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👨🏿‍🚀TechCabal Daily – Airtel Uganda loses $2.1 million


23 NOVEMBER, 2022

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Meta has updated its privacy settings.

Under-16 users who join Instagram and Facebook will have default private settings while existing underage users will be forced to turn on these privacy settings.

These settings allow only friends to view users’ friends list, tagged photos and posts, and lists they follow. Furthermore, only friends will be able to comment on these users‘ posts.

These settings are new for Facebook, but Instagram implemented them a year ago. 

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TWITTER AFRICA EMPLOYEES ACCUSE ELON MUSK OF DISCRIMINATION

The Twitter Africa Team

Twitter’s Accra-based team, who were affected by the company’s mass layoffs, are accusing the social media giant of unlawful and discriminatory termination.

Following his takeover of Twitter, Elon Musk laid off nearly half of the company’s 7,500 employees. In the Ghanaian capital, all but one African employee was laid off barely four days after Twitter opened a physical office there. 

Musk tweeted that “Everyone who exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required,” but that isn’t the case in Ghana.

What’s happening in Ghana?

The Ghanaian labour law requires that terminations due to restructuring—like Twitter’s—must provide three-month notices to Ghanaian authorities. Affected employees should also be able to negotiate severance fees. 

The aggrieved African employees claim they were cut off from the company without any information on next steps. 

They say that it wasn’t until CNN exposed the disrespectful nature of the African workers’ termination that Twitter allegedly issued a “Ghana Mutual Separation Agreement” to their private emails. The agreement offered a final payment that Twitter claims to have reached following negotiation, but the laid-off workers contend that there were no such negotiations or agreements. They also said it fell short of what the law required, and was inferior to what their peers in America and Europe received.

A rejection and a walk-back

The African ex-employees have written a letter to Twitter, rejecting the offer and demanding a three-month gross salary as severance pay, costs associated with non-Ghanaian employees’ repatriation, the vesting of stock options granted under their contracts, and other benefits provided to their peers abroad.

Yesterday, CNN reporter Larry Madowo confirmed that Twitter had finally contacted its Africa team, and agreed to negotiate severance terms.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, who once said he had no option but to fire people to curb the company’s financial loss, announced that Twitter is hiring for engineering and sales positions. This news comes after about 1,000 employees resigned after being offered an ultimatum—to work long hours at high intensity or leave the company. It seems unlikely that Twitter’s new personnel will be from the continent, given its evident contempt for its prior African workforce.

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AIRTEL MONEY LOSES $2.1 MILLION TO HACKERS IN UGANDA

Hackers drained Airtel Mobile Commerce Uganda Limited’s (AMCUL) systems of nearly Ush 8 billion ($2.1 million) after using malware to force AMCUL’s software to approve transactions. 

The cyber theft happened on October 28 and affected a number of banks and microfinance deposit-taking institutions in Uganda.

How did they do it?

Through one of Airtel Money’s clients, a betting organisation whose name has been withheld, the hackers were able to access the company’s computer systems. 

The betting platform is used by gamblers to load virtual bet slips with money from their Airtel or MTN mobile money accounts. Hackers launched a black box assault; they used the platform as a gateway to Airtel’s mobile money central system and triggered it to dispense money.

Apparently, 1,840 registered and preregistered SIM cards were prepared for big withdrawals, but the hack was stopped after transactions were completed on 1,800 of the cards.

The Cyber and Counter Electronic Measure Desk at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Kampala received a formal complaint from one of the impacted microfinance institutions. It is still carrying out investigations. 

Airtel Uganda, however, has released a statement insisting that its platform is secure and reliable and that the hack did not impact any Airtel Money or bank balances.

This continues a pattern of rising cyberattacks in the nation and across the entire continent. Last year, it was estimated that hackers stole $4 million from banks in Uganda. Seeing how $2.1 million was lost in this one heist, the estimate for this year might top last year’s.

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GOODWILL INVESTMENT LAUNCHES A NEW $154M FUND FOR AFRICA

Impact investing is gradually becoming one of the major funding streams for Africa’s growing tech ecosystem. 

Earlier this month, TechCabal reported Quona Capital’s close of its $332 million impact investment fund. Today, the spotlight is on Goodwill Investment as it launches its second fund, a $154 million fund for innovative and impactful businesses in Africa

“I am because you are….”

The new $154 million fund is dubbed Umunthu II, an African phrase interpreted as: “I am because you are. Since you are, therefore I am.” Might be a bit tricky to understand, but the phrase connotes a mutual understanding of communal commitment.

This interpretation is reflected in the fund’s thesis, which requires funded startups to focus on sectors that provide basic goods, services, and income-generation opportunities for underserved communities. 

The fund will be deployed to startups in the fintech, agritech, and mobility sectors, with a secondary emphasis on healthtech, edtech, and energy-focused startups.

“Our mission-driven investment philosophy delivers both financial and social returns by taking an extremely local approach,” Els Boerhof, one of Goodwell’s MPs, said, describing the fund’s achievement as a nexus of impact and profitability.

The new fund will be co-managed by Alitheia Capital, Goodwell’s long-term investment partner based in Lagos, Nigeria.

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DSTV WINS PIRACY SUIT

A South African man has been convicted of infringing on DStv’s content.

This week, the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court convicted Jordan Lee Mott of selling pirated access to DStv’s content,

Originally accosted in 2020, Mott was selling modified Android TV boxes that allowed users stream content owned by MultiChoice—DStv’s parent company.

Per MyBroadBand, Mott was found guilty of contravening Section 45 of South Africa’s Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communicated-related Information Act (RICA) which prohibits the manufacturing and distribution of listed equipment.

The court sentenced Mott to seven years in jail, with a R60,000 ($3,460) fine payable to South Africa’s Criminal Asset Recovery Account. Mott’s jail term however has been suspended provided he isn’t convicted of a similar crime in the future.

MultiChoice executive for corporate affairs, Colleen Dlamini, lauded the judgement as a significant moment in MultiChoice’s fight against piracy. “There is more that needs to be done in terms of minimising the negative impact of piracy on content creation and the economy. It is important that we work with law enforcement agencies to ensure that perpetrators of piracy face the might of the law. As we intensify our efforts to fight piracy, I hope more convictions will follow,” said Dlamini.

The big picture: This year, DStv has tightened its clamp on content piracy. In March, to the dismay of its users, it limited content streaming for all packages to one device at a time. In September, it also announced that its exploring limiting password sharing via its subsidiary Irdeto.

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SWEEPSOUTH PAUSES OPERATIONS NIGERIA


A year after launching its services in Nigeria, South African cleantech startup SweepSouth is pausing its operations in the country.

The startup officially started its Nigeria operations in September 2021 after running tests for two months. Country manager Awazi Angbalaga announced that the startup had received 300 bookings pre-launch, which led it to believe its “proposition was compelling to Nigerians”.

So far, it appears Nigeria’s dire economic situation is compelling it to reconsider its stance.

In a Twitter post, the company cited macroeconomic conditions as the reason for its pause. “Our business cannot sustainably operate due to the economic pressures being faced at the moment,” the statement read.

This year, Nigeria’s inflation rate has reached a 17–year high, with 21.1% recorded in October 2022, a slight increase from September’s 20.8%. Several businesses have been disrupted as commodity prices become unstable due to disruptions in the supply chain, currency depreciation and rising fuel scarcity. SMEs across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their heads above this storm with several, like SweepSouth, reportedly shutting down due to rising operational costs.

The startup will halt its operations starting this Friday, November 25. It will take on all pre-booked orders up till November 25 and offer refunds to orders booked for after the said date.

“While we will no longer be operating in Nigeria, we will continue to keep abreast of activities in the Nigerian market and work towards a potential re-entry into the market at a later date,” the announcement read. 

This pause comes with implied layoffs for the startup’s Nigerian team with Angbalaga tweeting that its team of operators were open to new opportunities.

The startup will, however, continue to operate in Egypt and South Africa where it recently announced an $11 million raise which was expected to be used in developing its teams and rolling out new services in existing markets. 

The startup’s decision to pause operations in what appears to be an unprofitable market is the latest pointer to the growing frugality in Africa’s tech ecosystem. Several other startups like Kenya’s Sendy and Swvl have also taken similar decisions to tighten operations and reduce costs in preparation for a growing funding winter. 

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TC LIVE: HARNESSING THE POWER OF CRYPTO

How can Africans leverage crypto to grow and secure their wealth during inflation?

With the price of goods and services continuing to skyrocket and income levels dwindling, more people are turning to crypto investments to grow their wealth; cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are seen as a more reliable store of value than traditional investment assets.

Join us on Friday, November 25, on another edition of TechCabal Live where, together with experts in the space, we will discuss the various ways in which cryptocurrency can be used to drive financial inclusion in Africa.

To join the conversation, register here.

IN OTHER NEWS FROM TECHCABAL

Corporate governance deficiencies can no longer be ignored in the African startup ecosystem.

Autochek doubles down on vehicle financing in Africa with the launch of Autochek Financial Services.

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Applications are open for the UK Research and Innovation African Research Leaders’ Programme. Talented researchers in sub-Saharan Africa leading quality health research in the region can apply to get up to £750,000 in funding. Apply by December 1.
  • The Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme and the Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique of Nairobi are offering a three-month-long fellowship in France for postdoc researchers from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Eastern Congo (Kivu) who have presented their thesis from 2017. Laureates will receive a monthly stipend of €1,600 at the start of each month. Apply by December 9.
  • If your startup or innovation is focused on climate-smart agriculture practices, apply to the THRIVE|Shell Climate-Smart Agriculture Challenge for a chance to win $100,000, a spot in a prestigious accelerator, publicity and more. Apply by December 11.
  • Applications are now open for Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp. The immersive virtual camp will give founders and developers from underrepresented communities mentorship, technical support and access to the alumni network. Apply by December 5.

What else is happening in tech?

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Written by – Timi Odueso, Ngozi Chukwu & Caleb Nnamani

Edited by – Kelechi Njoku

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