Cell Phones make life easier in Africa

Using the cell phone in Africa
Using the cell phone in Africa

Hi-tech cell phones help Africans trade crops

"I check the prices for the day on my phone and when it's a good price I sell," explained Daniel Mashva from his village in the remote northeast of South Africa. "I can even try to ask for a higher price if I see there are lots of buyers."
Mashva is one of around 100 farmers in Makuleke testing cell phone technology that gives small rural farmers access to national markets via the Internet, putting them on a footing with bigger players and boosting profits by at least 30 percent.
"Mainstream farmers have access to market information so they can negotiate better prices. This cell phone enables poor rural farmers to get that same information," said Mthobi Tyamzashe, from cell phone operator Vodacom.
Cell phone use has rocketed 100% in Africa since 2000, and the Makuleke scheme is one of many ways the technology is being used to tackle poverty.
Senegalese company Manobi, which operates on-line systems for businesses in the developing world, first launched the trading platform for farmers and fishermen in the west African nation. "It's a trading platform and a business space," said Daniel Annerose from Manobi. "Small Senegalese farmers even linked up with the French army (on the platform) last year and agreed to supply one of their ships when it docked in Dakar."
In Senegal, Manobi employees collect 80,000 data from 10 markets per day and get it on line within a few seconds, while in the more mature market of South Africa the company simply uploads existing information onto their system. Farmers can access the information on a web-based trading platform via Internet-enabled phones, or can request prices and make trades via SMS.
Vodacom and Alcatel admit they do not sponsor projects like this out of the goodness of their hearts -- the aim is to expand the cell phone market into rural areas and to sign up new customers before the competition.
But the key question is whether farmers often living on less than a dollar a day be able to afford to surf the web on their phones once free airtime runs out.

African farmers discover technology's benefits

Under a fledgling initiative dreamed up by the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (Kace) - which provides crop growers with up-to-date commodity information - farmers can access daily fruit and vegetable prices from a dozen markets through a text message, or sms, reports the FT.
"The aim is to empower farmers by giving them information that will enable them to negotiate decent prices with traders, or head to markets safe in the knowledge of what to expect for their produce.
The Kace initiative, which was launched late last year, and gets more than 2,000 sms hits a month, is an example of people making the most of the technology they can afford.
ICT is seen by many as having the potential to help the world's poorer countries develop and diversify their economies; a force to allow developing nations to participate in global markets and modernise traditional industries."

Talk is profitable in Ghana

In the West, the mobile phone is often thought of as a luxury or the latest gadget, but in Ghana, the device has been providing new opportunities to transform lives. The BBC reports.
[...] There are about 25,000 of these new cell phone minute vending entrepreneurs in Ghana.
Called "Space to Space" operators, they are said to be making more in one day than they used to earn in a month.
What they sell is phone calls at 2,000 cedis a minute on Ghana's rapidly expanding mobile phone system.
Minutes of call time to people who have not yet managed to scrape together the money to buy a phone for themselves. And only 8% of the population have access to a phone".
GSM payphones bring communications to rural Rwanda communities - MTN Rwanda says that in the past year, it has provided over 1,600 GSM based payphones for rural communities, bringing communications to areas that are often not served by landline phone networks.

Mobile phones for Uganda's poor

Based on the successful Grameen Village Phone Programme - The "phone ladies" of Bangladesh -, MTN Uganda officially launched “MTN villagePhone” this week. Men and women are encourage to take out a micro-loan - as little as US$230 to be repaid over a period of up to 12 months - for the MTN villagePhone equipment and use the cell phones to operate a business providing much needed communications services to their communities.
Phone service can help lift people out of poverty. And for many of the world's poorest people, mobile phone service is the most viable. Landline networks are faulty or nonexistent in many parts of the Third World.
Thus, many companies in the wireless field see an opportunity with low-cost phones. Efforts to make such phones are one of the industry's big initiatives this year.
An estimated 3 billion people live within cell coverage areas but have no phone or phone service.
A phone that costs $30 or less could mean an additional 700 million customers, says the GSM Association trade group. The cheapest prices today are $60.
To get costs down, 10 operators from Africa, the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia issued a bid to cell phone makers to come up with a low-cost phone. Motorola won.
Now Motorola is designing sub-$40 phones, with the potential to sell 6 million right away to the carriers in the poor countries.
People in the industry say demand for such low-cost phones could reach 100 million a year, a high volume that would also help keep prices down."

tl_files/aefjn-images/im_Africa/im_Afr_Info/cellwoman.jpgKenyan text messaging their way to jobs

In the rural parts of Kenya, jobseekers wishing to use the Internet used to have to travel long distances to the nearest town with a cyber cafe.
That changed last year with the creation of OneWorld International, a Kenyan firm offering a mobile phone text messaging service which advertises jobs and allows candidates to apply from wherever they are, reports Reuters.
"It's relatively easy. All you need is access to a mobile phone with a Safaricom connection," said Antony Mwaniki, OneWorld International's business manager. Safaricom, one of Kenya's two mobile phone service providers.
"The moment we get a job advertisement and put it on the system, it is automatically sent to the subscriber's phone as a text message," he told Reuters."

Ethiopia. The SIM card stampede

Young men got up early to push and shove to get hold of one of the 200,000 new mobile phone lines that have been offered to the public over the past few weeks, reports Andrew Heavens in his weblog about Ethiopia, Meskel Square via Smart Mobs
"Those lines have been a long time coming. For years there has been a huge backlog in the SIM cards distributed exclusively through Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC), a state monopoly. Until recently, the only way to get one was to go one a two-year waiting list, rent one by the week, or get a letter from some ministry pushing you ahead of the queue.
The recent rush for SIM cards highlights two things. First, and most obviously, there is the huge demand for mobile phones in Ethiopia and beyond that Africa as a whole. The second is the inefficiency of leaving the state to run a country's telecommunications industry. There is a huge demand for mobile telecoms in Ethiopia and - in the worldwide market - there is a huge supply of mobile handsets and services. But, for some reason, over here supply is so limited that the arrival of some SIM cards starts a stampede."

How mobile phones are transforming Africa

Thousands used to die because they didn't have a land line to call a doctor on, but now a cellphone explosion is making life safer and more fun. Fred Bridgland in Johannesburg reports for the Sunday Herald.
"Ten years ago there were just four million landline telephones in South Africa. It had taken the best part of a century, at a huge cost and effort, to provide them – but only 1% of black people owned phones.
Countless thousands of people died because they could not phone a doctor. Rural schools were crippled by lack of communications.
Now, 10 years after the country's first two cellular networks were switched on, 20 million people are subscribers in a population of 42 million.
The cellphone explosion is doing more to transform the “dark continent” than will any of the old ideas recycled as new in Tony Blair's Commission for Africa.
Africa has already become the first continent to have more mobile phone users than fixed-line subscribers. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says Africa is the world's fastest growing mobile phone market.
“When cellphones were new, rich people flaunted them to show they were connected,” said Anthony Zwane, a sociologist at the University of Swaziland. “But now every bus conductor, street vendor and housemaid has a cellphone. They've become the people's way of communicating.”
-- In Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, Connie Manuel, a business consultant, said: “Traditional African culture, with its emphasis on palaver and oral story telling, boosts phone use as a means of social and family contact. By contrast, you find a more terse type of communication in the West because people don't like to ‘waste time' on the phone.”
-- In South Africa, cellphone theft rivals cellphone provision as one of the country's fastest growing industries. Last year, some 600,000 cellphones were stolen. And, because it is South Africa, where thieves are among the most violent in the world, a bullet through your head can be the price for not surrendering your mobile.
-- “In 1993 I had never seen a mobile,” said Jay Naidoo, chairman of the Johannesburg-based Development Bank of Southern Africa. “But today in Johannesburg all the pavement vegetable sellers are talking on their cellphones.
“By next year we could see a quarter of Africa's billion people using them. I am convinced mobile technology will hugely drive Africa's economic growth.”

Community phones connect SA townships

- The BBC reports on the introduction of community telephone shops by Vodacom, which is having a dramatic impact in the Cape Town area, where 40% of the people are unemployed and living conditions are cramped and crowded.

High Tech Masai

Travellers back from Tanzania share their experience in the Sun Newspapers, and one of the things that struck them most, was how cell phones have become ubiquitous in Africa.
“The most bizarre thing I saw was Masai tribesmen herding their animals with traditional costumes with a cell phone strapped on,” Amy Krupp said. “They have their shields, everything. They're talking on the phone while they're herding.”
Cell phones are increasingly changing what is seen as the traditional face of Africa. Safaricom, Krupp said, does brisk business with the cell phones, which are becoming ubiquitous.
“Sitting in a village, you don't expect a cell phone to go off,” she said. “We were in a house that was make of wood – no nails – and there we hear ringing, and there's a cell phone on the wall.”

Mobile power

Across the poorest regions of Africa and South Asia telecoms operators are rolling out mobile phone networks and making a tidy profit, reports the BBC.
"Their customers, meanwhile, reap their own benefits, by checking out commodity prices or connecting with business partners or family.
In Nigeria, the average mobile phone generates $55 in revenue every month. In Rwanda and Mozambique, two of the world's poorest nations, it is $20.
It's not that Africans are mobile phone crazy. Rather, many phone owners make money by reselling airtime to their local communities.
And here is the opening for the next profit niche with a social purpose, says Rory Stear of Freeplay Energy, the company that develops and sells 'wind-up' energy generators best known in the 'wind-up radio'.
"Kenya has 30 million people and three million cell phone users - but only 200,000 households that have electricity," he says.
"People mail their mobile phones to relatives with electricity at home just to recharge them... Now think of the possibilities of selling an energy solution together with a telecoms partner", says Mr Stear."
Rural Africa joins mobile revolution
It may appear at first glance an unchanged scene of rural life in sub-Saharan Africa, reports the BBC.
"But in this remote and hilly north west corner of Tanzania, the women are working in the shadow of some of the latest telecommunications technology.
Their land surrounds a 50 metre mobile telecoms transmitter, part of a modern network which is gradually opening up some of Tanzania's poorest and most remote regions to mobile communications.
Villagers are also often employed in casual labour when work begins at a remote base station site.
[...] "The spin-off for the villagers is quite huge," says Mr Adams. "They sell vouchers for pre-pay phones, small business are set up and families start coming out of absolute poverty.
[...] For rural communities in developing countries like Tanzania, pre-pay mobile phones - which enable users to send relatively cheap SMS text messages across distances that would otherwise take days to travel - are changing lives for the better, says Dar es Salaam-based telecoms industry analyst, Simbo Ntiro.
"If you do not have access to a mobile phone, you are simply unable to operate within a large country like Tanzania, which has a difficult transport network," he says.

Africa is the world's fastest-growing market for mobile communications

Between 1998 and 2003, the market for cellphone technology on the continent has grown at around 63% a year, almost twice the world average, reports ITWeb.
"South Africans are already prolific users of SMS facilities with subscribers sending an average of 17 messages per month compared to the worldwide average of four.

A mobile vision for Africa

Building a mobile phone network across Africa is no small undertaking, explains the BBC.
"Despite the disruption caused by war and poverty, international observers share some optimism for the development of mobile communications across Africa.
A report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in May, showed that Africa was the world's fastest-growing mobile phone market, with use of handsets increasing at an annual rate of 65%.
The ITU also forecasts that Africa's mobile penetration rate - the number of people using mobile phones - may reach 20% by 2010, up from the current level of 6%.
The speed of mobile take-up owes as much to the poor quality of traditional, but unreliable and more expensive, fixed-line services in Africa, says Stephanie Pittet, an Africa mobile phones specialist with research group Gartner.
Her view is backed by recent ITU figures showing that there are now more people using mobile phones across the continent than fixed lines. "
Taken from www.textually.org

Go back