Africa


One way business models and innovations travel is through mergers and acquisitions. We have been waiting to see more African consumers benefit from the low prices and greater connectivity afforded by the Budget Telecom Network Model. Finally it looks like a big Indian telecom operator has got a foothold in Africa, with the transfer of Zain equity in a number of African countries to Bharti Airtel. Zain has fared badly in Africa along with other Middle Eastern operators perhaps because their home turf has been heavily regulated. Most acted as comfortable monopolists until only recently.
LIRNE.NET (through Research ICT Africa) together with University of Cape Town’s Infrastructure Management Programme, is organizing a five-day training course in telecom regulatory reform. The course is to be held from 12 – 16 April 2010, at the UCT GSB Breakwater Campus, V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. The course is designed to enhance the strategic thinking of a select group of decision-makers in telecom and related sectors in developing countries and emerging economies. The aim of the programme is to address the many challenges posed by the current stage of telecom and ICT reform to governments, regulatory agencies, operators and other stakeholders.
Brussels, Nov 25-26 – Third Civil Protection Forum organized by the European Commission. It rains heavily, but fortunately no floods as in Ireland. Ideal environment to discuss disaster risks. I speak at Seminar F titled ‘Innovative Technology for Disaster Management’. I am one of the two speakers from Asia in the entire conference; the other is from Japan.
What LIRNEasia tries to do with its teleuse@BOP research is to understand how and why people use ICTs at the bottom of the pyramid. We do this from the demand side. That has its advantages, but disadvantages too, such as cost, shortcomings in memory, etc. Therefore, we were thrilled to see someone else engaged in the same project, but from a different angle. Nathan Eagle, a research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, believes that mobile phones offer more than a way to communicate.
Helani Galpaya represented LIRNEasia at the 4th International Telecommunications Society (ITS) Africa-Asia-Australasia Regional conference, held on 16 – 18 August, 2009, in Perth, Australia. The theme of the conference was on”Mobile Technology and Broadband Application Developments – The Search for Corporate Value Chains.” More information on the conference is available here. Measuring the Effectiveness of the Telecom Regulatory and Policy Environment: Methodology and Results from 8 Emerging Asian Countries Helani presented a paper on “Measuring the Effectiveness of the Telecom Regulatory and Policy Environment: Methodology and Results from 8 Emerging Asian Countries” based on findings from LIRNEasia’s TRE study in 2008. She was also a panel member at a policy roundtable on “Investing in African and Asian telecommunications infrastructure during a global financial crisis”.
  Anybody could have guessed this. It is unimaginable that entire world will go through a recession simultaneously. Not everyone can be losers for too long. There should be winners somewhere. For example, what would the US firms that find their human resources costs, logically do?
LIRNEasia Lead Economist Harsha de Silva was recently appointed to a five-member Scientific Advisory committee for a two-year multi-country African research project, eAgriculture Network for Africa (eARN Africa): Effectiveness of Electronic-Based Interventions in Linking African Farmers to Markets. The project aims study the effectiveness of ICT-based intervention in linking African farmers to markets so as to inform policy decisions of African governments and stakeholders aimed at improving livelihood of smallholder farmers. The project is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada; an inception meeting was recently held in Kampala, Uganda, which Harsha de Silva attended. The project will be conducted in six African countries: Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Benin, and Madagascar. The  Scientific Advisory Committee constitutes: Prof.
One of the more exciting things we have been talking about in the last little while is the budget telecom network business model being implemented in South Asia. We have seen it spread to Nepal, but the big question was when and how it would get to Africa. If Bharti and MTN merge, we can be sure the model will spread. An update.
Unsatisfied broadband users added flavor to both our Public Seminar and Mobile Broadband QoSE workshop. That included university students prevented access during the residential peak to Wi-Max subscribers experiencing 20% of the promised speed – even with perfect LoS (Line of Sight). Such complaints are common and not limited to Sri Lanka. From Indonesia to India and from Bangladesh to Philippines we find broadband users rant not receiving the promised. We empathise with them, but this hardly an Asian or a developing world issue.
Nokia, the leading mobile handset maker, is experiencing the effects of the global economic crisis. But Asia is showing the lowest declines. In the three months through March, the company said its profit declined to 122 million euros ($162.3 million) from 1.2 billion euros a year earlier.
Much of LIRNEasia’s work is premised on the mobile serving as the pathway to the Internet us by those at the bottom of the pyramid. Our African colleague takes a slightly different position. We will restate our position with supporting evidence from the Teleuse @ BOP research in Cape Town in April. I am sure the differences in opinion will help us improve our analyses. But is this optimism justified?
The world is awash in telecenter pilots.  I thought all the lessons that could be learned, have been learned.  Apparently not.  Google is bankrolling another pilot in Kenya, including a USD 700/month broadband bill.  So, for sustainability we’d need around 700 users spending a tad more than USD 2 per visit?
Africa is the world’s fastest growing market for mobile phones over the last three years with 65 million new subscribers in 2007 alone, according to the head of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General, said the figure is cited in the United Nations agency’s regional report entitled “African Telecommunication/ICT Indicators 2008: At a Crossroads,” which he presented at the opening of the ITU Telecom Africa trade fair here on Monday. A UN press release quoted Toure as saying, “Today, the African ICT industry is an exciting place to be. Market liberalization continues and most countries have established regulatory bodies to ensure a fair, competitive and enabling environment.” The report indicated that there were more than 250 million mobile subscribers on the continent at the start of 2008.
It would be the biggest thing to pass between India and South Africa since Mahatma Gandhi moved from one country to the other. This week it emerged that Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile-phone operator in India, is holding “exploratory” talks to buy South Africa’s MTN, the biggest operator in Africa. According to the Financial Times, Bharti has indicated it would be willing to pay about $19 billion for 51% of the company. That would make it the heftiest overseas acquisition ever made by an Indian firm, more than Tata Steel paid for Corus, a British steelmaker, and seven times the amount India invested in the whole of Africa over the ten years to 2004. The deal would unite the leading companies in the world’s two most promising mobile markets.
Frost & Sullivan finds Africa’s demand for mobile internet access is growing quickly, with operators anticipating growth of between 40 per cent and 50 per cent between 2006 and 2009. “The poor state of fixed line infrastructure is creating the potential for the African mobile internet market to boom,” states Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Spiwe Chireka. “Mobile internet has emerged as the solution to the continent’s last mile connectivity problem.”  Mobile internet is significantly more cost-effective to deploy than fixed line services, is much cheaper and easier for users to acquire, covers a larger area and allows users access while they on the move.  However, the high cost of mobile internet-compatible handsets coupled with the pricing structure remains a significant challenge.
LIRNEasia researchers will be among panelists at the 3rd Global Knowledge Conference organized by Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP). Two sessions will be based on the LIRNEasia‘s study on Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP), which is to presented in the form of an interactive quiz show. The background paper is available here. A session titled ‘Making Communities Disaster Resilient’, hopes to highlight issues related to developing a robust solution for strengthening community resilience in the face of natural disasters. The background paper is available here.