Signposts willingness to take more ground in Africa
By Nsikan Ikpe
The French-originating telecommunications behemoth, Orange has announced that, together with its Senegal-based partner Sonatel, it has completed the acquisition of 100% of the mobile operator Airtel in Sierra Leone.
This is coming on the heels of the signing of an agreement with Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) BV, incorporating the network, Airtel in January 2016.
With the current development, Orange has now obtained all the official approbations necessary to complete this transaction.
Airtel is the leading mobile operator in Sierra Leone with over 1.3 million customers (on the basis of active customers within a 30-day period) for a total population of 6.3 million people. With a mobile penetration of around 50% of the population, Sierra Leone offers considerable growth potential, particularly at a time when significant investments are underway to extend the operator’s 3G network. This network, which already offers good coverage in Freetown and other major towns in Sierra Leone, is set to provide internet access to customers living outside major urban areas.
Further, Orange has indicated that its additional investments planned to be implemented in the coming years will enable customers in Sierra Leone to benefit from the support of the Sonatel group and take advantage of the Orange group’s expertise and momentum in terms of innovation and development of the digital ecosystem.
Following the recent launch of operations in Liberia and Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone becomes the 21st country in Africa and the Middle East to join the Orange group, which industry watchers reckon to be a clearly most aggressive push to take on embattled regional leaders, MTN.
Underscoring the firm’s serious leadership push for the continent, Bruno Mettling, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Orange group and Chairman & CEO of Orange MEA (Middle East and Africa), stated: “We are pleased to announce that the acquisition of the mobile operator Airtel in Sierra Leone has been finalised. This new acquisition, which will be consolidated by Sonatel, will further strengthen Orange’s strategic position on the African continent.”