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REDCLOUD ENABLES BANK OF KHARTOUM TO BRING MOBILE FINANCIAL SERVICES TO ALL OF SUDAN

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REDCLOUD ENABLES BANK OF KHARTOUM TO BRING MOBILE FINANCIAL SERVICES TO ALL OF SUDAN

Rich mobile solution offers comprehensive Islamic banking facilities and extends reach to remote areas

RedCloud’s ICENI mobile platform is powering Bank of Khartoum’s launch of Hassa since August 2014, Hassa is Sudan’s first Mobile Financial Service. As an award-winning institution, the Bank of Khartoum is enabling the vast number of Sudanese people who currently have no access to a bank account to receive core financial services.

RedCloud’s ICENI platform, a customisable solution for m-commerce, is providing Hassa customers access to essential financial services, for example to easily transfer money, do cash in and cash out transactions and track their accounts. Following a few months the service has been upgraded and will offer electricity payments, mobile payments, bank transfers and purchase mobile airtime from their phone. Additionally, customers will be able to use Hassa Shops or Bank of Khartoum ATMs to deposit cash and make withdrawals directly from their mobile accounts. Already over 1,000 Hassa Agents are onboard to support customer’s needs across Sudan.

Justin Floyd, CEO and deputy chairman, RedCloud Technology, said: “Africa is largely unbanked and Sudan is no different, with only 10 per cent of the adult population formally served with financial services. Meaning ‘Now’ in English, Hassa is bringing the convenience of mobile finance to the masses and we are pleased to be the key technology partner to target those previously underserved and to existing customers.”

Mr. Fadi Salim Al Faqih, CEO, Bank of Khartoum, said: “Mobile communications has revolutionised life in rural, expansive parts of the world like Africa, and mobile financial services is developing that further. Banking is more than just about making payments; it’s about being able to manage your finances. This includes paying utility bills, viewing transactions to keep an eye on budgeting and ready access to cash when it’s needed. Hassa will provide easy, instant and convenient access to financial services through any mobile phone to improve lives.”

Hassa – bringing finance to the masses

Hassa is built on RedCloud’s ICENI platform, which allows financial institutions to deliver mobile financial services at a fraction of the cost of operating a traditional branch network and enables fast business expansion and growth. This flexible and scalable platform provides everything needed to make agents more productive without the need to maintain expensive hardware or software.

Hassa is aimed at providing reliable financial services to Sudan’s unbanked and converting the existing un-official means of money into a formal channel of mobile money. By combining the portfolio and reserves of the Bank of Khartoum with the reach of mobile operator Zain and the proven capability of RedCloud’s ICENI platform, Hassa offers more than just a way to move money about, instead being augmented by a fuller banking service offering. As such, the service will also be helping the growing microfinance sector and is available across Sudan. In addition, Mobile Financial Services is a recognised contributor to GDP growth.

Hassa’s mobile financial services operate like a normal bank account, with the mobile phone number acting as the account number. This new digital facility is the first in Sudan and extends banking facilities across the country.

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears 1

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.

Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.

As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.

The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.

A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback 2

By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.

The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.

In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.

Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.

Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.

Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.

Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)

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Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses

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Don't ignore "lockdown fatigue", UK watchdog tells finance bosses 3

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.

Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.

“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”

Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.

“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.

Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.

“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.

Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.

The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.

Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.

There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.

“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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