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Microsoft, Tizeti Collaborate to Boost High-speed Internet in Nigeria With Airband Initiative

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As part of its commitment to empowering more Nigerians, stimulating economic activities, and widening the broadband envelope in Africa with affordable broadband connectivity, West Africa’s pioneer solar-based internet service provider, Tizeti, has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to roll out high-speed Airband internet infrastructure in Oyo State.

With forty percent broadband penetration in December 2021, millions of Nigerians are still excluded from the global digital economy. Through the Microsoft Airband Initiative, Tizeti and Microsoft will leverage its low-cost wireless technologies to make it easier and cheaper for people, especially those in underserved communities, to access the internet and get connected to the digital economy. The Airband initiative supports Microsoft’s and Tizeti’s shared goal of connecting more people to the internet in a cost-efficient way, starting with Oyo State.

Speaking on the partnership, Tizeti’s Chief Executive Officer of Tizeti, Kendall Ananyi, said that Microsoft Airband collaboration will complement Tizeti’s existing initiative in Oyo State and lay a foundation for a robust and thriving digital ecosystem for the large population of vibrant, young people in Oyo State. “We are happy to work with Microsoft on the Airband Initiative as it extends our mission of bringing affordable and reliable internet to more Nigerians outside the digital envelope,” Ananyi said.

Tizeti recently launched its fixed wireless network in Oyo State, South-West Nigeria, to provide significant opportunities for cities in Oyo State, that have not had sufficient broadband infrastructure and to improve the state’s competitiveness with high-speed, and unlimited, yet affordable broadband internet from Tizeti.

“Communities need reliable, affordable internet access in our increasingly digital world,” said Microsoft Airband General Manager, Vickie Robinson. “That’s why Microsoft is working with providers like Tizeti to connect the unconnected, expand opportunity, and close the global digital divide.”

Microsoft’s Airband Initiative is focused on advancing digital equity—access to affordable internet, affordable devices, and digital skills—as a platform for empowerment and digital transformation across the world.

For many countries in Africa, there is still a huge digital divide. This boundary between connected and unconnected translates into clear consequences for employment, education, family and social life, and access to information. Partnerships such as this play a significant role in addressing the digital infrastructure deficits in emerging economies, leveraging innovative technology and capabilities, to improve development outcomes for millions of people.

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Innovation is Vital to Drive Internet Connectivity in Africa

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Greater innovation from telecoms and technology companies is vital to drive the expansion of internet connectivity in Africa,  new research for blockchain-based mobile network operator World Mobile shows.

Its study with African business leaders found nearly two out of three (65%) worry that a lack of infrastructure is stopping traditional telecom companies from delivering the internet connectivity the continent needs.

But they are optimistic that innovation from new entrants will achieve dramatic improvements. Nearly three-quarters (71%) say new approaches are expanding internet connectivity to hard-to-reach areas more affordably.

The study with African business leaders from companies with combined annual revenues of more than $6.75 billion found that executives believe the expansion of the African middle class coupled with Government support is driving demand for innovation.

Two-thirds (66%) believe connectivity will improve over the next five years with a quarter (24%) expecting dramatic improvements, the research among senior executives at companies based in Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa shows.

African business leaders believe the biggest benefits of expanding connectivity will be growing internal trade on the continent which was highlighted by 78%. Around 75% pointed to growth in international trade, while 55% however say better education and healthcare.

Micky Watkins, CEO of World Mobile said: “There is growing confidence that Africa is on the verge of a revolution in internet connectivity with innovators such as World Mobile responding to the huge growth opportunities across the continent and Government support.

“However, the research with business leaders detects some scepticism with more than a quarter of senior executives saying they expect no change in connectivity over the next five years and pointing to potential roadblocks such as bureaucracy and a lack of innovation.”

“Improving internet connectivity is vital to delivering the potential of Africa, which is not just good for global economic growth but also for improving living standards across the continent and we are focused on playing our part in supporting innovation.”

World Mobile is helping to revolutionise internet connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa and is already working with the government in Zanzibar where it is launching a unique hybrid mobile network delivering connectivity supported by low altitude platform balloons.

The blockchain-based network vastly reduces capital expenditure and cuts prices compared to traditional telecom operators and World Mobile is in  discussions to expand in Tanzania and Kenya, as well as other territories underserviced by traditional mobile operators.

Its balloons will be the first to officially launch in Africa for commercial use, offering a more cost-effective way to provide digital connection to people and is the first step in its mission to help bring nearly four billion people online before 2030 in line with the UN and World Bank’s SDGs.

The World Mobile approach is more sustainable, in environmental, social and governance terms. Environmental impacts are mitigated using solar-powered nodes, second-life batteries, and energy-efficient technology. World Mobile creates a positive societal impact through the application of its circular economy model – a “sharing economy” where locals share in the ownership and rewards of the network.

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Mobile Network Providers Set to Drive Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

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The global development of Financial Technology (FinTech) has necessitated mobile network providers to drive financial inclusion in Nigeria.

The incursion of telecommunication companies into the financial services space has been a laudable development for stakeholders in the technology sector. A large number of them believe that these telecommunication companies have what it takes to bank the unbanked across the country. 

Investors King gathered that two of the largest mobile networks in Nigeria, during the past week, commenced the operation of their Payment Services.

MTN, in its official statement, revealed that Nigerians will enjoy easy to use, accessible, and affordable financial services through its MoMo wallet.

On the same day, Airtel Africa also announced that it will roll out the full operation of its PSB SmartCash. 

Airtel Group Chief Executive Officer, Segun Ogunsanya assured that SmartCash will help further digitise the economy and most importantly, help bank the unbanked by reaching the millions of Nigerians who do not currently have access to financial services by delivering current and savings accounts, payment and remittance services, debit and prepayment cards and more sophisticated services.

“SmartCash Payment Service Bank Limited (‘SmartCash PSB’) Services will initially be available at selected retail touchpoints, and operations will be expanded gradually across the country over the next few months,” Ogunsanya said. 

What the CBN wants 

The Central Bank of Nigeria has since, within the past years, intensified its commitment to ensuring a satisfactory financial inclusion rate in Nigeria. The apex bank released a supervisory framework for the operation of these payment service banks.

In 2018, CBN introduced a new type of banking license,the Payment Service Banks (PSBs), with the aim of leveraging the strengths of businesses such as mobile network operators while maintaining a bank-led rather than a telecoms-led banking model.

“The Payment Service Banks are expected to leverage on technology to provide services that would be easily accessed by the unbanked population and those who are in hard-to-reach areas of the country,” CBN said. 

It is expected that through this development, Nigeria should attain the desirable  height in terms of financial inclusion.  

Currently, according to the data obtained by Investors King from Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), over four million (4,682,492) Nigerians have been financially included through its funded grant projects, including 2 million women.

Recall that the overall financial inclusion target was 80 percent by 2020, while adult Nigerians with access to payment services was to increase from 21.6 percent in 2010 to 70 per cent in 2020.

However, by the end of 2020, EFInA data shows that only 64 per cent of Nigerian adults were financially included, a report said.

This means that 36 per cent of Nigerian adults, or 38 million adults, remained completely financially excluded as at 2020. 

According to the Apex Bank, the key objective of issuing PSB licenses is to boost financial inclusion especially in rural areas and facilitate transactions.

What Financial Inclusion means to Nigerians

Financial inclusion means that people have access to basic financial services like a savings account, credit and insurance. A higher exclusion rate in Nigeria could lead to a poorer population as lack of access to credit and insurance puts them at an economic disadvantage.

Financial inclusion is a strong lever for bridging income inequality, combating poverty and preserving social harmony. The CBN has accordingly been at the forefront of the efforts to drive financial inclusion in Nigeria by championing the development & implementation of Nigeria’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy led by the CBN Governor.  

The Deputy Governor and Chair of the Financial Inclusion Technical Committee, had once said that the next phase of financial inclusion in Nigeria is to bank the unbanked women, bridging the inequalities in the sector.

Despite progress achieved to date, critical groups remained excluded, including women, rural dwellers and citizens in the northern area. To address the issue with women, CBN launched a Framework for Advancing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Nigeria in 2020.

The CBN is also leading the industry to implement the framework, which is expected to lead to significant increase in women financial inclusion in Nigeria.

By all indications, there is no certainty of meeting the 2020 financial inclusion targets until around 2030. 

However, Nigeria can build on this initial progress and drive faster financial inclusion growth through digital financial services like mobile money, by creating an open and level playing field for a wide range of providers, creating the right environment for fintech to thrive, and encouraging partnerships between different providers. 

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Zinox Founding Member, David Kan Dies At 62

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Nigeria’s tech giant, Zinox Technologies Ltd has announced the passing of one of its founding members, David Kan.

Investors King gathered that Kan died on Thursday, 19th May, 2022 at the age of 62. Until his death, he was one of the Board of Directors of Zinox Technologies and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mustek Plc.

He was also a very close associate of the Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, who expressed shock at his passing.

‘‘It is with a great sense of sadness and loss that I received news of the death of Mr. David Kan. He was a gentleman, a tech whiz kid, very knowledgeable and blessed with a good business brain.

‘‘David’s Mustek taught South Africa local content and was the main technology backbone during the apartheid regime when major tech companies terminated business relationships with South Africa as he comfortably filled the gap. He will be greatly missed,’’ Ekeh said.

However, the cause of his death was not revealed.

Meanwhile, Mustek has expressed sadness over Kan’s death, describing him as a “well revered icon and legendary figure in the IT business”.

“It is with profound sadness that Mustek Plc confirms that David Kan, our much loved and respected co-founder and CEO since the group’s inception in 1987, has passed away. We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to David’s family. Our thoughts are with them at this most difficult time,” a statement from Mustek read.

Kan, who started Mustek in 1987 after coming from Taiwan to South Africa, was a well-liked and respected businessman with a great sense of humour.

He grew Mustek into a R8-billion-revenue corporation with a profit of R292-million last year. He was a pioneer in the South African IT area, having led the establishment of the country’s first PC assembly plant.

Also, Mustek is one of the country’s leading assemblers and distributors of personal computers and related ICT equipment.

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