Abuja now set to transit from analog to digital television

Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city is now set for Digital Switch Over (DSO). The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced this on Tuesday in Abuja during a visit to Pinnacle Communication Limited, a signal distribution company.

The Minister’s visit to Pinnacle was to inspect and examine the equipment procured by Pinnacle ahead of the Abuja DSO. Over 450,000 Set-Top Boxes have been provided for Abuja residents for the flag-off of the DSO project.

The digital television transition, also called the Digital Switch Over is the process in which analog television broadcasting is converted to and replaced by digital television. The possession of a Set-Top-Box will make DSO possible and provide access to 30 free channels from news, entertainment, music and so on.

“We are impressed by the speed, commitment and passion of Pinnacle to this project and we have come here to ensure that no stone is left unturned to ensure smooth Digital Switch Over in Abuja on Thursday,” – Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture.

Lai Mohammed while speaking at the Call Centre of the National Broadcasting Commission said the government is concerned about customers satisfaction. According to the Minister, the Call Centre was set up to provide prompt response to subscribers and attend to complaints.

The full implementation of the DSO project across Nigeria is expected to create one million jobs within three years. The Minister made it clear that the Federal Government is optimistic about meeting the 2017 deadline for the DSO project.

Following the successful pilot phase of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) in Jos, the growth recorded is little considering the magnitude of the project. There are still 34 states yet to kickstart the DSO and provide Set-Top-Boxes to its residents. The race to meet up with Nigeria’s commitments made to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is still a long journey.

Radio is coming to Facebook with Facebook Live Audio

Facebook has announced in a post on its blog that Facebook Live Audio will be launched soon.

Facebook Live was opened up to the general populace in April 2016 and this is like the audio version of it. Facebook Live Videos as the name implies are videos directly transmitted to the audience via the internet as it is being recorded; this is how Live Audio will be except in place of video, there would be voice.

With Facebook Live Audio, broadcasting and live podcasting will be made easier as people can do it from the comfort of their timelines.

Facebook Live Audio

 

Since Facebook Live Videos were launched, the social media site has exploded with notifications of people “going live”, but a lot of people want to pass a live message and still not want their faces shown and that is where Live Audio comes into play.

The concept was further explained in the blog post;

From interviews to book readings, we’re excited about the layer of interactivity that Live Audio brings to both the broadcaster and listener. Just as with a live video on Facebook, listeners can discover live audio content in News Feed, ask questions and leave reactions in real time during the broadcast, and easily share with their friends.

Facebook said they will be testing Live Audio out with media companies and publishing houses like the BBC and Harper Collins. Until then, it will be available for full release next year.

Facebook Live Audio is the latest in line of the social media giant’s products. Facebook Live 360, and the recent Slideshow; a feature that lets you merge pictures and music in a slideshow for your timeline.

facebook-live-audio

 

When Facebook Live Audio is eventually launched, apart from helping people make an appearance and statement live on their feed, the podcast-like feature will be good for audiences with a low internet penetration.

 

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Paystack’s not-so-subtle attempt to send a clear message to competitors

paystack-payment-gateway

Yesterday, Paystack announced that it raised the sum of $1.3 million from a funding round led by a legion of investors, that included both foreign and Nigeria’s own SPARK.

Paystack is among a few list of impressive startups that have been innovating payment in Africa, so it is not entirely a surprise that this is happening. All the same, there are quite a number of interesting things to take away from this huge investment but, it makes sense to start with the elusive obvious.

Putting the spotlight on the obvious

Often times we look at funding in a way that isolates it from its complexities, and in the process we miss out a few details. As is the case with most fundraising rounds, the attention Paystack got was more in celebration of the startup than of that part of the announcement which reads as a “seed investment.”

The term “seed” clearly suggests that this is an early investment, meant to support the company until it can generate cash of its own, or until it is ready for further investment. More importantly, seed money often includes funds raised from friends, family funding, angel investment, and even crowdfunding in some cases. However, this investment, which happens to be the second highest seed round (only behind Konga who raised $3.5 million in 2012) could easily pass as a venture round, by Nigerian startup standards.

In a manner of speaking, Paystack for one doesn’t appear like a startup that is still being spoon-fed. Asides doing a remarkable job in the payment scene since its emergence, Paystack already did well to catch the eye of many watchers in the industry by becoming the first — and only — Nigerian startup to be incubated by Y Combinator; getting a seed funding of $120,000 in the process. By extension, the startup has since become a force to reckon with in the payment scene in Africa.

Since opening up its beta testing phase in January — much so in less than a year –, Paystack claims to have processed well over ₦1 billion worth of transactions, with more than 1500 companies (local and international) integrated into its API. The most interesting part is that the startup has achieved all this while awaiting a date to announce its full launch.

So, in contrast to general belief, could the investment announcement have been a bold attempt to send out a clear message? Especially to close rivals who for same reasons perhaps have been riding on the crest of several innovations, or are looking to launch one new product or the other in the coming days? Let’s not forget in a hurry that Flutterwave launched Moneywave barely a month ago.

 A race to win the payment space

Online payments in Africa was essentially broken until payment gateway and switching companies came with their charm. Their efforts at best may have even dampened their prospects, as the payment space is now fragmented. In clear terms, people now have many options to call on when it comes to payment.

So the real challenge for these players is not only to solve the issue of online payments in Africa but somehow connecting the super-fragmented aspects of the sector with a unified payment system that allows users (merchants especially) to seamlessly carry out their operations.

During an interview with Forbes, Paystack founders spoke of how enormous the growth potential of the FinTech landscape in Nigeria was. Nigerian businesses, according to the founders, collected about $150 billion last year alone; most of which was collected offline. With such a high proportion of payments still conducted offline coupled with the fact that Nigeria as a country is increasingly becoming more digital conscious, there is no doubt that the frequency of digital transactions will continue to increase year on year.

And while those figures are very tempting, it is nothing compared to the growth potential that the entirety of Africa holds. It is no doubt that only those who have firmly positioned themselves — by spreading their reach and through innovation –, that can reap these rewards. From all indications, Paystack is relentless in its bid.

The execution plan

If we take a look at how the Paystack team plans to deploy the investment, we can see clearly that the startup is trying to be the leading frontier for payment in Africa. As noted in their press release, Paystack plans to build out its engineering team in Lagos, as well grow its sales and marketing operations, to accelerate product development and customer onboarding.

And with the number of investors willing to put their money in the startup, it is expected that Paystack would repay their trust in kind. Thus rendering valid the assumption that Paystack is sending a clear cut warning with this investment.

Final thoughts

A common saying goes thus: “not all that glitters is gold.” It is enough that funding itself is a distraction for established startups, let alone early stage businesses. But that may be the least of Paystack’s worries. Having raised this much as seed funding, one would wonder how much is left of the founders’ stake when they go into a venture round or even IPO, should that ever happen.

It would serve the founders’ interest best by taking cues from the case scenarios of other founders who, in the long-run, became relegated to the position of fancy board members in a company they help built from scratch.

Paystack, without a doubt, is one of Nigeria’s finest and Nigerians wouldn’t want that to become the company’s fate. Given there’s already an intense debate over whether or not Paystack is a Nigerian company — all thanks to their decision to be headquartered in the US — it therefore is important that the founders do all within their powers to protect their interest in the company. Anything outside of this could just be an argument-decider in favour of the startup being a foreign company.

But as patriotic Nigerians, we like to believe that Paystack is a Nigerian startup.

All the same, I’m excited for the startup and, more importantly, that Silicon Valley is now paying attention to African companies.

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4 reasons not to start your own business in 2017

With the alarming rate of unemployment, young individuals are beginning to look for alternative routes to making money. One of which is the new rave “I want to start my own business or company”.

It is shocking to see how many businesses have been birthed this year alone. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing to start a business but it has to be with the right intentions. Not everyone has the clout for entrepreneurship. For instance if you’re risk-averse, entrepreneurship is not for you. So why shouldn’t you probably start a business or startup?

You have egoistic tendencies

Egotism is being excessively conceited or absorbed in oneself as Oxford Dictionary puts it. Some synonyms include: self-centeredness, self-interest etc. If you are the type who likes to be in control of everything. You don’t believe in other people’s judgement, then entrepreneurship is not for you.

As an entrepreneur you have to consider everyone; your employees, your advisers, your customers before making decisions. Your ego would not allow you see your wrong as such and this leads to your failure. No one will ever be right around you if you are the egocentric kind. If you’re a control freak, who wants things done your way all the time, entrepreneurship is not meant for you. No one wants to work for a control freak. In the actual scheme of things, you can’t control everything that happens to you. There are a whole lot of uncertainty in business.

You are after quick money

We are in an era where everyone is in a hurry to make it at all costs. The generation of people who can do anything just to make the big bucks at the expense of others. They feel money is the validation that you are successful and as such would be respected. We now see so many quick money solutions like MMM and the likes and people are rushing into it. Has anyone come out to say he is on Forbes through these platforms? You can’t reap where you did not sow; for your business to be viable it has to stand the test of time and grow. So if you are the type that is after quick money, entrepreneurship is not meant for you.

You hardly save

One of the major reasons why business moguls keep amassing more wealth is the habit of saving and investments. The more money you have, the more reason for you to save or invest it into somewhere or something. If you are the type that spends everything that gets into your pocket, entrepreneurship is not meant for you. How do you intend to grow your business if you don’t have the habit of saving?

You are lazy

This is like the most important, because you can’t survive a day as an entrepreneur if you are the lazy type. If you the type that wants everything done for you, entrepreneurship is not meant for you. Entrepreneurship is for the strong-hearted, hardworking people and not for the feeble-minded. It takes every strength in you to sustain your business. Your passion and patience are very vital to the success of your business.

P.S: I’m only advising that you shouldn’t be in a hurry to start a business, not that you shouldn’t. These are character traits you can work on in 2017 and start your successful business. You just have to put in everything you have to get rid of these bad traits.

Comment and let’s share views on what you need to have to be a very good entrepreneur.
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Paystack raises $1.3m in seed investment from local and international investors

Nigerian FinTech startup, Paystack just announced that they have raised a seed investment of $1.3m from major investors, including Nigeria’s owned SPARK. This is highest amount ever to be raised by a startup of Nigerian origin as seed investment.

Below is the Press Release:

San Francisco, USA. Monday 19 December 2016. Fintech startup, Paystack, today announces it has closed on Seed Investment of $1.3M from international investors Tencent, Comcast Ventures and Singularity Investments, with participation from Spark, M&S Partners, Tokyo Founders Fund, Blue Rinc Capital, Pave Investments, KIBS-CFY Partners, Michael Siebel, Justin Kan, Olumide Soyombo, Leonard Stiegeler and a number of Angels. The announcement follows news that the fintech start-up has recently built a payment gateway integration for Shopify, one of the world’s largest eCommerce platforms.

The Y Combinator-backed online payments platform is solving the considerable challenge of online payment transactions in Nigeria, by seamlessly connecting all multi-channel payment options with merchants across the country, enabling them to accept payments from around the world, via credit card, debit card, and direct bank transfer on web and mobile.

Led by co-founders Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, the Paystack team will use the investment to build out its engineering team in Lagos, as well grow its sales and marketing operations, to accelerate product development and customer onboarding.

paystack-payment-gateway

At present, businesses on the continent struggle to integrate and keep up with many different payment options on offer. Paystack does the heavy-lifting and is aiming to become the go-to, indispensable layer that connects merchants to payment options. Paystack is completely platform agnostic – it does not favour one payment platform over any other – something unique in African fintech, which is currently very fragmented. Merchants who sign up for Paystack can receive live payments from customers within 30 minutes of integration and the product allows for recurring billing, thanks to its PCI-Compliant one-click and subscription payments infrastructure.

Paystack CEO Shola Akinlade says: “Having painstakingly identified the many barriers that merchants on the continent have when it comes to online payments, we have built and refined a product for Africa that we hope will act as a catalyst for the continent’s online economy, be it on-demand services, ecommerce, travel & hospitality, financial services or entertainment. We know Africa’s digital economy has potential, many billions of dollars of potential, we simply need to unlock it and make businesses work better, faster and more effectively. Paystack will do this.  Thanks to the backing from our investors with today’s announcement, and our time spent with Y Combinator, we are now in the strongest position yet to resolve the disconnect between African businesses and accepting payments.”

Paystack is launching its service in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous economy, before rolling out the service across the continent. Nigerian businesses collected about $150B last year, most of which was collected offline. However the digital economy on the continent is growing fast, and Nigeria alone currently sees 6 million new Internet users every year. As mobile adoption continues at a torrid pace, with 400 million more smartphone connections by 2020 expected, the continent will need a reliable payments platform to support growth in online transactions.

“Paystack is addressing a massive market, helping businesses accept payments online in less than 30 minutes from sign-up,” said Christian Ebersol, Associate at Comcast Ventures. “We look forward to supporting this talented team as they streamline the payment process between merchants and consumers.”

Now moving out of beta, Paystack has partnered with some of Nigeria’s leading Internet companies iROKOtv, Jobberman, Payporte, and Hotels.ng, to facilitate fast, safe payments. The payment platform has also built a strong following amongst Nigeria’s technology community, as over 30 independent developers have built additional plug-ins and tools for Paystack, using the company’s REST APIs and client libraries.

Fintech as tool for digital financial services

Financial technology, popularly known as Fintech, is an emerging economic industry that comprises companies that use technology to drive efficient financial services. Granted, some are startups, with just few at the top, but the general impact of these innovative organisations has changed the global payment system, Nigeria inclusive.

McKinsey Global Institute in its latest report, said Digital Financial Services (DFS)- the emerging phase in the quest to deepen financial inclusion, payments system efficiency and transparency, would benefit billions of people, spur inclusive growth by $3.7 trillion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of emerging economies within 10 years.

DFS refers to ways in which basic financial services- payments, savings, loan or insurance products are provided, particularly to the poor, through mobile phones, the Internet and/or electronic cards/payment platforms. These platforms are the outcome of innovative ideas of Fintech.

The Deputy Director, Financial Services, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kosta Peric, affirmed the digital payment system, besides enthroning efficiency, will reduce corruption, which is associated with cash payment.
The Treasury Single Account (TSA), pioneered by SystemSpecs, a homegrown technology, has long had the reputation of payment efficiency, particularly the immediate position of government account and detection of “ghost workers.”

The volume of TSA revenue aggregation for government, currently valued at over $30 billion yearly, is not only an example of the potential of Fintech in an economy like Nigeria, but also a reason for accelerated support for existing companies and startups.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, quoting McKinsey, said with improved and consistent adoption of digital financial services in the country’s payment space, no less than $88 billion will be added to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025.

The development, he said, will bring about substantial benefits for financial services providers and the economy, apart from boosting financial inclusion level.

Of course, Fintech has come to stay as new phase of global payment system. The only discussion at present is who dominates the innovative space in the years to come and that behooves government and stakeholders to grant necessary support now.

The focus should be on the net effect of its success on the overall economy rather than what the promoter of the technology stands to gain.

Executive Director, SystemSpecs, Deremi Atanda, said the company’s participation in the Gulf Technology Exhibition (GITEX), is an eye opener to its financial technology strength, particularly as a catalyst for economic development.

“Tomorrow’s economy will be built on digital finance as the world looks for alternative and faster ways to achieve inclusive growth, empowering individuals, businesses and governments to carry out cheaper and more effective transactions,” he said.

Nigeria, as one of the emerging economies, must leverage on the opportunities associated with digital financial services’ projection, with KPMG FinTech Report noting that it is fast becoming a dynamic ecosystem bursting at the seams with opportunities for FinTech start-ups.

Currently, less than 50 million people have bank accounts in Nigeria’s population of over 170 million people, 115 million of whom are youthful and use mobile phones for financial transactions.

SystemSpecs’ Remita is one of the handful of the dominant players in Nigeria’s burgeoning FinTech industry.

Remita, among others, has gone beyond basic financial services to impact government finance and national bottom lines massively. These should be recognised and encouraged.

Active users in Nigeria’s telecoms industry increase to 153.5m

Active users in Nigeria’s telecoms industry increase to 153.5m

The active users of telecommunications services in the country stand at 153.51 million in October, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.

The telecommunications industry regulator made this known in its Monthly Subscriber/Operator Data, obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos.

It said that the active telecommunications services customers increased by 214,572 in October, as against the figure in September which stood at 153,299,535.

According to the data, 153,086,710 of the 153,514,107 active numbers subscribed to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network services.
The GSM operators’ active customers increased by 249,713 from 152,836,997 subscribers recorded in September.

The reports stated that of the GSM operators, MTN had 60,982,487 users in October, which increased by 423,918, against 60,558,569 recorded in September.

Globacom figure increased in October by 150,280, giving a total of 37,117,992 customers as against 36,967,712 in September.

Airtel had 32,775,916 subscribers in the month under review, which were same users recorded in September.

Etisalat, however, recorded a reduction in customers by 324,485, giving a customer base of 22,210,315 as against 22,534,800 users in September.

The Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators had 244,477 active users in October, showing a decrease of 31,827 from 276,304 customers they had in September.

Between the two surviving CDMA service providers, Visafone’s customers reduced to 240,017, as it lost 31,827 users in September to record 271,844, while Multi-Links maintained 4,460 customers in September.

The monthly subscriber/operator data showed that the Fixed Wireless network’s (landline) consumers decreased to 26,942 in October, as they lost 3,774 customers from their record of 30,716 in September.

Also between the two Fixed Wireless operators, Visafone had 26,514 subscribers in October, losing 3,774 users from the September record of 30,288; while Multi-Links maintained its September record of 428 customers.

It also revealed that the Fixed Wired operators (landline) subscriber base reduced by 2,752, giving a total of 124,812 users in October, as against 127,564 recorded in September.

In the Fixed Wired arena, MTN Fixed took a decline move from 8,591 in September to 5,842 in October, thereby reducing by 2,749 users, Glo Fixed had 12,514 users in October, adding 11 customers to the September record of 12,503.

IpNX network moved from 2,587 subscriber base in September to 2,539, reducing its customers by 48 in October.

It said that 21st Century network had 103,917 customers in October, recording an increase of 34 users to its September record of 103,883.

The report also showed that Smile Communications, the only operator on the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) network had 31,166 active users in October, as it added 3,212 customers to its September subscriber base of 27,954.

The regulatory body said that Section 89 Subsection 3(c) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 mandated it to monitor and report the state of telecommunications industry.

“The commission is mandated to provide statistical analyses and identify industry trends with regard to services, tariffs, operators, technology, subscribers, issues of competition and dominance.

“This is with a view to identifying areas where regulatory intervention will be needed.

“The commission regularly conducts studies, surveys and produces reports on the telecommunications industry.

“Therefore, telecommunications operators are obligated, under the terms of the licenses, to provide NCC with such data on a regular basis for analytical review and publishing,’’ NAN quotes the report as saying.

Prosper Otemuyiwa, Nigerian Software Developer

Fire and Community

Prosper Otemuyiwa is a young Nigerian software developer who believes in giving back to the community. The community nicknamed him “Fire” for his exuberant “fire emoji” laden social media posts, which he uses to share some valuable insights on different software development related topics. While Prosper has worked with some software startups from Anakle and Andela to his recent US employer (for whom he works remotely), he has no interest in founding a startup of his own at this time. Prosper seems to be an anomaly in a community where “starting something” has seemed to become a fad.
At 24, if there is a hierarchy of young talented software developers in Nigeria or indeed Africa, Prosper will be at the very top of it. He is a “Google Developer Expert” one of the very few talented technology people Google decides to bestow this honour and he was recently a mentor at the first Google Developer Launchpad Start event in Africa held in Nairobi. He is practically a “legend” on Github, the online global developer code sharing repository and connection platform where he regularly contributes and has achieved global rankings.

Why does he not want to “start something” when there now seems to be a lot of money flowing around as incentive? It is because he believes that he does not have to. He is one of those rare professionals primarily focused on improving their skills, the craft, and community. They are not interested in doing things because of fads; they act based on deep personal convictions. He asks “if everyone is a founder, who will build the software?”. That is a very real question in a community where every person or the other seems to be a technology entrepreneur looking for developers to help them build their ideas.

This year, Mark Zuckerberg paid a surprise visit to Yaba. YCombinator partners came and ate “Jollof Rice” with members of the local investor and entrepreneur community at ccHub’s rooftop. 500 Startups also came to Lagos. It is very easy to conclude that these people all came because of our “brilliant entrepreneurs”, but I believe they came because of our “Brilliant Developers” who are now commanding Global attention for being “World Class”. It is people like Prosper and others like him that have brought this attention.

Prosper is not the only one who has “Fire” inside of him. There are several others. The local developer community started organising itself with small local community events like the “ForLoop” sessions where they networked and shared experience, and it was followed quickly by other activities powered by technology giants like Google. These events have energised the community to share experiences with each other more, and they revealed some incredible talent who would have gone unnoticed. For the first time, the developers have started to become the celebrities and not just the startup founders, as it should be. Collaboration seems to come more naturally to the developer community as they realise that they are fighting for a common purpose — “Global recognition and accreditation”. This collaboration happening in the background is the reason why the local technology community seems to be thriving.

Creating World-Class Developers
When it comes to creating “market ready” developers, our educational institutions are grossly under-equipped. My sister graduated with a second class upper in computer science but still had to learn more to be able to get a job in the market. When Iyinoluwa Aboyeji first came to me with his idea of enabling student learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) I realised that he was on to something. His startup, Fora, had a big vision of transforming Nigerian higher education learning with online content. He went on to co-found Andela as an evolution of Fora.

A couple of years later, I was at the annual Google I/O event in San Francisco, and one of our own, Moyinoluwa Adeyemi of Swifta got featured in the keynote of Udacity founder, Sebastian Thrun. Udacity was founded by Sebastian who was a Stanford University Professor, and it has now become possibly the largest global online learning portal for developers. Sebastian highlighted Moyinoluwa as one of the African developers who had taken advantage of Udacity to become a “WorldClass Android Developer”. Moyinoluwa was still a student at that time, but she had seen the future.

Google supports Udacity and provides many NanoDegree Scholarships to Africans interested in learning how to build applications on its Android platform. Udacity, Udemy, EdX, etc. are platforms that have enabled our local developers to learn and catch up very quickly with the rest of the world. In most cases, the students need no prior knowledge of programming, and the courses have been well designed to achieve learning outcomes.
Udacity has enabled several success stories, and it made me realise that access to the Internet has become the same thing as access to world-class education, at least for software developers. It, however, takes a lot of discipline to complete these courses as the same Internet is full of distractions. Those who complete these online courses have the motivation and discipline to achieve learning outcomes. It is that tenacity that makes them become “World-Class.”

Back to 2016
There is no argument that 2016 has been groundbreaking for Nigerian or even African technology because of the software developers and their community. Passion is winning. Massive investments have been made, innovative ventures launched, and these have been made possible by the fact that our developers have chosen not to be left behind by limitations in infrastructure and education. Twenty something-year-olds are making the difference once again in Nigeria, and this time, they are helping not just to build multi-million Dollar ventures, they are building our future.