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Mobile Money: Interpol Warns Africa On Organised Crime Penetration

The world’s largest international police organization, Interpol, has warned that organized crime groups have infiltrated Africa’s burgeoning billion-dollar mobile money industry as a platform for human trafficking, money laundering and the global drug trade.

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Mobile Money: Interpol Warns Africa On Organised Crime Penetration, SiliconNigeria

By ADENIYI ADUNOLA, Lagos 

The world’s largest international police organization, Interpol has warned that organized crime groups have infiltrated Africa’s burgeoning billion-dollar mobile money industry as a platform for human trafficking, money laundering and the global drug trade.

Interpol’s report says criminals’ exploitation of Africans’ growing reliance on mobile phones for banking and commerce has also led to alarming rises in fraud, extortion, terrorism and illegal wildlife trade. It urges a crackdown on organized crime’s ability to “exploit weaknesses in regulations and identification systems.”

“The evidence shows that criminals are already exploiting mobile money services in Africa,” said Cyril Gout, acting director of operational support and analysis for 194-nation Interpol, based in Lyon, France.

“The anonymity that these services too often allow and the technical nature of the industry also present a challenge to law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting these crimes,” he said in a statement. “This report emphasizes the need to act now.”

The 53-page report is part of Interpol’s three-year Project ENACT to combat organized crime in Africa, which now accounts for almost half of all registered mobile money accounts globally. By 2025, two-thirds of all people in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to be using smartphones, up from about two-fifths today.

The European Union-funded project is also run by the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, or ISS Africa, and Geneva-based Global Initiative’s new platform against transnational organized crime.

Though mobile technology has helped transform global development by giving many poor, rural farmers and other business owners growing access to markets and cash, the weak and inconsistent systems used to verify user identities in a cash-based informal economy are posing tough challenges to law enforcement.

There are no standard IDs for the continent, making mobile money services vulnerable to crime. And courts are having a hard time integrating the technical know-how and equipment needed to finish investigations, according to Interpol.

“This prominent role in society has enabled criminals to exploit weaknesses in regulations and identification systems, further enabled by a lack of experience and resources in law enforcement,” the report says. “Such significant crimes pose a threat to stability and security across Africa if not addressed by member countries,” it added.

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Broadband

Nokia Enables Ultra-fast 5G services for Vodacom South Africa

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Nokia Enables Ultra-fast 5G services for Vodacom South Africa, SiliconNigeria

Nokia has enabled ultra-fast 5G services for Vodacom South Africa’s customers by deploying its 5G radio, core and fixed network solutions across Vodacom’s network. Vodacom is using Nokia’s 2G, 3G, 4G and fibre access networks, as well as 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) and mobile broadband services.

 Nokia is supplying its AirScale, Fastmile and Subscriber Data Management (SDM) / Home Subscriber Server (HSS) products to Vodacom to enhance its service offering and deliver increased operational efficiencies.

 Nokia’s AirScale radio network product portfolio will enable Vodacom to deploy 5G services across several spectrum bands, including the new 3500 MHz, 2600 MHz and 700/800 MHz bands which will be auctioned by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) before the end of March 2021. It will help to manage the increased demand for data services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 5G network rollout is in line with South Africa’s broadband policy of building infrastructure by 2030 for an inclusive knowledge economy which supports the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

 Vodacom will also use Nokia’s FastMile 5G gateway to offer FWA broadband services in areas not currently served by a fibre network. The solution is easy for subscribers to install, delivering fibre like speeds to homes while using Wi-Fi to connect devices within the home. Vodacom is also using Nokia’s mesh Wi-Fi solution, which improves user experience by creating a seamless Wi-Fi coverage area while reducing the time and complexity required to install and manage the WiFi network. 

Nokia’s cloud-based SDM software and HSS will be rolled out to securely manage subscriber data and services in a centralized hub. Vodacom South Africa will also utilize Nokia’s NetAct network management system, which is cloud-agnostic and meets customer demands for software-only delivery. It can be deployed on the same data center platforms as existing IT and network systems for increased agility and lower operational costs. 

Beverly Ngwenya, Technology Director at Vodacom South Africa, said: “We are committed to providing the most innovative products and highest quality service to our subscribers. 5G technology allows us to deliver ultra-fast mobile networks and support entirely new use cases as we move into the 4IR era. Nokia has been our network partner for more than two decades, and its latest technology solutions are now helping us to deliver superior 5G services.” 

Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “Our AirScale 5G and Fastmile fixed wireless access portfolio helps service providers across the globe to build robust and reliable networks to address the growing demand for high-speed broadband services. From our 26-year relationship with Vodacom we understand that South Africa is a highly competitive market, with end-users expecting continent-leading services and applications. We are proud to have successfully executed this important network deployment, enabling Vodacom to deliver those sought-after broadband capabilities.”

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Africa Region

Ayoba Signs Up AppsFlyer to Support its Push To Become Africa’s Largest Digital Platform

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Ayoba Signs Up AppsFlyer to Support its Push To Become Africa’s Largest Digital Platform, SiliconNigeria

 AppsFlyer, the global marketing attribution leader, has anounced a partnership with Ayoba to propel the free instant messaging app designed by Africans for Africans to become the largest digital platform in Africa.  

Ayoba offers users an ecosystem of digital and rich media services through channels, micro-apps and payment solutions, embedded within one app. By leveraging AppsFlyer’s technology across its user acquisition efforts, Ayoba will get a clearer picture of which acquisition channels work best and where efforts should be focused. 

The integration of AppsFlyer’s technology will also enable a clearer understanding of Ayoba’s entire funnel of acquisition and, in the near future, will enable more effective retargeting and re-engagement of users. This new capability is essential for campaign optimization and driving organic long term growth for the app.

Africa is one of the largest mobile first regions in the world and Ayoba’s  highly localised and tailored content is designed with the African user in mind. Localised content is available through curated channels aimed at entertaining, educating and empowering communities as well as a range of games. Ayoba is available as an Android app across the continent and is network agnostic.

Through the partnership with MTN, Ayoba is available to MTN users at no data cost in most of its markets. Users can also send messages to non Ayoba users (those without the app) or users with very basic phones. The message is delivered as an SMS and MTN users can reply to these messages and the message will land on the app. For users in South Africa, Ayoba’s platform also has two dedicated COVID-19 channels providing vital reports on infections and other information at no data cost to users.

AppsFlyer provides some of the world’s leading companies and brands with analytics tools to better inform and measure marketing decisions. Its partnership with Ayoba comes on the back of earlier partnerships with telecom group Vodacom and ecommerce app Jiji across key regions in Africa. 

Commenting on the partnership, Daniel Junowicz, Managing Director, LATAM & Africa at AppsFlyer said: ‘Understanding what acquisition channels work best is one of the keys to driving growth and user retention for apps and helps to optimize marketing activity. Ayoba is a unique and exciting app offering users access to a wide range of features and content. It’s great to be able to support their growth ambitions with our unparalleled mobile marketing analytics as Ayoba expands across Africa.”

Olivier Prentout, Head of Consumer Marketing for Ayoba, added: “The AppsFlyer team has been very supportive with rolling out this project. The technology is new to many on our team but AppsFlyer has been there to make sure we get the maximum value out of this partnership. We now have a clearer understanding of where to focus our acquisition activities and better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that abound on the continent. We look forward to working more closely with AppsFlyer as we continue on our mission to become the biggest digital platform in Africa.”

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Southern Africa

Getting Down to Business: A Hospitality Sector Recovery Action Plan

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Getting Down to Business: A Hospitality Sector Recovery Action Plan, SiliconNigeria

As the world moves through the COVID-19 pandemic, hoteliers are logically turning their attention to the business travel market to help reignite the hospitality industry and tourism in general, particularly in Africa, says MARK HAVERCROFT of Minor Hotels.

For hotels specifically, a sector that plays a highly  significant role in our regional economies, business travel may well turn out to be the saving grace. It follows then that players in this market must embrace new and effective strategies that allow them to effectively capitalise on the potential that business travel presents.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, one in 30 jobs is in the travel and tourism sector, according to a World Bank report. Yet long periods of lockdown, accompanied by new social distancing norms and constant bio-surveillance, has fundamentally changed the landscape. Going forward, it will top priority for hoteliers to ensure guest safety, combined with the usual highest quality service and the best guest experience possible, if they are to see business travellers, and the companies they represent, continue to choose them.

To this end, it’ll also be the job of hotels, especially those that rely on out-of-country guests for their livelihoods, to remarket themselves in respect  of what they offer these business clients. This includes a renewed focus online and other touchless services for all types of interactions, as well as the physical transformation of their public spaces.

Local travellers, and most especially local business travellers, can no longer be viewed as “the back-up plan” either. It’s clear that it’ll be some time before even the international business travel market gets back to pre COVID-19 levels. So if they are to have a future, hotels must tailor offerings that speak to the local market in respect of their customs, tastes and the nature of the experiences that will definitely prove attractive.

Take for example the “workation”, that concept that is garnering plenty of attention from local business travellers keen to see their employers allow them to mix business with some pleasure. It’s no surprise that such an opportunity to break out of the by now over-familiar work-from- home environment and instead work from a hotel during the day, would be most appealing.

Along with workrooms featuring suitable socially-distanced workstations, often in rooms previously utilised for conferencing and meetings, another attractive option is equally acceptable socially-distant excursions with colleagues. These can be facilitated by hotel teams to forge closer engagement between workmates who may no longer see one another every day. Both these options serve as a reminder of the office environment pre-pandemic, while boosting critical reintegration with colleagues previously viewed by many as their daytime family.

In the longer term, there will of course be life beyond our immediate borders as entry restrictions are further eased. And Africa certainly has an advantage here, considering how well the continent has weathered the COVID-19 storm – a fact that is likely to see global economies turn their attention back to Africa, and prepare for more local business dealings.

Awareness of how to effectively harness this new market will be key going forward, and hoteliers will have to be up to speed about what countries are reopening for business where, especially their African neighbours. South Africa reopened its international borders on 1 October as the country moved to lockdown Level 1, followed by Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini,  Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya – albeit with differing regulations around COVID-19 testing prior to arrival, and quarantine requirements.

Africa has indeed begun to reopen. Now it’s critical for the country to demonstrate that it’s ready and able to welcome back travellers, and get back to the business it performs so well.

Mark Havercroft is the Regional Director for  Minor Hotels Africa an international hotel group.

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