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Google starts taking payments for apps via Kenya’s M-Pesa service

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Technology

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Google Play apps and games store has started accepting payments in Kenya through Safaricom’s mobile phone M-Pesa service to boost downloads in a market where many people do not have a credit card.

M-Pesa, which enables customers to transfer money and pay bills via mobile phone, has 27.8 million users in the nation of 45 million people where Google’s Android platform dominates. M-Pesa has been mimicked across Africa and in other markets.

“This is very important to the developer ecosystem in markets where credit card penetration is low,” said Mahir Sain, head of Africa Android partnerships at Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc.

Safaricom has 13 million smart phones on its network, most of them using the Android platform. It partnered with London-based global payments platform provider, DOCOMO Digital, to enable users pay through M-Pesa, both firms said on Thursday.

Safariom started M-Pesa in 2007, offering money transfer services between users. It has grown to allow users to make payments for goods and services through thousands of merchants.

It also allows users to save, borrow and buy insurance, through partnerships with commercial banks.

 

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Edmund Blair)

 

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Tech Titans: The Battle for Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Microsoft 4afrika initiative

The tech giants are busy building in Africa as the continent represents a golden opportunity to reach new customers while transforming African society.

We all know the names Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and IBM. These are the tech titans who have forged the modern world we inhabit and hardly entities that the general public associates with Africa. However, foresight and innovation enabled these behemoths to propel the developed world to a new future. Now, the tech giants have foreseen that Africa’s future is one of abundant potential.

The reasons behind this trend are actually rather simple. Africa possesses 7 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. As a whole, Africa is the fastest growing region on earth. For tech companies this has created two general fronts on which to engage the continent. Firstly, this growth has led to the emergence of the African middle class. Tech companies suddenly have a new market in which consumers are hungry for their products. Secondly, this new market has enormous potential to grow. With limited tech infrastructure, such as internet access and mobile networks, the adoption of new technologies is still very much in its infancy across huge parts of the region. If top companies generate the conditions for mass tech usage, they stand to gain an enormous new customer base while improving the lives of millions; a veritable win-win situation.

Africa, a new frontier for Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM

Microsoft was arguably the first global tech company to take a major active interest in Africa. Three years ago, the company started its 4Afrika initiative. The $75m program was designed to train thousands of Africans either for their own businesses or for the company’s 22 African offices. Simultaneously the program focused on getting affordable smart devices into the hands of millions of new customers. Amrote Abdella, the regional director of the 4Afrika project said, “In order to drive the knowledge economy, we need to drive connectivity so Africans can create and access content.”

As a result the company is experiencing strong growth in the region. However, rather than resting on their laurels, Abdella went on to explain why Microsoft intends to build on its successes: “Three years down the road one of the things that we have learnt is that the need and the demand on Africa is about doubling down on investments we are making around connectivity and smart services.”

Digify, Project Loon, Link… Ambitious plans for Africa

Project Loon

Project Loon

The connectivity race is on in earnest. Google first tested the African waters back in 2012, with an SMS based version of its Gmail service. Today, their efforts have intensified while becoming more imaginative. Google intends to utilize its cheekily named “Project Loon” in the region. Loon is a network of communications balloons positioned high in the stratosphere that can be strategically maneuvered to provide connectivity in remote areas where coverage is lacking. Data is then passed through the balloon network before being transferred down to the global internet.

Google has two other notable initiatives in the region, Link and Digify. Link has seen the installation of metro fiber optic Wi-Fi networks across Uganda and Kampala, with a further roll-out underway in Ghana. Digify is a major commitment to train 1 million Africans in digital skills. Google spokeswoman Michelle Atagana explained the strategy behind the project: “The idea is to improve people’s skills so that they can increase their chances of becoming employed or start their own businesses.”

Not to be bested, Facebook is focused on waging ambitious campaigns in the booming new market. In 2015, the social media giant opened its first African office in Johannesburg. Additionally, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighted plans to provide satellite internet to rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. He explained why he felt the move was key by saying, “To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies.”

Investing to impact

IBM has also been incredibly busy in Africa in recent years. The company has opened new research centers, invested in local businesses, funded a $60m computer skills program, and created new initiatives designed to drive the usage of big data, analytics and cloud computing. Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, the director of IBM Research explained why the company is taking such a significant interest: “As scientists we believe that science and technology is an enabler to express your needs, it is an enabler to shape your own future. And this is why IBM is making this very significant investment into Africa.”

Where the tech giants go, immense progress and social transformation follows. Economically, Africa will benefit immeasurably as the continent gains skills and business is increasingly done in today’s tech space. Socially, Africans will be able to access a global treasure trove of information, use life changing services and communicate in a way never before possible.

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Tidjane Dème : the face of Google in Francophone Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Tidjane Dème

Meet the face of Google in French-speaking Africa

Senegalese Tidjane Dème, 41, is working with Google to unlock affordable broadband access for Africa. Dème has worked for the giant global internet search and advertising giant since 2009.

Google recruited him to be its lead for Francophone Africa in Dakar well before most Africans had regular access to the internet, he noted, and Google understood that.

“Their approach was: ‘In a few years, Africa will be ready. It will be a big business opportunity for us,’” Dème recalled.

He said Google had also decided it didn’t want to recruit an expatriate for the job. Instead they were looking for someone with tech skills, with knowledge of the region and experience working in it.

“For them, that combination was necessary to develop their activities in the region.”

Tech education, experience

With European studies in technology, a stint working in Silicon Valley in the United States, and a record of entrepreneurship in Senegal, Dème fit the bill.

After high school in Dakar, a scholarship enabled him to continue his studies in France. He studied science at the prestigious Ecole polytechnique in Paris, where he discovered programming and computer studies. He went on to do specialized studies in telecommunications and information technology at the National College of Advanced Techniques, also in Paris.

From there, Dème worked as a consultant to Cap Gemini, one of the first information technology firms in France.

At Cap Gemini, “I was often the youngest, most inexperienced in a position where I could learn a lot from my colleagues,” he said.

Witness to the dot.com boom, bust

Then he joined a U.S. telecom start up with an office in Paris, which led to a job in Silicon Valley and a close-up view of the internet boom of the early 2000s.

“There was still a lot of energy and innovation in the Valley, but the bubble was about to burst,’’ he recalled.

After a few years, he returned to Senegal to start his own company. Actually, he attempted to start several companies but none took off.

Learning from failure

The lesson of failure? “It was necessary for someone like me who wanted to do entrepreneurship, innovation. You come out of a certain academic background and an early career that makes you believe you belong to a certain elite. It is a very good thing to discover your limits and learn to work with people who complement you.”

He also worked as a tech consultant in Dakar. In this role, in 2008, he met Google officials who wanted to launch a push in Africa from an office in Dakar.

Skeptical of Google

“At first I was very skeptical because I figured they would immediately try to market their products,” he said. “But they just asked what can be done to develop a dynamic, open internet for Africa.”

That convinced him to take the job.

Since joining Google, Dème has focused on fostering a technological community that can develop local content and supporting development of startups that ultimately will drive internet access and adoption. He also directs a Google team working on encouraging infrastructure investment in Africa.

Expense is a barrier to access

According to Internet World Stats, less than 30 percent of the population of Africa had access to the internet in 2015.

A May report by the World Economic Forum said affordability of broadband and equipment was a major hurdle to greater internet adoption in Africa.

Other obstacles are lack of skills and lack of understanding of the economic value of internet access, the report said. Finally, many African countries would require massive investment in infrastructure to assure affordable access to citizens.

But Dème is helping to change that. He sees a bright technological future on the continent – Africa will surprise the rest of the world.

“People underestimate the capacity of Africans … to use tools solve problems in their lives. It is the same for the internet and for every new technology that comes along.”

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Tidjane Deme Demands Internet Investment

Comments (0) Leaders

tidjane-deme

In 2009, Google opened an office in Dakar, the capital of West-African Francophone country Senegal. By 2015, much of West Africa is on the Internet thanks to an increase in infrastructure development, particularly with cell phones, and the work of one man: Tidjane Deme. Deme is a 40-year-old Senegalese Internet technician educated in France, and man who has played a huge part in the Africa’s Internet explosion.

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