Africa Data Centres to build its first data centre in Kigali

Africa Data Centres has revealed plans to build its first data centre in Kigali, Rwanda. The data centre will have 2MW of IT load and will be purpose-built to meet growing demand in the region.

“It is an exciting time for Africa Data Centres,” says Tesh Durvasula, the company’s CEO. “Our decision to build a data centre in Kigali was an easy one, given Rwanda’s robust economic recovery post the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government of Rwanda’s focus on digital transformation”.

“This latest announcement adds to and complements our existing investments in Rwanda and elsewhere in East Africa. We will work closely with both public and private enterprises in Rwanda to ensure that they can harness the benefits of our data centre facility to enable the provision of  digital services that Rwandan citizens need,” Added Hardy Pemhiwa, Group President & CEO of Cassava Technologies.

According to Durvasula, “This new data centre brings three main benefits to the market – global standards, high quality of service and affordability. In addition, enterprises will achieve cost savings associated with building and maintaining their own facilities”.

Although Rwanda is a landlocked country in East Africa, there is stable network connectivity and infrastructure connecting it to Uganda and from there to the Kenyan coast into Uganda. Africa Data Centres will ensure that Rwanda becomes part of their ecosystem in East Africa by connecting the new data centre to their site in Nairobi

Speaking of the need for colocation services in the country, Durvasula says the local enterprise market is eager to benefit from Africa Data Centres’ colocation services and a stable data centre environment. “They will also be able to make the most of global connectivity through a range of global service providers and cloud service providers”.

Ultimately, Africa Data Centres wants to extend the same experience to clients in Rwanda as it does in other countries by building a world-class ecosystem to which the Rwandan market can connect.

www.africadatacentres.com

[Rwanda] Face scan account opening a big hit with Bank of Kigali customers

Bank of Kigali (BK) says it has recorded increased uptake of its mobile banking services following the launch of new digital customer onboarding and lending features. 

The bank on September 30 unveiled its upgraded digital platform including BK Mobile App with new features, Internet Banking 2.0 and BK Digital Lending.

The new digital products have become a hit with customers of the bank which is listed on Rwanda and Kenyan stock markets, helping to enlist new clients including from the diaspora.

The new BK Mobile App enables new customers to onboard themselves and open a bank account with just a scan of their face and ID. It also allows several transactions including transfers and scheduling of advance payments. 

The App has reduced the time it takes to open a bank account to just a few minutes, from previously when it would take up to an hour.

“We want people to open accounts from where they are and start using them. Technology will help us to achieve our goal of reaching many customers and that will earn us more profit,” said Dr, Diane Karusisi, the Bank of Kigali Chief Executive Officer.

The bank has set a target to onboard 80 percent of its customers onto its digital lending platform in the next two years, up from the current 40 percent who are using the service.

The BK mobile App has 57,000 active users, which is expected to increase significantly based on the rise in customer uptake.

“We have great people in Bank of Kigali who come to work every day with a sense of responsibility and purpose. We believe we are not just any bank, we are the home bank and we have a responsibility in the critical journey our country has taken,” said Dr Karusisi.

BK in mid-October also signed a partnership with World First Asia to enable customers to send money instantly to China at a fraction of the cost of other cash transfer services in the market.

The partnership saw BK establish integration with China’s Ali Pay, a third-party online payment solution owned by Ant Financial, a subsidiary of World First Asia. It enables BK account holders to send money from Rwanda to China instantly through Ali Pay.

Sending under $10,000 via Ali Pay will cost customers $25, way below other providers who charge above $100.

bk.rw/personal

[Rwanda] Mobile Finance Can Increase National Gross Domestic Product, Report

Successful deployment and adoption of mobile financial services is associated with a positive impact on GDP growth in developing markets. This is according to new research from Vodafone Group, Vodacom Group, Safaricom, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The research notes that mobile finance can help businesses to reduce costs, access credit to invest and connect with consumers that were previously excluded from financial services.

The econometric modelling research – which examined 49 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America – found that countries with successful mobile money services had an annual GDP per capita growth rate up to 1 percentage point higher than countries where mobile money platforms had not been successful or not introduced.

Based on previous World Bank research on the relationship between economic growth and reductions in the number of people living in poverty[2], this GDP per capita growth implies that countries with successful mobile money adoption could reduce poverty by around 2.6%.

The analysis was conducted as part of the companies’ Africa.Connected campaign, an initiative to drive sustainable development through collaboration and help close the divides that prevent progress in Africa’s key economic sectors. The findings are part of a new research paper, Digital Finance Platforms to Empower All, the fourth research paper developed and released under the Africa.Connected umbrella.

“Mobile financial services platforms like M-Pesa are vital drivers of financial inclusion in society which can improve individual life chances and enable enterprises to launch and expand, bringing wealth and jobs into developing economies. There remains though barriers both to accessing platforms – including digital literacy and smartphone accessibility – and to developing them – with an un-level regulatory playing field for non-traditional financial services providers in many countries.” Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, CEO of M-Pesa Africa and Chief Financial Services Officer at Safaricom, said. 

As part of the Africa.Connected research, consumer surveys were conducted focusing on users of M-Pesa in Kenya and Tanzania, and results were extrapolated to Ghana and Mozambique. A business survey was also conducted in Kenya. The resulting research underpinned the continuing importance of the world’s first mobile money service 15 years after it launched in 2007.

The researchers estimated that 17.6 million current users in the four countries did not have access to any formal financial services before using M-Pesa. 98% of businesses surveyed said that M-Pesa helps them to do business, with the main benefits of M-Pesa being its facilitation of faster and safer payments and enabling the sale of goods and services online; and 95% of businesses surveyed indicated that they use M-Pesa for at least half of their business transactions.

“Financial inclusion is both a pre-condition and a key enabler for meeting many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including reducing poverty, boosting economic growth, promoting market access and championing investment in key sectors like education, agriculture, and healthcare. But more importantly, it is about putting people at the center, empowering them with more agency over their money and increasing their resilience. Eliminating financial exclusion in Africa, and across the globe, must be a priority if we are to deliver on inclusive, sustainable prosperity for all on a healthy planet.” Ulrika Modeer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy at UNDP, said.

The report is available for download here. 

www.vodacom.com

MTN Rwanda introduces extended warranty and repair services for smartphones

MTN Rwandacell Plc (MTN Rwanda) has introduced extended warranty and repair services for all customers that purchase smartphones from any MTN Service Centre. This service is launching soon after MTN Rwanda’s announcement that it would be launching a device financing initiative in partnership with Bank of Kigali, offering customers the opportunity to buy brand new smartphones on credit.

MTN Rwanda’s extended warranty offers customers additional protection for any smartphone purchased at any MTN Service Centre or Connect Shop and also for any smartphone a customer has owned for less than three (3) years, upon the purchase of a screen protector and/or phone case for that existing phone. The warranty is for a period of twelve (12) months.

MTN Rwanda is also offering customers one free repair of their smartphones if any fault develops during the warranty period. For any additional repairs, customers will receive an eighty per cent (80%) discount on the repair costs.

“Smartphones are the gateway to unlimited information and an array of digital services, and we want to ease the process of owning and maintaining one. For a lot of our customers, smartphones are the first big-expense item they purchase for themselves, meaning screen protectors and phone cases are a must-have given the durability of smartphones. The idea of introducing an MTN extended warranty and repair service went without saying. This is part of our commitment to ensure that as we connect everyone to the digital world, we think of the entire customer journey and offer our customers peace of mind,” said Yaw Ankoma Agyapong, MTN Rwanda Chief Consumer & Digital Officer.

The extended warranty (beyond what is covered in the manufacturer warranty) insures against accidental damage, cracked screens, cracked casing, water and liquid damage as well as malfunction after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.

MTN Rwanda’s repair service offers top-notch diagnoses at designated MTN Service Centres. Customers located in Kigali will have their phones repaired within 3 days and those located upcountry will have their phones repaired within 5 days.

“We look forward to our customers enjoying this service as we continue to pursue the delivery of digital solutions for Rwanda’s progress,” concluded Agyapong.

www.mtn.co.rw

MTN Rwanda launches a communication solution for businesses

MTN Rwandacell (MTN Rwanda)  announced the launch of MTN Unicall, a new product that is set to streamline the integration of enterprise communication services under the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) product umbrella. A first of its kind in the market, MTN Unicall provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices.

These products, SIP Trunk, Hosted PBX (Office lines) and Hosted Call Centre integrate all communication services easily and conveniently, allowing enterprises to increase flexibility and productivity.

“Ease and convenience play a vital role in the creation of our business solution products and services. We are pleased to announce the launch of MTN Unicall, that will enable customers to transition from their fixed lines into an internet-powered phone system, keeping their business lines connected 24/7. Additionally, MTN Rwanda offers enterprises the option of having hosted call centers & PABX, eliminating the hassle and cost of setting up the required infrastructure. Furthermore, the Hosted PBX accelerates workflow, saving upfront costs with automated attendants and automatic updates at no extra charge,” commented Didas Ndoli, MTN Rwanda General Manager, Enterprise Business Unit.

MTN Rwanda Hosted PBX offers a range of capabilities such as enabling code-based dial-in on conferences (conference bridge), Hunt Group (call transferring), Cloud IVR, and mobile applications.

This, coupled with SIP Trunking, allows the integration of the following communication services: instant messaging (chat), presence information, voice (including IP telephony), mobility features, audio, web & video conferencing, fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), desktop sharing, data sharing, with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging.

These integrations provide the option for migrating businesses, those looking to move premises out of the local area but wish to keep their business-critical numbers, to do so without the cost of call forwarding.

“We are dedicated to offering digital solutions for the progress of Rwanda and with MTN Unicall, we would like to assure our enterprise customers that their business communication services will continue to operate seamlessly, while optimizing the business capabilities, everywhere they go,” concluded Ndoli.

www.mtn.co.rw

Call for Applications for Tech African Women program, by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in partnership with Betacube

ECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), in partnership with Betacube, has announced the launch of its first Tech African Women program, inviting female-led idea stage startups from Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania and Tunisia to submit their applications.

TAW (Tech African Women) is a program that is launched with the objective of empowering female founders to leverage their skills in order to build strong tech startups from scratch, accelerate the transformation of project ideas into validated business models and to develop alliances between different African ecosystems.

The program will run from August to December 2022 and is composed of 3 main phases:

  1. Intensive 3-day training bootcamps & pitching competitions to be held in Tunisia, Senegal, Ethiopia&Tanzania in partnership with local ecosystem players. The winning team of each bootcamp will win a cash prize of 2000$.
  2. 2-months online incubation program for the best 2 startups from each country that will allow them to reach market&investment readiness.
  3.  A final Ceremony in Ethiopia in Addis Ababa at ECA Conference Center where 8 startups will be invited to pitch to win the final prize of the program (cash grant of 7000$ for the best startup) TAW targets female-led&idea-stage tech startups and offers teams an exclusive opportunity to acquire new entrepreneurial skills, establish partnership with their African peers, increase regional business visibility and access funds.It supports ideas addressing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by developing the capacity of female entrepreneurs who desire to understand how to play a role in the continent’s development and want to deep dive into building impact-driven startups.

Throughout the duration of the incubation program, teams will have access to a pool of tech developers and designers who will develop their MVPs free of charge and work closely with top experts in Marketing and Finance in addition to the participation in tailored webinars provided by international trainers.

How to apply?

Participants entering the program have to be nationals of Tunisia or Tanzania or Senegal or Ethiopia, have an idea of a tech startup that is addressing at least one of the SDGs, must be female aged between 18 and 35 years old and be able to communicate fluently in French or English.

Applications are now open for candidates from the four countries on the official website of the program (www.techafricanwomen.com) until the 10th of August 2022 for Tunisia, and until the 17th of August 2022 in Ethiopia, Senegal and Tanzania.

www.techafricanwomen.com

[Rwanda] The Internet Society Pledges to Expand Internet Access in Africa

As the Internet Society (ISOC) celebrates its 30th anniversary as a global nonprofit advocating for an open, globally-connected Internet, the organization is calling for accelerated action to further Internet development throughout the African region. During the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) 2022 taking place from in Kigali, Rwanda under the theme “Connecting the unconnected to achieve sustainable development”, Dawit Bekele, Regional Vice President of the Internet Society in Africa, lauded the progress made by stakeholders in expanding access throughout the continent, while encouraging more collaborative efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest growth in global Internet penetration, increasing from less than 1% in 2000 to 30% today.  Between 2019 and 2021 Internet use in Africa jumped by 23%. Despite this impressive growth, there is still a coverage gap of over 840 million people who don’t have access to reliable and affordable Internet access.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of Internet connectivity which has been an essential lifeline for the continuity of business, healthcare, education, government, and other critical activities. We applaud the significant investments in the last decades to develop Internet infrastructure, which have made the Internet available to more people across the continent. However, the pandemic also highlights the digital divide that remains, particularly in rural, remote and even urban areas around the world,” said Dawit Bekele.

In Kenya specifically, the rapid pace of Internet ecosystem development since 2012 underscores the critical role that Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and the accompanying infrastructure play in the establishment of strong and sustainable Internet ecosystems. The Internet Society has conducted technical capacity training on Internet routing technologies for network operators in Kenya and supported the development of community networks including TunapandaNET in Kibera, AHERI in Kisumu, and Lanet-Umoja in Nakuru. 

It’s through such initiatives and collaboration from the government that has propelled an increase of the number of internet users from 0.4% in 2012 to 41.9% of the population in 2020 with nearly 70% of traffic localized. Localizing Internet traffic has led to significant cost savings for participating networks and puts the country in a strong position to participate in the digital economy.

Community networks are a way to help address the digital divide.  They are communications infrastructures built, managed, and used by local communities and are a sustainable solution to address connectivity gaps in underserved regions. The Internet Society has a long history of working with communities worldwide to fund, build and train people with the skills needed to run and maintain community networks.

In Africa, the Internet Society has helped build community networks in South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia, Morocco, Senegal, and Ethiopia. 

At WTDC, the organization will be making a pledge to support 100 complementary solutions to connect the unconnected, and to train 10,000 people to build and maintain Internet infrastructure, all by 2025 as part of the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, an initiative led by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that aims to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the hardest-to-connect communities around the world.

Also vital to expanding the Internet throughout Africa is the interconnection between local networks, content providers, and users. Currently, millions of dollars are spent every year to route local Internet traffic through expensive international links. This not only makes the Internet slower and more costly for Internet users, but it also limits the kinds of applications that can run on the local Internet. For this reason, the Internet Society has been at the forefront of supporting the establishment and growth of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) that enable and encourage local traffic.

ISOC research shows that IXPs improve the end-user experience, lower the cost of access, and stimulate the development of local Internet ecosystems and cross-border interconnections. By improving local Internet services and reducing their costs, well-managed IXPs open new worlds of possibility with modest investment.

Digital Cooperation Organization completes inaugural Rwanda Visit and launches Global Roundtable Series

A delegation from the Digital Cooperation Organization concluded the organization’s inaugural visit to Rwanda by announcing the DCO Global Roundtable Series, an initiative that will bring together global digital economy leaders to develop an action plan for digital prosperity for all.

During her participation at the World Telecommunications Development Conference, DCO Secretary-General Ms. Deemah AlYahya announced the DCO’s pledge to hold the DCO Global Roundtable Series across five continents, with the first edition of the series commencing on the African continent in Kigali. The event included more than thirty-five government, international organization and private sector leaders, discussing challenges to emerging market growth, and best-practice collaboration between governments, the private sector and civil society.

Ms Deemah AlYahya commenced the inaugural roundtable event by stating:

“Talking about digital economy issues is no longer something new. We must develop action plans and a roadmap to create an impact for people, and this is indeed what the DCO is doing. We are bringing together people who share the same responsibility, to translate their vision into on the ground change that advances the development of the digital economy of their countries.”

The inaugural Roundtable began with a discussion between Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of ICT, who hosted the DCO delegation. She commented:

“I am delighted to welcome the DCO to Kigali this week, and to share with them our pioneering achievements in the digital economy and ICT sector more generally. Since joining the DCO six months ago, Rwanda has played a pivotal role in the organization and we look forward to our continued membership of the wider DCO ecosystem as we shape a future in which all members of society can harness the power of the digital economy.”

Along the side lines of WTDC, the DCO also met with HE Usula Owusu, Minister of Communications in Ghana, where AlYahya and Minister Owusu discussed Ghana’s inspiring perspective on digital prosperity for all. Secretary-General AlYahya also met with the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies of South Africa, Khumbudzo Ntshaveheni, where they discussed their mutual efforts in enabling digital prosperity for all.

While in Rwanda, the DCO also met with Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as hosting entrepreneurs across the Rwandan ecosystem at Norrsken House. The DCO further met with the Bank of Kigali, kLab Rwanda, and Rwanda’s Information Society Authority. Secretary-General Deemah AlYahya also delivered an address to the Carnegie Mellon University Africa, the African Leadership University and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.  

Secretary-General Deemah AlYahya also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SmartAfrica, the alliance representing more than 30 African countries on their journey towards digital socioeconomic development and which is chaired by the President of Rwanda Mr. Paul Kagame. The agreement reaffirms the two organization’s shared commitment to promoting digital prosperity in their respective member states.

www.minict.gov.rw

www.dco.org

MTN Rwanda and Ericsson drive leading connectivity solutions for Rwanda’s progress

MTN Rwandacell (MTN Rwanda) Chief Executive Officer Mitwa Ng’ambi met with Ericsson’s Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Strategy, Erik Ekudden, on the side lines of the annual Broadband Commission meeting where they discussed their long-term partnership. Over the years, this partnership has seen the establishment of various services and products within MTN Rwanda and Mobile Money Rwanda Ltd closing the digital divide and propelling financial inclusion.

MTN has been working with Ericsson on enhancing consumer experience through Ericsson’s Managed Services Solutions. One of these services includes MTN’s modernized Network Operating Centre (NOC) that has been implemented to manage end-to-end monitoring of MTN network. Through the NOC, MTN Rwanda’s Network Operations Center and the Incidents Management tools are automated, improving network operations efficiency and boosting customer experience.

Mitwa Ng’ambi, MTN Rwanda Chief Executive Officer stated “Ericsson has been a close and prominent partner over the last two decades in Rwanda.  Their services have enabled us to pivot from product to platform, aligning seamlessly with our overarching strategy to provide the largest and most valuable platforms by delivering on 100% network coverage, and bridging the digital and financial gaps currently present. We look forward to achieving these ambitious targets for the betterment of our customers and stakeholders because we believe that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life.”

In addition to telecommunication services, Ericsson has enabled Mobile Money Rwanda Ltd with a platform for digital financial services such as Basic services (P2P, Cashin, Cashout & Airtime Purchase) and Advanced payments (MoMoPay, OpenAPI), Loans & Savings, Bill Payments and Remittances.

Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Strategy, said “We are proud of the relationship we’ve built with MTN Rwanda and the opportunities we’ve had to be part of the nation’s social and economic progress. We’ve collaborated on a number of initiatives that ranged from network modernization to enhancing consumer experience. We remain ever committed to continue working together on exploring solutions that increase social and financial inclusion here in Rwanda. Together, we can accelerate the nation’s digital transformation journey.”

This mutually beneficial partnership continues to steer MTN Rwanda’s digital transformational journey by providing innovative technologies and ecosystems that also consist of socioeconomic development for the communities we serve.

www.ericsson.com 

www.mtn.co.rw 

Ericsson Innovation Awards 2022 invites university students to tackle sustainability challenges

Ericsson is inviting university students the world over to propose innovative technology solutions to help tackle sustainable development challenges. Impact Our Sustainable Future is the theme of the Ericsson Innovation Awards (EIA) 2022 challenge, with more than EUR 50,000 in prizes up for grabs.

Heather Johnson, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson, says: “There are less than 10 years until the conclusion of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and it will take a collective effort from all sectors of society to achieve them. Ericsson is a champion of the role technology and innovation can play in scaling sustainable development efforts.

She adds: “University students around the world are among the most passionate and determined advocates of the need for action to meet global sustainability challenges. That’s why we’ve chosen sustainability as the focus of this year’s Ericsson Innovation Awards to help catalyze action.”

Participating university teams are asked to take inspiration from the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to identify a sustainability challenge to tackle with a technology solution that can make a lasting change.

Interested teams of two-to-four students currently enrolled in university studies should submit team names and ideas by 13.00 (CEST), August 5, 2022.

As an extra incentive, the first seven submissions per region as of 13.00 (CEST), June 16, 2022, will have the opportunity to access extra support and feedback from Ericsson mentors.

Johnson adds: “Imagination is the only limit to the range of ideas that can be submitted. From past Ericson Innovation Awards’ experiences, we know that university student talent is exceptional in proposing and developing creative solutions.”

Prizes

Overall winner: EUR 25,000
As a Nobel International partner, Ericsson will also offer the winning team the opportunity to join a virtual conversation with a Nobel Prize laureate.

Overall runner-up: EUR 15,000
Overall third place: EUR 5,000

Social Media Prize: EUR 2,000
The three finalists’ ideas will be uploaded to @inside_ericsson Instagram. A public vote – in the last 24 hours before the Grand Finale – will determine which team who wins the EUR 2,000. 

Regional winners
Each of the seven regional winners will receive EUR 1,000.

In some cases, additional special recognition and prizes will be offered from the respective region.

The 14 semi-finalists, including the regional winners, will receive eight weeks of comprehensive mentorship from Ericsson experts in innovation and business, as well as recognition on Ericsson’s social and digital media channels.

Further details, including registration information, is available on the Ericsson Innovation Awards site.

www.ericsson.com