necessity for more than just business, education and service delivery, but also for survival and individual self-respect’, as noted by the Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services in her budget speech in 2015.

Professor Mkhize will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming AfricaCom 2015 conference and will address delegates on “the role of ICTs for Inclusive Social and Economic Development in Africa” on the morning of 18th November. She will address the role of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in enabling inclusive socio-economic development, whether access to the Internet is derived from broadband in homes and offices, or via the mobile telephone, which is growing in popularity as the number one method to getting online.

Still, access and its subsequent impact on overall economic growth is being hampered by the cost and poor quality of ICT-infrastructure. This is where Governments have a vital role to play in developing progressive ICT policies and regulatory frameworks that can unlock the real potential that ICT can play in expanding citizen consciousness to realise a thriving information society and knowledge economy. Professor Mkhize said “Connectivity has demonstrated its ability to ignite socio-economic development time and again. We need to expand existing infrastructure and introduce new technologies to connect our citizens, especially those in rural areas. Like the cutting-edge satellite technology deployed by Avanti Communications to deliver high speed broadband across 100% of South Africa today. Connected regions will produce the increased economic growth that a thriving information society drives.”

“We are delighted to welcome the Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize at AfricaCom this year. Governments have a unique role to play in supporting telecommunications, digital and ICT development. Prof. Mkhize’s keynote speech will highlight the economic and social importance of the sector in Africa, a message that is at the heart of AfricaCom” confirmed Julie Rey-Gore, Research Director at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Prof. Mkhize's participation to AfricaCom shows the importance of governments and regulators in the development of a healthy communications sector in Africa. The AfricaCom 2015 programme reflects this importance with a new Regulatory Panel, taking place on Tuesday 17th November with the participation of Isaias Barreto da Rosa (Commissioner forTelecommunications and IT, ECOWAS), Thari G. Pheko (Chief Executive,Communications Regulatory Authority) and Pakamile Pongwana (CEO, ICASA).

About AfricaCom 2015
Taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from 17 -19 November 2015, AfricaCom is now in its 18th year. AfricaCom is Africa’s largest communications conference & exhibition. The conference programme covers the
most strategic issues affecting companies in Africa’s digital market - services, efficiency, profitability, customer experience, partnerships, policy and more – and features 4 co-located events: VSAT Africa, TV Connect Africa, LTE Africa and Apps World Africa. To register: http://africa.comworldseries.com/register/

Announcing the Ericsson AHUB Pitch & Win finalists

We are proud to announce the finalists of the Pitch & Win session, which will take place at the Ericsson AHUB at AfricaCom on Wednesday 18th November.

The Pitch & Win session will give  5 African tech start-ups a chance to make themselves known and receive recognition in the industry. After receiving entries from all over Africa, our judges have selected the following

The finallists
  • AfyaBimaa mobile Micro health Insurance product for the low income and informal sector population
  • CitySpy: an app aiming to streamline community policing strategies by merging it with location-based social networking strategies
  • iGrow Academyan online business vocational college
  • The Medical Concierge Groupa Health IT enterprise based in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria founded in 2012. 
  • VericomMachine 2 Machine (M2M) solution targeting consumers in different sectors

The format
5 start-ups will pitch for 3 minutes in front of our panel of judges and will have 3 minutes to answer questions from the judges.
The judges will deliberate and will name the top Ahub start-up. All finalists will receive feedback from the judges on their pitch.

The Judges
Derrick Kotze, CEO, mLab Southern Africa
Pierre Cloete, EP Head TV & Media, Ericsson
Susie Goldring, Director, 22tribes 
Peter Martin, Northwind Capital

When will the winner be announced?
-    The winner will be announced at the Ericsson AHUB on Wednesday 18th November at 4pm. 

12 Nov 2015

How Simplifying Customer Analytics Can Accelerate Returns from Big Data - Inna Ott, Director of Marketing at Polystar

The emerging science of Big Data Analytics has been a hot topic in the industry for several years but, until now, progress towards widespread utilisation of the insights it can reveal has been relatively slow. There are two primary reasons for this. First, while everyone knows that Big Data offers huge potential, the issue has been, where to start? With so much data available, it’s been hard to see the wood for the trees. Second, the ability to work with big data has been restricted to a few specialist data scientists.

This has changed. Today, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are showing clear signs that Big Data strategies and plans have reached maturity by accelerating deployment of solutions that enable them to begin to capitalise on this rich resource. The difference driving this gathering momentum is that there are now clearly identifiable targets that enable a step-by-step approach to the implementation of Big Data strategies.

Many CSPs, for example, have chosen to focus on Subscriber Analytics as the first step in their Big Data strategies. This is because Subscriber Analytics is believed to offer the greatest potential to deliver rapid returns, enabling them to build better relationships with subscribers, among other benefits.

There’s a simple reason for this: a deep understanding of customer behaviour, while fundamental to business success, has traditionally been an expensive and imprecise discipline. Imprecise, because extrapolation from the few to the many is no guarantee of accuracy; and expensive, because efforts to obtain statistically significant data from which more accurate conclusions can be drawn, can be exceedingly costly.

While isolated data sets can deliver insight, conclusions that can be drawn may not be sufficiently representative. For CSPs, the ability to obtain accurate, timely insight into what customers actually do from a sufficiently broad sample base provides an unparalleled opportunity to not only provide better service and support, but also to reduce the costs of customer research. Big Data provides the constant flood of real-time, objective information about customer behaviour that makes this possible. The difficulty has, until now, been to make this information available to the many, not just data scientists.

Happily, there are now solutions like ones from Polystar that address this problem. A new class of advanced processing engines is available that sort information collected from the network and filters it so that it can be made relevant to different users. This pre-processing removes the pain from Big Data Analysis and delivers the right information in an accessible manner to people within the organisation. Smart solutions provide different views, so that, for example marketing teams can see the information they need, while customer services obtain a different view – and can interrogate the data with different queries and questions.

This simplification is critical. It democratises data and, for the first time, enables its potential to be realised. Data analytics is not longer a specialist discipline. Now, not only can anyone ask the right questions, but we can ensure the right people are able to discover the answers.

Meet Polystar at AfricaCom (Stand F14a) to explore how your company can benefit from a fast and efficient Customer Experience Management solution and get aggressive return on investment in a short time period.

11 Nov 2015

Merchant solutions could be the answer to mobile money’s last mile issue - Nomanini CEO

The mobile money agency system has made huge progress in increasing access to financial services and reducing the cost of transactions, though in terms of serving the “last mile” - those wishing to make single dollar transactions - there is still much to be done. But the answer may be staring us in the face, says Nomanini CEO, Vahid Monadjem.

In disrupting the traditional financial system, with its reliance on formal tellers and ATMs, mobile money and its agency model have taken off across Africa. According to Frost & Sullivan, the value of mobile money transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa reached USD 656 million in 2014, and may more than double to USD 1.3 billion in the next four years.

The success of the likes of M-Pesa, Paga, Zoona and Splash-Cash stemmed from the relative inaccessibility to and unaffordability of the banking system for small transactions. Mobile money providers reduced the cost of transactions by eliminating the need for high-cost office space and tellers behind expensive counters. Yet, if we are speaking about banking the unbanked, values transacted are still relatively large and hence infrequent. The average M-Pesa transaction value is over USD 20, which is a lot if you earn less than USD 2 per day, which well over one billion people globally do. It's time to extend the gains of the agency model to the next level: to single dollar transactions with general retail merchants on every street corner.

For payments with dedicated agents, who earn all their income from transactions, the fixed monthly cost is USD 150 - 250 per agent. An agent would have to process over USD 20,000 in transactions to break even. If they were to do that on single dollar transactions, each agent would have to process two transactions a minute, eight hours a day, every day of the week. This is not likely to happen. So average transaction values remain at around USD 30 and providing single dollar transactions continues to be uneconomical.

There is a need for a third tier in the payments system if the last mile of payments is to be covered. The first tier is of course bank branches and ATMs, the second tier is mobile money agents and the third tier is merchant payments. We need to make single dollar transactions a cost-effective reality, which it cannot be under the current system, as it is impossible for single dollar transactions to cover the costs of the first and second tier models.

The answer, however, may be staring us in the face: merchants in the informal retail trade. Nigeria has thousands of bank branches, tens of thousands of mobile money agents, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of small retail merchants. This is a ubiquitous touch-point for consumers across Africa.

At Nomanini we are realising that services like ours can be the last mile when it comes to single dollar payments.

This is based on simple economics. Whereas 100 per cent of an agent’s income comes from payments, merchants sell all sorts of other items, so processing of transactions provides an additional income or a complementary income for the rest of their business. In fact a merchant wants to do small transactions to attract customers. If the transactions are too large, their liquidity suffers and they would rather refer those transactions to dedicated agents. With lower overheads - the shop is already built, the staff are already employed - costs come down, and with them so do transaction values. Now single dollar payments are a possibility, simply by utilising a massive pre-existing network.

People that live on USD 5 per day - over four billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population - can now cost effectively make electronic transactions daily. This third tier of financial services provides one more level of inclusion to the use of e-money, which can then be extended over time to transactions for other things such as microfinance and insurance. To create a truly cashless society will require that the liquidity and cost of using of e-money to be on a par with cash, for those at the bottom of the pyramid as well as at the top. That is the story of single dollar payments, where currently cash has a better value proposition for daily payments.

Creating this third tier has its challenges. Payments is a low margin business and last mile is an unattractive area to serve for many businesses regardless of what sector you are in. There has been little consolidation in the market, and the immaturity of the ecosystem is a hindrance to doing it at scale. Merchant acquisition is intensive and requires significant tech and organisation.
By utilising the huge existing merchant network to make single dollar payments more accessible and affordable to the bottom of the pyramid, a third tier is possible. This is what our service offering enables. And from there, it could provide a springboard to a multitude of ancillary services - such as credit scoring and inventory management for merchant. We just need to get the economics right for nano-transactions.

About Author

Vahid Monadjem is the founder and CEO of Nomanini, a South African-based enterprise payments platform provider that enables transactions in the cash-based informal retail sector.

He is passionate about working at the intersection of technology and design in informal markets, where Nomanini’s solutions can directly impact people's lives. Vahid’s vision for Nomanini is to provide platforms for transactions in emerging markets by empowering local partners to create the tools that best suit their particular environment. 

10 Nov 2015

OTT Rising - PeerApp

At last year’s AfricaCom, a panel of African operators admitted that “OTT was here to stay”, though to a large degree, the comments were in the context of messaging type apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp used on mobile devices.  In many other parts of the world, “OTT” (over-the-top) was starting to mean streaming video delivered directly from content publishers over the Internet.   “Over the Internet” involving the telco for ‘last mile’ delivery – of course - whether or not the telco is getting a cut of any revenue associated with the content. 

A year later, as we all get ready for AfricaCom 2015, “OTT” in Africa is indeed also starting to mean streaming video – including livestreaming.  And operators are starting to feel the same bandwidth squeeze felt in other parts of the world, as the flood of Internet content swamps their networks.   And, given the high predominance of mobile in Africa – and particular challenges associated with mobile video – African operators have their work cut out for them trying to get all that content to their subscribers at the expected quality…and do that efficiently. 

How can network operators address this challenge? Experience has shown that simply by boosting broadband network capacity and speeds is not enough.  Internet access speeds are clearly important, but it’s the quality and performance of the ‘apps’ (including content!) that matter most to consumers. The shorter the distance OTT content needs to travel, the better consumer experiences will be.  And of course, consumer experience is a huge retention factor, which is so important in today’s competitive environment. 

Adding local content delivery capabilities to broadband access networks puts popular Internet-based information and entertainment – including live streaming video - on a faster lane to consumers.   Local content delivery significantly improves QoE (Quality of Experience) and performance for end-users by storing popular OTT content closer to consumers at the edge of operator networks, thus shortening latency and improving quality and performance.  It also relieves network congestion, conserves bandwidth and lowers operating and capital expenses for any type of operator - mobile or fixed. 

From an operating standpoint, local content delivery must integrate easily with both fixed and mobile networks, and be available as a virtualized solution for maximum efficiency. 

Augmenting broadband access networks with local content delivery helps carriers optimize their bandwidth use and decongest the last-mile squeeze, so that streaming video and other OTT content can be delivered smoothly.

Interested in learning more, including how we are helping our 80+ customers in Africa meet similar challenges?  Visit us on Stand A10 at AfricaCom.  www.peerapp.com @PeerApp 

9 Nov 2015

Cyber Security Innovation Race – Three Things Organisations in Africa Need To Know

As cyber attackers increase their ability to innovate, so they are able to enhance their capacity to outpace state-of-the-art security technology. Keeping up with the dynamic, ever-changing threat landscape is key to ensuring your defences are optimised in this cyber battle. Here are three things you need to know to ensure your IT security stays one step ahead of attackers.

1. Attacks are more sophisticated and disruptive

If enterprises aren't evolving as fast as they can, then the attacking community is going to leave them in the dust. The recent Cisco 2015 Midyear Security Report highlighted the latest threats, which include:
  • The increasing exploitation of Adobe Flash vulnerabilities mean that they are being regularly integrated into widely used exploit kits such as Angler and Nuclear. 
  • Malware authors are amplifying their use of techniques such as sandbox detection to conceal their presence on networks. 
  • Criminals are once again using Microsoft Office macros to deliver malware and evade security protections. 
  • Operators of crime ware, like ransomware, are hiring and funding professional development teams to help ensure their tactics remain profitable. 
  • Criminals are turning to the anonymous web network Tor and the Invisible Internet Project (I2P) to relay command-and-control communications while eluding detection. 
  • Some exploit kit authors are using excerpts from Jane Austen’s novel, Sense and Sensibility, into web landing pages so that antivirus and other security solutions are more likely to classify these pages as authentic. 

It is vital that companies remain aware of these hazards and ensure they keep abreast of the latest attack innovations, as these are becoming increasingly lethal. The seriousness of this threat to South African businesses was highlighted recently in the drafting of the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill.

2. An integrated solution means faster time to detection

Time to detection is the most important metric in security; we have to see it to stop it, and the faster we see it, the faster we can manage its implications. Speed means agility and adaptability and ultimately the destruction of threats.

Detection ideally needs to be done in minutes, even seconds. However, the current industry standard of threat detection is 100 to 200 days, which means that the hackers are winning.  Cisco has managed to reduce threat detection to just 46 hours, which we believe is still too long, and needs to be continually improved upon. 

Faster time to detection can be enhanced by introducing an integrated solution. A patchwork quilt of security products and solutions is impossible to manage. Simplicity is key. Vendors must be vigilant in developing integrated security solutions that help organisations be proactive and align the right people, processes, and technology. Organisations face significant challenges with point product solutions and need to consider an integrated threat defense architecture that embeds security everywhere, and will enforce at any control point. 

3. Turn to trustworthy solutions, products and vendors

As the security industry addresses increased fragmentation, a dynamic threat landscape, and how to cope with a rising shortfall of skilled talent, businesses must invest in effective, sustainable and trusted security solutions and professional services. The technology industry, in turn, must provide reliable and resilient products and services, and security businesses must deliver vastly improved, yet meaningfully simplified, capabilities for detecting, preventing, and recovering from attacks. 

IT vendors have to up their game across their service offering to be defined as trustworthy. Companies want to buy from vendors they believe in, vendors who can prove they are transparent and who have a statement of principles that they follow. This includes everything from developing a life-cycle of a product that has security in mind, to making sure you have a secure supply chain, to the instrumentation of products which you can test.  

In order to provide end-to-end security solutions to customers, Cisco announced its intent to acquire Lancope, Inc. Lancope, through its StealthWatch system, provides network behavior analytics, threat visibility and security intelligence to protect enterprise networks against today’s top threats. As a result, we are embedding threat protection capabilities from the enterprise infrastructure to the data center, from mobile to the cloud, and through to endpoints.

This year Cisco, a global IT leader, will highlight the various cyber security concerns that service providers face at AfricaCom 2015. Scheduled to take place between the 17th and 19th November at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, AfricaCom promises to draw over 10,000 delegates within the technology space. With the acknowledgement that cyber security should be a top priority for all businesses, experts at the 2015 AfricaCom Conference will unpack the various threats and viable solutions to cyber-attacks in a hyper connected world.

By Paolo Campoli, Head of Global Service Provider Sales, Middle East & Africa at Cisco

Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize to give a keynote at AfricaCom

Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, has confirmed her participation to AfricaCom, the largest event of the telecommunications, digital and ICT sector in Africa. She will give a keynote presentation on Wednesday 18th November on ICTs for Inclusive Social and Economic Development in Africa.

Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize is the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal ServicesDuring the previous administration, she served as the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, the Deputy Minister of Economic Development Department and the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training. She is the former Ambassador of South Africa to the Netherlands. Prof Mkhize is the former Commissioner of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is the former Treasurer General of the ANCWL. She has served as a secretary, treasurer and chair at a branch level and the Zonal Chairperson in the Randburg-Diepsloot areas. She is the Convener of the ProgressiveWomen Movement of South Africa (PWMSA)She is the Honorary Professor of Psychology at the University of South Africa. She has served in numerous Boards and Trusts. She is the founder Member of the National Children and Violence Trust, a Child’s Rights Organization.

Prof. Mkhize's participation to AfricaCom shows the importance of governments and regulators in the development of a healthy communications sector in Africa. The AfricaCom programme reflects this importance with a new Regulatory Panel, taking place on Tuesday 17th November with the participation of Isaias Barreto da Rosa (Commissioner for Telecommunications and IT, ECOWAS), Thari G. Pheko (Chief Executive, Botswana CommunicationsRegulatory Authority) and Pakamile Pongwana (CEO, ICASA).

For more information on the AfricaCom programme click here.

5 Nov 2015

Cloud services: the missing piece of the quad play for SMBs?

Technology convergence has created an extraordinary opportunity for telcos to broaden their offer to consumers. The fab four that make up the quad play service set (phone, broadband, TV and wireless) have helped these businesses move beyond their core value proposition and step into the role of content providers.

Now they have many more reasons to be in touch, and many more things to talk about. That’s helping build deeper, more rewarding relationships with customers, generating valuable consumer data and shoring up revenue streams. It’s also setting the stage for these businesses to continue extending their services, moving into areas that would previously have seemed unrelated to their brand activities.

Making a play for the SMB market

But how can quad play work for the small businesses (SMBs) that are an important subset of telco customers? While they’re in the market for mobiles, WiFi and other communication solutions, TV doesn’t rank high on SMBs’ list of must-haves. Given the pressure telcos are experiencing on revenues and margins in core income streams, finding a replacement fourth service for SMBs is something of an imperative.

Not only could it help protect their ARPU, it could even lead to growth. Up until now, however, that missing piece of the jigsaw has proved elusive. Just what is it that could legitimately build engagement and offer real value to SMBs?

Step forward cloud services. More and more SMBs are wising up to the range of help and advice available through cloud-based apps. In our recent survey, 70% said they’re considering accessing this support in the next 2-3 years. Given this explosion in interest, cloud solutions should really be a default part of the SMB quad play.

Don’t lose out to your competitors

And quite naturally, telcos are rapidly moving into this space: to make the most of its huge growth opportunity and to benefit from the boom in SaaS apps being designed to meet small business needs. For those Tier 1 and Tier 2 telcos without cloud service propositions, there’s no time to waste. Competitors are busy, working to establish a presence in this market before it tips over into mass adoption by SMBs. 

But filling that gap and making cloud services the fourth piece in the quad play won’t be enough. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. As much as you need to invest in the technology behind an app marketplace, you’ll also need to develop a powerful Go To Market strategy and invest in an effective digital engagement platform. Only then will telcos realise the potential that cloud services promise as part of the quad play for SMBs.

“Think with an entrepreneur’s mind & resolve problems using innovative solutions” Interview of Airtel’s Christian de Faria for AfricaCom

Christian De Faria has been CEO of Airtel Africa since 2013. He has over 30 years of rich industry experience across multiple geographies, diverse sectors and organizations such as MTN, Telekom Malaysia, Disc Vision, Deutsche Telecom and Grundig.
He shares his views on Africa’s telecom market ahead of his participation to the keynote panel on innovation at AfricaCom.

AfricaCom: What is Airtel’s position in Africa’s market?
Christian De Faria: We are the second largest operator in Africa by revenue market share.

A: What do you think will be this year’s most game-changing development in Africa’s telecoms?
  • ·    Making the M-payments environment mainstream
  • ·    The bridging of the $20 smartphone which will result in widespread adoption of the Mobile Internet.
  • ·    The Digital dividend will enable more highly accessible broadband capacity at higher speeds which will allow more innovation and greater opportunity for Africa.

A: What services will enable telecom operators to generate revenue from data?
CDF: First, sponsored data – OTT players, App developers, and content owners have an increasing desire to reach the end user, in the process the Operators are losing out on big revenue opportunities. This situation is putting pressure on the top/bottom lines of operators as the data contribution to overall revenue is increasing. Currently content providers do not have any commitment on the consumption limits. Sponsored data is a perfect solution which allows an operator to get revenue from the bulk volume sales to the content providers and the end user can access the discounted services. It’s a win-win proposition for the ecosystem, where the Content providers ensures access to its content at much lower prices, the user gets the service access at a lower cost and the Operator gets a share of the revenue.
Second, shared accounts – as a single account/family gets more devices, a possibility to link all the devices to a single account allows better management of usage and cost to the end user. The user also gets control of the entire purchased volume which can be distributed within these devices; the servicing of the entire account gets simpler and efficient for an operator. This along with products like Data gifting, Internet Me2U etc. will gain lot of traction in the future. In-fact in mature markets like the US, where data penetration is reaching higher levels, over 50% of incremental revenue growth is coming from shared accounts.
Third, customized bundles which can be purchased during Service Access – As the translation of MB into the relevance of content is increasingly becoming clear to the end user, the demand for app/service specific bundles will rise. The in App purchase options, dedicated service/app specific products will become more relevant. This will lead to more sustainable incremental data revenue as end users will get the right value for each MB.
Finally, transparency enablers – Data Volume consumption notification, ability to change the data bundle, always aware of the volume consumed type of services takes the end user experience to the next level. This coupled with transparent upselling will lead to sustainable incremental revenues.

A: How can operators support innovation within their organizations and in the wider ecosystem?
CDF: An innovative culture rests on 5 building blocks: resources, processes, values, behavior and success. Success in innovation and entrepreneurship is not only gauged by earnings but also measured by how well an organization identifies a problem in the market and matches it to a solution. Companies like ours always think with an entrepreneur’s mind and resolve problems using innovative solutions.
The unstructured nature of the African tech ecosystem or entrepreneurial space in general makes it very difficult. Most people who want to invest in Africa are of the notion that they can’t do it here because the ecosystem doesn’t exist. Some ways to support this ecosystem by the telecom industry is focusing on building ecosystems that bring together partners from around the world and to help local startups as we recently did using an app development competition in collaboration with Singtel and Samsung.

A: What will be the impact of the digital transition on the telecoms and media sector?
CDF: With the digital transition, more bandwidth is available for current and future broadband platforms like 4G, 5G, etc. which essentially leads to a better experience for the end user. There will be better experience for TV and VOD users with digitized content. Affordability will improve as the cost to deliver the content reduces through more efficient next generation technology platforms. Consumers will have access to richer global content and at the same time as the rest of the world.

A: What are the regulatory requirements for improving affordable access to broadband?
CDF: Regulators should:
  • ·    Encourage multi-stakeholder consultation on policy and regulations.
  • ·    Reduce taxes and import duties on telecommunication ICT equipment and services.
  • ·    Ensure fair distribution and allocation of Digital Dividend spectrum and put caps where appropriate.
  • ·    Encourage network and facility sharing and utilize Universal Service Funds (USFs) to close the digital divide.
  • ·    Ensure transparency and openness (e.g. by making market data and regulations available).

A: How can telecom and digital brands create more value for African consumers?
CDF: More value will be created by:
  • ·    Bringing more relevant global content at affordable prices.
  • ·    More Localized content.
  • ·    Affordable Packs.
  • ·    Affordable devices.
  • ·    Transparency in Consumption and Charging.
  • ·    Education for the end user through simplified portals like One Touch Internet.

A: How is the role of OTT players evolving in Africa’s market? How are their relations with Telcos changing?
CDF: The African Market is still in the early stages of basic internet adoption unlike the rest of the world where OTT player entry was preceded by few years of internet users’ presence.
A typical African user experiences the Internet for the first time on a mobile device and content that’s come from a digitally mature environment. Initiatives like One touch internet and Sponsored data are the tools that would enable a faster and value added adoption of the end user to the digital world. A lot of intellectual and monetary investments along with innovative data products are required to be delivered by all drivers of the digital ecosystem including OTT players and Operators.
Telcos cannot be treated as dump pipes anymore as they have invested large sums of time and resources to ensure basic, uninterrupted access to the end user while they continue to work on improving the experience further. As Telco operators we are required to comply with local regulations and taxes which are not applicable to OTT players. Both Operators and OTT players have to co-exist and sustain their businesses, thus they both have to take bigger roles while creating  combined platforms for the delivery of affordable and value added content to the end users.

A: How can the communication’s needs of enterprises be met in order to sustain economic growth in the region?
CDF: The communications needs of enterprise customers vary across the different segments and that broadens the portfolio of services required of Telcos to service enterprises. Today, Telco services address many industry verticals with varying product platforms with diverse operations ecosystems.  
Telcos must approach servicing enterprises with a convergent strategy focused on converging infrastructure, products, service delivery and support with the goal of doing more with less using this as a means of meeting the diverse requirements of our businesses in a very efficient way.
As more enterprises continue to expand within the region seeking to reach more customers & markets, Telcos must create an ecosystem that is leaner, more accessible but highly cost effective while providing scalability and flexibility needed to support business growth.

A: In your opinion what are the most interesting debates to expect at AfricaCom this year?
  • ·    The changing regulatory landscape in Africa including Dominance and Significant Market Power taxation and spectrum Licensing – (Note from AfricaCom: Hear about it in the Regulatory Panel in Connecting Africa on day 1 at 12.20)
  • ·    The adoption of data and OTT led services and the role of OTT players within the infrastructure and regulated environments. (Note from AfricaCom: Attend the Vision for Africa keynotes on all 3 days)
  • ·    New digital services for Africa. (Note from AfricaCom: Attend Digital Entertainment (day 1), New Revenue Streams (day 2) and Mobile Money (days 1 & 2)
  • ·    Growth and monetization of LTE in Africa (Note from AfricaCom: Attend LTE Africa on all 3 days)

Hear more from Christian de Faria in the AfricaCom opening keynote’s Innovation Leadership Panel (Tuesday 17th November, 9am), where he will discuss how to support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in digital Africa with other tech leaders: ), operator Marc Rennard (EVP AMEA, Orange Group), OTT player Markku Mäkeläinen (Director, Global Operator Partnerships, Facebook), investor & Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa Dr Jackie Chimhanzi  (Senior Strategist, IDC), broadcaster & tech specialist Larry Madowo (NTV Kenya) and entrepreneur & WEF Young Global Leader Bright Simons (President, mPedigree).
For more information on the programme click here