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Local smart commerce platform KOKO exploring options in wifi, digital goods & payment of e-gov services

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Local smart commerce platform KOKO Networks is looking at expanding its platform to include wireless broadband, digital content distribution and payment of e-government services in its planned second phase of growth.

Speaking to TechMoran, KOKO’s Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Sagun Saxena, explained that the firm’s first business line, an ethanol cooking fuel solution branded SmartCook, is progressing well.  The company has installed its “KOKOpoint” fuel dispensers in nearly a dozen different parts of Nairobi, and will continue to expand its presence gradually this year while it focuses on building up a large agent pipeline for city-wide launch next year.  By the end of 2018, it expects to have a very dense network of KOKOpoints throughout Nariobi, serving mass-market consumers within 300 meters of their front-doors.

KOKO says the response to SmartCook’s “Soft Launch” earlier this year has been tremendous, with users appreciating the cleanliness, safety and bite-size affordability of the modern cooking solution.

Saxena tells TechMoran that distribution of SmartCook fuel via these automated fuel dispensers is working safely and efficiently, and the firm is very pleased with the feedback from customers and Agents alike.

And although KOKO is focused on scaling up access to the SmartCook solution via its network of KOKOpoints in the short term, back in its labs, its team is working on some exciting opportunities to expand the platform.

“Our team is working closely with several companies on expanding the KOKO platform to include e-commerce, wireless broadband connectivity, digital content distribution, fintech and e-government services,” Saxena explains.

Since its public unveiling in April 2017, KOKO has moved to establish a basic presence in Nairobi and is preparing for significant expansion across the city and in other large urban African markets in 2018.

“The experience we’ve gained so far in Nairobi is feeding continuous improvement of our technology and operating processes, resulting in valuable safety, performance and efficiency gains,” Saxena said.  “Major new software features have been released for KOKO’s customers, shopkeepers and partners.  For example, the new myKOKO android app enables customers to easily earn cash for convincing friends and family members to join SmartCook.

During its April launch, Saxena says major oil marketing companies showed a lot of interest in the firm and are now positioning themselves to use KOKO’s technology to supply ethanol cooking fuel to KOKOpoints near their petrol stations.  KOKO is currently running a process to cement an oil industry partnership that will help accelerate KOKO’s network buildout as it continues to expand production capacity of its consumer and fuel dispenser hardware to support next year’s city-wide launch.

The firm is also working closely with relevant bodies to strengthen the certification standards and regulatory environment for the nascent ethanol-based cooking industry that it is leading, to ensure that this innovative new energy industry segment develops to its full potential.

Yes, it’s a cliché, but nevertheless… watch this space!

Treasury set to roll out another M-Akiba despite undersubscription of initial offer

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Kenya’s treasury is set to roll out another M-Akiba offering in the market despite the initial one only managing to attract only 5,988 of the 303,534 investors who had registered.

M-Akiba is a Government of Kenya issued retail bond that seeks to enhance financial inclusion for economic development. Money raised from issuance of the mobile –based infrastructure bond  was expected to infrastructural development projects, both new and on-going.

The first offering helped treasury raise Sh247.75 million, which is 24.78 per cent of their target.

Investors had been invited to bids of up to Sh3.8 billion for the bond whose minimum investment is Sh3,000. The latter is unlike other conventional offerings whose minimum value is Sh50, 000.

The Business Daily reports that Treasury secretary Henry Rotich blames prolonged political uncertainty for the 25 per cent subscription of the Sh1 billion offering, which was on sale between June 30 and September 11.

“By and large, we saw a lot of people registering, but they did not take it up partly because people were busy with electioneering period and investment was not so much a focus. The timing was another issue and we should have done this probably after elections,” said Mr Rotich.

“But it is a continuous product and we will continue to come to market because Kenyans now know it more.”

The three-year retail bond offers a return of 10 per cent payable after every six months.

 

Nigeria Exits Recession As Economy Grows By 0.55%

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The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has declared that Nigeria is officially out recession according to the 2nd quarter (Q2) 2017 Gross Domestic Product figures.

The figures from the NBS showed that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.55% compared to -0.91 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2017 and -1.49% in the second quarter of 2016.

The NBS in August 2016 officially confirmed that Nigeria had gone into a recession following the release of statistics for the second quarter of 2016 which showed that the GDP declined by -2.06%.

 

 

 

Learning from MainOne’s Outage, Infrastructure sharing and consolidation are the solution to industry distress-Suleiman Arzika

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While the Nation was still reeling from the effects of the outage of the dominant international fiber cable operator Main One, we were hit with the news of the financial/commercial crisis at one of the 4 dominant telecommunications operators Etisalat Nigeria. The crisis was so severe that it looked for a while that the company may go into receivership. This seems to have now been averted by the unprecedented intervention of the industry regulator- the Nigeria Communications Commission and the banking regulator Central Bank of Nigeria. For now, the banks have been allowed to take over the management and board of the company to keep it afloat while they work out a long term solution to the survival of the 4th largest telco in the country.

In an economy that has been more than 18 months in recession, this was just the latest blow from one of the hitherto lucrative industries that were considered the most bankable and cash rich sectors of the Nigerian economy. Since the successful liberalization of the telecommunications industry in the early 2000s, it rapidly became one of the fastest growing business segments in the world growing from less than 1 million customers in 1999 to more than 100 million customers as at 2015. This follows the distress we have seen in Aviation- where the 2 largest carriers Arik Airlines and Aero Contractors have been in receivership and various tales of distress we hear from the financial sector. It is fair to say that these are not the best of times for corporate Nigeria and something needs to be done urgently to stabilize the economy.

That said, what went wrong in the telecommunications sector and could the current distress have been avoided or minimized? I will say yes from my perspective. And much more efficiency and margin can be created with some innovative and forceful consolidation. The telecommunications landscape today is littered with massive inefficiencies that are very costly and have distorted the structure and increased costs. If these are eliminated or reduced, it will create a better playing field and reduce the chokehold on the operators.

Typically, the telecommunications industry comprises of upstream and downstream segments. The upstream segment comprises of wholesalers which include international cable operators, national cable operators, international voice and data gateways and national voice and data gateways. This also includes colocation and data center providers. The customers for these providers are other telcos, large corporates and government.

In the downstream segment, we have the retail services. The players here are the telcos (GSM and other telephony operators), Internet Service Providers (fiber to the premises, wimax and 4G) and application service providers (whatsapp, Facebook, skype, etc). There are of course ancillary providers who fall into the downstream such as recharge card distributors, installers and contractors. The customers for these providers are individual subscribers, homes, small and medium offices, etc.

Because of the way telecommunications have evolved, there are some integrated players who are basically shaped by their history more than any other factor. These integrated players are mostly the former incumbent national operators like AT&T in the US, BT in the UK, France Telecom in France, DT in Germany, NTT in Japan and so on. These integrated players built from the ground up because they had to create the facilities for their services to run on because in the days when the industry was tightly regulated, no other operator was allowed to compete with them. NITEL in Nigeria would have been in this category if it had survived.

Changes in 2 major factors have always and will continue to determine fortunes in the telecom business- they are changes in technology and changes in consumer behavior. The 2 factors don’t necessarily go hand in hand. A lot of the time, the technology runs ahead of consumer behavior while in some cases, technology has to catch up with consumer demand (when this happens, it is a jackpot). Some examples may be helpful here, When 3G services were launched in the late 2000s, equipment manufacturers and telcos were eager to show customers the wonder of video calling. Suddenly, you could see the called party on a video on your phone. It turns out that people were not ready for this yet, they didn’t want to see the people they were talking to for all sorts of reasons including the cost of the call. The manufacturers and telcos had to beat back a retreat and focus on the larger data capabilities of 3G networks and allow OTT (over the top) providers like Skype to fiddle with video calling until they found the right fit. Up till today the telcos are not able to find customers for video calling in the way that OTT providers are. On the other hand, per second billing of voice calls was one instance where the consumer demand was ahead of the technology and it took a while before the manufacturers and telcos were able to meet this. One of our local telcos who was first to provide this made it a game changer and reaped massive benefits back in the day.

So with rapidly evolving technology and consumer behavior, the operators are forced to continuously innovate and adapt in order to remain profitable. While they are making profits today, they are forced to envision where these 2 factors are going and how to respond to them. In most cases it involves tearing down the entire network and rebuilding it which may be cheaper but not feasible because services cannot be interrupted for so long. This makes the older operators who have to adapt to new technology have much higher switching costs than newer operators- legacy problem. This is probably the only industry where history is a liability.

So with such a situation, the odds are always in favor of the operator who is nimble, agile, ruthless and focused on the value proposition. It is always against the heavier, legacy laden and deeply entrenched player. This is one of the mistakes of the Nigerian telcos. While they are fairly new operators, less than 20 years old in most cases, they have been in a rush to acquire heavy assets including fiber optic lines across international and national boundaries, towers, switching and transmission equipment, land and buildings and so on. They have also developed these in parallel to each other thereby replicating costs across the industry and building huge operating costs. A classic example of this is in the building of towers. It is common to see 3-4 telco towers in a 100 sq.m area because according to the radio spectrum planning, that location is ideal for the towers but instead of one tower that everyone will share, every operator has erected their own. The set up cost and operating cost over time is accumulated and passed on to the customer eventually which leads to avoidable higher prices.

The inability to envision and adapt to new technology has also caught the telcos in severe slumber and led to avoidable problems. At Suburban we saw this clearly when we adopted Internet Protocol( IP) technology far ahead of the industry and made huge gains throughout the period we were a wholesale transmission provider. While other operators were still investing in soon to be obsolete circuit switching or SS7 technology, the smarter operators went for IP. Today the entire ICT architecture the world over runs on IP and those who adopted early had a stable foundation to build on. Today, the telcos are being taken to the cleaners by Over the Top(OTT) operators like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, Google, etc. This is due to their inability to perceive that customer behavior will shift in that direction. Today the traditional voice and sms revenue that made the telcos extremely profitable has been totally eroded by these free services that actually run on their networks. Unfortunately they are relegated to just being internet/data services providers. Internet/data services are more complex to run and provide lower margins than voice and sms which has led to the current distress the telcos find themselves in.

While it will take individual efforts at each telco to change their approach and attitude towards perceiving and responding to customer demands, it is easier to take steps to reduce waste by some practical steps. If operators across the entire spectrum craft their value propositions by defining their markets and focusing on them, they can create room to maneuver. So there is no need for Main One to be a downstream ISP competing with its customers when it does not have redundancies and alternative routing to secure its main investment ie the international cable. Likewise Globacom does not need to be a national carrier building everything everywhere to provide facilities that it cannot monetize. The international and national cable operators need to to share and swap their cable capacities. They need to define and streamline their customers so that they don’t end up competing with and killing their customers. When they do this, they trigger a price war that they cannot sustain and hence a race to the grave. The proper industry structure needs to be agreed to protect operators investments and customers.

This may not be easy for players who have made careers out of antagonizing each other, so the regulator NCC may have to step in to get this done. The opportunity presented by the distress of Etisalat has presented the perfect excuse for the NCC to do just this. The template of banking consolidation by the Chukwuma Soludo Central Bank may provide the framework for this much needed intervention. Along with this consolidation, the regulator needs to establish strict corporate governance guidelines that will help ensure that the massive investments in the sector are properly secured. The Federal Government itself needs to be take this very seriously as it can be seen that the failure of such a huge institution like Etisalat can cause a financial crisis that will affect the banks and other financial institutions and derail foreign investment required for diversification of the national economy. Let this be a wake up call for all of us.

eTranzact continues profitability trend with 865.1 million naira PBT in 2016| Proposes 10k Dividend per share.

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eTranzact International PLC, Africa’s premier e-payments solution provider has announced a profit before tax of 865.1 million naira and revenue of 10.40 billion naira for the year ended December 2016.

In a year that was characterized by adverse sentiment triggers on the global front, falling oil prices and increased macroeconomic challenges, eTranzact was able to grow its revenue from 8.67 billion naira to 10.40 billion naira maintaining its 3 year profitability trend.

Speaking about the financial results, Niyi Toluwalope, Chief Financial Officer, eTranzact says;

“eTranzact continues to ensure it maximizes the value of its shareholders and stake holders. We will continue to invest in our core infrastructure to position the company for the expanding opportunities within the sector”.

eTranzact new logo

In 2016, eTranzact completed its strategic rebranding; making key changes to its brand identity, vision, mission, products and people helping the company take advantage of various opportunities.  The company also made efforts to align its processes and operating standards with global best practices achieving the ISO 27001 & ISO 20000 certifications recognizing service delivery and excellence. The certifications were testament to eTranzact’s commitment to a world-class, customer-oriented service culture and environment.

eTranzact certifications

eTranzact launched BankIT TM ,a payment service that allows businesses receive payment from bank accounts on Mobile, Web, USSD and POS without a debit card or hardware token.  In a short time of launch the product achieved significant traction processing millions of transactions for partners like Multichoice( DSTV and GOTV), Airtel, GLO, Etisalat, Slot, etc, providing the engine for millions of customers to pay subscription fees using 3899*SmartcardNumber#; buy airtime and data- *444# for Airtel, *805# for GLO and *695# for Airtel, as well as on the web for schools and ecommerce companies.

In partnership with the Nigerian military, the payment technology company also launched a Military pension product which allows over 100,000 retired members of the Army, Navy and Airforce access a biometric military pension card with a 4-in-1 value proposition: identification, verification, rewards, including receiving and making payments.

“Recognizing opportunities for partnerships, improved product focus, continued innovation, drive and commitment to the company’s vision of making payments simple helped our company navigate the challenging macroeconomic environment in 2016. We believe some of the strategic investments we have made across our business in 2016, have prepared us for an even better 2017”, says Valentine Obi, Founder and CEO, eTranzact.

More Top Skills to Have as a Startup Founder

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Founding a new company is always a challenge. You need a good handle on the market, the ability to lead a diverse team, and of course good business management skills. A lot of startups have failed in the past, not because of the lack of opportunities, but because their founders made some bad decisions along the way.

The recent failure of Popslate is a perfectly good example of how a great idea, amazing financial backing, and support from communities, as well as a great team, was still not enough. There are some more essential skills to have if you want to be a successful startup founder.

Problem Solving

Many founders and future startup owners are pursuing online masters in engineering, not because they need to learn how to develop their products – they usually have teams of engineers to do that – but because they need one critical skill: problem-solving. Engineers are natural problem solvers. The skills these founders acquire through the engineering online program will help them deal with challenges and issues effectively.

Online programs are considered the way to go because they allow you to pursue a master’s degree in a field of your choice while working on your product or running a startup. There are plenty of accredited programs to go for, especially now that top universities such as the University of California Riverside are opening their courses to more students.

Customer Experience Development

User experience is the most important aspect of your product, regardless of whether you’re developing a tangible product or a digital solution. The market is already very competitive as it is, so unless you offer a stellar user experience, it will be difficult to survive and attract more customers.

Unfortunately, not everyone can develop the right user experience to present through their products. There is one critical skill needed to be able to accomplish this, and that is the ability to think like the customer. After all, you are a customer.

This is an ability that can be mastered through training and experience. In order to fully understand what it is like to be a customer – and measure the user experience presented by your own product – you need to be able to think objectively, distance yourself from the company, and perform the necessary analysis to understand the bigger picture.

Research and Analysis

The last key skill to have as a startup owner is data analysis. There is no shortage of information to use when you’re running a business and trying to take a product to success. However, a special skill is needed to separate the important insights from noise – and to truly understand what the insights mean.

Data analysis is also a skill that can be mastered through formal education or experience. There are even short courses that help startup founders and future CEOs improve their ability to gather, process, and analyze information effectively. This, along with the previous skills we have covered in this article, will shape you into a better startup founder in no time.

 

Safaricom takes advantage of M-Akiba to increase M-Pesa transfer limit to take on Banks

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Plans are in the offing to raise the daily mobile money transaction ceiling from the current Sh140, 000 to accommodate higher purchases of the M-Akiba product launched on Thursday.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said the move is aimed at allowing those with a higher ability to buy the mobile-based government security instrument as the daily limitation may lock them out of the new investment.

“We are discussing with Central Bank of Kenya to see to what extent we can increase the daily limit to a higher amount to allow higher purchases. This is one way to allow as many Kenyans as possible to participate in Treasury bills, promote financial inclusion and boost our infrastructure financing,” said Mr Rotich.

The initial phase of the Sh5 billion government bond was launched on Thursday, with buyers allowed to take a minimum of Sh3,000 or a maximum of Sh140,000 a day exclusively via mobile phones.

The current offer runs until 10th April or until Sh150 million is raised with the remaining Sh4.85 billion expected to be floated in June.

Treasury has also planned a marketing drive before June to popularise the bond which attracts a 10 per cent interest paid bi-annually within a period of three years when it matures. It is also tax free.

M-Pesa which is the largest mobile money platform increased single limits from Sh35,000 in 2010 to Sh50,000 before the limit went up to the current Sh70,000. Vendors had complained of limitations of the channel especially in the purchase of air tickets.

Currently, one is allowed a maximum account balance is Sh100,000 but the daily transaction is capped at Sh140,000.

The CBK limits on e-payments amounts are aimed at curbing money laundering and fraud, but the new product may force further extension on the daily limits.

CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge, who was present at the launch, lauded the move, terming it a ‘transformational and a momentous milestone’ in deepening financial inclusion.

“This will dramatically change the savings culture of our people. The success of M-Akiba is a testimony of how collaboration can democratise finance and there are many other products coming to showcase Kenya as a hot bed for innovation beyond financial technology.”

 

 

 

Story Credits;Nation

 

 

How growth in e-commerce offers new opportunities for entrepreneurs.

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This may be surprising to hear, and even superior to see that entrepreneurs are maximizing the benefit of Internet presence. It has been pointed out that those taking advantage of it, are really experiencing significant gains. Entrepreneurs can often be emotional with the harsh reality of market struggle, but they just have to keep the lights on.

Online marketing and digital technology are complex and even to some extent unclear to the general public not everybody wants to spend their weekend figuring out how to optimize a market set out, and others, well, they are just not necessarily built for it.

Kenya’s electronic commerce market is geared up for major growth in the next five years as mobile internet performance continues to improve, a proposed national addressing system comes into existence, and people become more comfortable with digital transactions.

Kenyan’s eager adoption of person-to-person mobile payments creates a solid base for the growth of mobile and electronic commerce. “We’re seeing more and more Kenyans go online, thanks to cheaper smartphones and mobile data,” Divisional Director Sage Dr. Rutendo Hwindingwi said. Combine that with Kenyans’ comfort with electronic transactions after years of using mobile data, and we can expect to see digital shopping and commerce really start to take off.

Digital transactions in Kenya take place via smartphones and mobile broadband. This because of low fixed-line and Personal Computer penetration. However, the mobile experience has improved dramatically in recent years and it has become simple and enjoyable to shop from a smartphone.  With mobile money providers like M-PESA now adding APIs for smartphones to their products, they are opening up a range of new e-commerce applications and services.

Small and Medium Businesses are able to take advantage of the digital commerce wave as larger businesses. Platforms such as Facebook make it easy for entrepreneur’s interaction with customers, while affordable, packaged offerings like Sage Online Tools make it easy to construct and launch a marketing and mobile-ready e-commerce site.

For example, visualize being able to immediately check stock levels while standing next to a customer who found the business online, from a mobile device, then placing an order, running an invoice and accepting a payment – with all of these functions happening simultaneously via the cloud to sync with the accounting package.

According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, the e-commerce market in Kenya was worth around Ksh.4.3 billion in 2014. But with internet penetration of 82.6% and 35.5 million users (according to the authority), Kenya is one of the African countries best placed for a digital commerce explosion, ‘’Sh3billion in mobile transactions have already taken place in the country each day, according to statistics from the Communications Authority’’. Dr. Rutendo Hwindingwi.

 

 

ICANN calls for greater participation of African countries in the ICANN to harness Internet opportunities

ICANN President and CEO Goran Marby called for greater participation of African countries in the ICANN to draw from the wealth of experience needed to capitalize on the continent’s Internet resources.

“The African continent’s participation in ICANN is important and this why we have opened an ICANN engagement office here in Nairobi last year. Partcipation is growing every day, and we want to work together, within our mission, to make sure countries in Africa are well represented on one secure, stable and resilient global Internet,’’ noted Mr.Marby.

CA Director General Mr. Francis Wangusi lauded ICANN for its active engagement with African governments adding that Kenya was proud to host ICANN’s first regional engagement centre and the capacity building workshop.

“We are convinced that the continued capacity building of public policy makers and regulators on matters of Internet governance is crucial for the advancement of the Internet domain name system, which is a pillar to ICTs everywhere today,” said Mr.Wangusi.

The workshop also aims at raising awareness on how governments from underserved areas, through the Governmental Advisory Committee, can best effectively participate and contribute to policy making at ICANN.

On his part Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications and Technology, Mr. Joe Mucheru said Kenya has heavily invested in the expansion of Internet connectivity, to tap on its potential to catalyse socio-economic growth.

‘‘The proliferation of ICT innovations, improved government services and job creation are all benefits arising from Internet growth,” said Mr. Mucheru.

He added that given the vital nature of Internet resources, Kenya now identifies ICT infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure and called on African countries to synergize in the growth of country code top level domains (ccTLD) and Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) as well as Cyber Incident Response Teams (CIRTS).

‘‘There is need to support the growth of national and regional IXPs to promote Internet traffic growth and subsequent affordability as well as safety of the Internet,’’ added the Cabinet Secretary.

African countries have intensified efforts to build relevant capacity on the continent to fully exploit opportunities presented by the Internet.

With the Internet permeating virtually every aspect of life, in Africa, businesses and governments are increasingly relying on Internet as a vehicle for transformation.

Insufficient skills have slowed down the continent’s utilization of the Internet’s benefits.  Deliberate steps are necessary to address the capacity challenges.

Delegates from the region and officials from the global body responsible for assigning names and numbers, converged in Nairobi today to discuss how to leverage on the positive impact of the Internet how it can be translated into meaningful socio-economic gains.

The workshop convened by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya saw calls for increased investment in ICTs and associated infrastructure.

 

Accommodation reservation firm Booking.com pleased with its growth trajectory in Africa

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Booking.com, the global online accommodation reservation engine run by the Priceline Group is growing steadily in Africa with over 23,700 unique stays despite travel advisories and the continent’s reliance on seasonal wildlife tourism.

According to Joost Vermeulen, Regional Manager Middle East & Africa, Booking.com, “We’re pleased with the growth that we’ve seen in Africa in recent years and are looking forward to continuing to develop our business across the continent.”

 Vermeulen says since Booking.com opened its first African office in Cape Town in 2007, it has continued to follow the demand of its customers and now operates six offices in Africa with more than 100 employees, including two locations in South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg), two in Morocco (Casablanca and Marrakech), one in Ghana (Accra), and one in Nairobi, Kenya.

“While we started in Africa with only a few properties available on our site, we now offer more than 23,700 unique stays for our customers to enjoy all across the continent, including everything from conveniently-located city apartments and cosy rural houses to luxurious seaside resorts. As with everything we do at Booking.com, we listen and learn from our customers,” Vermeulen told TechMoran.

From his perspective, Booking.com’s investment has definitely been worth it—and there is still so much potential to be explored.

“We’re excited to help more travellers to discover the incredible natural beauty of Africa, as well as the amazing history, unique cultures and warm hospitality of the people, while at the same time contributing to the growth of local economies by empowering our accommodation partners from every corner of Africa to grow their businesses as they see fit,” he added.

Each day, over 1,200,000 room nights for both the leisure and business sectors are reserved on Booking.com sites and apps worldwide due to its best price guarantee on its properties, from small, family-run bed and breakfasts to executive apartments and five-star luxury suites. Founded in 1996, Booking.com is now available in more than 40 languages, and offers 1,125,104 active properties in 225 countries and territories. The firm is now focused on growing its presence in Kenya and across Africa for both its inbound and outbound bookings.

“Building strong local relationships with our accommodation partners has always been at the core of our business strategy at Booking.com. So when we first entered the African market in 2007, the vastness of the continent did and still does present some challenges for us,” Vermeulen told TechMoran and added that normally with all challenges, Booking.com sees them as opportunities to find new and creative solutions.

With every new challenge, Booking.com says it’s constantly exploring new ways to increase its presence across the continent and to improve access for its partners, ultimately enabling them to manage their businesses with ease and to reach new customers from all over the world.

In 2016, the most popular destinations in Africa for customers on Booking.com were Marrakech, Cape Town, and Cairo. Cities such as Nairobi and Pretoria appear near the top of the list as up-and-coming African destinations, especially in terms of their growth in popularity with Booking.com’s customers over the past year.

As more global travellers continue to explore Africa, especially beyond some of its most popular destinations in South Africa, Morocco and Egypt, whether it be for business or holiday, the firm says it’s looking to expand the breadth and depth of accommodation choices it offers to consumers.

Vermeulen told TechMoran that Booking.com is constantly looking for synergies with relevant companies to pursue local distribution partnerships and is already partner with lots of companies all over the world, including in Africa.

“Our goal is to connect as many travellers as possible with the stay that’s just right for them,” he said. “So anywhere people are looking to learn more, talk about or get inspired about travel—that’s where we want to be, sharing our diverse inventory of more than 1.1 million stays in over 100,000 destinations all over the world.”

Apart from stays, Booking.com is building an AI powered digital assistant dubbed Experiences to help customers find great activities to do depending on their budget and interests and weather.

FinTech Hive, a fintech accelerator, launches to link startups from Africa, Asia & Middle East to the US, European markets

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FinTech Hive, a global fintech accelerator has been launched by Accenture, a global professional services company and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

The FinTech accelerator, based in Dubai is expected to bring cutting-edge financial services technology to the MEASA markets, while providing a platform that brings financial and technology firms together. Its goal is to increase access to, and improve customer experience and drive operational efficiencies in the financial services sector.

According to Sushil Saluja, Accenture’s senior managing director for Financial Services in the company’s Europe, Africa, Middle East and Latin America region, “DIFC is uniquely positioned to become the regional hub for FinTech. By putting together local banks and FinTech firms to ideate, collaborate and partner, DIFC is helping both sectors be at the forefront of the financial services industry. The accelerator programme will identify the best entrepreneurs within the financial services industry and grant them invaluable access to and feedback from potential customers and funders.”

The DIFC Accelerator will be run by Accenture because of its experience and expertise in building and running FinTech Innovation Labs in London, New York and Hong Kong. FinTech Hive at DIFC will start with a 12 week ‘accelerator programme’, which will bring together the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs to compete and address the growing needs of the region’s financial services industry, using innovative technology solutions. It intends to catalyse the growth and efficiency in a variety of areas including trade finance, alternative finance such as P2P payments, and Sharia based services.

In 2004, DIFC led the development of global financial services by linking the top financial centres around the world to the region. The DIFC Authority sees the FinTech Hive at DIFC as a continuation of its vision to link, develop, and adapt top financial technologies to the region.

“DIFC is fast becoming a pivotal hub in the global economy, with over 1,500 firms and 21,000 employees – most of whom are exploring FinTech solutions to tap into the world’s fastest growing economies. We are committed to providing a diverse and forward-thinking ecosystem to support FinTech innovation,” said Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority.

The global FinTech sector has attracted more than $50 billion in investment since 2010, but currently the MEA region only attract around 1 percent of that investment. The DIFC Accelerator intends to bridge the gap by creating a platform that drives innovation and showcases success – identifying leading technology entrepreneurs and then offering them the opportunity to grow their innovations in collaboration with top executives from DIFC and regional financial institutions.

Apart from the Fintech Hive, the UAE recently unveiled the UAE National Innovation Strategy and Dubai Plan 2021 to be among the smartest cities in the world.  It’s also a founding member of the Global Blockchain Council.

Emirates NBD and Mashreq will be the first local financial institutions to join the accelerator programme, while HSBC and VISA are the first international financial services providers.

How Essential Mobile Apps Are For Business Growth Nowadays.

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App based service has of recent increased to target the high uptake of smart phone in the Kenyan market. Apps have developed to improve healthcare, banking, and livelihood for those who need it most. It is here in East Africa’s tech hub that innovation is occurring in its freshest form. Out of necessity, app based are targeting the high number of daily active uses to deliver their services.

The majority of available apps is B2C since B2B mobile apps are only now starting to enter the mobile app market. The potential for growth is huge, you can still conclude that the app market is really big. Most users of mobile apps are between 25 and 30 years old, are married, live in suburban areas.

Mobile app users are generally younger, more educated and have higher income than other cell phone holders. Businesses that integrate mobile into their strategy can engage an entirely new type of customer an instantly connected one. Smartphone users generally prefer to multi-task and be on-the-go.

This is based on the Google Consumer Barometer survey, 71% of Kenyans aged between 16-24 years are online every day,55% are aged between 25-34 years while 38% are aged between 35-44 years, 51% aged between 45-54 years who use the internet are also on the internet daily. The largest number of online traffic is usually through smartphones which represents 27% with 8% using computers and only 1% using tablets.

Also report shows that 83% of Smartphone owners In Kenya are using them to check the time, 78% for music, and 71% to set an alarm while 69% use them to take photos. According to the Jumia report which surveyed 576 respondents, the most popular activity on smartphones was chatting and social networking at 78%, calling at 75%, E-mails and online browsing both accounted for 69%, followed by the data heavy activities falling under entertainment; 57% of respondents played games, listened to music and watched videos on their smartphone.

Due to high daily active internet user, and high uptake of smartphones, it has paved way for many apps based service in Kenya. According to statistics it shows a middle aged between 24-34 years, who are Also working class, will provide a competitive market for delivery service. Some of well-established service app include.      

Uber, an app based transport company, has drawn the anger of conventional taxi operators in nearly every market it has entered. Nairobi has been no exception. The company which promises to revolutionize the transit system had a soft launch in Kenya early last

Little cab is another application which has been enjoying positive uptake among residents of the city. The application also uses GPS mapping to allow users connect to Little-approved cabs nearest to them, estimate the amount of fare needed and have the taxi pick them up often in a matter of minutes

Barcode Scanner is an application that one able to scan the bar codes of each perfume that one may be able to sell to your customers and instantly you get the manufacture date, the expiry date and one is able to know the authenticity.

Huge corporations can afford to generate their own inborn apps with truck load of cohesive elements, making the customer experience as perfect as possible.

Efritin Shuts Down Operations In Nigeria; Lays off Staff and Sells Off Assets Amidst Lawsuits.

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Saltside‘s online classifieds company, Efritin Nigeria is officially shutting down operations this week in Nigeria, with staff already vacating their head office in Ikeja and office property auctioned among staff. The company website is still online while the central team gradually informs partners and merchants on its platform.

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In November, we reported that its former marketing manager had accused Somalian national and former MD of Efritin.com, Zakaria Hersi of stealing thousands of dollars, turning a blind eye to internal mismanagement and false fully creating invoice trails.

Information from some senior members of Management who plead anonymity say that Zakaria Hersi’s activities were the beginning of the end for Efritin Nigeria as they struggled to raise further investment to scale the business leaving current CEO Gbenro Dara with a very difficult job of managing public and internal perception. 10 court cases in Nigeria that would cost the company up to N20million in fees among other things caused the central CEO to finally make the decision to close the company.

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Gbenro Dada, Current MD of Efritin Nigeria

Members of staff at the central level of Efritin in Dubai were affected as well as part of job cuts in the company.

In January 2015, Saltside Technologies, the parent firm of Efritin and Ghana’s Tonaton secured a $40 million investment led by Chinese equity investor Hillhouse Capital with participation of Bangladesh’s PE firm Brummer & Partners and existing lead shareholder Investment AB Kinnevik to reinforce its market leadership positions and expand into new frontier markets. Ironically, this is the money that has caused Efritin’s death.

 

 

 

 

 

Improved Collaboration will save N200b from Cyber Crime and Hard tokens In Nigeria – Valentine Obi,eTranzact

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eTranzact International PLC has started the implementation of Applock – a technology that ties mobile financial service apps with mobile phones to help Banks, mobile money operators and other partners reduce fraud and safeguard financial information of customers.

With over 15million smartphones currently in circulation in Nigeria and with efforts by the OEMs to increase this number by making smartphones even more affordable, mobile banking and mobile money adoption in Nigeria has also increased, leading to the need to scale up technology resources as well as think up new ways to make the process easier and safer for consumers. eTranzact has been heavily focused on building the infrastructural backbone of what is required to take this industry to new heights.

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Speaking at the Information Systems Audit and Control Association Conference in Lagos, Mr Valentine Obi, CEO of eTranzact, talked about how fighting cybercrime and fraud is a collective effort, and proper coordination among the stakeholders is currently lacking to the advantage of the fraudsters.

He said; “Fighting cybercrime requires the collaboration of the entire ecosystem from the banks, switching companies, to the regulatory bodies.

The current strategy to fight cybercrime in Nigeria is not sufficient. N127b is lost every year in Nigeria to cybercrime according to the Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu.

The payment industry stakeholders need to clearly define the rules of engagement in the event of a fraudulent activity in the industry. Information technology risks have evolved dramatically in the last few years but the approach that financial institutions use to manage them has not kept apace. Hard tokens cost as much as N3000 and if a customer with 4 accounts needs to get a token, that amounts to N12,000 per customer leaving the customer to either get the tokens or be excluded from electronic transactions altogether. We believe this is the age to deploy other cheaper and safer options that are not dependent on hardware.

Fotolia 37375108, 76855752; Thinkstock 454370457, 522205077; iStock 54971658, 20842607

eTranzact has created an Enhanced Strong Authentication system (ESA) which, in addition to the Applock technology, will significantly help reduce cybercrime and fraud in POS, Mobile and web transactions. With ESA, the Mobile phone becomes the token, allowing the user secure multiple bank accounts with one phone. 

ESA will translate to savings of over N120b spent on hard tokens for 40million cards and will result in no foreign exchange loss.  ESA allows the generation of one time password codes and setting dynamic spending limits on ATMs and Cards”.

 

Zuku #Unstoppable Live Streaming just got Real!

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You don’t ever need to worry about your data getting exhausted! That is in the past now thanks to Zuku fiber unlimited internet.  Zuku fiber unlimited internet now offers you a chance  to stream live and watch all movies you want, watch all the latest and dopiest songs released, seems like your Friday form just got better with Zuku.

Zuku customers will be able to access unlimited internet usage throughout the day and night 24/7 at an affordable fixed monthly subscription fee unlike other internet broadband services who once you data runs out you are in the cold.

Here is how it works! The fair use policy is a means to monitor and control Zuku international bandwidth capacity to give all users fair access to the available capacity

FUP continuously monitors the consumed volumes per customer in megabytes and the during peak usage hours the fair use policy only reduces the speed for those customers who have already consumed large volumes of data allowing other users to access internet unimpeded. Every month on a set date the volume’s account of all users is set to zero enabling all users to start afresh on a clean slate.

Zuku does not limit the time connected to the internet or the overall download/upload volume of any user since Zuku local bandwidth is not shared or contended and therefore allows its clients to enjoy maximum speeds at the quoted internet bandwidth.

ZUKU’S #Unstoppable Campaign Kicks-off

ZUKU Fiber officially launched one of its flagship projects dubbed ‘unbundle yourself…. I’m unstoppable’ which is set to revolutionize the communication landscape in Kenya, by allowing  their subscribers for the first time truly enjoy the thrills of unlimited news, sports, and various entertainments such as movies without worrying about the cost of internet access.

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The move is certain to disrupt the normal bundle based internet services currently in the market since at the moment there is nothing which compares to the Zuku unlimited internet which offers high speed unlimited internet by its very design and meaning  hence aptly named I’m unstoppable.

Zuku customers will be able to access unlimited internet usage throughout the day and night 24/7 at an affordable fixed monthly subscription fee based on an ingenious Fair Use Policy (FUP).

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Here is how it works! The fair use policy is a means to monitor and control Zuku international bandwidth capacity to give all users fair access to the available capacity. FUP ensures that this international bandwidth capacity is not used disproportionately by some and other are penalized on their account.

FUP continuously monitors the consumed volumes per customer in megabytes and during peak usage hours the fair use policy reduces the speed for those customers who have already consumed large volumes of data allowing other users to access internet unimpeded. Every month on a set date the volume’s account of all users is set to zero enabling all users to start afresh on a clean slate.

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Zuku’s fair usage policy is unique since there is no disconnection unlike other internet broadband service providers who impose a limited-volume-policy which stops your usage, or instigates expensive over usage metering, after the usage-volume-limit is reached

One thing should be clear though! FUP can only restrict the speed access to international bandwidth which is contended by all users.It does not limit the time connected to the internet through Zuku or the overall download/upload volume of any user, so the same does not apply to Zuku local bandwidth which is not shared or contended allowing customers to enjoy maximum speeds at the quoted internet bandwidth.

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Michael Dabaly, director of sales and marketing at Wananchi group said ZUKU will continue to innovate and be ahead of the pack by offering their customers unstoppable experience.

“We want to start a revolution by increasing our online community and brand popularity and we promised our customers unstoppable experience in accessing high speed unlimited internet”

Wananchi Group is the only service provider offering a triple pay platform that includes broadband, multi-channel digital television and voice telephony at the most affordable fixed price per month paid via a single bill.

Zuku Fiber is also the leading provider of internet, communication and entertainment through modern fiber technology in Kenya, with more than 300,000 homes in Nairobi & Mombasa having been covered by Zuku fiber, with plans to roll out more coverage and expansion across the region.

Benefits of transitioning from cash to digital payments

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United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance releases a report showing  the importance of digital payment and why governments and companies need to ditch the cash-dominant economy and embrace digitization of payments. The new report comes just as McKinsey Global Institute released projections that digital finance could lead to a $3.7 trillion GDP boost by 2025, create 95 million new jobs across all sectors, and save $110 billion annually in leakages in emerging countries.

The Better Than Cash Alliance research studied 25 COUNTRIES, including India, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Brazil, and Mexico, among others. What emerged were ten ‘accelerators’ or actions that regularly proved to make a strong impact in advancing the creation of economies where digital payments are widely available.

“The new McKinsey Global Institute study on digital finance for all should inspire emerging countries’ leadership to move quickly on creating economies where digital payments are widely available,” said DR. RUTH GOODWIN-GROEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE BETTER THAN CASH ALLIANCE. “We also released a study today that shows how governments and companies can rapidly shift away from cash. Building a digital economy can take significant work, but as the new data shows, it is completely achievable and will drive inclusive growth, helping people lift themselves out of poverty.”

Evidence showing the benefits of digital payments 

INDIA saves US $2 billion every year by digitizing fuel subsidies also reducing payment leakages, and TANZANIA, the digitization of port business-to-government payments trimmed US $175 million in annual revenue leakages and has the potential to boost GDP by up to US $1.8 billion. BRAZIL also saved over 30 percent in transaction costs in government to
people disbursements. Lastly as of result of installing 20,000 point-of-sale devices, MEXICO experienced a 17 percent growth rate in this type of transactions between 2014 and 2015.

There is a large amount of evidence supporting the benefits of transitioning from cash to digital payments, but implementation is often difficult for governments to do on their own. This is in part because successfully creating an economy where digital payments are widely available requires a collaborative approach between many players in the public and private sectors.

Kilimall gives away 50 smartphones in their five-day promo

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Black Friday is like a holiday for those who like participating in online shopping. This is the time when companies slash their prices and offer vouchers to loyal customers. Today, Kilimall has launched a five-day promotion in which customers will enjoy huge discounts and crazy rewards.

The e-commerce company has set aside 50 smartphones and 10 television sets to give away to lucky shoppers who will be required to follow certain clues to win the rewards.

The “Crazy Week’ promotion, which runs from September 26th to Friday 30th, comes ahead of the Black Friday shopping bonanza on November 26, 2016. Operations Director Victor Ma said during the launch that shoppers will enjoy up to 50% discounts on a number of products and free airtime, while other products will be on buy-one-get-one-free offer.

Products on offer during the promotion include smart phones, tablets and accessories, TVs, household items such as fridges, cookers and pans as well as body and footwear brands. “It’s crazy but real. We will give away 10 smartphones and two TV sets every day,” said Victor. “This will be the curtain raiser for major shopping deals on Black Friday.”

He said Kilimall deals in genuine brands from a range of manufactures in China and Europe. He added that Kilimall operates a model of sourcing directly from manufacturers, which reduces the cost of products and allows it to pass the benefits to end consumers through affordable prices.

“Kilimall is a platform where shoppers get away with big bargains,” he said.

Towards the end of 2015, Jumia launched a black Friday that featured flash sales, fashion deals, blockbuster discounts and more stuff at up to 90% off for everyone. The company displayed more than 1000 products on their social platforms which attracted many Africans. Although, some people were of the opinion that the company was disposing expired products; and most Kenyans thought it’s a hoax.

Now that Kilimall has launched their  ‘Crazy Week’ promo; let’s jump in and buy stuff.

Kenya Re is transforming lives of people with disability by issuing them with assistive devices

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Kenya Re is issuing people with disability assistive devices to enable them participate in social and economic nation building activities. The issuance was done in an event that was held at Bombolulu APDK grounds in Mombasa County and was presided over by Kenya Re’s Managing Director, Mr. Jadiah Mwarania.

This comes one month after the 2016 Niko Fiti Ability beyond Disability CSR campaign flag off which saw 40 beneficiaries receiving mobile vending units, white canes, stylus and diapers that will enrich them personally and also build the country’s economy.

The roadshow kicked off from Mombasa town, and stopped over at Kongowea, Bamburi, Kisauni and Mtwapa town. The 60 beneficiaries from Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties received 60 mobile vending units, 80 canes, 80 stylus and 80 diapers that will financially empower them to better their lives. This year’s campaign, Kenya Re has also widened the scope of disabilities to now include and cater to persons with visual and hearing (sensory) disabilities as well as persons with physiological/mental disabilities.

It’s through the continued partnership with Association of Persons with Disabilities of Kenya (APDK) that aids in identification, assessment of persons living with disability through their nationwide distribution network and fabrication of the devices in their workshops in major towns in Kenya; that persons living with disabilities are endowed to get through their daily operations with minimal dependency.

Speaking at the event, Kenya Re’s Managing Director, Mr. Jadiah Mwarania said that he was pleased that this year’s campaign was going to transform the lives of beneficiaries in Mombasa County.

“It’s with great honor that we are able to empower the lives of these beneficiaries through this campaign. Through these assistive devices they will not only become more self-reliant but also contribute to the growth of the economy.” He said.

“As a Corporation we endeavor to promote literacy campaign that has educated Kenyans across the nation on the sensitization and awareness of issues touching on disabilities.” Mwarania added.

The 2016 Niko Fiti CSR campaign is geared towards providing assistive devices to beneficiaries in order to improve the quality of life so that they can engage in daily nation building activities. It is also steered towards ending stigma towards persons living with disability.

The 2016 Niko Fiti na Kenya Re campaign will visit two other regions across the country. This will include Eldoret region which will cover Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, West Pokot and Kapenguria counties as well as Kisumu region where the distribution will cover Siaya, Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Vihiga and Bondo counties. These caravans will travel through this regions providing public education on disability.

From its inception in 2011, the campaign has revived hope and productivity in the lives of over 2200 persons living with disabilities across the nation thus empowering them to go about their daily operations with minimal dependency.

Karani Nyamu on Kenya’s FDI inflows in 2016

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By Karani Nyamu,

Karani Nyamu is the Group CEO of Nairobi-based IT company Verve KO and also runs  Kore Forests Ltd, a real estate firm.

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There is no doubt that Foreign Direct Investment both as capital inflows and as foreign remittances makes up a huge part of the Kenyan financial system. This peaked in the 2000s particularly with the prospects of oil being found in the country.

With the declining interest in Kenya’s hydrocarbon deposits the capital inflows are beginning to fall. The decline is expected to hit up to 23% by the end of this year. This does not bode well for the Kenyan economy which to some degree depends on these foreign remittances.

The actual figures are 99.6 billon down from 130.4 billion Kenya shillings last year. This decline will definitely reflect in the economic growth besides impacting the hydrocarbons industry heavily. In turn the Central Bank will need to take up a loan facility to cushion the country from monetary volatility.

Balance of Payments 

The FDIs is also likely to take a hit from an uncertain global economy. This means that the balance of payment will worsen which will also impact the country’s international reserves. Kenya has in many ways failed to take advantage of opportunities to correct the balance of payment deficit.

This is mainly pegged on the oil import bill which has always hovered around the 230 billion mark. China has in the recent years proven to be Kenya’s lender of last resort. The country holds about $2.3 billion of Kenya debt which is well ahead of Britain, France and the US.

The lower capital inflows may have a positive ring to it. This is especially in the real estate sector since the funds have led to an overinflated pricing of real estate facilities in the country. The impact of the drop is also likely to be less severe in the tech-related industries since most of the inflows are in the short-term portfolio kind of capital inflows.

Regulating Our Financial System

Mr. Luke Ouko who is among the pioneers of financial management systems in the country thinks we need to have a sound national policy that regulates portfolio operations in the country. Such a policy will govern the entry and exit of portfolios to ensure they do not create financial instability by causing bank runs and sentiment-based financial flows.

International monetary institutions chief among them the IMF have also accented to the fact that there is need for direct controls on short-term portfolios as regards capital flows.

In order to encourage long-term capital inflows, investment in government securities by foreign-based portfolios should be dated at about 3 years of residual maturity periods. We should also consider enacting methodologies that make our financial markets to be less reliant on hot money by challenging domestic investments, as well as foreign investment from Kenyans in the diaspora.

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The writer is the Group CEO Verve,  a Nairobi-based technology products and services company offering Business Solutions, Outsourcing and Consulting. Verve helps firm save time and money and increase operating efficiency by automating business processes, efficiently managing documents and replacing or augmenting processes.