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Nigeria’s satellite launch plans put on hold

While Nigeria’s space ambitions face a temporary setback, its achievements shouldn’t be forgotten. Launched in 2003, NigeriaSat-1, Nigeria’s first earth observation satellite supported disaster responses in Argentina, Paraguay, and West Africa before its decommissioning in 2014.

Its impact also extended to vital mapping projects in the Amazon rainforest and Vietnam’s coastlines.

Nigeria’s space programme has a history of reaching out a hand from beyond Earth’s atmosphere. However, ambitious plans to launch a Nigerian astronaut and a domestically-built satellite in 2025 have been put on hold.

Why? The Director-General of Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr Halilu Shaba, disclosed that the agency’s ambitious plan to launch a satellite by 2025 hit a financial roadblock

Additionally, launching an astronaut into space is currently deemed economically unfeasible. NASRDA anticipates it may take up to five years to secure a launch slot, making immediate astronaut training impractical. Despite the delay, NASRDA maintains its 25-year plan to send a Nigerian astronaut into space and launch an indigenous satellite from Nigeria. The agency projects significant growth potential for Nigeria’s space industry, aiming for a valuation of up to $1 billion.

Zoom out: Meanwhile,NigeriaSat-2, another earth observation satellite launched in 2011, remains functional, providing high-resolution imaging for various purposes. NASRDA utilised it for estimating population and partnered with China to monitor earth tremors in Nigeria and across Africa.

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Airtel Money eyes IPO

African mobile mobile money providers have experienced a surge in investment in recent times. Two years after its $100 million investment in Airtel Money, Mastercard acquired a minor stake in MTN’s mobile money arm.

In 2021, Airtel hinted at a possible public offering for its fintech arm after receiving investments from TPG—$200 million—and Mastercard—$100 million—valuing the unit at $2.65 billion.

Now, Airtel’s mobile money arm might be ready to go public. Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Airtel Africa is exploring taking its mobile money unit public, with a potential valuation surpassing $4 billion. 

Talks of the IPO are in preliminary stages and the company may decide against going public.

Airtel Money is Airtel Africa’s fastest-growing arm. While Airtel 2023 profits plunged by almost 99%—recording $2 million in profits compared with $523 million it made in 2022—due to currency devaluation, its mobile money arm recorded a 31.8% revenue growth. 

The telecom currently offers its mobile money services in 14 African countries. In Nigeria, it competes with MTN Momo, while it is dwarfed by competition from Kenya’s mobile money giant, MPesa. Last year, it received approval to allow customers to transact up to KES 500,000 ($3,400) up from KES 300,000 ($2085) which it was previously allowed to do. 

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Telkom loses 800,000 subscribers

Telkom’s race to become Kenyans telecom choice has hit another roadblock. 

Over the years, the telecom has tried to keep pace with Safaricom—who holds the largest market share with 65 million subscribers—and Airtel with 18 million subscribers, for the largest slice of Kenya’s telecom market. However, financial troubles and a declining user count means that the dream is fast becoming out of reach. 

Between March 2022 and June 2023, Telkom lost 1.62 million subscribers due to a crackdown on irregularly registered SIM cards.

New reports show that Telkom has lost about 800,000 more subscribers due to unpaid leasing fees to American Towers Corporation (ATC). 

ATC switched off 246 Telkom towers in February after it defaulted on leasing fees. Currently Telkom owes the ATC about KES 7.1 billion ($51.7 million). Both parties entered an agreement two years before. 

ATC asked Telkom for an initial payment of KES 500 million ($3.6 million) and a monthly payment of KES 150 million ($1.09 million) to reactivate the towers. Telkom said it was unable to pay the debts due to its financial struggles. 

Telkom’s mobile subscribers count as of December 2023 had dropped to 1.3 million down from 3 million.

Before now, Telkom owned and managed its towers before it sold about 723 to the ATC in 2018. At the time, the telecom said the move would “enhance the quality and reliability of our network to benefit our customers.” It now appears the move might have served the wrong purpose. 

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Interswitch merges with M-Kudi, eyes PSB licence in Nigeria

Africa’s fintech leader, Interswitch, isn’t content with just being a payments powerhouse. After its surprise foray into Nigeria’s telecom sector via a Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) licence acquisition in May 2023, its ambitions haven’t stopped there.

Its latest move involves a merger with mobile money provider M-Kudi, to acquire a Payment service Bank (PSB) licence from Nigeria’s central bank.

What’s the deal? Currently, Interswitch focuses on processing payments. The merger with M-Kudi—subject to regulatory approval—will allow Interswitch to create accounts and hold customer deposits. With a PSB license, the company will also be able to receive foreign currencies for its customers and offer agency banking services.

Aside getting regulatory approval for the PSB licence, a challenge Interswitch will have to face is convincing Nigerians who are known for being cautious about adopting new financial products.

Heating up competition: Interswitch isn’t alone. Considering its recent foray into the telecoms sector, entering the PSB market means facing established players like MTN MoMo, whose PSB wallet base reportedly has 5.3 million monthly active users. However, Interswitch’s established presence in Nigeria, where it derives 94% of its revenue could be an advantage.

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The World Wide Web3


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  • In partnership with Spurt!, Oui Capital is hosting the 2nd edition of the African Amazon Masterclass for female founders taking bold steps to build & execute on the African continent.  Apply by March 18
  • In collaboration with AfriGloCal VC, a venture capital firm building the African future by investing in entrepreneurs with global perspectives and innovative solutions, Lagos Innovates unveils its latest initiative, the Female Founders & Funders Program, an incubation and acceleration program designed for women. Female Startup Founders, apply here. Female Funders/Angel Investors, apply here
  • As the world marks the 2024 International Women’s Day, Moniepoint Inc has announced the launch of this year’s edition of the Women-In-Tech initiative. Ten women will take on roles in various teams that include Cloud Engineering, Backend Engineering, Technical Product Management, Data Engineering, Systems Administration, Technical Support and User Experience. These women will be provided with a salary, work tools, merch, the opportunity to work on live projects during the internship and an offer of full-time employment depending on assessment post-internship. Apply by March 17.

Written by: Mariam Muhammad & Faith Omoniyi

Edited by: Timi Odueso

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