April in Africa: Mastercard goes biometric while continental internet is hit or miss

April in Africa: Mastercard goes biometric while continental internet is hit or miss

There was quite a lot of bad news from across the continent. Egypt is disrupting voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services this week for users who use messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

In Kenya, meanwhile, Safaricom suffered a major outage, while the government is bringing in a controversial new cybersecurity bill to tackle what is a major issue in the East African country.

There was some better news in Cameroon, where internet services have finally returned to Anglophone areas after a government-imposed 93-day shutdown. In Zimbabwe, however, internet prices are set to go up after the government implemented a new telecoms tax.

The cost of internet services was very much in the news, as pressure group the Alliance for Affordable Internet released its 2017 Affordability Report. It found that only five out of the 27 African countries surveyed have “affordable” internet, which the group defines as 1GB of mobile prepaid data for two per cent or less of the average monthly income.

These countries, incidentally, are Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, while April saw Ghana sign a pledge to ensure it becomes the sixth. Meanwhile, work has begun on an undersea cable system that will link Africa to the Americas and should result in further connectivity.

Backing African tech

In spite of issues with internet provision, African tech companies are making major strides. So much so that the month saw two major acquisitions, with South African payments service provider MyGate bought by Wirecard for US$24 million. The other purchase was also in South Africa, where ticketing company Computicket bought event registration startup Entry Ninja.

Major news in the South African e-commerce space, too, where Naspers invested yet more money in the country’s biggest such company – Takealot. However it was bad news for another major African e-commerce firm – Jumia – which for all its funding saw revenues fall by 41.7 per cent.

It wasn’t just Takealot that was on the funding trail. Kenya’s PayGo Energy secured US$1.43 million in investment, while there was also a US$1.1 million round for Kenyan fintech company Alternative Circle. Also raising were Nigeria’s Comic Republic and VeriCampus. Village Capital made two investments in African fintech startups, while the GSMA announced grant funding for a number of African companies.

There were two major programs announced for the benefit of African tech companies, with the World Bank launching its XL Africa accelerator program, while global startup accelerator Startupbootcamp is getting active on the continent for the first time by launching a program in Cape Town.

Mastercard puts money where its mouth is

Global payments company Mastercard had a busy month in Africa, trialling a biometric card in South Africa, launching a bunch of prepaid solutions alongside GTP, and announcing a US$1 million startups initiative in Rwanda.

Plenty of activity elsewhere too. Lagos is to launch a huge coding initiative, while Uber Kenya is now accepting low-cost cars. The company is also piloting a special programme for seniors and people with disabilities in South Africa.

Nigerian e-commerce site Konga is launching a groceries service, meanwhile, while Brazilian bitcoin mining company CoinBr has expanded to Africa for the first time.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

Read next: Fixing the sharing economy