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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Listed-telco Safaricom has issued notice of new charges to be imposed on bank to MPESA transactions.

In a statement  Safaricom said that Bank to Third-Party MPESA wallets will now incur charges similar to those it charges for person to person money transfer on MPESA.

Interestingly, this notice has been issued after rival Equitel informed customers that Safaricom had imposed new charges for transferring money from its service to MPESA.

However, insiders say the charges apply to all banks and are to come into effect later this year. Safaricom apparently discovered that Banks have been offering to transfer money from one bank account to another person's MPESA line other than the owner of the bank account and charging for it yet Safaricom has not been charging for this service.

"They are using our infrastructure," one source said.

This now means if you go to the Bank and ask them to transfer some money from your account to your supplier's  MPESA account, it will be charged the rate for sending that amount of money.

In principle, since banks are unlikely to bear these charges, it means customers will have to pay for this service over and above what banks have been charging and retaining.

What is not clear from the statement is whether bank's will be revenue sharing partners in this or will simply pay Safaricom for using its infrastructure.

Although the service has been existing, Safaricom now says this is a new service for which it has sought and received approvals from the Central Bank of Kenya.

In other words, banks have led Safaricom to discover another use for its MPESA infrastructure.

Banks will be expected to issue their positions on the matter in the coming days.

It will also put an interesting spin on whether Equitel can be classified as a bank to MPESA transaction.

Banks plan to launch their own switch allowing mobile money transfer from one bank to another in November.

*This blog post has been updated. It has been amended to correct the inaccurate assertion that these new charges apply to a customer sending money from his bank account to HIS Mpesa account. The new charges apply to sending money from his bank account to SOMEBODY ELSE's bank account.

The chart below issued by Equitel shows prevailing tariffs in the market.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Content giant Naspers, which owns Multichoice, has launched a video on demand (VoD) service that is seen as a first strike against the impending arrival of streaming giant, Netflix.

ShowMax to be ran separately from Multichoice, will allow unlimited online streaming of movies and videos for a flat monthly fee.

The service has first been launched in South Africa but given that rival Netflix has continental ambitions, it is expected that ShowMax will ride on Multichoice's vast network on the continent to rapidly roll out.

For Kenya this could be interesting as Safaricom already has a similar service that has yet to gain traction and is said to be looking to improve on its BigBox with a second upgraded version of the same said to be under construction.

However, Safaricom is not quite interested in content as it is in uptake of its LTE service and suggestions have been made that products like ShowMax could partner with Safaricom as they can provide the content while the telco provides the infrastructure for streaming.

Currently, a visit to gives this notice: Sorry, ShowMax is not available in your country yet. Enter your email and we'll let you know as soon as ShowMax is available.

This suggests the rollout is imminent. ShowMax claims to have over 10,000 hours of content implying streaming 24/7 would keep you glued to your laptop or phone until November 2016.

It is not known if Zuku will be introducing such a service but Jamii Telecom (JTL) has always toyed with IPTV and streaming-like services which it has yet to bring to market.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


The sun is rapidly setting on Sunil Bharti's pan-African adventure with reports that his Airtel Group is selling four more African units to operator Tigo.

These include Uganda, Niger and Gabon as Bharti Airtel looks to cut its losses on the African continent.

Speculation is now rife that Tigo could also end up taking over the Kenyan unit with pundits predicting a total Airtel exit by February next year.

Tigo is growing rapidly in the African markets it operates in and is present in Tanzania, Rwanda, Chad, Ghana, Congo DRC and Senegal.

The current MD of Airtel Kenya Adel Youseffi was previously heading the Tigo Ghana operation.

Tigo is a brand name of Millicom International, an outfit that was started in Raleigh, North Carolina in the US and went on to have stunning successes after successes.

For instance, when it was offered a mobile license in partnership with Racal Communications in Britain, it launched its Voice And Data Phone (Vodafone) which is the global behemoth we know today.

It then created China Telecom in that country and that is now the world's largest mobile operator.

It later started another rival network to Vodafone in the UK which it called Orange. This was bought out by Vodafone itself and later sold to France Telecom and is the global behemoth we know today as Orange.

It remains to be seen if it will make a play for the Kenyan Airtel unit.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Microsoft CEO Nadella in Nairobi earlier today.
Software giant Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is in Nairobi to lead the global launch of Windows 10, the newest iteration of its flagship platform.

Not since the launch of Windows 95 a couple of decades ago is a Windows version this eagerly awaited amidst pre-launch claims of it being the "Best Windows Ever."

And in a move that is surely designed to consolidate its global user base into an addressable database for future interaction, the Redmond, Washington giant is giving all Windows 7/8/8.1 users a free upgrade which can be done online starting today.

Windows is of course an Operating System that runs computers and other Windows compatible devices and provides a platform for third party software applications to also run on personal computers and devices.

Microsoft is itself one of the biggest developers of such applications with its Office Suite dominating machines across the world.

This is of course the platform that was built by demolishing standalone applications such as Word Perfect from WordPerfect Corporation to be replaced by the now ubiquitous Microsoft Word, Lotus 123 from Lotus Corporation whose place was taken by Microsoft Excel, Ashton-Tate Dbase replaced by MS Access amongst others.

After killing off Netscape Navigator, the browser, Microsoft's Internet Explorer dominated how we accessed online content until the rise first of Mozilla Firefox before the now dominant Google Chrome.

With Windows 10 launch, Microsoft expects to recover some of that ground with its new browser Microsoft Edge which it claims is faster and better than Chrome.

It is also packaging Microsoft Cortana which is an assistant sort of like Apple iPhone's Siri and it truly expects Cortana to be revolutionary.

Nadella, appointed to replace the bombastic Steve Ballmer, is terming this the new beginning for Microsoft.

He will launch Windows 10 tonight at the Arboretum in Nairobi. Microsoft says Windows 10 is available for free to Windows 7 and 8 users who can upgrade starting today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


No one is putting up power plants faster than Kengen these days and the pace is only picking up, Hot off the launch of the Ol Karia 280Mw geothermal power, the state generator is now looking to add another 70Mw at the Ol Karia 1 site, to be called unit 6.

It is also doing a brand new power plant, Ol Karia 5 just past where it installed the 140Mw at Ol Karia 4.

In addition, where it used to have only 6 wind turbines on the slopes of Ngong Hills, it has now scaled that up to 30 turbines and is producing 25.5Mw of power to the national grid.
Notably, when you visit the windy Ngong hills area where the project is situated, you see both homes and domesticated livestock operating within the project area.

As the turbine is mounted at the top and power is carried via underground cables to the substation, the tall masts pose no danger.

It also shows how Kengen has perfected the art of dealing with stakeholder communities when putting up its projects.

Even as the privately-owned Kinangop Power project continues to be bogged down in community politics, Kengen is moving to Meru (Nyambene Hills area) where it intends to put up 100Mw of Wind Power which could be scaled up to 400Mw.

Monday, July 20, 2015


US President Barrack Obama's visit to Africa will be beamed across the continent of Africa on a dedicated channel on both DStv and GOTV.

The platform's proprietor Multichoice said DStv channel 199 and GOTV channel 99 will for a whole week showcase President Obama's visit and related activities including live events where the US President and his host President Uhuru Kenyatta will attend.

The channels are Events channels that host occasional shows like Big Brother and Idols. They also showcase one day events like prominent funerals, test channels and so on.

Obama's itinerary shows he will arrive in the country on Friday, July 24  where he will be received by President Kenyatta before departing for his hotel.

On Saturday, Obama will be at State House in the morning for a joint press conference with President Kenyatta before departing for the UN complex at Gigiri to host the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015.

He will be there for one and a half hours before he heads for a meeting with opposition leaders followed by civil society members and will then go back to State House for a closed door meeting.

On Sunday, Obama will address an audience of 5000 at Kasarani indoor stadium including opposition leaders before he takes a tour of the Nairobi National Park. After that, he will be seen off by President Uhuru Kenyatta as his Airforce 1 jet takes off from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

A big contingent of US media is expected to tag along the US President and will likely also offer a lot of coverage and side stories but DStv and GOTV are expected to provide almost non-stop coverage of the intended visit and make it available to its subscribers across the African continent.

Multichoice will begin the Obama-mania coverage from Wednesday 22 July up till Tuesday, 28 July.

It will team up with KBC Channel 1 and Heritage TV who will also provide live coverage.

Several hundred US business men and investors are expected in the country and will also provide interesting stories for coverage.


Beleaguered telco Bharti Airtel has agreed to explore the possibility of having its units in Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Sierra Leone taken over by the French Operator, APO news agency said.

Nairobitech broke the news of a possible exit by Airtel and subsequent expression of interest by Orange.

Orange is said to be interested in the Francophone units of Airtel and the fact that DRC is missing from this list is significant.

The Indian telco Airtel has struggled to replicate its low cost model in Africa with Kenya being particularly difficult.

Often it has been felt the company brass should let local talent run with their more enterprising ideas for this market if it is to make headway against dominant Safaricom.