iAfrikan Weekly Digest Edition 144 -"Not Another Internet Shutdown"
From the Editor-at-Large
It's been another busy week for tech in Africa. We saw a couple of major developments on the continent, some positive and encouraging, and others giving cause for concern.
Cameroon's government has shut down the internet in the country's English-speaking regions due to ongoing civil unrest. It has emerged that the shutdown was carried out by CAMTEL, Cameroon's national telecommunications and internet service provider, following orders from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.
Nigeria's Central Bank issued a circular stating that digital currencies - the likes of Bitcoin, Ripples, Monero, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Onecoin and similar products - were not legal tender in Nigeria, and the bank went on to warn that such currencies could be used for money laundering and funding terrorism.
We also looked at Kenya's ongoing health crisis, which has seen doctors going on social media to share their experiences and bring their issues to the fore. They are using the #LipaKamaTender hashtag to ask the Government to channel funding towards making hospitals and other medical facilities in the country better.
In other news, Rocket Internet, the Africa Internet Group's parent company, raised US$1 billion in commitments through its Capital Partners Fund, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is taking applications from South African techies and entrepreneurs for its next cohort of trainees, a new report from the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator looking at the potential for collaboration between startups and mobile operators in emerging markets, and a 'smart jacket' from a Ugandan inventor that cuts down the time used to diagnose pneumonia to 2 minutes.
What stories caught your attention this week? Any thoughts on the stories we covered? Let us know at [email protected]
Eric Mugendi // Editor-at-Large
Cameroon Shuts Down The Internet In An Anglophone-Francophone Feud
Internet users in Cameroon’s Bamenda Region have been reporting that the Internet has been cut in the country’s English-speaking North and South-Western regions amid ongoing protests. The country has seen a sharp drop in Internet traffic since the reports were made.
A letter from the Director-General of CAMTEL, Cameroon's national telecommunications and internet service provider details the moves that the Government has made to ensure compliance.
The internet was shut off following orders from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, and in order for service to be restored, the ISPs needed to commit to 'respecting measures drawn up in close collaboration with the Government. Failure to do this would lead to threats and outright coercion.
The shutdown comes amid ongoing violent protests in Cameroon's English-speaking regions, sparked by a strike by teachers and lawyers who say that Cameroon’s government is letting French sideline English in the country. Furthermore, the protesters have even gone on to suggest that the English speaking regions secede from the rest of the country, an option which the government is not entertaining.
Kenyan medical practitioners announced that they would down their tools on 5 December, following the failure of the national government to honour a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that it had signed with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists' Union. The strike commenced two days later, leading to the closure of the country's public medical facilities.
For the last few weeks, the #LipaKamaTender hashtag has been especially visible as the KMPDU has taken to social media to explain the current state of affairs. Using the hashtag, the union is calling on the Government to honour the CBA that they signed with the doctors' union in 2013, which saw the end of a strike that had seen a similar shutdown of medical facilities.
By using social media, the striking medics have located their industrial action within a broader national debate. Doctors are making it clear that their demands are not misplaced. They argue; if the ruling government can afford to overpay tenders and fail to seal loopholes leading to corruption, they definitely can afford to pay the doctors.
Nigeria's Central Bank says 'No' to Virtual Currencies
The Central Bank of Nigeria has issued a circular to banks and other financial institutions in the country warning them on the use of virtual currencies such as bitcoin, stating that they could be used for money laundering and terrorism financing.
Effectively, the Central Bank has banned banks and financial institutions in Nigeria from transacting in virtual currencies.
The CBN directive comes after the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria stated that no guidelines or regulations have been developed for them by any of the regulatory authorities in Nigeria.
"Given that these instruments and the persons, companies or entities that promote them have neither been authorized, nor any guidelines/regulations developed for them by any of the regulatory authorities in Nigeria, there is no protection available to users or investors in these virtual currencies from financial losses if the virtual currencies fail or the companies promoting them go out of business."
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