3 Feb 2011

A looming broadband revolution in West & Central Africa: Are better days ahead??

In the same way that the past decade has however been pivotal for both economic and political growth in West & Central Africa, it has also seen rise to the growth of African Information Communications Technology (ICT). For many nations, the ability to connect to the global network of submarine broadband optical fibre infrastructure has been the principal trigger for this development, creating an increasingly enabling environment to the information superhighway that dominates the 21st century. Mobile telephony in particular has greatly benefitted, constituting a significant service delivery platform for the population. Yet this overall picture, characterised by increasing competition and decreasing costs of connectivity, with predictions of 100% growth of the mobile market in the next 5 years (Informa Telecoms & Media) , hides the inequalities that continue to pervade the region. In particular, countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe have continued to be subject to the highest connectivity costs in the world and distanced from the increasing geographical reach of broadband networks.

World Bank works to boost Africa’s connectivity
So the news in January 2011 that the World Bank has approved 3 projects to boost ICT infrastructure and access to services in these three countries surely may have the greatest revolutionary impact on the region. With the principles of commercialisation and liberisation at their heart, the initiatives, totalling a huge US$71.5 million dollars, look promising in reaching the ultimate goal of ubiquitous connection. Whilst these areas have habitually been down-trodden as small and unattractive markets to the traditional investor, the World Bank is stepping into pastures new. This in itself will at the least reduce the region’s damaging stigma, and at most, catalyse investment by others into the region.

Successful scaling-up of internet access?
Evidently, now is a crucial time for the region as these initiatives set to work. To what extent will the ‘connectivity challenge’ in these regions remain as the projects transpire? Will they be the first domino to fall, triggering widespread regional growth for ICT? Yusupha Crookes, World Bank Africa Regional Director, states that ‘better days are now ahead’. Only time will tell but I must say it looks promising. If successful, such scaling up of internet access will ultimate lead to advances in communication, in itself leading to vast improvement s in economic and social quality of life.

With such wide-spread impacts to potentially be made on the entire West & Central African, evolving networks and services must be thoroughly examined and monitored to capture the region’s growth potential. The market needs to be thoroughly consulted as to the best ways to build the infrastructure to improve the access to these communications, to look at issues of cost-efficiency, to look at value-added services which can be targeted to local consumers’ needs... To find the ONLY forum focused on the West & Central African region where such pivotal issues are addressed click here: http://wcafrica.comworldseries.com/.

1 Feb 2011

East African Operator CxOs Plan to Meet in Nairobi to Discuss Strategies for Healthy Competition in the Region

The East African telecoms markets, and in particular the Kenyan & Ugandan markets, have seen stiff competition – especially around price.  With ARPU decreasing to just US$7.13, operators are left wondering how they can improve their bottom line, despite having to diminish their prime source of income from customers. 

In response to this, convergence, broadband and value added services are becoming an increasing part of operator strategies, with Informa Telecoms & Media reporting that mobile broadband subscriptions in East Africa grew by 105% in 2010 to reach 690,707.  A mix of technologies are being deployed to offer these broadband services as  mobile, satellite and fixed-line operators and ISPs compete with bundle prepaid options.

With this array of challenges and growth opportunities, East Africa Com is the perfect forum for operators needing to get together, discuss, and learn.  15 CxOs from East African operators have so far confirmed their participation at East Africa Com – the region’s leading executive-level telecoms conference & exhibition – which will take place in the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, on the 5th and 6th April www.comworldseries.com/eafrica

These Operator CxO speakers include; Richard Bell, Group CEO, Wananchi Group; Atul Chaturvedi, CEO, Yu Kenya; Bhaskar Chakraborty, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Airtel Africa; Mickael Ghossein, CEO, Orange Telkom Kenya; Michel Barré, VP East Africa & Islands Region, Orange France-Telecom Group; John Barorot, CTO, Safaricom; Peter Arina, CCO, Safaricom; Norman Moyo, CEO, Zantel Tanzania; Peter Reinartz, CEO, Zuku Kenya; Julius Kinyua, CEO, Flashcom, Kenya; Khalil Nassar, CTIO, Vivacell, Southern Sudan; James Byraruhanga, CTO, Roke Telkom, Uganda, amongst others.

They will offer expert observations and best practice advice on issues like: mergers and acquisitions in the region; Airtel Africa’s arrival; competing in the converging East African arena; connecting East Africa - strategies to leverage greater network capacity & drive access to communications; network evolution & the leap to LTE; VAS - delivering real value to customers; operator competitive strategies - ensure prime positioning to thrive in East African markets; strategies for a fair playing field & customer centricity; intelligent and cost-effective extension of networks for rural access to communications; rural telecoms - reaching out with services for new growth; and how to defeat telecoms fraud to discover lost revenue.

East Africa Com is the only annual event dedicated to the communications industry of East Africa where 850 operators (fixed, mobile, wireless), ISPs, regulators, investors and vendors from the region gather to debate the opportunities and challenges facing their markets. The conference will be co-located with an exhibition that showcases the latest innovations from over 30 telecoms companies in East Africa and across the globe. Find out more online: www.comworldseries.com/eafrica