The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred digital transformation initiatives across Africa, but it has also affected the revenues of its largest telecommunication firms.
Almost all of the companies in this list had their bottom lines affected by the global pandemic either positively or negatively, however, a key trend is clear – customer bases are growing across the board as Africa is steadily developing.
These telecoms represent an important technology in the continent, the technology that enables and facilitates communication. A vital innovation for developing economies.
The following list takes into account both total annual revenue and current user base/subscribers to rank the telecoms.
Here are the top 10 largest Telecom companies in Africa ranked:
10. Globacom Limited
Founded in 2003, Globacom is currently considered one of Nigeria’s largest telecommunication firms and is a member of Nigeria’s Big Four – together with MTN Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, and 9Mobile.
The company offers a vast range of products, from mobile data to cloud storage solutions.
9. Telkom Group
- Revenue: $763-million (2021)
- User Base: 16.1-million
One of the largest ICT services providers in South Africa, Telkom operates in more than 38 countries across Africa, as well. The company is an ISP staple for SA and is 39% state-owned.
Telkom offers a bevvy of internet service packages and options, from LTE to Fibre.
8. Etisalat Egypt
- Revenue: $1.1-billion (2021)
- User Base: 26.4-million (2020)
Also known as Etisalat Misr, this wing of the UAE’s Etisalat group services the Egyptian population. It was the third mobile operator to enter Egypt’s market and the first integrated operator telecom services provider in the country. It was also the first company to provide 3.5G and 4G services.
Etisalat Egypt is a quickly growing company, like most of the others on this list. In 2020, the firm reported 22% YoY growth from 2019.
The firm provides mobile, fixed-line, mobile Internet and fixed Internet services.
7. Maroc Telecom
- Revenue: $997-million (2021)
- User Base: 73-million
Established in 1998, Maroc Telecom is Morocco’s main, and largest telecommunications company. It is a semi-public company, similar to Telkom, with Morocco’s government owning 22% of the company, and Etisalat Group owning 53%. Other investors, like French multimedia firm Vivendi, own the rest.
In 2016, Maroc introduces fibre optic internet into the country with speeds up to 200Mbps.
The company offers landline phone services, as well as mobile, fibre internet, ADSL and 4G+.
6. Ethio Telecom
- Revenue: $1.29-billion (2021)
- User Base: 56.2-million
Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethio Telecom is one of the Ethiopian government’s Big 5 group of state-owned corporations, along with Ethiopian Airlines, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, and others.
The company has been at the centre of many controversies since 2012 and has been allegedly hindering freedom of speech in the country’s online space at the order of the Ethiopian government.
Recently, the government has begun a bidding process to sell a 40% stake in Ethio Telecom. Many large-name potential investors have lined up, including Orange and Vodafone.
Ethio Telecom offers mobile, fixed-line and broadband internet.
- Revenue: $2.4-billion (2021)
- User Base: 39.90-million
Safaricom is Kenya’s ubiquitous telecom group and enjoys a place as the uncontested leader for the country’s telecommunications sector, owning over 90% of the market share.
Founded in 1993, Safaricom, a subsidiary of South Africa’s Vodacom Group, provides a large bouquet of services and solutions, from M-Pesa to mobile devices and all in-between.
It is also the provider of Kenya’s fastest mobile internet connection.
4. Airtel Africa
- Revenue: $3.5-billion (2020)
- User Base: 78-million
Airtel Africa provides telecommunications and mobile money services to 14 countries across the continent, primarily in East, Central and West Africa, where Airtel Nigeria is the company’s most profitable arm.
The company is majority-owned by Indian communications firm Bharti Airtel.
Its services also include mobile and broadband internet, as well as 4G.
3. Vodacom Group
- Revenue: $6.8-billion (2021)
- User Base: 123.7-million*
Vodacom Group Limited is a South African mobile communications firm, offering its services to over 32 Africa countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Angola, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and more.
Owned partly (64.5%) by the British Vodafone Group, the company offers mobile phone technology and internet connectivity services.
2. Orange Africa & Middle-East
- Revenue: $6.8-billion (2021)
- User Base: 130-million
Orange Africa and ME have a presence in 18 countries, mostly in Africa with the additions of Jordan in the Middle-East, and Belgium in Europe. The company says that 1 in 10 Africans is an Orange customer.
Orange says it invests 1 billion euros every year to enable and facilitate digital transformation across Africa, it is also a major investor in many undersea and terrestrial cables enabling better internet access in the continent with ACE, 2 Africa, Djoliba and others.
1. MTN Group
- Revenue: $5.6-billion (2021)
- User Base: 277.3-million
Undisputed in 2012, and undisputed now – MTN is Africa’s largest telecom company based on revenue and number of users. Though about $1.2-billion shy of Orange Africa & Middle-East’s annual revenue, MTN’s enormous subscriber base, by far and away the largest on the continent, propels it to first place on this list.
MTN was formalised in 2001 in South Africa, and has grown exponentially over the years to the point where its bright yellow branding is ubiquitous across the Rainbow Nation, and beyond.
The company has expanded to many African countries, including Nigeria, where it holds a large percentage of the market share and reigns as one of the country’s Big Four telecoms.
MTN offers internet services and mobile devices, as well as insurance.
*Vodacom’s user base also includes Safaricom subscribers.