No. 149: 3AMReads: Cheap Black Market Naira | Kana TV’s Winning Ethiopia | Safaricom’s Not About That Breakup Life

Black Market Naira Trading Cheaper Than Official Naira

Nigeria’s currency situation has been a mess of late, and I’m blaming it on Billions (read my thoughts in Issue No. 24). Sure enough, hedge funds are sniffing around for a deal. This week has felt like something of a perfect storm for Nigeria with telecoms having to cut back on their broadband coverage due to forex restrictions on equipment imports to go along with a particularly rough decline in power generation. And President Buhari is out of the country for who knows how long. Sheesh.

Kana TV Has Ethiopians Watching More TV
Kana TV is gaining market share in Ethiopia, bringing hip entertainment content to a media landscape that heretofore had been relatively drab. As Ethiopia eases restrictions over various sectors it will be interesting to see how brands like Kana innovate and push the boundaries in appealing to their customers. 

Safaricom Doesn’t Plan on Letting Regulators Split Up Company 

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore has committed the company to fighting any efforts by Kenyan regulators to break up the country’s largest company by market value, separating the mammoth Mpesa business from the rest of the company. That would mess with the company’s future plans to develop an e-commerce platform and content distribution business. Mpesa would play a huge role in monetizing such offerings. Definitely stay tuned to what happens here.  

No. 76: What Does a Potential Liberty Global-Vodacom Deal Mean for Safaricom?

Liberty Global and Vodacom are in talks for some sort of deal. Early rumors were that the two were considering a merger, which would be one of the biggest ever, but Vodacom denies a merger being part of deliberations. 

What’s interesting about this news, besides John Malone continuing to take over the media world, is that Vodacom has a 40 percent stake in Safaricom, Kenya’s leading telecommunications provider. If a deal happens, could Vodacom sell off Its stake in Safaricom while spinning off its Middle Eastern and African subsidiaries like Vodacom Ghana and Vodacom Egypt?

The global media world is in consolidation mode. You probably heard about DirectTV potentially acquiringT-Mobile. John Malone’s Liberty Broadband is backing the proposed Charter-Time Warner merger. In Europe, where Liberty Global and Vodacom are based, telecom providers are pushing quad-play – television, mobile, telephone, and Internet. A deal between the two companies would probably position them to compete in this market. 

Safaricom is entering the bundling competition in Kenya, recently seeking regulatory approval to offer television services. Perhaps, it would benefit from a Liberty-Vodacom deal by gaining access to intelligence on how to best compete in this space. I think Liberty and Vodacom could benefit from tapping into Safaricom’s expertise in mobile banking and figuring out how to incorporate that into a bundling strategy. 

No. 63: What is Happening in Africa’s Cybersecurity Space?

Andreessen Horowitz just wrapped up a series on the current cyber security landscape. It got me thinking about what the cybersecurity landscape looks like in African countries. In particular, I’m interested in cybersecurity work going on at the intersection of telecommunications and banking. Nigeria has a policy of reducing the circulation of cash in the economy by 2020, and launched a national ID card program last year that incorporates banking capabilities. The dominance of mPesa and mobile money in Kenya has been the talk of the town for several years now.

My two main questions are:

1. What are the cybersecurity risks companies and the respective countries are dealing with here?

2. Who are the leading companies working on these issues?

Look out for a future post on this after I talk to some folks and read up a bit.

Here are links to the Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) security series:

Getting Security Right Isn’t As Hard as You Think (But the Effort Never Ends)

Barbarians at the Gate — How to Think About Enterprise Security Today

Making Security More Usable

My three takeaways from the series are:

1. Companies can no longer think about their security in binary terms, that is, “We are breached. We are not breached.” Today, the thinking is more, “We are probably breached right now. What are we doing to mitigate the impact of this.”

2. Security and speed historically have somewhat of an inverse relationship. As content moves back and forth faster, the harder it is to ensure that nothing compromises it.

3. After seeing what happened to Target’s executive team after their highly publicized credit card breach, company executives are communicating more with their security teams to ensure that they have the systems in place to mitigate similar attacks that could get them fired.