The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Binu, Econet Lift Zim Flag High

African Communication Technology giants recently converged in South Africa in the running to win accolades at the AfricaCom 2012 Awards. This celebrates innovation and the highest achievements across the communications industry in Africa. AfricaCom Awards is an annual event to recognise the most successful African initiative. Today AfricaCom is arguably the biggest technology awards showcase in Africa.

The AfricaCom Awards 2012 honoured companies and personalities for their "exciting and innovative work" in Africa during the past 12 months. biNu, Econet and Liquid Telecoms lifted the Zimbabwean flag higher at this prestigious event which only called for the most outstanding work in the African communication industry.

Although Econet and Liquid did not manage to scoop the top awards, having them as nominees in such a continental event of the greatest magnitude is a success story on its own since only the cream de la cream made it that far.

However, a Zimbabwean born co-founder and chief executive of the now Australian based bINu, Mr Gour Lentell managed to take home the Award for Best Feature Phone application. African business and communications leaders recognised biNu for its mobile capabilities in emerging markets biNu offers a cloud based (Internet) technology platform which powers the data-lite app, providing fast and affordable access to apps and popular internet services that can be used instantly.

Most African networks are relatively slow and running content directly from the Internet even hogs the networks much more, so biNu's relevance becomes of uttermost significance because its apps are very light and makes browsing experience world class even on low end phones.

Users can instantly switch between services, change to local languages and translate almost anything on the fly, including messages, books and news articles, without having to download and install separate apps. biNu gives users an apple like platform to do almost everything via apps and storage from their mobile devices but this time with 10 times faster speed.

biNu under the Mobile Data and Social Media Award wrestled against well-known giants like Mxit and among its contenders were The Bozza mobi App, Eskimi Mobile Social Network, Motribe Mobile Social Networks and from Prezence Digital with Mandelastory

Econet's category had 10 giants where it battled against big names like Orange, Safaricom with M-PESA and Spice VAS Africa . The category was for the Most Innovative Service where it showcased its Ecocash. Among the other nominees were Afrique Telecom - Open Access Fibre BComviva and Emerging Market Communications (EMC). Ecocash is arguably Zimbabwe's biggest money transfer platform which now has 1,7 million subscribers, buoyed by a 70 percent increase from last year pushing more than US$300 million so far.

Bigger names in the money transfer industry like M-Pesa were also in the same category but they all lost it to Orange Group which challenged them with Deezer Orange Deezer was launched in Mauritius in May 2012 and in Côte d'Ivoire in June 2012.

This service allows users to search and listen to more than 18 million tracks using their PC, mobile or tablet in streaming and offline mode.

Users can also create, listen and share their playlists, favourite albums and personal music library, and they can to listen to online radios.

Orange group took plaudits for scooping five awards at this year's AfricaCom 2012 awards. Liquid Telecom also was a nominee under the Best Network Improvement category.

This group had six contestants with well known players including Airtel Nigeria, Helios Towers Africa showcasing its Shared Telecoms Infrastructure, ZTE and Orange Group with two different entries.

Liquid has successfully managed to run their terrestrial fibre in the Sadc region and beyond, mainly Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and recently Democratic Republic of Congo connecting Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the DRC.

This is the first international fibre linking Lubumbashi, reducing the country's dependence on satellite connectivity Reports confirmed that the West Africa Cable System (WACS) is unlikely to arrive in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, until at least March 2013 and so Liquid Telecom's fibre network also provides the DRC with its first connection to WACS via Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Liquid's network is linked to the four main subsea fibre systems of Africa; WACS, EASSY, Seacom and SAT3.

Unfortunately for them the Best Network Improvement category award went to Helios Towers Africa.

HTA has operations in Ghana, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and a sister company in Nigeria. During an interview, Noc Rudnic, the CEO with Liquid telecoms affirmed that nomination on its own was testament the company was having a positive impact on people's lives.

Helios Towers Africa provides a solution to operators who require a telecoms infrastructure to meet these demand levels. They already own over 3 500 towers in Africa on which they host all the continent's major telecoms operators.

Their solution is also the most cost-effective as they enable operators to share towers and also build new ones.

Recently Potraz was upbeat about sharing of infrastructure a move which other African countries for years have already implemented.

This move could have changed our telecoms industry years ago but it's never too late to make such strategic moves. The number of mobile subscribers in Africa has increased from just 16 million people in 2000 to over 500 million today

Charles Green, chief executive officer of HTA, was quoted saying "We are delighted to attend AfricaCom again this year and spread the word on the market drivers behind the independent tower model of infrastructure sharing. Telecom tower sharing is a landmark in Africa's fast-growing telecoms sector, and acts as an enabler for the increased use of telecommunications in rural as well as urban areas. Much of its attraction is that tower sharing brings benefits to operators and customers alike.

Telecoms operators can focus on serving their customers rather than looking after their infrastructure. Customers gain a better service for less money. The carbon footprint is reduced. Everybody wins.

Such awards are the perfect mirrors for African ICT players to look into for inspiration and continental development check points. A big salute to all the players as this was really an all winners' game with no losers.

The writer is a computing specialist with TechnoMag. More on our Facebook page http://facebook.com/technomagzw LIKE our page for FREE airtime giveaways,Website http://tech.co.zw Twitter @technomagzw. Email: ictarticles@aim.com/ ictarticles@tech.co.zw

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