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- Zakhele Futhi
This year’s UN International Day of Education is themed ‘Changing Course, Transforming Education’, which reiterates the importance of education and collectively building a progressive, sustainable space of learning.
Access to the internet and technology has the power to change lives and bridge inequalities. Over the past two years, the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen several lockdowns and has brought to the fore the heightened importance of connecting the unconnected. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the closures of learning spaces and schools, bringing the inequalities of the physical world to light. It highlighted the need to enable education by driving investments towards access to online educational platforms and learning tools.
As the world stands at a turning point, there’s an opportunity to make technology the foundation for sustainable learning solutions.
During the first year of the pandemic, by understanding the challenges that millions of learners now faced of not being able to attend school or access information, a number of MTN markets across the continent zero-rated websites to play their part in minimising the disruptions that COVID-19 lockdowns caused for learners. By partnering with governments and educational institutions MTN enabled the zero-rating of over 1500 educational websites resulting in more than 108.6TB of traffic through these sites.
Taking lessons from the pandemic, as a continent or even the world, remote learning and virtual engagements has become the norm of our everyday life. Adapting to this reality and mindful of the uncertainties of the future, MTN continues to focus on its intent to lead digital solutions for Africa’s progress. We understand that in harnessing technological change, we will realise the UN SDG goals to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.
Across the continent, in support of transformation in learning, many of MTN’s markets developed viable solutions to addressing the access gaps, in attaining and accessing educational material. As an example, MTN South Africa launched online school in 2021. This platform developed in partnership with the South African Department of Education and the National Education Collaboration Trust, is loaded with learning resources and lessons, as well as additional tools for learners. By actively seeking solutions, working with partners, and leveraging our key competencies as a digital operator, MTN is able to offer adaptable solutions to meet the changing learning needs of our communities.
The landscape of education and skills development are rapidly transforming and being accelerated by the continued COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has in many respects changed the world as we know it, but it too has given us the opportunity to understand the power of digital transformation and inclusion. Children and youth in villages or remote areas no longer need to be excluded from accessing world class digital material and virtual learning opportunities. Accessible, digital education means that anywhere, anytime learning can be made available for all.
MTN Mobile Money and our ayoba superapp are making doing business easier for entrepreneurs everywhere, supporting the development of their enterprises and the growth of economies in Africa.
Take Daniela Fosuhene, a shop owner in Anloga in Kumasi, Ghana, some 250km northwest of Accra. She uses MoMo – tried and trusted in Ghana since 2011 – to manage her small retail business ‘Mega Dan Ventures’ and to make payments to her suppliers.
To enable her to explore other business opportunities she recently took a business loan with MoMo-Advance. She also wanted to reduce her risks, so she used MTN’s aYo insurance offering to insure herself.
“MoMo is such a fantastic service which I totally depend on for almost everything I do,” says Daniela. “Most importantly, it has given me a livelihood. It is easy to use, convenient, reliable and safe. Indeed, I can confidently call MoMo a lifesaver.”
Daniela uses MoMo to regularly send money to her children and other relatives. She also often shares ‘wisewords’ (a local ayoba content channel) with them.
Daniela is the leader of an ayoba group chat on which she and other small shop owners coordinate bulk purchases of products, so that they can share in the savings that buying this way affords.
Over the weekends, Daniela enjoys listening to one of ayoba’s church channels. When she is looking for quality entertainment, she also enjoys watching live events on ayoba.
At the end of September 2021, MTN Ghana had 10.6 million active MoMo users and 1.4 million ayoba subscriptions.
MTN’s main waste impacts are not deemed high impact (material). Our primary source of waste generation includes electronic and electrical waste included in our upstream and downstream supply chain (e.g. radio transmission equipment, batteries, lighting, computers, consumer devices, cellular handsets, SIM cards), followed by general waste from our offices.
MTN’s approach to electronic-waste management is influenced by our strategic position to integrate ESG as the driver of value creation for the business and our host countries. This has enhanced our environmental lens, as many of the markets we operate in have enormous potential for sustainable growth and environmental conservation. On International E-waste day, we recognise our contribution and responsibility in protecting and managing the environment.
We believe in shaping our pan-African narrative through improved and cohesive management of climate change impacts, together with our societies and other stakeholders. Our concerted efforts to reduce, recycle, refurbish, and upcycle resulted in e-waste management programme piloted with MTN Côte d’Ivoire in 2020. Raising awareness in the management of electrical and electronic waste and rallying the Ivorians was the main goal for the programme. It inspired both public individuals and private companies to partner with MTN Côte d’Ivoire and achieved a positive impact for this West African country.
Promusa and Carrefour joined MTN Côte d’Ivoire to collect e-waste, with agencies and shopping centres playing a pivotal role in enabling private individuals to deposit e – waste in numerous boxes distributed by MTN Côte d’Ivoire. Without the partnerships that apportioned certain areas of their properties for this initiative, 31 tonnes of successfully recycled e-waste and awareness raising would have not resulted into such environmental stewardess.
MTN’s management of e-waste includes working with specialist contractors for the disposal of e-waste in compliance with regulations of each country where we operate. This ensures that we adhere to environmentally friendly e-waste practices and reduce the health risks associated with improper e-waste disposal.
The GSMA, the association representing mobile operators worldwide, has singled out MTN Digital Smart for a case study on how digital literacy programmes can make a real impact in promoting mobile internet usage.
The report – published by the GSMA’s Connected Society programme which focuses on underserved population groups in developing markets – evaluates MTN’s pilot Data Smart campaign in Benin and Cameroon.
“Analysis of MTN transactional data showed a significant increase in data usage among customers who received the digital skills training…Customers started to apply the knowledge and skills they learned to use mobile internet,” it says, noting that in both countries, Digital Smart resulted in trainees’ average revenue per user (ARPU) more than doubling for all user categories. Among smartphone users trained, ARPU and mobile data usage more than tripled.
Describing how MTN has “made digital inclusion a core part of their growth strategy and embedded this commitment in their CHASE framework”, the GSMA reports that Digital Smart drew on materials from the Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit, an easy-to-use toolkit developed by the GSMA for first-time mobile users.
Launched in 2018, MTN’s CHASE framework guides us in our work to extend digital inclusion by overcoming the five key barriers to mobile internet adoption: coverage, handsets, affordability, service bundling and education and ease of access.
“An important part of the campaign is meaningful use of cases based on customers’ needs and interests, that make mobile internet relevant and applicable to their lives,” the case study says. “For example, in an area where a cinema recently opened, agents showed customers how to watch trailers for the films on their phones.”
In 2019, an MTN Digital Smart pilot reached some three million people and the many lessons learnt were used the following year to bring digital literacy to 18 million individuals in eight countries: Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Conakry, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda.
According to the case study, “Running the Data Smart campaign required considerable resources at both the group and operating-company level. MTN’s hybrid approach, which included remote delivery methods alongside traditional face-to-face training, ensured the campaign continued to reach scale even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The case study features photographs of MTN brand ambassadors reaching out to the public in crowded markets, in rural areas, restaurants and offices. There is even an image of a brand ambassador climbing a ladder to access a customer’s hard-to-reach home.
The case study concludes with the key takeaways which others who are serious about digital inclusion can use. These recommendations include the importance of localising content, making it easier for individuals to remember and share what they’ve learnt, and using all available channels and media.
“The partnership between the GSMA and MTN on the Data Smart campaign has had a substantial social and commercial impact,” the report comments.
MTN Group General Manager Customer Experience and Digital Irshaad Gouse concurs: “The education element is absolutely critical to our Dual Data strategy and overall commitment to creating shared value as part of MTN’s Ambition 2025 corporate strategy.”
“Enabling people to understand the relevant opportunities that being connected brings them and how it can not just support, but fundamentally change their lives for the better, is key,” he adds.
Our Dual Data approach aims to provide access to customers across different segments within our markets, addressing the urban-rural divide as lower income and/or rural customers make up around 70% of market.
In 2021 Digital Smart is continuing to reach out to millions across Africa, to fundamentally change their lives through the power of mobile.
Mobile money has transformed the face of financial services. By harnessing technology, there is an opportunity to “leapfrog” traditional financial service solutions. This rapidly growing industry has accelerated financial inclusion, which has been a potent enabler of socio-economic development, empowering the most vulnerable in society.
Historically, our solutions were focused mainly on consumers deposits, withdraw, P2P, bill payment and airtime purchase through agents.
Today, our Fintech ecosystem has expanded to merchants, businesses, developers, banks, insurance and many other partner and to support the rising African digital economies, connecting consumers and businesses in multiple ways.
For the first half of the year, our Fintech revenue rose by 39.7%*. The number of active MoMo users increased by 2.6 million to 48.9 million compared to December 2020. The value of MoMo transactions was up by 88.3% to US$115.2 billion and we processed 17 292 transactions per minute (up 47.1% from 11 752 in June 2020). In Nigeria we added 121 000 agents to end the period with more than 515 000 registered MoMo agents.
We continued to scale our payments platform, the number of active merchants accepting MoMo payments stood at 581 514 (up 85.3% YoY) and the total value of MoMo merchant payments (gross merchandise value – GMV) rose by 354.2% to US$12.4 billion.
The total value of remittances grew by 91.8% to US$1.1 billion at 30 June 2021; while in BankTech we facilitated a total loan value of US$511.5 million, a 49.5% YoY increase. Within InsurTech, our aYo insurance business had more than 13.6 million registered policyholders and 6.3 million active policies (up 31.9% YoY). In total, aYo generated US$3.9 million (R56.7 million) in service revenue and US$6.5 million (R95.5 million) in premium income.
We concluded an agreement to increase our shareholding in aYo to 100% as MMH exits the partnership. At the same time, we have announced a strategic alliance with Sanlam, which will help to accelerate our InsurTech growth on the continent, in line with our pan-African strategy. The aYo platform will form the base of the alliance with Sanlam.
We understand that for our consumers, mobile money is an everyday enabler. For the businesses of Africa, mobile money is the gateway for digitization and acceleration.
As more people reap the dividends of being financially included, the way is being paved to enhance lives and boost economic growth to the benefit of all.
I hope that you are all keeping well and safe.
Many of you, will by now have heard, that MTN Group and our equity partners Silk Road Fund from China were unsuccessful in a bid for a new telecoms licence to operate in Ethiopia.
Over the weekend, the Ethiopian telecoms regulator awarded only one of two licences on offer to a consortium led by Kenya’s Safaricom. We remain respectful of the decision by the Ethiopian authorities , and thank them for the opportunity to participate in the bid process.
I would like to thank the many teams (internally known as the Project Lion team) for working diligently and tirelessly on the Ethiopia bid. I know that you are all bitterly disappointed (as I am too), and this is to be expected and appreciated. I also know that you fully supported the approach taken on the bid, and remain of the view that we made the right decisions, given the licence conditions on offer and other related issues on the bid.
My thanks know no bounds to the Project Lion team and Group Exco, who worked with me on motivating the bid proposal to the MTN Group Board. These are MTNers we can all be proud of, and who exhibit the best of what it means to be #goodtogether! I would like to also thank the Group Board for their wisdom and support through the bid process. As I was immersed in my own disappointment and trying to get my perspective and balance back, I received the following message: “In the Quran, there is a saying: But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing, and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not…”
I was grateful for the power on perspective of the message, and picked myself up to carry on with the wonderful work and responsibility that we have to our stakeholders. Press speculation has been that we bid US$ 600m for the licence, and I can confirm that to be true. There has also been further press commentary that our bid was approximately 29% lower than the successful bid. We and our equity partners remain very comfortable with the discipline we showed in making our decision on the value of the opportunity.
We were guided by our capital allocation and returns framework. This framework informs all the investment decisions we make, including capital expenditure for our “second to none” networks. When we make investment decisions on all the exciting opportunities that present themselves, we evaluate them in an integrated approach – considering strategic, commercial, technology, risks and other material issues to guide the capital we allocate to these very opportunities.
This discipline in capital allocation will be so central to the successful execution of the Ambition 2025 strategy and revealing the tremendous value in our business and across our markets, as well as meeting our promises to our investors as per our enhanced medium-term guidance.
With our Ambition 2025 strategy, we have so many opportunities ahead for MTN Group. We are delivering leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress. We are growing. We are continuing to unlock value for our stakeholders. Our excitement, discipline and focus will remain undiminished! I would like to thank you all for your commitment to delivering on our core belief and purpose that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life.
Please stay safe – wear your masks and continue to practise social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols
MTN YES Programme – a catalyst for growth and development
In December 2018, 100 young people signed up as interns at MTN Group, filling the Innovation Centre’s auditorium with colour and cheer. Six months later, and a few hundred metres away in the offices of MTN South Africa, another 900 young people embarked on the same, special internship.
Brimming with energy and enthusiasm, these recruits were taking the first step in their career development by joining MTN through the YES4Youth programme.
“It was so exciting to be joining MTN,” recalls Simphiwe Khoza from rural Limpopo. “Imagine having the opportunity to learn all about this iconic mobile operator and leading African brand from the inside!”
The brainchild of the Youth Employment Service (YES), the programme offers previously unemployed young people a quality, paid work experience, improving their employability and acting as a catalyst for economic growth and development.
The business-led collaboration with the government aims to address South Africa’s critically high level of youth unemployment. In the first quarter of 2020, before the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, nearly 42% of young people aged between 15 and 34 were not in employment, education or training, according to the Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey.
MTN recognises the value of the programme as a fresh and bold solution to South Africa’s unemployment crisis.
“Our aim is to provide a range of foundational skills to set these young people up for long-term success,” says Lauretta Theys, MTN Group General Manager: Manco HR Services. “It fits into MTN’s work to support vibrant and sustainable societies.”
So how does the programme work?
For starters, the interns are assigned to departments that best suit their skills or qualifications. They are each given a smartphone loaded with a range of learning programmes developed by YES. At MTN, they also get specially developed MTN programmes, as well as access to the online learning platform Kubicle, offering dozens of courses to improve data literacy.
The interns at MTN are paid a monthly stipend, which is significantly more than the amount YES requires. Other MTN-specific benefits include a monthly allocation of data, free MTN-to-MTN calls, and an allowance to spend at the canteen.
The most important benefit, however, is a line manager who acts a mentor, engaging with every young person and assisting them throughout their journey at MTN, establishing proper key performance indicators against which their performance can be measured.
Apart from the line manager, there are also regular engagements with HR, which develops monthly themes to guide interns’ career development. These include things like design thinking skills, building emotional intelligence and – lately – resilience during COVID-19.
“We’ve been very clear to our YES interns: your career is your responsibility. If you don’t lean in, we are not going to do it for you,” cautions Lauretta, adding that MTN seeks to empower these young people with the correct tools; with line managers with the time and capacity to mentor them and provide meaningful work; and to ensure they have the right skills – soft skills, technical skills as well as functional skills.
MTN’s digital innovation programme is another critical element for the interns: “People need to be digital in the way that they think, and agile. This programme will set them apart, giving MTN interns a better chance of securing meaningful roles in future or an opportunity to start their own businesses and develop their own apps,” she says.
The benefits are not limited to the interns: MTN is also clearly benefiting from the programme.
At MTN South Africa, one group of interns was assigned to help with the local launch in January 2020 of Mobile Money.
“The results have been very positive,” says Charlene Lawrence, Senior Manager: Learning and Development. By September 2020, MTN South Africa had two million registered MoMo users. “The brand ambassadors clearly played a part in this.”
With dozens of companies across South Africa having signed up to the programme, how is MTN differentiating its offering?
“We are building careers for the YES learners in MTN,” says Charlene. “Over and above earning a stipend, they have completed short certifications and have been given an opportunity to market themselves as well as gain meaningful work experience. Throughout the programme, we hear great stories of all the different experiences people were exposed to.”
“The spirit of YES is to make people employable: rotate them through the business and give them exposure to the workplace,” says Charlene. “This is a platform on which to start building a career, and network throughout the organisation.”
“We are also treating the YES interns as a talent pool. If we do it well, we shouldn’t need to always go out into the market to look for talent, we should be growing the talent ourselves,” Charlene says. “It’s a fantastic programme that we at MTN are really benefiting from.”
Simphiwe agrees: “I’m really grateful to MTN for the quality experience it has given me and am sure this will lead to even greater opportunities in future.”
The lockdowns in many countries during the spread of COVID-19 have been accompanied by images of wild animals venturing into the streets of deserted towns, experiencing life with fewer humans around. These visuals have been a reminder of the effect people have had on displacing animals from their natural habitats over the centuries and how human activity continues to destroy biodiversity.
Friday June 5 is World Environment Day, the United Nations day for encouraging awareness and action to protect the planet. The theme for 2020 is to celebrate biodiversity. And with scientists saying that one million species are now at risk of extinction, there has never been a more important time to focus on safeguarding the variety of life on Earth.
Africa and the Middle East are facing biodiversity threats despite still being home to a rich and diverse animal, plant, and marine biodiversity that provides critical ecosystem services, driving the regions’ economies and serving as buffers to climate change.
‘Eco-responsibility is a key pillar of MTN’s sustainability strategic framework. We are determined to ensure that our growth contributes positively to the future of the planet and continuously work to reduce our impact on the environment’, says Nompilo Morafo, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN Group.
Our belief is that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. So far, more than 257 million subscribers have plugged in to our network across 21 countries. The masts that we use to connect customers are one sign of our presence in these markets.
When planning the location of these, MTN considers various factors, including environmental, biodiversity, visual and functionality aspects. We consider proximity to existing roads and electricity infrastructure to reduce the potential disturbance to the natural environment of vegetation removal or habitat disturbances during construction.
Together with our partners, we work to minimise biodiversity loss and environmental impact, safeguarding against the removal, damage or disturbance of flora, fauna or birdlife. We also ensure that no hunting, trapping, shooting or poisoning of any fauna takes place.”
Our work goes beyond mere compliance with environmental laws. We believe strongly in the protection of the world’s precious natural resources. Connectivity does not need to come at the price of biodiversity. Through conscious decision-making, and planning and implementation, we are committed to reduce our impacts across the markets in which we operate.
This World Environment Day join us in calling for action to combat accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world. It’s Time #ForNature: it’s time to act to help end biodiversity loss and the climate crisis. Only by playing our part can we allow nature to heal and ensure a better and healthier future for everyone.
Lele Modise’s calm demeanour is the hallmark of a woman handling constant, taxing legal issues with style and professionalism. As Chief Legal Counsel for MTN Group, Lele exemplifies the kind of smart, executive drive women in business often exude. As International Women’s Day looms on the 8 March 2020, one would be hard pressed to find a more fitting and savvy poster child for celebration than Lele Modise. With qualifications in some of the most intricate and convoluted areas of law, Lele strides across a power list of local women who have distinguished themselves as legal eagles.
To say that corporate investment banking must be a fraught and complicated field, is an understatement. Nonetheless, it’s been in such fields that Lele has excelled, having joined MTN Group’s Executive Committee after a long stint at Absa. Skilfully facilitating complex and weighty deals is Lele’s forte and providing legal structures and solutions at the highest level has been standard fare for this dynamic business leader. An inspiration to African women everywhere, Lele has dealt with the most challenging issues in business, and now brings her remarkable expertise and experience to MTN Group’s successful expansion on the continent.
In an era of heightened awareness around sustainability and gender equality, Lele brings an extensively detailed and honed perspective to MTN Group. Having excelled in a very male dominated arena, Lele has also shown African women and aspiring girls just how far it’s possible to go. For a snapshot of the growth of women in the legal field of South Africa and Africa as a whole, look no further than the talented Ms Modise. On a growing list of executive, leading women in Sub-Saharan Africa, Lele epitomises gender diversity in the ICT industry.
As a former partner at Bowman Gilfillan, Lele’s knowledge of the intricate landscape of corporate legality is now hard at work for MTN. There’s nothing quite like starting out right, and Lele is the kind of polished leader ideally qualified to head the legal challenges of MTN Group’s transition to a digital operator and expansion across the African continent.
Having been admitted to the High Court as an Attorney in 2003, Lele has since worked extensively across Africa. A Masters in Banking Law is just as challenging and detailed as it sounds, but Lele passed with flying colours, and now heads MTN’s legal presence on all fronts. As the MTN Group expands, environmental, sustainability and compliance issues will come to the fore. Lele exemplifies the kind of astute leadership needed to take the company to greater heights.
As a recent member of the MTN family, Yolanda Cuba is new in the company. From striding through the corridors of Mvelaphanda Group, SAB and other global telecommunication companies, Yolanda joins MTN as a seasoned professional, bringing years of expertise into play for her pivotal new role. Yolanda is part of a new wave of women who are demonstrating just how potent they can be when heading core portfolios in the digital world.
Raising the bar on gender diversity, Yolanda’s African exposure and years of extensive business experience on the continent places MTN solidly on track to achieving strategic expansion in the digital solutions and financial services sectors. In MTN’s transformation towards a fully digital enterprise, Yolanda epitomises the growth of women in the ICT field in Africa. One of a number of rising role models for African girls and women across the land, Yolanda also scooped Telecom CEO of the year in 2018 while still with Vodafone in Ghana.
Yolanda has a unique combination of operational telecommunications experience as well as finance, financial services and digital skills. She is gleefully facing the monumental task of scaling MTN’s digital ecosystem across multiple and diverse markets. As International Women’s Day approaches on the 8th of March 2020, the UN and world at large is taking stock of women’s rise in all echelons of society. Remarkably, the IT industry has been smart enough to address gender equality issues in its makeup. While other industries are lagging, IT knows a good thing when it sees it.
Professional women like Yolanda Cuba demonstrate the huge benefits of such gender diversity. With research going into just how fintech might completely change Africa’s dynamics for the better, Yolanda’s role will enable strategy in line with gender equality, financial inclusion and sustainability at the forefront.
As one of a rising number of successful women at the helm of fintech in Africa, Yolanda’s fearless professionalism and extensive work experience serve as an inspiration to ordinary women across Africa. A qualified CA, she has also brought a Masters in Commerce to bear in her work across the continent. In 2020, as MTN is poised on the cusp of a bright future, Yolanda will successfully negotiate the diverse landscape of digital regulation and development in Africa and help to lead the company into a bright future.