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Tue, 20 Aug 2019
Mobile phones are replacing bank accounts in Africa

It doesn’t look like the hub of an online bank. But that’s what the yellow and blue metal kiosk becomes when Albert Agane locks himself behind the metal bars every day at 6am.

From his perch along a dusty suburban thoroughfare in Accra, the 28-year-old helps fellow Ghanaians withdraw or deposit cash for accounts they operate from their mobile phones. All they need do is text.

Mobile money is the fastest-growing source of income for wireless-network operators like MTN and Vodafone’s Safaricom unit, outpacing data since many Africans don’t have the latest smartphones. They need agents like Agane because ATMs and bank branches are out of reach, or too costly.

“In a village, where there are no banks, you can go to an agent and transact,” said Agane, who earns a commission of about 1% for moving as much as 20 000 cedis ($3 700) a day. “Once people have phones there’s no need for a bank account.”

The service has become an indispensable part of how Africa’s 1.2 billion people live, from buying funeral cover to borrowing money. The number of registered users in Ghana soared 11-fold between 2013 and 2017, International Monetary Fund data shows. Across the continent in Kenya, where it was pioneered, the value of such transactions amounts to almost half of gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.

Sub-Saharan Africa has more mobile-money accounts than anywhere else in the world with about 396 million registered users at the end of 2018, a 14% increase from a year earlier, according to the GSM Association. As it catches on around the world, South Asia saw 29% growth in 2018, and it was 38% for East Asia and the Pacific.

“There are a lot of partnership opportunities with immense revenue potential for both mobile-network operators and banks,” said Patrick Quantson, head of digital transformation at the Accra-based unit of Standard Bank, Africa’s largest lender. “The mass appeal of mobile-money services and the mode of delivery also presents an opportunity to scale financial products to all market segments, at incredibly lower costs.”

It’s easy to see why Agane-one of 182 000 mobile-money agents-is busier than the ATMs around Ghana’s capital city. There are more than 1 740 such outlets per 100 000 people in the country, compared with only 11.7 ATMs and 8.7 bank branches, the IMF data show.

“We’ve seen that people in the informal sector, who would have kept their money under pillows, move into mobile money,” said Eli Hini, general manager for mobile financial services at MTN Ghana, which controls about 78% of the active-customer market. “Now, when there are floods people don’t lose their money. They’d rather get interest paid on it.”

Banks don’t lose out because the mobile-phone companies park deposits with them, giving them cheaper access to funding.

MTN and Sanlam, Africa’s largest insurer, last month announced that the continent’s biggest wireless network operator will offer funeral and other life-cover products through its digital channels spanning 237 million subscribers in 21 markets.

Vodafone’s Johannesburg-based Vodacom Group last year bought a stake in Safaricom, based [...]

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Wed, 14 Aug 2019
E-learning education conference looks to unlock Africa’s future...

As a Russia-Africa summit opens in Sochi on the Black Sea on October 24, a more modest but significant conference will take place in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire.

The conference, eLearning Africa, will bring together international education and technology specialists, government ministers, entrepreneurs and investors to discuss opportunities for expanding Africa’s education sector.

It is a subject at the heart of the African Union’s plans for turning Africa into a “transformed continent” by 2063 and it will be discussed and debated during three days of presentations, workshops, seminars and ministerial meetings from October 23 to 25.

International organisations such as Unesco, the European Commission, the World Bank, German development agency GIZ and the African Union are part of the conference programme.

“What is set to happen in Côte d’Ivoire is possibly of much greater significance for the future of Africa than what is going on in Sochi,” says Charles Senkondo, secretary general of the Association of African Development Learning Centres in Tanzania. “It is education that will transform Africa and new technology is spreading the benefits of education and training across Africa and into every sector. We are already seeing how traditional sectors, such as agriculture, are being transformed.

The possibilities now are enormous.”

eLearning Africa, an annual pan-African conference dedicated to examining the potential for using new communications technology to spread educational opportunity, is now in its 14th year.

Since the conference, which visits a different African capital each year, was first held in Addis Ababa in 2006, technology assisted learning has expanded and now plays a major role in the delivery of learning, training, research and development in schools, colleges, universities, companies and organisations across the continent. It has enabled millions of Africans to expand their horizons and take advantage of the countless possibilities new technology offers to study and acquire new skills and qualifications.

“Technology assisted learning has been perhaps the single most important factor in Africa’s development over the last decade,” says Senkondo. “It has fuelled economic growth and its importance cannot be underestimated. For skills, entrepreneurship, innovation and the development of effective practices in many sectors, it has been invaluable. It has really helped to modernise Africa and to attract the world’s attention to the exciting opportunities in many African countries. This trend is set to continue. Africa is learning fast and we must continue to build on our success. It is education that will transform Africa.”

Conference founder Rebecca Stromeyer has little doubt about the significance of eLearning Africa.

“When I first set up eLearning Africa, with the support of the Ethiopian government and other far-sighted backers, I saw the potential for the combination of technology and education to transform Africa. Now, things have come so far that I am continually amazed at the speed with which new possibilities for real, lasting change are opening up. I’ve seen how e-learning has helped millions of women to access education, how it has improved agriculture and how it has helped to fight disease and contributed to better health.

“I have absolutely no doubt that what [...]

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Tue, 06 Aug 2019
Ghanaian inventors develop device to rid Ghana of mosquitoes forever...

Two Ghanaian female graduates, Mavis Kusi and Sharon Aforo Acheampong, have developed a device capable of warding off mosquitoes, has learnt. The aim is to prevent the insects from biting humans so as to help eradicate mosquitoes from Ghana. The device is composed of IoT technology and is capable of repelling as well as collecting data on mosquitoes that come within two metres in specific areas.

Per a report, Kusi and Acheampong were motivated by the apparent non-impact of mosquito repellents in Ghana.

Kusi argues that the product comes at a reduced cost and would help people go about their activities with little fear for mosquitoes.

Information available suggests that some Outpatient Departments (OPDs) in Ghana recorded about 11 million cases of malaria in 2018, an increase from 10 million in 2017. understands that 428 people died from malaria were recorded in the year 2018, and this is a 29% fall in the figure, compared to 2017 when 599 people died.

In another report, news of the discovery of human remains in a septic tank close to an uncompleted building in Takoradi in the Western region has raised questions on social media.

The prime suspect in the case, Samuel Odeoutuk Wills, allegedly lived in the uncompleted building.

As police officials make progress with investigations, Franklin Cudjoe, IMANI’s president, has posed seven questions to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).


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