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The digital future for the African continent is here. A continent that has experienced an explosive growth in data traffic now requires the necessary investments in innovative technology to leapfrog obstacles to inclusive development. Technology is changing how Africans work and live, with a continued migration to higher-speed networks and smartphones. Africa has become a springboard for future innovations, which is further complemented by its vibrant economies featuring the greatest entrepreneurial energy. Using its immediate recovery efforts to develop sustainable economic gains, the continent with the youngest population in the world — with an average age of 19.5 — boasts a large population of young people, who are advancing their societies by using technology to address various socio-economic developmental challenges.

The reality is that a significant part of the world’s population continues to live outside the digital economy. Indeed, the International Telecommunication Union recently found that 37% of the world’s population, or 2.9 billion people, have still never used the internet. According to the World Economic Forum, “only a third of the population in Africa is using the internet.” Meanwhile, in Europe, 90% of the population is online.

The “Digital Divide” is a complex problem, referring to significant differences in terms of accessibility, affordability, usability and/or equity of technology experience. The problem occurs in finding practical and workable solutions that can bridge this divide and prevent new chasms from opening in the next generations. The goal remains to achieve Digital Equity, where all individuals and communities have the connectivity and capacity needed to fully participate in society, democracy and the economy. 

Aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030, where connectivity has now been prioritized following COVID-19, MTN GlobalConnect believes in the power of digital inclusion to positively transform the economic trajectory of Africa and its social development. As a company, we will continue to take bold steps in building scale infrastructure assets that will accelerate Africa's digital economy. This revolution is made possible through our advanced networks, be they undersea, terrestrial or through our wholesale mobility services, which together help us to exchange more information faster and more easily.

In accordance with our Ambition 2025 strategy, we invest in pan-African infrastructure on a national and regional level to enhance our portfolio of fixed connectivity and in modern platforms, such as, the Y’elloConnect Hubs that underpin our wholesale mobility services. The end-to-end fixed connectivity services range from subsea cables, cable landing stations and data centers to inter-country and cross-country fiber networks. Wholesale Mobility services range from voice interconnect and messaging to value-added services (VAS) and roaming. These services are key to enacting our purpose: that everyone deserves the benefit of a modern, connected life.

Our internal customers (MTN OpCos) are enabled to service their retail consumers and enterprise operations, while our external customers, including hyperscalers, global and local carriers, and service providers, are empowered to scale their footprint on the African continent.    

We are particularly pleased with our Fiber business that has performed considerably well, having rolled out to date 105,000 km of full proprietary fiber network and driving affordable connectivity through our 2Africa partnership. This initiative complements MTN GlobalConnect’s terrestrial fiber strategy to connect African countries and the rest of the world.

Zooming in, our Wholesale Mobility business — which has recently sought to “Reframe the Game” — has continued to scale at pace, with International voice revenue growing by 25.7% YoY on the back of growth in voice minutes, which increased by 12.1% to 1 billion in the first nine months of 2022. Messaging revenue was up 17.6%, driven by a 51.5% increase in SMSes processed on our platform to 820 million. We also launched over 200 roaming services, including Voice over LTE between MTN SA and AT&T in the US, with roaming traffic levels now above pre-pandemic levels. Taking our industry to new heights, we are excited to explore and engage in new initiatives focused on 5G, VoLTE on the back of the sunsetting of 2G and 3G in markets.

A key Node in Our Business

Guided by the belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern, connected life, we see the provision of digital wholesale and infrastructure services as critical in driving digital transformation, weaving African countries together and connecting them to the rest of the world. We, therefore, regard our business as a crucial catalyst in connecting the unconnected. We are a single-entry point to the most extensive network infrastructure on the continent, feeding more than 280 million subscribers and managing over 100,000 KMs of proprietary fiber in our network. We are building digital highways around Africa to advance network coverage, enabling our Y’elloConnect communication platforms, which underpins our wholesale mobility business’ role in creating future digital economies.

As we have grown quickly over the past 5 years, we have been able to meet market expectations of quality, cost and efficiency by connecting Africa to the world and the world to Africa. MTN GlobalConnect has clearly demonstrated its ability to enable connectivity on the African continent. While these numbers make for great reading, we know that a lot more work still needs to be done, especially given the Global Systems for Mobile Communication’s (GSMA) prediction that Africa will have 623 million mobile subscribers in 2025, compared to 456 million in 2018. 

Looking Ahead

Africa’s connectivity relies on strategic and global partnerships working together to build the much-needed infrastructure to connect African countries to each other and the rest of the world. With high population growth and such a significant youth component, the demand for digital infrastructure —and ultimately, the backbone for this — is available. From an MTN GlobalConnect perspective, we are looking forward to being able to plug this gap and bridge the digital divide, paving the way for the sustainable societies of tomorrow.

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