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SA’s Travel Booking Firm Travelstart To Buy Club Travel Group

mauritius
mauritius

Travelstart, SA’s Travel Booking Firm, announced on Monday in a statement that it will buy Club Travel Group for an undisclosed amount.

The company said the acquisition will boost its offering by adding Club Travel’s established complementary corporate and franchise divisions, creating a formidable full-service African travel group.

“We love Club Travel because like us they have a long history in discount travel,” said Travelstart’s CEO Stephan Ekbergh.

“Travelstart is strong in the consumer segment and we want to bring consumerization to the corporate and government sectors, where Club Travel is an emerging star.”

While Africa’s travel and tourism market is worth an estimated $194 billion, digital uptake among consumers is still in its growth phase. With the acquisition, Travelstart and Club Travel enter a co-operation which will enable the former to expand its business and reach new customers, and the latter to gain the expertise to deliver digital product innovation and remain competitive.

“Travelstart shares a common mission which is to make travel easier for customers. Our team is excited to partner with them to build an amazing long-term business over the next decade,” said Wally Gaynor, Club Travel’s managing director and founder who will retain a board seat.

Club Travel will continue as a standalone company within the Travelstart portfolio.

Thebe Tourism Holdings (Thebe), the majority shareholder of the Club Travel Group since 2009, will sell its stake in the Club Travel Group to Travelstart. Thebe and Travelstart will jointly invest in and own Club Travel Corporate, a level one B-BBEE rated division of Club Travel Group.

“The deal is a response to the changes in travel in Southern Africa as consumer and corporate travel markets increasingly favour technology-driven solutions. We are excited to partner up with the team from Travelstart,” said Jerry Mabena, CEO at Thebe Tourism.

The closing of the deal is subject to the approval of the Competition Commission.

Travelstart was founded in Sweden in 1999 and pioneered online travel in Scandinavia with two basic principles; using technology to make travel purchases simple and offering customers the best price.

In 2006, the company launched in South Africa and became a household name. Travelstart currently does business across several African countries as well as the GCC area with offices in Cape Town, Lagos, Cairo and Dubai. Travelstart has seen double-digit growth and profitability since inception and is backed by Amadeus Capital Partners and HarbourVest.

Cell C vs CellSaf: Is It A Case Of Goliath Being Favoured By Regulators?

Cell C offices
Cell C offices in Midrand

The case of Cell C versus its empowerment partner CellSaf has become a David and Goliath battle.

CellSaf, a small lightweight empowerment partner, is battling against a heavyweight opponent backed by three conglomerates – Cell C, JSE-listed tech firm Blue Label Telecoms, and JSE and Nasdaq-listed Net 1 UEPS Technologies (Net 1).

The background to this battle is rooted in 2001 when Cell C launched, and CellSaf was celebrated as a victory for empowerment owning a 40% of the mobile phone operator (which has since shrunk to 7.5% with no benefits to the shareholders).

For CellSaf, however, since then, it has been a litany of battles with Cell C management and original shareholders of the mobile phone operator, Saudi Oger.

With South Africa trying to unravel state capture that has destroyed state-owned entities as private companies facilitate corruption, I remembered a quote by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng saying the judiciary will never be captured.

He recently made these remarks during ENCA’s In Conversation with Chief Justice, stating that:

“The judiciary as a collective has not been captured but I cannot vouch for every individual. But I can confidently say the overwhelming majority of the judges are incapable of being captured. I think it would take a very weak and corrupt judge or magistrate to be captured.”

One wonders whether this applies to the country’s watchdogs, such as the Competition Commission and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

READ: Friday article: Cell C’s BEE Partner May Lock Horns With Blue Label Telecoms, Net 1

South Africa’s competition watchdog has spent two years investigating whether to declare the recapitalisation of Cell C as a large merger conducted by both Blue Label Telecoms and Net 1.

In June 2017, CellSaf – led by Zwelakhe Mankazana – submitted a complaint to the Competition Commission accusing Blue Label Telecoms and Net1 of trying to hijack and secure dominant (75%+) control of Cell C.

The deal was an attempt at corporate capture, said CellSaf at the time. The empowerment firm alleged in the complaint that the complicated web of transactions and contracts by Blue Label Telecoms and Net1 would give the companies full control of Cell C.

Imagine if it was JSE-listed Blue Label Telecoms or Nasdaq and JSE-listed Net 1 waiting for so long to get an outcome of a complaint submitted in good faith to the competition watchdog. Industry commentators would have by now declared the competition watchdog incompetent and lacking the teeth to regulate the industry.

Mind you, the Competition Commission informed CellSaf on 22 December 2017, that:

 “After assessment of the above submissions by CellSaf and engagement with Cell C, the Commission has taken the view that there has been an acquisition of control of Cell C by Blue Label Telecoms.”

So why is it taking so long for the competition watchdog to make a final ruling?

Is it a case of law favouring the rich and the most powerful? In this case, Cell C, Net 1 and Blue Label Telecoms.

It might also be a case that the country’s competition watchdog doesn’t take CellSaf seriously and instead defends the interest of bigger corporates. Is it also a case of empowerment not being taken seriously by the Competition Commission?

One must guard against denigrating the history of a respected regulator as the Competition Commission due to a simple view as this.  It has ruled on the more significant and complex transactions.

However, if I was CellSaf, it will not be easy to convince me otherwise. The watchdog seems not to take seriously complaints handed over by the weak, with no resources.

The same regulator ruled in favour of Cell C to take over the shops of franchisees without compensating them. For more read: Cell C Move To Terminate Franchisees Stores Backfires

The only way for the competition watchdog to dissuade me otherwise is to make a final ruling on whether the recapitalisation of Cell C by Blue Label Telecoms and Net 1 constitute a large merger.

Then this will enable Blue Label Telecoms and Net 1 to make an offer to buy out the minorities. In this case, CellSaf must be bought out, and the deal should be based on Cell C’s value before recapitalisation.

 

On 31 August 2017, ICASA declared that it was seeking clarity on this apparent non-compliance with the legislative provisions concerning Cell C’s recapitalisation transaction.

Besides, the competition watchdog said it was also taking external legal advice on the matter, including on appropriate enforcement actions it can take to ensure compliance.

In its preliminary view, ICASA said:

“the Cell C recapitalisation transaction – on the face of it – triggers the provisions of Section 13 of the Electronic Communications Act of 20015 (sic) and ought to have been filed as an application for change of control of the licensee”.


Surprisingly, however, by the end of November 2017, ICASA backtracked on its decision, stating that: Cell C ‘followed the correct process in the notification of its recapitalisation transaction and that it had complied with all applicable regulations’.

One wonders what changed.

Besides, ICASA’s decision might not be valid.

In January 2018, chairperson of ICASA Rubben Mohlaloga was found guilty for fraud and money laundering but remained in office for almost 12 months. In mid-February 2019, the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The convicted fraudster was only removed from his position in March 2019.

One wonders whether Mohlaloga’s continued occupation of his position at ICASA was fraudulent and maybe this has an impact on the validity of the ICASA’s ruling in the CellSAf matter, at the time?

Furthermore, the recapitalisation deal falls foul of broad imperatives and the anti-fronting prescriptions of the South African Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Act.

Over two years, CellSaf engaged with the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Commission (B-BBEE Commission), which is empowered to investigate any matter concerning B-BBEE and is required to keep a registry of major B-BBEE transactions.

On 13 December 2017, CellSaf also lodged a complaint with the B-BBEE Commission.

The B-BBEE Commission also haven’t done anything on the CellSaf complaint. It will be a sad day if a state organ created to protect B-BBEE companies doesn’t take empowerment firms seriously.

Is the B-BBEE Commission in favour of a significant reversal of black ownership at Cell C?

That said, however, ICASA’s decision seems to have been influenced (or captured), and for the B-BBEE Commission and competition watchdog, they can still rescue themselves.

Let’s hope the Competition Commission shows it still has teeth when it makes a final determination on Cell C’s recapitalisation.

For now, Aluta Continua for CellSaf and they might as well recite the Chief Justice pronouncement and hope it applies to the Competition Commission and the B-BBEE Commission. – lourie@techfinancials.co.za

Coding In Schools – A Fast Track To The 4th Industrial Revolution?

Coding class
Coding class: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

by Jenny Retief

As with many countries, South Africa is seriously considering including coding into the national curriculum. In fact, earlier this year Cyril Ramaphosa made it very clear that inclusion will be an objective he intends to see come to fruition during his presidency. This is commendable – but is it realistic?

The truth is that including coding alone will not prepare our children to face the coming technology tsunami known as the fourth industrial revolution and, as things stand today, there is no disputing the fact that we are producing school-leavers who are ill-equipped to operate effectively in a digital world. So the answer is probably not. At least, not right now.

The fourth industrial revolution is going to bring both massive opportunities and new challenges, and education should be an instrument to prepare tomorrow’s workforce. But, to get there in South Africa, we’ll need to see a fundamental shift in education and a return to the basics. 

The shift

The younger generation are referred to as digital natives because they’ve had access to technology since they were old enough to hold it. This exposure needs to be ramped up, and one way of doing this is to give them access to better equipped early learning facilities. There are endless studies on the advantages of providing children with a strong foundation in numeracy and literacy at a pre-school stage and if we start preparing them here, via digital platforms, we’ll already be ahead of the game.

Moving into Grade R and up, rather than ring-fencing subjects like coding and technology, it would make more sense to inter-weave these subjects into all aspects of the school curricula, as it is in the real world.

Coding class: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

The government intends on ensuring every learner is armed with a tablet, so this can be used to facilitate that, for example, using a spreadsheet to draw climate tables for Geography, setting reminders in a digital calendar rather than in a paper diary, or introducing CAD tools to assist in creating specification diagrams.

Globally, there aren’t many educational institutions effectively set up to keep pace with the rate of change in technology. When you consider that, on average, a third of the skill sets required to perform today’s jobs will be wholly new by 2020, it’s easier to understand that teaching a subject, which focuses solely on execution, means running the risk of equipping learners with potentially obsolete abilities.

That’s not to say that execution skills should be ignored, but rather that the effort should go into teaching the skills that will underpin the use of any tool. Here, you’re looking at computational thinking, data literacy, agile problem-solving methods and, perhaps most importantly, the techniques to rapidly learn new hard skills.

Beyond that, we should probably be giving thought to how we hone, at the school level, the skills that AI machines will not be able to emulate easily – creative and critical thinking, teamwork and empathetic interaction.

The basics

Before any of the above can be realised it should be understood that unless school infrastructure improves, we’ll just be further entrenching the digital divide.

Kids in well-resourced schools able to effectively teach the subject will benefit but, for those attending under-served schools, coding will be just another point of failure. Schools need resources to teach STEM subjects, and we’re not just talking about labs and computer equipment, but rather basics like water, electricity and connectivity.

Jenny Retief

From there, foundational skills needed to enable coding at school include reading, maths, logic and pattern recognition, along with a willingness to experiment, permission to play and the ability to focus and sustain a train of thought. Beyond basic reading skills, comfort in reading is vital, as is the ability to research, sift through information, and select that which is relevant to finding solutions for particular problems.

Tablets make good sense when you consider the current challenges and cost constraints experienced in trying to get up-to-date textbooks into the hands of our learners, but they’re only useful to engaged audiences. They would prove useless if not interleaved with active engagement with an application of real-world learning with a resultant ability to create and solve problems. 

The human factor

At the end of the day, we must also acknowledge that not everyone is a coder, and coding must be introduced to our school environments with a broader picture in mind. It may be that our world tomorrow is a digital one, but that doesn’t mean we’re only shaping engineers and robotics champs.

A high-tech world where many basic goods and services are produced by robots is going to make the things that are intrinsically human even more precious and valued. Along with STEM jobs, there will be many opportunities in art and creative pursuits of all kinds that focus on providing humans with ways to connect with one another in an increasingly automated world.

In fact, considering the rapid evolution of the job market, most individuals relying on just one skill set or narrow expertise will be unlikely to sustain long-term careers in economies of the future. Our non-coding children must be prepared from an early age to consider careers that encompass inter-disciplinary connections, global citizenship values, including empathy and character, and non-cognitive employability skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, project management and creativity.

The World Economic Fund (WEF) released a paper recently titled Transforming Education Ecosystems. In it, the team deep dives global challenges being experienced and overcome by several countries that have successfully incorporated coding into their school curricula.

These educational institutions share common attention to several key action areas, including starting with early childhood education, the creation of future-ready curricula, ensuring a professional (and educated) teaching workforce, early exposure for these children to the workplace with ongoing career guidance, truly enabling digital fluency, and a new approach to lifelong learning.

With seemingly insurmountable challenges, South Africa will have to take learnings from the experiences of its counterparts to ensure it creates the best foundation for the next generation of workers – but it will have to start at the very beginning.

  • Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub

Crypto Miners Will Not Be Insured: Old Mutual

Christelle Colman - Executive for High-Net-Worth Solutions at Old Mutual Insure
Christelle Colman - Executive for High-Net-Worth Solutions at Old Mutual Insure

Old Mutual Insure has opted out of insuring computer equipment used for cryptocurrency mining.

The Sandton-based insurer said on Monday that this is due to the unregulated nature of the industry, which is often associated with cybercrime, and its penchant for using modified electronic infrastructure that operates on a 24/7 basis, making it highly prone to overheating and other malfunctions.

The world of cryptocurrencies or digital currencies is growing rapidly as digitisation continues to disrupt the financial services industry. Mining these cryptocurrencies usually requires expensive computers, servers and other equipment. It is important for people to note many insurers do not insure this equipment due to the unregulated nature of crypto mining.

The insurer said it has begun advising its branches not to insure any businesses involved in cryptocurrency mining following extensive industry research as well as an in-depth review of claims from clients that have already incurred losses to equipment used for cryptocurrency mining.

Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange, which use cryptography to secure financial transactions and control the creation of additional cryptocurrency units created in the “mining” process.

Old Mutual estimates that there are at least 1 565 cryptocurrencies being used globally with Bitcoin being the most popular and a host of others such as Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Dash and Monero vying for attention from speculative investors.

“We have chosen not to provide cover for this type of risk as it is quite tricky to conduct a proper risk analysis of an unregulated fledgling industry that is already on the radar of financial authorities due to the unfortunate association with money laundering and cybercrime,” said Old Mutual’s Insurance Expert Christelle Colman.

“It is also a highly volatile industry that attracts a lot of speculators so there is no proper risk rating structure in the local market for this type of risk.

“Old Mutual is currently conducting a comprehensive risk analysis of all clients involved in computer heavy business activities as well as third party service providers such as software developers and web designers to ensure that they are not involved in cryptocurrency mining,” says Colman.

 

Ethos AI Fund Buys 8% Stake In TymeBank For R200M

TymeBank
TymeBank

Ethos Artificial Intelligence (AI) has invested R200 million in recently launched digital bank TymeBank, which is owned by African Rainbow Capital (ARC).

The investment by the Ethos AI Fund in TymeBank will result in the Fund being an 8% shareholder in the bank.

The transaction value was agreed with Ethos management before the bank was formally launched in February 2019.

Since TymeBank was launched, more than 400 000 clients have signed up for bank accounts, which should lead to a considerable increase in the enterprise value of the bank.

Customer acquisition achievements are significantly ahead of targeted projections and the bank is well on its way to achieve 500 000 clients by July this year.

The current remaining shareholders in TymeBank include ARC, the founders and executive management of TymeBank, and a staff trust.

TymeBank has positioned itself as the leading low-cost transactional bank to the mass market segment. Consumers in this segment are traditionally under-served as well as under-serviced. The bank has an unrivalled low-cost operating platform as a result of its innovative use of technology and its strategic relationship with Pick n Pay and Boxer stores, all geared towards offering customers a compelling banking value proposition. Following the AI Fund investment, TymeBank will also benefit by having access to a pool of knowledge and experience in the use of artificial intelligence.

TymeBank and its controlling shareholder will embark on the next phase of capital raising to facilitate the growth of the bank.

“The Ethos AI Fund invests in businesses that will benefit disproportionately from artificial intelligence, primarily in the form of algorithmic decision making,” Roger Grobler, the Ethos AI Fund Partner, said.

“These algorithms typically help organisations make high-frequency decisions that are often not suited to human capabilities due to the computational complexity and breadth of the data used.”

In a separate transaction, ARC will invest R100 million into Ethos AI Fund. Existing investors in the Fund include high-net-worth individuals, family offices, as well as institutional investors.

The strategic rationale for ARC investing in the Ethos AI Fund is to provide ARC with access to an ecosystem where new technologies in support of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are optimally commercialised.

“Together with these co-investors and partners, we can significantly enhance TymeBank’s products and services to the benefit of its clients,” Johan van Zyl, co-CEO of ARC, said.

“This would be to the benefit of clients. If we achieve this, we are likely to on-board new clients over a sustained period of time and therefore meet the objectives of our business case.”

ARC has as a key strategic focus long-term exposure to a retail bank as it complements its financial services strategy which covers insurance, asset management and specialist financial services.

“We are delighted to have the Ethos AI Fund as a co-investor alongside our majority shareholder ARC. A key strategic pillar of our success is our access to and use of unique technology,” Coen Jonker, TymeBank co-founder and current chairperson of the TymeBank board.

“This has made TymeBank a significant contender in the market. This investment from the Ethos AI Fund will strengthen our focus on technology and it will likely cement our current leadership position as the lowest cost banking service provider to consumers.”

Your Internet Data Is Rotting

The internet is growing, but old information continues to disappear daily.
The internet is growing, but old information continues to disappear daily. wk1003mike/shutterstock.com

by Paul Royster

Many MySpace users were dismayed to discover earlier this year that the social media platform lost 50 million files uploaded between 2003 and 2015.

The failure of MySpace to care for and preserve its users’ content should serve as a reminder that relying on free third-party services can be risky.

MySpace has probably preserved the users’ data; it just lost their content. The data was valuable to MySpace; the users’ content less so.

What happened to MySpace

MySpace is a social networking media site where performers could upload music or other content for access and distribution to its user community. It has always been a free site, with revenues coming from ads and programming that targets users for specific products.

Formed in 2003 in imitation of the social gaming site Friendster, MySpace grew rapidly and was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 2005. By 2008, MySpace was the leading social networking site, valued at one time at US$12 billion But it declined in popularity – thanks to an overprevalence of ads, concerns about exposure of minors to sexual content and other issues. In 2011, News Corporation sold MySpace to Specific Media, who sold it again in 2016 to Time Inc., which was in turn bought by the Meredith Corporation in 2018.

So the company went through three changes in ownership over a 12-year period, and saw revenues and membership drop precipitously over that time. One sale might be fine, but three sales over short term suggests to me a troubled business that was not in a good position to watch over others’ intellectual property.

Anyone using MySpace as a storage service who did not have alternate backup is simply out of luck. You left your intellectual property sitting beside the information superhighway, and when you came back 10 years later it was gone.

MySpace is not alone in encountering problems. Amazon cloud services, for example, also experienced a a substantial outage in 2011 and another in 2017. Though temporary, and without actual loss of data, these outages left users without access to precious and important files for some time.

In a statement, Myspace said, ‘We apologize for the inconvenience.’
chrisdorney/shutterstock.com

A much bigger problem

Preserving content or intellectual property on the internet presents a conundrum. If it’s accessible, then it isn’t safe; if it’s safe, then it isn’t accessible.

Accessible content is subject to tampering, theft or other sorts of bad actions. Only content that is inaccessible can be locked and protected from hacking.

The internet currently accesses about 15 zettabytes of data, and is growing at a rate of 70 terabytes per second. It is an admittedly leaky vessel, and content is constantly going offline to wind up lost forever.

Massive and desperate efforts are underway to preserve whatever is worth preserving, but even sorting out what is and what is not is itself a formidable undertaking. What will be of value in 10 years – or 50 years? And how to preserve it?

Acid-free paper can last 500 years; stone inscriptions even longer. But magnetic media like hard drives have a much shorter life, lasting only three to five years. They also need to be copied and verified on a very short life cycle to avoid data degradation at observed failure rates between 3% and 8% annually.

Then there is also a problem of software preservation: How can people today or in the future interpret those WordPerfect or WordStar files from the 1980s, when the original software companies have stopped supporting them or gone out of business?

A nonprofit startup called The Internet Archive is preserving snapshots of the web on an ongoing basis, but mostly this is for top-level public HTML webpages such as The New York Times website and Facebook, not for underlying content files. As of last fall, its Wayback Machine held over 450 billion pages in 25 petabytes of data. This would represent .0003% of the total internet.

Universities, governments and scientific societies are struggling to preserve scientific data in a hodgepodge of archives, such as the U.K.‘s Digital Preservation Coalition, MetaArchive, or the now-disbanded collaborative Digital Preservation Network.
Preservation is hard and expensive in time, money and equipment. To be most useful, it not only has to be stored, but hosted in a form that is accessible and available for future reuse.

Actual storage costs less than $0.05 per gigabyte, but storage is only a small percentage of the costs of preservation. Acquisition, networking, maintenance and administration all require substantial and costly human labor.

Budgeting models suggest a 10-year preservation expense of around $2.50 per gigabyte, or $2,500 per terabyte, or $625,000 for the files MySpace failed to preserve.

Huge amounts of new content are uploaded to the internet every day.
Fingon ss/shutterstock.com

Considering your own data

So yes, the internet is rotting, but archivists and digital librarians like myself knew it was rotten already, as did anyone who ever got a “404 File Not Found” error.

Where there is economic incentive to keep and use data – such as user information, profiles or browsing history – it may exist for quite a long time. It has been said by many that data is the new oil, and corporations are anxious to drill and exploit this resource.

However, where content is less valuable to whomever owns the servers, there is less incentive to invest in preserving it. A survey of 10 million hits from 25 random sites in 2004 suggests that 404 errors occur at close to 3% of targeted URLs. The internet is growing much faster than it is rotting, but both things are happening at once. No giant internet company has your interests closer to its heart than its own.

One preservation network is known under the acronym LOCKSS – Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe – and that’s a good rule of thumb. Always have a backup, and always have multiple backups. Guard your privacy and guard your content, at least that content you may wish to have preserved, like photos, email, that screenplay or novel, or video and music files. Copyright rules do not prohibit storing content you may have purchased, as long as you don’t put it out for public sharing.

Free storage is a great offer, but sometimes you only get what you pay for. The internet is neither secure nor permanent. It never promised to be, and users should not assume that it will become so. Parts are rotting and corroding and collapsing as I type this. Just hope and plan to not be resting on that platform when it falls.The Conversation

Paul Royster, Coordinator of Scholarly Communications, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Broadband Infraco To Build ‘Fibre Super Highway’ In SADC

Andrew Matseke
Andrew Matseke Chief Executive Officer for Broadband Infraco

Broadband Infraco announced on Friday that the South African Government is looking to assign it as the entity that assists in the development of the ‘fibre super highway’ in Southern Africa.

The state-owned entity said the SADC super highway, which is a fibre super highway, is created through the joint investment of SADC countries.

“The ultimate outcome of this initiative is that at least at an infrastructure level, we can ensure that the reach of optical fibre, which is what you need for backhauling high volumes of data, reaches South Africa, but also large parts of our neighbouring countries,” said , Andrew Matseke, the CEO for Broadband Infraco.

“That’s just touching on the infrastructure and connectivity levels.”

Broadband Infraco also plays a significant role at SATA (Southern African Telecommunication Association), where SADC Telecommunication Operators interchange on developments as well as innovation in the Region.

Currently, Infraco connects the borders of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and all seven of the neighbouring countries, and this is what Matseke believes could result in massive growth, as there are people knocking on their door, looking for connectivity.

Broadband Infraco is currently intensifying its Johannesburg to Botswana route through the North West, bringing extended capacity to the Platinum belt route. This brings hope to connecting the Mining Belt as well as the North West to their neighbouring counterparts.

MTN Introduces Africa’s ‘First’ AI Service For Mobile Money

Mobile money.
Mobile money. Sarine Arslanian / Shutterstock.com

MTN Group is embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and on Friday announced the launch of Africa’s ‘first’ Mobile Money (MoMo) AI service or “chatbot”.

The mobile phone giant said the chatbot went live in Ivory Coast in May and will be rolled out across its MoMo footprint in the next few months.

The AI mobile money “assistant” enables customers to engage with MTN’s MoMo services, including payments, on various social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and via SMS.

The company also said the service will also be included over time, in MTN’s own newly released advanced instant messaging service “Ayoba”.

mtn logo
mtn logo

The chatbot is an AI guide that assists users to navigate MTN’s MoMo services and provide other useful information.

This innovation leverages messaging and AI to drive customer engagement and enhance their MTN MoMo experience, said the company.

“We are passionate about bringing the power of our mobile money solutions to more than 60 million customers across Africa over the next few years. Harnessing modern technologies like artificial intelligence can improve in scale, how MTN interacts with customers, enabling them to reach us anytime and anywhere, through a variety of channels including social networks and messaging applications. We can also harness the power of artificial intelligence to provide our customers with the right answers to their questions at the right time.,” said MTN CEO, Rob Shuter.

“We are committed to improving financial inclusion with a range of solutions aimed at addressing the needs of various market segments. While MTN has made great strides in these areas, we will continue working to deliver our vision for MTN to become one of the largest Fintech players across our footprint.”

Cell C’s BEE Partner May Lock Horns With Blue Label Telecoms, Net 1

cell c
cell c

The country’s competition watchdog still needs more time to investigate further before it decides whether to declare the recapitalisation of Cell C as a large merger conducted by both Blue Label Telecoms and Net 1 UEPS Technologies (Net 1).

In 2017, JSE-listed Blue Label Telecoms and Nasdaq-listed Net 1 completed its recapitalisation of Cell C.

After that in December 2017, Cell C’s empowerment partner CellSaf submitted a complaint to the Competition Commission accusing Blue Label Telecoms and Net1 of trying to hijack and secure dominant (75%+) control of Cell C.

The deal amounts to a blatant attempt at corporate capture, said CellSaf at the time.

The empowerment firm, which is led by Zwelakhe Mankazana, alleged in the complaint that the complicated web of deals and contracts by Blue Label Telecoms and Net1 would give the companies full control of Cell C.

Shortly, after that, the country’s competition watchdog stated in a letter sent to CellSaf on 22 December 2017, that:

 “After assessment of the above submissions by CellSaf and engagement with Cell C, the Commission has taken the view that there has been an acquisition of control of Cell C by Blue Label Telecoms.”

Since then CellSaf has been trying for the better part of one and a half year to have the recapitalisation of the mobile phone operator by both Blue Label Telecoms and Net 1 classified as a large merger by the country’s competition watchdog.

So far, CellSaf efforts have yielded nothing except to see the value of their shareholding in the mobile phone business eroded.

However, the country’s competition watchdog seems not ready to rule on the matter, despite making a judgment that the recapitalisation amounts to a change of control and a notifiable merger.

In a letter sent last month [seen by TechFinancials] to CellSaf, Nomkhosi Mthethwa-Motsa, legal counsel for the Competition Commission, states that:

 “On 26 March 2019, the team submitted its findings in respect of this matter to the Commission Meeting for approval. The Commissioners instructed the team to write a letter to Cell C and BLT requesting further information and documents which will enable the Commission to make an appropriate decision in concluding its investigation.”

Mthethwa-Motsa further wrote in the letter, that in light of the above, the Commission requests for an extension until Friday, 06 September 2019.

Despite, a ruling in 2017 that the recapitalisation amounts to a change of control and a notifiable merger, the Competition Commission is seeking extensions to investigate the matter.

While this is happening, CellSaf continues to suffer long-lasting irreparable financial harm as its investment in Cell C continues to lose value as a result of Blue Label Telecoms acquiring control of Cell C.

Cell C
Cell C

Since Cell C’s recapitalisation, Blue Label Telecoms has been dictating the strategy of the mobile phone operator and is planning to float the company on the JSE in 2020.

However, Blue Label Telecoms’ share price and market value continue to be hammered by negative news emanating from Cell C.

Two months ago, rating agency S&P Global Ratings lowered Cell C’s issuer credit rating to CCC- from CCC+, placing it deeper in “junk” territory.

The rating agency pointed out that R8.8-billion of Cell C’s R9-billion debt would mature within the next 18 months, while the telecommunications group remains free cash flow negative under ordinary working capital and capital expenditure conditions.

“In our view, Cell C would face a near-term liquidity crisis if it was unable to refinance upcoming maturities and secure new financing,” S&P Global Ratings said of its “downside scenario”.

“This would increase the likelihood that Cell C might engage in a distressed exchange or restructuring discussions, which would likely result in us lowering the ratings further.”

Meanwhile, Cell C has seen the departure of CEO, Jose dos Santos, who is now an advisor to the chairman of the board, Kuben Pillay. Since then, there have been several resignations of senior executives in the business.

Jose dos Santos
Jose dos Santos

These problems and other labour issues have seen Cell C erodes its value in the market and negatively impacting the shareholding of CellSaf.

CellSaf originally owned 40% (non-dilutable) interest of Cell C, a fact that was celebrated as a victory for empowerment when Cell C launched in 2001. In 2005 CellSaf sold its shares down to 25% of Cell C to clear itself of debt.

The shareholding of CellSaf has further been diluted to 7.5% following the recapitalisation of Cell C without the empowerment partner getting anything for it.

Blue Label Telecoms through its wholly owned subsidiary, The Prepaid Company, took control of 45% shareholding in Cell C. While ICT group Net1 – which at the time thrown into the spotlight in 2017 in the Sassa payments debacle – own a further 15%, Cell employees 10%, and around 30% of the company will be split into three special vehicle companies. These companies are Cedar Cellular Investment (which carries 11.8% of Cell C), Magnolia Cellular Investment (16%) and Yellowwood Cellular Investment (2.2%).

On 07 August 2017, Net1 – which bought 15% shareholding in Cell C, also announced that it had forked out R1.3 billion to buy 45% of an obscure company named DNI-4PL, with an option to increase its stake to 55%.

DNI “is the largest wholesaler of Cell C starter packs in South Africa”. However, CellSaf has argued that DNI is potentially much more than that.

In its inspection of confidential documents, CellSaf told the Competition Commission, it discovered references to options between DNI and two of the three companies, according to an M&G report. These would, permanently, enable DNI to take over those two companies. Then “DNI could end up holding up to 27.8%” of Cell C, CellSaf argued at the time.

CellSaf argued that if Net1, in turn, owns 55% of DNI, that gives it another indirect — and undisclosed — 15.3% of Cell C, on top of its direct 15% purchase.

Therefore, Blue Label Telecoms and Net1 can end up owning 75.3% of Cell C — just over the 75% level required in law to pass special board resolutions.

Immediately after the announcement, CellSaf warned that the recapitalisation of the mobile phone operator amounts to a blatant attempt at corporate capture and is likely to collapse under regulatory scrutiny. – lourie@techfinancials.co.za

Geco.one, The Nexus Between Experience And Liquidity

The Geco One platform
The Geco One platform

A new trading platform for cryptographic assets will be launched in the coming weeks. Geco.one is aiming to be one of the complete platforms for digital trading. The competition is stiff, a technological sector that increases the benchmark continuously presenting advances every short space of time. Therefore, the trading platform presented by Geco One requires a special touch and first-rate features. A next-generation options menu will make it possible to trade inside PAMM services, futures trading, leverage, and both long and short positions from a single platform; offering control, simplicity, and diversity to the user.

In more detail, we can see that it has two types of user; Traders and Investors (traders and investors) will form part of an ecosystem of synergies that make it easier for untrained users to trade through the experience of professionals. This is a bridge between the experience of trading in markets, and liquidity waiting for sound investment advice or signal.

The platform allows you to invest safely in the cryptocurrencies and token market using the skills and knowledge of experienced traders. The innovative flagship service called PAMM trading account allows investing in pairs of cryptocurrencies or tokens by handing their resources to veteran traders and provides all the functions of the necessary tools to become a crypto trader yourself.

How does the user-side Geco.one PAMM process work?

The platform offers dual option registration. Therefore, when users register, there are two types of users:

Trader user, the 1st pillar to provide PAMM nexus. Trader account users are those who operate transparently and from whom monitored statistics are collected that reveal their success in trades and other statistics.

Investor user presents the other pillar of the users base. These are users who wish to invest in cryptocurrencies or tokens and lack the experience or time needed to study the markets and decide on trades. Users with investor account will be able to access Traders’ statistics and trade. This feature of the platform has been called PAMM.

This leads users to use Geco.one tool to analyze the failure and success history of any trader in a chosen period and a specific period. So investors keep total monitoring of the options to select and their statistics.

In short, users can choose the account of the most successful trader or with a tendency to invest in products they like; and promotes the option to fund their liquidity (the investing user) along with the trader’s trades. Also, you can always stop your investment, any time you have the will to liquidate the position.

Integration of stop-loss in the platform offering flexibility in operations

As previously reported, registered users as an investor can rely on professional traders to perform trades using their funds. This would involve a considerable counterparty risk complicated to counter without the option to trade with stop-loss. Geco.one protects users by offering integrated stop-loss.

These are orders that allow users to buy or sell when the market reaches a specified price known as ‘Stop Price.’ Such orders are traditionally used to protect profits, limit losses, or otherwise initiate new orders. A standard method is to set the Stop Loss on a moving average. In general, there is a diversity of trends and debates about the process of using Stop Loss in a trendline. This Stop Loss can also be moved following the moving average.

Consequently, users can trade using their ideas with a complete ecosystem of tools. If we add this to the monitoring and historical records of traders, the platform had to include among its options investments without time limit; and so it is, a complete ecosystem with flexibility coupled with Stop-Limit & Stop-Loss orders make Geco.one a comprehensive platform.

The third sales phase of the GEC token and two exchanges ready to roll

From the total supply of GEC tokens (250,000,000), we find that after the initial sale, an amount of 100,000,000 GEC will circulate. In the third sales phase of the token, we see data regarding the amount available for purchase, bonuses, and dates included for the period. From early July 10 (7:00 a.m. UTC) until the same time on July 14, users who purchase tokens during the third sales session will enjoy a reference bonus of 3%. For that period, the available GEC tokens are 3,000,000 for 0.00006 BTC.

Also, a few days ago, the booming exchange LATOKEN announced the listing for the upcoming dates.  The announcement began like this:

Geco.one (GEC) listed on LATOKEN soon!

Please wait for further announcements.

Source: (LATOKEN Zendesk).

During the two previous sales phases, the available quantity was also 3,000,000 per period. The Geco.one team established the following distribution parameters on which the initial event is based.

  • 80% of the supply destined for sales
  • 15% for founders
  • 3% for advisors
  • 2% for Bounty (early ecosystem rewards).

Users who want to purchase tokens during the first half of July can count on the proven services of LATOKEN (as noted above) and Coineal exchanges. From Coineal’s website it was communicated by the following statement pointing out the addition to its Launchpad:

We are excited to announce that a presale for GEC (GECOIN) will take place on Coineal Launchpad starting at 7:00 July 1 and ending on 7:00 July 14 (UTC).

Source(Coineal Web).

The adoption of new technologies is promoting the trade of crypto

Globalization has brought an unprecedented connection between parties. Borders are left behind when it comes to trading, making deals, and selling between peers. With the increasing relationships between individuals, an explosion of markets emerges hand in hand with chains of blocks. A cascade of innovation and development that provides advances and synergies not experienced before.

The era of Big Data and e-commerce has led to the need for digital currencies and tokens facilitating a vibrant and fast-growing ecosystem to be part of through the platform we have described today.

For more information and project details, we recommend the official links provided below.

Web – Geco.one

Whitepaper – https://geco.one/static/files/whitepaper.pdf

Medium official – https://medium.com/@geco.one

Telegram – https://t.me/joinchat/J1ay7UjdQZcuAXyr2OpWnQ

Youtube – https://youtu.be/bKjia8R_o9g

Twitter – https://twitter.com/GecoOne

eMail: support@geco.one