Bird & Bird Emerging Markets Newsletter May 2012

In Africa, Banking already means e-banking and m-banking


Mobile banking is crucial for Sub-Saharan African countries. Indeed, in countries where banking networks are very limited and where people largely have no banking services (Africa is the continent with the lowest rate of use of the banking system in the world, with an average of 5 bank branches per 1,000 inhabitants), mobile banking offers very useful banking and financing solutions. Microfinance institutions (IMF) can benefit from mobile banking as it allows them to keep their debts clean and enlarge their customer bases. Banks can also take advantage of mobile banking since it increases additional

income while decreasing banking services' costs. As a matter of fact, banks are already working with telecommunication operators in order to boost their competitiveness through the use of mobile banking. Finally, mobile banking drastically reduces the maintenance costs of currency circulation for central banks.


It was in this context that the fourth edition of the "Salon de la monétique et des services bancaires" (Simbank 2012) opened in Abidjan on April 24, 2012, focusing on the following topic: "Ivorian Coast's banks: economic recovery". Business experts, bankers, electronic money operators, solution integrators, electronic money equipment distributors, etc. gathered there to promote electronic money, interbanking and dematerialisation in the banking sector.


Mobile-money users in Africa.JPG

Operators have already started to develop new services. Kenya started first with the M-Pesa program, launched by Safaricom in co-operation with Vodafone. MTN Bénin, through MTN Mobile Money and in partnership with Ecobank Bénin, offers its subscribers new services including opening bank accounts, money transfers, deposits and withdrawal. With the authorization of the Central Bank of West African States and the transitional regulatory authority for postal and telecommunications services MTN Mobile Money is able to ensure that its subscribers are always able to access their money, wherever they are. 


This innovation was achieved through a partnership between MTN Bénin and Ecobank Bénin, the pan-African bank which numbers 140,000 customers.  Subscription to this new

service does not require a bank account to be opened, valid ID being sufficient. Non-subscribers can also use this service to receive money transferred from clients registered with MTN. Payment services for basic service bills, such as electricity, are also being developed throughout Africa.


New players are also designing mobile financial service platforms configured for mobile network operators and financial institutions. For example, Fundamo, which develops this type of platform, is widely present in emerging countries. Initially owned by an African group of South African private investors, Fundamo has recently been acquired by Visa, an US company. There is also Obopay, which has been purchased by Nokia, or Comviva, a subsidiary of the Indian telecommunications group Bharti which holds a strong position in Africa in the telecommunication sector. These examples show how dynamic this market has become in only a few years. In addition, Visa Europe and Google have just announced an agreement regarding the utilisation of Visa payWave, a contactless payment solution based on the Near Field Telecommunication (NFC) technology.

From a technical point of view, most platforms use solutions identical to those already implemented for SMS or USSD technologies. They have been enhanced in order to ensure secure communications, in particular regarding encryption standards and the identity of those using these standards. However, considering the significant increase in traffic, the issue of security remains critical. In Kenya, fraud is now feared as transactions have significantly increased and as new services have been developed. Thus, new players are emerging. They offer complementary solutions to overcome vulnerabilities affecting solutions which are already implemented. Among these actors, S2M, a Moroccan company, is one of the leaders in the electronic payment field. Likewise, TagPay, a solution developed by Tagatittude, is already distributed in 30 countries. This solution addresses a real need, the development of electronic money in local facilities. Moreover, this solution is efficient but appears to be only transitional whilst awaiting NFC technology. NFC technology is universal but its implementation is delayed due to a lack of appropriate terminals and devices. In other words, the technology is mature but the ecosystem is not yet ready. Regardless, tests are being carried out throughout the world, including in Africa, and many actors are basing their hope and strategy on this technology. For example, companies such as Airtel and Etisalat are currently working on the development of this standard in countries where it is implemented, including in Africa. The same can be said regarding Estel Technologies for the deployment of the NFC platform. Regarding usage, despite the obstacle to be overcome of people not being used to using electronic payment, adoption of new services is occurring fast as the steps that users need to follow are being simplified. In short, regarding m-banking, Africa is leading the innovation process. 


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Business opportunities


Nigeria to liquidate telecom firms NITEL, MTEL
Having accumulated huge debts and failed privatisation bids, the Nigerian state-owned fixed-line telecoms provider (NITEL) and its mobile subsidiary (M-TEL) are to be liquidated according to 'guided liquidation' strategy adopted by the government.

Guided liquidation means that the buyers of the liquidated company NITEL and its subsidiary, M-TEL, either as a whole or separately, must remain in the Telecoms sector of the economy. The operation was approved by the National Council on Privatisation (NCP). However the Senate Committee on Privatisation rejected plans for liquidation.

The Committee chairman, Sen. Gbenga Obadara, blamed the attitude of some Federal Government agencies who had contributed to the collapse of the companies by refusing to settle their debts owed to the companies. He promised that the Committee would ensure that all government agencies, in debt to NITEL settled their debts, without further delay. Mr Obadara said the Committee would also tour all NITEL offices in the country to determine the exact value of the companies. He criticised the government's plans to liquidate the companies without making any effort to find out their assets but only to highlight their liabilities.


Angola bets on telecommunications
10 years after the end of Angola's civil war, the country has made enormous strides towards rebuilding its economy, which is expected to grow by around 8% this year.

The rapid growth of the economy has led to a boom in infrastructure development. In this context, the Angolan government is working on a strategic infrastructure plan to support growth in telecoms. At the opening ceremony of the seminar on "Information Technologies", the Angolan minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, João Carvalho da Rocha stated that the Angolan Government would create the telecommunication infrastructure support as part of its strategic plan. According to the official, a fibre optic network is also to be built across the country, connecting all 18 provinces. It also means a major upgrade in the mobile phone network available to Angolans.

Angola is in the process of obtaining high-speed 4G services - ahead of most of Europe and many parts of the US - thanks to a $100m project underway there. The phone operator Movicel - one of Africa's biggest GSM providers – has gone into partnership with Chinese phone giant ZTE to bring in 4G. ZTE provides all the equipment - including handsets and it will also play a crucial role in the $1bn upgrade of Movicel's entire system. However ZTE doesn't manufacture in Angola - it brings all its equipment direct from China.

The initial 4G roll-out includes the oil-producing region of Cabinda, as well as 15 densely-populated cities and towns including Luanda. The next phase will cover another 30 cities. The operator is expecting to reach one million 4G customers by the end of the year. This is part of a wider strategy to boost its overall subscriber base from 4.5m to 7m.

Movicel is also expected to place an order for 4G tablet computers.


Afghanistan seeks satellite partner
The Afghanistan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA) has issued a tender for the country's first communications satellite in an effort to improve rural broadcast coverage and boost internet access, reports


African Union wants to extend its VSAT connectivity
African Union seeks to explore the possibility of enhancing existing (VSAT) infrastructures in terms of (i) new bandwidth efficient satellite access technology for optimised operation, (ii) efficient service provision, (iii) reduced cost of operation, (iv) adequate room for further growth and (v) flexible and secured operation.



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Regulatory News 


Regional Harmonisation
ECOWAS member states work on harmonisation of cyber security and legal framework on cyber crime in the region

Adopting a legal framework to fight against cyber crime in Africa is the objective assigned to parliamentarians and telecommunications experts from 15 countries of West Africa attending the ECOWAS workshop on harmonization of cyber legislation in West Africa at the end of February.
Member States were asked to send to the ECOWAS Commission, the African Union and Economic Commission for Africa their comments on the draft of African Union Convention on electronic transactions, personal data and the fight against cybercrime. The experts called on the West African ECOWAS Commission to integrate cyber security regional legal framework existing in reference to the AU project convention.

Source: Notre Voie

National regulations
Ghana - NCA warns subscribers to register their SIM cards

According to the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulations, adopted in 2011, no SIM card after March 3rd can be used if not duly registered. Therefore, no mobile network operator shall be able to activate a SIM card for a new customer without it having been registered. In addition, existing subscribers who have either not registered their SIM cards or whose earlier registrations are invalid are required to re-register, failing which their SIM cards will be de-activated.

Ghana's telecoms regulator (NCA) has given mobile subscribers an additional month to rectify incomplete SIM card registration data before their accounts are cut off.

In Africa, Ghana is not the sole country to enforce new rules on identification obligations of telecommunications services users. It is a major challenge within countries where 99% of the market is prepaid, but governments and operators seem ready to cooperate due to the security issues raised by the international community.


Poor quality of networks - Burkina Faso sanctions three mobile companies
Network unavailability, failure or untimely cut-offing of calls, non-compliance of the quality of services indicator, lack of internet connection The total amount of the penalty is $ 2.7 billion CFA francs (more than 4 million euro), or more than 1 billion for Telmob, around 900 million for Airtel and over 700 million for Telecel. The operators have two weeks to pay the penalty. Moreover, from this date, they have a further period of three months in which to correct deficiencies.


New telecommunications regulator in Ivory Coast
The amended telecommunications law establishes a new institutional framework which is characterised by the creation of a new independent regulatory authority. The Regulatory Authority of the telecommunications sector of Ivory Coast (Artci) is a structure which will take over most of the current tasks of the Agency for Telecommunications of Ivory Coast (ATCI) and the Telecommunications Council of Ivory Coast. In addition to this new structure, the Minister announced the creation of two entities which will ensure the management of frequency allocation and universal service.

Source: Notre Voie

Liberia: Senate Releases Final Report on the taxation of international inbounds calls
The Special Investigative Committee of the Liberian Senate setup to probe the controversial imposition of US$14 cents on all in-bound calls by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) Tuesday, April 17, 2012 released its final report and recommendations to the Plenary of the Liberian Senate, the highest decision making body of the Liberian Senate. According to the report, the US$14 cents imposed on the inbound calls has no economic effect on local GSM subscribers. The extra tax will also boost government's revenue generation in the communication sector as well encourage expansion. The LTA should be mandated to ensure that the extra US$14 cents does not affect local subscribers by inflicting price of local calls. It is recommended that all money collected by the LTA should be deposited into the government consolidated revenue account at the Ministry of Finance. The LTA cannot use the revenue at its own discretion in building its institutional capacity.

Source: Heritage

India's Top Court Declines Review of 2G License Cancellation
Indian telecom operators, hit by cancellations of licenses due to a corruption scandal, will benefit from a respite of three months before the entry into force of this measure planned in June.

In February, the Court ordered that the licenses granted in 2008 should be cancelled in four months as there were irregularities in the allocation of these licenses which were sold at basement prices. Therefore, new licensing should be organised.

With the deadline approaching and no allocation procedure in place, the Supreme Court has postponed its decision to September 7th. This decision is also motivated by the fact that some of the operators concerned by this measure have been bought by foreign companies since then. The new deadline is welcome for those who want to pursue their activities in India which is not the case for all. Bahrain Telecommunications and Etisalat have announced their intention to withdraw completely from the Indian market.

The Norwegian operator Telenor has depreciated to 515 million Euros the rest of its assets in India, and warned it might also withdraw completely from the market.

As for the Russian operator Sistema, it wants to continue its activities by obtaining new licenses. However, while it hoped to recover frequencies under favourable conditions, the Indian Regulator (TRAI) has recently proposed an auction mechanism with a base price for frequencies ten times higher than the frequencies cancelled.

Source: Les Echos

Cameroon: reinforcement of regulator
The presidential decree signed on April 20 specifies that the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART) will have the power to penalise operators falling to meet their obligations and using anticompetitive practices. It will therefore have powers of regulation, control, investment, injunction, enforcement and sanctions.

The ART is under the technical supervision of the Ministry in charge of telecommunications and the financial supervision of the Ministry in charge of Finance.


Senegal: repeal of a contentious authorisation of an infrastructure operator
The concession agreement, singed by ex-president Abdoulaye Wade, which granted an infrastructure authorisation to MTL infrastructure and services, was repealed by the new elected president Macky Sall. This case caused a stir when the press revealed, some time ago, that the fourth license was awarded without tender process.



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Who does what


Data center market: Japanese global company expands its footprint in Africa
A Japanese company Hitachi Data Systems has bought South Africa based IT company Shoden which is a South African provider of data centre technology both in its home country and in Sub-Saharan Africa. The acquisition of Shoden is the first one in Africa for Hitachi Data System. It represents rather a small operation but Hitachi has been investing for a while in emerging markets like China and Brazil and as time goes by they have been seeing good growth potential in South Africa and some other Sub-Saharan countries.

The data center market in Africa has a positive future. There are emerging solutions like cloud services that could make IT services more readily available for use by businesses.


Telecom companies interested in Libyan sector
International firms are keen to enter Libya's telecommunications sector. This is one of the major business opportunities created by the Arab spring. For instance, Etisalat wants to acquire a licence in Libya or invest in one of the North African country's existing operators, its chairman told Reuters last week. Etisalat bid for Libya's third mobile licence in 2009, but the licence was never awarded.

Under Kaddafi, Libya's economy was isolated from foreign competition and reserved for his own circle. That makes the market attractive to new entrants. Libya has two state mobile operators, Madar and Libyana, while another government-linked firm Lap Green Networks is active in several African countries including Uganda and Ivory Coast.

However, the political situation is still too unstable and risks compromising investments.


Egypt seeks explanations on Orascom-France Telecom deal
The Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority will examine why Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE may sell part of its stake to France Telecom SA after rejecting a higher bid in 2009. The Egyptian market regulator said that Orascom Telecom Media should explain the agreement with France Telecom to its shareholders and those of Mobinil.

France Telecom said it reached a preliminary agreement to buy most of Orascom Telecom Media's stake in their Mobinil venture at 202.5 Egyptian pounds ($33.56) a share. The same offer will be made to minority investors in the Egyptian Co. for Mobile Services, also known as Mobinil. That's 42.5 pounds less than an offer by France Telecom in 2009 that Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, headed by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, blocked in court.


Zimbabwe government blocks Econet
The government has blocked a bid by Econet Wireless to install a fibre optic cable connecting Zimbabwe to high-speed undersea cables in Mozambique.

Transport and Communications minister Nicholas Goche told recently that the service was already being provided by Econet's competitor, State-run TelOne. In fact, the Government policy is that service providers must not compete for the provision of infrastructure, but for the provision of services. It is also government policy that the public sector must provide infrastructure such as national backbone and that mobile cellular companies ride on the infrastructure.

Source: Bulawayo24

Liberalization of international gateway may close Sierratel
In a letter addressed to the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Information, Sierratel warns that the deregulation and full liberalization of Sierra Leone's international gateway could lead to the shuttering of this government-owned operator.

Sierratel has monopoly control of the international gateway and provides gateway services to other telcos such as Sierra Leone's three major GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) providers -- Airtel, Africell and Comium -- as well as ISPs (Internet service providers). The liberalization of the country's gateway is one of the conditions set by the World Bank for Sierra Leone's participation in the consortium of ACE cable.

Sierratel faces several problems, including difficulty paying staff as well as incessant cable theft. Liberalization of the international gateway would deprive Sierratel of the US$150,000 monthly revenue in gateway services.


Etisalat boosting its satellite capacity in Africa with Intelsat
United Arab Emirates telecommunications company Etisalat announced on Tuesday that it was boosting its capacity on Intelsat 22 in an effort to boost its presence in Africa.

The new multi-transponder agreement enables Intelsat to use the satellite's capacity to expand the reach of its broadband and GSM backhaul services to its customers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and central Asia."

Intelsat 22, expected to launch next month, is a new satellite constructed by Boeing Space Systems. The satellite is planned to be located at 72 degrees East Longitude over the Indian Ocean and it will provide additional capacity over key regions like the Middle East, Africa and Asia.


MTN awarded two new licences in West Africa
South African Mobile operator MTN has been awarded 3G licences in Ivory Coast and Benin.

In Benin, MTN was granted a universal licence allowing the operator to provide mobile telecommunications services within an agreed frequency range without additional fees. This includes 3G, 4G, LTE, Wimax, Wi-Fi outdoor as well as the use of VoIP.


Tanzania: Government's national backbone completed
Tanzania is rolling out its national backbone and connecting it to its neighbors. The second phase of Government's national backbone has been completed. Also at the beginning of April this year, Tanzania dropped its bandwidth prices and amended its multi-drop access to make it cheaper. Local operators are pleased about these developments but would like to see rates come down further.


Commercial launch of LION2 submarine cable
FT-Orange and the other members of consortium (the Group's subsidiaries Mauritius Telecom, Orange Madagascar and Telkom Kenya, as well as two other operators, Emtel Ltd and SRR Société Réunionnaise du Radiotéléphone) announced on April 12th the launch of commercial services on LION2 submarine cable. Therefore, the LION submarine cable (Lower Indian Ocean Network) which links Madagascar to the global broadband network via the Réunion and Mauritius islands has now been extended to Kenya via Mayotte. This new cable concludes the second phase of the Group's strategy to expand broadband internet connectivity in the Indian Ocean.


Cameroon: payment of electricity bills by phone or Internet
The CEOs of MTN, telecom operator and AES Sonel, electricity provider, signed a partnership agreement on April 11th whereby subscribers of AES Sonel will be able to pay their bills via MTN e-money services. This service offers three payment options: mobile phone, Internet and retail outlets to MTN.


E- money: Tunisia launches mdinar
On 25th April the Arab International Bank of Tunisia (BIAT) and Viamobile operator launched electronic money - the "mdinar" for transferring money by telephone or Internet. Without being a BIAT customer or even having a bank account, it is henceforth possible to benefit from this financial product. In order to transfer money to a beneficiary, the sender only has to indicate the phone number of the recipient (mdinar account) so the amount could be transferred. All subscribers, regardless of their operator in Tunisia (Tunisie Telecom, Orange and Tunisiana), can open a free mdinar account on which the only charge will be removed on money transfers.


Central Africa: 1500 km of optical fiber network
The agreement on financing the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa has been signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, Economy and international Cooperation Bedoumra Kordjé. The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilisation of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

Estimated at around 15 billion CFA francs (30 million USD), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal. Financial participation by Chad is for 4 billion CFA francs (8 million USD). This agreement will help landlocked Chad out of its unfavorable geographical situation.


Qtel will have to fight for Tunisiana
After having obtained the 3G license in a custom-made tender process, Qatar Telecom (Qtel) will have to fight hard to acquire 25% stake in Tunisiana which it does not control yet.

The Tunisian government has opted for an international tender to sell its shares in Tunisiana. Held previously by Sakhr El Materi, son-in-law of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, they were seized by the state. Faced with a difficult financial situation, the government must take full advantage of this operation.

Source : La Lettre du Continent

News in brief

  • Bharti Airtel launches India's first 4G service
  • Sao Tome launches a bid for a second mobile license
  • Nokia to set up global research hub in Nairobi
  • Orange will soon own 95% of Mobinil, the number 1 operator in Egypt
  • The Liberian Telecommunications Authority is preparing an operation of establishment and divestiture of the government's ownership interest in the Cable Consortium of Liberia. In this regard, it's looking for an advisor.

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Contact Us

France Frederique Dupuis-Toubol

[email protected]

Katia Duhamel [email protected]
UK Graeme Maguire [email protected]
Colin Long [email protected]


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