USSD in Nigeria: From the beginning and what has to change

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The Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is one of the few payment innovations that have transformed the lifestyle of millions of Nigerians living in urban and rural centres. Its wide adoption rate gives the country a major opportunity to achieve its cashless ambitions.

To be sure, USSD refers to a communications protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the mobile network operator’s computers. In simple terms, when you dial a number that starts with * and ends with #, you are using a USSD. It is similar to Short Messaging Service (SMS), but unlike SMS, USSD transactions occur during the session only. With SMS, messages can be sent to a mobile phone and stored for several days if the phone is not activated or within range.

In financial services, a USSD code allows Nigerian bank customers to have access to basic financial services by simply dialling a certain code. The customer does not require internet to make the transaction and they can enjoy several banking services that otherwise may have seen them walking into a bank branch.

Although Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank), Nigeria’s third most valuable bank popularised the channel with its *737# code, the pioneers of the USSD technology is eTranzact International Plc.

Before USSD

In an interview with BusinessDay, Niyi Toluwalope, managing director and CEO of eTranzact traced the creation of the USSD to the first SMS banking product the company made shortly after it was established in 2003.

Then Nigerians were heavily cash-dependent – although electronic payments have gained significant adoption, so many people especially in the rural communities still prefer cash. It was also the period mobile phone was beginning to threaten the dominance of land phones. The influx of telecommunication companies and mobile phones created new opportunities. As … Read More...

Nigeria’s music industry revenue inches closer to N18b, driven by telecoms – DCEM Report

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The revenue from recorded music in Nigeria has been projected to hit $50 million (N18 billion) by 2020, a 34 per cent increase from the $33 million revenue in 2015; N11.8 billion using the current exchange rate of 360. This growth was captured in the “Nigerian Recorded Music Industry Report (2015 – 2020)”, recently published by the Disruptive Creative Economy Meeting (DCEM) group, which describes it as the first detailed industry report.

According to the report, the Nigerian recorded music industry is poised to spike in growth significantly over the next 3-5 years. As mobile and internet penetration continues to deepen, coupled with a steady growth in the purchasing power of larger proportion of the population, consumption of entertainment products will only increase.

Also, as internet access becomes more pervasive – thereby increasing the proliferation of service providers – competition in service supply, as well as more “bundling”/zero-rating of entertainment products, will result in a decrease in the effective cost of data. This would mean subscribers having more money to spend on entertainment products such as music and video.

The report draws a direct nexus between a thriving telecommunication industry where costs of services are cheap, and the possibilities for increased revenue in the music industry. The Caller Ring Back Tone/Ringtone (CBRT/RT) service and Streaming both account for between 66 per cent and 85 per cent of revenue between 2015 and 2018. The contribution of both sources is projected to increase even further in the coming years, with digital sources considered to offer more data and transparency of how much has been earned by content producers.

Olumide Mustapha, lead researcher and founder of Technolawgical Partners, which authored the report, noted “Data, or a lack thereof, is one of the biggest criticisms against the Nigerian music … Read More...

Seplat to step up production growth

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Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc has given assurance to its stakeholders that it will grow production, drive increased shareholder yield and capital appreciation.

The Company, which reiterated its commitment to stronger growth in the oil and gas sector as it held its sixth annual general meeting in Lagos, posted  N73 billion profit for the period ended, December 31st, 2018.

It also announced N228 billion revenue in its full year 2018.  This is an increase of 65 per cent from the N137billion the company made in the 2017.

Its N73 billion profit before differed tax, represented a 480 per cent increase from N13 billion which it made over the same period in 2017.

Gross profit for the period grew by 84% to N120billion from N65billion reported in December 2017. Operating profit stood at N95billion, representing a growth of 177% over N34billion recorded in the corresponding period of December 2017.

Seplat’s net profit after however dipped by 45% from N81billion recorded as at December 2017 to N45 billion in December 2018.

In his address to shareholders, the Chairman, A.B.C. Orjiako, said the company’s 2018 operational and financial performance reflected the significantly higher year-on-year levels of production uptime  at its core oil producing assets combined with a firmer, albeit still volatile, oil price and increased contribution from the company’s gas business.

“As you are aware, our results from the previous two years were characterised by  the extended period of force majeure at the Forcados terminal from February 2016 to June 2017.

“As we enter 2019, our reliable production base, low unit cost of production and discretion over capital commitments will allow the business to remain highly free cash flow generative and profitable. In the absence of any major interruption or force majeure event, this will enable Seplat Read More...

Huawei set to launch own mobile operating system amid sanctions from Google

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Amid intense rift with the United States, Huawei said it will roll out its own mobile phone operating system “very quickly” if its smartphones are cut off from Google’s Android software.

Huawei currently the world’s second-largest smartphone maker is facing the prospect of being shut out of the world’s most popular smartphone operating system after being placed on a “banned entity” list.

Huawei, which last year sold 200m phones, promised its customers that their current phones would continue to work, and have access to Google’s Play Store to buy apps. These phones are certified so that Google can provide them with updates and downloads without going through Huawei

Google had announced that they will be blocking Huawei devices from accessing their services. The US government temporarily eased some of the restrictions on Huawei which means for the next three months, the company is allowed to purchase US-made goods and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets.

What does this means?

About a quarter of all phones sold in the UK are made by China’s Huawei and based on the Android operating system owned by Google. Globally, Huawei had nearly 19 per cent of the smartphone market in the first quarter of this year, according to Canalys, making it the second-biggest seller behind Samsung.

This move means Google is no longer going to provide technical support and collaboration for Android and Google services to Huawei. Also, Android updates only come to the open-source version a lot later than the licensed one. This is particularly concerning when it comes to security updates.

Also its future smartphones may lose access to apps including YouTube, Gmail and Maps, and to the Google Play store and to security updates. This is likely to have a severe effect on their attractiveness to … Read More...

Microsoft taps talent, innovation opportunities in Africa

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Having recognised a sizeable talent pool, great deal of innovation and creativity in Africa’s teeming youth population, Microsoft has taken a bold step to invest $100 million in building an African Development Centre (ADC) in Lagos Nigeria and Nairobi Kenya, in order to create an opportunity for developers in the continent to get involved in developing at foundational level, technology for global consumption.

With six other development centres in India, Europe and United States of America, the African Development Centre with two sites, is Microsoft’s seventh.

According to the company; the best local software developers and engineers in the African region will be hired and trained to develop cutting edge technology solutions, working with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), developing robots, virtual reality and future technologies.

Speaking at the launch of the ADC in Lagos on Friday 17 May, Michael Fortin, corporate vice president, Microsoft, said; “The ADC has been a dream and vision but today it’s a reality. One of the things that drew us to this region is the immense talent. We’ve been engaging with universities and talking to our customers in the region and it has been very clear to us that there is a sizeable talent pool, a great deal of innovation and creativity in the region and we can be successful as a company by working closely with those engineers and we can be more successful in the continent of Africa by having a presence here and listening and learning intensely as opposed to being remote. So we look forward to the future in a big way.’

“We are going to hire 100 software engineers before the end of 2019. That is our first year goal and 500 by the end of 3 years; a total of … Read More...