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The Government of Ethiopia expressed its willingness to open its banking sector for foreign banks engaged in financing housing
Date:Friday, February 26, 2021

The Government of Ethiopia expressed its willingness to open its banking sector for foreign banks engaged in financing housing (mortgage banks).

“Housing is very critical. Our bottleneck to solve housing problem is the banking system. It is necessary to open up the banking sector after some time. Even now if there is a bank that provides loans to housing (mortgage lenders), we have to allow it to enter the market even through it is a foreign bank,” Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed said.

He made the remark during the visit last week during a discussion with his cabinet in Koisha project site, the future tourist destination in Southern Ethiopia currently under renovation. “If a bank said it is interested to work only on finance housing (mortgage), we will not close our door (deny it license) just because it is a foreign bank. This is because the housing problem is very critical issue,” he said at the meeting later televised on state broadcaster –ETV on Thursday evening.

In Ethiopia it is estimated that one million to 1.2 million houses are needed to be built annually to meet the growing demand of housing in urban cities and towns, according to Prime Minister Abiy. He indicated that it is necessary to look into making the land available for housing, bringing the bank, prepare design and address the housing problem.

Stressing that the need to address housing problem quickly, Abiy noted that if the housing issue is not solved quickly, the people of Ethiopia will be forced to live on the streets.

Banking sector has been one of the areas Ethiopia has been closing for foreign banks. After the East African country began its reform appointing Abiy Ahmed as its new Prime Minister in April 2018, several sectors including communications and logistics, among others are opened for foreign companies.

Currently companies are bidding to but minority stake in the state owned monopoly, Ethio Telecom. While many global telecom companies are also submitting their proposals to enter the market competing for the two more new telecom licenses.

Meanwhile, indicating that mobile money service is more of banking business than pure telecom service provision, the government of Ethiopia has indicated that mobile money service is only allowed to the foreign company, which partners with Ethio Telecom but not for the two new entrants.

 








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GIZ and Orange launch an Orange Digital Center in Ethiopia
Date:Thursday, February 25, 2021

Today, GIZ, (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), Orange (www.Orange.com), the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, the Ethiopian Investment Commission and the Industrial Parks Development Corporation are launching the Addis Ababa Orange Digital Center, an ecosystem that is entirely dedicated to digital skills and innovation. The launch took place in the presence of H.E Dr. Abraham Belay, Minister of Innovation & Technology, H.E Lelise Neme, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission, H.E. Sandokan Debebe, CEO at Industrial Parks Development Corporation, Mr. Alioune Ndiaye, C.E.O of Orange Middle East & Africa, Mr. Peter Palesch, GIZ Country Director, H.E Stephan Auer, German Ambassador in Ethiopia and H.E Rémi Maréchaux, French Ambassador in Ethiopia.

 

Following launches in Tunisia and Senegal, Ethiopia will be home to the third Orange Digital Center in Africa and the Middle East. Occupying a space of 500m2, it is the first center in East Africa that will operate as a strategic network, allowing experiences and expertise to be shared between countries and offering a simple and inclusive approach to strengthen the employability of young people, to encourage innovative entrepreneurship and to promote the local digital ecosystem.

 

The purpose of Orange Digital Centers is to bring together several strategic programmes under the same roof: a coding school, a “FabLab Solidaire”, a startup accelerator “Orange Fab” and Orange Ventures Africa, the Group's investment fund. All of the programmes provided are free-of charge, open to all and include digital training for young people, 90% of which are practical training, start-up acceleration, guidance for project bearers and investment.

Orange and GIZ are working together in a development partnership of the develoPPP.de programme, which GIZ implements on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The project is supported by BMZ’s Special Initiative on Training and Job Creation, which also operates under the brand Invest for Jobs. The know-how of Orange in training and supporting young people in the field of digital skills and innovation will be complemented by GIZ's extensive experience and local expertise in addressing the challenges inherent in the employability and entrepreneurship of young Ethiopians. Together with the Ethiopian partners, the GIZ and Orange hope to achieve their shared vision of greater youth employability –- including more women and girls in ICT jobs –- while supporting the country's sustainable growth and digital transformation.

Building the “Digital and Innovation Ecosystem” is a multi-stakeholders agenda that requires holistic policy envisioning, vibrant enabling system and innovative and efficient collaboration among stakeholders like this “Responsible” move of Orange and parties involved: I must acknowledge and encourage, indeed it is an initiative worth investing on.” Said H.E Dr. Abraham Belay, Minister of Innovation & Technology.

“Ethiopia has a young, dynamic and trainable workforce, as well as supportive policies to enable the launching of a project as Orange Digital Center. We therefore welcomed this initiative with great enthusiasm and have been supporting it since day one. Young Ethiopians will have the opportunity to develop world-class technological skills here. Young people, innovation and technology are key to shaping the future of Ethiopia.” Said H.E Lelise Neme, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission.

“We are excited about the launching of an Orange Digital Center at the IPDC's ICT park. We are working hard in order to create world class ICT industries in Ethiopia. We believe that the skills that will be developed here will be very precious to support the IPDC's goal of making ICT park as a central hub to Africa, place of technological knowledge transfer, an opportunity for IT base job creations and a base for country's progress towards becoming the middle-income economy.” Said H.E. Sandokan Debebe, CEO at Industrial Parks Development Corporation.

“I am very proud to launch with all our partners the third Orange Digital Center in Addis-Ababa, which will be part of a network of 32 Orange Digital Centers based across two continents: Africa/Middle East and Europe. With the support of GIZ, Orange supports East Africa’s digital ecosystem by providing young Ethiopians with all its technological know-how to create more job opportunities. This program will be complemented by two ODC Clubs that will be deployed swiftly in different regions to reach out to even more young people. I would like to remind you that we are planning to launch other Orange Digital Centers by the end of the year in Africa and the Middle-East.” Said Mr. Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East & Africa.

“The Orange Digital Center contributes to Ethiopia's digital transformation while creating local employment prospects for young people. It shows Germany’s and the EU´s commitment to promote inclusive and human-centred digitization worldwide.” Said H.E Stephan Auer, German Ambassador in Ethiopia.

 

Orange is present in 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East and has 128 million customers at of 31 December 2020. With 5.8 billion euros of revenues in 2020, Orange MEA is the first growth area in the Orange group. Orange Money, its flagship mobile-based money transfer and financial services offer is available in 17 countries and has more than 50 million customers. Orange, multi-services operator, key partner of the digital transformation provides its expertise to support the development of new digital services in Africa and the Middle East.








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Microsoft is planning to roll out a ‘Text Predictions’ feature in Microsoft Word.
Date:Monday, February 22, 2021

The feature, similar to Smart Compose in Google Docs predicts what the user may type next based on what they are writing.

The feature was spotted in the tech giant’s product roadmap by TechRadar. According to the product roadmap listing, the broader roll-out of the feature is being targeted for March CY2021.

“Text Predictions in Word for Windows helps users write more efficiently by predicting text quickly, timely and accurately,” reads the description of the feature.

It also helps reduce spelling and grammar errors and learns over time to give the best recommendations based on a user’s writing style, the tech giant said.

According to an official blog post, the feature is currently available for 50 per cent of Windows Beta Channel users running Version 2010 Build 13301.20004 or later and to all Microsoft 365 SKUs on Word on the web except for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Microsoft 365 F3, Microsoft 365 A1.

Apart from this, Microsoft also recently announced more details regarding the launch of the latest Office 2021 for Windows and Mac.

The tech giant has announced two new versions of Office, Microsoft Office 2021 for general consumers and the Microsoft Office Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) for commercial use.

A commercial preview of Microsoft Office LTSC will be available in April.

Office 2021 for personal and small businesses will be released later this year, Microsoft said.








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World Bank suggests gov’t stop preferential treatment to ethio-telecom
Date:Monday, February 17, 2020

The World Bank recommended the Ethiopian government stop offering preferential treatment to ethio-telecom, downplaying attempts to preserve the status quo of the state dominated sector.

Expressing its displeasure towards the measure by the government of Ethiopia to ban foreign companies from being involved in digital banking services, the Bank warned that such a measure may slow down innovation and investment in the market, and may actually hinder ethio-telecom’s own ambitions to attract a strategic investment partner from abroad.

In a blog published on February 11, 2021, Country Director of the Bank, Ousmane Dione highlighted the process of opening the telecom market has rarely proven to be a smooth process, since there are vested interests that may prefer to preserve the status quo.

“A better strategy would be to encourage ethio-telecom to compete on equal terms with the new market entrants in providing mobile money services, without ownership restrictions,” he said.

ethio-telecom is currently under preparation to launch mobile banking services throughout the country, after getting the green light from National Bank of Ethiopia and the amendment of its establishment proclamation, which has increased its paid-up capital by ten folds to 400 billion Birr.

Commercial banks have been expressing their concerns over the joining of the telecom giant in the provision of digital banking services, citing its monopoly on telecom infrastructures, although it was later rejected by the government.

By the same token, the NBE directive which bans foreign companies from investing in digital banking services has disappointed telecom service providers that showed interest to acquire a license in the country.

The plan of Safaricom, a Kenyan telecom company known for its mobile money platform M-PESA, was jeopardized after the effectiveness of the directive, which the World Bank opposes.

“To benefit fully from competition does not mean offering preferential treatment to ethio-telecom but rather creating a level playing field on which it can compete fairly with its new rivals,” said Dione.

The Ministry of Finance and Ethiopian Communications Authority repeatedly said that they have no mandate over digital banking services, while explaining the position of the government.

“It should be understood that we are liberalizing the telecom sector, not the financial sector that is close to foreign competition,” said Brook Taye, a Senior Advisor to Ministry of Finance, in an interview with The Reporter last month. 

Nonetheless, for Dione, it will be ethio-telecom that has the most to gain from the expansion of the digital economy, while also being at risk from losing its market share if it fails to compete effectively.

Furthermore, he opposed the direction taken by the government in limiting investment by independent cell tower companies, obliging new entrants to use the infrastructure provided by ethio-telecom, a decision which he thinks may slow down network roll out, particularly in rural areas.

“Ultimately, policies that seek to protect ethio-Telecom’s infrastructure by allowing it to charge high prices for interconnection will end up harming the company,” he said, adding, “ethio-telecom has the potential to become a regional powerhouse, but only if it is well-prepared for the competitive environment.”

By the end of last year, ethio-telecom announced its potential to earn USD 1.6–1.8 billion annually from the lease of telecom infrastructure.

Earlier last month, the telecom giant called on interested telecom providers willing to share its infrastructure, including the 7,300 towers, 21,327 km fiber network and 4,000km metro fibers in the cities.








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Jack Dorsey And Jay Z Invest 500 BTC For Bitcoin Development
Date:Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Recently, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced that he along with American rapper Jay Z is opening a Bitcoin development fund named Btrust. 

Dorsey announced that they together are putting 500 bitcoin, which is currently worth $23.6 million, in the endowment ?trust. Initially the fund will be focused on the development of bitcoin in Africa and India.

The endowment will be set up as a blind irrevocable trust, with "zero direction" from the two of them.  Dorsey also shared an application form using his official Twitter handle, seeking three other board members for the fund.

Earlier this week, Dorsey had shared with The Wall Street Journal that his companies are looking at new ways to use bitcoin, including payment of wages, etc. His company Square already supports bitcoin and last year acquired approx $50 million worth of bitcoin for its corporate treasury, while his other company Cash App expanded its service to allow bitcoin trading.  Square Crypto was launched in 2019, which grants funds to bitcoin designers and developers

Well, Bitcoin's stock prices saw a boost late last month after Eon Musk changed his Twitter biography to just '#bitcoin'. He also encouraged his 45 million followers to buy cryptocurrency, saying they are safe.








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