15 Apr 2015

Why 2015 is a pivotal year in West Africa’s digital market: Interview of Maxwell Dodd, Airtel Ghana

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Airtel is Ghana’s 4th mobile operator in terms of customer market share, and the 3rdin terms of revenues. Maxwell Dodd has been Director of BusinessSolutions at Airtel Ghana for the past two years, where he is responsible for developing end-to-end communication and technology solutions to the Corporate, SME and Global markets. He shares his thoughts on the market ahead of his participation to Connecting West Africa in Dakar, Senegal in June.

Maxwell says 2015 is a pivotal year for the region's digital development: “the proliferation of smartphones within the market coupled with over 100% teledensity within a market of five GSM operators clearly shows that voice is saturated”, he says. New opportunities must be explored: “ Big data is yet to be harnessed with operators working on launching innovative data-driven solutions such as M2M and video as a service to take advantage of the opportunity”.

With regards to the impact of the digital transition on the telecoms and media sector, he says: “Digital transmission is driving changes in consumer behavior whereas increasingly connected devices are driving demand for high-speed connectivity and ever-greater data consumption”. This has an undoubted impact on operators’ models, as it “not only puts pressure on infrastructure capacity, it challenges the sustainability of current pricing models such as unlimited data packages”.  According to him, “this trend will impact convergence within the telecom ecosystem (connectivity, services, devices, content, etc.) and will drive growth within the digital media, significantly leading to new forms of digital media and content”.

As for the enterprise market, which is his area of  responsibility,  communication needs are wide ranging: fixed voice, mobile voice, mobile data, fixed data  (dedicated internet, leased lines, ISDN), Managed and hosted services  (Audio conferencing, video conferencing, Bulk SMS, Corporate Ring back tone, Virtual Pbx, IP Telephony).

Operators need to be innovative in order to launch attractive services, which Maxwell believes is happening, as “telecom operators are undertaking strategic partnerships with OTT players to launch innovative services such as cloud services (E mail and domain hosting, file sharing), data center services, antivirus, video surveillance, video as a service, fleet and asset tracking solutions and mobile satellite services”.

Asked what he thinks are the most interesting debates to expect at Connecting West Africa this year, Maxwell concludes:  “The debate to expect this year is how operators will evolve to take advantage of the era of big data by launching innovative solutions and services in 2016”.

Maxwell Dodd will give a presentation on serving the growing enterprise market in West Africa, sharing his experience at Airtel Business in Ghana. For more information on Connecting West Africa click here.

Pourquoi 2015 est une année charnière dans le marché numérique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest: Interview de Maxwell Dodd, Airtel Ghana
Airtel est le 4ème opérateur mobile du Ghana en termes de parts de marché, et le 3ème en termes de revenus. Maxwell Dodd est Directeur des Solutions Business chez Airtel Ghana depuis deux ans, où il est responsable du développement des solutions de communication et de technologie aux entreprise, PME et marchés internationaux. Il partage ses idées sur le marché avant sa participation à Connecter l'Afrique de l'Ouest à Dakar, Sénégal, en juin.

Maxwell dit que 2015 est une année charnière pour le développement numérique dans la région: «la prolifération des smartphones sur le marché associée à plus de 100% de télédensité dans un marché de cinq opérateurs GSM montre clairement que le segment de la voix est saturé", dit-il. De nouvelles possibilités doivent être explorées: "Le big data doit encore être exploité et les opérateurs travaillent sur le lancement de solutions pilotées par les données innovantes telles que le M2M et la vidéo".

En ce qui concerne l'impact de la transition numérique sur le secteur des télécommunications et des médias, il dit: «La transmission numérique entraîne des changements de comportement des consommateurs tandis que les terminaux de plus en plus connectés stimulent la demande de connectivité haute vitesse et une consommation de données grandissante". Cela a un impact incontestable sur les modèles des opérateurs, car cela "ne met pas seulement pression sur la capacité de l'infrastructure, cela remet en question la viabilité des modèles actuels de tarification, tels que les offres de données illimitées". Selon lui, "cette tendance aura un impact sur la convergence dans l'écosystème des télécommunications (connectivité, services, terminaux, contenu, etc.) et stimulera la croissance dans les médias numériques, conduisant de manière significative à de nouvelles formes de médias et de contenu numériques ".

Dans le secteur de l'entreprise, qui est sa domaine de responsabilité, les besoins en matière de communication sont très variés: la voix fixe, la téléphonie mobile, les données mobiles, les données fixes (internet, ISDN), services gérés et hébergés (audioconférence, vidéoconférence , SMS, ringback tone d’entreprise, PBX virtuel, téléphonie IP).

Les opérateurs doivent faire preuve d'innovation afin de lancer des services attrayants, et Maxwell est convaincu qu’ils le font, car "les opérateurs de télécommunications ont entrepris des partenariats stratégiques avec des acteurs OTT pour lancer des services innovants tels que les services de cloud computing (e-mail et hébergement de domaine, partage de fichiers), services de data centres, antivirus, surveillance vidéo, la vidéo comme un service, solutions de tracking et services mobiles par satellite ".

Interrogé sur les débats qui seront les plus intéressants à Connecter l'Afrique de l'Ouest cette année, Maxwell conclut: "Le débat cette année est de savoir comment les opérateurs vont évoluer pour tirer parti de l'ère du big data en lançant des solutions et des services innovants en 2016".

Maxwell Dodd fera une présentation sur comment desservir le marché des entreprises en Afrique, en partageant son expérience à Airtel Business au Ghana. Pour plus d'informations sur la connexion Afrique de l'Ouest cliquez ici.

13 Apr 2015

Africa: Mobile Money for ‘Agropreneurs’

Written by: Anne Agbakoba, Chief Research Officer, NUMERIS


In Bill and Melinda Gates’ annual letter for 2015 titled “Our bet for the future”, Mr. Gates says: “once [mobile money] gets going, then there will be competitive innovation in offerings like special savings or credit plans related to farming.”

Mr. Gates is on the money. Agriculture and provides livelihood for 70% of the world’s poor, and for many developing countries, it is the most significant sector in rural areas. However, while agriculture plays a major role in Africa’s economies, a longtime, nagging question has been how best to deal with the numerous cash transactions that take place throughout the farm-to-fork value chain. Simply put: ‘how do large agriculture buyers and rural smallholder farmers transact with each other in such a way that dealings between both parties are cost-effective, transparent, and fraud-free?”

The answer lies in mobile money.

Simple, convenient, affordable – and disarmingly disruptive - mobile phone technologies are presenting smallholder farmers in Africa with unprecedented opportunities to run their operations more productively. Originally referred to as mobile money, this extremely young and fast moving industry is most recently being tagged as digital finance.

Digital finance in the agriculture value chain

A practical example would be the FADAMA (Hausa tribe name for ‘irrigable land’) project in Nigeria. Supported by the World Bank, the objective of FADAMA is to move rice farmers from subsistence farming into a profitable business venture.

The 2015 project focuses on support to value chains of cassava, rice, sorghum and horticulture in six states (Kogi, Niger, Kano, Lagos, Anambra and Enugu), which will become hubs of Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZs). States surrounding these six locations have been designed to serve as catchment areas to feed the processing zones.

Here’s the big deal: an alignment between smallholder farmers in the mentioned states, large agriculture buyers, and mobile money service providers presents a winning business model. Putting a mobile finance structure in place will easily (and profitably) serve the financial needs of all three parties, and it plays out like this:
  1. Smallholder farmers will be able to sell their harvest without any cash exchanging hands, thanks to using a mobile wallet. The old-fashioned option of hauling around large amounts of cash will be erased, and farmers begin to enjoy greater security and the reduced cost of cash handling. A mobile wallet would also serve the secondary purpose of providing the farmers with a piece of formal identification, paving way for further financial inclusion.
  2. For large commodity buyers, mobile money would instantly cut-away the huge cost of administering cash payments to hundreds and/ or thousands of farmers. Benefits and savings would be achieved across board with regards to record-keeping, incidences of fraud, security of personnel, and transaction fees.
  3. Last but not least, mobile money service providers will have keyed into a new (and predictably loyal) target market. The result is the registration of new users, and an increase the annual revenue per user (ARPU). A first-mover advantage is there for the taking!
The increase in mobile money services in Africa has clearly been fueled by the rapid adoption of mobile phones on the continent. And there is no reason why mobile finance cannot transform agropreneurship, much in the same way that commercial banking enhanced the Industrial Revolution.

Numeris Media are an official media partner of East AfricaCom which will be taking place in Nairobi, Kenya this 6-7th May. For more information, or to register, visit: http://eaafrica.comworldseries.com/