The telecommunication sector in Rwanda has seen massive investments. This growth however has been realised with bigger costs compared to other countries on the continent.
Antoine Masozera, MTN Rwanda’s, chief finance officer talks about challenges, opportunities and benefits of investing in the telecommunication sector.
TNT: What are the challenges of investing in the telecom sub sector in Africa?
Masozera The biggest challenge is limited infrastructure. In some places there are no roads. There is no electricity. We are forced to invest in the infrastructure in order to provide the services.
This is very expensive for us operators and at times makes services uncompetitive. Another constraint is limited supply of competent human resource.
The ICT sector needs competent people that can be trained in a very short time since this industry is very dynamic yet we have a very short supply of skilled people.
In Rwanda particularly, the terrain of the country is very hilly, so we need more base stations while in other countries with flat terrain one base station would be required, in Rwanda you need 10.
This pushes operational costs high and the services we provide slightly more expensive.
TNT: What opportunities does your company create?
Masozera Unlike service providers elsewhere, we don’t have a huge market to serve.
This low level of purchasing power affects us widely. But as more Africans afford our services we expand and therefore the cost of maintaining a mobile phone can drop.
TNT: What is the fate of landline telephones in Africa?
Masozera Landlines are still essential because they are less costly than mobile phones in the long-run.
Fixed telephony has been here for long but penetration has been very low.
TNT: What is your assessment of cellular networks in Africa?
Masozera When mobile phones came, economic opportunities were created.
The penetration of telephones in Africa stands at over 20 percent of the total population on the continent—which is about 700 million. South Africa has the highest telephone penetration with a 60 percent rate.
In Rwanda it was 6 percent in 2006 and 8 percent in 2007. That means there are many people who don’t get our services which means we have many opportunities.
MTN Rwanda is working harder to ensure many more Rwanda access mobile phone services.
The company introduced the village telephones and centres to serve customer demands. Meaning the challenges here provide many more opportunities.
TNT: From your experience of investing in the telecom sector in other regions, how do you rate Africa?
Masozera Cellular networks in Africa are just as good as anywhere in the world. We use the same kind of vendors like the rest of the world.
We provide state of the art technology in telecommunications but as I said our penetration and network coverage is low but otherwise our networks provide good services as anywhere.
TNT: Does Africa provide a good market for mobile telephones today? Why is the mobile telephone business currently vibrant in Africa?
Masozera Yes’ because the market is very huge the teledensity is very low.
Telephones are one major engine of growth because easy and efficient communication reduces the cost of business and decision making.
TNT: What MTN’s profile in Africa? Which impact has MTN created in the communication sector?
Masozera MTN is the leading telecommunication service provider in Africa in terms of revenue and subscriber base.
The company has had an enormous impact on the continent. It is still the leading communication company in emerging markets like Afghanistan, Syria, Cyprus, and Iran.
TNT: Recently Rwanda hosted a UN sponsored summit on telecommunication in Africa where concepts like broadband communications in addition to more mobile telephony were discussed. What is the way forward for Africa in regard to ICT investment?
Masozera Mobile telephony is an industry that can speed Africa’s development. There is a cable being built across the Eastern Africa coastline. When complete, the cable will connect and enhance communication between Africa and the rest of the world. Another cable system will connect Cape Town to Cairo.
TNT: How often are mobile phones used in daily life? How much do you use it as a senior executive, and how much do you use it outside of work?
Masozera Mobile phones are an essential part of my life, I feel naked if I have no mobile, and I use it as much I breathe.
TNT: How much does it cost to have a mobile phone in Rwanda? How does that compare to the cost of living in the country as a whole? Who, as a result, are using mobile phones?
Masozera MTN Rwanda sells mobiles to all social economic classes in the country; we have phones going as low as Frw15,000 or about $25 and $2 for a SIM card so to own a phone in Rwanda you need a maximum of $30 as an investment.
Compared to the income per capita ($240) it’s an investment every working adult can afford and even parents can afford to buy phones for their children at home on school holidays.