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Africa: Internet Usage Rising Rapidly

AfricaFocus Bulletin
September 21, 2015 (150921)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The ways in which disruptive technologies change the world are often unpredictable, and how much the results are positive or negative can be debated. But there is no doubt that they give scope for human creativity to have greater impact, for both good and evil. Internet growth, giving new opportunities for African creativity, has already changed Africa significantly. And, notes Russell Southwood of the leading industry newsletter Balancing Act Africa, further changes are coming rapidly.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the lead article "The African Internet Effect" from the latest issue of Balancing Act Africa, as well as two short briefs from the same issue, one on South Africa and the other on Uganda.

Also of interest, but not in a format that can easily be reproduced here, are the latest estimates on internet penetration in Africa (as of mid-2014) from Internet World Stats (available at These estimates, compiled from different sources, are admittedly approximate, as the site admits. But they are the most recent comparable data easily available on the web. [Official estimates from ITU, in a much less user-friendly format, are available at]

The site estimates that there were approximately 298 million internet users in Africa as of June 30, 2014, equivalent to 16.5% of the population, as compared to 45.2% of the population in the rest of the world. A breakdown by country show that the countries with the highest level of penetration were Madagascar (74.7%), Morocco (61.3%), Seychelles (54.8%), Egypt (53.2%), South Africa (51.5%), and Kenya (47.3%).

The countries with the largest numbers of internet users in Africa were Nigeria (23.6% of the total in the continent), Egypt (15.5%), South Africa (8.4%), Kenya (7.1%), and Madagascar (5.8%). No other country makes up more than 5% of the continental total.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on information and communication technology, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

The African Internet Effect – Everything it touches turns different

Balancing Act Africa
Issue no 795 18th September 2015

[Note: original article available at link includes many links to other relevant material]

There's been a lot of individual pieces of news and a slowly building awareness of the scale of Africa's Internet users but noone has yet taken in the breadth of the momentum building up. Russell Southwood tries to get grips with the pace and variety of what's happening.

I ran a session on online content at Capacity 2015, the wholesale bandwidth meet-point and conference in Dar es Salaam. I will be charitable and say it was lightly attended but I don't take it personally. Those doing the business of business are often focused on the short-term in the form of next month or quarter's sales targets.

Those selling wholesale bandwidth make most of their living from corporates and fixed and mobile telcos. Since neither of the latter are yet making a great hand of selling content and online services, they are in the unfortunate position of being in the back seat of the car, largely unable to influence the journey. But they have a massive wholesale fibre inventory and every day that passes means it has lost value, particularly those selling capacity from international fibre pipes.

Consumer online content and services will be the next big bump in growth for those selling wholesale bandwidth. But with notable exceptions (see at the end of this story) they all seem remarkably passive about making it happen.

The African Internet Effect is rippling out and affecting everything it touches. The first shocks of this earthquake have been quite gentle but its power will build for two reasons.

Firstly, the African "digital change" generation are 18-30 years old. In the next five years as they get older, there will be a new tranche of "digital native" Africans. They will themselves move into positions of power and decision-making.

Secondly, in the more advanced African markets 50% of phone users will have access to a smartphone or a smartphone-like feature phone. In other markets, a significant number of users will have smartphones. Argon Telecom will offer a US$40 smartphone next year and all the talk is of when a US$30 smartphone will arrive.

There are two big clusters which will have an enormous impact over the next five years: film and TV and music. Operators have enormous problems implementing them but let's look at what's happened so far:

Film and TV: Online has reduced the barriers to market entry and there are now over 100 online film and TV platforms. Not all of these will survive but some will dig themselves significant niches by focusing on local content. A couple of examples that have had less airplay than others include Ghanaian film-maker Juliet Asante's Mobilefliks and the soon-to-be launched Tango TV in Tanzania. Much of the talk at Capacity 2015 was about the lack of local content: don't get me started, local content is either already there or will follow. Nigerian diaspora performer T Boy demonstrates what can be done with a talent for comedy and You Tube. Safaricom has appointed a broadcast content person to head up its BigBoxTV service and Netflix will soon be in South Africa.

Music: As with VoD platforms, there are now over 100 online music platforms jostling for attention, the larger of which include Simfy, Spinlet and iROKING. Local contender in Tanzania Sune Mushendwa spoke at Capacity 2015 and is one of the more interesting operations. In our report on music platforms we calculated that there were already 10 million users across the continent and that these numbers were set for considerable growth. However, these numbers are soft in that they are not always active users.

One of the biggest barriers to the expansion of these services is payment. This is a combination of mobile operators' terms of trade, the lack of clear, easy-to-use systems and consumers trust. But that is not to say the numbers are not there:

e-Commerce: Both Jumia and its rival Konga in Nigeria each have 1 million customers. At the moment this is hybrid e-commerce: the customer orders online and pays cash on the doorstep for what he or she has ordered. But that will change….

Media: About the same number or more people read newspapers online than they do the print versions. The qualitative research we did as part of a larger study for the New Venture Fund revealed two key things. When asked what had changed most about media in the last 5 years, those interviewed said there was more media and there was the Internet. Increasingly they checked news throughout the day online. Africa's online media ranges from the conventional but impressive News24 to the new and much less conventional Battabox.

Radio: Radio is Africa's key medium because TV is not widely accessible. Many mobile users already listen to an inbuilt radio on their mobile phone. The next step? Streamed radio. South Africa's has already got a million talk radio programme streams in South Africa and will be expanding across Africa soon. Cyprien Josson is a Nigerian in France whose day job is teaching but his passion is Nollywood Radio which already has a significant audience

Livestreaming: With bandwidth Africa is now beginning to build businesses from livestreaming something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Graham Wallington's Wild Earth which streams animals in the wild has gone from strength to strength. Eban Oliver's Skyroomlive which streams concerts live is just starting out.

Publishing: Conventional wisdom says that Africans don't read books but Worldreader's 125,000 active mobile readers offers tantalizing evidence that things may be changing. Kenyan TV writer Ndinda Kioka had her first short story published on an online site before appearing in a print short story collection that led to funding that will allow her to complete her first novel

Art: Nobody ever thinks of art when they talk about online but there are now two online art galleries selling work made by Africans: South African, Ex-Googler Julie Taylor's Guns and Rain and Senegalese Valerie Konde's Pavilion 33

Games: GamersNights in Kampala is a group of multi-player computer gamers who have been helped by Liquid Telecom to expand the reach of their players' network across East Africa. Wherever I go in Africa, there are small pockets of gamers, most of whom play offline with pirated copies but might be persuaded at the right price by an online service.

Advertising: The shift to digital advertising is well under way as brands begin to realize the important of social media in general and Facebook in particular. This shift has created new business for everyone from the large digital agencies like Quirk, bought by JWT or smaller, independent agencies like the one set up by Ugandan exradio DJ Seanice Kacungira

I'm not arguing that's all's well in the African online world so onwards and upwards. Significant problems need to be overcome but this is the end of the beginning.

Even as the telecoms operators struggle to take on board what's happening, a couple of bandwidth wholesalers have understood it. Liquid Telecom that supported GamersNights in Kampala are mentioned above. The launch of PCCW Global's in South Africa is mentioned in Internet news below. Others really should join the party.

One sales person from an international fibre company was joking with me that he was suggesting to a customer that they would sell bandwidth on the basis that they got a cut from the songs downloaded. But he was serious about trying to make things happen and more should try it.

[Innovation in Africa is a fortnightly e-letter that covers: startups and investment; energy; ICT4D; 3D printing; and innovation in Africa and its cities. We have already produced 49 issues and these can be viewed here (

Essential reading for those interested in new start-ups and innovation that will change Africa. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to with Innovation in Africa in the title line.

WeThinkCode democratises education in South Africa

WeThinkCode will train world-class software engineers in a peer-topeer problem solving learning environment in a period of two years

Africa 2.0 is excited to announce that it has partnered with WeThinkCode

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." This quote from American educator John Dewey, captures a major issue facing South Africa. In a country with the legacy of a two-system which excludes a major part of the population, how does one narrow the gap and build an inclusive education environment accessible to all?

Africa 2.0 is excited to announce that it has partnered with WeThinkCode , an innovative peer-to-peer tech institution launching in Johannesburg in 2016, dedicated to transforming technology education in order to bridge the gap between undeveloped talent and the desperate IT skills shortage in South Africa. In partnership with Ecole 42 in France, WeThinkCode will train world-class software engineers in a peer-to-peer problem solving learning environment in a period of two years.

WeThinkCode aims to democratise education by removing barriers to access and providing opportunity to all young South Africans. The program is free and open to all talented and resilient candidates aged 17 to 35; regardless of previous education, socio-economic background or financial means. Student applications open on 1 October 2015 (

WeThinkCode is a non-profit social enterprise, its partnerships with South African corporates ensure a sustainable business model. Corporate partners benefit from being able to identify and access exceptional human capital and IT expertise.

#BornToCode: Tech Leader Challenge

The Top 100 tech leaders in South Africa are being challenged to see if they are #BornToCode in the Tech Leader Challenge 2015. The aim of the challenge is to raise awareness about the potential of South African youth to become world-class programmers regardless of previous education or socio-economic background.

The rapid evolution of the digital era has a profound impact on business and society in Africa. The IT skills shortage, however, hampers the economic growth and social transformation that could be generated. South Africa currently has an estimated 200,000 vacancies in the ICT sector, while 3.4 million youth between 18 and 29 are unemployed. WeThinkCode aims to tap into this pool of untapped talent to source and train the country's future tech leaders.

The inaugural #BornToCode event, taking place on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 will give tech leaders the chance to join the conversation and demonstrate their coding talent. The country's foremost tech champions will be challenged to take the student aptitude test game and compete for the top 10 positions of the #BornToCode Tech Leader board.

WeThinkCode calls on all business leaders who are passionate about making a significant impact in education and believe in the potential of developing the software engineering industry South African to join its #BornToCode Tech Leader Challenge and sign up at

Tech leaders are required to donate a minimum of R25,600, which covers a stipend to help students through their studies. All funds raised will go toward opening the WeThinkCode campus in January 2016. More than 20 tech leaders have already signed up, including Mamadou Toure, Founder of Africa 2.0, Stafford Masie, Founder of thumbzup and Peter Alkema, CIO of FNB Business.

Source: APO

Uganda: Female Ugandan Students Have Created an App That Detects Vaginal Bacteria

A group of five female students from Makerere University in Uganda have successfully created a test kit connected to a smartphone app that is able to detect harmful vaginal bacteria that cause bacterial vaginosis and other infections.

In a video posted to YouTube, the team known as Team Code Gurus explain exactly how they created the app. The test kit, known as Her Health BVKit, consists of hardware and a software application.

The hardware is the actual test kit that connects to the smartphone app via Bluetooth. By placing a urine or vaginal discharge sample onto the kit, PH values can be sent to the application. The app then interprets whether the user has healthy or unhealthy amounts of vaginal bacteria. If there are unhealthy levels of bacteria present, the application recommends that the user seeks medical attention and indicates where their nearest doctor or clinic is.

The team's programmer, Ndagire Esther explains that the team would like to work with NGOs and other health facilities to supply rural women with the kit:

"We plan on marketing our application through NGOs, clinics and pharmacies. We hope the NGOs can help us reach rural areas where women who don't have the opportunity to test their bacteria will be able to use our application."

She goes on to explain that the idea is to make the hardware and software to make it easy to use and widely available for women to test themselves every month for harmful bacteria that could indicate infection.

Source: News24 14 September 2015

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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