End of the African telecoms boom?


The upsurge in Sub-Saharan African mobile telecommunications seems to be subsiding as companies continue to saturate the market in a bid to gain more clients. The levels of investment in the sector and how businesses aim to win over customers’ favour was the subject of a new report.

As one boom ends, another begins Bitange Ndemo, secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications, believes. (image: file)

Accord to a Morgan Stanley Research report, as big money firms such as Airtel continue to improve their network coverage and decrease tariffs, Africa will become more competitive. Old timers, such as MTN and Safaricom, that have enjoyed market dominance are set to be affected the most. According to the report, the boom will be replaced by market driven innovation, new products and expanding data services.

“All companies are focusing on driving data usage, and new services to reduce churn. The most important are mobile money services like M-Pesa, where innovation take-up is high,” the report says.

“We expect mobile revenues to grow from 3,4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 to 3,7% by 2015, as we believe mobile revenue growth will outpace GDP in the next four years,” the report says.

Bitange Ndemo, secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications, says there is little room for new entrants in the local market.

“Unfortunately, there has been market erosion of about 20%, mostly because of competition that has seen cuts in tariffs in the sector. A new entrant would have a lot of problems as the four firms (Safaricom, Bharti Airtel, Yu Mobile, Orange) are struggling due to stiff competition,” Bitange told Daily Nation.

Despite the report, Bitange believes the data market with only 30% penetration in Kenya, is set to take off next. “The data market is beginning to take shape as the fibre optic network continues to expand,” he said, adding: “this will see a lot of consumption of broadband… and that is what the companies should be looking at.”

Nico Gous