[Africa Tech Week] Africa sees strong internet use growth
In December 2018, the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) released some statistics on internet growth in Africa. The statistics revealed that only a quarter of Africans have access to the internet. The region has however been seeing the strongest growth.
Of all the regions reported by ITU, the strongest growth was reported in Africa, where the percentage of people using the internet increased from just 2.1% in 2005 to 24.4% in 2018. Well, the continent is still showing this growth. In Nigeria for example, the country’s The Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the Internet users in Nigeria increased marginally to 115,938,255 million in March 2019. The disclosure was made on Monday this week by NCC in its Monthly Internet Subscribers Data for February posted on its website. Remember in May this year Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform, launched the first edition of its Innovation Challenge to help increase internet access in Africa.
Safaricom announced the availability of its “Reverse Call” feature enabling its more than 31 million customers to pay for calls for loved ones. This is not the only major announcement to come from Safaricom this month. The company together with Ethiopia's Ethio telecom recently agreed to implement equal termination tariff rate on voice calls following the call made by Ethio telecom in January 2019. Safaricom also partnered with BuuPass to launch an online service where travellers in Kenya can book and purchase bus tickets.
Still, in South Africa, Bolt, the on-demand transportation platform that operates in 12 South African cities, launched Bolt for Business, allowing companies of all sizes to manage and pay for corporate trips via a single, easy-to-use portal. In Kenya, the company also announced that it is launching its operations in 3 major urban centres in Kenya, setting the stage for a continued push to expand its market footprint within the country. Bolt, rebranded from Taxify early this year in what the company said is to bring its brand identity in line with the company’s broader vision of transportation that has already expanded from ride-hailing, with cars and motorbikes, to scooter sharing.
African startups were also in the news this week. Nigeria’s health tech startup MDaaS Global, which is building a network of tech-enabled diagnostic facilities in the country, closed on seed funding totalling US$1 million. Google announced that its Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge to Africa is now accepting application submissions from news startups organisations across the region. Six East African startup entrepreneurs from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda were also shortlisted to receive $20,00 each from MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowships program.
On matters payments, WorldRemit introduced new app features to make it easier for remittance recipients in several countries, including Cameroon, to manage funds sent from overseas. IBS Bank announced a new partnership with Visa to deepen its payments services in Somalia by going live with its acquiring business on the Visa platform. In Kenya, Visa, KCB Bank Kenya and the Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya (BAK) also announced plans to digitize payments for the motorcycle transport operators.
Other highlights of the week include GBI pioneering multi-national SD-WAN in the Middle East and Africa with Nuage Networks, iWay Africa partnering with Panda Security to address cybersecurity in Kenya, KoreConX announcing first fully compliant digital securities offering for Africa and Middle East and Smiths Detection winning a contract with Meridian Port Services Limited (MPS) to provide cargo inspection technology for the major Tema Port Expansion project in Ghana.