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Amazon expands in SA

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Amazon has announced it is expanding its presence in South Africa by adding a new office in Johannesburg for Amazon Web Services South Africa.

The new office joins the established Amazon Development Center Cape Town, which has been in operation since 2004 and develops technology for several Amazon businesses, including Amazon Web Services (AWS). As part of this expansion, Amazon also announced that it plans to hire more than 250 people in the next 12 months to fill highly-skilled technical roles that will be based in both locations.

The new Johannesburg office has been launched to support the growing customer base of AWS. The office is now open and operational and is supporting organisations of all sizes, from start-ups to the country’s oldest and most established enterprises and public sector organisations, as they make the transition to the AWS cloud. The new office will have account managers, solutions architects, partner managers and various other functions for South African customers to directly engage with AWS. South African customers looking to learn more about working with AWS should visit aws.amazon.com/south-africa.

This news comes as Amazon celebrates over ten years in South Africa. Amazon first established a presence in the country by opening a development center in December 2004 to help build the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service. Many of the more than 250 new roles in South Africa will be based here and will work on Amazon EC2 as well as the engineering of other new services as well as pioneering networking technologies and next generation cloud software.

“Amazon has been an active contributor to the South African technology community for over a decade,” said Steve Midgley, Head of EMEA, Amazon Web Services. “Over this time we have seen some key technologies of the AWS cloud emerge from the country so it is no surprise we are also seeing strong growth amongst African organisations moving to the cloud. Choosing to locate an AWS office in South Africa speaks to the rapidly growing customer base, the broad set of talent here and the investment we are making to support cloud adoption around the world. By expanding our presence in South Africa, and through hiring highly skilled staff, we intend to further accelerate the growth of our cloud customers in Africa and around the globe.”

South African organisations were amongst the earliest adopters of cloud services when AWS launched in 2006. Customers based in South Africa are using AWS to run everything from development and test environments to big data analytics, from mobile, web and social applications to enterprise business applications, public sector and mission critical workloads. AWS now counts some of Africa’s fastest growing businesses as customers including, Entersekt, PayGate and Travelstart as well as established enterprises such as Adcorp and Medscheme.

One African enterprise business that is working with AWS to develop new revenue streams for their organisation is telecoms giant MTN. “AWS expanding their presence in South Africa is great news for the entire African business community,” said Mteto Nyati, CEO of MTN Group. “At MTN, our purpose is to enable and inspire growth on the African continent. By working with a global technology leader such as AWS, MTN is better placed to enable customers to grow their businesses. The relationship with AWS is an important part of our plans to address the needs of enterprise customers in emerging markets, particularly Africa.”

Another large company that is welcoming AWS expansion in Africa is Standard Bank. As one of the largest banks in Africa, Standard Bank understands the power cloud computing has to help the South African economy. “Amazon’s growing presence in the country and the region is something that we at Standard Bank are especially pleased to see,” said Mike Murphy, Executive Head: Group Technology Build, Standard Bank. “The opportunities that AWS’ portfolio of services present to a company like ours, and the local business community, are substantial. When leveraged wisely these cloud technologies give South African companies of all sizes the opportunity to speed up innovation and expand their businesses to compete globally”.

An example of a South African company that is using AWS to grow their business globally is Travelstart. Travelstart is Africa’s largest travel booking website offering flights, hotel bookings, car rental, vacation packages and a range of insurance services. The company operates in more than 15 countries across Africa and the Middle East. “Hearing there is now an AWS office in South Africa is great news for us,” said Anders Bäck, CTO from Travelstart. “Thanks to the pay-as-you-go nature of AWS we have been able to grow our Middle Eastern websites in leaps and bounds while reducing operating costs. By using AWS we have reduced down time by 25% and were able to take on a multi-continent expansion in an agile manner. Without the scalability of AWS, and the support of their team, we would not have been able to achieve this and with an office it should help us even further.”

This news comes as Amazon continues its investment in, and expansion, across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2014 Amazon created over 6,000 new jobs in the region. The new, highly skilled roles being announced today will be based in Cape Town and Johannesburg and include: Software Development Engineers; Network Development Engineers; Support Engineers; Technical Account Managers; Systems Engineers; Solutions Architects and many more. People looking to apply for a role in South Africa, or any of Amazon’s businesses around the world, can apply online at www.amazon.jobs.

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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