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Is MTN courting Liquid Telecom?

MTN has signed an agreement with Liquid Telecom triggering speculation that the boss of Africa’s largest mobile phone operator Sifiso Dabengwa was finally ready to spend some of the group’s R31 billion cash pile.  Dabengwa has the option of spending a small fraction of it to buy an operator with a much-needed fixed-line network footprint across the region. He could also go for the parent company. By Gugu Lourie

Africa’s mobile phone powerhouse, MTN seems ready to tackle the continent’s market’s next frontier – fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), fibre-to-the-business (FTTB) and fibre-to-the-kerb (FTTx).

The mobile operator, which is losing market share in South Africa, also faces challenges in other key markets of Nigeria and Iran.

It seems logical MTN would be keen to take on fixed-line incumbents on their home turf and across the continent in search of new revenue streams, which would include FTTH, FTTB and FTTx.

On Monday MTN announced that it had teamed up with Liquid Telecom, an independent data, voice and IP provider in eastern, central and southern Africa.

Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN Group President and CEO
Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN Group President and CEO

This development will allow the new partners to access each other’s fixed and wireless networks in African countries, where one party may not yet have presence.

The partnership covers wholesale, carrier-to-carrier, high speed broadband, enterprise and fixed data services across Africa.

The agreement with Liquid Telecom gives MTN the ability to service its multinational enterprise customers in Burundi, DRC, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

While, Liquid Telecom will now have a presence in Benin, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan and Swaziland.

With such synergy it remains puzzling why MTN didn’t make a full offer to buy Liquid Telecom.

To the ordinary observer it makes sense for MTN to buy Liquid Telecom outright.

The continent’s mobile powerhouse has enough cash to pull off such an acquisition, which could amount to few billion.

Liquid Telecom was valued at more than R8.4 billion ($640 million) in January 2014 when Econet bought 8.6% stake in the business for $55 million.

MTN’s acquisition of Liquid Telecom could be a true earnings-enhancing transaction.

MTN and its investors are likely to benefit from Liquid Telecom’s infrastructure.

Liquid Telecom says it has built a network like no other in Africa.

“One that delivers benefits for all of our customers, from the biggest corporate to the man on the street” says the company on its website.

Nonetheless MTN under the stewardship of Sifiso Dabengwa seems to be focusing on sweating existing assets rather than going on a big spending spree in search of new growth.

Under Dabengwa’s leadership, MTN has injected R4.3 billion into Africa Internet Holdings to pursue e-commerce opportunities in Africa and the Middle East.  In 2014, MTN also acquired 50% plus 1 Afrihost’s shares for R408 million.

This is a huge departure from his deal maker predecessor Phuthuma Nhleko, the current chairman of MTN.

Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet Wireless
Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet Wireless

In 2010 Strive Masiyiwa the founder of rival mobile phone operator Econet Wireless predicted that (Dabengwa) was not “going to be expansionist. Those days are done.”

The deal with Liquid Telecoms seems to confirm Masiyiwa’s prediction that Dabengwa was not keen on buying bigger assets.

Liquid Telecom is owned by Econet Wireless Group, a privately held firm and one of its units, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is listed on Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

Still questions arise about the Liquid Telecom deal. Could the MTN move be the first step towards preparing for a possible takeover of Liquid Telecoms?

Maybe the current agreement is some sort of courtship that has led to an engagement and after a period of testing the waters marriage is a real possibility.

The fact that Liquid Telecom is strategic for the deployment of data across the African market, which is obviously hungry for it, makes it a very attractive bride.

Asked if this theory was in any way accurate, MTN didn’t respond immediately. Perhaps the bigger heads there were trying to find a proper answer to this vexing question.

When the reply eventually came, MTN’s enterprise business unit head of global sales Elia Tsouros said: “As with all our partnerships, this one was in line with the overall MTN Business strategy”.

Tsouros added: “Our partnership with Liquid Telecom is mutually beneficial and seeks to extend the footprint and offering of both companies, into markets where we currently do not have operations, in order to better serve our clients.


“MTN does not comment on speculation, in line with internal corporate governance, as well as JSE requirements.”

Asked if it will also make sense for MTN to look for similar partnerships across African markets, Tsouros was non-committal.

Africa’s leading independent data, voice and IP provider, committed to building Africa’s digital future


“We are continuously looking at developing and nurturing partnerships that will enhance our current offering and enable us to deliver tailored solutions to customers in our dynamic markets.”

That said, the mobile phone operator based in the leafy suburb of Fairlands in Johannesburg is seeking to diversify revenue streams into ecommerce and fibre space.

When it comes to fibre, the acquisition of Liquid Telecom gives MTN an edge over its competitors, especially Vodacom, which has key markets in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

MTN could also consider purchasing Econet Wireless. It could retain Econet Wireless’s entrepreneurial founder Masiyiwa as a non-executive member of the MTN board.

Only time will tell.

Africa’s invisible sector: caught up in complexity


Having faced nasty bill shocks at month end, or struggled to get out of onerous mobile contracts, many consumers have long since made the switch to prepaid SIM cards. From high-powered executives to cash strapped students, prepaid has proved a popular option for anyone wanting to monitor their phone spend and budget accordingly. And as the cost of voice and data continues to decrease (and equals out for both contract and prepaid customers), more consumers are recognising the inherent benefits that prepaid SIMs present. By Hein Koen, cofounder of Flickswitch.

Unsurprisingly, local businesses are also beginning to recognise that they have this option, and are increasingly choosing prepaid SIMs instead of postpaid.

For SMEs, switching to prepaid SIMs for employee devices has in some instances become a necessity. It is not uncommon for an SME to receive an invoice at the end of the month that includes a SIM that has consumed 100 times the amount of data it was supposed to.

This type of bill shock can easily damage an otherwise healthy and sustainable business. So even as startups and small businesses grow into medium sized enterprises – and have increasing numbers of employees needing mobile connectivity – prepaid SIMs remain an attractive option.

Steady Growth in M2M Connections

Another factor driving the adoption of prepaid in South Africa – and indeed across the continent – is the growing

Hein Koen, cofounder of Flickswitch
Hein Koen, cofounder of Flickswitch

number of machine-to-machine (M2M) connections.

It is critical to recognise that SIMs extend well beyond just data and voice in employee devices – they play an essential role in M2M communication. Forming part of the Internet of Things (IoT), M2M enables systems to communicate with other devices. This means that businesses can have multiple connected devices that transmit data back into a corporate back-end. A recent study by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA, forecast that cellular M2M communications will account for at least 10 per cent of the global mobile market by 2020.

The Invisible Sector…

As the number of these M2M connections grows, businesses of all sizes, but particularly SMEs, have recognised that prepaid SIMs allows them to keep data costs in check. Companies are also building advanced business tools on prepaid platforms which allows for real time visibility of usage and spend associated with connectivity, thereby reducing risk and capping costs for the user.

As a result, the SME M2M market makes wide use of managed prepaid SIM cards. And when one looks at the rest of Africa, statistics show that almost 98 percent of the market is relying on prepaid SIMs. Having largely escaped the attention of the major mobile operators, there is almost an ‘invisible sector’ across Africa that runs on prepaid SIMs. Think of vehicle tracking devices, Point of Sale (POS) terminals, alarm systems, smart meters and various measurement devices – all of these critical technologies rely on prepaid SIMs.

The Pain Point: SIM Management

The key challenge for this ‘invisible sector’ is effective SIM management. Unlike their bigger corporate counterparts, small and medium sized businesses do not have a ‘direct line’ and close engagement with local mobile operators, and hence struggle to take proper ownership of SIM management.

They consequently face looming challenges with regards to billing and funds, and also in terms of the human resources required to manage all aspects of the SIM lifecycle. And particularly for Africa’s M2M businesses that are seeing their connections multiply and become more complex with every passing year, these challenges are set to mount.

From an affordability and resources perspective, small and medium sized businesses simply cannot use the providers who assist, for example, large tracking companies.

Instead, these smaller players require a niche services provider capable of providing them with a SIM management and control solution that fits their business.

Without this type of assistance, many of Africa’s small and medium sized enterprises are going to get caught up in the complexity of trying to manage and monitor massive numbers of prepaid SIMs – leaving them unable to focus on and grow their core business.


Apple’s mobile ad blocking


Apple is about to open a new front in the ongoing war against online advertising. The new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 9, will support ad blocking by Safari, its mobile web browser. By 

A study by Adobe and pro-advertising company PageFair finds that the popularity of ad blocking extensions in desktop web browsers is responsible for US$22 billion in lost revenue to the websites that host ads.

They estimate that there are now 198 million users worldwide actively blocking ads. Amongst 400 users surveyed by the report’s authors, the main reasons cited for using ad blocking software were avoiding privacy abuse by targeted advertising as well as the number of ads encountered when browsing.

A typical message from a website about the use of any ad blocking. TheGuardian.com screen grab
The practice of trying to guilt users into switching off their ad blocking software when visiting sites doesn’t appear to be working and the display of messages to ad blocking users by web sites has diminished.

Ad blocking apps that will be available for Safari on iOS 9 are already being made available to beta testers. One such app, Crystal, not only blocks ads but experiments by the developer has shown that using this ad blocking software speeds up web pages loading in the browser by four times. This also results in a significant reduction in data being used, which is significant on a mobile device using cellular data.

Another ad blocking app Purify that is also in beta testing appears to also block ads on YouTube.

The stand out, and that’s precisely why so many people block them. Pascale Kinchen Douglas/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Ad blocking on mobile is not completely new

Ad blocking has been available for some time on Android for users of the Firefox mobile browser and for Google Chrome. In the case of blocking ads by Google Chrome, an app needs to be installed which is not from the Google Play app store.

Ad blocking has also been available on Apple devices but have worked by blocking access to certain domains that serve up the ads. AdBlock for example works by pretending to be a virtual private network (VPN) connection and filters out access to specific sites. This of course only works if the list of sites to block is up-to-date. It also doesn’t allow for “whitelists”, which are sites that are allowed through because they are deemed “acceptable”.

However, the move by Apple is going to boost ad blocking on mobile dramatically because it is going to make the process of doing so that much easier. This has advertisers, and sites that make money from advertising, increasingly worried because it raises their costs in terms of creating ads that are less intrusive and deemed more acceptable (although this may still not convince the public to view them).

Apple’s iOS 9 is due to be released later this year and will include content blocking. Apple

For Apple, though, the move to allow ad blocking gives iPhone users a better browsing experience at no cost to Apple. Apple makes no money from online advertising through mobile browsing. And, of course, its own ads that are served up through apps are unaffected by ad blocking software.

As a bonus to Apple, the company who is most affected by ads being blocked is Google, which derives 90% of its revenue from advertising.

Apple is able to increase the level of privacy it offers its customers without directly getting involved itself and risking annoying companies that rely on revenues from advertising.

The advertisers’ dilemma

Many ads can be deliberately deceptive. Create Meme
It is hard to feel sorry for the advertisers and the sites that resort to displaying targeted invasive ads, such as those sold by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others.

These ads are designed to target individuals based on information gathered about them as they use the internet. So not only are they annoying, but they are exploiting people’s privacy. Adding insult to injury, the inclusion of ads slows down web page loads and potentially ends up costing end-users money by using their data allocation.

The argument that content providers are only able to provide content based on the exploitation of their visitors is not a good one because it implies that those visitors signed up to an agreement to view ads in exchange for the content. Of course, users generally do no such thing. And given the explicit choice, might easily opt simply not to visit the site.

Most users don’t necessarily mind being provided with information that allows them to make a reasoned choice about a product when they have decided to buy it. But advertising that tries to persuade a consumer to buy something they weren’t considering buying is a different matter.

Once advertisers do more of the former and less of the latter, perhaps ad blocking will no longer be necessary.

Bitcoin’s Forking Dilemma


The latest furore to emerge in the world of Bitcoin concerns a fork. Forking – where two distinct block chains briefly co-exist – may take on two forms: an accidental fork (typically caused by a bug) or, as in this case, a hard fork, when cryptocurrency developers decide that changes must be made to the programming of the coin that will create incompatibilities between the older and newer versions. By Windsor Holden

The hard fork that is currently the cause of sound and fury in Bitcoin forums is known as the Bitcoin XT Fork. Essentially, the fork has been created with the aim of increasing the size of the blocks in order to address the cryptocurrency’s scalability.

However, several of the major mining pools (including F2Pool, BTCChina and BitFury, which together comprise around 48% of the hashing power in the network) have been vociferous critics of the fork, with only the Czech-based Slush (around 5% of hashing power) prepared to endorse it.

Partly as a result of the furore, the value of Bitcoin has continued to slide, falling by more than 15% in the past week against the US dollar to just over $211 as of August 26. In mid-2015, the currency enjoyed a brief revival when Greece teetered on the brink of exiting the Euro.

The Greek government may not have been aware that the Bitcoin community was wholly in support of Grexit: as the Greek government reluctantly backed the bailout measures and Bitcoin began falling from dizzy heights of $300 it had reached in mid-July, Arthur Hayes of BitMex could be heard excoriating Prime Minister Tsipras and his allies for ‘selling Greek islands and public utilities to the highest bidder’ and demanding that Greek citizens ‘put the fear of God into any MP who dares to ignore the landslide No vote in the referendum’.

Sadly for the Greek citizenry (and of course for those with a vested interest in Bitcoin), austerity and the Euro remain. But leaving aside the rights and wrongs of any Grexit, the key takeaway here is that Bitcoin remains a highly volatile currency cum investment vehicle: since the start of the year it has fallen by over 30% against the dollar, far more even than the beleaguered Russian Rouble (22%) or the apparently crisis-ridden Euro (5%).

Indeed, as the chart below demonstrates, if we take December 2013 as our baseline, Bitcoin now stands at just 20% of its original value, while the Euro sits at 85%.


Meanwhile, although there has been a steady (but by no means spectacular) increase in Bitcoin transaction volumes, the value of those currencies over the first 8 months of this year stands at just under $12.4 billion, or 25% less than the value of Bitcoin transactions in the equivalent period in 2014.

In short, although Coinbase’s CEO recently predicted the Bitcoin would achieve ‘reserve currency status’ by 2030, given its ongoing tribulations then perhaps the goals of its supporters should perhaps be rather more modest.


Webfluential targets East, West Africa

Webfluential, the online platform – which already has a cumulative site reach of more than 80-million people across the globe designed to provide influencers on social platforms with a means of quantifying their influence so that they can generate a new revenue stream off the media that they have created – is targeting growth in East and West Africa. By Gugu Lourie

Webfluential announced on Wednesday that it is investing in its growth in Africa by introducing an agency partner programme and Cape Town based office.

It added that the agency partner programme is in the process of being rolled-out to support in-country sales and logistics throughout East and West Africa.

The firm says the Cape Town based team will complement the existing South African office based in Johannesburg and the development office based at the Google Campus in London. All offices report through the head office based in Mauritius.

Murray Legg, Strategy Head at Webfluential
Murray Legg, Strategy Head at Webfluential

Webfluential, an industry-leading Influencer Marketing platform, assist influencers including bloggers, Instagrammers, Tweeters and Youtubers with over 1 000 legitimate followers each, to generate revenue streams.

“We continue to invest in our growth throughout Africa by addressing demand for local sales and operations support,” says Murray Legg, head of strategy for Webfluential. “East and West Africa are attracting significant investment by global brands and with the ever-growing access to mobile technology, Influencer Marketing is showing great success in these regions.”

Eager media agencies in Africa are encouraged to apply for the agency partner programme in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Successful

applicants will become official Webfluential partners, act as the local in-country sales and operations support and have access to the partner features and commission structure on the Webfluential platform. Interested agencies can reach out to the Webfluential press office for further information.

In addition to the agency partner programme, Webfluential has appointed Myles Brown as the Commercial Head for the South African franchise. Myles joins Webfluential, after leaving his role as the Commercial and Channel Manager at Naspers’ media sales division, The SpaceStation. He has extensive experience in new business development, account management, sales and digital media planning. Myles will manage the Cape Town office that will grow to include a dynamic team of account executives.

The Cape Town team will also take ownership of supporting Webfluential’s existing base of Cape Town agencies and clients. “We are thrilled to open a Cape Town office,” says Kirsty Sharman, CEO of Webfluential South Africa. “With our rapid growth and the increase in demand for this new media channel, we want to ensure we offer the same level of commitment and support to our Cape Town clients, that we already offer in Johannesburg,” continues Sharman.

Webfluential already lists Paypal, Intel, Vodacom, MTN and Barclays as Pan-African brands that it works with in Johannesburg. However, it recognises that there is an increasing amount of multinationals setting up their head offices in Cape Town.

“We want to drive new relationships with Pan-African brands like Gumtree, Red Bull and Woolworths that have Cape Town based head offices and marketing teams,” adds Legg. “We offer a global tech platform that can be accessed from anywhere, but we want to offer the infrastructure support to give our customers the best possible experience.”

Mystery of depleting data decoded 


Are you frustrated by data that depletes faster? Is your smartphone emptying your wallet and you can’t account for depleted data bundles which you don’t recall using? By MTN

Despair no more, the depleting data could be explained by the settings you have on your shiny new handset.

LTE compliant handsets

Many modern smartphones are configured for heavy data usage and are compliant with new generation networks such as Long Term Evolution, otherwise known as LTE or 4G. This super-fast network is capable of high download speeds and heavy data consumption which ensures that users can seamlessly undertake a variety of data applications such as surfing the web, sending and receiving e-mails, interacting on social media platforms and streaming, downloading and sending high definition videos using instant messaging platforms.

To benefit from these speeds comes at a cost, because of high speed configuration, many smartphone users who use LTE compatible handsets utilise a lot of data when accessing applications. In other words, the faster the speeds, the more data bundles will be utilised.

Smartphone Handsets

There has been an increase in enhanced smartphone handsets in the market due to affordable pricing. When customers purchase or upgrade to these new smartphone handsets. The effect of the new device / upgrade device is not always understood properly by the customer.

Some devices have none or limited data functionality and other full data functionality which is directly linked to the amount of data usage. The transition from a dumb phone to feature phone or smartphone has impact on data usage.

Some of these new smartphone now also allow apps to function / work in the background regardless if you are using them directly or not. As long as app is open / running on the device they will continued using data. Earlier smartphone and smartphone software versions did not allow this. Customers need to be aware of their handset capabilities and subsequent data usage impact.

Automatic updates

Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have become an integral part of our lives. Since their introduction to the market, these platforms are continuously being updated in response to customer demands, new functionalities and bug fixes are added to make them more interactive and user-friendly.

Often, the updates are automatic and continue to run in the background and the updates often happen without customer interference using data bundles. These automatic updates are default settings on many phones. Most customers are not even aware that some automatic updates can consume up to 3GB of data. To stop automatic updates, users must go to their cellular data setting and deactivate updates if they wish to save their data bundles.

Alternatively, they can update more cost effectively using Wi-Fi.

Social media goes HD

Facebook and Instagram have also upgraded to the high definition (HD) resolution which is an industry standard. The high definition format is crisper and the picture resolution is more detailed. However, the higher pixel rating of HD has a bigger capacity and therefore uses more data. As a result, normal browsing on Facebook and Instagram would cost a user more than it used to cost them when these platforms were on standard resolution.

Software updates

All of us want to use the latest software as it has the benefits of being an improved version of what we used in the past and has additional functionalities. Microsoft has given Windows users the opportunity to update to the latest version of its operating system for free. While the update to Windows 10 is free, it requires a lot of data which is a 3GB file download.

Surfing the net

Most websites are very interactive and logging on these sites often results in data being unknowingly consumed by adverts running on the page while one is browsing a specific article. This is another reason that accounts for faster data depletion

Photo and video sharing

Instant messaging platforms have become the preferred mode of communication and sharing content such as photos and video content. While this might appear to be cost effective, many users are unaware that sending videos and pictures consumes data bundles, and this can escalate to up to 16 MB per message.

Out of bundles rates

Earlier this year, MTN announced that it will be adjusting its out of bundle rates to 99 cents in line with the industry norm. Out of bundle rates are charges for each megabyte transferred outside of the stipulated period which is normally 30 days.

In addition, MTN also adjusted its expiry duration of its data bundles from 60 days to 30 in line with the industry.

The implication of this is that customers who deplete their data bundles before the stipulated time will be charged a premium per megabyte when they top up during that period.

Customers are advised to purchase data bundles that suit their consumption patterns and buy them when they have reached their monthly allocation.


Welkom Yizani investors have a reason to smile


All shareholders of Welkom Yizani, the black economic empowerment (BEE) shares of Media24, will be receiving a net special dividend of 18c/share for the 2015 financial year to benefit from the listing of Novus Holdings. By Gugu Lourie

Welkom Yizani holds 15% stake in Media24, a print media dominated operation within the Naspers stable.

The board of Media24 will recommend that a R100 million special dividend be pay to shareholders, including Welkom Yizani, of the media firm at the annual general meeting to be held on Monday.

Welkom Yizani investors will receive a dividend of R3 million, resulting in each shareholder being paid 18c/share

“The board recommends the special dividend on a once-off basis. It is specifically recommended to allow the Welkom Yizani ordinary shareholders to share in the proceeds of the Novus Holdings listing ,” said Rachel Jafta, the chairperson of Welkom Yizani.

Novus Holdings, formerly known as Paarl Print, was listed on the JSE on 31 March 2015 after it was partially unbundling of into a separate operation. Media24 retained 66.5% shareholding in Novus.

This move have finally realise some cash for Welkom Yizani shareholders, who have only been benefiting from annual ordinary dividends.

However many Welkom Yizani investors had already lost patience and exited the investment at a loss.

The share price of Welkom Yizani is currently trading at R10.03 a share, a same level it has been trapped for years.

The stock shot up over the past few days to hit a high of R25.00 per share on 17 March 2015, but quickly retreated to its paltry levels of R10.00 a share.

Welkom Yizani shares had been trapped at R10.00 per share, which caused much consternation from initial investors. These investors paid in a subscription of R10.00 per share at the establishment of the scheme in 2006. Then the scheme’s shares were listed for trading on an over the counter platform on the 9th of December 2013. The shares were stuck at R10.00 for more than a year and at one point sunk to R3.50.

Currently, the are 14.6 million Welkom Yizani shares on issue value at  more than R146 million.

Media24 has not had the best of times in the past few years as profitability suffered. This was largely a result of dwindling advertising revenue. This picture did not bode well for the heavily indebted BEE scheme.

Media24 is one of the largest media companies in the country with huge exposure to the struggling print media. Its assets include well known titles like City Press, Daily Sun, Beeld, Rapport and a host of knock and drops and magazines.

While the stock is trapped in the R10.00 range, Welkom Yizani shareholders will also share R4.3 million in ordinary dividends, which will result in each investors getting 25c/share in the 2015 financial year versus the same amount in 2014 financial year.

That said, media firms globally are in transition and Media24 is looking at new ways to create shareholder value even for its BEE scheme Welkom Yizani.

Traditional revenue sources are declining and many media companies are struggling to adapt.

Jafta explains: “Media24 was one of the forerunners in investing in new areas close to our core expertise and actively optimising our cost base. These new businesses are showing good results and while print and digital media remains at the heart of what we do, we are diversifying the company for future growth.”



Why a traditional ERP deployment might not be right for your mid-market organisation


ERP is for most, a daunting and overwhelming consideration – more so for the mid-market or medium sized organisation. By Heath Huxtable, head of consulting and software integration at Vox Telecom


The reality is that it is difficult to get right and unless you are dealing with experienced consultants, it is not only a costly undertaking, but brings a layer of complexity that is often grossly under-estimated.

The complexity of an ERP deployment and implementation is due largely to the fact that you’re dealing with the entire business operation – sales, procurement, marketing, stock management and everything in between.  All of these units are businesses in their own rights, and to try and get a cohesive view of exactly what that requirement is, and to actually resolve it, is massive.

We’ve learnt over the years that sometimes the business decision makers are not the people who should be signing off on an ERP plan, for no other reason than at an operational level, they don’t necessarily understand the business best.

Heath Huxtable, Head of Consulting and Software Integration at Vox Telecom
Heath Huxtable, Head of Consulting and Software Integration at Vox Telecom

For example, we did an implementation for a business in the Western Cape, where we dealt with the CFO and CIO.  During the planning and briefing discussions, we were asked not to engage with the staff – and we designed an entire solution without interacting with the people that would actually make use of the system.

When we were ready to deploy the solution, and started taking the users through the programme, we were told it didn’t fulfill their requirements,  The project was delayed by three months, just to develop a solution that would meet the real-time requirements of the team dealing with the customers, suppliers and stock.

It was a critical turning point.

And today, our value as specialist consultants sees us advising companies that are considering ERP to include its users in the planning and briefing process.  It is a considerable risk, having the decision makers dictate the business requirements.  It leads to scope creep, delays and additional costs that could not have been anticipated at the start of the process.

According to independent ERP research conducted by Panorama Consulting Services, 30 percent of ERP projects fail because of a lack of change management, lack of user involvement, training, user and high-level adoption.

Increasingly, we are pointing our customers to cloud-based solutions.

Cloud based solutions simplify the ERP cost and complexity conundrum.  And companies in the mid-market that are not 100% convinced of the benefit of a full-scale ERP deployment have additional routes that they can consider – it no longer needs to be an all or nothing discussion.

Move the ERP deployment into the cloud or implement a CRM solution that can integrate ERP tool sets as required.  No organisation should ever feel like there is a one size fits all, cookie cutter approach to ERP, or in fact CRM.

Ultimately, this is a budget discussion.  And when we engage with customers around ERP we talk about Capex vs Opex, and take cognisance of budget constraints.  From there,  we develop a deployment that best suits both finances and business requirements.

We see this as a significant benefit of working with a niche partner. A partner that differentiates, customises and develops  its solutions to best meet customer needs.

The question we encourage businesses to ask is – as a small to medium business, why would you want to run things the same way as your competitor, on the same platform, with the same cookie cutter solution, when a niche opportunity exists that can be tailor-made to deliver a unique competitive advantage to your organisation?

Buyers ringing up Cell C – BDLive

DUBAI-based Oger Telecom has received numerous offers from SA and international companies for its 75% stake in Cell C, the country’s third mobile phone operator, according to Business Day.

“Six groups approached us with interest in acquiring our stake in Cell C,” Oger Telecom’s chief legal officer and deputy CEO Mazen Abou Chakra told Business Day this week. “No decision has been taken. We are very happy with the good performance of Cell C over the past 12 to 18 months and we remain fully committed to the business until a decision to sell our stake is taken.”

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

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko hinted at his interest in Cell C in an interview with Reuters last week, saying SA’s third-largest mobile operator was “an interesting proposition” and “at the right price, I’m a buyer”.

In a way, Cell C needs a lasting solution to its unending challenges in order to provide real competition.

Cell C, South Africa’s third mobile phone operator, will continue to be faced with serious challenges over the next few months, and any takeover bids will be welcomed by the market.

Clearly struggling Cell C is looking for a parent company with deep pockets. It unsuccessfully tried to partner with Telkom Mobile, a cellular unit of Telkom Group. It has also unsuccessfully experimented with mobile virtual network op e r at o r s who piggyback on its network.

These included ventures with Virgin Mobile and Red Bull Mobile.

Economic pressure drives need for online private automotive sales  


The latest Vehicle Price Index figures released by TransUnion has indicated that the demand for used vehicles continues to increase, with one new vehicle financed for every 1.78 used. New car price inflation has also softened, while the price inflation of used cars is accelerating with increasing speed. By Jeff Osborne, Head of Gumtree Automotive

It is not unusual when considered against the backdrop of lower consumer confidence and increasing financial pressure. Fuel and electricity costs, the rising cost of new vehicle imports, uncertainty about the economic outlook – all have an impact – and because the gap in pricing between a new vehicle and a used model is so significant, prospective car buyers will look to the secondhand market, without question. And of course, on the other side of the coin, sellers will take advantage too.

The quality and quantity of secondhand vehicles are favorable, private sales can present challenges for the uninitiated, whether buying or selling.

There are thousands of individuals who use our site to sell their cars privately and have done so for years, but if you aren’t familiar with cars or the process, there are some pitfalls to beware of.

From the selling side, there are obviously risks associated with dealing with large amounts of cash as well as the ordinary risk of transacting with individuals you don’t know. From the buying side, you might not have the technical know-how to determine whether or not the car has undisclosed faults or been damaged in an accident. Because these deals aren’t protected by the Consumer Protection Act, the new owner will have very little legal recourse after the purchase to demand repairs.

There are also other considerations. What if the owner hasn’t settled financing at the bank, or in the worst case scenario, what if the vehicle was stolen? How does one approach financing for a private deal? Or transfer ownership? The administration can be mind-boggling if you haven’t actually completed such a deal in the past.

These factors have spurred the demand for private automotive sales facilitation, such as the Motofinn solution endorsed by Gumtree.

Motofinn solution endorsed by Gumtree


We’ve formalized our relationship with Motofinn in July not only because the demand for assistance grew significantly, but because of our greater strategic focus on continuously improving the automotive offering on our site. This service not only takes care of the administration surrounding a private car deal – it also ensures that the seller receives their payment in full and that the buyer is assured that the vehicle is cleared mechanically, legally and financially before purchase.

Andrew Sutherland of Motofinn says that the solution was born out of a need for safety as well as convenience from both buyers and sellers. “Buyers and sellers are being steered towards the informal motor trade due to financial pressure, but they would still be willing to pay a small fee for the benefits that have traditionally been limited to professional dealerships alone. Financing, a full HPI check, secure payments, a full service history, police clearance, administration – all of these services can be accessed easily and without delaying the transaction.”

While numerous of these verified transactions have taken place, they expect that these are only the “tip of the iceberg”.

At the current rate, making use of third party facilitator could very well become the norm for private sales. In many ways South Africans are pioneers when it comes to implementing and discovering safety solutions for the private classifieds market.

We do, however, urge customers to only make use of endorsed services that have the backing of respected industry bodies. In Motofinn’s case, this includes DEKRA Automotive, TransUnion and Deloitte.