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What’s Next for the African Tech Revolution?

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Kay Akinwunmi Zazuu Tech Revolution

By Kay Akinwunmi

In many parts of Africa, a tech revolution is underway. It’s predicted 475 million people will be mobile internet users by 2025.

Devices, networks and emerging forms of technology are proliferating, not least in Nigeria which, through R&D, has the potential to become a regional leader in AI and Blockchain.

Driven by an exploding population, (the average age of which is just 19.7 years old), Africa can become a tech powerhouse.

According to the World Economic Forum, between 2015 and 2020 tech start-ups receiving financial backing was six times faster than the global average. Despite the challenge of retaining later-stage funding, it’s an exciting time to be an African tech start-up, whose strength lies in retaining a local identity.

When Uber launched in Nigeria, it was forced to change its payment options to include cash, and this is a small example of a much bigger truth: in Africa, models that work elsewhere can rarely – if ever – be replicated without some adjustments having to be made to cater for local tastes and modes of behaviour.

This is not unique to Africa: China’s WeChat, described as an “app for everything”, has an interface many Westerners would find awkward to use, ugly, or undesirable; the same is probably true of Western apps looked at from a Chinese point of view. And this is one reason why anyone starting a business for the African market must have a presence on the ground in Africa: so that whatever they build looks and feels local.

But it is also one reason why the tech boom is so exciting: it gives Africans the power to develop African products that are uniquely, visibly African. Africans are best-placed to identify African opportunities, as well as African problems. Through tech, they can develop solutions in a distinctly African way.

And this is something that has been denied to Africans for a long time. The reality is that big corporations can have a homogenising effect as they expand overseas, diluting local cultures.

Tech, though innately international and borderless, celebrates diversity by giving power to the individual, wherever they happen to be. And that means that over time, through tech, Africa will be able to shape its own commercial identity: its own principles around user experience, brand and design.

By giving companies and the products they produce a uniquely African identity – an identity that reflects African people and culture – tech can strengthen that culture and showcase it to the world.

Tech also has the power to help Africa address a wealth of more serious issues, some of which have not just been persistent but seemingly intractable.

EdTech, for example, provides a solution to limited access to education for Africans, especially in poorer rural areas. Start-ups like PataTutor, based in Kenya, connects students with qualified private or online tutors, while uLesson, based in Nigeria, sells digital curricula through SD cards.

HealthTech, too, could give Africans the means to speak to medical professionals via video call or assess any symptoms they might have. In 2020, capital for health tech start-ups on the continent rose 257.5 per cent from 2019, according to a Disrupt Africa report, spurred in part by the pandemic, which shed light on the gap in healthcare services and forced healthcare providers to adjust their models and digitalise quickly.

Increasing internet penetration also means that remote working is likely to increase across Africa, and that may mean that those working abroad can return home. Some in the diaspora are returning home already. And as the cost of data comes down and the internet gets faster, the tech wave will build and roll over more of the continent.

We may not even be able to conceive at this stage of the kinds of brands, products, services and new forms of technology that might emerge out of a bustling and uniquely African tech scene. And with all this comes greater foreign investment in Africa and less brain drain, which strips Africa of some of its most talented people.

There is still a way to go before Africa’s tech industries become sustainable and world-leading. Significant problems remain later-stage funding, supply chain disruption and cybercrime:

Nigeria has more tech hubs than any other country on the continent but is also plagued by mobile malware. But through innovation and the need to diversify its economy, Africa will advance. At Zazuu, we’re proud to be part of Africa’s growth, using tech to meet the needs of African people.

Kay Akinwunmi is the co-founder of Zazuu

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MTN Nigeria Blames System Error for October 9 Outage

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Karl Toriola MTN Nigeria

By Adedapo Adesanya

MTN Nigeria has apologised to its subscribers, blaming the network outage experienced on Saturday, October 9 on a system error.

In a video message sent to Business Post on Sunday, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr Karl Toriola, said the downtime was a result of system error from its end and not a result of sabotage as many feared, especially because it occurred a day after Facebook suffered a similar issue.

MTN users had October 9 experienced hours of network disruption, which affected calls and connections to the internet.

Mr Toriola explained that the technical team traced the cause of the downtime to an error that shifted all 4G customers to the 3G, overloading the band.

“Last Saturday, we had an outage that left our customers without a connection for several hours. On behalf of the entire MTN team, I want to start with a heartfelt apology. We are truly sorry for the disruption this caused for so many in our MTN family,” Mr Toriola said.

“We know that millions of people rely on us to stay connected to their loved ones, to manage their businesses, to coordinate their lives. We take that responsibility and privilege very seriously. That’s why we are putting new measures in place to make sure we never experience anything like last Saturday again.

“Our technical teams have traced the cause of the problem to an error that shifted all our 4G customers onto the 3G band. This overloaded the 3G band, causing a domino effect that impacted the whole network. Our engineers were able to resolve the problem.

“I know that recently other technology companies suffered outages. I want to reassure you that last Saturday’s event is in no way connected to those. This wasn’t [a] sabotage, it was a regrettable error,” the MTN chief added.

He further announced that MTN had refunded customers airtime and data used yesterday in addition to the time-bound subscription extension earlier promised.

He also assured users that MTN was working to ensure that they never experience such challenges with the network again.

“While we work to strengthen our network to prevent further disruptions of any kind, we wanted to find a way to say sorry. Something more than extending the validity of all time-bound plans by 24 hours, which we did as soon as service was restored,” he added.

“So, while we can’t give you back the time you lost last Saturday, we can give you back what you spent yesterday. Every customer on the MTN network has received a refund for the data and airtime that they used between 12 noon and 7 pm yesterday.

“We hope it shows how much we value our customers. You truly are our most important focus.

“We all have challenges, each and everyone, young or old, personally or professionally. What matters is how we respond. With you by our side, we will continue to improve and grow,” Mr Toriola stated.

This newspaper understands that many MTN users were given 1MB of data valid till October 31.

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FG Inaugurates Governing Boards to Fast Track Development

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Ogbonnaya Onu Governing Boards

By Sodeinde Temidayo David

In a bid to fast track the development of the country as well as overcome science, technology and innovation (STI) challenges, the federal government has inaugurated governing boards and councils of agencies or institutes under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Recall that recently, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the change of name of the Ministry of Science and Technology to STI in a bid to focus on ensuring the provision of STI-based solutions to overcome societal challenges.

On Thursday in Abuja, the Minister of STI, Mr Ogbonnaya Onu, during the inauguration, noted that in spite of the present challenges, his team was determined to break grounds by building a world-class ministry that would be the best in Africa and comparable with the best in the world.

However, he stressed that the team must work together efficiently to achieve this noble goal, as they are now in the path of repositioning and strengthening the Ministry to emphasize the desire to contribute to national development efforts of this administration to lift 100 million people out of poverty within the next decade.

According to Mr Onu, using the enormous power of STI, the focus will be on the development of abundant natural resources as well as the orderly exploitation of huge potentials of people and businesses.

The Minister further noted that the role assigned by the federal government on the ministry as custodian of all the fundamentals of innovations in Nigeria carries enormous responsibilities coupled with the recent change of name by the ministry.

“The new logo, vision and mission statement, our core values and critical success factors (CSF) would be unveiled very soon. A rebranded Ministry is emerging with implications for the commitment of all stakeholders within the STI ecosystem, especially the members of the various boards and councils of the Ministry.

“I employ you all to be diligent and unrelenting in the new journey to greater heights of service to our nation,” he noted.

The Minister also urged the governing boards and council members to familiarise themselves with the relevant instruments governing the operation and supervision of their respective agencies and institutes.

He expressed that the role and responsibilities of governing boards are stated in the relevant government circulars, laws, public service, administrative guidelines regulating the relationship with parastatals and government-owned companies.

In his remarks, Mr Micah Umoh, who represented the Chairman Senate Committee on Science, assured to give their full support to achieve the goal for the initiative.

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Third Telecom Consumer Initiative Holds October 15

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Telecom Consumer Initiative

By Sodeinde Temidayo David

The third edition of the Telecom Consumer Town Hall on Radio (TCTHR) will take place on Friday, October 15 2021, at 7:30 am, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.

The telecom consumer initiative will air on the Human Rights Radio, 101.1 FM, Abuja and will focus on the benefits of the National Identification Number to Subscriber Identity Modules (NIN-SIM) integration.

Interested individuals can tune in to listen and participate in the discussion via life streaming on the Human Rights Radio social handles, the telecommunications industry regulator said.

The TCTHR is the modified version of the Consumer Town Hall Meeting, a consumer outreach programme of the Consumer Affairs Bureau of the NCC.

Like its forerunner, the TCTHR is a train that will traverse Nigeria in keeping with management’s commitment to reach and engage every telecom consumer wherever they are.

It could be recalled that two editions of the TCTHR had taken place earlier in Kano and Lagos.

The key purpose of the programme is to create greater awareness on the linking of SIM to NIN and to educate consumers on the benefits and how to achieve NIN-SIM integration, and which consumers can reach the commission.

This initiative over the years has made it easy for consumers of telecom services in the country, who are dissatisfied with services rendered to them by any of the service providers to file a complaint.

The NCC has insisted on October 31 as the deadline for users to link their NIN to their SIM cards, stressing those who fail to do this would soon be denied the opportunity of acquiring driving licences and passports.

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