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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Oscar winner on location in Uganda

oscars
Uganda is becoming a popular destination for Hollywood movie productions and the stars that come along with them. This could help efforts to beef up the country as a tourism destination, as it also provides a film legacy of the spectacular scenery of the country which provides the movies’ backdrops.

The Oscar-winning star of “12 Years a Slave,” Lupita Nyong’o, is presently in Uganda for the shoot of the Mira Nair-directed film, “Queen of Katwe” and “official Uganda” is only slowly catching on to the news. The film will portray the career of one Phiona Mutesi, a chess prodigee who grew up in the sprawling Katwe slums, and her coach Robert Katende.

Lupita’s presence in Uganda, seen in the photo with Sarita Alam, one of the founders of 
GeoLodges, could give a huge promotional boost as was the case when the Oscar-winning film “The Last King of Scotland” was shot in Kampala, Entebbe, and Mbale. However, unlike a few months ago when an almost unknown starlet was hyped up as a PR savior, Lupita truly does have real qualities vis-a-vis global recognition, and the fact alone that she is in country should be used to dispel concerns caused by recent US Embassy warnings that the country is not safe.

Sarita Alam reacted to social media comments by saying “it is not too late,” meaning there is still time to work both mainstream and social media for the benefit of promoting Uganda, but due haste is now needed having missed the arrival and early stages of Lupita’s presence.

Social media in neighboring Kenya, where Lupita was raised, have already expressed their hope that she will at least pay a visit to them, but from what is understood from sources close to the production company, Lupita will fly out of Uganda at the end of the shoot with no planned stopover – as of now – in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

After some scenes of a recent James Bond film were also shot in Uganda, there is now also a chance to gain a higher profile in Hollywood as a production country, considering the phenomenal success of “The Last King of Scotland,” as no doubt Lupita’s present role will again give Uganda an international platform.

Source: Eturbo News

Sustainable development of air transport in Africa

SUSTAINABLE
Tourism development of the Vanilla Islands is closely linked to air transportation. To take advantage of world tourism growth, air connectivity must be on the priorities list of the islands’ authorities.

A meeting on the sustainable development of air transport in Africa is taking place from March 25 to 27, 2015 in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

The Vanilla Islands is echoing the word of the Indian Ocean islands, especially on searching how to maximize the possible synergies between the airlines. The Vanilla Islands and Air Austral is leading the way in this regard, and they have already launched a pass to facilitate an inter-islands combination.

In the footpath of the Indian Ocean commission, Pascal Viroleau, the CEO of Vanilla Islands Organization, said: “It is now the time to extend this idea to the other Indian Ocean airlines and make the cooperation a winning strategy.

“I fully support the process of an Indian Ocean federation of airlines for the benefit of the population and for the tourists.”

About the Vanilla Islands The Vanilla Islands are the grouping of Comoros, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mayotte, Seychelles, and Reunion Island.

Source: Eturbo News

AIG nominated for International Corporation of the Year Award

AIG
The Africa CEO forum is a high profile annual event for African Business leaders where awards are presented to deserving organisations operating across the continent.

This year, the third edition of the African CEO forum took place on the 16th and 17th of March, 2015 in Geneva, a city chosen for its cosmopolitan, multilingual environment and its flourishing financial center.

The award for the ‘International Corporation of the Year’, according to a press release by Aisha Aburime, PR & Communications Associate at Jumia.com, one of AIG’s Companies, is won by an international corporation that has seen the strongest growth in its African operations in the recent period.

Africa Internet Group (AIG), less than 3 years from inception, was one of the nominees in this category that included Coca-Cola, AXA, Rio Tinto and Danone, who took home the award.

African Internet Group is the parent group of nine successful and fast-growing companies operating in more than 25 African countries.

Each company is focused on introducing and accelerating the shift to online within Africa - empowering its people as well as boosting the evolution of an African online culture.

AIG companies have rapidly become leaders in their respective industries, pioneering the African internet based growth story.

The AIG ventures include Jumia, Kaymu, Hellofood, Lamudi, Carmudi, Zando, Jovago, Lendico and Easy Taxi.

“We are very proud that AIG was nominated as the International Corporation of the Year. This is an amazing achievement standing shoulder to shoulder with the biggest brands in the world.  We will continue to focus on excellent Customer experience and seamless logistics to make our business better while we continue to make history,” said Sacha Poignonnec, Co-CEO AIG.

Source: Nigeria Communications Week

Phase3 Telecom to link Niger to Nigeria with aerial fibre

PHASE3-Telecom
With one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in West Africa, The Republic of Niger will now have the opportunity to leverage on the huge bandwidth capacity.

Phase3 Telecom has revealed plans to begin the deployment of an aerial fiber optic infrastructure from Kano in Nigeria to Gazaoua in the Republic of Niger. According to Phase 3 Telecom, the network will run from Kano state through Katsina state before arriving at Gazaoua. Phase3 also revealed that the cable will be 228 km long. While no solid completion date of the project was given, Phase3 stated that the project is expected to be completed in months to come.

According to Phase3, the Republic of Niger is a landlocked country that borders seven countries; Algeria, Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria. The lack of backbone infrastructure between the Republic of Niger and its neighbors leaves Niger unable to fully enjoy the broadband advantage to its fullest.

Phase3 also stated that: “With one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in West Africa,  the Republic of Niger will now have the opportunity to leverage on the huge bandwidth capacity, which is available at the Nigerian coast in Lagos through the Phase3 telecom aerial fiber network. This development will also widen the market for under-sea cable owners in Nigeria while enhancing broadband development in the Republic of Niger.”

This project is expected to enhance and solidify the objectives behind the Nigeria – Niger Joint Commission (NNJC) and the partnership/relationship between the two countries.

According to The Guardian, Chief Executive Officer, Phase3 Telecom, Stanley Jegede said the opportunities that the Internet delivers are critical to the acceleration of sustainable socio-economic inclusion and growth for the Republic of Niger.

Source: Balancingact-Africa

Samsung Galaxy S6 Pre-Order Campaign Kicks Off March 30th

Samsung Electronics West Africa has announced that the FUTURE IS NOW with its latest exciting collection of smartphones, Galaxy S6 edge and S6 duos which will be available for pre-order in Nigeria from March 30th, 2015.

The devices will be available in 32GB and 64GB for the S6 edge and 32GB for the S6 duos.

Emmanouil Revmatas, director of Information Technology and Mobile, Samsung, said that the Galaxy S6 edge and S6 duos represent new standards in design and performance, offering consumers an unmatched mobile experience.

“Samsung is in the business of making life easier, simpler and more productive, delivering smart innovations that will transform the way people work and play. These devices are as a result of relentless innovation aimed at providing our customers with the best in technology,” said Revmatas.

The S6 series was first unveiled on March 1st at the Samsung Unpacked event held at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona, Spain.

The phones are a combination of beauty and power comparable to a piece of fine jewelry. The Galaxy S6 duos is the dual sim version of the S6.

 galaxy s6Made out of a fusion of corning gorilla glass 4 and high tensile metal, the S6 edge features the world’s first dual curved glass display with an exquisite glass and metal finish giving it a refined look and feel.

The device has a super-fast charging feature that allows the device run for four hours on just tenminutes of charging, and charges to full battery in about 85 minutes for the Galaxy S6 edge and just 80 minutes for the Galaxy S6 duos.

The Galaxy S6 series also comes with a state-of-the-art wireless charging technology that has evolved to make charging easier; simply place the phone on a wireless charger and charging starts.

The devices run Android 5.0 Lollipop with 5.1-inch high-resolution displays. The 2,560 x 1,440 resolution allows the phone to show a high-resolution image in incredible detail.

Consumers can buy the Galaxy S6 edge in two storage options of 32GB and 64GB.

The Galaxy S6 edge has a 16-megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization, OIS, which enables users take better photos in low light.

While thesuperfast-launching easy-to-use camera allows users instantly capture every precious moment, the tracking auto focus technology keeps every moving object in sharp/clear focus.

Selfie lovers can rejoice in the boosted 5-megapixel front camera with 90 degree wide angle.
In addition, the camera can capture 360 degrees angle around an object and takes photos in less than 0.7 seconds through the new double-tap home button shortcut. 

The OIS feature lets the lens move inside to correct blurry effects that result from movements of the hands while taking a picture.

It also automatically adjusts the white balance.

Like a jewel, the dynamic reflective surface produces profound colors at different light angles.

Both devices will be available for order in White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum at the beginning and Emerald Green later on for Galaxy S6 edge and Blue Topaz for the Galaxy S6 duos.

To pre-order either of the new smart devices, customers can visit www.galaxys6edge.ng; the network providers, MTN, Airtel, Etisalat and GLO; e-commerce platforms Jumia & Konga; Samsung Experiences Stores; and select retail partners nationwide to place their orders and receive a free wireless charger. Samsung said that the offer is valid while stock lasts.

Source: Nigeria Communications Week

Monday, 30 March 2015

HTC One M9 launch date for South Africa

htc
The date of the South African launch event for the HTC One M9 has been announced

The HTC One M9 will be introduced to the South African market on 8 April 2015, according to an invitation to the local launch event that the smartphone maker sent out.

“You’re invited to the launch of the new HTC One, the number One designer smartphone in the world,” the invitation reads.

This is just two days before the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are set to launch in the country.

The HTC One M9 was officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 1 March 2015, where HTC said the device would be available from the middle of March in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and North America.

In addition to a number of hardware improvements, the HTC One M9 will also feature Sense 7, an updated version of HTC’s software “skin” for Android.

Source: Balancingact-Africa

Nigeria: MasterCard launches e-payment for MSMEs

Mastercard
Global payment technology company, MasterCard, has introduced electronic payment system technology to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the country.

The company described the e-payment system as Nigeria’s first MSME-focused acceptance development programme that would extend the security and convenience of e-payments to merchants and their customers who previously depended on cash to transact.

To begin the programme, MasterCard said it was partnering First Bank of Nigeria and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to roll out hundreds of mobile Point of Sale devices to retailers.

The retailers, according to the technology company, are fast moving consumer goods outlets, grocers and leading online stores, allowing them to process debit, prepaid and credit card transactions by using a smartphone connected to a secure card reader.

A statement by MasterCard quoted its Vice-President and Area Business Head, West Africa, Omokehinde Ojomuyide, as saying, “The MSMEs are an important sector in our economy, representing 95 per cent of registered businesses in Nigeria. However, nearly 98 per cent of all the MSME transactions are still made with cash.”

“Using innovative payment technology, this programme will help the MSMEs reduce the costs of cash, increase sales, grow their customer base and improve cash flow, while making it easier and safer for their customers to pay.”

The MPOS solution comprises a MPOS payments application and a physical card reader with a secure PIN pad for PIN entry that connects to the merchant’s smartphone using Bluetooth.

According to the statement, the MPOS application negates the need for merchants to access a fixed data or telephone line, and helps them to overcome connectivity challenges as the devices use a range of data connectivity options including EDGE, 2G, 3G, and 4G.

The MPOS technology, it stated, would also adhere to the ‘CHIP and PIN’ certifications mandated in Nigeria, meaning consumers could be assured that their transactions were safe and secure.

To further encourage the MSMEs to adopt electronic payments, MasterCard said it was working with the MPOS solution providers to introduce a range of value added services including loyalty programmes, air-time top up, person-to-person remittances, bill payments, inventory control and others.

It also said the services would enable merchants to grow their revenues and increase efficiencies.

“The rapid growth of smartphones in Nigeria provides a huge opportunity for innovation across all industries, especially in payments,” Ojomuyide said.

“This programme uses smart technology that transforms mobile devices into tools of commerce, and delivers services that will benefit all stakeholders in the payments ecosystem. It also supports the Central

Bank of Nigeria’s Cashless Nigeria policy, and will help this vital sector to connect more efficiently to the national and global economy,” she added.

Source: Balancingact-Africa

'Facebook money transfer to benefit African users'

facebook
Digital finance experts in Kenya say African users will increasingly benefit from the introduction of a money transfer service onto Facebook's instant messaging platform.

Facebook said last week that users on its social media and networking platform will now be able to send money to each other using its "more convenient and secure" money transfer service which it will offer for free.

Frederick Abot, the Cooperative Bank of Kenya's head of banking applications support, said the area of mobile money needed more players for users to enjoy more benefits.

"The more players jump into that space the better for customers. We hope to see more," said Abot.

Another Kenyan digital finance expert, Jacqueline Jumah, who is manager for strategic operations for digital finance at Microsave Kenya said "the customer benefits at the end of the day".

Other experts said the integration of mobile money and digital finance platforms with social media and instant messaging platforms was the next step in the revolution of digital finance and mobile money platforms, especially for the African region.

They said this was especially important for Africa's growing digitally connected population and highlighted that the region's low base in mobile penetration rate and smartphone usage provided scope for tapping into the area.

"People spend most of their time on instant messaging and social media platforms.

"Integrating banking and finance into that area will enhance usage and convenience which will give rise to adoption and further development," said another expert.

Facebook explained users must link their Visa or MasterCard debit cards to their Facebook accounts in order to access the money transfer service.

Source: Balancingact-Africa

CommProve Wins Strategic African Networking Monitoring Contract

A leader in end-to-end network management for actionable customer insights, has today announced its working with an African telecommunications regulator to monitor the Quality of Service (QoS) of multiple mobile network operators (MNOs) in country.

“Typically, a telecommunications regulator has no way of determining the actual customer experience, or monitoring if the customer experience is improving or degrading,” says Darren Harding, CommProve VP of Sales for MEA. “This makes it very difficult to identify the QoS the MNOs subscribers are actually getting. And this is where CommProve can support both the regulator and the MNOs.”

The African regulator has deployed CommProve’s monitoring solution, CommProve GSP at each of the operator sites. GSP feeds MNO network performance and customer experience information back to a centralised reporting system. This provides the telecommunications regulator with key performance indicators (KPIs) for every MNO, based on actual experience of every subscriber on the MNO, for the whole of the MNO network, 24 hours a day seven days a week. The insight is based on the actual calls or data sessions that the subscribers make, or try to make in the case of service failures. 

Additionally, MNOs could benefit from being able to use the data that is pertinent to their network only, to fault find and improve their own network performance thereby improving the QoS they provide to their end user subscribers. 

The regulator is planning to make the network performance information for specific locations publicly available on their website. Adds Harding: “This is a great way for MNOs to demonstrate improved QoS and to attract new customers.” 

Source: African Herald Express

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

New 'visa' fee to Burundi irks Gisagara residents

Border residents in Gisagara District have expressed concerns over a newly introduced fee for people travelling to Burundi, which they say has limited their movement to the neighbouring country.

This follows a decision last month by the Burundian local authorities to introduce a fee of FBU700 (about Rwf350) for anyone entering Burundi through porous borders.

A pre-existing arrangement between Gisagara and Bugaburo commune in Kirundo Province allowed border residents from either side to cross using national identifications.

However, those on the Rwandan side say they were surprised when they started being charged for every trip they made to Burundi, something they say has inhibited their movement.

The most affected are people who go to Burundi via the Akanyaru River, mainly at Rugasa and Rutagara docks.

“We at first thought there was a security issue in Burundi. Once one reaches the bank of the river on the Burundian side, they are requested to present their ID and the FBU700 charge. Then you are given a receipt,” said Alexis Ntagengwa, a resident of Mamba Sector, Gisagara District

This, he said, is affecting cross-border trade.

Joseph Nzaramyimana, a Rwandan from Kabumbwe Cell, Mamba Sector, and a member of Umutekano Kabumbwe, a cooperative operating canoes that help people cross the river, said the visa problem is limiting movement.

“Before, Rwandans from Gisagara were travelling to Burundi freely, upon presentation of a National ID. But now any Rwandan going to Burundi is requested to pay the FBU700 visa fee,” he said.

The Gisagara District mayor, LĂ©andre Karekezi, said the affected people were mostly from Gishubi and Mamba sectors.

“We have talked to our counterparts in Burundi and they promised to scrap the fee because it is hindering movement of our people,” he said.

He added that one of the local leaders in Kirundo Province told him that the fee was introduced by a private association charged with developing communities around porous borders but the official told him that they had since ordered the association to scrap it.

The fee does not apply to people using the official border points, according to an official from the immigration directorate, at Akanyaru border post.

Source: New Times

South African sevens moves to Cape Town

Cape Town will host the South African leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series for the next four years, the national rugby union announced Friday.

Western Cape Town George and Eastern Cape city Port Elizabeth were previous South African hosts of the two-day event.

The multi-sport Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will stage the event rather than the Newlands stadium home of Cape Town rugby.

Cape Town Stadium, among the most picturesque stadiums in the world with Table Mountain as its backdrop, can host 65,000 crowds.

"World Rugby wanted iconic destinations to showcase the new Olympic sport of rugby sevens," explained South African Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux.

"A world-class stadium in a world-class city in the shadow of a world heritage site in Table Mountain provides exactly that.

"Cape Town is a sport-mad city, their crowds frequently top the South African attendance charts, and it is a rugby city."

George hosted the sevens event nine times and Port Elizabeth four times and from December it moves to a stadium desperate for high-profile sport events.

South African top-tier football club Ajax Cape Town are tenants at a stadium owned by the Cape Town local government.

But apart from visits by hugely popular Soweto clubs Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, they draw small crowds.

Cape Town government officials have tried several times without success to woo the Western Stormers Super 15 side from Newlands.

The provincial rugby body own Newlands whereas they would be tenants at Cape Town Stadium, and the exclusively rugby venue has more money-spinning hospitality suites.

South Africa, whose national sevens side are called the BlitzBokke, top the 2014-2015 Sevens Series standings with 93 points, hotly pursued by great rivals New Zealand (88).

Hong Kong host the next leg next weekend.

Source: Modern Ghana

Tunisia museum to reopen following massacre

Tunisia's National Bardo Museum is set to reopen to the public Tuesday after a jihadist attack that killed 20 foreigners, as the country looks to restore faith in its tourism sector.

Museum officials said the reopening, which will be marked with a ceremony, was "a message" to the gunmen who killed the tourists and a police officer there last Wednesday.

"It's a challenge but also a message... we want to show that they haven't achieved their goal," museum curator Moncef Ben Moussa said.

The museum was due to reopen with a 1330 GMT ceremony organised by the culture ministry, including a concert by the Tunis symphony orchestra.

Tunisia fears that last week's carnage claimed by the Islamic State group -- the deadliest assault on foreigners in the North African country since 2002 -- will hit its vital tourism sector.

In a move aimed at restoring confidence on Monday, Prime Minister Habib Essid sacked the heads of police for Tunis and the area around the museum, after finding "several deficiencies" in security.

Essid, himself a former interior minister, "decided to fire a number of officials including the Tunis police chief and the police chief for the Bardo", his communications director Mofdi Mssedi told AFP.

A policeman in charge of security at the museum has been arrested, judiciary spokesman Sofiene Sliti told AFP, without disclosing the charges.

In a reminder of the fragile security situation in the country credited as the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings, a soldier was killed and two wounded late Sunday near the border with Algeria.

Tunisia has struggled to quell a wave of extremist attacks on the police and army since a 2011 popular uprising that toppled long-time strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

President Beji Caid Essebsi, who served under Ben Ali, said Tunisia was hunting a third suspect in the Bardo massacre.

"Two were killed, but there is one who is now on the run," he told France media iTele television and Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

Officials had previously named two gunmen shot dead by security forces after the attack and said they had received training at militant camps in neighbouring Libya.

Authorities say as many as 3,000 Tunisians have gone to Iraq, Syria and Libya to join jihadist ranks, raising fears of returning battle-hardened militants plotting attacks.

The Bardo attack was the first claimed by IS in Tunisia after the militant group's apparent expansion to strife-torn Libya from its Syria and Iraq strongholds.

With feeble growth and a graduate unemployment rate of 30 percent, Tunisia relies heavily on tourist income.

"Our country is experiencing a serious economic crisis and the strategy of the terrorists is to add to this problem," Essid wrote in Monday's edition of the French newspaper Le Figaro.

Source: Modern Ghana

Major Neurosciences Initiative Launched At UCT and GSH

A major neurosciences initiative has been launched at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, in partnership with Groote Schuur academic hospital complex. The Neurosciences Initiative will bring together clinicians and researchers from a wide range of specialties, fostering collaboration in the treatment of a number of neurological disorders, including stroke, central nervous system infection and trauma, among others.

An ideal site has been identified at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town. The facility will be developed to include the academic departments of key neuroscience disciplines, laboratories, a neuroimaging facility and highly specialised, multidisciplinary clinics, which will complement and enhance the existing clinical activities at Groote Schuur hospital.

The CEO of Groote Schuur Hospital, Dr Bhavna Patel said: “Groote Schuur Hospital is proud to be a part of this initiative in providing a Clinical Neuroscience service to its patients. We would like to thank the University for the contribution to this hospital facility, which will be world renowned in clinical service, teaching and research. Our partnership can only grow in strength going forward.”

The initiative will advance care and transform research and teaching in the neurosciences in Africa by drawing together an array of expertise in neurosurgery, neurology, neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry and neuroimaging. It will also partner with other disciplines such as engineering, the arts and disability studies, creating a facility where patients can access the highest quality of care and the most cutting-edge treatment options.

Interim Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Prof Gregory Hussey said: “Neurosciences is the new frontier of medical research at UCT. Through this initiative, we aim to make a contribution not only in South Africa, but in Africa and globally. The Initiative will address the needs of our continent’s people and open new ways for Africa to contribute to the global body of knowledge in this rapidly advancing field.”

The vision of the Neurosciences Initiative has been made reality through a R25 million financial donation from UCT alumnus, David and Ursel Barnes, and fundraising efforts will continue in order to finance the development of this state-of-the-art facility.

Head of the Division of Neurosurgery, Prof Graham Fieggen said: “The majority of people suffering from common neurological disorders live in low and middle-income countries. There is a need to understand these disorders within the context of our own continent. We cannot simply import models from the Global North.”

UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Danie Visser said: “UCT is excited that this Initiative will integrate the laboratory, clinic and community, so that clinicians and researchers can collaborate to offer rapid translation of contemporary treatment options.”

The launch of the Neurosciences Initiative in Cape Town on March 23 was hosted by UCT Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price and attended by the University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, and a delegation of leading researchers from both universities. UCT researchers have been meeting with their University of Oxford counterparts in Cape Town to discuss a range of collaborations that could make valuable inroads in research from neurosciences and malaria, to land reform and HIV.

Source: Modern Ghana

Monday, 23 March 2015

Inaugural Conference and AGM of Wi-Fi Forum of South Africa

The newly-established Wi-Fi Forum of South Africa (Wi-Fi Forum SA) is holding its inaugural conference today in Johannesburg, South Africa. Wi-Fi Forum SA will play an active and positive role in the development of the Wi-Fi industry in South Africa, and will represent the views of all stakeholders in the sector, as well serve as provide for a knowledge-sharing and networking platform.

Established in November 2013, today’s inaugural conference will highlight significant new developments in the Wi-Fi sector and discuss the development of an effective self-regulatory framework for South Africa. The speakers include Dr Siyabonga Cwele (Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services), Andile Ngcaba (Convergence Partners and Dimension Data), Ton Brand (Wireless Broadband Alliance) and a host of knowledgeable and well-respected industry and regulatory experts. Also on the agenda is the changing regulatory landscape and role of self-regulatory models for the industry. Commercial models for developing and deploying Wi-Fi infrastructure alongside technical discussions on new standards and technologies in the wireless access space will also be included.

More than 200 delegates are expected to attend and participate in the event from the various stakeholder groups. In addition, the conference will be followed by the inaugural Annual General Meeting of the Wi-Fi Forum SA where a new management committee will be elected.

Source: Balancingact-Africa

Firefox OS comes to Africa with Orange's $40 package deal

Mozilla's major new ally will sell its Klif phone and six months' network service in 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East. Orange likes Firefox OS's inexpensive hardware requirements and expects to sell millions.

The Orange Klif is Firefox OS phone that the French carrier will sell in 13 African and Middle Eastern countries starting in the second quarter of 2015. The price of up to $40 includes six months of voice, text, and data service.The Orange Klif is Firefox OS phone that the French carrier will sell in 13 African and Middle Eastern countries starting in the second quarter of 2015. The price of up to $40 includes six months of voice, text, and data service. Stephen Shankland/CNET

The Klif, announced at the Mobile World Congress show, the move is a ringing endorsement of Mozilla's Firefox OS plan, which aims to break down some of the barriers in the mobile market by spreading its browser-based operating system. Mozilla concluded that the market most vulnerable to attack is a super low-budget category in developing nations, where Google's Android operating system isn't an option because it requires more powerful, expensive hardware.

"We will address this part of the population who still don't have access to the Internet," said Yves Maitre, Orange's executive vice president of connected objects and partnerships. "In this part of the world, the smartphone penetration is 11 percent. In sub-Saharan countries, it's around 5 percent."

Smartphones have swept the world, providing new ways for people to communicate, share photos, purchase products, play games, watch video and learn what's going on. But the novelty has worn off in wealthier countries, where smartphone market is relatively saturated. Developing countries, in contrast, are ripe for growth.

Orange will sell the phone with voice and text-messaging services, but it's the 500MB per month of 3G data service that the company thinks will stand out. And even though it's inexpensive, it'll still be profitable for the company, even if customers don't stick with Orange beyond the initial six-month period.

The phone package will go on sale in the second quarter in 13 countries -- Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Cameroon, Botswana, Madagascar, Mali, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Niger, Kenya, Mauritius and Vanuatu. Orange today has 180 million customers. Orange, which has 97.5 million customers in Africa and the Middle East, also does business in Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Morocco, the Republic of Central Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, so it's a major ally for Mozilla.

Maitre wouldn't detail how Firefox OS phone sales projections, but said, "We expect millions."

The Middle East and Africa should see 33 percent growth in 2015, according to analyst firm GfK. The area has "significant room for growth as consumers migrate from feature phones and existing smartphones to trade up to a bigger screen."

Android has taken off, though, even if not everyone can afford it. In the fourth quarter of 2011, only 4 percent of phones shipped with Google's OS in the Middle East and Africa, but by 2014, it rose to 42 percent, GfK said. Meanwhile, feature phone shipments dropped from 80 percent to 49 percent during that period.

Mozilla's Firefox OS competes chiefly against Apple's iOS and Google's Android.Mozilla's Firefox OS competes chiefly against Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Mozilla

The Klif won't compete against flagship phones arriving at Mobile World Congress like the Samsung Galaxy S6 or the HTC One M9. But it is a good phone, Maitre said.

"When the working group started on this proposal, we all decided either we would reach something really breakthrough with good quality or we don't do it," Maitre said. "We don't want is to give something low-level."

The phone itself has a 3.5-inch 480x320 screen, a 2-megapixel camera, 512MB of storage, 1300mAh battery and 256MB of memory. Powering it is a 1GHz MediaTek processor that's exclusive to Orange, said marketing director Guillaume de Riberolles.

So how much cheaper is it than an Android smartphone?

The company's cheapest Android phone, the Pixi, costs about 40 percent more than the Klif, and that's with no data plan, Maitre said. "The hardware specs requested by Android Lollipop are much higher than the ones we have with with Mozilla's Firefox OS 2.0 and 2.2 at the end of the year," he said.

Why Firefox OS?

It wasn't just a matter of price, though. Firefox OS also works in local languages that Android doesn't support, he added, and Mozilla supports carrier billing in countries where Google still only accepts payments by credit card.

"We hope a partner like Google will realize they need to open their billing system," Maitre said.

Firefox OS also doesn't require any signup -- no Gmail account, for example -- and even works with customers who are illiterate, Maitre added.

"They should be able to take the phone out of the box and start using it without creating any email account," Maitre said. "With Mozilla, you take phone, put in the battery, put in the SIM card, and you run. That's it.

Most of these people are not used to complicated registration. It is a little bit scary to go away from feature phone."

Firefox OS got its big start in Latin America but also is an option in eastern Europe, India, and some Asian nations. Until now, though, Mozilla didn't have any carrier partners bringing the technology to Africa.

"This is an important step for us," said Mozilla Chief Technology Officer Andreas Gal about the push to Africa and the Middle East. It also will help the company push to Firefox OS 2.0, the first version to support right-to-left languages like Arabic.

Orange is a Firefox OS fan, but it's not dropping its Android line.

"We've been absolutely successful with the Pixi. We will not stop selling it. It's not addressing the same market segment," Maitre said.

And Firefox isn't perfect, either, added Jean-Marc Polga, Orange's device program manager. It needs even more local-language support, for one thing. "We also want to see them develop the ecosystem," meaning Mozilla needs to encourage more programmers to write apps that are relevant. "That's one area they're going to have really start to work on."

Source: Balancingact-Africa