Data – A lifeboat for Vodacom

Vodacom has faced one of its “toughest” years. Cuts in mobile termination rates (MTRs) by 50%, intensifying competition, increasing pressures on consumer spending, regulatory challenges, cost pressures and a difficult macro environment made for a strenuous first half of the year. By the fourth quarter, Vodacom appeared to be gaining momentum. Against this backdrop, CEO Shameel Aziz Joosub says he’s pleased with the group’s performance.

TOUGH BREAK: CEO, Shameel Aziz Joosub says Vodacom has risen above economic adversity in the past year. Photo: Provided

TOUGH BREAK: CEO, Shameel Aziz Joosub says Vodacom has risen above economic adversity in the past year. Photo: Provided

“We saw significant price crashes in all our markets and we had to innovate and adjust our approach to maintain market leadership,” says Joosub. The rand volatility and its devaluation against key currencies impacted expenses in South Africa and international operations, according to Chief Financial Officer Ivan Dittrich. Recent tariff increases were a last resort as prices weren’t increased in over 10 years, says Joosub.

Strong investment and cost focus, supported by strong data growth is helping Vodacom remain competitive despite market challenges.

MTR cuts had the most significant impact, affecting group service revenue by R2bn. Joosub adds that the only positive outcome is that the worst of this adjustment is over. The group can now focus on differentiating and growing network reach and capacity through investment and enabling access to low-cost products like smartphones and tablets.

Data services made progress. Active data customers increased to 26.5m and smart data devices in the network grew to 11.6m. Data revenue now contributes more than a quarter of group service revenue.

New services like M-pesa, financial services, content and Machine to Machine (M2M) are growth pillars for the group. There are 1.8m M2M customers. In South Africa there are 1m registered M-pesa customers, of those 76000 are active users. Usage was incentivised through airtime. “We have to actively increase our distribution and create an ecosystem to ensure customers can transact with the M-pesa platform,” says Joosub.

M-pesa in progress

Internationally M-pesa is gaining traction, users increased by a third to 8m with revenue growth at 27.5%. About R8bn is moved monthly through M-pesa. Tanzania’s M-pawa, a savings and loans product launched in September in partnership with the Commercial Bank of Africa has 1.8m active users. International money transfer services are key in getting sophisticated financial service products to market and achieving scale in the number of M-pesa users, says Joosub.

In South Africa, there have been challenges with M-pesa systems and a few issues are being resolved which is why a lot of work has been focussed below the line, says Joosub. “We are not driving it too hard. We need to make sure everything is 100% where we want it to be.” Until the product is working effectively, a campaign to drive usage will be launched.

International operations delivered a “solid performance”, according to Joosub, reducing dependency on South African operations. However growth was dampened by intense pricing competition in Tanzania and the lack of adherence to pricing regulations by competitors in the DRC. Active customers increased to 29.5m and active data customers grew to 9.9m. Data revenue growth is at 32.9%.

“Almost half of our active customers are coming from operations outside South Africa,” says Joosub. International market revenue accounts for 30% of network investment. Data uptake is further driven by low-cost devices being introduced in markets. The 50% growth in 3G sites resulted in a 185% growth in data traffic.

Data is going to be big in the next couple of years.

The expansion strategy involves investing properly in existing markets to have pure market and network leadership and then pursuing growth opportunities. “We make sure in every market we have clear network leadership. That for us is paramount in our DNA,” says Joosub.

There are plans to reduce reliance on traditional voice services and to diversify revenue streams. Data is targeted to contribute 40% to group service revenue.

“Data is going to be big in the next couple of years,” says Joosub. “In Europe they’re saying that the average person will have 8 connected devices by 2020.” This means in South Africa we will have more than 200m connections. More investment in data is on the cards as people are consuming more data due to increasing connection speeds. The next step is to control fibre and extending it to whole businesses.

Neotel on ice

It’s been a year since the deal with Neotel was signed. The transaction has been with authorities for approval. Joosub says it is disappointing that the approval has been delayed for so long. “Every day of delay is a day lost in connecting South Africa,” he says. The restriction to build fibre has a systematic impact on South Africa, with a number of houses and offices still not connected, he says.

Without Neotel in proper hands, there is a risk that the goals won’t be achieved.

There are no plans to back out of the deal and the group does not expect any obligations on the deal as there are a “number of positives” that can flow from it. “It speaks strongly to government’s goals in terms of what they want to achieve for 2020 … Without Neotel in proper hands, there is a risk that the goals won’t be achieved.”

By building their own fibre, it will also help reduce cost pressures. The cost of fibre build versus the cost of taking it from Telkom is one tenth. “If we build our own, 80% of sites will have transmission of fibre,” says Joosub.

The Neotel deal is a crucial growth opportunity for Vodacom, making it Telkom’s main competitor. Vodacom will be able to extend its services, increasing the capabilities of entities by growing its data footprint. As for resources lost in the deal, Joosub says the lawyers’ fees and time investments of people internally are immaterial in the greater scheme of things.

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Date-rape detecting nail polish not the solution

UNDERCOVER COLOUR: A nail polish that changes colour when exposed to date rape drugs has been invented. Women who have had their drinks "spiked" can take action to protect themselves against sexual assault. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

UNDERCOVER COLOUR: A nail polish that changes colour when exposed to date rape drugs has been invented. Women who have had their drinks “spiked” can take action to protect themselves against sexual assault. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Wits students still feel the need to take extra precautions for their safety, despite the invention of a new date-rape detecting nail polish.

The nail polish changes colour when it is exposed to date rape drugs. It was invented by four students from North Carolina State University. It serves as preventative measure to avoid crimes of sexual assault.

The idea is that you dip your finger inside your glass if you suspect that your drink is spiked. The nail polish will change colour when it comes into contact with either Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), Rohypnol, or Ketamine. These are commonly used date-rape drugs. The product is still a prototype and the inventors are looking for investors to develop it.

Fun in dangerous times

Third year, BA student, Tayla Prinsloo was excited by the invention. “I feel in today’s society, especially in the way club-life has gone, there is a lot of risk when going out.” As a safety precaution she goes out in a group, “there is safety in numbers,” she said.

We [are] not condoning date rape by using these detectors, we are just taking measures to protect ourselves.

“This detector sounds like a good safety precaution for you especially if you go out alone,” she added. Prinsloo knows of men and women who were drugged and believes that it is each person’s responsibility to protect themselves. “We can’t be accountable for other people’s behaviour. We [are] not condoning date rape by using these detectors, we are just taking measures to protect ourselves.”

First year BSc student, Xiao Liang says that everyone is fearful of being a victim of date rape. When she goes out she never leaves her drink unattended and makes sure no one drops anything inside while passing.

Liang had never heard of the invention before, but thinks it will be effective, especially because nail polish is something a woman can wear every day. She believes it is better to invest in products that protect women from date rape.

A gentleman’s education

Male students who were approached said they were not fearful of being victims of date rape. Wandile Ngwenya, 2nd year BAccSci said, “You never ever meet a guy who says ‘This has happened to me’ so it wouldn’t cross my mind ever.” He has heard of the invention and think it may help in protecting women. But he believes that it’s “more important” to teach men not to rape women. “Then they wouldn’t have to have all these measures in the first place,” he said.

Reabetswe Khumbane, 3rd year BCom PPE, had never heard of the invention but thought it was a good idea. “I’m all for it”, he said. He agreed with Ngwenya in saying that men should also address their behaviour. “Definitely men should be taught not to rape”.

Female student Kanyara Nkera, 1st year BSc biology, said men should be taught not to rape, but “women can’t assume all men are taught well”. Melissa Kabanguka, 2nd year BCom agreed in saying that responsibility was to be shared. “Sometimes we try protect ourselves and take precautions, and sometimes it’s not enough. It would be nice if guys were taught. But not everyone is the same.”

“Women are vulnerable to sexual assault. But it just as easily can happen to men. Both men and women should be aware of it,” said Cardoso. She is opposed to products and safety measures being geared towards women because sexual assault is applicable to both sexes.

UJ’s annual sêrrie competition heating up

ACAPELLA: Dromedaris Mens Residence will be upping their game in UJ's in-house sêrrie competition this year. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

ACAPELLA: Dromedaris Mens Residence will be upping their game in UJ’s in-house sêrrie competition this year. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Veteran champions of the annual sêrrie competition at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Dromedaris Mens Residence, is gearing up for a fierce competition this year.

“We are expecting fire because our rival res is actually up a notch from last year,” said Nhlanhla Sekwisa, head singer.

The group feels the pressure because the national “ATKV Universiteite Sêr” competition will be held at UJ at the end of the month.  “Seeing as the competition is coming back home, we are hoping to do great things and uphold UJ’s name,” said Nkosinathi Mbongwa, 2nd tenor.

Stiff competition

The residence has fared well in UJ’s in-house sêrrie competitions in the past.  The national “ATKV Universiteite Sêr” competition is the most popular group singing competition in the country and UJ competes with the likes of universities; Free State (Kovsies), Stellenbosch (Maties), Potchefstroom (Pukke) and Pretoria (Tuks).

SOME DRUMS: Dromedaris is trying a more recent  selection.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

SOME DRUMS: Dromedaris have tried a new song selection this year. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

The toughest competitors being Stellenbosch residence, Hippokrates, having won the national competition for three years in a row.

Sekwisa mentioned that things were different this year because the group was trying out “recent music”.  “There is an influx of new guys so we kind of(sic) have a new sound this year.”

However, to handle the stress, the group relies on prayer and they “jam” a lot.

Clive Makume, the group choreographer agrees with the method of stress management.  “We usually sing gospel songs to get rid of our nerves,” he said.

Harmonizing helps them lift their spirits and get ready. Makume maintains that Dromedaris is “ready for the competition”.

Tenor Mbongwa, has been part of the group for four years and is optimistic about their chances.  “Every year there’s always an improvement.  We always just step up our game.”

Mbongwa explained that winning the in-house competition was a priority for Dromedaris because of the reputation they gained on campus for winning.

The group has been preparing for seven months, Mbongwa was impressed with the newcomers who brought “heart… and everything on stage”.

He admitted it was challenging to continue the Dromedaris culture.  “You move with the times and rules and changes and you need to accommodate new people.”

We try build a team, because at the end of the day, the team goes on stage, not just the individuals.

“We try build a team, because at the end of the day, the team goes on stage, not just the individuals.”

They always try to stay humble and pride themselves on their faith in God.  “When practice starts we pray.  When practice ends we pray.  Just to keep our faith alive.”

Soulful serenade

As a tradition, in preparation for the UJ sêrrie competition on August 11, the acapella singers performed at Jubilee Hall, Wits University.

 They have never disappointed.  They even won their whole competition the year before.  

The gentlemen came to garner support for their performance at the competition and to receive critiques in an attempt to make improvements to their sequence.

PHENOMENAL FOOTAGE: Residents from Jubilee Hall whipped out their smartphones to record the performance. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

PHENOMENAL FOOTAGE: Residents from Jubilee Hall whipped out their smartphones to record the performance.
Photo: Lameez Omarjee

The ladies at Jubilee Hall were excited about the prospect of being serenaded by dashing gentlemen.

“I’m expecting the girls to go (sic) ‘Wow!’ and say, ‘oh my gosh, take me home!’” said Refilwe Sedia, Jubilee Hall House Committee Chairperson.

Sikwokele Ncame, 2nd year BSc Urban and Regional Planning, was impressed with the group’s performance last year and instantly became a loyal fan.

“They have never disappointed.  They even won their whole competition the year before.”

She wants Wits to have its own sêrrie competition, because “it’s so awesome” and she believes Jubilee Hall would take the crown.

Ncame was looking forward to, “the voices and the looks, but mostly the voices”.

A 1st year BAccSci student, Makgatho Naruma  had never heard Dromedaris sing before.  But she heard good reports from other girls and expected them to “blow our minds away”.

If Dromedaris is successful in winning UJ’s in-house sêrrie competition, the acapella singers will go on to compete in the national competition on August 30, at UJ.

Rape Culture evident in society

rape4

NOT MY PROBLEM: An anti-rape campaign by Make Your Move! Sourced from yoganonymous.com

If you are a man, you are part of rape culture. Recent social media campaigns like #YesAllWomen and #AllMenCan have stimulated conversation about the solutions in place to create safer environments for women.

Although both men and women are victims of rape, men are the main perpetrators of the crime.  Male feminist, Zaron Burnett proposed that men, perpetuators of rape culture, have the responsibility to change it.  Read his article here: A gentleman’s guide to rape culture.

BLAME GAME: An anti-rape campaign by Make Your Move! sourced from yoganonymous.com

BLAME GAME: An anti-rape campaign by Make Your Move!
Sourced from yoganonymous.com

After talking to some students on Wits University campus to hear their take on rape culture, this is what they had to say:

Rophiwa Madzena’s fears as a woman hold her back from enjoying life.  “I don’t like to go out in the evenings because I’m afraid a guy is going to grab me.  A rape is a really, it’s a scary thing and it’s instilled a lot of fears in women to the extent that you can’t live a normal life because at the back of your mind you’re always just thinking something bad could happen to me, even if it’s just paranoia”.

Some of her vulnerabilities in the presence of a man stem from not being able to assert herself in a culture where masculinity is valued.  “As a woman; you’re supposed to know your place.   That makes you more vulnerable to a rape situation”.

She said that because men have a stigma of violence attached to them, it is difficult for them to do anything to make women feel safe.  In their presence, “You get comfortable, but you don’t get too comfortable”.

She believes the responsibility to keep women safe is shared by both men and women.

This opinion is shared by Phoebe Mabelane, who believes there is nothing men can do to change female perceptions about rape.  “These fears are within me regardless of whatever anyone says; or how they (men) present themselves”.

She said, “I don’t think it’s their (men) responsibility to make me feel safe.  That’s my responsibility, I have to do it on my own; I can’t rely on men”.

Her fears are, besides potentially being a victim of rape, but knowing someone who is a victim and not being able to help them in any way.

Mabelane wants to take self-defence classes to better prepare herself in unwanted situations of violence.  She also relies on prayer and does not think much about finding herself in situations where she might be threatened.

Amongst her peers, she said, “with girls I feel safe because I know they won’t do anything to me.  With guys I feel safe because I know they will protect me from offences by outsiders.”

For men to change female perceptions of rape, she believes people should not down-play little incidents.  “We won’t speak out about bigger incidents if people do not show support and understanding about the little incidents.”

I am the weaker sex, not as strong as a man, if a man were to rape me, I’m not sure I could defend myself.

Siphelele Ncube is also interested in using martial arts to protect herself. Her fears as a woman are related to the fact that men are stronger than women.  “I am the weaker sex, not as strong as a man, if a man were to rape me, I’m not sure I could defend myself.”

To counter her fears on a daily basis, she avoids “uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situations”.

As for feeling unsafe around men, she said, “How much you know about a person puts you at ease, you always hold back until you know a person well enough to be comfortable with them”.

HOOK UP?: Sourced from yoganonymous.com

HOOK UP?:An anti-rape campaign by Make Your Move! Sourced from yoganonymous.com

Kirsty Sanders believes that in order to change perceptions that men are the main perpetrators of rape; more emphasis should be placed on cases where women are perpetrators.  “In majority cases of rape, men are the perpetrators, and the cases where women are the perpetrators are not publicized”.

Sanders believes rape is not a problem in isolation, but rather part of a bigger crime problem, “Every woman is scared she will be raped.  But I would not say I’m particularly fearful of being raped.  In South Africa, there’s a high crime rate.  So you are careful of where you go and who you with”.

Steps she takes to protect herself in vulnerable situations include, “taking crime prevention measures… evaluate your options to get out of an unsafe situation”.

Like Mabelane and Madzena she believes responsibility for safety falls on both men and women, “It’s a shared responsibility.  We need to develop a society where women feel safe.  It’s a combination of women taking realistic precautionary means, and men taking means to protect women and feel safe.”

From a man’s perspective, to make a woman feel safe Oupa Sibeko said, “It’s not about how you touch a woman but how you interact with her.   It depends on how men approach women. We should change how we interact.  Our opinions should not inflict violence or demean the other person”.

He said most men influence each-others behaviour.  “You’re always trying to prove a point that you man enough”.

“It is hard to tell if a woman fears you”, but their behaviour around you (a man) says a lot.  “Sometimes women do show us they fear us, but then we (men) use that to take advantage (of them).”

When interacting with women he said, “It all starts with respect for the self.  I respect myself, so when I’m around a woman, I’m around a human, so I treat them as such.”

Men have always had this problem of having to feel superior

Luntu Quntana echoes his sentiments, “men have always had this problem of having to feel superior.  Due to this pressure society puts on men, they become violent”.

Pride and the fear of being ostracized prevents men from speaking out against rape.  He said to solve the problem, “Men should be more proactive in speaking to young men, encouraging them”.

“The biggest issue is self-confidence in young men.  We can eradicate this problem by mentorship.  Tell young men it’s okay to have emotions and to be weak at times.”  When men stand up against rape, they are labelled as gay or weak, according to Quntana.

He can tell if a woman fears him, “you can see if a woman is afraid, you can tell by her body language.  Talking to them, they are more distant, hesitant when speaking. And they seem very caged up.”

To make women feel less vulnerable he is conscious of his signals to make women feel safe.  “Be honest with them.  I allow myself to be weak around them, to show them that I’m not trying to put up some image”.

LONELY HEART: Sourced from yoganonymous.com

ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT: An anti-rape campaign by Make Your Move! Sourced from yoganonymous.com

Maria Wanyane an advisor from the Sexual Harassment Office at Wits said there are programmes in place to educate both men and women on campus about sexual harassment.

“We do partner with a number of organisations and units on campus to work together because we do realise that violence against men and women is not something that can be dealt with by one institution, it requires a collective collaboration” she said.

The Sexual Harassment Office works with the Transformation office, Counselling and Careers Development Unit and different faculties on campus.

The office deals with all matters relating to sexual harassment and is responsible for the management of those cases.  Students and staff contact the office directly or are referred to the Sexual Harassment Office by sister organisations on campus.

“In terms of how we manage the case depends on the choice of the complainant.  We have a sexual harassment policy.  You can choose any of the options, counselling, formal processes where we conduct an investigation about what happened and based on available information take a decision about appropriate intervention.  We also refer matters to the police.”

“You can report sexual harassment to almost anyone on campus and they will make sure that you are okay by referring you to us,” she added.

With the roles of men and women constantly changing, there is still room to raise awareness of rape culture and to educate men and women to take a stand against it.

E-commerce in South Africa

I had the opportunity to speak to the newly appointed Groupon South Africa CEO Emilian Popa, while doing vacwork at Fin24.  He spoke about the high growth potential of e-commerce in South Africa and his plans as the new CEO of the online retail company.  It was a big deal, in fact, you could say it was the closest I have come to meeting Mark Zuckerberg (so far).

Read the full article on Fin24 here:

New Groupon SA boss eyes e-commerce, mobile

Please Call: MTN vs Vodacom

While I was doing vacwork at Fin24, I had the opportunity to talk to Ari Kahn, the real inventor of the disputed Callme service.  He spoke about the importance of intellectual property rights and pointed out that the battle between Vodacom and Nkosana Makate was fruitless.

Read the full article on Fin24 here:

Real Callme inventor stands up

Drive a new car for R699

While I was doing vacwork at Fin24 during the semester break, I had the daunting task of investigating Drive Car Sales.  The business, powered by the Satinsky Group made national headlines as news erupted that things were falling apart and the advertising scheme appeared to be a scam.

Read the breaking story on Fin24 here:

Wheels come off on ‘Drive a new car for R699’

Banks involved in approving loans for the cars came forward to defend their position in this torrid mess. Consumer activist Simon Lapping who took it upon himself to help victims, found that documents submitted to banks on behalf of clients were altered without their knowledge.

Read the follow-up on Fin24 here:

R699 car drivers moving forward