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South African capital investment and revenue spikes from increased lockdown-related data usage add to Vodacom’s earnings.

South African cellular giant Vodacom recorded an 8.3% rise in group revenue in the financial year to March 2021, driven by an 8.2 million rise in its continental subscriber base, as increased data usage for work and entertainment enforced by Covid-19 lockdowns plumped up its bottom line.

Vodacom, the third-largest mobile operator in Africa behind Orange and local rival MTN, with 123.7 million subscribers at last count, has pinned its medium-term strategy on increasing data infrastructure and building a financial services interface to serve as a marketplace for its customers to access a range of services.

In its financial results, the firm said mobile contract customer revenue increased by 5% to R20.8-billion. Data traffic increased by 55.6%, with the sharp growth in usage in the first half of 2020 during the strictest parts of the lockdown normalising towards the end of the year, the firm said. Smart devices on its network were up by 9.5% to 23.2 million, while 4G devices on its network increased by 22.0% to 15.7 million.

Vodacom said its headline earnings per share, the main profit measure in South Africa, rose 3.7%, leading it to declare a dividend of 410 cents.

“In the forthcoming financial year, we expect South Africa to deliver service revenue growth in line with our medium-term target. We are particularly excited about the launch of our lifestyle companion app, VodaPay,” Vodacom said.

“We expect that the app and the ongoing expansion of our financial service offerings will promote digital and financial inclusion.”

Vodacom said the average usage per smart device increased by 38.9% to 2.1 gigabytes per month. The firm said it accelerated the roll-out of fibre during the year, more than doubling the total number of homes and businesses connected to 126,765.

In the 2020/21 year alone, the group said it had spent R10.1-billion on capital investment in South Africa to boost its network capacity, bringing spending on network infrastructure across the group to R62.4-billion over the past five years.

South Africa, as well other parts of the continent, has seen consistent growth in internet usage and availability over the past decade, particularly via mobile phones and other smart devices. Growth in the use of mobile phones for payments and shopping also accelerated the race by mobile operators to create payment platforms.

Vodacom said its M-Pesa money transfer service was processing $24.5-billion (R366.4-billion) a month in transaction value across international markets, including Safaricom — an increase of up to 63.5% compared with 2019/20. In all, it served 57.7 million financial services customers, generating revenue of R19.3-billion in the year. Vodacom aims to have 100 million African financial services customers in the next few years. BM/DM

The days and weeks before us will be crucial for Cyril Ramaphosa and his future as president. Here we have to do with people who do not hesitate to promote racial violence and ethnic mobilisation in an effort to save their own skins.

Today, in the wake of celebrating Mandela Day, South Africa is once again in a stranglehold. It reminds me of the circumstances around the assassination of Chris Hani in 1993.

The award-winning poet and playwright Adam Small wrote these prophetic words in the introduction to the Hertzog Prize-winning drama Kanna Hy Kô Hystoe:

“O waar, waar is Moses… die wêreld se manne sit in die knyp/maar Moses het simplie sy stok gegryp/en geskrou op die volk /en geloep met die volk…” (Where, oh where is Moses… the world is in trouble, but Moses simply grabbed his staff, called his people and left with his people.)

It is words such as these that remind one that Small was also a prophet and philosopher, because after nearly six decades his words still hold true.

The assassination of Hani, the then secretary-general of the SACP, on 10 April 1993 in the driveway of his house in Boksburg led to unprecedented rioting and instability in the country.

It once again focused the attention of the international community on the political divisions in South Africa. The unrest threatened to derail Project Democracy; something which would finally isolate South Africa from the free world.

The nation was in trouble, in search of leadership.

Mandela — de facto president

It was time for decisive action. Nelson Mandela, who had already been freed after 27 years in prison, stepped forward as leader, even though he was not yet the president.

I remember the evening of 10 April 1993 like it was yesterday. Mandela addressed the nation on TV to address the conflict between white and black. He spoke with passion and drive, with energy and superhuman power. His speech was short, firm and forceful: “Tonight I reach out to each South African, black and white, from the depth of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and performed a deed so awful that our whole nation now hovers on the brink of disaster. A white woman of Afrikaner origin risked her life so that we may know and bring to justice this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shockwaves through the country and the world… South Africans must unite against those… that wish to destroy what Chris Hani died for… the freedom of all of us.”

Mandela’s decisive action had the desired effect. The nation heeded. Afterwards, experts said that Mandela had become the de facto president of South Africa on 10 April 1993. According to Jeremy Cronin, then deputy secretary-general of the SACP, Mandela’s strong leadership prevented a civil war. It would eventually lead to the first democratic election in South Africa on 27 April 1994. Mandela was elected as president and together with Small, we could heave a sigh of relief, because “Now a Moses has arisen for you” (Kitaar My Kruis, 1962).

28 years later

Monday, 12 July 2021.

South Africa finds itself in a similar crisis. The roleplayers have changed slightly. Division between black and white has been replaced by division in the ranks of the governing party. The décor and the stage remain the same: the streets of South Africa are again littered with burning tyres, protesters and stones.

“O waar, waar is Moses… Die wêreld se manne vat ’n kans/maar Moses het simplie in ’n trans/moet die klippe na die volk gegaan/en by die klippe geval en gestaan…” (Where oh where is Moses… the world has taken a chance, but Moses simply went into a trance, took the stones to his people and fell by them and stood by them.)

Mandela’s chosen successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, addresses the nation, which is once again in search of leadership. He is much younger than Mandela was back then, but his body language is that of an old man, which is not surprising. He has been widely criticised for how he has handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Add to that the plundering and vandalism that have spread like wildfire in the middle of the pandemic. It must surely keep him awake at night. His broad smile has been replaced by a sombre expression. He talks without energy, in measured tones, as if he has already lost the fight…

What is going on in South Africa?

“What is going on in South Africa?” asks Braam Hanekom, director of the Centre for Public Witness, on social media. He responds to his own question: “The grass is dry.”

He explains: when grass is dry, anyone can light it with a match. It was a long drought. Some, says Hanekom, will differ over the source of the drought. Some say it was apartheid and colonialism. Others blame it on 25 years of corrupt management and looting by the ANC government. And others say it is former president Jacob Zuma’s last attempt to grasp populist power.

The instrument that Zuma and his followers used to achieve this is tribe and ethnicity. In the context of South Africa’s past of racial discrimination and division, it is a dangerous fire to light. Ramaphosa realises this: “These acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation and will not be tolerated.”

The police have already identified 12 instigators and arrests are expected. Zuma’s followers hope that these “fires” they have lit will keep them out of prison, says Crispin Sonn, businessman and son of Franklin Sonn, on social media. Because if Zuma is sentenced to prison, it is just a matter of time before the prison doors will close behind them, too.

Ramaphosa and his future as president

The days and weeks before us will be crucial for Ramaphosa and his future as president. Here we have to do with people who do not hesitate to promote racial violence and ethnic mobilisation in an effort to save their own skins.

Ramaphosa now has two huge challenges. The first is to stop the violence. The army can possibly do this within a few days. But South Africans have lost patience with poor service and an inept government owing to the ANC’s insistence on appointing cadres instead of capable people (of whom there is an abundance in our country) in crucial posts.

In a state of anarchy?

Over the past week, South Africans and the world have watched their TV screens and seen how thugs who have exploited the toxic political quarrel between two warring ANC factions have looted our shops. And this is while businesses are already staggering under the pandemic.

Most upsetting is the fact that the state machinery which was supposed to protect us and our property was absent. By the time the defence force turned up, most of the shops had already been cleared out by the thieves. It looked as if the police had neither the capacity nor the will to act against these thugs.

Ramaphosa’s second big challenge is the theft and corruption that have been committed by his own leadership corps on his watch. His hands are thus basically tied behind his back, leaving him powerless. His speech on 12 July, in which he addressed South Africans after the start of the rioting, had no impact. Even while he was speaking, the looting continued.

The subtext facing Ramaphosa is obvious: members of your management team themselves have plundered the state coffers. What is now happening is that the nation is simply following their example. So, when Ramaphosa asks citizens to cease their looting, he has no leg to stand on.

Ramaphosa’s choice

Like Moses of old, Ramaphosa has a choice: he can fall over his own feet (or the crimes of his colleagues), or he can stand by the Constitution and democracy. But then he will have to act much more strongly against the thugs — including those in his own ranks.

The contrary is not an option for South Africa. For we have too many enemies. The greatest enemy is they — in the words of the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu — who are prepared to burn their country to the ground so that they can reign over the ashes.

Whether Ramaphosa has the energy and willpower to act decisively as Mandela did, is an open question. Here and in the rest of the world, people wait with bated breath to see whether he has the ability to live up to his reputation as Mandela’s anointed. DM

CIVH, the Remgro-controlled company that owns Dark Fibre Africa and Vumatel, is now worth more than Telkom, the company that once enjoyed an absolute monopoly over telecommunications in South Africa.

It was revealed on Monday that Community Investment Ventures Holdings – better known by its abbreviation, CIVH – has raised R3.7-billion in a second tranche of a rights offer, through which it has now raised a whopping cumulative R6.7-billion in the past six months.

Remgro executive Pieter Uys, who also chairs the CIVH board, said in an interview with TechCentral on Monday evening that the new rights offer tranche has pushed CIVH’s valuation to R27-billion. JSE-listed Telkom, by contrast, had a market capitalisation of R21.6-billion at Monday’s market close. A year ago, Remgro valued CIVH at R19.3-billion.There are interested outside investors who are queuing up to invest at this value

Uys said CIVH had been exploring a sale of equity about 18 months ago to raise new capital to reduce debt and provide for additional network roll-out. However, those plans were put on ice when Covid-19 hit in March 2020. But with demand for home broadband surging because of lockdowns, CIVH and its shareholders, led by Remgro, took the decision to go the rights offer route instead.
‘We couldn’t wait’

“The demand has been so big for (fibre broadband) services, especially in the home market, we couldn’t really wait,” Uys said. The second tranche of the rights offer was oversubscribed, suggesting strong shareholder backing from both Remgro and minority investors.

External suitors, including offshore entities — which Uys didn’t name — are continuing to show an active interest in buying into CIVH, Uys said. The company has previously held talks with both Vodacom Group and MTN Group about investing in it, though nothing concrete has transpired from those discussions – not yet, anyway.

Asked whether CIVH’s valuation makes sense given it’s higher than the long-established Telkom, Uys said:

And CIVH has big plans to expand beyond just fibre, he said. It remains interested in investing in the planned wholesale open-access network (Woan), a new, private-sector led infrastructure player that government hopes will help increase competition and reduce the “dominance” of market leaders MTN and Vodacom. It is also keen to establish a data centre business.

But even in the core fibre business, demand is booming – mainly thanks to Covid lockdowns.

“A lot of demand is coming from residential areas where you would not expect it, like Soweto,” he said. “Uptake in those areas is twice as fast as it is in Sandton. If Sandton takes two years to reach 50% penetration (homes connected where service is available), Soweto or Vosloorus will achieve the same penetration in 12 months.”

Vumatel offers prepaid fibre access in these areas, which has proved hugely popular, Uys said. The 20Mbit/s symmetrical and uncapped offering costs R399/month. “There is pent-up demand and our ambition is to make a difference. We really think we can democratise the Internet in South Africa.”

Source: Tech Central

A criminal syndicate has stolen millions from Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom subscribers in a sophisticated new scam.

Many mobile subscribers have discovered a number has been added to their profile without their permission, and thousands in airtime and data transferred to this number.

To steal as much money as possible, the criminals take control of subscribers’ accounts and bypass bill limits.

In one case reported to MyBroadband, fraudsters stole R8,453.44 from an MTN subscriber in a Me2U Money scam.

Other MTN subscribers have also complained about fraudulent Me2U Money transactions occurring on their accounts.

One victim told MyBroadband he received a “Usage Details” document with his MTN invoice in May which contained Me2u Money transfers of R200 (R173.91 + VAT) per day. These were all fraudulent transactions.

“A number was clearly added to my account without my knowledge or approval,” he said.

Although he had a bill limit of R500 on the account, and MTN limiting Me2U transfers to R1,000 per month, far more than this was stolen in one month.

The screenshots below show the fraudulent Me2U Money transfers on his account for two weeks in April.

A recent Carte Blanche episode revealed that many MTN subscribers who were fraud victims struggled to get support from the company.

In one case, the victim tried to alert MTN about the fraud by calling their fraud helpline, but she was informed they could not assist. MTN asked her to open a case via email.

She emailed MTN as requested, but to her surprise, she received an “out of office” reply. Even visiting MTN in person did not resolve the problem.

What followed was months of stress, damage to her credit record, and even being blamed for the fraud, which was not her fault.

Many other victims spoke to Carte Blanche with similar stories of increased spending limits and thousands being stolen from their accounts.

In all these cases, the victims were unable to resolve the problems using MTN’s support channels.

“When customers go to an MTN store to try to get help, the staff tells them there is nothing they can do. They are told to call the 135 fraud line. When they call that number, they get no answer,” Carte Blanche said.

MTN admitted that their service was deplorable and apologised to their customers for the poor response.

MTN SA’s executive for corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan, told MyBroadband an internal forensic investigation had revealed a criminal syndicate working to defraud MTN and its customers.

They believe criminals gained illegal access to accounts using compromised credentials, including usernames and passwords, of MTN employees and MTN partners.

The investigation currently points to a failure to protect user credentials and potential insider involvement.

The fraudsters used ID numbers in their possession to conduct searches within MTN systems to look for matches to facilitate illegal SIM swaps.

Once a SIM swap was undertaken, one-time passwords (OTP) would be sent to the “new owner” of that number to facilitate fraud.

MTN has proactively contacted customers whose accounts have been compromised by the crime syndicate. A dedicated team is also rectifying unauthorised transactions on their accounts.

Vodacom and Telkom also fell victim to the activities of the crime syndicates.

Telkom spokesperson Noma Faku confirmed that their customers were targeted in this scam.

“The suspects who attempted to scam Telkom customers were identified and have been arrested,” Faku said.

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said they had seen an increase in targeted activity by an organised cyber-crime syndicate.

“We continue to work closely with law enforcement units so that criminals are caught, and justice is served,” he said.

“Vodacom’s investigation is ongoing, and all evidence gathered will be provided to relevant authorities for further investigation.”

Kennedy said if customers suspect that they have been targeted, they should report the matter by contacting the call centre on 082 135 or visit a Vodacom store.

Cell C said it had not been affected by this specific scam. “However, it remains important to note that identity theft remains one of the major fraud risks faced by consumers,” it said.

“Our systems, policies and processes are reviewed and updated regularly to cater for these risks.”

Video-conferencing mainstay Zoom is stepping into its first major acquisition by buying cloud call centre service provider Five9 for about $14.7-billion in an all-stock transaction.

Having achieved unprecedented popularity during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom has grown from strength to strength even after a few stumbles early on. Now the company is valued at $9-billion.

After the acquisition, the 20-year old Five9 will become an operating unit of Zoom. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2022, according to the two firms. The two firms will do a joint Zoom call today to share more about the transaction.

This comes as part of Zoom’s latest attempts into expanding its offerings. In the past year, the company has added several office collaboration products, a cloud phone system and an all-in-one home communications appliance to its already-existing video conferencing software.

Five9, which has amassed over 2,000 worldwide customers including Citrix and Under Armour, processes over 7 billion minutes of calls annually. The company is expected to help Zoom enter the $24-billion market for contact centres.

“We are continuously looking for ways to enhance our platform, and the addition of Five9 is a natural fit that will deliver even more happiness and value to our customers,” said Eric S. Yuan, founder and chief executive of Zoom, in a statement.

The firms are hoping that ‘joining forces’ will offer both significant cross-selling opportunities in each other’s respective customer bases, according to Tech Crunch.

Five9’s EVP of Product Management, Anand Chandrasekaran shared his thoughts on the acquisition:

“Businesses spend significant resources annually on their contact centres, but still struggle to deliver a seamless experience for their customers,” said Rowan Trollope, chief executive of Five9.

“It has always been Five9’s mission to make it easy for businesses to fix that problem and engage with their customers in a more meaningful and efficient way.”

“Joining forces with Zoom will provide Five9’s business customers access to best-of-breed solutions, particularly Zoom Phone, that will enable them to realize more value and deliver real results for their business. This, combined with Zoom’s ‘ease-of use’ philosophy and broad communication portfolio, will truly enable customers to engage via their preferred channel of choice,” Trollope concludes.

By Luis Monzon
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Cleve Adams (PRNewsFoto/CyberTECH)

VOXOX Announces Partnership with GTS Africa 5G-enabled cloud-communications platform unites with GTS Africa to deploy the VOXOX Cloud Phone product in Cameroon and France

SAN DIEGO, July 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — VOXOX, a leading 5G-enabled AI cloud communications company in the U.S, today announced a strategic partnership with GTS Africa, a leading French value-added communications network operator doing business in Cameroon and Nigeria. This partnership will integrate VOXOX’s full platform of services to empower GTS Africa to offer virtual voice and SMS solutions to small businesses and entrepreneurs. This will begin in Cameroon and then throughout the world, specifically in France where they can establish local call interactions with customers at a much more affordable price.

VOXOX, which processes billions of calls and texts monthly, will be working with GTS to integrate the VoxDirect all-in-one cloud communications platform, with their local virtual business numbers under the Mobinawa brand to reach the underserved very small enterprises that so desperately need more reliable and suitable business communications tools at affordable pricing.

“We’re excited to establish this long-term partnership with GTS Africa as a pioneer of Telecom VAS in Africa. The continent of Africa has millions of underserved SMEs who need these services and we are honored to partner with GTS Africa to offer businesses a simple, convenient and economical way to modernize their business phone communications,” said Cleve Adams, CEO of VOXOX.

The VOXOX solution for the GTS Mobinawa brand will help small businesses stay connected with their customers and enhance communications. This partnership will allow SMEs to turn any smartphone or group of smartphones into a virtual cloud-based phone system with unlimited virtual receptionists, intelligent call routing, unlimited employee extensions, custom greetings, virtual phone numbers, voicemail transcriptions, call recording, and a robust AI-supported SMS marketing platform with automation.

“We are thrilled to work with VOXOX to further accelerate our mission to enable small businesses in French-speaking Africa countries to professionalize and improve their Voice and SMS communication with customers on ID business numbers at an affordable price, instead of being obliged to use personal mobile numbers. Therefore, we are happy to launch the Mobinawa solution with GTS numbers in Cameroon. This innovative solution will also allow Professionals in the Diaspora to acquire a local virtual number to maintain permanent contact and at a lower cost with their customers….” said Pierre-François Kamanou, GTS Africa’s CEO.

VOXOX international partnerships like GTS Africa are hosted from U.S. data centers to ensure reliability and support of the local billing in countries like Cameroon through a merchant payment gateway integration. GTS Africa’s Mobinawa will leverage VOXOX’s patent-pending breakthrough VoIP codec, for crystal clear voice quality in poor bandwidth conditions. This is of extreme importance particularly in suburban and rural areas where internet connectivity and quality are less developed.

About VOXOX
VOXOX is an innovator in 5G/AI cloud-based communication solutions for businesses. The foundation of the company’s offerings is its award-winning Platform as a Service, which enables the company and its customers to build powerful, scalable white-labeled applications and services. For end-users, VOXOX provides an extensive suite of carrier-grade business phone solutions, including VoxDirect, SIP Trunking, and a wide array of wholesale services, such as high-volume SMS. For service provider partners, VOXOX delivers cutting-edge voice and text messaging apps and services, including white-label versions of VoxDirect, a small business solution for global mobile operators. VOXOX is headquartered in San Diego.

For more information, please visit http://www.voxox.com

About GTS
After 19 years of experience in the development of value-added mobile services in Cameroon and Nigeria, GTS Africa is now positioned as the first Pan-African alternative operator of value-added communications services, dedicated to local businesses of each country and its Diaspora through its GTS network. The GTS network is currently operational in Cameroon and operated by GTS-Infotel Cameroon, the 1st local licensed alternative telecom operator offering virtual fixed numbers dedicated to Enterprise VoIP & SMS services, thanks to its strategic partnership agreement with CAMTEL, the incumbent operator.

For more information, please visit http://www.gtsnetwork.africa

In the face of overwhelming adversity and strife, it is a natural human emotion to withdraw from the crisis. Last night, as my executive team and I at MTN ended yet another crisis update, a wave of despondency hit me, and I said out loud, to no one in particular, “I have no more words.”

But that doesn’t help, does it? It doesn’t help to have no words. It doesn’t help to remain quiet, to focus only on what matters to my family and the business I happen to run.

As I write this, MTN South Africa has closed over 100 stores mostly in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal. Over 100 base stations are currently down, and our technicians can’t safely reach the sites for repairs, due to the ongoing unrest. Over 1000 MTN employees can’t get to work and millions of calls and queries from our customers cannot be attended to, as our primary call centre remains inaccessible.

MTN South Africa directly and indirectly creates employment for over 20 000 people but we are obviously not the only business going through this. The negative multiplier effect of halted business is further crippling our economy, which was just starting to show some small green shoots of recovery, from the pandemic.

While the outlook has been bleak this week, I’ve found some solace reflecting on our roots, as MTN and as a nation. Our company was born out of South Africa’s democracy, which prioritised peace, diversity and inclusion over a history of division and hatred. We are a resilient people and while it might seem trite to say, “this too shall pass”, it’s true because we have been through tough times before.

We have confronted the most terrible of situations. We have emerged on the other side, battered and bruised, but having survived because South Africans made the conscious decision to choose peace over violence and dialogue over discord.

Consider some of the bleak situations we faced in the not-so-distant past. I look back at the political violence of the early 1990s as apartheid was crumbling and we were trying to usher in our hard-fought democracy.

The townships were in flames, 500 people were dying every month, security forces were patrolling our streets inflaming the situation and neighbours fought neighbours.

Yet we kept our eyes on the prize and ensured that democracy was not derailed. Against the expectations of the whole world, we patiently stood in the voting queues and vanquished apartheid. It was hailed as the peaceful revolution. We did that.

Consider how close we came to civil war when Chris Hani was assassinated one fateful Easter Saturday. But instead of heading over the precipice driven by anger into violent insurrection, we weathered the storm and ensured the peace process held firm.

We are currently going through one of the bleakest times in recent memory. We need to focus on what is important for us to survive as a nation. We cannot destroy all that we have fought so hard for. We cannot undermine the achievements of our democracy.

The future of all South Africans, rich and poor, big business and small business, profit or not-for-profit, can only be built on that ethos of democratic resilience and fortitude that repeatedly ushered us away from the precipice of ruin.

Now is a time for us to urgently reflect on what has gone wrong and how, as individuals and as one of the biggest companies and most respected brands in South Africa, we can ensure that we never fall into this pit of lawlessness and anger again.

South Africa’s future must be a country that belongs to all. We cannot be a nation of winners and losers, players and spectators. Education and digital infrastructure for all must be the foundation for a Mzansi that works for all its people.

We cannot afford to be complacent. This time we must look at the devastating economic and social conditions under which the vast majority of South Africans are forced to survive and, instead of tut-tutting about the situation, embark with purpose on a strategy and actions for meaningful and sustainable change.

At MTN, we are proud to provide services to, amongst many others, spaza shops, local hairdressers, small pharmacies and printers and other business services. But our commitment to those entrepreneurs, who are very often black owned and are carving out new businesses in previously under-served communities, is as unflinching as it is to our huge blue-chip clients. But the difference this week is that the blue-chips know they will survive, while the future is much less clear for the rest.

As big business, we have a responsibility to further prioritise the support of small businesses and I am calling for an accelerated and coordinated effort, particularly in the ICT sector, to help small businesses. A successful and sustainable South Africa needs large and small businesses prospering side by side. This requires big business to send more work the way of small and micro enterprises and we must do this not to maximise BBBEE points, but because it is one of the most impactful ways we can quickly reignite the economy. There is no time to waste. Many parts of the world are already shaking off the effects of Covid-19 and we cannot afford to once again, be left behind.

At MTN, we have an unshakeable faith in South Africa. We continue to invest, to build a world-class communication infrastructure, to serve our 33 million customers and we will continue to work with our business partners, regulators, government and all our stakeholders. And we do so because we remain clear that the majority of South Africans are simply seeking to achieve the most basic of human endeavours, which is to give our children better than what we ourselves received.

I have lived in many countries across this continent. I have witnessed the scourge of violence and have seen the long crippling effects thereof. But I have also seen countries that have chosen peace, dialogue and inclusive growth, emerge stronger. We have that. Whether it is communities clearing up debris or delivering food parcels to the needy, the relentless optimism of South Africans is already visible.

South Africa will survive. It always does. But as we emerge on the other side, battered and bruised, we must pledge that this will not happen again. Not on our watch. The time for action is now.

Article by Godfrey Motsa, CEO at MTN South Africa

Godfrey Motsa Headline MTN

Togo’s council of ministers has adopted a draft decree codifying the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP’s) improved powers for handling conflict resolution, sanctions, and conciliation processes. Togo First cited a statement from the council which confirmed: ‘This draft decree, which simultaneously aims to protect consumer rights and the interests of operators in the sector, aims to specify the rules for conciliation, the handling of disputes and the application of sanctions by ARCEP’. In addition, with the government seemingly determined to level the playing field in the country’s telecoms market, it has unveiled a draft decree to determine which operators hold significant market power (SMP). If the decree is adopted, ARCEP will be tasked with generating a report every year assessing the status of the digital communications market in Togo. This report will be examined by the council of ministers, the paper notes.

South African mobile operators are still reeling after looters targeted their shops at shopping malls across Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Over the past few days, SA has descended into chaos, with what started as protests for the release of incarcerated former president Jacob Zuma later turning violent.

The Constitutional Court recently sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after failing to appear at the State Capture inquiry.

At the time of writing, there was no end in sight for the unrest, which has claimed 19 lives in Gauteng and 26 in KZN.

Police also confirmed hundreds of arrests in the two provinces as the pandemonium continues.

While virtually any kind of business has been targeted, local telcos have also been hard-hit by this unprecedented violence, which has seen president Cyril Ramaphosa deploying the army as police were overwhelmed, leaving the looters running amok.

As the running battles between law enforcement and the looters continue unabated, the mobile operators have resorted to closing shops to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.

Fear and anxiety

Addressing the nation over the spate of violence in the country, Ramaphosa said: “Many South Africans are at this hour counting the cost to their livelihoods and property, to their shops and businesses, to their safety and security. Many more South Africans are feeling anxious and afraid.

“Parts of the country are reeling from several days and nights of public violence, destruction of property and looting of the sort rarely seen before in the history of our democracy.”

In a statement, Telkom says it has officially closed all its stores in KZN in light of recent unrest and protests across the country that are especially concentrated in that province – and has closed stores in some parts of the country, in the interest of the safety of its customers and staff alike.

“Please note on 13 July 2021, all Telkom stores across the country will be closed until the situation can be assessed fully and it can be established that it is completely safe to resume business activities,” says the telco.

Meanwhile, it encourages clients to use the self-service channels, where they will be able to receive guidance and information on the alternative assistance options, including information on the Telkom app, how to log into the self-service portal and checking coverage in their area.

“We understand that our customers will be relying on their connectivity during this time more than ever, and we have, therefore, put a range of plans in place to ensure network availability and stability. We remain steadfast in ensuring our connectivity services remain up throughout, and as such, all essential and necessary services will be running, managed and improved as needed,” Telkom says.

Cell C has also confirmed to ITWeb the adverse impact of the melee.

Says the mobile operator in a statement: “We can confirm that several Cell C stores have been impacted by the protest action, with confirmed vandalism in KZN and Gauteng.”

As a precaution, Cell C says, a number of stores have been temporarily closed. “We are assessing the exact number of stores impacted and the extent of these incidents and will provide a further update when we have details.

“The safety of our staff and customers is our priority and we urge our customers to make use of our other channels to access services. Airtime can be purchased through ATMs as well as banking apps and internet banking platforms,” says Cell C.

Ongoing risk

MTN notes that since the weekend, it has closely monitored the growing incidents of rioting and looting in KZN that have now flared up in several other provinces as well.

“Our priority will always be the safety of our employees and our customers. The bulk of our stores in KZN are not open today, due to the ongoing risk of violence both related to the stores and public transport systems that have also been targeted,” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN.

“Our primary call centre is based in KZN and has been heavily impacted. It is currently running at minimal capacity. We are referring customers to our MTN app for self-service options, as well as our social media channels MTN South Africa on Facebook and @MTNzaService on Twitter.”

MTN notes that customers are also encouraged to use the MTN WhatsApp service for support and self-service options on 083 123 0011.

Customers can also get support via MTN’s USSD service by dialling *136# or by visiting www.mtn.co.za.

“Our primary concern remains the safety and well-being of our MTN SA employees and customers, and we will provide further updates as the situation requires,” says O’Sullivan.

Says a Vodacom spokesperson: “The safety and security of our customers, staff and franchise store employees are of paramount importance and our top priority.”

According to the company, given the current protests, all Vodacom stores in KZN, many stores in Gauteng and certain stores in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Free State and Western Cape have been closed on a temporary basis.

“We urge customers affected by the temporary store closures to make use of our self-service channels.”

Tanzania says it is not opposed to a unified telephone roaming system in East Africa known as One Network Area (ONA).

Instead, the region’s second largest economy is in the process of joining the system intended to harmonise costs of communications.

“Tanzania didn’t object. It is currently reviewing its legal framework to complete the process,” said Dr Kevit Desai, chairperson of the East African Community (EAC) Coordinating Committee.

He told reporters here yesterday that Tanzanian officials have repeatedly indicated the country was about to join the regional network.

“We are only urging them to fast-track the process so as to bring down the communications costs,” he affirmed at the EAC headquarters.

Dr Desai, who is Kenya’s principal secretary for EAC Affairs ministry, said ONA would not only harmonise communications costs but also integrate data systems.

He was briefing Arusha-based journalists on the forthcoming activities in EAC after last week’s passing of the $91.7 million budget for 2021/22.

The EAC Roaming Framework or ONA was initiated in 2014 by the EAC partner states in order to bring down the communications tariffs in the six nation bloc.

The framework imposed price caps on roaming charges and called for the removal of surcharges on cross-border telecommunications traffic.

But with some states still outside the system, the cost of telephone calls within the region has remained expensive, adding the cost of doing business.

To date, Tanzania and Burundi remain the only countries yet to join the system like Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan which have integrated their telephone roaming.

Dr Desai’s remarks on the issue came only days after Tanzania assured EAC that it had concluded internal consultations on the issue.

Tanzania, EAC sources said, is currently reviewing its legal framework with the effective implementation set for September 30th this year.

During her recent visit to the EAC headquarters, the Foreign Affairs and EA Cooperation minister Liberata Mulamula promised that Tanzania would implement the framework.

The EAC Roaming Roaming Framework or ONA was meant to harmonise mobile and data roaming charges across the region.

Calls starting from and ending within the region have to be affordable, a situation business analysts believe can enhance intra-regional trade.

A meeting of the EAC Transport, Communications and Meteorology (TCM) Sectoral Committee called on Tanzania and Burundi to speed up implementation of the framework.

Burundi is reported to be engaged in internal consultations on the issue and has received data on the implementations from Uganda.

In the broadcasting sector, the meeting approved the nine key areas identified under the Draft Guidelines for Harmonisation of broadcasting content regulations.

These are local content,ownership, cross-media ownership,licensing of broadcasting services and advertising regulations.

Others are online broadcasting; Sustainability of Free To Air (FTA) Television, among others, according to an EAC dispatch.

On local content, it was agreed that broadcasting stations in Partner States use content of not less than 10 percent made by local independent producers.

The foreign content should not be more than 40 percent.On ownership, it was agreed that the majority of shares of any broadcasting entity should be owned by locals.

Countries that had not set up both a converged Ministry and a converged regulatory agency or authority to address Broadcasting and Telecommunications issues, to do so.

Burundi and Uganda to fast track the ratification process of the EAC Protocol on ICT Networks and deposit the instruments of ratification with the office of the Secretary-General.

Source: The Citizen