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Leaders of Africa’s digital infrastructure investment in a discuss

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Leaders from MTN, C-Squared, Seacom and Convergence Partners discuss the critical issues ahead of their speaking roles at TMT Finance Africa in Cape Town 2019

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, March 7, 2019 — Digital and broadband infrastructure investment is clearly one of the top priorities for Africa’s key telecom operators and investment firms in 2019. In this article, leaders from MTN, C-Squared, Seacom and Convergence Partners discuss the critical issues ahead of their speaking roles at TMT Finance Africa in Cape Town 2019 http://www.TMTFinance.com/capetown

With the huge and increasing demand for data and increasing opportunities for 5G and fibre, digital communications companies including mobile and fixed operators, as well as a range of digital infrastructure specialists and investors, are targeting significant investments in new digital infrastructure.

Byron Clatterbuck, CEO Seacom, one of Africa’s leading submarine and terrestrial broadband operators, sees a really opportunity in making the case for fibre in Africa: “Fibre penetration is still very low in most African countries, so huge opportunities exist to get involved in the rollout of intra-regional projects, national projects, and even international subsea infrastructure projects.  The global cloud services companies are now putting Africa on their development roadmap, and committing significant investment to several African markets.”

For Clatterbuck, this presents a big opportunity for other investors to leverage these investments and to cooperate with these global giants in delivering new services to the business and home markets.

Envir Fraser, CSO & Partner at Convergence Partners, an impact investment management firm focused on the telecommunications, media and technology sector in Africa, expects broadband to continue offering investment opportunities as the need for high quality broadband increases with step changes in prices. “This does mean that the opportunities are shifting from pure greenfield builds and opportunities to brownfield expansion and consolidation in the sector. The needs for “big pipes” to realise the 5G reality will also need increased investment in connecting towers and high sites to high-speed fibre or wireless backhaul networks”, says Fraser.

Working with governments on digital infrastructure investment

To help maintain a high level of investment, Kholekile, Ndamase, Executive: Group Mergers and Acquisitions at MTN, Africa’s biggest mobile telecommunications operator, warns Governments should have a careful plan when considering the licensing questions such as coverage obligations vs license fees vs a fund to finance rural connectivity.

“If government could forego the immediate remuneration of a license fee and opportunity costs of localisations, but instead placed reasonable coverage obligations on operators, it may be more beneficial in the long run to have all their citizens connected to digital and have them participating in the digitally-enabled economy. Making more spectrum available in certain markets would also reduce network congestion and Capex expenditure which will allow the much-needed capital to be spent in the more underserved areas”, Ndamase explains.

Expect consolidation in digital and fibre infrastructure 

Consolidation in the sector is also to be expected, according to Alexander Kiel, CFO, at CSquared, the Google-backed African fibre network operator. “Fibre, like other infrastructure, is a game of scale, we do expect some consolidation to happen over time, with it most likely to start with transfer of management of public fiber assets to private operators.” Over time, as fibrecos increase in scale and expertise, Kiel also expects to see more sale and lease-back deals between the fibrecos and the mobile operators.

For Seacom’s Clatterbuck, “whether it is MNOs trying to bring together a number of African “OpCos” under one brand with synergies at the group level, or it is “fixed” fibre operators consolidating to control and manage as much of the end-to-end network as possible, there is no shortage of M&A and funding opportunities in Africa.  “Consolidation will continue as markets grow and possibly shrink, and as global players look for market entry vehicles going forward,” he says.

Who will be leading fibre investment?

In the next 12 to 18 months, CSquared’s Kiel expects a number of greenfield projects to come out, with multiple roll-outs, “especially in the metro areas where there is still a gap… these deployments will be driven by mobile operators and independent fibrecos”, he comments.

In about five years time, Convergence’s Fraser foresees a market with a limited number of scale players offering a broader set of offerings to operators. He expects “a shift to customer focused services and product offerings as well as continued increase in bandwidth speeds.”

As for MTN’s Ndamase, “fibre and 5G will open up a whole new experience for consumers with particular benefits will not necessarily be seen with the way we currently experience the digital world.” He reckons industries such as Autonomous Vehicles, Automation of business processes, VR & AR and a whole host of other industries that are yet to appear will primarily benefit from this shift.

Leaders from the largest African telecom, media and technology companies, investment banks and investors are meeting to assess the latest investment opportunities at the annual TMT Finance Africa in Cape Town 2019 conference on March 28.

Over 75 key speakers have been announced for the event, which features CxOs and senior executives from Vodacom, MTN, Rand Merchant Bank, Vumatel, Helios Towers Africa, ENSafrica, CSquared, Dark Fibre Africa, Convergence Partners, Seacom, Angola Cables, Standard Bank, IFC World Bank, DLA Piper, WIOCC, Paix Data Centres, BCX, European Investment Bank, Investec Asset Management, GreenWish Partners and others.

Key sessions at the senior executive only event include: Telecom Leadership Africa; Broadband Infrastructure; Digital Infrastructure Africa; Next Generation Media; Powering Mobile Towers; Data Centre and Cloud; Mergers and Acquisitions; TMT Investor Strategies; Broadband Infrastructure; Financing TMT; Fintech and Mobile Money; and Smart City.

– TMT Finance

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Waxed: Revolutionising Africa’s Transport Industry

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Waxd Group CEO, Anthony Stewart (Image & Article: Waxd)

An estimated 70% of Africa’s urban population live in informal settlement housing. They rely on privately-owned minibus taxis and public bus transport systems to travel to work, send their children to school, and live out their day-to-day lives. The need for digital payment and cashless fare collection solutions – that provide a secure and seamless way for people to access the routes they use every single day – is critical.

Digital payment systems for the transport industry will remove the need for physical tickets and cash payments, and speed up transactions and transport times. With public transport spending accounting for up to 10% of consumer income in Africa, the implications for the transport industry are vast. South Africa alone has over 200,000 minibus taxis transporting more than 15 million commuters daily.

The Waxd story started when Waxd patented a method for processing app payments through EFT rails, cutting merchant fees from 2-3.5% to 0.4%. Although the idea was good, it needed the co-operation of the banks. This was not very forthcoming as the solution would cost the banks in transaction revenues. After months of frustration, Waxd decided to look at areas of innovation where the banks had failed.

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Waxd provides an accessible payment solution that enables public transport drivers to accept different payment methods from passengers, including biometric and prepaid cards which can be recharged by commuters to pay for their rides. Transport operators, owners and drivers can also track their revenue in real-time and manage their fleet with improved efficiency and transparency.

An informal, unregulated transport industry leads to many challenges being faced by all stakeholders. A digital payment system leads to a simpler, safer payment solution for all – from commuters and drivers, to owners and government.

The Africa transport revolution is happening at a rapid rate, and Waxd is at the forefront of developments – committed to providing technologically-advanced payment solutions and to enabling financial inclusion for everyone.

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The State of AI in Africa: 2022 Report

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The State of AI in Africa Report launch was held on the 14th June at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Pretoria, South Africa and co-hosted by the World Economic Forum Centre for the 4IR South Africa and City of Tshwane. This 32-page report will appeal to analysts, enterprises, channel managers, governments, VCs or investors, NGOs, Embassies, trade missions and regional promotion agencies who are seeking deeper insights about the dynamics of this rapidly growing frontier tech market.

A key finding was just how cross cutting this technology is, with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya dominating this sector and AI impacting at least 120+ separate market segments across Africa. Privately owned SMMEs or Micro businesses make up 75% of this sector, 40% of which were founded in the last 5 years, showing the importance nation states need to place on supporting their local tech ecosystems.

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It’s also attracting serious capital, with Tunisian AI start-up InstaDeep receiving $100m USD Series A funding earlier in 2022.  The global AI market is also projected to grow from $387 Bn USD in 2022 to $1,394 Bn by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 20%. Bradshaw concluded, “It’s a positive sign that this technology and the growing regional AI start-up ecosystems can win big across Africa if these trends continue.”

A copy of the report can be obtained online here.

The AI Media Group is a South African based industry analysis, publishing & business events consultancy specializing in the 4IR or smart tech sector in Africa. They are curators of AI Expo Africa, the continent’s largest B2B/B2G Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade show and publishers of Synapse, the first quarterly trade magazine charting Africa’s 4IR innovation journey. The group also runs AI TV which hosts discussions on trends in AI and 4IR technologies with local, regional and global thought leaders.

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Digital Asset Marketplace in a Web3 Economy with Chains CEO

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The digital asset landscape has been evolving over the past decade since blockchain technology made it possible to exchange value digitally. This was not previously possible before the launch of the Bitcoin network by Satoshi Nakamoto due to the double-spend problem.

A crypto exchange is effectively a marketplace where people buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The first well-known example of such a platform was Mt Gox which appeared in 2010, created by Jed McCaleb who is also co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer of Stellar – a payment network blockchain ecosystem focused on enabling low-cost cross-border transactions. The exchange imploded when it got hacked for hundreds of thousands of bitcoins and following that, many other exchanges started popping up, promising better security and liquidity.

The industry has evolved since then. Now there are hundreds of crypto exchanges – centralised and decentralised, custodial and non-custodial, from peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Paxful to order-book based exchanges such as Binance. These digital asset marketplaces also offer different services from spot to futures trading, savings products, NFT marketplaces and so much more.

Chains.com hopes to become one of the new market leaders by introducing a comprehensive offering that amalgamates all the different crypto products and services into an all-in-one platform. In this interview, Anderson Mccutcheon, CEO of Chains.com gives insights into the future of crypto marketplaces. Excerpts below:

 

BAO: How would you best describe Chains?

Anderson: Chains is a MetaFi platform, aimed at the next generation of web3 users. A single account, connected to multiple products, that are connected to multiple blockchains. Our goal is to cater to users that want to utilise cryptocurrency and NFT products, without having to learn the underlying technology.

BAO: There are already many crypto projects offering launchpads, exchanges and marketplaces. Why does space need a platform like Chains?

Anderson: For the same reason the world needs an Apple and a Samsung. A Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Variety and competition breed excellence and better results for users. We see what happens in markets where few players dominate – innovation slows down and users get locked into mediocre products.

BAO: Is Chains an open-source project and are you building on or integrating with any public blockchains?

Anderson: We are integrating with multiple blockchains that are open to various degrees. We natively support ETH, Polygon, BSC and TRON, with our generation-1 products. We will definitely be introducing more support for more blockchains and products in the immediate future.

BAO: What are the components of the Chains blockchain ecosystem? Can you share some key insights into your technology stack?

Anderson: Chains is not a technology company. Just like Coinbase isn’t. We are a product company that uses hundreds of technologies at any given time. We are part of the Amazon Activate program and our centralised services are mostly AWS-powered.

BAO: Are you looking to bring NFTs to your ecosystem in the future? In what ways will NFTs be used within your ecosystem?

Anderson: NFTs are an integral part of our ecosystem. We are conducting one of the biggest NFT allocations in the world with the Deep Space Society GEN-0 drop. 1 million NFTs allocated on Polygon.

BAO: What is a CHA token and can you describe its utility or tokenomics?

Anderson: It’s a utility token that is the backbone of our product ecosystem. Not using CHA and using Chains would mean paying more fees, not having access to certain stages of token sales and advanced marketplace features. 

BAO: When can people expect the token sale?

Anderson: We are currently in the pre-sale phase, an opportunity that hasn’t presented itself in years where those who believe in the project can buy into a blue-chip ICO. It’s been a long time since a CeFi/MetaFi platform has conducted a token sale in this way for early adopters.

BAO: Is the sale subject to any regulatory oversight and will you be accepting accredited investors?

Anderson: Yes. We have successfully completed SEC 506c compliance, meaning we are not only compliant, but we can market openly to accredited investors from the US.

BAO: Currently you have one of the most popular whitelists in the entire crypto space, what do you think makes a good crypto project?

Anderson: A strong team, a financial model that has been tested and proven to be working, a multi-year roadmap and a track record of delivering.

BAO: What is vCHA and how can people earn or acquire some?

Anderson: vCHA is a non-currency issued to our early adopters. You can accumulate it by registering, filling out your profile and inviting others to the platform. vCHA is converted into a permanent discount on the platform (which includes the upcoming CHA token sale) , which is the equivalent of staking $5000.

BAO: What can the community expect next from your roadmap?

Anderson: Launchpad comes first. Our goal is to showcase our ability to deliver world class products that can serve hundreds of thousands of users. Prism, our Analytics product, will also be launching this year, and will set a new standard for what a portfolio and asset tracking system should look like. 

 

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