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Big investment pours into telecoms in Africa

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The telecoms industry is a vital component to the continent’s economic growth with a 72% expansion in mobile subscriptions over the past five years.

Africa’s telecoms industry forms a vital component to the continent’s economic growth, affecting all aspects of the business and social sphere. Dramatic expansion in the telecoms sector has taken place over the past five years, with a 72% penetration on average in mobile subscriptions across the continent.

Consequently, a huge amount of investment is happening to improve Africa’s infrastructure to manage the rapid increase in data usage and the need for better connectivity, particularly in rural areas. For example, Millicom Ghana (Tigo) is to invest $24 million in the expansion of its 3G network in the country, according to local reports, with phase one of the expansion expected to include 114 cell sites installed in the Greater Accra, Ashanti and Western regions of Ghana over the next four months.

The international telecoms community regards Africa as an area of high value for new business. In East Africa for example, the construction of a fibre ring connecting five East African countries (Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi) has just been completed by Liquid Telecom, to ensure reliable and continuous connectivity. Amb Dr Richard Sezibera, Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), the regional intergovernmental organisation of the five countries, said of the deployment:  “By providing our nations with a 21st-century broadband network that directly connects us to each other and the outside world, Liquid Telecom continues to help the economic development of our region.”

Due to the size and scale of investment opportunities in African telecoms, wholesale telecoms carriers from across the globe meet annually at Capacity Africa (http://www.capacityconferences.com/Capacity-Africa.html), the largest pan-African wholesale conference to network, develop business and hear industry leaders deliver future commercial strategy. Taking place on 8 & 9 September in Dar es Salaam, 400+ senior telecoms executives from over 65 countries will take advantage of the entire African telecoms ecosystem being represented, all looking to secure new deals in the region’s lucrative telecoms market.

Discussing the event’s importance, Mike Last, Director, Marketing and International Business Development, WIOCC said: “Capacity Africa is without a doubt the best networking event for the African wholesale telecoms industry.” He added that it attracts “a very strong set of African and international carriers and creates a great environment for doing business”.

Expanding networks means increased demand for infrastructure and competition amongst operators. Regulators are playing a key role in providing stability to these operators active in the region ensuring a market driven industry. Capacity Africa recognises this, offering an agenda which brings together both the C-level executives of major telecoms organisations such as Seacom, Liquid Telecom and WIOCC, as well as the regulators such as the Nigeria Communications Commission to discuss the latest growth opportunities in front of an audience made up of the key decision makers in African telecoms.

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Africa gets broadband boost

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ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.

Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.

Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.

ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.

At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”

Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.

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Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world

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Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.

Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.

AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.

The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.

‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”

The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.

‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.

The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”

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