Far from over

After Shuttering In Uganda, Africell Bets Bigger On Angola

By  |  April 20, 2022

It was less than a year ago when Africell, the African telecom operations of United States-based Lintel Holdings, announced that it was throwing in the towel in Uganda. 

Due to a presumably unavoidable turn of events mostly harbingered by the unwavering dominance of MTN and Airtel’s Ugandan units, the telco–once one of the East African market’s most promising–called it quits for lack of a sustainable and economic way to continue its business. 

Because the Ugandan context is not Africell’s only stomping grounds, the telco quickly set its sights on other markets in the continent. To consolidate its position in the region, one which it has held for over 20 years, the company moved on to greener pastures. 

From all indications, Africell has lived up to its expectations regarding launching in Angola, the market it openly touted while shuttering its Ugandan office. 

Exactly fourteen months after the telco secured the country’s fourth unified telecoms license [paying about USD 150 M], the service is now fully operational in Angola, where it is the first new mobile operator in no less than two decades. Africell, which counts the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) as its biggest external investor, joined three other players–Unitel, Movicel, and Angola Telecom–to become the fourth. 

“Angola is a country of enormous potential. Its people have unique energy, making Angola an exciting place to invest. Over the last twenty years, Africell has developed the experience and capabilities needed to embrace this opportunity: bringing competition to a big new market and using our network to stimulate economic growth and social development. Africell is making a long-term commitment to Angola, and we are thrilled to be launching a brand that the country can be proud of,” says Ziad Dalloul, chairman and CEO of Africell Group.

As it appears, Africell could not have made Angolan inroads at a better time. Looking to give its middle-income economy a newer lease of life and create a cesspool of private sector investments, Angola is on the verge of an encompassing reform and privatization process. The country’s new drive was brought on by President Joao Lourenco, who assumed office nearly four years ago and looks to be reelected during this year’s polls. 

Per reports, Africell’s Angolan modus operandi is heavily focused on giving all Angolans the digital tools they need to realize their potential. Leveraging its footprints and expertise, the company is said to be building a mobile network that will soon be recognized as the best in Angola. Nevertheless, time will factor into revealing if this becomes a reality. 

The company network is 5G-ready and will have an initial capacity that would cater to more than 6 million Angolan subscribers.

Last year, the telco partnered with Angola Cables to acquire wholesale IP transit and connectivity solutions for its network. Via the collaboration, Africell would be able to offer customers high-speed data connection, low latency, and nationwide internet connectivity by employing advanced cable infrastructure. In addition, the network is connected to the country’s major IXP, Angonix, and provides backhaul assistance to Angola’s major mobile operators. 

According to forecasts by the International Monetary Fund’s most recent forecasts, Angola is expected to recover from the 4 percent economic recession it suffered in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic; it grew by 3.2 in 2021 and improved its budget deficit from 2.8 percent to a slight imbalance of 0.1 percent in 2022. As the current leadership tries to wean the economy off its dependency on oil, the country brandishes more investment prospects than ever. 

In Africa, telcos are often at the forefront of digitally-driven innovation, as, barring banks, they are mostly the first platforms any consumer will ever know, connect to and utilize. Due to the nature of the continent’s markets, it makes sense to break in with a disruptive mindset, one that will see to the transformation and improvement of existing systems. 

Africell bills as a digital-forward disruptor [not necessarily SIM card merchants], and Angola is a market hungry for digital disruption. But, since African markets are hardly a mirror of one another, there is much room to determine if Africell’s Angolan ambitions would trump its Uganda shortcomings. 

Featured Image: Nyt.com

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