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African Tech News Tidbits: Week of June 20th 2012

Smart vs Feature Phone

This week’s African tech news are again full of interesting tidbits. Don’t forget to join me on Sunday June 24th for the first edition of Technofrique on Coders4Africa Radio. I will be presenting theCoders4Africa founding team as well as some of the members from around the continent.

  • Ghana: TopApps is an innovative applications exhibition and awards event aimed at giving the opportunity to developers to showcase their mobile, web and SMS-based apps and games to businesses and companies as well as winning awards for their innovative apps or games. It is the idea of and event organized by PopOut, an advertising, new media and events company based in Accra, Ghana.
  • Ever wondered why Nigerian 419 scams are still around, regardless of the countless media reports on the topic? It turns out that it makes perfect sense to do so and guarantees them a better return on investment effortwise, just ask researcher Cormac Herley of Microsoft Research: “the scammers aren’t interested in seeming believable. They just want to find the most gullible victims they can, to maximize their return on their effort. While sending emails is cheap for the scammers, you see, following through with responses and then initiating the process of getting money out of victims is both labor-intensive and expensive. So they want to wheedle out only those victims that they know they can scam from the off”. Smart. You can download the research paper here.
  • Cameroon: Meet Otto Beseka is the 27 year-old entrepreneur behind ventures like Carbon Group Ltd and Omni Capital Ltd. Now we meet him about his most recent venture, TopUpDesk, a web platform that allows people to purchase airtime online without credit (or debit cards) and paypal accounts.
  • Nigeria: Techloy reviews the Inye2, second iteration of this Nigerian produced tablet.
  • Nigeria: Just like South Africa, Techloy reports that Nigeria mobile users will also get their chance to get their hands on the latest Samsung Android flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy SIII for N108,000 (about $699) through MTN.
  • Nigeria: Techloy also features quite an interesting article (from a developer point of view) about the winner of the Nokia “Create for Millions” app competition Ajibola Aiyedogbon. “Aiyedogbon said that the telecom operators have “a nasty revenue share arrangement” with content providers in which the telcos take up to 60 percent of the revenue leaving the rest to be shared between content providers and the app developers.”. Aiyedogbon raises a very important issue of contention for entrepreneurs and developers in Africa which is that of the conditions on the ground necessary for the establishment of a prosperous ecosystems.Unfortunately, the mentality seems to be towards closed, private like implementations for systems that would benefit from opening up their APIs to outside developers, (you can find stories hereabout developers complaining about those closed ecosystems like juggernaut MPesa and the workarounds that will eventually crop up).
  • Air Nigeria has become the first African carrier to offer Apple’s iPad 3 to passengers as an in-flight entertainment solution. The airline has said that passengers in business class will be offered the complimentary tablet device on which to watch Nigerian, classic and Hollywood films, as well as a broad selection of comedy, lifestyle, drama and kids TV shows.
  • Here is an article with a breakdown of the Top African Social Networks.
  • Ethiopia: Not good news coming out of the country tech wise as Ethiopia has banned Skype and other use of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services that offer audio and video related communications. The new law was passed late last month and breaking the law is punishable by 15 years in prison. This comes after last week’s decision to ban privacy browsing tool Tor.
  • Chad: Airtel Chad has collaborated with one of the leading banks on the continent, ECOBANK, to launch Airtel Money in the West African nation.
  • Senegal: Banking rates in Africa are abysmal, some estimates that only 6 to 7% or Africa is banking.E-Commerce Senegal, a Senegalese company is hosting a virtual conference on the topic of electronic payments from October 8th to the 12th 2012 titled FoVirMo. This will be an opportunity for banks, traders, merchants and companies to discover electronic and mobile payments means available locally. The site is up but is only in French for now.
  • Gabon: Africa is moving towards digital TV slowly but surely in preparation for the June 2015 global deadline and to that effect a conference is being held in Gabon June 18th to the 20th 2012 to share experiences and strategies in making the move.
  • Senegal: SMS Pharma is a new app that allows Senegalese users to find an open pharmacy at night since they are only open all night on a rolling basis. It was developed by the SenMobile company and costs about 25 cents a message and operates in 8 Senegalese cities on the Orange network.
  • DRC: The Democratic Republic of Congo won’t be getting fiber optics cable anytime soon, as corruption struck again. The 13 other countries in the West Africa Cable System are already connected but according to Tryphon Kin-Kie, Congolese Minister of Postal Services and Communication, an individual walked into the BIAC bank and withdrew $3,000,000 on order of a state official. Both were arrested and $300,000 were so far recovered. One can wonder how money that is supposed to go to such an important project can be withdrawn so simply from a bank. There is more going on here but what we know for now is that fiber optic connectivity is out. Sad.
  • Senegal: Ianota Startup Challenge will start signing up people on June 25th 2012. The concept will require teams to come up with a mobile or web app in 30days from a pool of 50 preselected projects. The 5 top apps will be announced on August 31st with a top prize of $2000.
  • Should Blackberry move their headquarters from London to Lagos as Ory Okolloh recently suggested? Not such a crazy idea…
  • Thought provoking article about how in Africa features phones are not the future:
    “So here’s my prediction: in five years’ time, most sub-Saharan Africans will have smartphones. Too optimistic? I don’t think so; after all, from 2003-2008, basic mobile-phone penetration went from 6% to 40%, and I believe the above is a fairly convincing list of reasons to believe that smartphone adoption will outpace that. Still, it’s quite an extraordinary thought.”

We end this week’s list with this quote from Mr Mobile: “The company who can build a first world Smartphone for a third world mobile network will get the next billion users.”