Regional updates: Africa

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.

Follow the GIP's November 2019 briefing on Internet governance, which will include updates from the Africa region during November. Register to attend.

October 2019

Curated by Grace Mutung'u

Zimbabwe lifts ban on mobile money for cash transactions

3 Oct 2019 |  E-Money and virtual currencies, Development - other

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has lifted a ban on mobile money to cash transactions following public outcry. On Monday 30th, September RBZ had issued a directive to mobile payment system providers and merchants that effectively froze cash in and cash out transactions, citing high charges on the services.

Zimbabwe has had a currency crisis since the early 2000s due to trade sanctions by the US and other international partners. Inflation had risen to 300% as of August 2019. With the cash shortage, mobile money has picked up in the country, with local mobile network operator ‘Econet Wireless’ commanding 95% of the market.

New York Times appoints first African Africa correspondent

7 Oct 2019 |  Cultural diversity

The New York Times has appointed Abdi Dahir, a renowned journalist as the first African correspondent for East Africa. This comes after an online petition against former bureau chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, following insensitive reporting after a terrorist attack in Nairobi. Kenyans protested the paper’s publication of dead African bodies, forcing one of the New York Times’ Twitter accounts to be temporarily taken down. Subsequently, the New York Times was called out for an insensitive ad over the Nairobi job.

The online community congratulated Dahir on his appointment. 

ECOWAS to scrap roaming charges

14 Oct 2019 |  Access, Consumer protection, Economic - other issues

Starting from January 2020, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries will scrap international roaming charges for their citizens travelling within the region. During a press briefing, ECOWAS Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu-Ekuful stated that all state parties were working on the necessary legal and administrative framework to abolish roaming charges within the region.

ECOWAS promotes regional integration and economic development, and has already established visa free travel by citizens from members states within the region. Getting rid of roaming charges is expected to enhance trade and free movement of people.

South Africa named best country for start-up CEOs

21 Oct 2019 |  E-commerce, Development - other, Economic - other issues

A survey on working environments for start-ups in Africa has found that South Africa leads in compensation packages for CEOs and other employees. The study, carried out by investor firm Timon Capital and think-tank Briter Bridges also concluded that Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa have the most advanced ecosystems for start-ups in Africa. The three countries had collectively received the highest funding for technology start-ups.

The start-up culture has picked up in Africa over the past two decades. Questions have, however, been raised about the transfer of knowledge and equitable tax practices, as most start-ups are registered and managed from outside the continent.

Africans paying more for Internet access

22 Oct 2019 |  Access, Digital divide, Economic - other issues, Telecommunications infrastructure

The 2019 Internet affordability index indicates that the Internet is unaffordable in most African countries. The annual report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet shows that while the continent has increased communications infrastructure, many countries still score low on access and affordability. The report notes that African countries need to improve their legal and policy environment to increase competition, and therefore, lower the price of Internet access.

Ethiopia opens national consultation on new telecommunications licences

22 Oct 2019 |  Telecommunications infrastructure

The government of Ethiopia is calling for public input on its plan to liberalise its telecommunications market. In a press release, Ethiopian Communications Authority asked for public views on its intention to ‘issue two additional licenses for telecommunications services operators through a competitive process pursuant to the Communications Services Proclamation of Ethiopia’.

Ethiopia is coming out of a long period of singularlism, which saw multiple Internet shutdowns and arrests of bloggers. A new administration, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who took office last year, has been working to restore pluralism. The country is also in the process of privatising the state telecommunications corporation, Ethio Telecom.

Safaricom introduces un-expiring bundles

23 Oct 2019 |  Consumer protection

Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile network operator (MNO) has introduced data bundles that do not expire. The bundles are priced higher than other products, but they come with a guarantee that subscribers can use them until they are depleted.

Statistics indicate that over 90% of mobile network subscribers are on pre-paid plans. They purchase mobile credit from as low as Ksh. 10 ($US 0.1). They can then subscribe to data bundles whose validity period varies from a day, a week, a month, or 90 days.

Kenyans have decried this model. Earlier this month, a lawyer sued two MNOsSafaricom and Airtelover unused data bundles. The case is yet to be heard.

Ghana set for a digital census 

26 Oct 2019 |  , Development - other, Emerging technologies

Ghana has procured 70 000 tablets and other modern digital technologies in preparation for its 2020 census. This was announced by Samuel Kobina Annim, the government statistician, during the inaugural meeting of the National Census Publicity, Education and Advocacy Committee (NEPEAC) in Accra.

Ghana undertakes a census every 10 years. The 2010 census estimated the population at 24.2 million. The government statistician indicated that they had carried out a pilot census after which they had developed a mobile app that will be used to report issues in the field during the census. Ghana will be the third country in Africa, after Malawi and Kenya, to carry out a digital census.

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