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Africa to Ride the Wave of Digital Transformation

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The rising level of technological innovations has finally reached Africa, bringing to the table a new wave of modernization to a continent that was once overlooked by some of the biggest companies worldwide.

One thing the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted – and proceeds to linger – is the technological rage that came with it, as it changed the interactive association between societies and economies. The subliminal aspect of technological advancement throughout the pandemic has left a prominent mark in our day-to-day lives.

And in Africa and the Middle East, innovations are on the rise.

Africa empowers its cloud computing industry

Now, Africa’s cloud computing industry has teamed up with the Middle East to expand to reach $31.4 billion in 2026, going from last year’s $14.2 billion.

One company investing its mightiest into the continent is Nigerian-based HR technology business, Seamless HR. The firm is seeking different ventures to set the ground for African businesses to “leverage the continent’s greatest asset: abundant human capital.”

SeamlessHR raised in a Series A funding $10 million to pump into its upcoming stage of development in the region by looking into its cloud-based human resources (HR) and payroll software.

The round was led by Pan-African venture capital firm TLcom Capital, a new investor named Caprica Ventures, and pre-existing investors Lateral Frontier Ventures, Enza Capital, and Ingressive Capital, who also participated in the funding, according to TechCrunch. 

The funding SeamlessHR managed to secure will play a pivotal role in reshaping Africa’s digital frontier and modernization. For instance, the company’s position will play a critical part in leading innovation in the continent in the financial, technological, and HR departments. It will assist in transforming into collateral to access safe credit.

For now, SeamlessHR is focusing on empowering its presence in the Nigerian and Kenyan markets, with plans to employ the funding to enlarge its influence in the East African country and neighboring markets.

“We are building software solutions to optimize HR now, but in the future, we’ll go to other areas beyond HR. And we are positioned to build global Software as a Service (SaaS) products that can travel the world faster than, say, FinTech. We’re beating global players in our local market, and while we are not distracting ourselves now, we know we can play this game globally,” SeamlessHR CEO Emmanuel Okeleji told TechCrunch.

Cloud Computing sustainability in Africa

Nowadays, the most adopted means of browsing the internet happens via mobile devices, meaning the deliverance of high internet speed is necessary for businesses and users simultaneously.

Nowadays, African telecom operators have access to 2G networks only, which means the people have limited access to high broadband speed through their mobile networks.

One thing is sure though, the tides are shifting, and Africa will soon be weaponized with the needed means to heighten its wireless networks’ capacity, as it expects to see an increase of 60 percent for mobile users for both 3G and 4G in the upcoming year.

The economic growth Africa is facing has put it on the map as what could be one of the largest markets for smartphones. This change was highlighted with the increased smartphone purchase capacity in Africa by young adults for application usage and insatiable internet browsing – the leading factor securing the sustainability of cloud computing in the region.

This can only happen with the help of the African governments, though, given that they have the power to endorse the continent’s telecommunications ecosystem by imposing regulated policies to increase mobile connectivity and benefit African economies in return.

In parallel, the latest generations of smartphones obtain much more advanced capabilities regarding data loading speeds, resulting in the need for more data centers in the region to accommodate the data flow deriving from smart devices.

Data centers are on an exponential rise in the region, with some of the most prominent cloud companies taking the lead in building these centers, including Big Tech Microsoft, IBM, and Huawei. This foreign attention directed towards Africa has placed numerous African-based firms in the forefront of technological development as they adopt cloud instead of local servers – similar to most tech companies worldwide, according to the African Exponent.

African banks, for example, will soon be weaponized with the needed internet speed to conduct their business, but this does not mean that financial institutions in Africa did not use the cloud. Still, due to the slow data loading speeds derived from heavy data storage, their capabilities were relatively confined with the limitations imposed by hardware located in other far-off continents.

For that reason alone, the ascend in data centers will bring forth a much more extensive demand that could result in a drastic shift for Africa’s technological development.

The Inception of Internet Penetration

The growth of internet connectivity in Africa did indeed reach a much higher prospect compared to the previous year, but the fact remains that while it has reached a higher level, it is still not enough.

Africa still lags the needed means to intertwine its technological advancement across its regions. But one thing brings a glimpse of hope to the continent’s telecom industry: the World Bank.

In 2020, the World Bank Group developed a promising approach to connect Africa by high broadband speed by the year 2030 and harness the digital means to drive economic transformation.

In 2019, the Digital Economy for Africa (#DE4A) initiative was introduced to support the “African Union’s Digital Strategy,” based on diagnostics of each of 35 countries’ digital economy, assessing five main pillars to digital economy: infrastructure, public platforms, financial services, businesses, and skills.

According to World Bank’s reports, Africa marked a significant impact regarding mobile broadband on welfare and poverty reduction in Africa by employing data of one of the continent’s biggest mobile markets, Nigeria.

The spread of mobile broadband coverage impacted the percentage of households below the extreme poverty lines to reach below four percent, only after one year.

And then, in two more years, that margin also dropped even more to hit seven percent.

The depletion of digital technology in Africa has massively affected the continent’s socio-economic development to reach new levels, connecting more people to more services and opportunities, and from there, enhancing their capacities and their impact on the modernization of the economy.

Data centers have managed to reshape the ecosystem of some African countries with aerial adoption using data and digital transformation to alter the dynamics in governmental operations and synchronically to increase transparency and service delivery.

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Ericsson connects NOC for DNB’s 5G network in Malaysia

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Ericsson launched a network operations center (NOC) in Malaysia devoted to Digital Nasional Bhd’s (DNB) 5G network and its key performance indicators. DNB is Malaysia’s single wholesale 5G network operator.  

The company said in a press release that “The NOC is part of Ericsson’s Managed Services offering for the DNB 5G network and entails managing the performance of the 5G network end to end. Powered by advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, the Ericsson Operations Engine predicts potential network issues caused by hardware, software, or external factors.  

It automates nearly one million network commands every day and manages alarms to prevent network issues before they happen.   

According to the press release from the Swedish multinational networking and telecommunications company, the NOC is part of its Managed Services offering for the DNB 5G network. It entails managing the performance of the network from end to end. 

“Powered by advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, the Ericsson Operations Engine predicts potential network issues caused by hardware, software, or external factors,” it said.  

David Hägerbro, Head of Ericsson Malaysia, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh, said: “The dedicated DNB 5G NOC is an example of our commitment to deliver a cost-efficient, world-class 5G experience for the people and businesses of Malaysia. The NOC will support the national 5G infrastructure by providing proactive, fast detection and isolation of network faults, monitor security events or threats and reduce response and rectification time.”  

He added: “Powered by the Ericsson Operations Engine, the Ericsson NOC is capable of maintaining the most complex and large-scale 5G networks round the clock and will serve as an assurance to the MNOs using the DNB 5G network regarding the performance and health of the DNB network. Setting up the NOC in Malaysia has also opened the opportunity for more Malaysians to be hired and acquire skills in the latest technologies.”  

In addition, it serves as the first point of contact for all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) for technical issues, customer complaints, network performance, quality-related matters, billing, and charging-related issues.   

Ericsson proved capabilities in managing and operating multi-technology networks, with 200 global managed services contracts, including qualifications in Malaysia. Ericsson has been managing Digi’s mobile network since 2018 and has managed services for U Mobile billing operations since 2012. 

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Explainer-The U.S. export rule that hammered Huawei teed up to hit Russia

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The Biden administration is readying a U.S. export rule used against Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei that could curb Russia’s access to global electronics supplies if President Vladimir Putin decides to invade Ukraine.

While it is unclear how the rule could impact Russia, the restrictions hobbled Huawei’s smartphone business. Last month, the company said it expected 2021 revenue to have declined nearly 30% and predicted continued challenges this year.

WHAT IS THE RESTRICTION?

The Foreign Direct Product Rule, as it is called, may be adapted to halt Russia’s ability to import smartphones, key aircraft and automobile components, Reuters reported last month.

The administration is considering restricting chips and products with integrated circuits bound for Russia, a senior official said, imposing its authority over items made abroad if they are designed with U.S. software or technology, or produced using U.S. equipment.

WHAT EXPORTS TO RUSSIA COULD BE IMPACTED?

The restrictions could apply to critical industrial sectors like artificial intelligence, maritime, defense, and civil aviation, the official said, and could also be imposed more broadly, to include consumer electronics.

The scope of the rule against Russia has not been set but White House National Security Council officials have warned executives from the Semiconductor Industry Association, a chip lobbying group, of possible unprecedented actions, as Reuters reported last week.

It is unclear whether the rule could have the kind of devastating effect on Russia that it has had on Huawei.

“A strict imposition of the Foreign Direct Product rule would significantly affect trade and output in Russia, though it’s hard to say by how much,” said Jeffrey Schott, an expert on international trade policy and economic sanctions at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

HOW DID IT IMPACT HUAWEI?

The Foreign Direct Product Rule now restricts both U.S. and non-U.S. companies from shipping items to Huawei that are the direct product of U.S. technology or software. Such shipments can only be made with a U.S. license.

The rule was added to the curbs on Huawei after the telecommunications equipment maker was placed on an export control blacklist known as the “entity list” in 2019 and it did not stop the global flow of chips to the company.

The initial listing affected U.S.-made goods and some limited items made abroad with U.S. technology but did not block overseas shipments to Huawei from companies such as Taiwan’s TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker.

So in 2020, the United States added the Foreign Direct Product Rule to expand its authority to stop shipments of foreign-produced items to Huawei. Companies like TSMC that use U.S. chipmaking equipment are required to obtain U.S. licenses before supplying Huawei and licenses for sophisticated chips are denied.

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Toshiba halts operations at chip plant after quake

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Toshiba Corp said on Monday that it had suspended operations at a plant in Oita, southern Japan that makes semiconductors used in cars and industrial machinery, after a strong earthquake hit the area at the weekend.

Some equipment had been damaged and the company was still analysing the impact on production, Toshiba said in a statement.

The plant makes system LSI chips, around 60% of which are sold to carmakers and industrial machinery makers, a spokesperson for Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage Corp said.

Toshiba does not yet know when it can restart production and will likely provide an update on Tuesday, he added.

The company also makes system LSI chips at a factory in northern Japan, with other domestic producers, such as Renesas Electronics, also building the devices.

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