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 January 2020 briefing on Internet governance, which will include updates from the Africa region during January. Register to attend.

January 2020

Curated by Grace Mutung'u

Uganda revises telecom licensing structure

25 Jan 2020 |  Telecommunications infrastructure

Uganda is implementing a new telecom licensing structure.The new policy framework structure is aimed at improving the quality of telecommunications services and boost investment in the sector. The new regime has five licence categories: national telecom operator, national public service provider, regional public service provider; and, regional public infrastructure provider. To apply for a national telecom operator, a company will need to float at least 20% of their shares at the Uganda Securities Exchange. There will be a two year transition period for operators who acquire the licence.

Uganda has previously expressed concern that foreign telecom companies did not promote local investment or hire locals. Meanwhile, South African telco MTN - which operates in Uganda - has announced its exit from the cell tower business in Uganda and Ghana.

Africa’s richest woman exposed in #LuandaLeaks

23 Jan 2020 | 

A massive Internet leak of over 715 000 business documents has exposed how the daughter of former Angolan president, Isabel Dos Santos, illicitly acquired her wealth. Dos Santos is considered Africa’s wealthiest woman and has been featured in global publications. However, her country Angola has a low human development index due to the high cost of living.

The documents, now referred to as Luanda leaks, were obtained from a whistleblower by the ‘Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa’ PPLAAF. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists co-ordinated a collaboration between more than 120 journalists from 36 media houses to study the documents. According to reports, the documents include confidential emails, contracts, spreadsheets, ledgers, audits, incorporation papers, organisational charts, lists of clients with overdue payments for jewels, board of directors meeting minutes and videos, bank loans, and other loan agreements

Angola’s Attorney General announced that Dos Santos and her husband were charged with a number of economic crimes. She is being sought by local authorities and faces prosecution.

Nigerian English words added to the Oxford Dictionary

23 Jan 2020 |  Cultural diversity

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has added 29 uniquely Nigerian English expressions in its January 2020 update. The addition of Nigerian in the renown dictionary follows the adoption of Nigerian English on other online platforms. In 2019, Google introduced Nigerian English maps that feature a Nigerian voice accent. Prior to that, the BBC had launched its Pidgin site that offers news in West African pidgin.

The Nigerian culture has rapidly spread through the Internet and media over the last decade. Last year, four of Nigeria’s most listen to pop artists featured in the soundtrack for the Lion King. However, a Nollywood (Nigerian) Film Lionheart, was disqualified from global film awards, Oscars, for falling short of English language requirements. The film was a Netflix original, and among the online streaming site’s first African commissions. 

African fintechs secure commitments at UK Africa Summit Economic

20 Jan 2020 |  E-commerce and trade, Emerging technologies

The African fintech space registered gains from the UK-Africa Investment Summit held in London on 20 January 2020.

Initiatives that are already working in financial inclusion, such as Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa were recognised for their efforts in alleviating poverty. UK AID committed GBP£320 million to support existing FSD programmes in Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and the SADC region, and to create new ones in Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and the West African Monetary Union.

The inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit was held as the UK prepares to leave the European Union on 31 January 2020, and is seeking to secure new partnerships with African governments. It brought together several African heads of state where priority issues for investment co-operation included, UK-Africa trade, the expansion of African economies, a partnership with the city of London, renewable energy, and financing.

M-Pesa partners with Ria to increase mobile money transfers to Africa

20 Jan 2020 |  Digital business models

M-Pesa has partnered with global money transfer company Ria to increase its reach in 20 more countries. Under the partnership, M-Pesa customers who receive money through Ria can withdraw money directly from M-Pesa, or save it in their M-Pesa account. M-Pesa customers will also be able to send money internationally through Ria from their phones. They will be advised of transaction charges and exchange rate prior to sending. 

Online gambling tops mobile money usage by African youth

15 Jan 2020 |  Content policy, Digital business models

A great number of African youth is using mobile money for online gambling, according to a survey done by Geopoll. The survey interviewed young people aged between 18-35 who have access to a mobile phone in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast. 73% of those interviewed use mobile money primarily for sports betting, with wagers on European football teams being most popular. They considered mobile money a convenient way to place bets and receive winnings. Other uses for mobile money were paying for home Internet (54%), buying mobile phone airtime (53%), and paid television services (53%).

Kenya has been a leader in sports betting, however, the activity is considered a vice in the country. Online gambling has been decried by leaders in the East African community, with Kenya and Tanzania bringing in regulatory measures that have reduced the number of sports betting companies. Uganda banned sports betting in 2019.

ICANN call for 2020 Africa Strategy

7 Jan 2020 |  Critical Internet resources

ICANN has made a call for the public to join the new Africa Strategy Working Group. The call was open for the public to join the group until 15 January 2020. The current Africa strategy began in 2013. It guides ICANN engagement in Africa and has seen the opening of a regional engagement office in Nairobi. The strategy was reviewed in 2015 and 2018, and will come to an end in July 2020.

The working group is expected to give input on strengthening ICANN activities in Africa.

Safaricom attempts to monetise location data

6 Jan 2020 |  Digital business models, Privacy and data protection

Kenya’s mobile network operator Safaricom, which also operates global mobile money service M-Pesa, has issued a call for proposals for the monetisation of customer location data in January 2020. According to the call, Safaricom boasted a business growth driven by innovation. It therefore called for suppliers of location tracking and intelligence platforms to ‘build profiles of customers based on their locations and telephone usage’.

Safaricom has the largest market share of Kenyan mobile telephony. Its dominance has been the been the subject of discussion among regulators, with legislators mulling over splitting the company business streams. The call for proposals to monetise location data signals the evolution of the company into a platform. Kenyans have raised concerns about privacy and fairness in the selling of their data. The call has since been removed from Safaricom’s website.

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