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Econet Launches Kwesé Play in SA, Brings Roku box, Netflix

By Staff Writer

Econet, the owners of Liquid Telecom, has introduced its Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service Kwesé Play in South Africa.

The firm through Econet Media is bringing Kwesé Play video streaming service to the country.

The company will leverage Africa’s largest fibre network, available through sister company Liquid Telecom which concluded its acquisition of Neotel last year.  Neotel holds leading-edge 4G and 5G LTE spectrum capability which is being configured to carry video content.

Rather than building its own VOD business, Econet Media has taken a different approach and invested in building the best platform to house some of the biggest names in VOD globally.

Kwesé is the exclusive African partner for Roku and will provide an own-branded Roku box to South African customers.

It also launched a Roku box bundled with Netflix.

The custom-built Roku is priced at R1,599.

It is already available from Liquid Telecom, Cellucity, FNB, Incredible Connection and Vox.

Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers
Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers

Kwesé Play is targeted mainly at fibre-to-the-home broadband users.

Each Kwesé Play Roku also includes a 3-month subscription to Netflix’s standard plan.

The company has streaming deals with RedBull TV, TED, YouTube, etc and provides more than 100 Video on Demand services.

Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers
Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers

Kwesé also announced the launch of a long-term partnership with Netflix for Sub-Saharan Africa, leveraging Kwesé’s pan-African reach to help make it easier for African consumers to enjoy Netflix.

“Our strategy is to provide the best in VOD via a superior network. We’ve partnered with the best in IPTV hardware and content to offer our viewers world-class programming through our fibre network infrastructure,” said Joseph Hundah, Econet Media’s president and CEO.

This South African Startup Wants to Challenge Twitter, Facebook’s Dominance

Queenstown born entrepreneur Siviwe Mgolodela, who is a BCom student at Stellenbosch University majoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, is the brains behind Unorthodox, a start-up company.

Unorthodox aims to take on popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

“Presently, people are under so much pressure to look, feel and think a certain way to impress their friends and their followers. As a result, people end up unconsciously communicating lies,” Mgolodela, the founder of Unorthodox, told Techfinancials in an interview over the phone.

“Unorthodox is the alternative to existing platforms in that all that pressure is taken away”.

Queenstown born entrepreneur Siviwe Mgolodela
Queenstown born entrepreneur Siviwe Mgolodela (Photo Credit” Siviwe)

Mgolodela promises “freedoms” that he said were not available on social media platforms.

Rather than worrying about what other people will think, Unorthodox wants its users to express themselves and talk about topics and their emotions freely.

“100% anonymity equates to 0% shame,” Mgolodela explains.

“Where else will users get a chance to anonymously share their raw emotions, problems and candid views on a social networking platform? Certainly not on Facebook or LinkedIn.”

Unorthodox launches on Wednesday next week, 20 September 2017.

Mgolodela said his Unorthodox concept has been tested with a few of his friends to find out what they think about the social network.

He said a live demo of the Unorthodox social network will be released on Friday, 15 September to a select few “to test” it out before the launch.

The ambitious student entrepreneur said his anonymous social platform will, at present, focus on the South African market.

“I plan on targeting Africa in the upcoming year or two, and only after conquering the African continent, will I then target the rest of the world”.

Asked about the choice of the name “Unorthodox”, the Stellenbosch student said: “The word stems from the message behind the social network – that it is okay to be different; to think different; to feel different; essentially it is okay to be unorthodox”.

Unorthodox logo
Unorthodox logo (Photo Credit: Siviwe Mgolodela)

He said the inspiration behind this social network came from his belief that “people unconsciously communicating lies” on social networks.

Unorthodox is being developed by Klensch Lucas.

Mgolodela is relying on a lot of bootstrapping mechanisms to get this project off the ground.

“For instance, instead of hiring an experienced web developer or outsourcing the project to a web developing company, I chose to hire an underdog whose talent I believed in,” said Mgolodela.

“As a result, the cost of developing the social network was not as high as one would expect.

“Once the social network traffic increases exponentially, I will make use of other forms of funding, such as approaching venture capitalists.

“However, bootstrapping is still a strategy that I intend on utilizing for a while”.

He said Unorthodox will “liberate people to be their true selves”.

Facebook
Facebook (Photo Credit: https://www.shutterstock.com)

Users will be able to express their true emotions and thoughts, as opposed to acting all cool for the sake of garnering likes and followers.

“I want people to realise that there is more to them than a mere selfie; that we are more alike than we are different,” said Mgolodela.

“I want people to share their life experiences by seeing the world through the eyes of someone else without any of the pretense of trying to impress anyone.

“Social media is presently ruining our emotional intelligence.”

He said Unorthodox wants to make it cool for people to talk about their real emotions on its social network.

“Presently, we see that with the emphasis being placed on selfies and filters, our emotions seem to be chucked away in a box somewhere with this huge stigma that it is not cool to feel,” said Mgolodela.

“Ultimately, I want my users to feel empowered in knowing that they are not alone and that they are not freaks for being unorthodox; that if they are feeling or thinking a certain way, chances are someone out there can relate – that way we get to share our experiences in an authentic manner.

“I wanted to address topics that mainstream social media doesn’t always want to talk about – i.e. depression and anxiety.

“I would say that the message behind this social network is that it is okay to be different; to think different; to feel different. I want people to share in their varied emotions; opinions; views and problems.”

Unorthodox hopes to entice millions of users.

martphone open Twitter application
Smartphone open Twitter application (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

One wonders whether it will be easy for the local startup to challenge the global giants of social media platforms that are loved by many in our country.

But, Mgolodela is unfazed by the popularity of the big social networks.

“I absolutely think (it will be easy to attract new users), because people are becoming increasingly annoyed with the perfect illusion created by social media because none of it is real. People are yearning for actual social interaction, as opposed to mere selfie and video sharing,” he explains.

“I think people would appreciate a platform to just vent about their relationship problems, their pain, anger, sadness, and frustration.

“A platform to confess their secrets and to converse openly about topics that mainstream social media doesn’t always want to talk about, i.e. depression and anxiety.”

The question remains will Unorthodox be a hit with local users?

The Connected Things: SA’s Battle to Deliver Internet of Things Solutions

by Gugu Lourie

The stage to do battle for a connected user is being laid by tech firms – Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematix – in a lucrative race to connect homes, farmers, doctors, patients, cars, utilities, and other everyday devices such as fridges and washing machines, etc. to smartphones.

In the meantime, telco’s are setting up their Internet of Things (IoT) platforms to lure customers.

IoT, previously machine-to-machine (M2M), is a concept of connecting devices – ranging from refrigerators, geysers, smart electric meters, coffee makers, etc. – to the internet. Our smartphones, tablets, laptops and even refrigerators make up the Internet of Things. In fact, any device which is connected to the internet makes up the Internet of Things.

IoT is likely to expedite the next industrial transformation.

For years, South Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator Vodacom and rival MTN have led the charge for IoT or M2M solutions that led to the development of the telematics industry in the country with global players such as Mix Telematics. For more read: Mix Telematics’ Subscriber Growth is not Showing Signs of Slowing Down.

To top it all the concept of placing a SIM card into a vehicle to track its performance was born in South Africa.

With the growth of digital services and the hunt for new revenue streams, operators need to maintain their relevance and are seeking compelling services around mobile money, IoT and big data.

Smart home control concept. Modern kitchen interior with white furniture
Smart home control concept. Modern kitchen interior with white furniture (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

After investments of mobile money, IoT has been seen the best way by telcos to enhance their digital services and significantly bolster their digital services revenues.

Estimates are that by 2020, there will be 50 billion things or IoT devices – smart cars, smart parking, smart shoes, smart fridges, smart toasters, smart streetlights, heart monitors, etc. – connected to the Internet. But some of this is not hot air, some companies are already deploying IoT solutions that save lives and empowering farmers to make money across the country.

The South African IoT market, which is mostly dominated by enterprises, is believed to worth about R300 billion, according to a recent report by Vodacom.

But connecting these billions of devices is a challenge for traditional networks as many don’t have the reach to cover vast geographical areas, and most involve high costs.

Developing IoT network infrastructure

Several technology firms are looking at IoT as a lucrative space and are investing time and money to build the sector’s ecosystem and position themselves either as enablers of the market or players providing solutions.

Man uses his smartphone to set up the fridge
Man uses his smartphone to set up the fridge (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

“IoT offers solutions for smart cities, smart businesses, and even many of the challenges we face as a society, for example managing scarce resources like water. By enabling smart tracking, smart perimeter control, smart agriculture, smart buildings, as well as smart city applications like metering and manhole cover monitoring, IoT is already fundamentally changing how we live,” Iain Stevenson, CEO of Comsol, said recently.

“We are proud to introduce the network that is going to empower African utilities, businesses, and individuals to gain the benefits the IoT offers.”

South Africa’s Comsol is deploying IoT network on the back of its R1.5 billion open access layer 2 national network investment and is expected to be available for sensor service termination this month in the major metros. The network is backed by a global alliance and driven by global tech giants Cisco and IBM.

Another player is also developing IoT network in South Africa.

SqwidNet (a wholly owned subsidiary of DFA), is deploying and operating Sigfox’s network nationwide and distribute the IoT connectivity services and solutions to its partner channels. Sigfox is a global provider of a global communication solution powering the IoT.

The roll-out of the Sigfox network in South Africa will initially be in the key metros starting with Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, and Durban, with full national coverage to be completed by 2018.

Internet of Things
Internet of Things (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

While local firm Vula Telematix is rolling out the Machine Network SA, the country’s first public wireless telecommunications network dedicated to M2M communications.

The Machine Network SA is powered by Ingenu’s patented Random Phase Multiple Access technology, which allows Vula Telematix to guarantee that its customers’ devices will work on the network for over 20 years. The Machine Network SA also covers areas that cellular and other network providers are unable or unwilling to, and coverage is consistent, regardless of where devices are located.

This network will benefit mostly our metros and municipalities.

Telco’s invest in Narrowband IoT services

Telco’s are also building their own Narrowband (NB) IoT network as a strategy to counter the new players such as Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematics.

Both Vodacom and MTN are deploying their own NB-IoT services to leverage their existing cell phone network infrastructure instead of investing in a costly IoT network.

The NB-IoT services is championed by Vodafone, British mobile giant and owner of Vodacom, and is a better alternative to the likes of LoRa and Sigfox that utilises unlicensed spectrum.

While Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematics are busy building their networks, both Vodacom and MTN are sharpening their IoT’s artillery by deploying IoT solutions.

Vodacom NB-IoT platform – launched this week – demonstrate that the telco is deepening its strategic focus on IoT. The platform could be used to nurture an ecosystem of developers, software engineers and start-ups for NB-IoT applications.

The firm also has indicated that it takes IoT seriously as a new source of revenue by developing a dedicated IoT business led by Deon Liebenberg.

The NB-IoT platform provides solutions such as stock visibility solution that enables health clinic dispensaries to report on stock levels on the shelves through a custom-built mobile app. Based on data reported from the clinics, the solution then automates reporting via SMS and e-mail to sub-district and provincial management. For more solutions, visit Vodacom’s NB-IoT platform here.

Vodacom also launched a connected farmer solution, please read:  The Connected Farmer: How Vodacom is Making Farming Cool.

While in 2015 MTN Business unveiled its Pan African IoT platform.

“To ensure a seamless customer experience for our customers, wherever MTN has a presence, the IoT platform has a dedicated network, separate from the consumer network, for operational and business systems support. As a result, the platform is dedicated to managing all MTN’s machine-to-machine functions,” Mteto Nyati, MTN SA CEO, said in 2015.

Through its partnership with Huawei, MTN is using NB-IoT services to target much-needed applications such as smart parking, smart farms, smart homes, smart meters, wildlife tracking. They have already developed joint solutions for the local market.

Smart City (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)
Smart City (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

Making acquisitions to bolster IoT ecosystem

To intensify its role in the IoT ecosystem Vodacom last year acquired 100% of local IoT player X-Link Communications. For more read: Vodacom bets big on Internet of Things, increase its stake to 100% in X-Link.

The IoT market is not short of deals aimed at positioning players to take part in this lucrative space. Recently, Stellenbosch-based antenna engineering firm EMSS Group made inroads into the IoT space by making an investment into IoT player Polymorph, which develops mobile and IoT apps.

“The deal brings together an established engineering company and a youthful start-up and fits perfectly into our vision for the development of new hardware and software product lines. In addition, it fast-tracks our entry into the IoT industry by at least three to four years,” EMSS co-founder and group director Frans Meyer, said recently.

That said, with new players such as Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematix investing in new IoT networks in South Africa may mean that both Vodacom and MTN are not in a prime position to tackle the IoT space.

Not to be left behind in the lucrative connected car space, both Vodacom and MTN are playing big. Read more: Vodacom, MTN wants to turn your car into “smartphone on wheels”.

Connected Car
Connected Car (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

They are stepping up their participation in the IoT ecosystem to ensure that they are not being pushed to the margins as simple providers of the infrastructure.

Both Vodacom and MTN are also eyeing to deploy IoT solutions to utilities and municipalities, hoping to capitalise on the growth of smart cities and homes. A telco that will strike a deal with metros such as Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, etc. to deploy smart city services will smile all the way to the bank.

While telcos are all about enhancing their digital services, and finding new revenue streams through deployment of IoT services, let’s hope that predictions by research firm Capegemini comes to fruition. The research firm argues: “The growth of IoT is set to disrupt the ‘established value chains and stable industrial structures’ through new players the way we see it – who are competent enough to innovate and exploit networks and digitization – changing various industries forever.”

This story was first published in Talk IoT for original story click here.

Is Cell C Sustainable?

by Gugu Lourie

Common sense tells me that Cell C cannot survive much longer without being profitable, the more so if it continues to play hide and seek with the market over its finances.

The signs are everywhere that Cell C is struggling – its public relations efforts are not exactly masking the problem.

Last week, the company disclosed that in December it had lodged papers requesting the Gauteng High Court to review call termination regulations. Cell C was also quoted by Business Day as saying that it would “vigorously challenge” Vodacom’s planned R7bn acquisition of Neotel, and would pursue every legal avenue to stop the deal.

Perhaps the problem is that the third-biggest mobile operator is trying too hard to punch above its weight.

There is also an unstated assumption that its customers fully understand what “drop calls” are.

However, one thing I do know is that Cell C’s balance sheet is shielded from public scrutiny because it is not a listed entity, and therefore not compelled to disclose its finances.

That said, this week City Press published a report which places the spotlight firmly on Cell C’s financial health.

Saudi Telecom Company, which indirectly owns a significant stake in Cell C, has reportedly reduced its investment in the mobile operator by a whopping R1.2bn.

The newspaper also added that Reuters reported that Abdulaziz al-Sugair, Saudi Telecom Company’s chairperson, said the firm was “evaluating options” over its international portfolio.

But Cell C’s boss, Jose Dos Santos, insists that his company is not about to go under. He told the newspaper that he was neither concerned about the Saudi Telecom chairperson’s remarks, nor about the impairment.

I am willing to bet that if Cell C fully disclosed its financial statements of its operations over the last 14 years, one would not find a healthy state of affairs.

The comments made by Dos Santos remind me of similar sentiments made by Leo Kirkinis when he was chief executive of African Bank.

Amid reports of serious financial challenges, Kirkinis always urged investors and shareholders to remain confident about African Bank and its prospects for success.

The ensuing disaster that unfolded at African Bank is well documented. Despite Kirkinis’ assurances, the bank let down numerous investors and customers. It also failed the banking sector and the country as a whole.

It feels like déjà vu – Dos Santos still wants to convince everyone who cares to listen that things are hunky-dory at Cell C.

Not even this major decision by the company’s strategic shareholder to write down the asset seems to bother Dos Santos. He also seems oblivious to the veiled threat by Saudi Telecom to take its business elsewhere.

This surely must be a red flag, which points to the possibility that the financial viability of Cell C is not on stable footing.

For now Cell C continues to flex its muscles by taking the industry regulator and disgruntled customers to court. It’s a pity that the public is not privy to the details of the Saudi Telecom write-down.

We can, in the circumstances, speculate that Saudi Telecom wants to disengage from the not-so-profitable Cell C.

It is unlikely that Cell C will reveal its numbers in the coming weeks.

It is predictable that when Cell C publishes its financial figures the market will have access to statistics about subscriber numbers, market share, new products and how the business continues to place the customer at the centre of everything it does.

It would be a mistake, however, to stop questioning the executives of Cell C about the sustainability of the business.

The write-down could be a sign of a restless shareholder.

If Cell C was a listed entitled on the Johannesburg bourse I estimate that its share price would be in the range of 1c to 10c a share – so low that many fund managers would simply ignore it.

But South Africans can’t afford to ignore Cell C. It employs thousands of people and supports numerous suppliers in its value chain.
The challenge to Cell C would be to quickly find a shareholder with big pockets to take it forward – that is, if Saudi Telecom completely disengages.

Evidently, what subscribers want is to know is why they should continue to trust Cell C.

Are Dos Santos’ verbal assurances enough? That is the question.

SA Startups Selected For Pan-African Tech Accelerator Programme

22 Tech Startups from 10 Countries Selected for Pan-African Tech Accelerator Programme
22 Tech Startups from 10 Countries Selected for Pan-African Tech Accelerator Programme

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22 Tech Startups from 10 Countries Selected for Pan-African Tech Accelerator Programme
22 Tech Startups from 10 Countries Selected for Pan-African Tech Accelerator Programme

SBC) AfriTech, the leading global tech accelerator program in Africa, received 1804 applications for its 2019 cohort – an astounding 80% increase from last year.

Now, the very best have been selected.

The top 22 tech teams have been invited to attend the Final Selection Days to be hosted at Amazon Web Services’ Head Office in Cape Town from 10 to 11 July 2019.

Of the 22 teams that were chosen, seven are from South Africa, six hail from Nigeria and two are from Kenya, with Uganda, Togo, the United Kingdom, Morocco, the United States, Senegal and Zimbabwe each being represented by a team.

During the Final Selection Days, the startups will have the opportunity to present their pitches to high-profile corporate sponsors, investors, thought leaders and industry experts and will have the chance to engage with mentors and sponsors alike.

At the end of the second day, the top 10 will be announced and welcomed into the Cape Town-based accelerator programme that kicks off on 12 August 2019 and culminates in a Demo Day on 7 November 2019. Over this three-month period, the startups selected will have the opportunity to scale at an incredible pace and seal pilots and proof-of-concepts with the corporate sponsors of the programme and others.

The Top 22 startups invited to the Final Selection Days are:

Startup.
Startup. Gajus / Shutterstock.com

South Africa: 3DIMO, Convergenc3 Databotics, KURAI, Last Mile for BoP, Mshtarii Investments, Rentoza, and Snapslip Holdings

Nigeria: Chekkit Technologies, Curacel Systems, FriendsVow, HouseAfrica Blockchain, KoloPay, and Vesicash

Kenya: Asilimia, and MarketForce™

Uganda: Cinnamon Clubs

Togo: Dashmake

United Kingdom: Survey54

Morocco: Weego

United States: Xcellent Life

Senegal: Yobante Express

Zimbabwe: YouFarm

Looking at the track record of the past 2 cohorts, Zachariah George, SBC AfriTech’s Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer said, amongst the alumni of our 2017 and 2018 cohorts, several have gone on to establish strategic commercial partnerships with leading institutions both within Africa and globally, and this has helped them significantly in raising capital which collectively stands at >$4m to-date.

“There are high expectations for the applicants of the 2019 cohort, and if the calibre of the startups at this stage is any indication, this year’s programme promises to be a great success for the African tech and innovation ecosystem.”

SA Taxi Is Lowering Cost Of Funding For Minibus Taxis

SA Taxi has advanced its efforts to overcome the financial, structural and legislative hurdles facing the taxi industry by providing qualifying taxi owners with access to more affordable vehicle finance.

The ground-breaking transformational ownership transaction, which secured the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) a 25% stake in SA Taxi as part of a deal worth R1.7 billion, has enabled SA Taxi to lower its cost of funding a minibus taxi.

SA Taxi is now able to offer vehicle finance at interest rates as low as 15.5% per annum to lower risk grade customers, thereby expanding its product offerings to customers it was not able to attract previously.

Through more engagement with the taxi industry, SA Taxi hopes to attract lower risk grade customers to secure finance through the financial services provider by also introducing reduced deposit requirements.

“As a financial partner to South Africa’s taxi industry, we provide financial and operational support through a host of beneficial programmes, initiatives and products to taxi owners who operate about 250,000 vehicles,” explains Maroba Maduma, Communications Executive at SA Taxi.

“We, therefore, understand the crucial role that the minibus taxi industry plays in our economy and understand the industry. As such, we are committed to empowering and supporting the entrepreneurs that operate minibus taxis.”

Maduma elaborates that the industry has voiced major concerns in the past, including the ability of taxi owners to afford vehicle finance repayments due to high-interest rates, vehicle price escalations, and the impact that runaway operating costs in the form of fuel price increases and rising maintenance costs have on their businesses.

“Through regular engagements with all stakeholders, we have listened to their concerns and have worked hard to provide solutions.”

Through this new financing offer, taxi owners with a good credit record and who meet the qualifying criteria can apply to purchase new petrol or diesel Toyota, Mercedes and Nissan vehicles at selected dealerships at a preferential interest rate as low as 15.5% per annum*.

“The industry supports SA Taxi’s continued efforts to improve the affordability and the broadening of access and inclusivity to taxi operators. SANTACO remains committed to pushing for more and more favourable lines of credit and addressing the interest rate problem that has been bemoaning our members”, explained SANTACO President, Phillip Taaibosch.

SA Taxi’s financial support also extends across the entire asset value chain via a unique blend of vehicle procurement, retail and refurbishment capabilities through its Taximart division, access to well-priced new and refurbished quality-assured used vehicle parts via its Taxi Auto Parts (TAP) division, and Project Refentse, a training and skills development programme for mechanics designed to improve the quality and service experienced in the minibus taxi industry.

And by serving low-risk customers at lower interest rates and growing its open market insurance book, SA Taxi also plans to further increase its support for business owners by designing other bespoke insurance offerings to broaden inclusivity for the uninsured segment of the minibus taxi market.

The new financing solution also builds on other corporate initiatives and sustainability projects aimed at empowering the taxi industry. These projects include Black Elite, a pioneering multi-faceted fuel-based rewards programme that is helping the local taxi industry realise significant financial and commercial benefits.

About 14,000 cards have been distributed and more than 6.5 million litres of fuel pumped since its launch in April 2018, with further rewards programmes under consideration. In addition, the proceeds from a shared value initiative with Guardrisk and taxi associations funds research into the industry to identify the insurance and financial requirements, educates operators, and supports industry structures, such as driver and queue marshal training to improve customer services, among other elements.

“Our new, more favourable interest rate for qualifying owners is just one more way in which we’re working to improve the industry’s sustainability. We are confident that our new offering will benefit the industry and help to reduce the pass-through costs that also impact on commuters,” said Maduma.

MTN Pilots Ground-Breaking App To Make Learning Fun

WhatsApp Image
WhatsApp Image

The MTN SA Foundation has partnered with Bellavista S.H.A.R.E., a division of Bellavista School, and USA-based non-profit Curious Learning, to pilot an award-winning child literacy app which significantly enhances reading fluency and comprehension.

This is a response to calls growing louder for government, corporates and all citizens to step up to help solve a growing literacy crisis.

The pilot of the ground-breaking app, called ‘Feed the Monster’, helps make learning the fundamentals of reading more meaningful and fun while reaching out to a wide community.

In recognition of the importance of using the mother tongue to foster literacy at foundation level, MTN has played a key role in facilitating the localisation of the solution into all 11 official languages in South Africa.

The app addresses all aspects of reading and bridges the gap between literacy skills and fluent reading.

WhatsApp Image

Because the ability to comprehend and understand the meaning of words is crucial to successful knowledge and skills transfer, the launch of the app ties in with MTN’s ongoing commitment to help improve literacy, education and skills so that the immense opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be provided to more children across the country.

Through the engaging and exciting Feed the Monster app, readers between the ages of six and eight will be able to access reading instruction via a specialised curriculum. By matching letters with sounds, the app gives children the ability to learn that sounds combined together make words, and words together make sentences that carry meaning.

“Urgent action is needed as a lack of access to reading material and textbooks are two of the main reasons that 78% of South African children in grade 3 still can’t read for meaning. This is not helped by the fact that only 29% of the poorest primary schools in the country reportedly have access to in-school libraries,” says Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager: MTN SA Foundation.

The power of mobile software for learning is a potential game-changer for developing countries.

WhatsApp Image

Alison Scott, Principal of Bellavista School, says case studies and reports from other parts of the world highlight the immense strides which can be made by harnessing mobile and app-based solutions.

“In Syria, where an estimated 2.3 million children are out of school because of violent conflict, the Feed the Monster app resulted in positive learning outcomes in all age groups. The rate of change for younger children was an impressive 34% on the syllable sub-task versus a 27% change rate for older children. The improvement in oral reading fluency was even more remarkable, with a 75% increase from baseline for younger children, while older children achieved an 18% increase.”

Feed the Monster will scale up its literacy impact in South Africa by localising and distributing two learning apps: the first focuses on fundamental reading skills; the second on providing a collection of interactive e-books that act as “training wheels” for young readers.  Together, these apps provide a springboard for many children to begin their journey of learning to read.

Earlier this year, the MTN SA Foundation together with Samsung Electronics and the Department of Social Development, handed over a multimedia centre to Thlokomelo Special School in Soweto. Feed the Monster will complement the specialised equipment that was donated.  In particular, the app will support students with learning difficulties (SLD) and will provide them with much-needed access to e-learning.

Top 5 Jobs In SA Right Now

Developer.
Developer. Elle Aon / Shutterstock.com

Ever wondered which jobs in South Africa are in high demand?

Whether you’re in high school deciding which profession to go into, thinking of a career change or just curious, we explore some of South Africa’s top jobs according to career junction’s job data.

  1. Developers

We’ve all had that thought, “what is it that these keyboard magicians do?”

Simply put they use computer languages to build solutions that work with your hardware and browsers. Punching away at those sexy keyboards they create websites, payment & admin systems, games and so much more.

Developers that code in Java, PHP, .net languages are high in demand. With a huge untapped online market as well as many tech possibilities still to come in SA, these jobs will remain relevant and important. At the moment the demand still outweighs the supply for developers.

If you love to learn and solve problems, then this might be the job for you. Senior software developers earn on average R50k p.m.

Western Cape being SA’s tech valley takes the cake for Development and IT jobs with 7% above average salaries, Gauteng at 4% above average and KZN dropping to freezing temperature down to -23% below average salary.

2. Financial Accountant

In plain jane English, FA’s do things like look after financial statements, help with tax payments and maintain business accounts to make sure everything remains squeaky clean so that you don’t have the FBI busting down your door at an impromptu office beer pong tournament.  If you crunch stats like the Rain Man or even if you are just detail orientated and love understanding business through numbers, this might be for you.

Financial accountants are earning on average R40k per month. If you are a Chartered Accountant you could be throwing dollar bills up and down the office corridor with an earning potential above R50k per month. The A-Team Ballers normally sit in management with financial managers earning up to R70k per month. In Gauteng, the salaries in finance can be 7% above average, in Western Cape it can fall as much as 24% below average.

3. Sales

Some of the world’s top entrepreneurs have said being able to sell is a key trait of successful people. The front line is key to the success of your business, never mind how fancy your tech or office bean bags are.

The process of selling is defined by the internet as “to give or hand over something in exchange for goods/money” or “to persuade someone of the merits of your goods/service”.

If you don’t like being tied down to boring office tasks and love communicating with people or just looking to flex your sales muscle, then this could be for you.

The earning potential varies greatly and can be anything from R8k to R45k per month depending on what you’re selling.

Salespeople work heavily on commissions and at the end of the day, it all depends how good you are. You may very well end up in a different tax bracket to the guy sitting next to you doing the same job. It depends on whether you are that person that makes minimum target and leaves at 4:59 pm or the Wolf of Wall Street type.

Salespeople in Gauteng and Western Cape can earn above average salaries compared to KZN where salaries can drop to 30% below average.

4. Engineering

Just like developers, there are different types of engineers- structural, environmental, civil, mechanical … and the list goes on. There’s an engineer for everything from building a high-tech vault to store your grannie’s favourite pearls to building Trump Tower (wig included).

Wikipedia says engineers use science and math to design or make things. If you sit wondering how things work and enjoy building puzzles, then this might be for you. So, whether it’s making a watch, building roads or designing next level spaceships – smile and greet your nearby engineer- they make our lives easier.

When it comes to earning potential, the tops dogs seem to be structural engineers earning in excess of R80k p.m. in senior levels. That’s enough to get a full set of gold teeth and your own hip-hop video.

In the Engineering space if you live in Gauteng you will most likely earn up to 4% above the average salary for this type of job, in KZN it may feel slightly depressing with falling to 20% below average.

18 South Africans Awarded Avon Foundation Educational Scholarship

Gold key with Scholarship tag,
Gold key with Scholarship tag, with graduation cap. zimmytws / Shutterstock.com

Eighteen (18) young South Africans were selected to receive one of nearly 200 scholarships from the Avon Foundation’s Global Scholarship Programme.

The programme offers financial support for Avon Representatives, their children and grandchildren to support their studies, education and career goals.

These students from across the country will be awarded a bursary to support their tertiary education ambitions.

They include:

  1. Ashima Alam
  2. Jadine Chetty
  3. Muchanyara Chitando
  4. Bernice Delport
  5. Andrew Howitt
  6. Nkosikhona Khumalo
  7. Mogatlogedi Malefo
  8. Nomagugu Sibong Mbane
  9. Sarini Moodley
  10. Patience Mutsvairigwa
  11. Okejimi Olufunke
  12. Monise Parazee
  13. Twane Roux
  14. Priyanka Sewnarain
  15. Aanisah Tootla
  16. Aletta Etrisia Van Wyk
  17. Philisiwe Zuma
  18. Jade Moodley

Avon has been backing beauty entrepreneurs for more than 130 years and its global stand4her plan seeks to improve the lives of 100 million women worldwide by breaking down the barriers holding women back in today’s society. It aims to improve the world by advancing women’s earning potential through the power of beauty and the ability to lead a safe and healthy life.

The Avon Foundation’s Global Scholarship programme champions a whole new generation of women and families in fulfilling their potential – achieving their own goals, in their own way, on their own terms. 

“According to Statistics SÁ, more than half (or 51%) of youth aged 18–24 do not have the financial means to pay for their tuition. We are delighted to announce that we will be assisting 18 young South Africans fund their tuition and fulfil their tertiary education ambitions as the bursaries do not prescribe what career paths they should pursue,” said Bridget Bhengu, Corporate Communications Director at Avon Justine.

Avon logo on mobile. rafapress / Shutterstock.com

Since the Avon Global Scholarship Programme launched in 2012, the Avon Foundation has provided nearly $1.5 million to support scholarship awards. More than 100 South Africans have benefited from programme.

Bhengu said, “The Avon Foundation is built on a long legacy of investing in women because it’s proven time and time again that investing in women creates benefits not just for her but also for her family, her community and ultimately the world we all live in. With millions of beauty entrepreneurs globally, Avon understands the pivotal role of education, skills development and training in helping women achieve their goals.  The Avon Foundation is proud that we can support Avon Representatives and their families with access to education, new skills and networks that power their ability to succeed.”

Scholarships were selected based on academic performance, potential and a statement of career and educations aspirations and goals.

SA’s Pat Maqetuka Named In IBM’s Top 40 Women Business Pioneers In AI

ai robot
3d rendering ai robot think or compute. Phonlamai Photo / Shutterstock.Com

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a new factor of production and has the potential to introduce new sources of growth, changing how work is done and reinforcing the role of people to drive growth in business.

IBM has recognised 40 Women Business Pioneers in AI  from across the world at its Inaugural AI Women Leadership Event hosted in New York at the IBM Watson Experience Centre.

The list recognizes and celebrates women across a variety of industries and geographies for pioneering the use of AI to advance their companies in areas such as innovation, growth, and transformation.

Out of the 40 women mentioned in the list, one is from South Africa, Pat Maqetuka, chief data architecture & operations officer at Nedbank, South Africa’s banking group.

Pat Maqeketula
Pat Maqeketula

Maqetuka holds an MSc degree in technical cybernetics and automation from the University of Dresden, Germany, and has completed a number of leadership certificates in Israel as well as a woman executive course at Harvard Business School.

Before joining Nedbank Maqetuka worked for a computer company as a senior technician and network manager, and for the African National Congress in Lusaka, Zambia, as a computer specialist.

In 2008 Maqetuka received a Nedbank CEO Top Achiever Award for the 2007 calendar year.

Ranging in industries from telecommunications and finance to education and entertainment, the women were selected based upon the ways they are using AI as a transformation agent to help drive results for their organizations and the employees and customers they serve.

Some of the other names on the list include Jennifer Edgin, CTO, Deputy Commandant Information, U.S. Marine Corps, USA, Lee Hatton, CEO, UBank, Australia, Harmeen Mehta, Chief Information Officer & Head Cloud and Security Business, Bharti Airtel, India, Walkiria Schirrmeister Marchetti, CIO, Bradesco, Brazil, Sabine Scheunert, Vice President Digital & IT Sales/Marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler AG, Germany, Siewchoo Soh, Managing Director, DBS Bank, Singapore, Claudia Pohlink, Head of Artificial Intelligence, Deutsche Telekom/ T-Labs, Germany, and Kyoka Nakagawa, Chief Engineer, Value Creation Department, Digital Transformation Division, Digital Solution Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd., Japan.

NEMISA Fights Youth Unemployment

Television Camera Broadcasting.
Television Camera Broadcasting. CatwalkPhotos / Shutterstock.com

By Mish Molakeng

Mohau Kwebu had many challenges growing up, including having a mother with a mental disability and an absent father, but he was determined to realise his dream of becoming a visual arts storyteller.

Raised by his grandmother in the small town of Villiers in the Free State, he was focused on ensuring a bright future for himself.

After completing Grade 12, Mohau heard about the free learning opportunities offered by National Electronic Media of South Africa (Nemisa). He applied for a 12-month video editing course.

“As they say: ‘the rest is history’,” said Kwebu, who sees himself as a community builder.

“After I was accepted and given an opportunity to study for free by NEMISA, my life changed for the better. I went on to win short film awards as a student at the institution,” said Kwebu, who now works behind the scenes at the newly-established 24-hour news channel Newsroom Afrika.

Nemisa, a training entity of the Department of Communications, has positioned itself to be at the forefront of providing digital training opportunities to young people. Nemisa is dedicated to teaching in each of the five major multimedia disciplines namely Television, Radio, Animation, Broadcast Engineering and Multimedia Design.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Communications, said the government was making a concerted effort to ensure that the youth are employable and equipped with the digital skills needed for the Fourth Industrial  Revolution.

“As the Department of Communications we always encourage the entities in our portfolios to leverage on partnerships with the private sector in order for them to deliver on their respective mandates.

“It is for this reason that we are seeing NEMISA partnering with Vaal University to start a training initiative to provide unemployed young people with cellphone technician skills.  This cellphone repair training will go a long way in ensuring that young people become self-sustainable entrepreneurs,” she said.

Sinethemba Gwenxane, from the Western Cape, is also one of many young people who have benefited from the NEMISA training programme. He now has an animation qualification.

“I am now able to stand on an equal footing with my peers from other institution like AFDA and Wits University who are also offering courses in animation. The quality of the lecturers is what makes us industry-ready upon completing our course. The institution attracts big names from the industry who come to teach the practical aspects. I think that is what helps us to stand out in the work environment as NEMISA students,” said Gwenxane.

NEMISA has expanded its footprint by building training capacity in all provinces. In the last financial year, the institution has trained more than 1000 learners in the fields of digital media and ICT, with basic requirements being a Matric pass with English and Maths literacy.

“Empowering young people and giving them opportunities is not a narrative that is just heard during Youth Month. We are serious about eradicating unemployment among young people. Every entity in the portfolio of the Department of Communications has a strategy in place for youth empowerment,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams. – SAnews.gov.za

SA’s 4IR Commission Work Streams To Be Led By Ngcaba, Shuter

Andile Ngcaba
Andile Ngcaba

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has welcomed the first meeting of the (4IR) as a step towards achieving its objectives.

The Commission held its first work session at the University of Johannesburg to develop a high-level roadmap towards achieving its set objectives and to establish and assign technical work streams.

The meeting was held on Saturday.

“The Commission has committed to produce the strategy document to guide South Africa’s 4IR Vision by March 2020. This will be preceded by a broad consultative process with relevant stakeholders,” said the Department of Communications on Wednesday.

The commissioners further established and assigned the work streams as follows:

  • The Infrastructure and Resources work stream will be chaired by Andile Ngcaba.
  • The Research, Technology and Innovation work stream will be chaired by Dr Thulani Dlamini.
  • The Economic and Social impact work stream will be chaired by Mr Rob Shutter.
  • The work stream on Human Capital and the Future of Work will chaired by Ms Beth Arendse.
  • The work stream on Industrialisation and Commercialisation will be chaired by Ms Nomvula Mkhonza.
  • The Policy and Legislation work stream will be chaired by Ms Charmaine Houvet.

The 31-member Commission was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April.

The Commission is mandated to advise government on 4IR policies, develop a framework for implementation of a multi-sectoral 4IR strategy; and coordinate, monitor and evaluate multi-sectoral initiatives that will position South Africa as a globally competitive player in 4IR.

The commission is set to meet with its chairperson, President Ramaphosa, within the next few months. – SAnews.gov.za

R12.6M Up For Grabs For SMEs Looking For Cash Injection

Young businesswomen.
Young businesswomen. YP_Studio / Shutterstock.com

A new application round has opened for the R12.8million CDI Growth Fund to boost SME growth and job creation.

The CDI Growth Fund is a grant fund specifically for growing South African small businesses who need a cash injection to scale up further and create jobs. Since its launch in 2017, it has already contracted with 38 SMEs, who have collectively created over 160 jobs.

The CDI Growth Fund is managed by CDI Capital, which was incorporated as a subsidiary of the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) in 2016 to catalyse funding for SMEs. The funding has been enabled through contributions by the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT).

The Fund is in the second year of a five-year disbursement period.

One of the current Fund recipients is Pesto Princess, a Cape Town-based SME that produces locally-made pesto sauces, pastes, and soups using only natural ingredients and environmental consciousness.

The CDI Growth Fund is open to South African-owned businesses who operate within South Africa, who are at least one year old with turnover or assets above R1m.

Each applicant must demonstrate their year on year growth and/or the potential for sufficient growth and must be tax compliant. Applicants also need to match 20% of the grant contribution of the Fund through a cash contribution to achieve agreed objectives. Importantly, the business must be able to create new jobs.

SMEs that meet the criteria for funding, can apply online and are taken through a diligent process of selection and support, whereby successful applicants contract for a three-year intervention and disbursement plan, performance managed by quarterly reporting, oversight and inspection, bespoke mentorship, and business development support.

“The CDI Growth Fund is very specific in its focus – we are looking for SMEs who are about to employ new staff to meet growing demand and who need the capital to expand their operations,” Ryan Rode, project coordinator for CDI Capital, says.

“The funding is a grant and it is not paid back to the Fund, and can help to leverage additional funding and de-risk loans. It’s a fantastic opportunity for a growing South African business that is needing to employ new staff.”

The deadline for applications is 12 July 2019

Wits University Is The First African Partner On The IBM Q Network

IBM
IBM. JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

IBM today announced the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) as the first African partner on the IBM Q Network.

Wits University will also be the gateway for academics across South Africa and to the 15 universities who are part of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).

Quantum computing promises to be able to solve certain problems – such as chemical simulations and types of optimization – that will forever be beyond the practical reach of classical machines. IBM first made quantum computers available to the public in May 2016 through its IBM Q Experience quantum cloud service and has doubled the power of its quantum computers annually since 2017.

“This is the latest outcome of the joint partnership between IBM Research and Wits, which started in 2016 when IBM opened its second lab in Africa in Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg,” said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs.

“To expand the IBM Q Network to include Wits will drive innovation in frontier-technologies and benefit African-based researchers, academics and students who now have access to decades of quantum computing capabilities at the click of a button.”

IBM established the IBM Q Network, a community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions and research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science.

IBM Q Network
IBM Q Network

Researchers at Wits will investigate the use of quantum computing and machine learning in the fields of cosmology and molecular biology with a specific focus on HIV drug discovery.

The teams will also jointly study quantum teleportation, a field pioneered by IBM Fellow Charles Bennett.

“For Africa to remain competitive for the coming decades we must get the next generation of students quantum ready,” said Dr. Solomon Assefa, Vice President, Emerging Market Solutions and Director, IBM Research – Africa.

IBM’s recently unveiled IBM Q System One, is the world’s first integrated universal approximate quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use.

IBM’s most advanced universal quantum computing systems available through the IBM Q Experience platform.

More than 10 million experiments have run on the IBM Q Experience and users have published over 160 third-party research papers. Also, developers can work with  Qiskit, a full-stack, open-source quantum software development kit, to create and run quantum computing programs.

To further increase skills development, IBM Q is hosting an invite-only Qiskit Camp in South Africa this December for 200 quantum researchers and computer scientists where they will learn in an immersive environment and receive hands-on training.