What were the main digital policy regional updates in Africa? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.
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1 May 2019 |
Emmanuel Gabriel, a Nigerian ICT expert based in Germany, has developed a global artificial intelligence (AI) platform called OBTranslate, an online common administration Tool (CAT) for machine learning, capable of translating 2000 African languages.
Gabriel hopes OBTranslate will break communication barriers in Africa by helping farmers sell their goods and services in any language, and increase employment opportunities.
10 May 2019 |
On Friday, 10th May 2019, while responding to concerns about abusive social media content and false identities, Rwandan Minister of ICT and Innovation Paula Ingabire told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony that the government will regulate social media content to stop misinformation.
Ingabire said that they have initiated partnerships with social media platform proprietors to formulate content regulatory methods in order to protect citizens. She added that the objective of the government is to ensure that social media is used for the good of the nation and the people.
10 May 2019 |
The government of Rwanda has signed an agreement with Motorola Solutions to build information and communications technology (ICT) capacity. According to the five year agreement, in addition to Motorola solutions offering communications services, the company will create a service centre, a training centre, a supervisory control and data acquisition centre (SCADA), and an Internet of Things (IoT) centre in Rwanda. Motorola also intends to create its regional headquarter in Rwanda and make it a hub.
Yuval Hanan, general-manager of Motorola Solutions, said the ‘We chose Rwanda because it is a leader in ICT within the region and we believe young Rwandan engineers and ICT professionals have a lot to offer globally. We are excited to invest in improving the technical expertise in Rwanda and exporting it’.
14 May 2019 |
The 5th edition of the Transform Africa Summit (TAS) took place in Kigali, Rwanda from 14-17 May 2019 under the theme ‘Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy’ and attracted over 4000 participants from various sectors.
The summit included the Smart Africa Leaders Summit, the Smart Women’s Summit, and plenaries on current ICT topics such as: creating an ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship; the role of the digital economy in tracking Pan African integration; strengthening innovative ecosystems in Africa; and, investing in African opportunities and challenges. Speakers included the president of Rwands, Paul Kagame, and Sophia, the Humanoid Robot.
14 May 2019 |
On 14 May 2019 UNICEF and Safaricom launched Internet of Good Things, a UNICEF-led initiative in Nairobi, Kenya. The initiative has information and resources to promote a better and healthier living, and is available in 60 countries globally. Internet of Good Things as a platform hosts mobile-packaged content from UNICEF and its partners, designed to make life-saving and life-improving information available at no cost – even on low-end devices, and basic web-enabled mobile phones.
Patrizia Digiovanni, officer in charge of UNICEF Kenya, said that they are happy with the partnership with Safaricom which will give Kenyans access to important information and skills for a healthier life.
15 May 2019 |
The 2nd edition of the African Blockchain Conference will take place on 3-4 July 2019 at the Kampala Serana Conference Centre, under the theme ‘Africa 4.0: Preparing Africa for the 4th Industrial Revolution’.
In parallel to the conference, the Africa Fourth Tech Expo, an experimental journey showcasing leading technology innovations and applications in Africa, including artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), drones and robotics will take place.
Kwame Rugunda, chairperson of the African Blockchain Conference, said that Africans must prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution and use the expansion of global business to Africa for their development.
15 May 2019 |
Safaricom has launched affordable 4G smart phones, Neon Ray and Neon Nova, in Kenya costing $USD 39.54 (KES 3.999) and $USD 59.31 (KES 5.999) respectively, for the digital experience of those without smartphones.
Sylvia Mulinge, chief customer officer at Safaricom, said that these phones will help users enjoy digital services at a low cost, and their partnership with Google will give access to Android Oreo for entry-level smartphones with improved apps with lower memory, storage, and data. Mahir Sahin, director of the Africa Android Partnership, said their goal is to bring computing power to everyone through the widest range of devices.
16 May 2019 |
On 16 May 2019, Liquid Telecom Kenya launched a Microsoft cloud service in East Africa that increases cybersecurity for sensitive databases in the region. The new Azure cloud stack service enables companies to operate a private Microsoft cloud service in the region, instead of outside. The service is hosted in private cloud nodes in Kenya and Tanzania for reliability and flexibility.
Winston Ritson, group head of cloud services for the Liquid Telecom Group, said that data transmission time which was 200 milliseconds to Europe, and 55 milliseconds to South Africa, will drop to less than 20 milliseconds for users in East Africa and will be more secure.
17 May 2019 |
Africa’s interconnected vendor-neutral data centre Teraco is providing a secure and direct connection through its cloud exchange to local and global cloud providers, such as AWS Direct connect, Microsoft Express Route, and Google’s cloud platform. Teraco has helped localise African Internet traffic since its creation.
Andrew Owens, Teraco’s peering and interconnection specialist, said that the Africa cloud exchange is the network connectivity point for any business, ISP carrier, or managed service provider in Africa. Cloud operators will be able to directly access African terrestrial and submarine cables, satellite connectivity, and an open market for interconnection.
3 Apr 2019 |
The executives of two telecommunications service providers, Vodacom and Tala, were charged with economic crimes in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The managing director of Vodacom, Hisham Hendi, and the business operations manager of Tala, Ahmed Ngassa, were charged alongside six other company staff members with causing the government the loss of TSh5.8 billion (USD$2.5 million) through fraudulent use of their networks.
They were also charged with importing, using, and installing telecommunications equipment and distributing frequency numbers without proper licenses. Vodacom has since appointed an acting chief executive officer.
Tanzania is planning a biometric registration of all SIM cards where each person will be limited to one SIM card per mobile network.
3 Apr 2019 |
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has come into force, following the approval of the Gambian parliament. The agreement which was signed in January 2018, seeks to create the largest global trade zone by scrapping tariffs on 90% of goods in intra-African trade. Gambia’s is the 22nd ratification and it was widely awaited as the agreement required a minimum of 22 ratifications to take effect.
Commenting on the news, the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga lauded Gambia’s ratification and announced that the operational phase of the agreement would begin this July.
AfCFTA is among the continent’s best supported initiatives, having garnered 52 signatories out of 55 African countries. Ethiopia and Gambia were the latest to deposit ratification instruments to the African Union Commission. Implementation of the agreement is expected to spur economic growth, as countries improve their transport and communications infrastructure to facilitate an easier movement of goods and persons within the continent.
12 May 2019 |
Jumia, the largest e-commerce platform in Africa, has been listed in the New York Stock Exchange through an initial public offering (IPO). Investors rushed to buy the stock which traded at an average of USD$25.46 on the first day, placing the value of the company at close to USD$2 billion.
The news elicited mixed reactions on African social media, with some questioning the branding of the company as ‘African’, while the ownership, decision making, resources, and technical knowledge resides outside the continent. The company was founded by French entrepreneurs Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara in 2012 and is registered in Germany. It has over 4 million customers in 14 African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and the Ivory Coast. Prior to the IPO, MTN, a South African telecommunications company, was Jumia’s top investor with close to 30% shareholding in the company.
In an interview with Quartz, the Founder Sacha Poignonnec explained that the company employed over 5 000 people in Africa and overall, Jumia was committed to strengthening e-commerce on the continent.
12 Apr 2019 |
South Africa has published amendments to the Tourism Act that if passed into law, would see Airbnb listings subject to tourism regulations. In the bill, Minister for Tourism Derek Andre Hanekom proposes the inclusion of ‘short-term home rentals’ in the regulatory regime of the Tourism Act. This would subject Airbnb listings to rules such as the country’s Tourism Board’s grading system.
South Africa leads in Airbnb revenue for Africa with its cities Cape Town, Bela Bela, and Stellenbosch being among the top ten destinations. Other countries that regulate the popular online accommodation service include Tanzania and Namibia where homeowners are required to register their facilities with local tourism boards. Kenya has also been considering the registration of Airbnb facilities to ease tax collection.
24 Apr 2019 |
South African telecommunications service provider MTN has converted its Nigerian business into a public company, giving Nigerians the opportunity to own a part of the company. MTN is Africa’s largest telecoms operator, and has operations in 22 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
The company has been under pressure from the Nigerian government to issue an IPO. In May last year, it had a successful IPO in Ghana where Ghanaians bought shares through its mobile money service, Momo.
For Nigeria, MTN has preferred to list at the stock exchange without raising funds through an initial public offering.
25 Apr 2019 |
The Executive Director of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Wairagala Wakabi, was detained at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Tanzania. Wakabi was entering the country for the annual Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Day hosted by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC). After hours of questioning, he was eventually deported back to Uganda, where CIPESA is based. Reports indicate that Tanzanian officials gave national security concerns as the reason for his detention and denial of entry into the country.
Wakabi’s detention comes months after journalists working with the Committee to Protect Journalists were detained for several days over similar concerns.
25 Apr 2019 |
The government of Ghana is piloting a new medical drone delivery programme where unmanned aerial vehicles deliver medical products to far flung areas. One news report featuring the New Tafo Government Hospital in Ghana’s Eastern Region, describes how a nurse orders vaccines which are delivered by drone within 21 minutes.
The services are delivered in partnership with drone services company Zipline, which also implemented a similar blood delivery service in Rwanda. In Ghana, drones are based at Omenako centre, 70 kilometres north of the capital Accra. The centre is stocked with emergency medicines, vaccines, blood, and blood products which will serve 500 facilities within an 80 kilometre radius.
Zipline, a Silicon Valley based company, has been hired by the Ghana Health Services to make 600 deliveries a day for four years, in a contract worth USD$12.5 million.
1 Mar 2019 |
The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has signed the new Data Protection and Privacy Act. According to a statement released by the National Information Authority of Uganda (NITA-U), the act is described as, ‘The law, which expands the mandate of the National Information Authority Uganda (NITA-U), will protect the privacy of the individual and of personal data by regulating the collection and processing of personal information.’
4 Mar 2019 |
Rwanda’s plan to ensure that schools in remote areas get access to reliable Internet to promote effective teaching and learning has been given a boost by the launch of a satellite for that purpose, through a collaboration with the UK based company, OneWeb. With this programme, schools in very remote and sparse locations that cannot be connected through traditional fibre connections can have access to the Internet via the satellite.
4 Mar 2019 |
A new study conducted by Consumer Insight, dubbed the Digitalk Report, has shown that the prime usage by Kenyans of smartphones is to access the Internet. Key portions of the report, published by a Kenyan new portal showed that more than 90% of Kenyans with access to smartphones are almost always connected to the Internet.
It also showed that 96% of Kenyans connected to the Internet via smartphones used it for socialising, shopping, banking, consuming news, gambling, dating, and finding education and career opportunities, among other activities.
6 Mar 2019 |
Microsoft has announced the opening of its first datacenters at two locations in Africa: Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. These new data centres will make Microsoft Azure cloud services available to benefit organisations with increased computing sources and connectivity.
The new cloud regions in South Africa will ensure that Africa is fully connected to Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure which will increase business opportunities, help accelerate new global investment, and improve access to cloud and Internet services across Africa.
21 Mar 2019 |
South Africa’s national assembly has officially passed the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, according to a news report. The final stage for the bill to become law is for the South African President to give his assent to it.
The bill mainly introduces harsher rules to protect children from disturbing and harmful content online, such as revenge porn and hate speech. The bill also imposes severe fines on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who have full knowledge of harmful content being distributed through their services.
22 Mar 2019 |
According to the Mobile Economy Report 2019, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have seen a significant growth in mobile content in Swahili. The number of mobile apps in the language increased from around 5 000 in 2014 to almost 30 000 by 2017. This means that more people are able to access useful services on their mobile phones because they are in a language they can read and understand.
Kenya alone saw a 16% growth in mobile Internet adoption from 2014 to 2017 with over 4 million new users. According to the report, apart from the Swahili content factor, the growth was also supported by good performance in two enablers: infrastructure and affordability.
22 Mar 2019 |
Microsoft has opened its second Policy Innovation Centre (PICs) in Africa at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. PICs which are based and managed by partner academic institutions are designed to bring together various stakeholders from government, academia, industry, and civil society to share best practices and experiences to encourage innovative policy dialogues and recommendations that can help better shape society. The first PIC in Africa is stationed at the Strathmore University in Kenya. Microsoft has shown its commitment to lead the efforts of championing the technology revolution in Africa by recently opening two data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
1 Feb 2019 |
Uniconta, a new cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, developed to help companies work efficiently, quickly, and reach their targets easier, by providing fast access, security and customised solutions has opened its first office in Cape Town – south Africa.
Keith Mullan, CEO Uniconta South Africa, said that the service is unique because it is solely cloud based with no legacy and available on a monthly subscription basis.
Uniconta will expand from southern Africa to other countries such as Kenya and Uganda, to enable companies use their latest technology to increase their opportunities and competitive advantage.
5 Feb 2019 |
On 5 February 2019, Facebook supported more than 20 non-profit organisations and government agencies in Africa, as they worked to sensitise people about Internet safety and security, on the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2019 (SID2019).
Facebook supported SID2019 by sponsoring the printing of online safety awareness booklets, facilitating training sessions, and raising awareness in their ‘Facebook Safety Center’.
Sherry Dzinoreva, Head of Africa Policy Programmes at Facebook, said they are happy to contribute in making the Internet better. The campaign covered most of Sub-Saharan Africa.
8 Feb 2019 |
Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation in Rwanda, made an announcement to the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth that the country is negotiating with the Mara Group, a Pan-African multisector business service company, to operate a smart phone factory by April this year.
She added that the smart phones will be affordable, and that a partnership with telecommunications companies will reduce access costs. Her aim is that the whole population will be trained in digital literacy and that every home will have a smart device.
12 Feb 2019 |
Following the selection of Ethio Telecom as the first of four state corporations to be privatised, Pan African Telecommunications (MTN), Orange, and Vodacom are among its potential buyers.
Haji Ebsa, Director of the Ministry of Finance Communications, said that partial privatisation will be preferred as the best approach for the process, with a majority of the stakes owned by the state and shares sold to investors.
The privatisation is part of reforms headed by Prime Minister Abby Ahmed, to liberalise the economy and privatise state corporations, in order to stimulate economic growth through foreign investment.
12 Feb 2019 |
Societe Generale (SG), a European bank operating worldwide, partners with HPS to improve its payment processing activities in 10 African branches. In the beginning, the HPS platform will be used for payment operations involving card issuing, point of sale (PoS) and automated teller machines (ATM).
Nicolas Revol, Head of payment solutions for International Retail Banking at SG, indicated that matching the digital payments revolution is a big challenge, especially in Africa.
Samir Khallouqui, Managing Director of HPS processing, said that they were glad to help SG with improving payment processing for their customers.
15 Feb 2019 |
The Avanti Communications Group, a satellite data communications service provider, and MainOne, a connectivity and data centre solution company in West Africa, have partnered to increase broadband penetration in Nigeria.
According to the agreement, MainOne will leverage Avanti’s satellite, HYLAS 4, to take broadband services to areas unreachable by fiber. Avanti’s Eco Initiative grouping broadband access, solar power, and Wi-Fi services for schools and small communities is included.
Libby Barr, Chief Operating Officer at Avanti, said that he was glad that their product will complement MainOne’s fiber networks, andb, CEO of MainOne, said that the partnership will help to bridge the digital gap.
16 Feb 2019 |
Due to the difficulties faced by farmers in Tanzania to obtain credit with no bankable assets or collateral, Rose Funja, ICT entrepreneur, has developed AgrInfo which identifies farmers, the size and location of their farms and the crops they cultivate, and the information is then sent to financial institutions, where they are used to evaluate credit worthiness.
Funja said that over 300 farmers in the Tanzanian capital have access to financial institution using AgrInfo, and there are plans to reach 1 million subscribers.
11 Feb 2019 |
On 11 February 2019 during the 32nd African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Lacina Kone from the Ivory Coast replaced Hamadoun Toure from Mali as the new Director General of the Smart Africa Alliance Secretariat.
Smart Africa is an agreement by African leaders and governments to advance socio-economic development on the continent by using affordable broadband access and ICTs. The alliance, which started in 2013 with 7 members, now has 24 members with 30 private companies. The ONE African Network (OAN), which aims to phase out roaming and reduce Internet costs, and the Smart African Scholarship, to support African ICT scholars, are initiatives of the Alliance.
16 Jan 2019 |
Kenyans protested against a photo showing dead bodies that was published on the New York Times website following a terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Dusit complex earlier this month. Several Kenyans complained about the photo which was prominently published on the newspaper's website and Twitter account. This led to an explanation by the paper about its editorial policies as well as a suspension of their photo account by Twitter. However, the picture was maintained and subsequently, a complaint was lodged with the media regulator, Media Council of Kenya.
21 Jan 2019 |
On 21 January, the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered the government to restore full Internet in the country. The government had ordered blacking out of social media services following countrywide protests over a hike in fuel prices. Local NGO Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) who sued the government together with Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the court had ruled that the Minister of State for National Security did not have authority to issue directives under the country’s Interception of Communications Act. During the reign of former President Robert Mugabe who was ousted in November 2017, Zimbabwe had periodically shut down the Internet when there were political protests.
22 Jan 2019 |
The government of Uganda is preparing regulations for vetting songs prior to their public release. Uganda’s Minister for Gender, Labour, and Social Development Peace Mutuuzo told Reuters that the new regulations had received cabinet approval and were expected to be passed by March. The regulations are viewed by critics as a response to the growing popularity of the musician-cum-opposition politician Bobi Wine who has a large following among urban youth. Under the regulations, lewd and offensive content is outlawed and artists will have to seek permission prior to performing outside the country. This has created debate on how sharing and curation of online content will be regulated. Uganda’s proposed rules are similar to Tanzania where BASATA, the country’s arts regulatory board enforces online and offline performance controls.
22 Jan 2019 |
Digital rights groups such as the Paradigm Initiative and Internet Sans Frontières (ISF) marked 300 days of a social media blackout in Chad on 22 January. The disruption has been in force following protests after a national constitutional conference resolved that 66 year old President Idris Déby would rule the country until 2033. The rights groups wrote letters to the president and the African Union urging for restoration of the Internet and upholding of human rights. They also held protests online and in N’Djaména to call attention to Africa’s longest Internet shutdown.
23 Jan 2019 |
Uganda has deported three senior officials of mobile network operator MTN in unclear circumstances. Olivier Prentout, French, Annie Bilenge Tabura, Rwandese, and Elza Muzzolini, Italian were all deported in January for what the police termed as 'national security investigations'. Uganda has previously raised concerns about MTN’s foreign ownership. After being in the country for about 20 years, MTN is operating on an interim licence after its licence expired last year. At the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, MTN CEO met with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. The president tweeted that the company should be listed in the Uganda Stock Exchange so that Ugandans could also own it.
23 Jan 2019 |
An announcement by the government of Cameroon on its plans to set up an innovation hub in Yaoundé is stirring opposition from English speaking areas. The new hub is similar to what has come to be known as Silicon Mountain in the English speaking region of Buea. Recent tensions between the French and English speaking regions resulted in an Internet shutdown in English speaking regions which lasted over 200 days and a near collapse of Silicon Mountain. Innovation hubs have taken root up in many African cities in recent years and are increasingly funded by governments. The government of Cameroon proposes to spend a large poortion of its scientific, research and innovation budget to support young Cameroonian software developers in the new hub.
28 Jan 2019 |
Following an enactment of amendment laws to facilitate digital identificiation in Kenya, questions are being raised about the project. Local consumer group Cofek asked in a blog post why the project was being implemented as a restricted tender. They argued that the project procurement should be made open so as to give the public an idea on how their biometric data would be collected and secured. Other groups also raised concerns about data protection in the new system which is expected to collect not only biometric data but also digital DNA as well as GPS data of all Kenyans and residents.