November 2020

Updates:
Nigerian telecoms investments rise by US$32 billion in 5 years

Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) spokesperson Ikechukwu Aninde, disclosed that investment in Nigeria’s telecommunication sector increased from US$38 billion to US$70 billion in 5 years; while recognizing the NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman, Dry Uman Danbatta, for increasing broadband growth at the Nigeria’s Tech and innovation Award.

Aninde added that broadband penetration increased from 6% in 2015 to 45.3% in September 2020 with Internet subscription rising from 90 million to 143.7 million, while voice subscriptions rose from 151 million to 205.25 million, resulting in a tele density of 107.53% by September 2020. There are also currently 6 licensed infrastructure companies from 2 in 2015, and InfraCos will deploy broadband infrastructure in 774 local government areas on wholesale in order to reach the 70% broadband target by 2025.

Liberia launches WeahLearn App

Liberian Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, launched the WeahLearn App, a project started during the pandemic to keep high school students connected to their studies.

Tweah said the knowledge and thinking of youths is more important than anything, and the government is determined to provide an enabling environment for all citizens, especially the youth. He added that the launch of the app indicates that Liberia has a great future of possibilities, where the youths will be provided with many opportunities to build on their future.

Nigerian Federal Government to introduce fintech in capital market

Lamido Yuguda, Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced at the Senate Committee on capital market that finance technology (fintech) will soon be introduced in Nigeria’s Capital Market. Fintech is any business that uses technology to improve or automate financial services and processes, and adjust problems in a financial infrastructure.

While Yuguda added that the roadmap and the regulatory framework are being prepared to get fintech into the market; the chairperson of the commission, Ibukunle Amosun, insisted on strengthening the country’s commodity exchange to make the market robust and functional.

First National Forum on Cybersecurity and cybercrimes in Cameroon held

At the first National Forum on cybersecurity and the fight against cybercrimes held from the 03-05 November 2020, the Cameroonian Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Minette Libom Li Keng said an open and secure Internet is an engine of economic growth and social development.

The forum’s theme National Cyberspace and security challenges, was aimed at raising awareness on cybersecurity and the responsible use of social networks. She disclosed that in 2018, 3388 cases of identity theft were registered while in 2019 2050 complaints relating to scamming and phishing amounting to 5 billion Central African CFA franc and bank fraud loss of 6 billion Central African CFA franc has occurred. 11 617 vulnerabilities were detected on the websites of public administration bodies.

The forum enabled cybersecurity experts to exchange ideas and reflect on cyber policies and intervention levels that can secure the national cyberspace.

South Africa testing digital technology to detect respiratory disease outbreaks

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa is planning to use a digital participatory surveillance platform, where users regularly report their symptoms online via a mobile application or social media platforms, to survey respiratory diseases such as the influenza and Coronavirus. A pilot phase will check feasibilities before adding it into the existing surveillance system.

This surveillance app is meant for long-term surveillance, which is different from the existing COVID-19 Alert app used for contact tracing. The app will help the population to contribute in the control and prevention of respiratory diseases.

Kenyan student builds app helping the deaf to communicate with face masks during pandemic

Steve Nyaga, a computer science student at Stratmore University, Kenya, built an app that helps people with hearing impairments to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The app converts audio into text that is displayed on a mobile device, and also offers a chat room. This is a solution for people with hearing impairments who cannot communicate with face masks on, since they use sign language and lip-read during conversation.

Nyaga said this app is the cheapest solution to simplify life for the deaf and help them have access to information.

Social media regulation in Nigeria

Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, used the #EndSARS protests that call for an end to police brutality by Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), to convince the National Assembly of the need for social media regulation. According to the minister, fake news on social media fueled the protest which lasted over a week and caused the death of 22 policemen and 50 others.

Mohammed quoted the examples of China where Google, Facebook, and Instagram are absent, and Ethiopia where the social media was shut down for two days, following the killing of a musician during an unrest. He said social media promotes fake news so the National Assembly should support previous rejected bills on social media regulation, such as the bill on Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and the National Commission for the Protection of Hate Speech.

October 2020

Updates:
Internet disrupted in Guinea ahead of presidential election result announcement

According to a report by Netblocks, an Internet monitoring organisation, Guinea is experiencing a disruption to its Internet ahead of the announcement of the results for the presidential elections that took place in the country this week. Live network data confirmed that as of the morning of 23 October 2020, connectivity on leading operator Orange was just at 9% of ordinary levels. According to the report, there are indications of similar disruptions on other networks showing the severity of outage to be on a national scale. The report further suggests that if the outage persists, it is likely to significantly limit access and flow of information both domestically and internationally; leading to a lack of transparency in the democratic process.

Uber launches medicine delivery in South Africa

According to a news report, UberEats has launched an over-the-counter (OTC) drugs delivery service in South Africa. The company is running this service in partnership with local health group Medicare, which is a network of more than 50 clinics and pharmacies in the country. The partnership will allow UberEats users to seamlessly buy OTC medications from trusted sources and have them delivered to them. According to the general manager of UberEats South Africa Shane Austine, the nationwide lockdown and mobility restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic have created an immediate need to use its platforms to meet consumers' need for essential items such as medication.

Roke Telkom and Facebook partner to launch Express Wi-fi in Uganda to boost Internet access

According to a news report, Facebook has partnered with Roke Telkom to launch its Express Wi-fi and other high speed Internet services in Uganda at affordable rates. The service which has been launched at a time when access to the Internet has become a necessity for remote learning and remote work purposes, comes with a user-friendly app that allows users to purchase and manage their usage. The Express Wi-fi initiative was launched by Facebook five years ago which has grown to several African countries through strategic partnerships with local Internet service providers (ISPs). The service provides a flexible means for schools, homes, and other organisations to access the Internet.

Telecom company to address digital divide in Tanzania

Tigo Tanzania has launched a new affordable smartphone, Techo-Kitochi, to promote Internet penetration and bridge the digital divide in Tanzania. ‘The launching of the new smartphone into the domestic market will add value to the business environment in the country,’ noted Tigo Device Manager Mkumbo Myonga. According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Internet penetration surged to more than 25 million users in 2019, representing 46% penetration, compared to 23 million users in 2018.

Kenya calls for enhanced digital inclusion of persons with disabilities

Kenya's First Lady Margaret Kenyatta stressed the need to eliminate barriers to access and digital inclusion for persons with disabilities in a keynote address opening the Inclusive Africa Conference 2020 in Nairobi. Kenyatta especially noted the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, iterating that 'those most affected by the pandemic have been vulnerable, blind, and visually impaired persons who face multiple forms of digital exclusion' such as lack of computer assistive technology, inaccessible websites or online content. She also emphasised the importance of adopting regional and global best practices to 'ensure young people with disabilities are not left behind in contributing to Kenya's development'.

WIOCC raises US$100 million for African Internet connectivity development

During the next five years, wholesale telecom provider West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) has announced plans to widen its customer base, develop a more competitive market, and aid in reducing both wholesale and retail Internet connectivity pricing. WIOOC also plans to develop capacity through the delivery of computer training for women to facilitate gender balance in the workforce. WIOOC will leverage a US$100 million loan from the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) and the French Development Agency subsidiary Proparco. WIOCC holds shares in the submarine fiber optic cable EASSy, and delivers a fully integrated subsea and terrestrial fiber optic network across the African continent covering 55,000 km interconnecting 550 sites.

 

World Bank to support digital transformation in Madagascar

In order to advance digital transformation in Madagascar, the World Bank has approved a credit of over US$140 million to the country. The loan is meant to help digitise the delivery of public services such as health. As part of the project, funds will also be directed towards the development of an effective and secure identity management system in order to modernise the national civil registry and identity databases. The credit will also be used to address climate change resiliency by employing cloud technology to safeguard critical data and services, in particular, during natural disasters.

September 2020

Updates:
Africans call for global fiscal reform at UNGA in response to COVID-19 

Speakers at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) have called for financial assistance from multilateral institutions in order to rebuild economies following the COVID-19 pandemic. The session, which took place virtually, was addressed by 33 heads of state and governments.  Many leaders called for the cancellation of African countries debts to enable redirection of meagre resources to tackle poverty. Several leaders including Guinea and Niger presidents referenced the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfFTA) and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda as frameworks through which social and financial inclusion could be achieved. 

 

African countries celebrate identity day

Many African countries celebrated identity day on 16 September to coincide with sustainable development goal (SDG) 16.9 that aspires that everyone has a legal identity by 2030. Identity day is a campaign by the coalition ID4D Africa and it is supported by several African states and private companies. Nigeria became the first country in the region to have an official national identity day, and announced plans to enrol internally displaced persons into the national digital identity programme. Biometric updates reported that at least 10 countries, including the Central African Republic, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Lesotho, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, and Uganda held commemorations. Kenya also announced plans for a second phase of its digital ID programme before the end of the year. 

 

Sep 14: South Africa: Merits and demerits of digital welfare emerge in COVID-19 grants

South African public agencies are increasingly adopting digital technologies for the processing and disbursement of COVID-19 relief grants, following various lockdown measures by the government. For example, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) gave recipients of a COVID-19 grant the option of receiving cash transfers through mobile phones instead of the post office. SASSA also launched an online grant application portal in September. Similarly, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has an online system for application of temporary employee relief benefits, under a government grant to cushion the unemployed. However, both systems have faced challenges such as beneficiaries being unable to receive benefits due to efficiency challenges with the post office, as well as lax controls on the UIF system, raising audit queries on whether the grant was being accessed by deserving recipients. 

 

South Africa’s social welfare system is one of the most advanced in the continent. However, SASSA has also faced challenges such as fraud and misuse of grant recipient data. 

Human rights groups raise concern over Tanzania elections 

Human rights groups are concerned about the shrinking civic space as Tanzania heads to elections on 28 October 2020. The Human Rights Watch notes that authorities have been cracking down on opposition leaders and civil society groups both online and offline. The government prohibited speech related to the economy or national security issues in August. It has also imposed restrictions on media houses or bloggers discussing COVID-19 or other issues that could destabilise the country. Public interest litigation has also been limited. 

August 2020

Updates:
E-mail fraud increases in Rwanda

Statistics from global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, revealed that phishing attacks in Rwanda are increasing, with new tricks such as human resource dismissal and bank services. Detected attacks increased in five African countries; Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and Nigeria within the last three months.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercriminals used more believable excuses to ask for personal information, which are then used in phishing attacks. Vulnerabilities exploited include delivery services, postal services, financial services, and human resources services which were greatly affected by the pandemic.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) disclosed that the rate of cybercrimes during the three month lockdown increased by 72% in the amount of money involved.

 

Laptops and Internet connectivity for rural youth in South Africa

South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams revealed a programme to empower rural youths with laptops and Internet connectivity. The ministry has partnered with mobile operator MTN, municipalities, and community youth centres to ensure the success of the project.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said she hopes the partnership will increase access to ICTs in rural areas, build capacity around the skills of the future, and contribute to the digital economy. She added that broadband has the potential to transform rural communities, and that very soon online courses will be available to improve skills and livelihoods.

 

One in three women in five countries in Africa experience online gender based violence

A research titled ‘Alternate Realities’ revealed that out of 3000 women aged 18 to 65 from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, and South Africa; 28.2% have experienced online gender based violence (GBV). While 36% reported experiencing sexual harassment, 33.2% reported insults or repeated insults (26.7%). According to the research 71.2% of all incidents of GBV occurred on Facebook, perhaps due to its weak security system and user anonymity.

In responding to GBV, 66% of women blocked the harassers, 14.5% deleted or deactivated their accounts, and 12.2% stopped accessing the Internet. This is an obstacle to the rights of women to be online.

The consulting firm said online harassment laws should be strengthened and law enforcement officers should be trained to provide timely support to victims.

 

Cameroonian student creates mobile app to boost entrepreneurship

A high school student, Mbah Jarvis, launched a mobile app to enable African youths and entrepreneurs to interact with each other and share ideas on new ways of changing the African continent. The app is a version of a platform he created earlier to ease communication between students preparing for final exams.

Jarvis said his two years of absence from school taught him that Cameroon and the entire African continent needs transformation, and this can be achieved by bringing together people who believe in growth and development.

 

 

Uganda’s free wi-fi hotspots at border posts to benefit people in transit

The Uganda Communication Community (UCC) has launched free wi-fi hotspots at border posts of Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, and South Sudan for travelers.

Technical service head of the Rural Communications Development Fund Geoffrey Sengend said that the project will be finished by October 2020 and will improve information access at borders for Coronavirus prevention, while facilitating emergency response for health, security staff, and the local population.

The wi-fi hotspots with a capacity of 5Mbps per user and covering a circle of radius 1 km will be used for business, education, health, agriculture, and leisure.

Expansive wi-fi finder to be rolled out at thousands of hotspots across Africa

Cassava Fintech International (CFI) and Liquid Telecom Group (LTG) have announced the launch of a Sasai wi-fi finder service that will be available in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Africa. It will provide affordable connectivity and expand services throughout Africa.

CEO of CFI Darlington Mandivenga said that expansive network of data access points will be provided across Africa through partnerships with broadband providers, Internet service providers (ISPs) and local community hubs.

The wi-fi finder will increase connectivity in locations of retail, healthcare, education, government, and small business trade facilities while the Sasai super app will provide social entertainment and on demand services.

 

TelOne commissions new fibre optic link to connect Zimbabwe and Zambia

Zimbabwean cable and telecommunications provider TelOne has commissioned a fibre link connecting Zimbabwe to Zambia and beyond.

TelOne Managing Director Chipo Mtasa said that the fibre link cost US$1.5 million and has a capacity to handle both domestic and transit traffic to Zambia and beyond. The link was constructed by local contractors and technically implemented by TelOne engineers.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of ICT Jenfan Muswere said that the project employed 850 people and the link completely connects Zimbabwe to its neighbours South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zambia.