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Handset Adoption Can Guide The Quantum Leap To 4G

With mobile connectivity now integral to the modern economy, a key part of any national development programme must be digital inclusion. This is being achieved by expanding mobile broadband coverage, but there is another important consideration: smartphone affordability.

A recent GSMA report shows that smartphones make up 39% of the 774 million mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is projected to grow significantly, but for Africa’s people to fully reap the dividends of mobile connectivity, it is critical that 4G-enabled smartphone handsets be made more easily attainable for the entry-level market.

This calls for financial innovation alongside the technological innovation that characterises the sector. Smartphones must become cheaper if Africa is to unlock the full potential of its people.

Fortunately, there are already encouraging signs that manufacturers, policymakers and network operators are partnering to integrate such financial innovation into the drive towards digital inclusion.

In Kenya, Safaricom recently rolled out a device financing programme, in partnership with Google and Teleone, allowing low-income earners in Kenya to access quality 4G phones at low instalments from as little as Kshs 20 (R3) a day.

The country has a high mobile telephony penetration, but this has traditionally involved 2G phones. The campaign aims to bring a million more customers into the digital economy.

Airtel Africa has expanded 4G adoption on the continent with its “more for more” data offers, increasing average data use, with 4G now accounting for more than 60 per cent of its data revenue.

However, one of the most effective means of encouraging smartphone adoption is reducing the tax burden on mobile phones and services in the form of import duties and sales taxes. In this context, policymakers have a powerful role to play in empowering citizens with easier access to digital connectivity.

As smartphones become the norm, broadband spectrum can follow suit, and network operators can transition to a 4G- and 5G based platforms, with all the high-speed, mass-connectivity benefits that brings.

A surging demand for 4G handsets indicates when a market is ready for the 4G network transition, and it becomes possible to shut down the 3G spectrum, as India was recently able to do.

At the recent LTE World Summit 2020, Sandeep Gupta, executive vice president of Barthi Airtel in India, said the decision to shut down the 3G network was motivated by two considerations – smartphone penetration, and the right network assets, such as SDR (software Defined Radio) and singleRAN radio, which supports 4G VoLTE.

However, core to this transition is affordable handsets. In China, 4G adoption has been hastened by the introduction of 100 Yuan (R238) handsets, catapulting millions into the 4G and 5G future.

In South Africa, smartphones have also become significantly more affordable, with handsets such as the Huawei Y5 Lite retailing for around R1 300. However, there remains scope to make 4G-enabled smartphones even more affordable, and to truly democratise connectivity.

Perhaps the simplest way to hasten digital inclusion is a change in our understanding of the place of 4G handsets in our society.

Once smartphones are seen as a commodity, a basic right instead of a luxury, they can be marketed, sold and taxed accordingly, bringing all of humanity into the new digital economy.

Bank Of Uganda Accused Of Not Operationalizing Islamic Banking

Bank of Uganda's failure to establish the Central Shari’a Advisory Council, five years after the law was passed, is a deliberate move to frustrate the final lap of establishing Islamic Banking, Daily Monitor reports, quoting a statement issued by Islamic leaders.

“We wish to expose (sic) our prolonged suffering caused by Bank of Uganda's delay to establish this council [Central Shari’a, Advisory Council]. This has taken almost five years since the law was passed.

Bank of Uganda should not have any excuse in finding the two Shari’a, scholars as specified by the law,” the statement reads in part, highlighting at least “10 technically suitable local Shari’a scholars, where it [Central Bank] can choose from,” Daily Monitor quoted the statement.

The statement headlined: How the delay in establishing the Central Shari’a Advisory Council at Bank of Uganda has Frustrated Islamic Banking, also noted that it was unfortunate that all the “amendments that were passed in the law in 2016 (such as agent banking and bancassurance, have been established except Islamic Banking.

The Islamic leadership in the finance sector pushing Islamic banking and listed on the statement include Dr Sulaiman Lujja, the Tropical Bank head of Islamic Banking, Dr Abdul Hafiz Walusimbi, the IUIU head of Shari’a, Dr. Anas Abdunoor Kaliisa, the director, Salaam Charity, Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa, second deputy mufti, Uganda Muslim Supreme Council and Dr Sowed Juma Mayanja, a lecturer at Makerere University.

Others are Dr. Kisuule Muhammad, director House of Zakat, Dr Rashid Semuddu, consultant, Dr Ediriisa Kasozi, deputy dean and head of department Islamic Law, Faculty of Law, Yahya Kasujja, Senior associate account, Islamic Development Bank and Sheikh Ismail Njuki, director, Madina International Development Agency.

Par­lia­ment four years ago passed the Fi­nan­cial In­sti­tu­tions amend­ment Bill, the law that among oth­ers things in­tro­duced Is­lamic bank­ing that is con­sis­tent with Is­lamic Shar­i’ah (law). 

The par­lia­men­tary clear­ance was, how­ever, sub­ject to the es­tab­lish­ment of a Cen­tral Shar­i’ah Ad­vi­sory Board in the Cen­tral Bank to reg­u­late banks pro­vid­ing Is­lamic bank­ing prod­ucts. This has not been actualized by Bank of Uganda.

SOURCE: News Today Uganda


Poor Youth Movement Petition M7 To Stop BoU From Wasting Taxpayers’ Money

President Yoweri Museveni has been asked to intervene in the matter involving Bank of Uganda, Crane Bank and businessman Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia that has seen the central bank waste a lot of time and money in pursuing the businessman in court.

A petition that was written by Ssempala Zahid, the national spokesperson for Poor Youth Movement, wants President Museveni to intervene and save taxpayers from costs brought by what he described as incompetent Bank of Uganda staff in the case of Crane Bank under receivership against Meera Investments and Sudhir Ruparelia.

“We are writing to inform you that, on 23rd June 2020, in the middle of the COVID 19 Pandemic, in the worst period for all Ugandans locked down, the Court of Appeal (Court) ruled yet again against Crane Bank Limited in Liquidation (CBL) in a case where BOU filed to recover Shs397bn from Dr Sudhir Ruparelia claiming that he allegedly siphoned the same from CBL before it was closed and sold in 2017,” Ssempala says.

“It ought to be noted, that under HCCS 493 of 2017 the High Court had dismissed the case on the grounds among others that Crane Bank Limited (CBL) once put under receivership lost its ability to sue, that the statutory time for receivership was limited to 12 months.

That Crane Bank Limited was a foreign company and lacked locus to own land Free Hold or own the 48 properties that had been seized by the BOU and sold to DFCU bank and that there was no cause of action as there was nothing to sue for, as all assets had been sold to DFCU bank,”

“Upon dismissal of the case, CBL / BOU was condemned to pay costs of the suit which was at that time at 25% per annum of a sum believed to be in billions of shillings plus other legal costs,”

The petitioner explains that the greed in the BoU Legal Department misled the Board to authorise an Appeal which was filed to the Court of Appeal Civil Appeal No. 252 of 2019 “this appeal was dismissed and the costs awarded to Meera investments limited and Sudhir Ruparelia yet again. The total taxed bill is yet to be filed which according to Legal experts could be anything on the region of 150bn which will be visited on the taxpayers’ money, as BoU does not have its own money to pay those costs and will have to seek for recapitalization or a refund from Government after payment”.

“Your Excellency, it should be worth noting that, the government is currently facing deep budget cuts and might not realize the 22trillion budget for 2020/2021. This condition will be further aggravated by payment of the legal costs by taxpayers in the suit which by law must be paid and considering views/ analysis of legal experts will be lost again in the Supreme Court in the event of an Appeal,” he stressed.

“BoU has a litany of lost cases where billions have been paid to claimants and winners of cases. The performance of the Bank’s Legal Department could be as a result of over-reliance on so-called external legal experts who are bent on appealing any losses given that they will be paid. And as it is common knowledge, the higher they Appeal, the higher their fees.

A law firm billed BoU over 13bn for services in the CBL closure which services where later on regarded as ineffective and contrary to the law by COSASE as parliament faulted BOU in deliberately disregarding the law or legal procedures in the process of closure of CBL, which leaves one wondering why the said “legal experts” were paid a hefty 13bn for wrong advice,”

“Your Excellency, this cannot be sustained anymore by the taxpayer given the dwindling tax base consumed by the negative impact of COVID 19 on the Government’s bottom line,”

He also stressed that the case of closure of CBL and indeed other Banks have been a subject of investigation and probe by parliament and others which established that BOU had not done its job well and COSASE made a raft of proposals for reform of supervision and Legal Department which have all been washed aside by the Bank and the Ministry of Finance which should have given Parliament and Cabinet an update of the progress in implementing the COSASE recommendations.

“Instead the BoU has continued to accumulate costs in lost cases especially on CBL which ceased to be a Legal matter when it was evident the closure had all the hallmarks of a failed and botched regulatory action,”

“Your Excellency, you have recently demonstrated your ability to axe incompetent public officials who have either failed to execute their mandate or caused loss to Ugandan taxpayers. We beg you to take action over the incompetence in our mother bank,”

Ssempala fears that there are many questions which have left the Wanainchi puzzled like; When will someone be asked to account for actions of this Institution? When we have Governor BoU the same time chairman of the board, who punishes the Governor when he fails to execute his mandate as we all watched him pointing fingers at junior officers during the COSASE probe and junior officers pointing back?, When will Ugandans survive this wanton squander of public authority? When will BoU Board and its top Executives be called to order?

“As soon as the ruling was made dismissing the Appeal, the same Legal Head Mrs Margaret Kasule was summoned by the Board which was sitting on that same day to advise on the way forward and as expected, the Legal Head advised that the only way out of this was through an appeal to the Supreme Court. Indeed several interactions and engagements are underway to file an appeal to the Supreme Court where one of the Justices who dismissed the case is likely to be seated again this time as Chief Justice as he is Acting Chief Justice at the moment”.

“Even a blind person will see that this case which has so far cost Ugandans in excess of 20bn in costs to Lawyers is a waste of public resources. The COVID 19 pandemic has slowed down productivity, Ugandans have borne the brunt of biting poverty, revenue collection estimates have been reduced drastically fiscal discipline and austerity measures have been proposed and now Ugandans have to watch and see as the usual mistakes are being repeated by the same advisors misleading the BoU Board into entering a bottomless pit that is likely to cost BoU an arm and a leg”.

“Many questions have been raised by the public in regard to the viability of the said Appeal by BOU to the Supreme Court like; what is the ultimate goal of this appeal, is it to appease the Governor or the President? Is it to recover real money? If so how much has the BoU recovered in the last 20 years of Bank resolutions?”.

“The Bank has instead sunk billions into the coffers of expensive unthankful legal sharks who have no heart for Ugandans but their wallets”.

“Your Excellency, as your Bazukulu and taxpayers who feel the pinch of our monies being wasted by BOU in endless litigation, the purpose of this petition is to say enough is enough. Let this wanton disregard to the financial bleeding of BoU STOP HERE. Let Sudhir Ruparelia be paid his money and let Ugandans start with a new slate”.

4G Networks Support Communities Through Covid-19 Pandemic

Much of the current hype in the telecommunications space focuses on the roll-out of 5G technology, the new mobile networks that will power the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). But it is, in fact, 4G technology – LTE – that is providing lifesaving connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic right now when communities need it most. 

Called Long Term Evolution to give it its full name, LTE is the network technology used by 52 per cent of the world’s mobile devices. As such, it is this 4G tech that has underpinned the innovative digital initiatives supporting communities during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic and the lockdown have presented humanity with mortal challenges. People, countries and organisations are rising to these challenges, often using our evolving telecommunications capabilities. However, the new era has come with opportunities, which innovators have also been able to grasp, thanks to 4G connectivity. 

This will remain the case over the medium term. 

“Until 2025, LTE will continue to do the heavy lifting,” said Henry Calvert, head of the Network 2020 future network programme at the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), “Our 4G networks will remain key… They will continue to be important for the next five-to-seven years,” he said.

Speaking at the recent 2020 GSMA LTE Summit, Calvert said that during the pandemic, LTE was coming to the fore in the provision of telehealth and telemedicine, as well as expanding network services to hot spots to support the ill through hospitals and other healthcare services.

Besides the significant role 4G plays in supporting health services, it also provides for the data and connectivity needs of the new lifestyles taking shape since lockdown. 

Calvert said operators report that data usage has increased by more than 70 per cent per customer during the pandemic, driven by online services and consumption of on-demand video services like Netflix, which recently reported adding 15,8 million subscribers in a year – more than double expectations.  

“There has even been a call to on-demand video providers to reduce the quality of video they’re deploying and encourage people to use standard-definition rather than high-definition TV to preserve the capacity in the networks for online education, online health and online businesses,” he said. 

“As transformation continues it’s been focused on expanding 4G capacity,” he said. “But the 5G transformation is clearly going to be needed in the future to meet online demands.” 

During COVID-19, 4G networks have also been instrumental in supporting contact-tracing apps, which can locate and notify the contacts of infected individuals remotely, while still protecting the privacy of users. LTE networks have also provided free data to support contact tracking to do as much as possible to ensure the infection isn’t spread any further. 

LTE also underpins the recent shifts in lifestyles, with large proportions of the population working, educating their children, shopping and socialising from home using online platforms. 

So critical is LTE to this new paradigm, that it must remain the priority infrastructure over the short term, while societies grapple with the pandemic. 

“Our GSMA intelligence groups show that there will be a short-term dip in 5G deployment,” said Calvert. “But that will quickly recover to normal levels. We still see launches of 5G networks, as we now know that delivering on the data demand that has been met by our LTE networks can only get better with 5G.”

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