Welcome to the Com World Series Blog. As producers of the leading telecoms, media and ICT events for developing markets, we focus on news & views that affect everyone operating in the telecoms ecosystem in Africa, the Middle East and Eurasia.

8 Feb 2016

East Africa Com 2016 brochure revealed!

Network with 500+ Senior Telecoms and ICT Executives from the East African Region 

East Africa Com Brochure & Registration Now Available!
East Africa Com returns for its 13th year and the eagerly anticipated brochure detailing the shows agenda, opportunities and highlights is revealed.

  • Two day dual stream agenda packed with dedicated content on leveraging 4GLTEOne area networkMVNO strategiesDTV & BroadcastingEnterprise ICT and more
  • Over 500+ attendees from across the connectivity ecosystem
  • Brand New East Africa Com Pool Party for informal event networking
  • Government and industry give a roadmap to ICT4D and supporting SMEs
  • New Financial Leaders Roundtable: financial services needs amid digital and mobile convergence
  • New 5 star venue in the centre of the business district
  • Multitude of opportunities to networking with buy side decision makers privately and outside of the conference room with various new activities...

12 Jan 2016

How to be Telco Cloud Native - Martin Halstead, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP

Martin Halstead was one of the top speakers at this year's SDN and Network Virtualisation track at AfricaCom last November. As CTO for NFV at HP, he has in-depth knowledge of industry trends in SDN and NFV with over 20 years experience specializing in Communications Services Provider networking environments. He has a strong interest in the transformation of Telco networks and how SDN can help enable that transformation.
 He shares his thoughts on virtualization - a key opportunity for operators in Africa in the coming years. 

How to be Telco Cloud Native
SDN isn’t just about network virtualization

As we continue the journey to the Telco Cloud, the role of SDN has become more clear.  SDN can become the key technology to enable a move towards so called ‘cloud native’ telecoms applications, so I pulled together this 3 step guide to how I recommend our CSP customers use SDN to realize the full benefit of NFV deployments.  

1.   Network overlays are not enough 
Leveraging SDN does more than link VNFs (Virtualized Network Functions) by so called ‘network overlays’. The right solution is capable of offloading non-essential network functions from the VNFs themselves. This will have the dual benefit of ‘slimming down’ the network functions required within each VNF as well as providing a VNF vendor independent, subscriber aware networking layer that each VNF can call on.  Telco grade features such as HA (High Availability), load balancing, per subscriber service chaining and backup paths etc. are no longer needed within the VNF which means they can more easily evolve to a micro services based architecture, critical to the nirvana of ‘cloud native’ telecoms applications.

2.       Simple solution for a complex problem 
The majority of core Telco VNFs available today from the traditional TEMs (Telecoms Equipment Manufacturers) consist of monolithic software with integrated, proprietary networking stacks created with mostly irrelevant requirements stemming from the physical appliances they aim to replace. These  complex composite VNFs expect the virtual infrastructure on which they are deployed to be simple in terms of providing dumb network ‘pipes’ linking same vendor VNFs. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t help realise the full business benefits of NFV, primarily the ability to reduce time to market for new services by rapidly deploying simple disaggregated network functions, designed for the cloud from multiple TEMs and ISVs while gaining operational savings from having a single, network feature rich NFV platform, capable of independently hosting VNFs from multiple TEMs. 

3.       Select a partner that understands the value of vendor independence 
HP Enterprise has the ability to be disruptive in NFV as we are TEM independent and have a proven, feature rich NFV platform that combines Telco grade resiliency, manageability and performance with fully open, industry leading and massively scalable SDN. Without that combination, it is hard to see how the promise of SDN and NDV can be fulfilled, namely the ability to separate the NFV platform from the actual Telco functions so that multiple VNFs – core Telco functions as well as innovative value added services from multiple vendors can be rapidly deployed and seamlessly and consistently managed via a uniform, network feature rich abstraction layer 

Reach out to your local Hewlett Packard Enterprise sales person and they will be able to tell you more about how our NFV platform is changing the telecommunications market. 

The SDN and Network Virtualisation track will take place again at AfricaCom, Cape Town. South Africa, 15-17 November 2016.

6 Jan 2016

Annonce du programme d’Afrique de l'Ouest Com (Dakar 8-9 Juin) : Transformer les modèles économiques du haut débit pour la croissance et l’inclusion en Afrique de l’Ouest

Découvrez le tout nouveau programme pour Afrique de l'Ouest Com – l’événement leader de la région pour les télécoms, le secteur numérique et les TIC – téléchargeable sur ce lien.
Le programme de cette année portera sur l'évolution du marché, avec pour fil conducteur la transformation des modèles économiques à  l’ère du haut débit, pour encourager  la croissance et l’inclusion en Afrique de l’Ouest
Sur deux jours, le salon comprendra des débats, des présentations et des activités de réseautage pour discuter du haut débit/LTE, des services de données, les télécommunications rurales, de l'innovation, des services aux entreprises, ainsi que de nouveaux sujets tels que la technologie et l'inclusion, les finances mobiles, les contenus locaux, l’entreprenariat féminin dans le secteur des technologies, et plus encore.

Certains intervenants ont déjà confirmé leur participation, contactez-nous dès maintenant pour plus d'informations sur la façon de participer.

18 Dec 2015

Meet Lilian Makoi, first winner of the AHUB Pitch & Win award at AfricaCom 2015 with bimaAFYA mobile micro health insurance

Last month’s AHUB at AfricaCom included the first Pitch & Win session, a chance for African tech start-ups to pitch their concept to a panel of judges and get recognised by Africa’s premier tech community.  Tech entrepreneurs from the whole continent applied and 6 finalists were chosen by our panel of judges for the chance of winning a membership to Mlab and a range of promotional opportunities.

The winning pitch was bimaAFYA (health:insurance) a mobile micro health insurance product launched by EdgePoint for the low income and informal sector population in Tanzania. Co-Founder Lilian Makoi received the award and talks to us about her journey.

AHUB: What is your background and how did you become a tech entrepreneur?
Lilian Makoi: I worked for Mobile value Added Services Global companies for the past 6 years. I started at Spice VAS Africa as an administration Officer right after my degree, then was promoted to a Content Manager, dealing with Tanzania Artists, then promoted to an Account Manager where I managed Tigo Tanzania , Airtel Tanzania and Zantel companies as an account, all within my 1st year at Spice. I then moved to OnMobileGlobal, another VAS Global Company where I managed Vodacom Tanzania as an account, then joined Flytxt International where I handled big data analysis for Airtel Tanzania, then Airtel Rwanda and Airtel Malawi.
My entrepreneurship journey started from the time I was doing my Bachelor’s degree. Despite coming from a privileged family, I always wanted to achieve more of my own. I was renting out movies/ DVDs for tsh.500 per day from my dorm room at 19 years old. When I got my first job (Spice VAS) I opened a diet and cleaning company where I cooked and delivered diet programme meals to over 300 clients at that time, simultaneously doing domestic cleaning for busy moms and newlyweds who did not want the bother of a sleep in maid for privacy. Both business idea came from personal experiences as I grew into a mother and realized the struggle of losing weight and managing a household.

A How did the idea of bimaAFYA start and grow?
LM: By 2014, I started seeing opportunities in my employment area (Telecommunications and technology) and thought it is time I try something more professional and achieve the huge dreams I had. The passion to create solutions for the low income population and informal sector came after witnessing a motorist die because he could not afford treatment from a road accident, then a colleague introduced me to the subject of ‘financial inclusion’ researched about it, reading over 30 articles and papers and the Mobile Micro-health Insurance product was in the making!
It got more exciting realizing that of 49 million Tanzania’s only 4.5% were health insured, and these were from the formal sector only, insured through their employers! 19% was the middle income population who could afford health insurance and out of pocket expenses anyways, leaving out 76.5% low income and informal sector population, uninsured and most dying from curable diseases.
Building bimaAFYA, we did a research with top health insurers to understand why no insurer tried to build a solution for the ignored 23million population, and all insurers came back with one reason, insurance administration costs hinders low premium covers affordable to the low income population. That is where the idea of moving the entire administration work from paperwork and man power to 100% paperless over the mobile phone solution. We were able to cut administration costs by 99% and come up with insurance covers of up to $1 premium per month with benefits/ free health services of up to $80.
Two years later, I feel technology is home for me.

A: When and how did it move from being an idea to becoming a product and a business?
LM: It took me 1 week to visualize what the solution would look like, 2 months of back and forth research and designing, 3 months of product build up. I was running an entire Company, as the delivery manager, account manager, finance manager and the MD. These were 6 months of sleepless nights, working two jobs (I was still employed) building the product most times I would come from work and work on my project until 6am, but I was enjoying it! It got exciting each step of the way.
The next step was getting a buy-in from the biggest insurer in the country for insurance underwriting and relationship with hospitals across the country. My partner (Chris Rabi) and I started the hunt, walking in door to door selling an idea and convincing we are the best technology company to partner with. This wasn’t tough, the idea being solid and God’s grace, we got The Jubilee Insurance ofTanzania Ltd onboard. They were very excited and the partnership marked the beginning of a serious venture. Partnering with the telecom Companies, Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel were the next mile stones we were able to achieve.
By January 2015, we were ready for a launch. It is when I had a technology business to run then. I stopped running a one man show in February and hired 4 employees to run the business.

A: What are your plans for bimaAFYA in the coming years?
LM: BimaAFYA gives over 23million Tanzania’s access to covered hospital care, set to reduce home births by 70%, reduce infant and children deaths by 30%, improve maternal care and reduce poverty. We plan to increase our base in Tanzania, after the recently acquired funding from The Bill and Melinda GatesFoundation and further funding from Startup Boot Camp – UK of over $ 500,000, we plan to cover 2 million of Tanzania’s  by the end of 2016.
2016 will also include new partnerships and set ups in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Hence, by 2017, we will be providing health insurance and improving lives of about 10 million Africans!

A: How do you feel about winning the AfricaCom Ahub ‘pitch & win’ session?
LM: The Competition was tight, each candidate had a strong innovation, it was immense pleasure knowing that the judges understood and saw the value of our proposition! Getting access to Ahub services is a win we understand will move EdgePoint to a different level of a startup!

A: Would you recommend the AHUB to other start-ups and why?
LM: AHUB brought an amazing experience to start ups who needed to get their innovation exposed to possible partners and investors. It gives you the skills and experience of pitching to a potential investor while exposing you to other startups to learn from them.
Winning the AfricaComAwards dinner pass gives the startup an opportunity to network with potential partners, investors and big names in the technology industry. AHUB lab facilities are again a unique set of services set to increase the value of your startup and equip you with business enhancement facilities. I recommend every technology star up to participate next time and enjoy all these benefits.

The AHUB will take place again at AfricaCom on 15-17 November 2016.

7 Dec 2015

Record-breaking AfricaCom highlights the strength of Africa’s tech sector

This year’s AfricaCom was all about innovation, transformation and leadership, and what a year it has been! Africa's, digital & ICT community gathered in Cape Town last week to be inspired by the continent’s tech leaders, to meet the most innovative minds and to do even more business than usual.

Here are some of the highlights of this year:

1. The busiest event so far: AfricaCom and the co-located events took over the CTICC and seemingly the whole city, with people from across the world and across all tech and related industries mingling

2. The launch of the Ericsson AHUB: dubbed by many ‘the best new thing at AfricaCom’, this is where the continent’s top tech entrepreneurs met with established innovators, investors, incubators and more

3. The Ministerial speech: The Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, took to the stage at to highlight the importance of ICT for socio-economic development in Africa

4. SDN & NFV taking off: a busier conference session, mentions in the keynote talks and the new PoC zone, showcasing proof-of-concept demos

5. The first CIO Forum: heads of ICT from a broad range of organisations (large corporations, public sector, SMEs) got together to share 'war stories' and learn from peers in this Checkpoint-sponsored new feature

6. The CEO of the Year’s inspiring speech: Roshi Motman, CEO of Tigo Ghana won the prestigious AfricaCom Awards and dedicated it to her team and inspiring people

7. Sustainability and ICT for development a major focus for the industry: speakers from organisations as varied Facebook, Ericsson, Vodacom, minister and regulators called for more action to promote ICT as a key development tool

8. The biggest party at the AfricaCom Awards: live music, contortionists, dancers, comedy, seaview, great food and inspirational finalists and winners all in one night!

9. The regulatory panel: bringing together the heads of some of the most influential regulators across Africa (ICASA, ECOWAS, BOCRA) let the industry know what their ambitions are

10. The bigger-than-ever Mobile Money conference, Shaping an ecosystem for digital commerce in africa through remittances, m-commerce, digital currencies and MFS interoperability.

Keep an eye out for the photos and videos of this year’s AfricaCom to be released in the next few days, and mark your agenda for the next top events in tech Africa:

- East Africa Com, Nairobi, Kenya, 18-19 May 2016
- West Africa Com, Dakar, Senegal, 8-9 June 2016
- NigeriaCom, Lagos, Nigeria, 21-22 September 2016
- AfricaCom, Cape Town, South Africa, 15-17 November 2016

We look forward to seeing you again next year

The AfricaCom team

18 Nov 2015

Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize highlights the importance of ICT for development in a keynote at AfricaCom

The Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, took to the stage at AfricaCom this morning to highlight the importance of information and communications technologies for socio-economic development in Africa.
“As a newly established Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, we appreciate an opportunity to come and share ideas with such a distinguished audience” the Minister said.
She highlighted the Department’s objectives: “Much of the ICT revolution is driven by the private sector but as a government we have realised that we have an important role to play in aligning policies with the possibilities emerging from the private sector. What we’ve struggled with is the digital divide. The cost of communications is unreasonably high in societies where it is needed the most".
Broadband access is a key priority: “In 2014 South Africa had an internet penetration rate of about 40%. There is a significant growth but it tends to be concentrated in the ‘golden’ cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and East London. Our target in terms to achieve 100% broadband penetration by 2020”.
She mentioned education, e-government, e-health and mobile financial services as key elements of ICT development: “We are investing a lot in e-government. We see the use of technology as a real enabler. People who access services online tend to have higher levels of satisfaction, so it calls for a clear e-strategy.”
She called for increased cooperation between industry stakeholders and recognised the important support that regulators and governments can give the industry: “we are aligning our policy strategies with the regulators and ensuring we promote a competitive environment.  I invite you to look carefully at partnerships and to take advantage of the tax breaks and the many opportunities that governments are availing.” In terms of spectrum allocation, the department is in the process of auditing the needs and she acknowledged the clear need for new allocation toward ICT development.
Overall the Minister emphasized the importance of developmental goals: “The biggest commodity in the world today is knowledge. Strategic investment in the ICT sector will allow Africa to take its right place in the world”.
AfricaCom continues in Cape Town until Thursday 19th November.

17 Nov 2015

Innovation needs more support in Africa, say keynote speakers at AfricaCom

AfricaCom 2015 opened today with a keynote panel on innovation leadership, asking how to support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in digital Africa.
Moderated by Larry Madowo, tech editor at NTV Kenya, the panel brought together Christian de Faria, CEO of Airtel Africa, Markku Makelinen, Director of Global Operator Partnerships at Facebook, Marc Rennard, EVP of AMEA at Orange and Bright Simons, President of mPedigree and award-winning entrepreneur.
Christian de Faria started by stating “We’re not doing enough in terms of innovation. There’s a lot of talent in Africa so how do we support it?” He mentioned the partnership Airtel developed with Facebook as a way of supporting innovators and called for the gian OTT brand to expand its presence in Africa beyond the new office opened recently in South Africa.
According to Markku Makelinen, the driver for all innovation is connectivity to the internet.
For Marc Rennard, innovation is part of our Orange’s DNA: “We support local innovation through partnerships with incubators, venture prizes, technocentres etc. The most important thing is to create a favourable local environment as the innovation coming from the field in Africa meets actual needs of local people”
Bright Simons said governments are uniquely positioned to support innovation: “Africa is very fragmented so the market isn’t the best place to transform innovation into a scalable market-winning product. Governments can create the initial spark for local innovation and the market will follow.” Other panellists agreed on the lack of support from governments, who don’t always have the will or ability to look at long-term objectives. Taxation was once again mentioned as an issue in the tech field.

To wrap up the discussion, Bright called for ecosystem innovation; Marc said the future will be API, open innovation and a multi-cultural approach to innovation; Markku advised entrepreneurs to innovate not imitate; and Christian called for the industry to get together in a more meaningful manner and encourage the bright minds we have on the continent.

13 Nov 2015

The role of ICT in enabling socio-economic development – Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services at AfricaCom 2015

There can be little doubt that the burgeoning Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector is shaping the future of socio-economic development across Africa. So much so, that governments the continent over, have recognized that access to the ‘Internet is a basic necessity for more than just business, education and service delivery, but also for survival and individual self-respect’, as noted by the Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services in her budget speech in 2015.

Professor Mkhize will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming AfricaCom 2015 conference and will address delegates on “the role of ICTs for Inclusive Social and Economic Development in Africa” on the morning of 18th November. She will address the role of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in enabling inclusive socio-economic development, whether access to the Internet is derived from broadband in homes and offices, or via the mobile telephone, which is growing in popularity as the number one method to getting online.

Still, access and its subsequent impact on overall economic growth is being hampered by the cost and poor quality of ICT-infrastructure. This is where Governments have a vital role to play in developing progressive ICT policies and regulatory frameworks that can unlock the real potential that ICT can play in expanding citizen consciousness to realise a thriving information society and knowledge economy. Professor Mkhize said “Connectivity has demonstrated its ability to ignite socio-economic development time and again. We need to expand existing infrastructure and introduce new technologies to connect our citizens, especially those in rural areas. Like the cutting-edge satellite technology deployed by Avanti Communications to deliver high speed broadband across 100% of South Africa today. Connected regions will produce the increased economic growth that a thriving information society drives.”

“We are delighted to welcome the Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize at AfricaCom this year. Governments have a unique role to play in supporting telecommunications, digital and ICT development. Prof. Mkhize’s keynote speech will highlight the economic and social importance of the sector in Africa, a message that is at the heart of AfricaCom” confirmed Julie Rey-Gore, Research Director at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Prof. Mkhize's participation to AfricaCom shows the importance of governments and regulators in the development of a healthy communications sector in Africa. The AfricaCom 2015 programme reflects this importance with a new Regulatory Panel, taking place on Tuesday 17th November with the participation of Isaias Barreto da Rosa (Commissioner forTelecommunications and IT, ECOWAS), Thari G. Pheko (Chief Executive,Communications Regulatory Authority) and Pakamile Pongwana (CEO, ICASA).

About AfricaCom 2015
Taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from 17 -19 November 2015, AfricaCom is now in its 18th year. AfricaCom is Africa’s largest communications conference & exhibition. The conference programme covers the
most strategic issues affecting companies in Africa’s digital market - services, efficiency, profitability, customer experience, partnerships, policy and more – and features 4 co-located events: VSAT Africa, TV Connect Africa, LTE Africa and Apps World Africa. To register: http://africa.comworldseries.com/register/

Announcing the Ericsson AHUB Pitch & Win finalists

We are proud to announce the finalists of the Pitch & Win session, which will take place at the Ericsson AHUB at AfricaCom on Wednesday 18th November.

The Pitch & Win session will give  5 African tech start-ups a chance to make themselves known and receive recognition in the industry. After receiving entries from all over Africa, our judges have selected the following

The finallists
  • AfyaBimaa mobile Micro health Insurance product for the low income and informal sector population
  • CitySpy: an app aiming to streamline community policing strategies by merging it with location-based social networking strategies
  • iGrow Academyan online business vocational college
  • The Medical Concierge Groupa Health IT enterprise based in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria founded in 2012. 
  • VericomMachine 2 Machine (M2M) solution targeting consumers in different sectors

The format
5 start-ups will pitch for 3 minutes in front of our panel of judges and will have 3 minutes to answer questions from the judges.
The judges will deliberate and will name the top Ahub start-up. All finalists will receive feedback from the judges on their pitch.

The Judges
Derrick Kotze, CEO, mLab Southern Africa
Pierre Cloete, EP Head TV & Media, Ericsson
Susie Goldring, Director, 22tribes 
Peter Martin, Northwind Capital

When will the winner be announced?
-    The winner will be announced at the Ericsson AHUB on Wednesday 18th November at 4pm. 

12 Nov 2015

How Simplifying Customer Analytics Can Accelerate Returns from Big Data - Inna Ott, Director of Marketing at Polystar

The emerging science of Big Data Analytics has been a hot topic in the industry for several years but, until now, progress towards widespread utilisation of the insights it can reveal has been relatively slow. There are two primary reasons for this. First, while everyone knows that Big Data offers huge potential, the issue has been, where to start? With so much data available, it’s been hard to see the wood for the trees. Second, the ability to work with big data has been restricted to a few specialist data scientists.

This has changed. Today, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are showing clear signs that Big Data strategies and plans have reached maturity by accelerating deployment of solutions that enable them to begin to capitalise on this rich resource. The difference driving this gathering momentum is that there are now clearly identifiable targets that enable a step-by-step approach to the implementation of Big Data strategies.

Many CSPs, for example, have chosen to focus on Subscriber Analytics as the first step in their Big Data strategies. This is because Subscriber Analytics is believed to offer the greatest potential to deliver rapid returns, enabling them to build better relationships with subscribers, among other benefits.

There’s a simple reason for this: a deep understanding of customer behaviour, while fundamental to business success, has traditionally been an expensive and imprecise discipline. Imprecise, because extrapolation from the few to the many is no guarantee of accuracy; and expensive, because efforts to obtain statistically significant data from which more accurate conclusions can be drawn, can be exceedingly costly.

While isolated data sets can deliver insight, conclusions that can be drawn may not be sufficiently representative. For CSPs, the ability to obtain accurate, timely insight into what customers actually do from a sufficiently broad sample base provides an unparalleled opportunity to not only provide better service and support, but also to reduce the costs of customer research. Big Data provides the constant flood of real-time, objective information about customer behaviour that makes this possible. The difficulty has, until now, been to make this information available to the many, not just data scientists.

Happily, there are now solutions like ones from Polystar that address this problem. A new class of advanced processing engines is available that sort information collected from the network and filters it so that it can be made relevant to different users. This pre-processing removes the pain from Big Data Analysis and delivers the right information in an accessible manner to people within the organisation. Smart solutions provide different views, so that, for example marketing teams can see the information they need, while customer services obtain a different view – and can interrogate the data with different queries and questions.

This simplification is critical. It democratises data and, for the first time, enables its potential to be realised. Data analytics is not longer a specialist discipline. Now, not only can anyone ask the right questions, but we can ensure the right people are able to discover the answers.

Meet Polystar at AfricaCom (Stand F14a) to explore how your company can benefit from a fast and efficient Customer Experience Management solution and get aggressive return on investment in a short time period.