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Google To Change Global Advertising Practices

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Google Inc European Headquarters

Google said it would make changes to its global advertising business to ensure it did not abuse its dominance, bowing to antitrust pressure for the first time in a landmark settlement with French authorities.

The deal with the French competition watchdog could help rebalance the power over advertising in favour of publishers, which held sway over the business in the pre-internet era but lost control with the rapid rise of Google and Facebook.

The settlement, announced on Monday and included a fine of 220 million euros ($268 million), was the first time the U.S. tech giant had agreed to make changes to its ads business, which brings in the bulk of its revenue.

“The decision to sanction Google is of particular significance because it’s the first decision in the world focusing on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online ad business relies,” said France’s antitrust chief Isabelle de Silva.

The French settlement alone may not meaningfully affect industry market share, according to ad-supported media companies and Google’s advertising rivals. But they hope it inspires similar antitrust cases in the United States and other jurisdictions.

“This decision is a key milestone to re-energize competition and innovation in the ad tech space, and publishers, who are the primary victims of Google practices, will ultimately benefit from it, but the battle is only beginning,” said Arnaud Creput, chief executive of Smart, which provides ad tech to publishers.

France’s case did not address, for example, Google’s control of its dominant search and YouTube properties to thwart competition. It also did not discuss user privacy curbs Google is to introduce on the web that could benefit it at the expense of competitors.

Instead, the watchdog focused on the ties between Google Ad Manager, used by publishers to auction ad space, and Google AdX, one of several marketplaces which can manage auctions.

Google grew the market share of both services by sharing strategic data across them and barring them from operating as smoothly as rival systems, the authority said.

The privileged relationship “deprived” publishers from benefiting from potential industry competition, it said.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google committed for three years to level the playing field better for AdX with an independent trustee monitoring the situation, the French watchdog said. Some changes would be implemented by the first quarter of 2022, it said, adding that Google would not appeal the decision.

“We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally,” the company added.

The ad practices of tech giants, whose success relies on the trove of data they have amassed over the years, have infuriated many publishers globally. The French antitrust authority said its decision opened the way for publishers who felt disadvantaged to seek damages from Google.

Most of Google’s sales come from search and YouTube ads. But last year about $23 billion was tied to helping publishers sell ads, drawing antitrust scrutiny to the connections between Google’s businesses, plus calls from some critics to break up the company.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the watchdog decision.

“The practices put in place by Google to favour its own advertising technologies have affected press groups, whose business model is heavily dependent on ad revenues,” he said.

“These are serious practices and they have been rightly sanctioned.”

It launched its investigation in 2019 following a complaint from News Corp, French news publishing group Le Figaro and Belgian press group Rossel.

News Corp struck a global news deal with Google in February, one of the most extensive deals of its kind with big tech.

“We haven’t been involved in the case in France since we concluded our deal with Google in February, but we remain pleased by the progress of our global partnership and are hopeful for a long and fruitful relationship in the years ahead,” a News Corp spokesman said.

Telecommunications

NCC Announces Airtel as the Sole Bidder for the Second 5G Spectrum Auction

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Airtel Financial Results - Investors King

The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has announced Airtel Network Limited as the sole bidder for the 5G spectrum scheduled for auction on December 19, 2022.

Airtel has since deposited $27.36 million ahead of the auction.

Investors King could recall that MTN and Mafab Communication won the first 5G spectrum auction which also had Airtel as a competitor. 

According to the NCC, only two telecom companies, Airtel Africa and Standard Network & Connections Limited expressed interest in the auction as of the stipulated deadline which was Monday, December 5, 2022. 

Therefore, the NCC noted that there would be no auction as Airtel would be assigned one of the available lots of 100 MHz TDD Spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band.

Investors King understands that the $27.36 million deposit is 10 percent of the reserve price for the spectrum fixed at $273.6 million. The same price was paid by MTN and Mafab Communications before the 5G spectrum was allocated to them individually. 

MTN on its part has since launched its 5G network in some cities which include Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan. The 5G network promised to enhance connectivity and stimulate broadband penetration in Nigeria. 

NCC further stated that an extension sought by Standard Network can not be granted owing to the auction timetable which had earlier been published. 

The statement by NCC partly read “Only Airtel paid the Intention to Bid Deposit as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) whereas, Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by 12 working days which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable”. 

“Having met all the provisions in the IM, Airtel has, therefore, emerged as the sole bidder. Consequently, there shall be no further bidding and the Commission will proceed to the assignment stage in line with the published Information Memorandum guiding the licensing process,” the statement added. 

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Fintech

M-Pesa Rallonge, Financial Inclusion Takes Another Step

M-Pesa Rallonge service, M-Pesa is simultaneously facilitating the process of financial inclusion for all while also improving lives for the better

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Vodacom

VodaCash, in partnership with Access Bank, launched its new service M-Pesa Rallonge this Tuesday, December 6th, 2022.  

A joint press conference was hosted at Silikin Villag before officially launching the product. Pamela Ilunga, Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo, and Hashim Mukudi, Managing Director of VodaCash, were present along with Access Bank Commercial Director, Adrien Chensham Mbele.

With the M-Pesa Rallonge service, M-Pesa is simultaneously facilitating the process of financial inclusion for all while also improving lives for the better. Currently, over 20% of the daily transactions are canceled due to insufficient balance. For customers, this can be frustrating, especially in emergency situations.  

In her opening speech, Pamela Ilunga, Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo, stated, “M-Pesa has been on a journey since its introduction in 2012. Undeniably, M-Pesa has been a solution to financial inclusion for the population of the DRC as well as complementing our different customers’ lifestyles. This has made us the mobile financial institution of choice.”

This partnership with Access Bank allows VodaCash to advance on its mission to provide accessible financial services to remote areas and ensure all Congolese have access to basic necessities. Initially, the focus was providing fundamental services such as domestic money transfers and the purchase of airtime. Over time, M-Pesa has expanded to include services such as forex, paying TV, and bills. 

Hashim Mukudi, Managing Director of VodaCash, also announced that “several more collaborations with M-Pesa are coming up, each tailored towards advocating inclusivity and improving customers’ lifestyles, aligning with the 2030 SDGs ‘No poverty’ and ‘reducing equality’. “

Pamela Ilunga added, “At Vodacom, we believe that ‘Together We Can’. We can make an impact on the economy. We can participate in and promote the digital revolution that is currently taking place in the DRC. M-Pesa Rallonge is only the first of several more services we are developing to improve lives and facilitate access to financial services using eco-responsible processes.”

The Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo closed her speech by commending their partner, Access Bank, for sharing the same vision of “responding to the real needs of the Congolese population to financial inclusion and providing a platform that will allow its customers to use this new product.”

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Telecommunications

Airtel Africa Receives $194 Million Loan Facility From IFC

Airtel Africa partners with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group to connect even more Africa

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Airtel Financial Results - Investors King

Africa’s leading telecommunications and mobile money services, Airtel Africa has signed a new $194 million credit facility with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank.

According to the telecommunications giant, the new financing facility is in accordance with the company’s strategy to improve debt within its operating firms and support operations in key African markets.

The eight years tenor credit facility will help Airtel Africa support operations and investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Republic of Congo and Zambia.

Also, it would help provide more diversified access to local funding, the company stated in a statement signed by Simon O’Hara, Group Company Secretary and obtained by Investors King.

In line with IFC requirements for a loan facility, Airtel Africa is expected to deepen its Social and Environmental Sustainability and has put in place a dedicated Environmental and Social Action plan.

This, Airtel said would deepen its commitment to changing the lives of people in the communities in which it operates and provides clarity on how the Group can help address inequality and support economic growth in these communities.

Commenting on the facility, Segun Ogunsanya, Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Africa said: “I am very excited to announce the signing of this new facility with IFC. Not only does it align with our focus on improving our balance sheet through localising debt within our OpCos, but as we make progress on our sustainability journey it also supports our commitments and ability to meet strong ESG criteria. I look forward to working closely with IFC in the coming years as we explore further opportunities to support the economies and communities where we operate.”

On the part of IFC, Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa, has this to say: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made mobile connectivity even more urgent for both social and economic development. Helping more people connect to affordable and fast internet networks is a priority for IFC in Africa, especially in the continent’s lower-income countries. The partnership with Airtel Africa will help achieve this.”

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