News, views and commentary from the telecoms sector across emerging markets and developing countries worldwide

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Senegal stand out among West and Central Africa's booming mobile markets

An article from the African Press Agency this week, picked up by Cellular News, has rounded up a very positive set of Q3 2008 operational results from telcos doing business in West and Central Africa, including MTN, Orange, Zain, and Millicom Cellular International.

The mobile markets of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Gabon and Mali, according to the unnamed authors of a report to which the article refers, are found to be larger than expected. Conversely, the mobile markets of Cameroon, Mauritania and Senegal were found to be smaller than expected by the end of 2008.

This report apparently included a five-year mobile telephony forecast for West and Central Africa which forsees the strongest subscriber growth occurring in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Senegal. The report adds that in Cameroon and Mali, penetration rates were still relatively low at the end of 2008, giving these markets considerable room for further future growth. The report authors are correct. According to the World Cellular Information Service offered by Informa Telecoms & Media, mobile penetration in Cameroon stood at just over 31% by the end of December 2008 and at just over 28.5% in Mali.

These are the sort of numbers I expected. Much more surprising is the 103.66% penetration recorded in Gabon - and the fact that the Gabonese market has doubled in size over the last two years. True, the relatively small country with a small population (around 1.5 million) has abundant natural resources and has apparently enjoyed decent levels of foreign private investment, all of which has made Gabon one of the more prosperous countries in the region, with the highest Human Development Index in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile penetration of over 100% still seems unusually impressive, even in this context. In the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa only South Africa and Botswana have broken the 100% barrier.

This article, then, indicates that West and Central Africa's mobile markets are in rude health. It is certainly the case that the Com World Series conference and exhibition which serves this region was one of Informa Telecom's & Media's more impressive success stories in 2008, with delegate numbers up 72% vs. the previous year's event. I do not believe that all of this growth can be attributed to shifting the conference to Abuja, capital of the continent's largest market, Nigeria. My former colleague, Julie Rey has done a magificent job growing this and other events in Africa in her time with the business.

One of the CEOs who contributed to the 2007 version of the event (in Dakar, Senegal) has been in the news this week, for rather less happy reasons than some new achievement on the part of the cellco which he leads.

Aimable Mpore heads up MTN's operation in C­ôte D'Ivoire, a country from which he has just been expelled according to a Cellular News article I read this week. Mr Mpore (who has dual Canadian and Rwandan citizenship) has apparently managed to embarrass the country's President.

One of the frustrations of doing the same job as Julie in other world regions was having to handle cancellations on the part of keenly-anticipated conference speakers. My view is that everyone who agrees to make a presentation or join a roundtable discussion does so in good faith, genuinely intending to be there as advertised. I therefore realise that it makes sense to take it on the chin when some legitimate cause for withdrawing crops up. I am not sure if Mr Mpore was planning to make it to Abuja for this years's West & Central Africa Com. Unless his current difficulties are resolved soon, I would say he has a legitimate reason to decline the invitation or go back on any arrangement already made.

As I look back fondly on my years of rounding speakers for industry conferences worldwide, this is one aspect of the job I will not miss.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, you need to have a look also in the DRC where the Telecom has been growing tremendously. There is still to talk about this country where giant of the telecom are fighting. If Nokia is present now in this market, it is about time to see this brand dominate the business.


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