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NIGCOMSAT to Deepen Access, Affordability of Satellite Internet with PortaBilling



Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) has taken on a new approach in to delivery of satellite connectivity solutions by establishing an eco-system of Virtual Internet Service Providers (VISPs).


They will operate using the digital BSS (Business Support System) PortaBilling, provided by PortaOne, and deliver the service to key markets – such as government, defense, maritime, enterprise.



VISPs will rent data channels from the NIGCOMSAT orbiting satellite and then rely on the PortaBilling self-care portal to manage their tariff plans and subscribers.


PortaBilling will carry out all service monetisation, – that is: namely service activation, charging, invoicing and payment collection. So, a VISP does not need to purchase or implement any infrastructure, and the only action required on the VISP side is to install the customers equipment.


Such low entry barrier enables nearly any local company such as system integrator, utility or even a supermarket chain to become an ISP. It will have major effects in several key markets, in particular for Small Office or Home Office (SOHO) these customers will benefit from better satellite connectivity.


Dr. Abimbola Alale, managing director and CEO of NIGCOMSAT, said the robust and flexible solution will address the common challenges that Internet Service Providers in Nigeria face at the moment.


“It will also aid profitability, market readiness and a need for technology, which evolves with the market because PortaOne offers a license, unlimited in terms of number of subscribers or resellers. This helps to maintain a low and predictable TCO (Total Cost of Ownership),” Alale noted.


She expressed her gratitude to PortaOne team agile development work done on the project to integrate with other elements of the solution such as online payment through REMITA.


Based in Canada, PortaOne is a leading software developer of agile service provisioning and billing systems for modern telecommunication companies – across the globe.


As Andriy Zhylenko, CEO of PortaOne added “Flexible convergent digital BSS is a crucial tool which will enable NIGCOMSAT to succeed via monetization of an innovative service and better customer experience.


He stated that PortaBilling will make internet access in Nigeria more abundant and affordable, by building a vast network of VISPs in the country.


PortaBilling would further enable prepaid Satellite Internet access across Nigeria – by improving revenue collection and reduction of leakage for VISPs and NIGCOMSAT.


“Since the entry is simplified and the operating costs are minimal due to fully automated service provisioning and charging, new Internet Service Providers will be able to appear in regions where they did not exist before. As a result, the overall end-user experience will be improved and there will be healthier competition,” Zhylenko further pointed out.


Kazeem Kolawole Raji, executive director, Technical Services of NIGCOMSAT, said he was deeply impressed with the full open architecture of PortaBilling, which allows enables NIGCOMSAT to seamlessly tie it into various back-office and VAS system.


He admitted that this is A true partnership approach where we are empowered to decide on how and who performs the integration within our system.”


He also highlighted the benefits of the system as it helps to improve customer management, lowers total cost of ownership (TCO) and significantly reduces time-to-market for new services, such as VoIP, data multicasting, Digital Signage, IPTV, IoT, and many more.


To make sure that NIGCOMSATs people learn the ins and outs of the system quickly and can take full advantage of the integration capabilities and API (Application Programming Interface), PortaOne provided on-site training for more than 100 of the company employees.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Bharti Airtel, Western Union, Partner on Real-time Bank Transfers to India, African Mobile Wallets



Western Union has teamed up with Bharti Airtel Ltd. to allow customers to send real-time payments directly to bank accounts in India as well as real-time fund transfers to mobile wallets in 14 African countries.

Users may transfer funds via Western Union to millions of accounts at Airtel Payments Bank, the banking subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, or direct funds through Airtel Africa, which has 15 million mobile wallet customers across the continent.

“The future of money transfer is about customer choice — allowing them to move money whenever, however and wherever they want,” Hikmet Ersek, president of Western Union, told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to a company release.

“Our platform cuts through the complexities of cross-border money movement and payments so millions of customers can access their funds in real time in a manner that suits their local infrastructure and preferences.”

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Jumia Looks to Services, Platforms to Halt Slide



Jumia Technologies, which last year became Africa’s first tech firm to list in New York, will focus on proving it can turn a profit after a bruising 2019, one of its co-founders told Reuters.

Jeremy Hodara said the company aims to capitalise on its payment platform and infrastructure network and to boost revenue from services for third-party sellers on its online marketplace.

“We’re going to be extremely disciplined and very focused on our path to profitability,” Hodara told Reuters at the company’s office in Lagos.

Jumia, which hit a peak value of close to $4 billion, has seen its shares fall by nearly 70% since its IPO last April.

They tumbled after short-seller Citron Research cast doubt on its sales figures, which dealt a major blow to investor confidence.

Late last year, it shut its e-commerce service in Cameroon and Tanzania and halted food delivery in Rwanda. Hodara declined to say whether more markets could face the axe.

Its third-quarter adjusted EBITDA loss widened to 45 million euros, up nearly 27% from a year earlier, and as it burned through cash, analysts warned that raising more could be a challenge.

“Clearly it’s a bit uphill, but I think in the end if investors believe they’re going to make money on the story, they’re going to buy into it,” said Sarah Simon, senior analyst at Berenberg. “But they have to prove themselves.”

Hodara declined to comment on whether Jumia planned to seek more outside cash, but said that as the business scaled up, costs would come down. Improvements to its algorithms were also helping, he said.

JumiaPay, the company’s online payment platform, is a key part of the growth plan, Hodara said. The company is interested in making it and its logistics network available to third-parties, even those not selling on its e-commerce platform.

Jumia has tested this on a small scale, but said widespread access – where, for example, an individual could drop a package at a Jumia hub in Lagos and have it delivered to a friend in Nairobi – could come eventually.

“We have a very significant footprint of physical locations across the continent where we can inject packages and parcels and distribute it. That’s unique,” Hodara said.

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Konga Has Grown 8 Times Over, Prince Ekeh Tells CNN



Konga, Nigeria’s foremost e-commerce giant, has made significant strides which have positioned it as the clear leader in Nigeria’s highly competitive e-commerce market. The foregoing was disclosed by Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, co-chief executive officer of Konga, in a chat with Cable News Network (CNN), global news medium, last week.

Konga Has Grown 8 Times Over, Prince Ekeh Tells CNN

Prince Ekeh was speaking to CNN Marketplace Africa on the sidelines of the first Creative Africa Exchange weekend held in Kigali, Rwanda from the 16th-18th January 2020.

The Konga CEO was one of the speakers at the event which brought together over 1500 participants from 68 countries and over 250 exhibitors.

He disclosed that Konga’s omni-channel structure which sees it taking a percentage of the retail outlay in the online (formal) and offline (informal sector), self-owned tech-driven  logistics solution, Kxpress through which it handles deliveries to customers as well as external parties, state-of-the-art regional warehousing facilities which enables it retain inventory in diverse states and locations in Nigeria as well as sound knowledge of the Nigerian business terrain are factors that have placed the company in front.

‘‘Konga is best positioned as the leader in the Nigerian e-commerce market. We are not just an e-commerce company but we run an omni-channel model with over 30 physical stores spread across Nigeria. So, we are closest to the people. Also, we are seeing huge growth in the business and in our customer base. Between last year and this year, the business grew by almost eight times,’’ he enthused.

Equally important, the Harvard alumnus based the foregoing on Konga’s strategic business ideals. Prince Ekeh affirms that the company is run efficiently and with transparency and integrity.

‘‘The key is growing your revenue while being able to manage your costs. That is the only way for sustainable growth. In the last year, we have been able to grow revenue by eight times but we have also been able to reduce our costs by 65%. That is quite huge.’’

Sharing his thoughts on how Konga is creatively resolving the challenge of logistics which has hobbled other players in the market, Prince Ekeh noted that the company had relied on its deep understanding of the Nigerian terrain – a factor which he emphasized has distinguished Konga in the marketplace.

‘‘The starting point for us was identifying the problem. There is a huge problem in Nigeria where the informal market is so huge, so massive; in fact, almost 98% of the market. This means that people don’t have access to quality products; they don’t have access to quality after-sales services.

‘‘So, we identified this problem when we came into the market. What we hold ourselves on is integrity and making sure that we are supplying quality products and as quickly as possible. We had to look internally and invest in a logistics platform for ourselves. So, we built a logistics platform working with franchisees in local areas. If you understand the dynamics of local villages in Nigeria, most people know each other. As long as we had the name and the phone number of the person who requires the product, someone in the local village knows that person. So we partnered with local people and empowered them to deliver to the last mile for us.

‘‘Today, we have built Kxpress, our logistics platform, to the point where we are not only delivering for Konga but for other partners. That’s where you begin to add value because not only Konga has that problem. A lot of people have the same problem. People who sell on social media have that problem too. So, we are building a platform not just for ourselves but for the entire industry. With that, we are able to scale much quicker.’’

Quizzed by the CNN’s Eleni Giokos on Konga’s expansion plans, Prince Ekeh disclosed that the goal is to dominate Nigeria, which the company has all but achieved, before expanding to other African countries.

‘‘Nigeria is one of the largest markets in Africa. We are looking at consolidating in Nigeria and ensuring our customers get the best services and then rolling out across Africa. If you are able to scale to the point where you can solve a lot of the problems in Nigeria, it makes it easy to take on other markets outside Nigeria. Definitely, Nigeria is the focus for now. That’s where we started and that’s where we hope to scale and once that is done, we can begin to expand to other African markets.’’

Continuing, he stated: ‘‘We have a lot of things going on. We are also adding a lot of business units. We recently launched our travel business in February 2019 and also have a Central Bank of Nigeria-licensed mobile money platform called KongaPay. We also have KXpress, our logistics business. We are a platform and as a consumer, we want to connect you to all these different services we provide. We also plan to roll out a lot more services so that our customers stay within that platform as we continue to grow the customer base.’’

Incidentally, there has been a lot of talk about foreign players such as Amazon and Ali Baba eyeing a share of the potentially money-spinning Nigerian e-commerce market. However, Prince Ekeh welcomed the development, even as he held that no one understands the Nigerian market better than Konga.

‘‘I love the competition because the market is huge. Competition is good. It keeps you on your toes. I mean, Nigeria has over 200 million people and the informal market is still like 98%. That means, all the big players in the market are only sharing just like 2% of the potential of the industry. As the formal market grows, we also see the pie growing which means more revenue for all of us. I think the market can still accommodate more players.

‘‘I should know my market better than anyone else. The funny thing is, when the foreign players come into the market, they face exactly the same problems. They face the crazy Lagos traffic; they face the bad roads and bad infrastructure. So, we all have to face the same problems; which we have experienced all our lives, so it’s a bit easier to adapt and just like what we did with the logistics problems, it’s easier for us to find those innovative solutions,’’ he disclosed.

On how Konga is adding value and transforming lives, Ekeh took pride in giving others an opportunity like the one he was privileged to have.

‘‘Luckily, I was privileged to go to school abroad. I returned and I had access to funds. What keeps me up is how do I provide the same opportunity to people under me. In a way, I am doing that with Konga. I will give you an example. We have a seller that started off selling on our platform. She had a small shop in Balogun Market in Nigeria, which is a huge market, but like with very tiny shops. So, she was struggling at that point in time. She started selling on our platform and today, she has about 13 stores and her children now school outside the country. That’s huge and all we have done is just provide her a platform to sell her products. She has access to the whole of Nigeria.’’

Ekeh, who stated that Konga is a technology company, described Africa as the new frontier of prosperity in the 21st Century, even as he threw some light on the trends shaping commerce in the current age.

‘‘I think Africa has so much opportunities. It was Jack Ma who once said that Africa has the potential to become the next China but what we need is great minds to come in to the continent and invest in businesses and look for innovative ways to solve African problems.

‘‘When you look at Africa, we tend to skip trends. Africa skipped the Personal Computer trend and went straight to mobile. So, I feel like Africa might skip the e-commerce trend and go to social commerce. We see a lot of people buying products from Instagram, from Facebook, from various social platforms. And at Konga, our goal is not only to be an e-commerce platform. Our goal is to be an engine for commerce and trade in Africa. As much as our focus is e-commerce with physical stores, we are also venturing into social commerce. Anywhere we find our consumer, we try to play in that space as much as possible,’’ he concluded.

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