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UN Tasks Africa on Internet Infrastructure for Inclusive, Sustainable Growth

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internet infrastructure

By Adedapo Adesanya

The United Nations has urged African countries to invest in building resilient internet infrastructure to tap digital opportunities and accelerate social and economic transformation on the continent.

This is as global leaders attending the 17th Internet Governance Forum being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, underscored the importance of digital technologies as tools for enhancing development across Africa.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres, told participants that while digital technologies were transforming lives and livelihoods, they were outpacing regulations and exacerbating inequalities around the world.

He called for a human-centred digital future based on a resilient internet that is open, inclusive, and secure for all, in line with his proposed Global Digital Compact. The proposed Global Digital Compact aims to deliver universal connectivity, close the digital divide and reach the millions of people who are not connected to the internet.

“The safe, secure human-centred digital space begins with the protection of free speech, freedom of expression, and the right to online autonomy and privacy,” said Mr Guterres, emphasizing that governments, private companies, and social media platforms have a responsibility to prevent online bullying and misinformation that undermines democracy, human rights, and science.

“We need to work for a safe, equitable, and open digital future that does not infringe on the privacy or dignity,” Mr Guterres urged.

On his part, the Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Antonio Pedro, said reducing the digital divide is essential to building new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation, and access to services in Africa.

“Harmonizing regulations to remove barriers to connectivity both within African nations and across the continent is crucial,” said Mr Pedro, explaining that harmonized regulations will facilitate the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA is key to Africa’s food and energy security and fosters competitiveness through economies of scale and improved market access.

Statistics show that an estimated 871 million people are not connected to the internet in Africa, and access is even limited in rural areas. Though 70 per cent of Africa’s population technically has access to mobile internet, less than 25 per cent are making use of the internet due to the high cost of mobile internet across the region, Mr Pedro noted.

“The lack of digital and literacy skills is another key barrier to achieving digital inclusion,” said Mr Pedro, adding that “These skills gaps have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the expansion of online education, e-healthcare, e-commerce, and remote work, have left a large portion of the population without internet access even further behind.”

He said the need for meaningful digital connectivity to boost sustainable development, particularly for the Least Developing Countries (LDCs), has never been more urgent. Despite this, Africa has made some progress in promoting digital access.

“Now is the time to double down on our effort to close the digital infrastructure gap and to leverage digital technologies to power key initiatives in support of achieving a greener and more inclusive digital world and a just and sustainable development for all, “said Mr Pedro, remarking that a multi-sectoral approach in realizing a resilient and unfragmented internet in Africa was key.

“The implementation of digital technologies should progressively and continually mirror key principles of inclusion, representation and accessibility… Private sector involvement in spurring digital development, specifically infrastructure development, will leapfrog socio-economic development,” Mr Pedro underscored.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Starlink is Now Available in Nigeria—SpaceX Confirms

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Starlink is now available in Nigeria

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Nigerians and tech startup owners can now heave a sigh of relief as Starlink is now available in Nigeria, according to SpaceX.

The internet service provider is owned by a billionaire businessman and owner of Twitter, Mr Elon Musk.

The federal government held meetings with the management of the company to introduce its services in Nigeria. The network was earlier expected to commence its operations in the country last month.

However, after the wait, SpaceX has confirmed the availability of the Starlink network in the country and would be expected to take a huge chunk of the broadband market with competitors like MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile, Smile, Spectranet, and Swift.

Nigeria is the first African country to receive Starlink service.

“Starlink is now available in Nigeria, the first African country to receive the service,” a message posted on the Twitter handle of SpaceX on Monday night stated.

Starlink, according to its profile on Wikipedia, is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage to 47 countries. It also aims for global mobile phone service after 2023.

With Starlink, users can engage in activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet, as its high-speed, low-latency service is made possible via the world’s largest constellation of highly advanced satellites operating in a low orbit around the Earth.

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CBN Gives Interswitch Payments Service Holding Company License

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Interswitch

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A Payments Service Holding Company (PSHC) license has been granted to Interswitch Group by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This followed an earlier announcement by the CBN regarding new licensing categories for participants in the Nigerian payments system.

The integrated payments solution provider is among the first to receive this authorisation from the country’s apex bank.

According to the regulator, the PSHC regulation requires companies with existing or prospective operations across multiple license categories to set up a PSHC. The activities of each of the PSHC subsidiaries operating within those respective licensing regimes are clearly delineated for clearer accountability, effective risk management and the enablement of better regulatory oversight by the CBN.

A statement from Interswitch, a leading financial technology in Africa, outlines that Interswitch’s Group Holding Company retains ownership of the PSHC in Nigeria as well as its other subsidiaries outside of Africa.

The issuance of the PSHC licence coincides with Interswitch’s 20th-anniversary commemoration, which has seen the company cement its position as a pioneering and integral enabler that has actively supported the growth and development of fintech and payments progressively across Africa over the last 20 years.

It also serves to reinforce Interswitch’s progressive outlook as a frontier-driving company which keeps pushing boundaries to facilitate the creation of new ecosystems that help businesses and individuals scale and thrive, in line with its purpose of inspiring Africa to greatness through innovation, value-creation and excellence.

“Twenty years ago, we placed a bet on the latent potential we saw in the introduction of e-payment channels at the time, particularly ATMs for the delivery of cash just-in-time, and today, we are gratified to see how far the financial technology and payment systems in Nigeria have grown.

“On the back of our receipt of this additional license, we remain strongly committed to a close partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria to facilitate the delivery of the Payments Vision (2025) and, of course, the National Financial Inclusion Strategy,” the founder and Group CEO of Interswitch, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, remarked.

He further reiterates Interswitch’s resolute focus on its over-arching mission to continue championing technology solutions that connect and empower individuals, businesses, and communities across the continent.

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Mafab Rolls Out 5G Services in Nigeria

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Mafab 5G Network

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Another player has joined the 5G network space in Nigeria, and it is Mafab Communications Limited, which won the licence with MTN Nigeria Plc in December 2021.

After it obtained the licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for $273.6 million, it delayed its rollout, while its competitor, MTN, started in August in a few cities.

Business Post reports that Mafab on Tuesday held a ceremony at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, to commence operations in the country, promising to deepen broadband penetration.

“We are fully committed to bringing the benefits of 5G services to Nigerians and deploying a network that will drive economic development with increased broadband capabilities nationwide.

“I have no doubt that the service will help deliver improvements in the fields of education, business, smart cities and entertainment,” the Chairman of Mafab, Mr Mushabu Bashir, said.

It was gathered that Mafab would largely use existing infrastructure from IHS towers and, if need be, ATC Nigeria Wireless Infrastructure Solutions as well for its operations.

Recall that last month, the NCC again auctioned the 3.5GHz spectrum, which was won by Airtel Nigeria, which intends to launch its operations very soon.

It is not certain how much the Mafab 5G network services would cost. When MTN rolled out its 5G services last year, it sold the device for N50,000 and asked interested customers to pre-order the 5G router.

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