Weekly digest for 10 Sep 2021


This week’s main story is from Uganda, where Africell is exiting the market. Africell had about 10% of the Ugandan market but said that it couldn’t see a long term path towards sustainability in Uganda. Local reports stated that part of the explanation for Africell’s departure was its high level of indebtedness after it acquired Orange in 2014. Even though Uganda has 5 other operators, the market is dominated by Airtel and MTN, who are really the only other national operators. Smart Telecom also announced its closure as of the 31st of August this year. Africell said that its 2.3 million subscribers would be ported to MTN and Airtel. The impact on the Ugandan market is likely to be negative: Uganda is ranked 24th out of 54 countries in Africa for a 300MB prepaid data basket, and it is currently ranked 11th on the continent for a 20GB basket (our ICT Evidence Portal has all the important statistics). Also, the government of Uganda had a role in distorting the market and increasing prices via the social media tax (since replaced with a data tax of 12%, which many of the operators decided to absorb). The government’s policy approach to the sector is to increase the costs of doing business, especially for smaller operators, and the impacts are gradually being felt as operators leave the market. It’s notable that Africell is literally closing down and not selling its assets to a new entrant or an existing operator. The last day of operations for Africell will be 7 October 2021.

  • Liberia: LIBTELCO, the state-owned fixed line operator, has been given a five year tax holiday in order to incentivise it to roll out a mobile network. Unfortunately, state-owned mobile operators have a very poor record in Africa.
  • South Africa: ICASA has cancelled the High Demand Spectrum auction process that had been mired in court challenges. A new auction process is scheduled for 2022. Scepticism about any deadline ICASA imposes would seem to be the order of the day…
  • Virgin Mobile, South Africa: VM is closing down as of November 2021 after 15 years in operation.
  • Ghana: SIM registration (will this be another debacle like Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo and several other countries?) Ghana has already missed its initial start date of end of June.
  • Botswana: BTC reported strong increase in data usage of 300%, driving data revenues up by 85%. However, overall revenues only increased by 1%.