Last year, a total of $23.79 billion was lost due to internet shutdowns, a 323% increase from 2021’s loss.
Across the world, 23 countries were affected by 114 government-sanctioned internet shutdowns that affected over 700 million people. In Africa, eight African countries—Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Somaliland—throttled internet services for a total of 9,556 hours with Ethiopia accounting for 8,760 of those.
Ethiopia—which was embroiled in a two-year armed conflict that only ended in November 2022—also lost $145 million to internet shutdowns according to Top10VPN’s annual Global Cost of Internet Shutdown Report.
Internet shutdowns have been weaponised in political elections, and as Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone plan to hold elections sometime in 2023, the world watches and wonders if political leaders will once again switch off essential services to control information.
Meanwhile, we’ve got more news about other digital services that may have played a role in Ethiopia’s two-year war.
Last year, we predicted a time will come when credit will power commerce, logistics, and even construction in Africa.
Today, our prescience resurfaces with Bolt’s announcement of a ride-now-pay-later option in partnership with Nigerian startup, Credpal.
That’s right; Nigerians will soon be able to take quick rides anywhere…and pay for them later.
The news: Credpal, a BNPL startup based in Nigeria, has developed Ride-On, its product offering that serves as a checkout option on Bolt, instead of cash or card. The flow is simple: Credpal pays for its users’ day-to-day Bolt rides during any given month and requests bulk repayment by the month’s end—which coincides with payday.
Do we need this in Africa, though?
That’s probably a good question for a Twitter Space, but Bolt already says it is just what we need. “This partnership gives riders access to a much-needed alternative that meets their mobility needs…” is how Bolt’s country sales manager, Kwaku Ampadu-Manu, puts it.
Still, we must ask ourselves necessary questions like: would Nigerians, who practically lament on social media about the increasing costs of ride-hailing services, turn a blind eye to the costs because they can pay later?
This is a question the market would eventually answer as Credpal takes on this mission to integrate credit facilities into the day-to-day lives of Nigerians. Hopefully, Credpal proves the existence of its market, just as India’s Ola Money was able to do with its BNPL offering for cabs.
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Sama is Facebook’s largest content moderation provider in Africa and it announced on Tuesday it would be discontinuing its $3.9 million contract with Facebook’s parent company, Meta. The company says that due to the economic climate, it will shut down its content moderation arm altogether. As part of the structural change, Sama will also lay off 3% (200) of its staff.
Meta also confirms Sama’s graceful exit, but some people think they are both lying about the reason why.
Why do people think they are lying?
Because of the timing of the announcement.
The announcement comes weeks after another lawsuit accused Meta of fuelling political hate in Kenya and Ethiopia due to its insufficient moderation of harmful posts.
It is also coming less than a month before a judge is scheduled to decide whether a Nairobi court has the jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit in which Meta and Sama are embroiled. A former content moderator, Daniel Mautang, had sued both companies for union busting and exploitation nearly a year ago, but Meta had insisted that Kenyan courts had no right to judge the case because it does not trade in Kenya.
Now, Meta has cut ties with the Nairobi-based Sama and reportedly replaced it with Majorel, a Luxembourg-based outsourcing firm, right before the court reaches a decision on that front.
Sama says it is streamlining its business operations so that it can better navigate the current economic climate. From March 2023, it will discontinue its content moderation and natural language processing services to focus on providing computer vision annotation technology. The company says that all impacted employees will receive severance packages and “well-being support” for 12 months, after their last day of employment.
RAIN AND TELKOM TERMINATE MERGER TALKS
Rain and tax Telkom are not inevitable.
On Wednesday, South African mobile network operator Telkom announced that it had terminated merger talks with data-only network operator Rain. Telkom’s share price jumped by 11% after the announcement, nearly thrice the rate at which it previously dropped last year after Telkom announced that it was discussing a merger with Rain.
The seat at Telkom’s negotiation table might not be empty for long.
MTN had shown interest in acquiring Telkom around the same time that Rain did but bailed from the discussion because Telkom could not assure MTN of exclusivity due to Rain’s wooing. Now that Rain has ceased, MTN might retrace its steps, and it should, if it hopes to eclipse Vodacom in the competition for 5G dominance in South Africa.
Telecoms need a lot of fibre to ensure that their 5G coverage is as wide and high performing as possible. With Vodacom making major strides on the fibre front and Middle Eastern telco giant Etisalat eyeing the Vodacom Group, the parent company of Vodacom South Africa, MTN needs to step up its game. Telkom’s fibre subsidiary, Openserve, is currently the biggest fibre network provider in South Africa, and access to it seems like MTN’s best shot at reaching the top.
TC INSIGHTS: FUNDING TRACKER
This week Jetstream, a Ghanaian logistics startup, received $13 million in a pre-Series A funding round from Cauris and French development institution Proparco, Octerra, Wuri Ventures, Seed9, The MBA Fund, ASCVC, Alitheia IDF, and Golden Palm.
Here are the other deals this week:
Nigerian Agri-tech company Releaf raised $3.3 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by Samurai Incubate Africa. Other participating investors include Consonance Investment Managers Stephen Pagliuca (chairman of Bain Capital), Jeff Ubben, and Rena Yoneyama.