Tech News Update For The Third Week Of February

Tech news udpate from ITSA
  1. Nigeria’s telecom sector faces a decline in FDIs amid multiple challenges and opportunities

Nigeria’s telecommunications sector is one of the fastest-growing and most competitive in Africa, with over 200 million subscribers and a penetration rate of 105%. However, the sector has faced some challenges in attracting and retaining foreign direct investments (FDIs), which are crucial for expanding and upgrading the infrastructure and services.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the telecom sector received a total of $134.75 million in FDIs in 2023, a sharp decline of 70.5% from the $456.83 million recorded in 2022. This downward trend has been consistent over the past six years, as the sector’s share of the total FDIs in Nigeria dropped from 7.4% in 2017 to 1.8% in 2023.

Some of the factors that have contributed to the decline in FDIs in the telecom sector include:

  • Multiple taxation and levies are imposed by different levels of government, which increase the cost of doing business and discourage investors.
  • Instability and scarcity of foreign exchange, create uncertainty and difficulty in repatriating profits and servicing debts.
  • Regulatory and policy uncertainties, such as the suspension of new SIM card registration, the ban on Twitter, and the proposed amendments to the Nigerian Communications Act.
  • Security and social unrest, pose threats to the safety of personnel and equipment, especially in the northern and south-eastern regions.

The decline in FDIs in the telecom sector has implications for the development of the digital economy and the realization of the Nigeria National Broadband Plan (NBP 2020-2025), which aims to achieve 70% broadband penetration by 2025. To achieve this goal, the sector would require at least $3.4 billion in investments in fiber optic cables and other infrastructure.

To reverse the decline in FDIs and attract more investments in the telecom sector, the government and industry stakeholders need to address the challenges and create a more conducive and enabling environment. Some of the possible solutions include:

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2. OpenAI’s valuation skyrockets to $80 billion after Thrive Capital deal

OpenAI is a research organization that aims to create and promote artificial intelligence (AI) that can benefit humanity, without being constrained by profit or power motives. Founded in 2015 by a group of prominent tech entrepreneurs and scientists, such as Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Sam Altman, OpenAI has been at the forefront of advancing the field of AI, especially in the areas of natural language processing, computer vision, and reinforcement learning.

Some of the notable achievements of OpenAI include:

  • Developing GPT-3, one of the largest and most powerful language models ever created, which can generate coherent and diverse texts on various topics and tasks, such as writing essays, composing emails, and creating code.
  • Creating DALL-E, a generative model that can produce realistic and creative images from text descriptions, such as “an armchair in the shape of an avocado” or “a snail made of a harp”.
  • Building Codex, a system that can synthesize and execute code from natural language commands, such as “create a website that looks like Airbnb” or “make a game where you can fly a plane”.
  • Launching Copilot, a service that leverages Codex to assist programmers with writing and debugging code, by suggesting relevant and accurate lines of code for various languages and frameworks.
  • Demonstrating AlphaFold, a system that can predict the three-dimensional structure of proteins from their amino acid sequences, which is a fundamental challenge in biology and medicine.

OpenAI operates as a hybrid of a non-profit and a for-profit entity, with the goal of ensuring that its research and technologies are aligned with its vision and values, and are accessible and beneficial to the public. To fund its ambitious projects and attract top talent, OpenAI has raised over $1 billion from various investors, such as Microsoft, Reid Hoffman, and Khosla Ventures.

The latest deal that OpenAI has secured is with Thrive Capital, a venture capital firm that focuses on Internet and software companies. According to The New York Times, Thrive Capital will lead a deal to buy the OpenAI shares at a price that will value the artificial intelligence giant at at least $80 billion. The deal was first reported late last month and makes OpenAI one of the most valuable private companies in the world.

The deal will also allow some of the current and former employees of OpenAI to cash out their shares, which is a rare opportunity for them, as the company has not gone public or been acquired by another entity. The deal is expected to close in the next few weeks, and will not affect the governance or mission of OpenAI.

The soaring valuation of OpenAI reflects the growing demand and potential of artificial intelligence, as well as the reputation and influence of the company in the field. OpenAI has stated that its ultimate goal is to create artificial general intelligence (AGI), which is the ability of a machine to perform any intellectual task that a human can. However, the company has also acknowledged the risks and challenges of developing and deploying such a powerful technology and has committed to ensuring that its AI is aligned with human values and can be controlled and monitored by humans.

See this: Optimizing Tech Brilliance: Proactive Care Tips for Business Gadgets

3. Arnergy raises $3 million to expand its clean energy services in Nigeria

Arnergy is a Nigerian CleanTech startup that provides solar power systems to homes and businesses in Nigeria. The company was founded in 2013 by Femi Adeyemo and Kunle Odebunmi, who wanted to address the challenges of unreliable and expensive electricity in the country. Arnergy’s products and solutions include solar panels, batteries, inverters, and smart meters, which can be customized to meet the needs and budgets of different customers. Arnergy also offers leasing and financing options, as well as remote monitoring and maintenance services.

Arnergy has recently raised $3 million in funding from All On, an off-grid energy impact investment company backed by Shell. The funding is part of a bridge round that will help Arnergy scale its operations and accelerate the adoption of its clean energy services in Nigeria. The funding will also enable some of the current and former employees of Arnergy to sell their shares, which is a rare opportunity for them, as the company has not gone public or been acquired by another entity.

The funding comes after Arnergy secured a $9 million Series A round in 2019 from All On, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, ElectriFI, and Norfund. The company has also raised over $4 million in debt financing from local and foreign lenders, such as Nigeria’s Bank of Industry. With these investments, Arnergy has deployed over 7 MW of solar PV systems and installed over 20 MW of lithium battery energy storage solutions in Nigeria.

Arnergy’s valuation has soared to at least $80 million, making it one of the most valuable private companies in the cleantech sector in Africa. The company has also been recognized as one of the top five cleantech startups by Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Arnergy’s vision is to power the digital economy and improve the quality of life of millions of Nigerians with clean and reliable energy.

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4. Sora: OpenAI’s new generative AI that can create realistic video scenes from text

Sora is the latest AI model by OpenAI that can create realistic and imaginative video scenes from text instructions. Sora can generate videos up to a minute long while maintaining visual quality and adherence to the user’s prompt. Sora is becoming available to red teamers, visual artists, designers, and filmmakers to assess its capabilities and potential applications. Sora is also a research project that aims to teach AI to understand and simulate the physical world in motion. 

Sora is an impressive demonstration of the power and potential of artificial intelligence, as well as the challenges and risks of developing and deploying such a technology. OpenAI has stated that its ultimate goal is to create artificial general intelligence (AGI), which is the ability of a machine to perform any intellectual task that a human can. However, the company has also acknowledged the need to ensure that its AI is aligned with human values and can be controlled and monitored by humans.


5. Jumia reports improved operating performance and cash efficiency in 2023

Jumia has announced its financial results for the full year 2023, showing a significant improvement in its operating performance and cash efficiency. According to its earnings statement, Jumia reported:

  • Revenue of $186 million, down 8% year-over-year, and up 20% in constant currency.
  • GMV of $750 million, down 20% year-over-year, and up 1% in constant currency.
  • Operating loss of $73 million compared to $202 million in 2022, down 64% year-over-year, and down 64% in constant currency.
  • Adjusted EBITDA loss of $58 million compared to a loss of $182 million in 2022, down 68% year-over-year, and down 70% in constant currency.
  • Loss before Income tax from continuing operations of $99 million compared to $206 million in 2022, down 52% year-over-year, and down 47% in constant currency.
  • Liquidity position of $121 million marking a decrease of $107 million in 2023 compared to a decrease of $285 million in 2022.
  • Net cash flows used in operating activities were $74 million compared to $240 million in 2022, down 69% year-over-year.

Jumia’s co-CEOs, Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara, commented on the results, saying: “We are proud of the progress we have made in 2023, which reflects the relevance of our strategy towards cash efficiency and profitable growth. We have significantly reduced our operating losses and cash utilization while maintaining a robust growth momentum in our key performance indicators. We are confident that we have laid the foundations for sustainable growth and profitability in the future.”

Jumia is the leading e-commerce platform in Africa, operating in 14 countries across the continent. Jumia offers a wide range of products and services, such as online retail, marketplace, logistics, payments, food delivery, and travel. Jumia’s mission is to improve the quality of everyday life in Africa by leveraging technology to deliver innovative, convenient, and affordable online services to consumers while helping businesses grow as they use Jumia’s platform to reach and serve consumers.

See this: Tech News Update For The First Week of February 2024

6. The HatchDev program opens applications for the second cohort of software engineers

The HatchDev program is a nine-month specialized training program that provides participants with the skills and experience to become full-stack software engineers, intelligent systems developers, or IoT/embedded systems engineers. The program is sponsored by Moniepoint Inc., Africa’s leading digital financial services provider, and delivered by NITHub Unilag, a technology innovation hub at the University of Lagos.

The program consists of six months of hands-on training, where participants learn the fundamentals and advanced techniques of web development, data science, and embedded systems, and three months of internship, where participants apply their skills in real-world projects and collaborate with industry experts. The program also offers leasing and financing options, as well as remote monitoring and maintenance services.

The program aims to produce 300 junior software engineers, 100 intelligent systems developers, and 100 IoT/embedded systems engineers annually, and to bridge the skilled tech talent gap in Nigeria. The program also supports the Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy’s goal of creating two million digital jobs in the country.

The application deadline for the second cohort of the HatchDev program is February 18, 2024. Interested candidates are expected to have some knowledge of HTML, CSS, and foundational JavaScript to enable them to make the most of this program. Application forms can be completed through the following link: HatchDev Application Form.


7. Farmceries wins FSI Innovation Challenge for its AI-powered business banking platform

Farmceries is a Nigerian agritech startup that connects farmers with buyers and provides them with access to finance, insurance, and market information. The startup was founded in 2022 by Oluwaseun Oyelaja, a computer science graduate from the University of Lagos, who wanted to solve the problems of post-harvest losses, low productivity, and market inefficiencies in the agricultural sector. Farmceries’ platform allows farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers, retailers, and processors and also offers them credit facilities, crop insurance, and agronomic advice. Farmceries also leverages blockchain technology to ensure transparency and traceability in the supply chain.

Farmceries has recently won the 2024 FSI Innovation Challenge, a hackathon organized by Financial Services Innovators (FSI), a non-profit organization that supports tech talents and startups in the technology and financial services space. The challenge, which took place at the University of Lagos on January 13, 2024, featured over 30 teams of young innovators and potential technopreneurs from five Nigerian tertiary institutions, who strived to create impactful solutions to address challenges in the health, financial, and agricultural sectors.

Farmceries emerged as the overall winner of the challenge, beating 12 other finalists, and received a cash prize of N800,000 (about $2,000) and a three-month business incubation program from FSI. The first and second runners-up were Goalgetters, a fintech startup that provides savings and investment solutions for young people, and Smepay, a fintech startup that enables small and medium enterprises to accept digital payments.

The FSI Innovation Challenge is part of FSI’s vision to build a pipeline of tech talents that can compete globally and create employment opportunities in Nigeria. The challenge also supports the Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy’s goal of creating two million digital jobs in the country.

8. Carbon acquires Vella Finance to launch Carbon Business for SMEs

TCarbon, a leading digital bank in Nigeria, has acquired Vella Finance, a fintech startup that provides AI-powered business banking solutions to SMEs. The acquisition will enable Carbon to launch Carbon Business, a new product that will offer low-interest loans, sub-accounts, automated income splitting, and AI-powered transaction analysis to business customers. 

The deal was completed through Carbon’s parent company, One Credit Limited, and the terms were not disclosed. Some of the founders and team members of Vella Finance have joined Carbon, and the existing customers of Vella Finance will be transitioned to Carbon Business. The acquisition is part of Carbon’s strategy to expand its product portfolio and reach more segments of the Nigerian market.


9. Ilara Health raises $4.2 million to scale up its diagnostic solutions in Kenya

Ilara Health is a Kenyan health tech startup that provides affordable and accessible diagnostic solutions to primary care clinics in underserved areas. The startup was founded in 2019 by Emilian Popa, a serial entrepreneur and investor, who wanted to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery in Africa. Ilara Health partners with various device manufacturers, such as Philips, GE, and Butterfly Network, to offer a bundle of essential tests, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, malaria, HIV, and ultrasound, to clinics that otherwise could not afford them. Ilara Health also offers a software platform that integrates the devices and enables remote consultations, referrals, and data analytics.

Ilara Health has recently announced the close of a $4.2 million pre-series A round of equity and debt, led by DOB Equity, a Dutch family-backed impact investor. The round also included participation from the Philips Foundation, Alphamundi, Kiva, and Boehringer Ingelheim. The funding will be used to scale up Clara Health’s operations in Kenya, where it currently serves over 200 clinics, and to launch new products and services, such as a B2B health and occupational service that will enable uninsured workers to access care at its network of partner clinics for a fixed monthly fee.

The funding comes after Ilara Health secured a $3.8 million seed round in 2020, led by TLcom Capital, and a $1.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With these investments, Ilara Health has raised a total of $11.7 million in funding to date. The startup has also been recognized as one of the winners of the 2020 Google for Startups Accelerator Africa and the 2020 Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize.

Ilara Health’s vision is to democratize access to quality and affordable healthcare for millions of Africans, especially those living in rural and peri-urban areas, where diagnostic services are scarce and costly. Ilara Health aims to achieve this by leveraging technology, innovation, and partnerships to create a sustainable and scalable healthcare ecosystem.


10. Moniepoint and NDPC partner to promote data privacy among young Nigerians

Moniepoint Microfinance Bank and the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC) have partnered to raise awareness and sensitization for data privacy and protection as part of the National Privacy Week 2024. The partnership aims to educate young Nigerians, who make up about 65% of the country’s population, on the importance of data privacy and the responsible and ethical use of personal data, especially in the digital economy. The partnership also supports the Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy’s goal of creating two million digital jobs in the country.

Moniepoint Microfinance Bank is a leading digital financial services provider in Africa, offering a range of products and services, such as savings, loans, payments, and insurance, to individuals and businesses. Moniepoint is also a compliant and responsible data processor, ensuring that its customer’s data is protected and used in accordance with the Nigeria Data Protection Act, NDPA, which provides a legal framework for collecting, storing, and sharing personal data.

The NDPC is a statutory body established by the NDPA to regulate and enforce data protection and privacy laws in Nigeria. The NDPC is responsible for issuing guidelines, standards, and codes of practice for data controllers and processors, as well as conducting audits, investigations, and sanctions for data breaches and violations.

The partnership between Moniepoint and NDPC is a commendable initiative that will help to build a culture of data protection and privacy in Nigeria and foster trust and confidence among data subjects and data processors. The partnership will also contribute to the development of Nigeria’s digital economy, which is expected to generate over $88 billion by 2025.

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