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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Sophos Acquires Braintrace to Provide Next Generation Cybersecurity

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Braintrace

By Adedapo Adesanya

Sophos, a global leader in next-generation cybersecurity, has announced the acquisition of Braintrace to manage cyber threats and provide responses to its customers.

This further enhances Sophos’ Adaptive Cybersecurity Ecosystem with Braintrace’s proprietary Network Detection and Response (NDR) technology.

Braintrace’s NDR provides deep visibility into network traffic patterns, including encrypted traffic, without the need for Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) decryption. Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, Braintrace launched in 2016 and is privately held.

As part of the acquisition, Braintrace’s developers, data scientists and security analysts have joined Sophos’ global Managed Threat Response (MTR) and Rapid Response teams.

Sophos’ MTR and Rapid Response services business has expanded rapidly, establishing Sophos as one of the largest and fastest-growing MDR providers in the world, with more than 5,000 active customers.

Braintrace’s NDR technology will support Sophos’ MTR and Rapid Response analysts and Extended Detection and Response (XDR) customers through integration into the Adaptive Cybersecurity Ecosystem, which underpins all Sophos products and services.

The Braintrace technology will also serve as the launchpad to collect and forward third-party event data from firewalls, proxies, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other sources.

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These additional layers of visibility and event ingestion will significantly improve threat detection, threat hunting and response to suspicious activity.

Speaking on the acquisition, Mrs Joe Levy, chief technology officer, Sophos said, “You can’t protect what you don’t know is there, and businesses of all sizes often miscalculate their assets and attack surfaces, both on-premises and in the cloud. Attackers take advantage of this, often going after weakly protected assets as a means of initial access.

“Defenders benefit from an ‘air traffic control system’ that sees all network activity, reveals unknown and unprotected assets, and exposes evasive malware more reliably than Intrusion Protection Systems (IPS).”

“We’re particularly excited that Braintrace built this technology specifically to provide better security outcomes to their Managed Detection and Response (MDR) customers.

“It’s hard to beat the effectiveness of solutions built by teams of skilled practitioners and developers to solve real-world cybersecurity problems,” he added.

Sophos will deploy Braintrace’s NDR technology as a virtual machine, fed from traditional observability points such as a Switched Port Analyzer (SPAN) port or a network Test Access Point (TAP) to inspect both north-south traffic at boundaries or east-west traffic within networks.

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These deployments help discover threats inside any type of network, including those that remain encrypted, serving as a complement to the decryption capabilities of Sophos Firewall.

The technology’s packet and flow engine feed a variety of machine learning models trained to detect suspicious or malicious network patterns, such as connections to Command and Control (C2) servers, lateral movement and communications with suspicious domains.

Since Braintrace built its NDR technology specifically for predictive, passive monitoring, its engine also provides intelligent network packet capture that IT security administrators and threat hunters can use as supporting evidence during investigations. The novel NDR analysis and prediction technique is patent pending.

On his part, Mr Bret Laughlin, CEO and co-founder of Braintrace said, “NDR is critical to successful threat hunting. Braintrace’s competitive differentiation is its unique NDR technology that our MDR analysts leveraged for finding, interrupting and remediating cyberattacks.

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“With our own NDR technology, the team responds faster and more accurately because of the real-time, automated visibility and threat verification they have into encrypted traffic.

“We built Braintrace’s NDR technology from the ground up for detection and now, with Sophos, it will fit into a complete system to provide cross-product detection and response across a multi-vendor ecosystem.”

Braintrace’s NDR technology is a key component for defending against cyberattacks today and in the future.

Sophos research demonstrates how adversaries aggressively and constantly change tactics to evade detection and execute their attacks.

Braintrace’s technology helps uncover malicious C2 traffic from malware, such as ColbaltStrike, BazaLoader and TrickBot, as well as zero-days, that could lead to ransomware and other attacks. This visibility allows threat hunters and analysts to pre-empt any potential ransomware attack, including recent strikes by REvil and DarkSide.

Sophos plans to introduce Braintrace’s NDR technology for MTR and XDR in the first half of 2022.

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NCC Denies Renewing Airtel Nigeria’s Operating License

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Airtel Nigeria SIM update

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has refuted claims by the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Mr Olusegun Ogunsanya, that the company’s operating licence has been renewed.

Mr Ogunsanya was quoted in the media last week as saying that the 10-year operating licence of Airtel Nigeria had been renewed by the agency, which regulates the telecommunications industry in the country.

But in a statement issued on Sunday by the NCC Director of Public Affairs, Mr Ikechukwu Adinde, the commission categorically said this was totally untrue.

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Though the NCC admitted that Airtel Nigeria has applied for a renewal of its licence, it was yet to approve this as it was still under scrutiny.

It was reported that Mr Ogunsanya made the claim when he spoke with newsmen in Lagos on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, during the media launch of Airtel’s corporate social responsibility programme, Touching Lives 6.

“The attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been drawn to a recent statement on an online publication credited to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Mr Olusegun Ogunsanya, to the effect that the mobile operating licence of Airtel has been renewed by the Commission for another period of 10 years.

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Mr Ogunsanya was said to have made the statement while speaking in Lagos on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, during the media launch of Airtel’s corporate social responsibility programme, ‘Touching Lives 6’.

“The commission wishes to state that while Airtel Nigeria has applied for the renewal of the Unified Access Service (UASL) Licence granted to it by the Commission, the application is yet to be approved as it is still undergoing [the] required regulatory process.

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“This statement is issued for the guidance of our stakeholders,” the full statement read.

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Comviva Introduces mobiquity Pay X

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mobiquity Pay X

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A platform designed to enhance all aspects of digital financial solutions called mobiquity Pay X has been introduced by Comviva, the global leader in mobility solutions.

A statement from Comviva said the new next-generation platform comes with enhanced security, simpler user lifecycle management & experience, among others.

The mobiquity Pay X is said to be completely built on microservices-based architecture with fully independent and reusable components.

The enhanced modularity facilitates faster time to market and greater scalability and has enabled Open APIs to easily integrate with third-party systems and extended financial ecosystem.

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To enhance user experience, the platform now offers a revamped slicker mobile app for consumers, agents, merchants and other business users and provides an advanced User Management System (UMS) that allows back-office users to easily manage the complete lifecycle of consumers, agents, merchants, and other business users seamlessly. Its intuitive user interface, predefined templates and real-time feedback help quickly perform operations.

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mobiquity® Pay is amongst the world’s largest digital financial services platforms, powering over 70 digital wallets and payment services for 130+ million consumers and processing over 7 billion transactions exceeding $130 billion annually in more than 50 countries.

“COVID has significantly accelerated the growth of digital financial services and the entire financial ecosystem is growing at its fastest pace ever.

“Customer demand and public health priorities are pushing contactless payment adoption and our next generation mobiquity Pay X platform shall help financial service providers scale their digital wallet and payment services faster and seamlessly.

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“With this new platform, Comviva has completely automated the software delivery process. The time to market has improved significantly with continuous product development, integration, testing, release and deployment,” the EVP and Chief Growth and Transformation Officer at Comviva, Srinivas Nidugondi, said.

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