Telecoms & IT
By TBY | Mozambique | Jun 29, 2015
A healthy media industry—pluralistic, the voice of civil society, sustainable, and disseminated over an effective communications matrix—is a cornerstone of a vibrant country capable of advancement. Today, the numbers don’t make for glamorous reading. Mozambique’s comparatively low internet penetration is at 4.8%, while 5.4% of the population use the internet (ITU, 2013). The former figure is far shy of the 16% African average. Mozambique ranked 188th in the world as of 2012 according to industry data. For that year fixed broadband reached 0.1% of the population, while 1.8% went online via wireless broadband. The arrival of the SEACOM submarine cable in 2009 followed by the EASSy submarine cable a year later afforded Mozambique access to cheaper international connectivity ending dependence on VSAT or neighboring South Africa for internet transit services, reducing the retail price of broadband internet connection.
SOME METRICS AND A PARADOX
Mozambique was the pioneer African country to provide broadband wireless services through WiMax. Yet the shortage of landlines severely curbs fixed-line broadband penetration, which keeps prices, and access, beyond the means of most outside those urban areas deemed strategic to investment. In 2013 the fixed telephone market—fully liberalized at end-2007—had a penetration of just 0.3%. Mobile-cellular subscriptions stood at 56% at end-2014. Industry data shows a mobile segment CAGR of 40% for 2003-2013, rising from 435,757 to 12.4 million subscribers.
Mozambique’s internet provider market has several players. National fixed-line operator Telecommunication de Mozambique (TDM) provides home and business ADSL internet access. In early 2014 its packages ranged from 512 kbit/s with a 6 GByte cap for (~$21) to 4 Mbit/s with a 43 GByte cap for (~$118). Another mobile telco in the Mozambican market is mcel, founded in 1997. By the end of 2011, before the third operator launched its operations, mcel sat on a market share of 56%. By end-2013 this had slipped to 47%. Vodacom Mozambique is a component of South African Vodacom International, in turn controlled by British Vodafone. Vodacom was awarded a mobile telecommunications license in August 2002 and commenced 3G operations in December 2003. At the end of June 2014 the telco had roughly 4.6 million customers. In November 2010 Movitel received the third mobile license for $28 million. In contrast to its operator peers, targeting urban centers, it addressed the rural populations in pursuit of scale—just 31% of Mozambique’s population is urbanized according to UN data). Movitel is said to have set its prices at around 10% below the market average and at the end of 2012 it already had 1.4 million subscribers.
ON THE AIR…
With electricity access in Mozambique at just 18%, radio remains a vital source of information for most citizens. Numerous private radio stations spin discs and data alike, importantly in rural areas, and are able to address specific small audiences. Many of the 70-or-so community stations in operation in 2012 were funded by UNESCO. Yet state-run Rádio Moçambique pulls in the largest audience broadcasting with programming in around 20 languages.
…AND IN YOUR HANDS
Newspapers and print media pull in far fewer citizens than both radio and television. Clear reasons make this a no-brainer. Firstly, the print media is published in Portuguese, which only around 11% of the populace speaks. Add to that the prohibitive cost of papers relative to overall income, limited distribution, and a 44% illiteracy, and readership is set to remain in the shadows for a spell. Noting a further pitfall for the industry was José Guerra, President of the Council Administration of media group Miramar who, in a TBY interview, observed that while the group has been “…accepting interns, these young journalists usually have a strong theoretical background [but] are not always knowledgeable on the realities of the market.”
INDEPENDENCE ACROSS THE BOARD
Prior to independence, the media in Mozambique was a facsimile of colonial power Portugal, hence the tool of a then autocratic regime. With independence, then, came a fresh momentum—ultimately enshrined in the 2004 constitution—for a pluralist media that recognized partisan opinion and sought to reach all citizens nationwide. Moreover, the technology of dissemination has fostered an entrepreneurial spirit that stands to contribute substantially to national development and hence status on the continent and beyond. Fundamental to all of this, however, is the need for a professionalism, contingent upon training, and access to current and accurate data, and the tools through which to disseminate it. Then there is the audience itself, where citizen engagement is key to remedying current media shortfalls.
A major pan-African initiative launched early in 2015 has the potential to galvanize media agents across the continent to strengthen media capacity in such core areas as journalistic scope and depth of coverage and facilitate the social applications of ICT through a continent-wide platform of shared content. Its message is that where the media is concerned, content is very much still king. In February 2015, the Kenya-based African Media Initiative (AMI), the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) and African Advanced Level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI) linked arms to boost capacity within the African media and the ICT sector, and achieve a critical mass of qualified reporters specialized in comprehensively covering the media industry. AMI brings together media owners in pursuit of solutions to the entrenched problems facing the media industry including poor financing, the need for sustainable business models, and effective tapping of the advertising market. The training schemes it endorses also promote journalistic efficacy. Meanwhile, the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) is the foremost African entity promoting the development of ICT infrastructure and services; it has sought to accelerate the creation of info-communications conducive to a knowledge-based society, and full inter-country connectivity. Its research has partnered the BBC World Service Trust and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Finally, the African Advanced Level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI) is an intergovernmental entity that offering advanced training to middle- and upper management in technical and managerial positions in the telecommunications sector in Eastern and Southern Africa.
KEEPING IT REAL
The 6th annual African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF) of 2013 adopted the theme of “Media and African Renaissance.” Its many interesting conclusions included this telling nugget; “The biggest media investment in Africa is coming from China, and yet much of the coverage of China in Africa is based on crude stereotypes of the Chinese.” Also discussed was the advantage of establishing media industry ombudsmen to ensure accountability, establish trust in media organizations and foster journalistic integrity, by protecting media practitioners from legal challenges to free and accurate reporting. The news ombudsmen are a link between news organizations and their readers or viewers.
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