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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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CoralPay C’Gate Solution Is Africa’s Gold Standard For Payments

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CoralPay has deployed the first interoperable USSD and mobile payment platform to Nigerians desirous of a seamless and secure payment solution.  The solution, which fulfills the mantra of being Africa’s Gold Standard for payments, allows for enhanced interoperability amongst stakeholders in the payment ecosystem.

The solution, according to the CEO CoralPay Chioma Nkechika, allows customers using the USSD short codes of their respective banks alongside their Mobile Apps to pay for goods and services directly from their bank accounts and wallets. The transactions are accepted on POS terminals, and ATMs, with receipts printed or on eCommerce sites with emails sent to registered addresses.

The C’Gate solution, which is already being adopted and deployed by leading Nigerian banks and Mobile Money Operators (MMOs), seamlessly enables USSD to POS, USSD to Web, USSD Fast Transfer transactions, USSD on App, USSD to ATM, and CiCo (USSD Cash-In and USSD Cash-Out) on POS, offering customers more flexibilities and payment options than anything currently available in the Nigerian market.

Zenith Bank has led the adoption of the C’Gate solution as an addition to its e-payment offerings, with other banks like GTBank, UBA, Access Bank, FCMB, FirstBank, Fidelity Bank, Wema Bank, Keystone Bank, Sterling Bank, Providus Bank and others following suit at various levels of integration and deployment.

POS transactions have grown significantly, with total transaction count up (YoY) from 63.7million to 146.3million transactions, with corresponding value rising from N758.9 billion to N1.4 trillion as at the December 2016 and December 2017 respectively. This excludes web payments, ATM operations and mobile money transfers, all of which are now seamlessly integrated with the C’Gate Platform.

CoralPay Technology Limited, a payment switching and transaction processing company, earlier in the year announced its entry into the Nigerian payment industry with a solution, in partnership with Alipay International to ease online transactions for the Chinese, other Asian consumers and African merchants starting with Nigeria.

The partnership further expands Alipay’s footprint in Africa and opens the door for its more than 520 million active users in China, to make online payments via the CoralPay platform. Speaking on the agreement, the CEO of CoralPay assured Nigerians of the company’s ability and capacity to deliver on the African franchise, leveraging on their business network and partnerships.

On C’Gate, the CoralPay boss said that the solution was designed and developed locally, leveraging on the global experience and expertise of the company’s engineers, drawing on the declared mission to build ‘Africa’s Gold Standard’ for payment, encouraging financial institutions and SMEs grow capacity through financial inclusion and innovation. He further hinted that the C’Gate platform as deployed, is the first of several breakthrough solutions the company has in its pipeline, adding that they are well-primed to bring more innovative services into the Nigerian market.

On the advantages of C’Gate, the CEO, said customers are now liberated from their cards and can now transact on POS, Web and ATM-like transaction without their payment cards, while confirmation is received via printed receipt at the point of interaction or email. Customers can carry out these transactions remotely or while physically present with the merchant.

With the inclusion of key billers and agency banking on the C’Gate platform, customers are also able to carry out bill payments and CiCo (cash-in/ cash-out) at agent locations. Additionally, he said the C’Gate ensures safer, faster and easier transactions for the customer, as card details are not required, and not dependent on Internet access. No new deployment costs are incurred as all transactions occur using the existing infrastructure of both customers and banks.

 

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GTBank Builds Nigeria’s First Digital Play Centre for Children

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Lagos, Nigeria – March 22nd, 2019: Banks only build branches, or so the story goes. Except for Guaranty Trust Bank Plc; the foremost African financial institution, which has been at the forefront of several innovative products and services, recently completed and opened the first digital playground for children in Nigeria.

Located in Lekki, Lagos State, the GTBank Play Centre is equipped with a wide range of interactive games that will give kids a fun and immersive digital experience whilst aiding their mental and intellectual development. Open from 10am to 3pm on Weekdays, and 10am to 1pm on Saturdays, some of the features of the Play Centre include the Sketch Town, where kids can design cars, launch rockets, and bring all their sketches to life. At the playground, children can also use the wide range of bricks available to build whatever excites their curiosity and also express themselves creatively by scribbling, writing and drawing on a digital chalkboard.

GTBank is renowned for designing innovative and personalized products and services that are tailored to customers’ unique needs and which fit seamlessly with their lifestyles. Recently, the Bank launched Habari, a digital platform that gives customers unlimited access to local and international music, and at the same time, allows them to shop online, split bills with friends and take care of their everyday needs, in one place. Habari, like the GTBank Play Centre, is the first of its kind in Nigeria, reflecting the Bank’s digital drive as well as its focus on creating unique experiences for all segments of its customer base.

Commenting on the launch of the Play Centre, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Guaranty Trust Bank plc, Mr Segun Agbaje said; “How and where children play contributes significantly to their cognitive and intellectual development, helping them build better communication and problem-solving skills. Our new Play Centre will give children a tension-free space to build these critical developmental skills, expose them to new and emerging digital technologies, and, most importantly, give them a wonderful time out.”

He further stated that “At GTBank we are passionate about building the bank of the future, and for us, this means constantly leveraging the best of technology to create amazing digital experiences for all of our customers, in a way that adds real value to their lives.”

Guaranty Trust Bank is one of the best run African financial institutions and serves as a role model within the financial service industry due to its bias for world class corporate governance standards, excellent service quality and innovation. The Bank is also renowned for driving youth empowerment initiatives alongside its business, as seen with the GTCrea8 Account package, which doubles up as a platform for empowering young undergraduates with the resources and networking that they need to develop their skills and talents and build capacity in their careers of choice.

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African countries dominating the Afri-Commerce Space

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Afri-Commerce in Africa is growing at a steady rate, according to Disrupt Africa there are around 264 eCommerce start-ups across the continent. With most of Africa’s eCommerce startups located in Nigeria followed by South Africa and Kenya.

Top 3 countries dominating Afri-Commerce:

  • Nigeria has a population of around 195 million people, it has the largest economy in terms of gross domestic product and is the most populous country in Africa. 40 percent of Afri-Commerce ventures have headquarters in Nigeria. However, it has an internet penetration of only 48 percent.
  • South Africa has a population of 55.5 million has a 54 percent internet penetration. It has a blooming middle class and is one of the countries with the best cross-border potential.
  • Kenya has a population of 48.5 million and have a 79 percent internet penetration. Kenya is home to M-Pesa, a service which facilitates mobile money. The availability of a secure payment system encourages internet access and online buying. (SoftPac, 2018)

Below is a list of some of the Afri-Commerce startups in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

 

Nigeria

  • Jumia Group, was founded in 2012 by the Berlin-based Rocket Internet and formally known as Africa Internet group. It operates in 14 African countries and in the Middle East. Jumia is an online shopping website for electronics and fashion. They offer different types of services including Jumia Market, Jumia Travel, Food, Jumia House, Jumia Jobs, Jumia Car, Jumia Deals and Jumia Services.
  • Kongo was founded in 2012 in Nigeria and initially sold only baby and beauty products. It does not operate outside of Nigeria. In 2014, Kongo opened Seller HQ, a third-party marketplace. The site has about 1 million customers and receives over 300,000 unique visits daily. It only operates within Nigeria.

 

Kenya

  • Kilimall sells in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. It offers affiliate programs for small African businesses as well as seller programs. Besides supporting African businesses, they also sell products from China.
  • Sky.Garden was launched in 2017, it is a SaaS mobile commerce platform which provides more than 3,000 sellers with web shops and offers 23,000 unique products in 30 different categories. It only accepts M-Pesa payments from customers and pays all merchants using M-Pesa.

 

South Africa

  • Takealot was formed by Tiger Global Management in 2011 as a result of an acquisition of an existing Afri-Commerce firm. Takealot also owns Mr. D Delivery, giving it its own delivery network with more than 900 drivers. For its marketplace merchants, Takealot offers storage, fulfilment and delivery, and customer service.
  • Zando is a subsidiary to parent company, The Jumia Group, which operates as a fashion retailer and across numerous other vertical in various other African countries. Zando sells over 500 brands, including footwear, apparel, homeware and beauty products.
  • Vuuqa is a newbie in the Afri-Commerce space but promises to be one of the fastest growing Afri-Commerce stores in South Africa with plans to expand into Kenya. Vuuqa is an online marketplace that sells African brands by connecting them to the world. All products on Vuuqa are made in Africa by Africans.

Afri-Commerce in Africa is the future even though there still remain many challenges. With mobile penetration reaching close to 70% on the continent and an increase in internet penetration, technology will continue to open doors and provide new opportunities for Afri-Commerce in Africa.

Image: MyAfribusiness

 

Author

Tshiwela Ncube Co-founder and CTO at Vuuqa

Vuuqa is an Afri-commerce platform that sells African brands by connecting them to the world.

IG: @VuuqaFB:@Vuuqa Twitter:@Vuuqa_

 

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