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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Curated by Grace Mutung'u
African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (ACFTA) signed
African heads of state signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Speaking during the ceremony, African Union Chair Mr Paul Kagame explained that the agreement aspires to boost intra-African trade by removing barriers to the trade of goods and services. It will come into effect once ratified by member states and its implementation will be phased. The FTA will rely on digital technologies and will boost the creation and exchange of digital goods and services on the continent.
ECOWAS Court judgement on fake news
The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) delivered a landmark judgement on Gambian speech offence laws. The claim had been brought to court by Gambian journalists arrested and detained under the country’s criminal laws on libel, sedition, and false news. The ECOWAS Court found that the arrest and detention of the four Gambian journalists was a violation of their rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and freedom of movement. It directed Gambia to immediately repeal or amend the speech laws to align them with the country’s obligations under international law.
Curated by Foncham Denis Doh
Airtel Kenya acquires 4 G license
16 February 2018 | Telecommunications Infrastructure
Airtel Kenya has completed the payment of USD$25 million for the 4G LTE 800 MHz frequency band.This follows pressure from the country’s communications regulatory authority, since 2017, for Airtel and Telecom Kenya to install an infrastructure that supports high speed 4G Internet services. Airtel is currently testing the signal, and aims to cover 65 sites.
Airtel and Standard launch mobile money platform
16 February 2018 | E-money and virtual currencies
A mobile money wallet, Straight2Bank, which enables users to carry out transactions between their Standard Chartered Bank account and their Airtel money account, is operational in Zambia. Straight2Bank, launched by Airtel and Standard Chartered Bank, is expected to reduce the risk of fraud and theft common with cash payments, and to facilitate timely payments, giving the customers the flexibility to transfer money from their accounts to mobile wallets. The service is available internationally, thus simplifying international money transactions.
First Microsoft4Afrika app factory launched in Kenya
16 February 2018 | Capacity development
Microsoft4Afrika is partnering with the United States International University Africa (USIU-Africa) to launch Kenya’s first AppFactory in Nairobi. The AppFactory will allow university graduates to develop skills in software engineering, thus responding to the needs of the jobs market. Microsoft4Afrika aims to build skills and empower people to be creative, and push Africa’s digital transformation forward. Africa counts 14 AppFactories and, of the 500 graduates from last year, 85% secured full-time jobs within three months of graduation.
West African Data Centers investment completed
7 February 2018 | Telecommunications infrastructure
On 7 February 2018, PAIX, a pan-African provider of cloud and data centre services, announced the finalisation of an investment project that lead to the creation of West Africa Data Centers(LTD), WADC, in Ghana. WADC is one of Ghana’s carriers neutral data center offering services to 20 network operators and service providers from Accra data centers, and is linked to all four undersea cables landing in Ghana. PAIX’s investment is part of its strategy to build a Pan-Africa data centre platform.
Digital rights in sub-Saharan Africa: The practice of telecom companies
A study published by Internet without Borders (IWB) argues that telecom companies Orange Senegal (Sonatel) and Safaricom do not respect international and national standards on privacy and freedom of expression online. According to the study, Sonatel does not publish on its website the terms and conditions of prepaid services and usage of personal data. Safaricom publishes little details on the type of information collected and security of data. This practice is found to be different from the one of the mother companies. IWD recommends transparency, protection of human rights by states, and social responsibility from companies. In reaction to the study, Sonatel justified that users are given the terms and conditions for prepaid mobile offers on subscription at selected sale points, under strict legal obligations to control correct identification and registration of subscribers. The company also stated that it respects the rights of customers over their personal data, and reports to the Senegalese authority on the use of such data.
Curated by Jacob Odame-Baiden
NEPAD partners with Internet of Things Forum Africa 2018
26 January 2018 | Internet of Things (IoT)
The African Union’s specialised agency for economic issues, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), has partnered with the Internet of Things Forum Africa (#IOTFA), which takes place on the 14 – 15 March 2018, at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. IOTFA 2018 will run under the theme ‘Powering a new era of operational transformation,’ and will showcase the leading developments in the Internet of Things (IoT). The partnership goes to show the commitment of African leaders to adopt new technologies that can transform their economies. The forum will bring various multistakeholders together and will create a fertile ground for potential public-private-partnerships in the IoT space.
Kenya: Mobile money interoperability to launch in March 2018
The pilot phase of Interoperability among mobile money platforms in Kenya was launched on 22 January 2018. Following an agreement by three of Kenya’s major mobile money platforms (Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Telkom Money, and Airtel Money) to integrate their systems, Kenyans will now be able to transfer funds across networks. The interoperable platform will be released nationally in March. The mobile money interoperability will present consumers with greater choice, enhance service quality, and ultimately drive down the high cost of mobile money transactions.
Ghana to go full Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) switch in second quarter of 2018
In a meeting in Accra in January, the government of Ghana revealed that it will complete the Digital Terrestrial Television Switch nationwide by the second quarter of 2018. Ghana laid down its roadmap for the transition from analogue television broadcasting to digital terrestrial broadcast in 2006 following, the Geneva 2006 (GE-06) Agreement (revised) at the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Regional Radiocommunications Conference. The Digital Switchover Project under the National Communications Authority (NCA) which missed its initial deadline year of 2015 is confident of meeting all deliverables by the new deadline.
[Dot]africa flag begins its journey towards Mt Kilimanjaro
Following the launch of the .africa Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) name, it has become imperative to build awareness to encourage quick adoption. A team dubbed the ‘Summit team’ have been commissioned by the .africa gTLD Registry to embark on a two-week long trek up Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, in January 2018. The journey will take place from 5 to 23 January 2018. Climbing the highest peak on the continent as captured on the Summit team’s website will ‘signify the great heights that Africans have climbed to launch one domain name for the entire African continent’. Among other things, the objective of the climb will build awareness, encourage adoption and build a sense of pride and ownership among Africans on the usage of the .africa domain.
Curated by Jacob Odame
Ghana’s Broadband Communications Chamber (BBCC) hosts broadband forum
Ghana’s Broadband Communications Chamber (BBCC) will host a Ghana Broadband Forum on 30 November 2017 on the theme ‘Broadband: The Catalyst for Sustainable Socio-economic Development’. The forum aims at initiating a public dialogue with the aim of revamping the existing 5-year-old Ghana Broadband Strategy that came into force in 2012. The forum will adopt a multistakeholder approach to gather input from different actors on how to improve the strategy and enable the use of broadband access to support the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Nigeria's FCC rejects telcos plea to increase tariffs
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has refused to grant permission to telecom operators in the country to increase the price of calls and data services. This decision was taken in an effort by the telecom regulator to protect many Nigerians from being deprived of access to communications services due to high cost. Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of NCC, who disclosed this in a meeting in Abuja, said that although Nigeria has some of the lowest telecom tariffs in the world, it will continue to look into the regime of fees charged by service providers to ensure they conform with world best practices.
Facebook launches nationwide digital initiative in Nigeria
22 November 2017 | Access, Digital divide, Telecommunications infrastructure
Facebook has launched a set of Digital Initiatives in Nigeria, aimed at supporting the development of local communities, including small businesses and the tech start-up ecosystem, and enabling job creation. The plan incorporates a series of partnerships to deliver training programmes and a Tech Hub physical space that will serve as a centre for learning and skills development. Facebook believes that the Tech Hub will serve as an incubator to provide support for high tech startups to enable them to attract the needed investments in order to scale.
Curated by Foncham Denis Doh
Digital Address System for properties and business transactions launched in Ghana
20 October 2017 | Development - other
A National Digital Property Address System (GhanaPostGPSApp), designed by a local tech firm, Vokacom, has been launched in Ghana by President Nana Addo. GhanaPostGPSApp will not only ease the creation of new business but will help location search, facilitate emergency interventions, and help revenue collection for utility companies. The app divides Ghana into grids of 5m x 5m squares and assigns each one a unique address, known as a digital address. GPS technology will be used to assign a code to every property in Ghana.
Nigeria’s country code top level domain (ccTLD) reaches 100.000 registrations
12 October 2017 | Domain name system (DNS)
On 12 0ctober, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) revealed that the adoption and use of the ccTLD .ng has reached 100 000 registrations. The increase in registrations is owing to the decrease in demand for foreign domain names by both individuals and businesses in Nigeria, who now prefer to host their services at home. The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) was concerned about the increase in demand for foreign domain names in the past, which caused high capital flight.
Safaricom encourages more Fiber to the home (FTTH) connections in Kenya
Safaricom has started implementing its plan to increase the number of FTTH connections in Kenya, which currently number 95 000 homes. The regional roll-out plan will provide every customer in Kenya with s an affordable FTTH connection, with no installation cost. The Internet packages will range from KES 2500 for 5 Mbps to KES 9999 for 40 Mbps per month. Through this strategy, Safaricom intends to transform lives in Kenya by providing a convenient and reliable Internet connection at home, great for both work and play.
Vivendi Africa Group and Canal + provide triple play service in Gabon
The Vivendi Africa Group, an FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) provider, in partnership with TV provider Canal+, has began offering triple play services in Gabon. Users are provided with a home device called CANALBOX that delivers the triple play service, which includes TV content, high speed Internet, and voice communications. The first commercial test was done on 10 October and there are plans to extend to Cameroon and Togo.
Moya Networks bring high speed Internet to Africa
On 3 October, Moya Networks in South Africa disclosed it would launch its cryptocurrency token presale on 11 October at reduced rates. The network aims to generate funds to bring high speed Internet to the African continent by using high capacity fiber optic cable. The Moya team has contracted with the African Coast to Europe (ACE) to do the installation. In addition, the team will buy the excess cables on the West Africa Cable System (WACS) and backup equipment from vendors to be installed on the backhaul network.
Anglophone regions of Cameroon blocked from accessing Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook
Since 30 September, the Anglophone regions of Cameroon have been unable to access Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. According to the government, these social media platforms are used for spreading false information that destabilise the country. Preventing access to these platforms was meant to stop the spreading of information related to the planned celebration of independence on 1 October by the North-West and South-West regions of the central African country. Earlier this year there was a complete Internet blackout for 93 days for the same reason.
Curated by Jacob Odame
New anti-terror regulations for mobile phone users in Côte d'Ivoire
In a bid to counter the terrorists’ fraudulent use of mobile phones and SIM cards registered under aliases and stolen identities, authorities in Côte d’Ivoire announced that all Ivorian mobile phone subscribers will need to update and confirm their identification to the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications of Côte d'Ivoire (ARTCI) within six month. Ivorian nationals will be required to show their national ID card, a biometric passport, or a driver's license, whereas non-nationals will have to present a biometric passport or national ID. Users who are not able to provide acceptable identification within the set time will have their mobile phone services suspended; if users are unable to comply within two months of the suspension, their cell service will be canceled.
Vodafone Cameroon suspends Internet services
On 14 September, Vodafone Cameroon, a 4G LTE Internet service provider, suspended Internet services indefinitely following a directive from the Telecom Regulatory Board (TRB) of Cameroon. Sources say the reason for the suspension was a violation of the license terms by the operator. This action is believed to have been triggered by investigations after other mobile network operators complained to the TRB that Vodafone Cameroon's provision of mobile network services went against its broadband license requirements.
Ghana Digital Centre attracts ICT companies
As part of the Ghanian government's strategy to create more jobs in the ICT sector, the country's Ghana Digital Centre has invited ICT companies to apply for a space within the newly created Ghana Digital Centre (ADC) for their operations. The initiative is estimated to create up to 10 000 digital and ancillary jobs.
Internet shutdown in Togo
Togo experienced an Internet shutdown on 6-11 September. Internet services from most ISPs, especially in the capital Lome, were inaccessible. 3G Internet services as well as SMS services from the two telecom providers in Togo were also down during this period. The Internet shutdown led to a social media blackout. News sources have linked the shutdown with protests against the government of Togo. Thousands of people are protesting against the Gnassingbe family dynasty that have been ruling Togo for the past 50 years, calling on the President to step down.