Vodacom investors shrug off Conteh sue threat


It might be thought that a firm threatened with a R200 billion lawsuit would see its shares plummet on the JSE. But investors in Vodacom Group, which is majority owned by British mobile giant Vodafone, have ignored Alieu Conteh’s threat to sue the South African-based mobile phone operator. By Staff Writer

According to a report by Financial Mail magazine, Vodacom has been slapped with a $14 billion (R200 billion) claim by its partner in the Democratic Republic of Congo, businessman Alieu Conteh.

Conteh is the controlling shareholder of Congolese Wireless Network (CWN), which is a minority shareholder in Vodacom Congo. CWN owns 49% of Vodacom Congo and the rest is held by Vodacom International.

Vodacom shares were trading 2.04% higher at R150.51 by midday on Thursday despite the news that Conteh was threatening to sue.

The South African-based mobile phone operator, which is valued at more than R224 billion, has seen its stock rise more than 10% in the past 90 days and year-to-date by 16%.

Rival MTN was also trading higher on Thursday with the stock up 2.78% at R141.83 by midday.

“We remain optimistic of Vodacom’s capability to deal with Conteh as they have done so in the past. The R200 billion figure is really a thumb suck and we were made aware of the threat by the company during their results presentation. This is no surprise to us,” said a Cape Town-based analyst, who didn’t want to be name.

“The story will not prompt some of us to sell Vodacom shares. I am still bullish on the business.”

In its financial statements, Vodacom says the latest claim seeks to “invalidate a court decision to remove Conteh as statutory manager of CWN as well as the liquidation of Vodacom Congo and its payment of various sums to CWN and Conteh”. The action also includes an “unsubstantiated” claim for $14bn against Vodacom International for its “alleged role in helping to undermine Conteh’s position as former statutory manager”.

Vodacom says Conteh’s claim is “without merit”. Vodacom has not done anything to undermine Conteh’s authority, spokesman Tshepo Ramodibe told Financial Mail.

Ramodibe told the magazine that the group will oppose the action.

South Africa’s largest mobile operator, majority-owned by Britain’s Vodafone, is in a long-running dispute in the DRC with Conteh.

In September 2013 Vodacom won an arbitration process against Conteh.


22 years old Nigerian wins business innovation award


A 22 years Nigerian entrepreneur, Chris Kwekowe, won the 2015 Anzisha Prize which celebrates community building business innovation across the African continent. By Ujuh Reporter

Kwekowe was announced as the winner of the $25,000 Grand Prize in the 5th year of Africa’s premier award for youth entrepreneurship. The award was made at a ceremony held in Sandton, Johannesburg, this week.

Kwekowe is the founder of Slatecube which offers job-relevant skills learning platform and job placement services. Slatecube has had significant success to date with potential for scale and will serve as an inspiring beacon for other youth interested in entrepreneurship.

Slatecube impressed the judges ahead of other impressive ideas. Fintech entrepreneur Fabrice Alomo (22, Cameroon) was 1st Runner Up ($15,000) and fashion entrepreneur Mabel Suglo (22, Ghana) was 2nd Runner Up ($12,500).

Chris Kwekowe founded Slatecube to increase job access for youth through creating a platform on which they can build job-relevant skills and linking them with virtual internship opportunities that enable them to develop experience. His vision for the venture is to see it grow into a wide-scale provider of relevant job market access, with increasing ability to open doors for job seekers.

“I did not believe that I could have won the prize when the competition started. But I feel confident in what I can achieve now given the capital and training that I have received through the Anzisha Prize. I congratulate all the other finalists as I believe they were all very impressive and look forward to engaging them as we support each other to grow going forward,” says Chris.

The first runner up was Fabrice Alomo from Cameroon, founder of My AConnect. The venture aims to increase the ease with which unbanked people in Cameroon transact and gain access to financial services. My AConnect provides AMoney, and electronic currency with which unbanked individuals can make purchases with over 500 enterprises by depositing money through charge cards. Fabrice’s vision is to increase financial service access for Cameroon’s 17 million unbanked people.

A still impressive second runner up was Mabel Suglo from Ghana, founder of Eco Shoes. Mabel offers an assortment of shoes and accessories that are fashionable and Afro-themed, using recycled materials. Her employee-base is predominantly disabled individuals. She aims to increase their economic participation through job opportunities. Mabel believes that disability is not inability and employs people with a variety of disabilities to create products that she sells into wholesale and retail markets.

The Anzisha Sector Prize in Agriculture was awarded to Chantal Butare, founder of Kinazi Dairy Cooperative. Chantal’s cooperative collects milk from over 3,000 families in her community, and processes the milk for sale. She generates income for these families, as well as for ten milk collectors who are in her employ. Her ambition is to motivate for sufficient capital to mechanize her process and increase scale to create revenue for yet more families in her community. Chantal is a shining example of youth role models that Anzisha Prize aims to celebrate: Youth who are operating successfully in sectors that are considered non-traditional for youth, but that have immense potential to catalyze economic growth in Africa.

“Over the past five years, we have seen the Anzisha Prize evolve from a one-time prize for social entrepreneurship, to an entire community of young, innovative leaders across Africa who have access to comprehensive support and networking opportunities,” says Koffi Assouan, Program Manager, Youth Livelihoods at The MasterCard Foundation. “I continue to be impressed by the caliber of youth entrepreneurs that Africa has to offer and congratulate them on their ability to inspire both ourselves and the rest of the continent.”

Citrix appoints new vice president for EMEA


Cloud software maker Citrix announced on Thursday the appointment of Sherif Seddik as MD and vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). By Staff Writer

He will report to Carlos Sartorius, senior vice president of Worldwide Sales and Services.

Seddik will be responsible for the growth and development of the Citrix operation across EMEA, driving revenues, generating new business opportunities and cultivating the company’s valued partner ecosystem.

“I’m drawn to Citrix’s vision and proven ability to connect people to apps and data on any device, platform and through the cloud,” says Seddik.  “Citrix offers such a unique value proposition and capability that allows customers to really take advantage of the promise of mobility and cloud computing.”

With over 27 years of international sales, marketing and management experience in the IT industry,  Seddik has lived and worked in eight countries on three continents.  He joined Microsoft in 2002, and most recently served for the last five years as general manager of the Western Europe Enterprise and Partner Group where he was responsible for sales of software, devices and online services to Microsoft’s largest and most strategic customers.

Prior to Microsoft, Seddik spent 14 years at NCR Corporation in different sales and leadership roles.

Wi-Fi adoption ‘too slow’ in SA

“In developed markets the Wi-Fi adoption in homes is more or less 100%, in sub-Saharan Africa you still only see home Wi-Fi adoption for the privileged few,” Johan Terve, vice president of Marketing at Aptilo Networks told Fin24.

The company specialises in carrier offload and has operations in 65 countries. Terve was speaking on the sidelines of the AfricaCom tech showcase underway in Cape Town.

He said that in countries like SA, Wi-Fi was emerging as a competitive advantage for businesses that offered internet connectivity.

“In emerging markets adoption rates are concentrated around larger corporate offices that have Wi-Fi (for example, in sub-Saharan Africa), or in internet cafés, so in these instances you find that Wi-Fi access all revolves around one access point (or a grouping of access points). Wi-Fi has become the modern-day water hole. People gravitate to these locations to get access.”

‘Big thing’

A Brendan Research study found that customers appreciated free Wi-Fi internet access at businesses more than magazines, chocolates and water.

According to a paper by iGR which polled 400 small businesses offering Wi-Fi access, 50.1% of customers spent more money and 61.3% spent more time in the establishments.However, Terve said hype around Wi-Fi in emerging markets was centred around the scarcity of internet access.

“The perception that it is higher adoption rates for Wi-Fi in emerging markets comes from that in emerging markets it is a ‘big thing’ while in developed markets it is as similar to water coming out of the pipe.”

He added that mobile operators would only roll out Wi-Fi service where it made business sense.

In SA, the City of Tshwane has deployed a scalable Wi-Fi programme and Terve suggested that access programmes be expanded around high traffic areas.

“For Wi-Fi to be sustainable, hotspots should be deployed around where people normally aggregate: In shopping malls. It is also many times necessary for governments to actively go in and subsidise Wi-Fi in underserved areas to drive the economy in a positive direction.” –  Fin24

DRC businessman sues Vodacom for R200bn

Vodacom has been slapped with a US$14 billion (R200 billion) claim by its partner in the Democratic Republic of Congo, businessman Alieu Conteh, according to a report by Financial Mail magazine.

The magazine said the claim follows an ongoing legal dispute between the parties.

Conteh is the controlling shareholder of Congolese Wireless Network (CWN), which is a minority shareholder in Vodacom Congo.

In its financial statements, Vodacom says the latest claim seeks to “invalidate a court decision to remove Conteh as statutory manager of CWN as well as the liquidation of Vodacom Congo and its payment of various sums to CWN and Conteh”. The action also includes an “unsubstantiated” claim for $14bn against Vodacom International for its “alleged role in helping to undermine Conteh’s position as former statutory manager”.

Vodacom says Conteh’s claim is “without merit”. Vodacom has not done anything to undermine Conteh’s authority, spokesman Tshepo Ramodibe told Financial Mail.

Ramodibe told the magazine that the group will oppose the action.

South Africa’s largest mobile operator, majority-owned by Britain’s Vodafone, is in a long-running dispute in the DRC with Conteh.

In September 2013 Vodacom won an arbitration process against Conteh.

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SABC CEO Frans Matlala suspended

The SABC on Wednesday announced the suspension of its Group CEO Frans Matlala, four months after he was appointed. By Naledi Shange, NewsAgency

Spokesperson for the public broadcaster, Kaizer Kganyago said Matlala had been suspended pending an investigation.

“The SABC’s Group Executive: News and Current Affairs, Mr Jimi Matthews, will be acting GCEO during this time,” he said.

While the details around Matlala’s pending investigation were unclear, Kganyago said they would not comment any further on the matter until all processes were finalised.

Matlala’s suspension comes just four months after his appointment.

He took over in July following the abrupt resignation of Lulama Mokhobo in February 2014 after just 14 months into her five year contract.

Matlala is the SABC’s 9th CEO – including those who were appointed in an acting capacity in the position for a period of time – to be in charge of the public broadcaster since 2009. – News24

SABC adds first ever animated web series 

Systraat will also be the SABC’s first show to roll out and be “broadcast” online first before it’s shown on linear television.

Systraat (“Sidestreet”) is produced by Stemmburg Television – also responsible for the long-running Afrikaans music competition show Noot vir Noot and the more recent Musiek Rouletteon SABC2.

The first episode will debut on 24 November at 21:00 on SABC3’s YouTube channel.

Systraat’s internet debut follows the second season of Clifton Shores, now retitled as The Shores, also currently playing out with a new episode weekly on YouTube as the South African TV industry starts to move more TV content to viewers through over-the-top (OTT) players and platforms.

The new web series follows the comedic exploits of the Afrikaans Kotze family and will have English subtitles. –


FNB partners with DFA


While competition among South Africa’s four leading banks is fierce, FNB has successfully managed to keep bank charges down while offering improved services and unmatched connectivity—keeping it ahead of the game. Its success strategy has involved a partnership with DFA, owner of South Africa’s largest open-access high speed fibre network.

Future proofing the network

Access to high speed fibre connectivity was a fairly new concept for the local market in 2007, and there were a limited number of providers able to meet FNB’s needs. To overcome this issue the bank registered as an ISP and acquired an Electronic Communications Network Service (ECNS) license, which allowed it to establish its own fibre network.

The bank then partnered with DFA to leverage its fibre infrastructure to connect its major campuses in the Johannesburg CBD, Selby, Randburg, Sandton and Fairlands via a high-speed network. On the back of this successful initiative, FNB expanded its fibre connectivity to its data recovery site in Pretoria.

With the partnership having expanded its extensive fibre network, FNB now has 10 times more bandwidth available and reduced its telecommunications bill significantly. These cost savings have been passed on to its customers, who are experiencing significant benefits typically unheard of in the banking arena.

The initial investment in the fibre network was substantial, but the bank has, over the past six years, seen significant cost saving benefits. According to Andy Boden, senior network architect at Connect First Telecoms (Pty) Ltd, FNB’s network arm, “It was cheaper for us to light up our own fibre network using DFA’s open access fibre and infrastructure, than to continue using the existing telecommunications model we had relied on to deliver bandwidth and make phone calls.”

The bank was able to see significant savings as part of its switch to a high-speed fibre network, and used this to fund the second phase of its fibre network. The bank has already started to connect every single branch via its fibre network in an effort to further reduce its costs and improve its customer service offering.

The fibre advantage

Over the years the bank has increased its bandwidth from two 1Gbps lines to four 10Gbps links. This gave it a significant connectivity boost, improving its service offering to clients. By partnering with DFA, FNB enjoys 99.98% uptime just on the passive network alone.

By using a fibre network, FNB has reduced its latency, which typically impacts on the speed of the service delivered to the customer. This is particularly true for ATM transactions that need to be written and queried across various databases before money is released to the consumer. For this purpose, the bank relies primarily on fibre connectivity with a satellite backup, which results in a latency of 600 milliseconds for a satellite based connection, compared to the 20 milliseconds offered by fibre.

With the low latency of its fibre and because it is a registered ISP, FNB managed to negotiate deals with other ISPs and telecommunications providers, eliminating the need for a traditional voice service. The bank now relies on Voice Over IP (VoIP) for all calls leaving its network, while its agreements with the mobile telecommunications providers allows for reduced interconnection fees, which brings down the cost of its outgoing calls.

Freedom to innovate

The bank believes that the more it can offer its customers outside of traditional banking services, the more value they bring to their lives. In addition, giving customers free bandwidth coupled with award-winning apps and online banking solutions makes banking with FNB simple and affordable and ultimately improves the customer’s overall banking experience.

According to Boden, “The desire to roll out fibre-based broadband connectivity across the entire business was dreamed up over eight years ago. At the time DFA was a small company that believed in our vision and worked with us to bring it to fruition. Today FNB is winning local and global awards, and it is primarily based on the technology solutions that we have developed, while the investment we have made into our own fibre network enables us to deliver our innovations seamlessly.”

Driven by the desire to improve its customer service, FNB has invested in its fibre network to bring more value to its customers. It is on the back of this successful venture that the bank is able to continue innovating and offering better services and more appealing offerings over and above the standard. It is an investment that keeps it a step ahead of the competition.

MTN share price hammered over fine worries

MTN’s share price continued its downward trend on Tuesday as news emerged that the Nigerian authorities would not reduce the $5.2bn fine. By Duncan Alfreds, NewsAgency

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) slapped the hefty fine on Africa’s biggest mobile operator after MTN failed to register 5.1 million SIM cards. The NCC however cut MTN some slack by extending the November 16 deadline for payment to an undisclosed date. The $5.2bn (over R74bn) fine is based on a charge of 200 000 naira ($1 005) for each unregistered customer.

According to data from INET BFA, MTN’s share price dropped as much as 9.5% and traded in a broad range of between  R132.01 – R143.75 in brisk trading as worries about the operator’s ability to pay the sanction rattled investors.

The share price has since clawed back gains and by 11:32 on the JSE the shares were changing hands at R141.78 (-1.95%).

MTN said on Monday its newly appointed executive chairperson Phuthuma Nhleko had personally met with the Nigerian authorities to continue the ongoing discussions with them regarding the fine.

“The discussions include matters of non-compliance and the remedial measures that may have to be adopted to address this.”

Nhleko took over the reins at MTN last week after CEO Sifiso Dabengwa quit amid the Nigerian debacle.

The NCC has committed that the fine deadline will be extended while negotiations are ongoing.

MTN’s share price has declined by 32.85% in the last year.

– Fin24

High speed networks to drive mobile data spike

 Higher speed long term evolution (LTE) networks are set to drive a massive increase in data consumption in sub-Saharan Africa, said a new report. By Duncan Alfreds, NewsAgency

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report released at the AfricaCom tech conference under way in Cape Town, data traffic is expected to grow 15 times between 2015 and 2021, reaching 2 200 Petabytes.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, the dividends of connecting the unconnected through mobile broadband access and driving new services cannot be overlooked as it allows business and society to fulfil their potential and create a more sustainable future,” said Fredrik Jejdling, regional head of Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa.

The massive growth in data will be driven by the adoption of smartphones, and the report shows that the gadgets will consume 95% of mobile broadband data by 2021.

However, currently in the region of 500 million or 70% of subscriptions are GSM/EDGE, though Ericsson expects this to change rapidly as operators roll out higher speed LTE connections.

Far behind

In SA, policy to make spectrum available in the key 800MHz frequency has been held up by the failure of the regulator to finalise policy rules.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa defended its position on spectrum, saying that it was being held up by the executive.

“Part of the problem is there is a spectrum policy that must be promulgated,” chief executive Pakamile Pongwana said at a recent hearing of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication.

In comparison with developed economies, sub-Saharan Africa trails Japan, the US and South Korea which are expected to deploy 5G networks to 150 million subscribers by 2021, the report found.

Ericsson expects that by the same year 4G will make up 80% of connections in the local region as video demand drives consumption.

Data networks in the region will unlock economic growth, said Jejdling.

“Increased connectivity improves the prospect of financial inclusion for the 70% unbanked through mobile money services starting to take form across Africa. The same is true for transformation in the agriculture, healthcare and even the media industries.” – Fin24