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MTN, Orange, two others dominate African market

By Adeyemi Adepetun
07 August 2019   |   4:18 am
Four major mobile network operators (MNOs) currently dominate the African market. The quartet collectively has about 617 million collectively across Middle East and Africa...

Four major mobile network operators (MNOs) currently dominate the African market. The quartet collectively has about 617 million collectively across Middle East and Africa (MEA). The African market remains a major region of operations for the operators.

The operators are MTN, Orange, Vodacom and Airtel. Connecting Africa disclosed that one in 10 Africans is an Orange customer. The figure puts the French firm, among the top four biggest operators on the continent when measured by subscriber numbers.

Orange had around 122.5 million mobile customers across the MEA region at the end of the second quarter of 2019. But it has a long way to go before it can claim the region’s mobile crown.

MTN is by far the biggest operator in the MEA region, with 236.6 million customers across its 21 operations at the end of March 2019.

Vodacom, meanwhile, had 110 million group subscribers in its six African operations at the end of March 2019 (if you include Safaricom, in which Vodacom owns a 35 per cent stake). Vodafone, Vodacom’s parent, had an additional 49.3 million customers in its operations in Egypt and Ghana at the end of June.

Airtel Africa is in fourth place, with around 99.7 million customers across 15 markets in Africa at the end of March 2019.
Together, the four operators have about 617 million mobile customers across the MEA region, about 45 per cent of the region’s entire mobile user base.

In total Africa has just over one billion mobile users, according to statistics gathered by market research company Ovum, while there are almost 380 million in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, mobile money services are hugely popular in Africa. According to Orange, 40 million of its customers in 17 countries are excluded from any traditional financial services, and, subsequently, use Orange Money to make necessary transactions via their mobile phone. Around 15 million of those are active users, representing 13 per cent of Orange’s mobile customer base. Orange would like to increase penetration to more than 70 per cent.

Mobile money services allow customers to pay bills, purchase goods and transfer money through basic text-messaging functionality. The trailblazer in the market has always been Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform, which started in Kenya but which now is used by more than 37 million users across Vodacom, Vodafone and Safaricom’s territories across Africa and in India.

At the end of March 2019, MTN had 28.3 million active Mobile Money customers across its operations, while Airtel had about 14.2 million mobile money customers in Africa according to its prospectus published in June.

In Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has granted a new licence to a subsidiary of MTN Nigeria that will allow the telco to expand its financial services business in the West African nation, where it already has 61.5 million mobile customers.

Yello Digital Financial Services (YDFS) has been granted a full “super-agent license” by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which MTN says will allow it to leverage its established distribution channels to offer a wide range of mobile financial services.

MTN Nigeria CEO Ferdi Moolman said in a statement that the super-agent license will enable the company to extend access to financial services to a much broader group of Nigerians.

“Through the network established by YDFS, MTN is in a position to broaden the availability of financial services for the under-served across the country.

This marks a very important first step in leveraging our infrastructure to scale our fintech initiatives. We have also applied for a Payment Service Bank License, which will enable us in time to offer a broader and deeper range of financial services to those communities, and we remain hopeful we will receive approval shortly,” Moolman added.

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