Huawei Kenya held a media briefing at their Kenya headquarters near Lavington. This was refreshing as last year when they were to do a demonstration of the Nairobi Smart Cities project; they scaled it down as soon as they heard the Cabinet Secretary was not going to show up for the event.
Huawei has been operating in Kenya for 19 years since 1998. They have done lots of projects mainly in the telecommunications space; they rolled out networks for Safaricom and Telkom Kenya and also launched the Ideos, the $100 smartphone with Google and Safaricom.
The Huawei Kenya representatives spoke about ongoing projects with the government such as cloud services for the entire Kenya government, roll out of government fibre to all 47 counties, and police security & 4G networks. Since 2015 they also provide the software for M-Pesa for Vodafone to roll out across Africa and the world. They also provide about 2/3 of the infrastructure of Safaricom and also power M-Kopa solar payment systems.
Huawei is a $75 billion company with 180,000 employees (80,000 who work in R&D), and operate in 170 countries. It is entirely employee-owned by 81,000 employees in China while the founder/CEO owns 1.4% of the shares. They have 300 staff working in Kenya and provide about 100 scholarships a year for Kenyans to study in China.
In 2016, Huawei sold 139 million smartphones – (number three behind Apple and Samsung). They work hard to combat the reputation that Chinese means ‘low quality’ and Huawei is the world biggest patent filer, and have been granted over 62,000 patents. They spend over $10 billion a year in R&D – and build their own its own chipsets, batteries, and some phones have three antennas etc. to optimize their phones.
Standard Chartered launched video banking in Nairobi today. Already used in Asia, Kenya will become the first of their banks in Africa to roll out the service to its customers.
Standard Charted is currently Kenya’s 5th largest bank by assets, and has been in the country since 1911 and serves retail, corporate and institutional clients. CEO Lamin Manjang spoke of their “digital by design” investments, in which they use technology to enhance customer experiences while improving on the banks’ cost efficiency. He said “ Almost all transaction done at the branches are available through other means” and listed recent innovations they have done including – upgraded their platform, a new mobile banking app, fingerprint login, ATM’s that accept cash deposit ATM, and now video banking.
Whether in Singapore or Malindi, customers will be able to have secure video chats with agents located at the banks’ headquarters in Chiromo, Nairobi, share screens, exchange documents, do their banking and get advice, especially on investment and wealth management products and services. It is available to all customers, Monday to Friday from 9 a. to 6 p.m. Video banking is currently only on desktop computers, but they plan to extend it to mobile devices in the future.
The chief guest was the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications and Technology , Joe Mucheru, who spoke on the government’s new cyber security bill as he urged banks and companies to invest in backups of critical data, upgrade their operating systems and anti-virus software and use of cloud services. “If you’ve gone through the agony of ransomware, investing in backups is not a big issue.”
Telkom has got extensive coverage across Kenya. For companies, Telkom Enterprise offers the best options in three different packages of data and voice products in all counties that can be tailor-made to suit any customer’s needs:
- BVPN (business VPN) provides connectivity for large companies and is available in all the 47 counties of Kenya. BVPN can also be extended to even more remote areas using satellite and is scalable which means a company can add new locations with voice and video. This is ideal for large companies with a presence in different locations that want security and which have sensitive, encrypted data that needs to be transferred nationwide.
- JamboNet is a dedicated access offering with fast reliable Internet for businesses that range from 1 MBPS to 150 MPBS. An online customer portal enables monitoring and reporting and the service is backed by a strict service level agreement (SLA) that aims at 99.9% uptime. The quality of JamboNet service does not degrade as more users join on, and it comes with a firewall as a standard. JamboNet is available nationwide and there is also a wireless option to extend the service to areas that don’t have cable already
- E@zyNet is an unlimited fixed bandwidth solution for SME customers. There are different monthly cost packages starting at an affordable price of Kshs 3,499 (~$35 per month). It is easy to start and reliable, offering high download speeds and flexibility for users.
Telkom, which has data centres and cloud storage also manages the Kenya government’s National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) – a national inland fibre optic cable network. Telkom has also invested in VSAT, satellite communications in remote areas, a terrestrial fibre optic cable network, GSM, and 4G LTE. Other products that are optional include free intra-company calls (within a local user group), wireless landline, fleet management, and County government solutions and other value-added services designed for hospitals and schools.
According to the latest Communications Authority of Kenya quarterly report (December 2016), the number of fixed fibre optic subscriptions grew by 18% during the quarter while that of fixed cable modem subscriptions increased by 2.8%. In a statement, Managing Director of the Enterprise Division at Telkom Kenya, Kris Senanu said “success for a Kenyan enterprise should be seen in the lens of reduced downtime through reliable connectivity; operational efficiency through uninterrupted connectivity; great customer service and clear communication lines with stakeholders and ultimately revenue-generating that leads to business growth.”
Digital Kenya, by Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss, charts the rapid emergence of Kenya in the world of technology. Through stories and interviews with people in the sector, you learn about risk-taking and making policy from humble beginnings back in the mid-1990’s when the whole country shared 32 kbps, and the then telecom Kenya Posts & Telecommunications (KPTC) monopoly declared internet services as being illegal. At the time, KPTC was connecting about 10,000 users to the phone network, and with 77,000 potential customers waiting, they envisioned a 5% tele-density in Kenya by the year 2015. The tele-density in 2015 turned out to be 88% thanks to rapid changes that came after fibre cables and the cheaper mobile phones emerged.
One story is a narration of how, as a peace agreement was being signed in February 2008 to end the post-election violence in Kenya, the ICT Ministry managed to secure a guarantee to enable the laying of the TEAMS fibre cable that ultimately changed the face of ICT in Kenya. This came after the ministry had stepped back from another long-discussed bureaucratic cable project – one called EASSY. This was one of the examples of government officials circumventing red tape for a good outcome. Another was the roll out of M-Pesa which is also cited here, ahead of regulations and thanks to some individuals in government giving it their cautious blessing. Not all of them turned out well, and one case cited is of officials at the Postal Corporation sabotaging a land deal that would have led to the establishment in Nairobi of the headquarters of a multinational telecommunications organization.
There are many other stories that show issues of privatization, race, the lack of vision & finance, tech startups, the need for skills to scale, and the disconnect between local capital & the tech sector. It also shows the disconnect of ICT with both formal banking and also with the agricultural sector, two crucial links yet to be adequately bridged in Kenya.
Thanks to the Ford Foundation, the books is available free of charge and a free book download can be obtained.
Phares introduces Node Africa
This week saw the unveiling of Node Africa, a new company led by Phares and Brian, the duo who spearheaded Angani before they left the company following a boardroom fallout that rocked the Kenya ICT startup community, late in 2015.
They have moved on from Angani, are now back with Node Africa, an information management company (that uses cloud infrastructure) and who’s tag line is we run your cloud infrastructure so you can run your enterprises.
It’s been an impressive turnaround in a few months; and in just six weeks after formal incorporation (in December 2015), they have launched Node Africa company and it’s up and running with a team of six, partnerships with Cisco, VMware, and Microsoft and with customers including Pesapal, Tarpo, Strathmore University, and WhatsApp Africa.
They still believe that Africa will be a cloud-first continent, and that, gmail and popular apps have shown, companies value well-delivered services, regardless of the location, or infrastructure that’s behind them, or the devices that their customers are using – and that cloud services, backed by a dedicated team like theirs are the way of the future for local and regional companies to scale their growth, customers and services.