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Monday, December 21, 2015


Super Sport 3, home of the Barclays Premier League is now on Compact Plus and will show EPL matches until the end of the season in May 2016.

Compact Plus will also show Spanish La Liga on SS5.

Both leagues are extremely tight at the moment with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in a dead heat at the top of the Spanish league while surprise giant killer, Leicester, tops the EPL with Arsenal and Man City in hot pursuit.

Monday, November 2, 2015


The Black Entertainment Television channel, BET, has launched on DStv Compact and Compact Plus, content provider, Multichoice has said.

Currently, viewers on these packages get the sister channel BET 2.

BET the channel launched by entrepreneur Bob Johnson, and later sold to Viacom, primarily catered to African American audiences who were only marginally served by the mainstream entertainment channels.

It became known for popular hit shows like Rap City, Comic View, and so on.

It was on Comic View that the careers of many comedians like Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac, DC Curry among others.

According to Multichoice, the channel will showcase season 4 of the Real Husabands of Hollywood, the Wendy Williams show, Punk'd and so on.

Multichoice has also in the recent past added BBC Brit, Maisha Magic Bongo, MTV, Vuzu and MNET Family to the Compact package.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Local lender Imperial Bank has been taken over by the Kenya Deposits Insurance Company on orders of the Central Bank of Kenya on concerns that it was conducting unsound business practices.

Sources indicate that the takeover was ordered allegedly after fraud was discovered and the bank sought CBK protection.

CBK is itself yet to give credence to the claim.

But sources indicate that evidence of parallel banking operations being ran within the bank were discovered as the bank sought went through a succession process in its top management.

CBK in its statement said the bank was being taken over and its operations ran by KDIC to the exclusion of the board of directors with KDIC instructed to report back to the regulator on its considered advice for resolving the problem within the next 12 months.

The bank which was founded in 1992 operates in Kenya and Uganda and has 17 branches.

The shocking development comes against the backdrop of the death of the bank's MD Janmohammed on September 15, 2015 of a reported heart attack.

It also comes at a time when the economy is experienced a cash crunch suggesting that the lender was perhaps experiencing problems meeting its obligations as and when they became due.

The bank lent other banks money as recently as yesterday before today's announcement.

During a similar period in Nigeria during the global economic meltdown and accompanying financial crisis, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, sacked the bosses of five banks after he realized they were permanently borrowing from the CBN's discount window meaning they were borrowing to meet daily obligations.

Currently, the CBK in Kenya has effectively locked the discount window forcing the banking industry to either borrow within itself or unwind from the holdings of government debt it has.

CBK said it was ordering the takeover of Imperial Bank in the interest of debtors, creditors and members of the public.

Monday, October 5, 2015

GT Bank inks card deal with Payments giant EMP

Continental payments giant Emerging Markets Payments, EMP will now handle Mastercard transactions for GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank), the Nigerian lender that bought out Fina Bank in Kenya.

EMP is a payments processing firm backed by private-equity fund Actis and has grown through acquisitions of payments processors in Africa and the Middle East.

GT Bank said it expects to scale up uptake of its Platinum MasterCard Credit card that it introduced into the Kenyan market in June.

EMP handles payments processing for over 140 banks on the continent and in the Middle East.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Startimes SA, a recent entrant into that market, has run into headwinds and is signaling it will retrench workers to try and stem financial losses.

The company part of the Startimes group that also includes Startimes Kenya, took over a floundering broadcaster TopTV in 2012 with plans to turn it around and compete for the lucrative South African market (SA has 50 times more DStv subscribers than Kenya for example).

But the going has apparently gotten tough forcing management to do "rationalization" as they call it.

In a circular to staff last week, Startimes SA boss, a Mike Dearham told employees  the company was in an unsustainable position and needed to act if it was to stay afloat.

"All employees are herewith advised of the intention of the company to rationalize its operations and related support activities," Dearham told his staff.

"The difficult economic times being experienced in the broadcasting industry have had an adverse effect on the financial position of the company."

Dearham said management would meet with staff to explore various options including reasons for the rationalization and possible ways to avoid retrenchment, number of staff to be affected, the method of selecting those to be affected and a time-table for the measures.

The company was in August last year barred from broadcasting pornographic content by a South African court robbing it of a potentially lucrative revenue stream.

It is also suing the Ghanaian government for cancellation of a contract to roll out Digital Transmission services and demaning US$200m.


Equity Bank says it has registered 1.15million users to its Equitel mobile money service and that August cash transfers hit Sh7.4bn up from Sh6.0bn in July.

Group CEO James Mwangi projected the numbers on a power point presentation to brief investors on recent business developments.

One was the sell-off by Helios Capital of more than half of their stake to other investors and the other was Equitel.

Cash transfers showed the highest growth rising from Sh2bn in January to Sh7.4bn in August.

Payments have seen more muted growth rising from Sh41m in Jan to Sh96m in August while withdrawals have over the same period risen from  Sh443m to Sh1.01bn.

Loan disbursements have also risen from about Sh750m at the beginning of the year to over Sh4.1bn last month.

The CEO also spoke about Helios Capital selling off much of their stake in Equity Bank. The private equity fund invested Sh11bn in 2007 for a 24.9 per cent stake in then budding grass roots lender and have many many times their original investments.

Recently, they sold half of their stake to Norfund and Norfinance for about Sh23bn. They then sold another stake equivalent to 2.44 per cent of Equity Group to NSSF Uganda for Sh4.5bn.

Others who bought the Helios stake include Genesis, with 5.4%, NSSF Kenya, NSSF Uganda, Renaissance Capital, AfricInvest and so on.

Norfund is now the largest single shareholder of Equity Group with a 12.22 per cent stake.

It is not clear how much money Helios got for its original investment but Mwangi said the exit was the first successful US$500m (Sh50bn) exit in sub-Saharan Africa.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


The government of Mauritius is waiting for Britam to complete its Sh7billion (USD70m) 31-storey Britam Tower before selling a 23 per cent stake it seized from Mauritian tycoon Dawood Rawat.

This is to allow the value of the company to increase and earn Mauritius the maximum cash it can get from offloading the shares.

The country's minister for Finance has said he will offload at US$128m (Sh12.8billion) if a seller offers that amount.

Currently, Britam's stock on the Nairobi Securities Exchange is trading at Sh17.20 (US17 cents) giving the company a market capitalization of Sh32billion.

This means if Mauritius was to sell the 23 per cent stake today, it would fetch them Sh7.1bn ($70m), a shortfall of about Sh5.7bn ($57m).

"They are waiting for the tower to be completed before they sell," a source close to the Finance Minister said.

The information is likely to get Private Equity funds thinking fast about raising the cash to possibly make a bid once this is done.

With many Kenyan companies having domiciled in Mauritius for tax reasons, this deal could even be made on the island long before it is announced in Kenya.

The Britam Tower will be one of the greenest buildings in the country with Wind turbines at the top providing power for parts of the building.


Listed-telco Safaricom has reportedly scrapped plans to introduce an MPESA card with top management said to have sharply differed on the merits of the proposed product.

The product was allegedy shelved quietly last month.

The card was to function like normal swipe cards but use the customer's MPESA account to process to pay for goods and services.

It had been said to be in the works for sometime now but allegedly faced strong opposition from one of the senior most C-level executives.

Matters were said to have been so heated that two top executives clashed at a meeting before the idea was finally dropped.

MPESA person to business transactions total over Sh17billion monthly with the MPESA cash till service for businesses, Lipa na MPESA growing by an astonishing 70 per cent annually thus presenting a compelling case for the MPESA Card idea.

However, this represents merely 12 per cent of the MPESA business with the bulk over Sh1.3trillion (US$1.3trn) being person to person transactions.

Those opposing it argued that it held little value proposition and was bad strategy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Listed Telco Safaricom will move its headquarters to newly-inaugurated Garden City Mall in the next two years, sources indicate.

The new headquarters will be located in the second phase of the Garden City project which has now acquired 15 more acres from EABL for the purpose.

Safaricom is set to build a 5-acre campus on this land where it will move its HQs and business units.

Campus is a popular term for tech company headquarters in Silicon Valley, California including the Apple Campus in Cupertino, California, Google Campus, Santa Clara, Oracle in Redwood and so on.

Detailed designs of the project are yet to surface but given Safaricom's strong Free Cash Flow position and the fact that it is only this year it expects to take a Sh5billion hit for the cost of rolling out the National Police Network, it will certainly be in position to finance this project.

Apple Campus entrance in Cupertino, California

Facebook HQ entrance

Google Campus entrance

Google Campus

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Startimes Group has now increased its subscription rates after its acquisition of the rights to the German Bundesliga was affected by the weakening of the Shilling forcing them to raise prices to cover their costs.

The price increase has been communicated as a charge for Sports add ons.

All key international sports have been removed from the normal bouquets and will only be available for additional cost.

Their premium sports offering dubbed Sports Plus will now cost an extra Sh600 per month on all their bouquets.

Sources indicate the new charges will be tabulated as follows:

See below the  tabulated with increase percentages
Existing bouquets
New Sports add on
Total Cost to sub
Add on package
Startimes Unique
Sports Plus
Startimes Classic
Sports Plus
Startimes Basic
Sports Play
Starsat Smart
Sports Plus
Starsat Super

N/A has all sports channels

The increase comes after pay TV DStv recently announced an increase in its bouquet prices citing currency volatility.


Unconfirmed rumours indicate that Vodafone may have identified the person it wants to succeed Bob Collymore as the next CEO of Safaricom when the incumbent's contract runs out in 2017.

These are still as yet highly speculative rumours but the personality in question is said to be involved in Vodafone Middle East operations.

It is hard to pin down an individual but Nairobitech will seek to get more information over the coming days but it is instructive that Serpil Timuray, the lady who heads the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific region of Vodafone as CEO also sits on Safaricom's board.

Anyone coming from the Middle East operations is likely to be someone who has been reporting to her.

Former CEO Michael Joseph who also sits on the board is said to be the other influential voice in the room.

We will keep tabs on the issue in the coming days.


Multichoice Africa CEO Tim Jacobs
DStv prices will come down once the Kenya Shilling recovers the ground it has lost against the US dollar, Multichoice Africa CEO Tim Jacobs has said.

Multichoice this week announced new prices for its DStv bouquets with the top end premium subscription now priced at Sh9,400 up from Sh8,200.

Jacobs, who is in charge of Multichoice business outside of South Africa said the company had held off raising prices hoping the Shilling would stabilize but the national currency's continued slide forced the review.

"The currency started depreciating way before we increased our prices," Jacobs said, "We held off for sometime waiting to see if the currency would stabilize (but) there comes a point where currency devaluation (can no longer be absorbed)."

The Shilling yesterday hit a new three year low of Sh104.75 against the dollar with many analysts bracing themselves for it to breach the pyschological Sh105 mark.

It has now plunged 14% this year against the US Dollar and other hard currencies.

While the Dollar is itself down against the major world currencies, it has surged against African currencies owing to their negative trade balances (they import more than they export).

For instance in Kenya, importation of capital goods associated with the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway has widened the trade deficit and consequently current account deficit.

This has seen many commodities that are purchased in Dollars soar in prices.

A Toyota Premio that cost Sh1.3million in December to import is now going for Sh1.6 million or more owing to the strong Dollar.

Vehicle importers are now asking customers to hold off until the Shilling returns to familiar levels before importing a vehicle.

Local companies with significant Dollar spend have also faced adverse effects of the weak Shilling.

Kenya Airways when it reported the biggest corporate loss in Kenya cited huge interest payments and foreign exchange losses on dollar denominated of Sh4.7billion.

Athi River Mining, which also has some Dollar denominated debt, in its half-year results, reported Sh1.4bn in unrealized foreign exchange losses.

"The sharp depreciation of both the Kenyan and Tanzanian currencies, has resulted in unrealized forex losses on our dollar denominated borrowings," adding that, "it could be reversed if the currencies strengthen or against future dollar earnings."

The Kenya government is itself paying a lot more on the Eurobond it floated sometime back as the Shilling continues to weaken.

Jacobs said Multichoice has faced the same issue as it pays most of its content including movies and local football leagues in Dollars.

Consequently, all countries with a free float currency in Africa have seen a review of bouquet prices.

Nigeria which has pegged its Naira to trade at a fixed N199 to the Dollar for example has not been affected.

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.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Top brass at Airtel's Parkside Towers offices were furious with a local developer who opted to shut down code that subscribers rely on to make USSD queries such as balance, reloading bundles and the like.
The developer, apparently hired through Airtel's IT support services partner IBM, reportedly pulled the plug on the code which had been deployed to several African countries operations after a disagreement with his client.

As a result, Airtel's subscribers have been unable to make simple requests or even purchase data bundles.

Reacting fast, bosses at Parkside have brought in two programmers who worked with the renegade developer to restore the code.

Kenya is largely said to have recovered and other countries are also being addressed as well.

Sources said the developer whom we can only name as Bob was "incredibly stupid" to pull of such a move especially with so many other local developers lining up to market their solutions to Airtel/IBM.

The move is seen as impacting negatively on local developers whom the multinationals might never want to enter into contracts with going forward.


Kenya's second largest bank will on Monday launch its mobile money platform Equitel after a long-drawn battle in courts and parliament mainly with industry bellwether Safaricom.

The service which allows mobile users to carry out many banking functions currently unavailable on telco platforms marks the beginning of what is expected to be a marketing war that can only benefit agencies and media outlets.

Equity is fresh off a hard-fought victory at the law courts where its intention to use a thin SIM overlay technology had been contested by Safaricom as a data security threat.

Despite its muted approach the service now has well over 500,000 subscribers that it will look to build on once it can formally roll out the product.

At stake is the next frontier of banking where the phone number will likely be seen as the key identifier and a de facto bank account.

Payments from person to person, person to business, business to business and even government to people (pensions) and people to government (license fees, stamp duties, taxes etc) will also be fought over tooth and nail.

Safaricom is the dominant player in the mobile financial services sector and has recently upgraded and relocated its popular MPESA service to handle more transactions in a fraction of the time it used to before.

Equity on the other hand, is the largest brick and mortar lender in the country by customer numbers and also the second largest in most other categories trailing only KCB Group.

It is seen as the first viable challenger to Safaricom on the mobile financial services sector with hard charging CEO James Mwangi expected to leverage on the grassroots lender's vast rural customer base to entrench Equitel.

With free cash flow equal to what Equity makes before taxes, Safaricom is not expected to sit on its laurels either and is likely to intensify its marketing efforts.

The telco is in the process of restructuring itself to devolution by appointing regional heads of business with profit and loss responsibilities who can address different parts of Kenya specifically.

They will report to a Chief Commercial Officer, a position rendered redundant after Bob Collymore restructured the organization shortly after he became CEO.

It was then held by Peter Arina who left the company earlier this year as the Director of the Consumer Business.

Indications are that Safaricom may also introduce the position of Chief Operations Officer, COO, but that is yet to be confirmed.

Equity is seen pegging its appeal to lower charges. It claims the cost of electronic money transfer is negligible and should not be costing Kenyans that much.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Why I have Stopped Using my Startimes

By Dickson Otieno
I have a problem with Startimes: Poor signal. I know it is because of the location. Moi University main campus is in the village. But that’s far from the point. I have a couple of other issues.
Back in December of 2013 I bought one of those set top boxes from Startimes. I was to use it in Maseno area. And it worked, and still works well. Signal strength 42%, Signal quality 68%. Then last month I bought the new Startimes SD set top box. I remember tweeting them and asking for a HD box and they said they weren’t yet available.
Setting it up was a struggle. The guy who was supposed to help me set it up from Startimes could only be available after one week. And the box was for some reasons also faulty: Smartcard error. So I had to travel 41km to town, have the box replaced and set it up myself. Internal aerial wouldn’t do. External only. And the external aerial, said the customer care ‘executive’ via a phone call, should face a particular direction......Read the rest on


IT services major, IBM, was reportedly thrown out of the government's Police Security Network where it was supposed to provide back office analytics of data collected from the network including photographs of people, number plates, premises and so on.

The network is being built at a cost of Sh14.9billion by Safaricom and is set for handover to the government in November.

A Command and Control Centre where images from high-resolution Huawei PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) cameras are monitored on giant wall screens was set up at Jogoo House where the project was allocated one floor of the iconic building.

IBM was supposed to take half of the floor to set up for its analytics where it would receive and synthesize the data before presenting analysis that intelligence authorities could make decisions with (Decison-making support data).

But apparently, according to people with knowledge of Big Blue's ejection, the multinational "messed it up badly". They did not elaborate.

Government is now said to be looking for an alternative analytics company with NEC Systems said to be the front runner.

"NEC offers a highly efficient and user-friendly video analytics solution that monitors behaviors and flags any actions pre-determined as unusual. This software ‘Behavior Analyzer’ automatically detects suspicious behavior such as intrusion, loitering, and object abandonment based on user-defined time and location parameters. It can distinguish between humans, shadows and moving objects," the company says on its website.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


A bid to bring down local website Kahawa Tungu using an Italian firm named the Hacking Team failed when the Hackers told the government official behind the scheme that they did not offer such services.

New documents released through Wikileaks detail emails between alleged Kenya government staff and global surveillance software seller Hacking Team.

In the email exchanges that also include a Kenyan private firm purportedly acting for the government officer, the Hacking Team is asked to bring down local website Kahawa Tungu, ran by controversial blogger Robert Alai, as proof of its capabilities.

However, in response, the Hacking Team says the site in question appears to be a news site that reports on government corruption and says it should not be involved.

At that point, the contact person at the Italian firm tells the Kenyan team that perhaps it misunderstood the sort of professional services on offer and asks them to read an attached document as proof of concept.

Contact seems to have been initiated by a Chris Kinyanjui said to work with Com 21, a local IT firm who introduced his client as one Eric Mwangi of the Cyber security department at the OP.

The link to the Wikileak site is here

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Airtel's rumoured Africa exit seems more imminent daily with industry rumours indicating that Orange has bid for its DRC, Gabon and Chad business units.

Insiders say the Indian headquarters of the Bharti Airtel Group are fed up with the inability of the African business to break even five years after its entry into the continent via a buyout of the Zain Group.

Nomura Singapore stock analysts are reported to have said in a note to investors that the Airtel's African business has a negative (-2%) return on invested capital and that shows no signs of changing.

They advised that Airtel should sell. Yesterday, Airtel told Indian regulators that it has sold its Cell phone towers in 5 African countries for US$1.3billion.

In the first three months of this year, it saw its African revenues drop 13 per cent compared to the first three months of 2014 while its net loss in Africa stood at $183million (Sh18.2bn)

Orange on the other hand, is said to be looking to amalgamate its emerging markets business under Orange Africa and was reported by Reuters to be also looking at Millicom International Group's assets.

Meantime, at Parkside Towers, where Airtel runs its African business from, more heads continue to roll as it cuts what it deems are unnecessary big-salaried positions.

The company is yet to issue an official statement on the matter.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Airtel continued to send staff packing from its Parkside Towers even as rumours emerge that it is seeking a buyer for its African business.

Sources indicate that a number of people on Thursday and Friday this week got their letters and severance packages with the group looking to reduce redundant or unwarranted staff.

Both Kenyan as well as foreign workers are affected.

The purge has affected partners such as IBM who are also said to be downscaling the size of their staff in line with their client.

Airtel has struggled to turn a profit in the African market and is now said to be looking at the option of either selling the entire African operation to one entity or to dispose of separate country businesses to different buyers.

In Kenya the company has been outmatched in investing in its network by rival Safaricom and has struggled to retain subscribers.

Weak marketing staff and strategies have also been its undoing.

Its staff frequently complain it has not invested in modern IT systems and products such as Airtel Money have not been pushed hard enough.

Airtel's footprint in Africa includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Defiant top managers at the Communications Authority who had gone to court after being asked to reapply for their jobs now have no option after the Director-General Francis Wangusi, himself underwent the same process of reapplying for his job and getting confirmation by the board.

Wangusi is now expected to clean house and put in place a rigorously vetted management team to help him run the industry regulator for the next four years.

All top managers are now expected to face fierce competition from within the CA and from outside for the various positions they hold once they are advertised.

Wangusi himself fended off 29 applicants to emerge top and receive a fresh four year term at the helm of the CA.

The DG made his mark late last year when he took a tough uncompromising stand with litigious media owners who had opposed the digital TV migration process.

After enduring repeated court suits all the way to the Supreme Court, Wangusi finally had enough when the media owners started running negative ads against GOTV and Startimes.

He emerged from that fight the decisive and unapologetic winner.

Attention will now turn to the telecoms industry where Wangusi had fired a warning shot about industry practices, anti-competitive practices among others.

Safaricom in particular, being the market leader will be wary of Wangusi's next steps.

Monday, June 22, 2015


Airtel Group is set to change addresses from its Parkside Towers offices on Mombasa Road to the newly-built Oval in Westlands.

Kenya is the headquarters for the group operations in Africa. A big "To Let" billboard has already been put up outside the Towers.

The move affects Group not the Airtel Kenya team which will remain on Mombasa Road.

However, it will be a much trimmed workforce that will move to the Oval as the carrier which is struggling with tight budgets and reducing market share in many African countries looks to cut on costs.

Tension is said to be high at Parkside as the final list of those being sent home is polished. A large contingent of Indian staff is said to be heading home.

Insiders say a number of management level staff have already left with the shake up expected to continue.

Airtel reports about 80 million mobile subscribers on the continent but has seen its market share in countries like Zambia, Nigeria and other countries shrink.

In Kenya, the company has about 5 million customers with an additional number gained from the purchase of yuMobile customers.

The Oval, says property manager Knight Frank, has three floors of retail space and 5 floors of office space.

Retail space has been taken up by brands like Artcaffe, Big Square, The Ocean Basket and so on.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The nation's largest bank by assets KCB Group is said to be considering a takeover of Madison Insurance as the insurance sector heats up.

This would be the latest takeover of a local insurance group in a series of buyouts dating back to last year.

Britam set the dice rolling with its purchase of REAL Insurance before UK-based Prudential swooped down on Shield Assurance. Old Mutual bought a controlling stake in UAP Group before the latest announcement that Barclays Africa will take over First Assured.

Against this backdrop, the Financial Bill 2015/16 read by CS Rotich last week, raised the capitalization requirements for insurance companies portending possible consolidation in the crowded market.

There are 53 licensed insurance companies in Kenya. Their business is brokered by a further 196 agents.

Madison Insurance said it collected Sh2bn in premiums this past year and its assets stand at Sh5.1bn.

The company is owned by the Amedo Madison Holding Group whose anchor shareholders are Samuel Ngaruiya and James Mwangi Wainaina through an entity named Mlima Education Trust.

KCB is of course the largest bank in the region by assets (Sh510bn) hence the tendency for industry colleagues to refer to it as "Benki Kuu"

Observers note that the bancassurance sector may be shaping up to be lucrative for banks informing this flurry of activity.

A number of South African players are also looking for viable takeover targets with strong preference for strong, local brands with no multinational affiliation.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are the only three African countries that will join other nations globally to meet the digital migration deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union for today midnight.

Kenya's feat is especially impressive given the long-drawn out court battles that have delayed the process and the near record time it has taken to migrate the entire country.

Rwanda has only one FTA channel, compared to 35 plus in Kenya hence was easier to migrate while Tanzania started the process before Kenya.

Digital content carriers Multichoice's GOTV and Startimes have upped the ante in the competition for subscribers in what has become a key battleground on the continent.

To demonstrate what is at stake, both companies were to put up multi-million shilling headquarters to run operations in the region here in Nairobi.

Startimes plans ran into headwinds owing to zoning laws in Karen where it had hoped to put up its premises. It has now shifted its target date to end of next year.

Meanwhile, Multichoice is putting up its complex on Oloitoktok Road near Methodist Guest House with columns for the expected office campus already coming up.

The next phase of the battle will now move to content.

Multichoice is expected to call on its two content development arms, MNET and SuperSport to enrich its offering.

Safaricom and Zuku will also compete on streaming services.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


GOTV, the digital terrestrial broadcasting arm of Multichoice, carried out over the last few months a campaign in which 12 lucky subscribers walked away with Sh1million each.

The Dunga Milli campaign which was boosted by the participation of the Nation Media Group aimed to award one winner every week.

Most of the winners were average Kenyans, small business owners or employees who had bought the GOTV decoder.

What was interesting is when they were asked what they intended to do with the money most of them said they would either be acquiring a plot, fencing an existing plot or building a house.

Besides one or two of the older winners who talked of paying fees for their children, almost without fail the issue of housing seemed to preoccupy the winners' minds.

This also underscores the biggest headache for many hardworking Kenyans, the ability to own their own home.

The current housing boom in the country's urban areas reflects the margins which developers are making and to an extent how much Kenyans are being overcharged for these developments.

The mortgages and associated charges for purchasing a home are outrageous in this country.

That so many of the GOTV millionaires are seeking to house themselves with the money they won shows how big a need this is and deliberate government policy to support home ownership should be put in place.

Nairobi County should explore partnerships to put up estates like it used to in the past with the last development being Buru Buru.

This allowed young couples to own their homes and pay for them in friendly terms.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Banks have moved to cut out Safaricom's MPESA from mediating transactions where users may want to transfer money directly between banks by developing their own mobile interconnection system.

The system which will allow users to transfer money from an account in one bank to an account in a different bank at much cheaper rates than currently in the market is set for launch in November.

The project is being spear headed by the Kenya Bankers Association and has an IT implementation team as well as external consultants.

KBA chief executive Habil Olaka, says the system once in place will cut the tedious process of a customer having to first withdraw money from their bank account into their MPESA and then having to send the money via the mobile platform to another person's MPESA account.

Instead, they will be able to transact directly between themselves with the new system.


No Mobile money operator or Bank will be allowed to open any new accounts or register anyone on a SIM card or for a service without checking their names against the Government register of names, new rules to come into effect dictate.

To aid in Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Terrorism AML/CFT rules, all such bodies will be required to ensure the person seeking a service is duly registered with the government failure to which that service may be suspended or terminated altogether.

Delivering the tough message, the Head of the National Payments Systems at the Central Bank of Kenya said the AML/CFT rules were being tightened to prevent use of SIM cards and other services to commit/abet or facilitate acts of terror.

Government is working on the single identification number for all its citizens from birth, the Integrated Personnel Registry System (IPRS).

It is thought that it is this IPRS that telcos/banks will need to reference to when registering new users.

Additionally it is expected that they will verify their current users from the same registry.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


All GOTV users including those who have been disconnected will this weekend receive the full GOTV plus bouquet as the Multichoice brand seeks to ramp up subscribers to its top offering.

Underlining the intensity of the competition for the fluid Kenyan market, GOTV will beam its premium content to all owners of its set top box from Friday 22 May to Monday 25 May.

After that, it will offer users the chance to stay on the premium bouquet permanently based on the difference they will have noted between the two offerings.

"For one weekend only, GOtv is sharing the love by enabling all television viewers with a valid GOtv decoder (even if your subscription isn’t active) an opportunity to experience the best variety entertainment programming available on GOtv Plus at no extra cost," the company said.

The company will open up channels like Telemundo, SuperSport Select 2, M-Net Movies Zone, Disney Junior, BET2, E! Entertainment and so on,

Multichoice has opened up a multi-front battle with rivals to protect its market leadership with a recent announced slash in its DStv HD decoder prices by half.

Between DStv and GOTV, the company has over 60 per cent of the local TV viewership market with Startimes, Zuku and others sharing out the remainder.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Safaricom will tomorrow launch its BigBox decoder at a one-off cost of Sh9,999 or Sh4,999 followed by 6-monthly payments of Sh999. Bundles will be reloaded using a *422 Hash short code.

After releasing its results today which show it still lags far behind Zuku in fixed data numbers, Safaricom is laying its biggest assault yet on its rival with this decoder that will come with a 3G/4G SIM card and a cheaper data plan for buying bundles, internal documents show.

The launch will take place at the Safaricom Shop at Sarit Centre.

Riding on Android software, the BigBox will be a wi-fi hotspot that supports up to 10 users according to the company.

It will offer three free months of youtube streaming via the youtube URL However, the company is not immediately able to offer On Demand streaming.

The box comes with a USB & SD card media playback for videos, a TV recording feature and a free HDMI cable.

It will have 35 Free to Air TV and Radio channels.

These channels offered most likely through Bamba TV will be:


Sh999 will buy you 6GB of data valid for 30 days.
Sh1500 = 10GB
Sh2000 = 20GB
Sh4000 = 50GB

The boxes will only be sold in Safaricom shops.

It certainly looks to give Zuku a run for its money especially if the internet is reliable and fast.

One Zuku user said he would definitely buy it saying Zuku had given him poor data service.

"If they bring it I will buy it. I'm tired of Zuku. The other time I went six days without internet and when you call them, they say We cannot detect the problem on our side if we do we will let you know," he fumed.

"Then when your subscription lapses, they are very fast to alert you, Dear Customer, please update blah blah," the disgruntled user continued.

Safaricom's box seems certainly a play for home internet particularly given the rollout of its 4G/LTE Service.

While the head to head competition with Zuku seems clear, the play for market leader GOtv's turf seems less clear.

The content is less appealing and the monthly bundle recharge at Sh999 entry price is higher than GOtv's monthly subscription price of Sh849.

Startime which has been accused of having less appealing content is said to be working on revamping its content offering.