MTN Group and MTN Irancell confirm that there are no plans for an imminent exit by the group

MTN Group and MTN Irancell said on 10 August that there were no immediate plans for the exit of MTN from Iran and the 51.7 million customers in the republic could rely on continuing to receive the great service they have come to expect from the operator.

MTN Group, which is headquartered in South Africa, announced last week that its board of directors had decided that MTN would be best served in the future by focusing on its pan-African strategy.

As a result, it would look to dispose of its operations in the Middle East in an orderly manner over the medium term, which is over the next three to five years.

The group is in advanced talks to divest of its stake in MTN Syria. Next, it will look to reach agreement to dispose of its operations in Afghanistan and Yemen.

The close collaboration between MTN Group and MTN Irancell – in which the group has a minority 49% investment shareholding – will continue as it is, and business will be run as usual.  We would also like to assure all our stakeholders of our best attention.

MTN delivers strong first half results amid COVID-19 challenges, announces it will focus on Africa

MTN Group today reported encouraging results for the first half of 2020, navigating well through the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.

MTN reported service revenue growth of 9,4% to R80 billion and EBITDA growth of 10,9% to R42 billion as efficiency initiatives saw its profit margins continue to improve. Headline earnings per share after non-operational impacts grew by 54%, operating free cash flow increased by 117,8% and ROE improved further to 14,1%.

“MTN’s first half performance affirmed the resilience of our people and business model as we delivered strong results against the backdrop of unprecedented socio- and macroeconomic uncertainty and challenges,” said MTN Group president and chief executive officer Rob Shuter.

“As we navigate the pandemic and its effects, we have prioritised looking after our people, customers and networks while focusing on efficiencies,” he said, adding that work-from-home programmes continue for MTN staff; Y’ello Hope Packages are helping ease customers’ financial pressures; and MTN’s support for various other initiatives aims to limit the impact of COVID-19 on society.

MTN also announced it was focusing its strategy in future on the African markets: “As part of our ongoing portfolio review, we believe the group is best served to focus in the future on our pan-African strategy. We will therefore be exiting the Middle East in an orderly manner over the medium term. As a first step we are in advanced discussions to sell our 75% stake in MTN Syria,said Shuter.

Inspired by the group’s belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, MTN added 11 million subscribers in the first six months of the year to reach a total base of 262 million. By end June 2020, MTN had 102 million active data users and 38 million active Mobile Money users.

Despite lockdown restrictions impacting network rollout, MTN Group invested R10 billion in capital expenditure across our markets and brought a further 54 million people into 3G and 4G coverage. The focus on affordability of data saw the average rate per megabyte reduced by 34%.

The group made progress on the asset realisation programme, concluding the disposal of the tower company investments in Ghana and Uganda for R8,8 billion.

MTN did not declare an interim dividend given the continued uncertain impact of COVID-19 on the operating environment but will consider a final dividend should conditions warrant.

While we expect the remainder of the year to be shaped by the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, we believe that MTN will remain comparatively resilient and is poised to sustain its growth over the medium term,” said Shuter.

MTN unveils African API marketplace to unlock the continent’s fast-growing API industry

MTN is extending its digital strategy with the launch of a new pan-African API marketplace called Chenosis that will enable developers and businesses to discover and subscribe to what will become the largest library of open APIs published on the continent.

Chenosis will enable developers to tap into a broad spectrum of API products and services from across the continent, ranging from telecommunications, e-health, e-government, IoT, fintech, e-commerce, identity and authentication, payments and collections, location and more, from a single marketplace.

“Chenosis is a separate brand and entity, and will have an arms-length relationship with MTN so that it remains open to all mobile network operators, fintech start-ups, payment service providers, mobile wallet operators, financial service providers, and more,” says Charles Molapisi, MTN Group Chief Technology and Information Officer.

The Chenosis Marketplace allows businesses and developers to publish their APIs so that other developers can discover and consume them. The marketplace also provides the tools for publishers to monetise and promote their APIs, by creating subscription plans and product bundles that developers and businesses can purchase. The Chenosis Marketplace portal has dashboards for publishers and consumers to track revenue and credit balances, view consumption analytics and API performance and lots more.

The power of the platform will be in the creation of mashup APIs which will connect cross-industry APIs and facilitate innovation and the ability to build new services and new business models. Mashups are new product and service orchestrations created by developers from two or more existing APIs.

“We have exciting pan-African and international partnerships lined up to publish and monetize their APIs in the marketplace over the coming months,” says Molapisi. “These partnerships will enable Chenosis to become the largest and most diverse developer ecosystem on the African continent.”

“This is one of the ways in which MTN is investing in the emergence of an open African API ecosystem that is powered by African ingenuity and innovation,” he adds.

The Chenosis Marketplace will be open to the public from 10th August 2020. Developers can get started by exploring the Chenosis Marketplace at www.Chenosis.io

Customer focus, shared belief helps MTN remain South Africa’s top brand

MTN is encouraged to have maintained its position as South Africa’s most valuable brand in Brand Finance’s 2020 Top 50 South African Brands survey released on Wednesday, with a brand value of R49,4 billion.

We are pleased to be appearing at the top of the list again,” said MTN Group President and CEO Rob Shuter.  “But what is more important is that we’ve made progress year-on-year, in particular in the brand strength index scores.”

According to Brand Finance, MTN’s brand strength improved to AAA in 2020 from AAA- in 2019. This was a result of the group’s focus on improving the customer experience for its almost 260 million subscribers, as well as uniting its 19 000 employees around a shared belief, which is that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life.

“We have worked hard to make sure that our customers find that we are easy to do business with, that our propositions are tailormade, and that our network quality is really good,” said Shuter. “Inside MTN, we have focussed on connecting our people to the fact that what we do is worthwhile, and that we make a meaningful contribution to society. This is so important because our people are our brand ambassadors.”

He said the brand helped glue MTN employees together across 21 countries on two continents: “If we deliver a sense of personal ownership in the brand, then we start to have some of the improvements we’ve seen in the last few years, despite some difficult markets and some difficult events.”

In an increasingly competitive and dynamic market, MTN would not rest on its laurels and still had much work to do. “We really are just at the start of this. We are encouraged with the progress, but we are going to keep building the faith, and improving the experience,” Shuter said.

MTN Group announces new CEOs for MTN Cameroon and MTN Benin

MTN Group is pleased to announce the appointment of new chief executive officers for two of its West African operations, MTN Cameroon and MTN Benin. Stephen Blewett, the current CEO of MTN Benin, will take the helm at MTN Cameroon on 1 August 2020 when Uche Ofodile, the current CEO of MTN Liberia, will become the CEO of MTN Benin.

“I would like to congratulate Stephen and Uche on their appointments,” said MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter. “Both are renowned for harnessing the power of people to move businesses forward. This is evident in the significant improvements in employee engagement, as well as overall performance, at MTN’s operations in Benin and Liberia in the past few years.”

Karl Toriola, vice president for MTN’s West and Central Africa region, thanked Stephen and Uche for their commitment and contribution: “Under Stephen’s leadership, MTN Benin recorded double-digit revenue growth for three years running. Uche leaves a business with double-digit year-on-year revenue growth, enjoying a nine-point market share improvement against its competitor.”

Stephen has for five years led MTN Benin, an operation of 5,5 million subscribers. He replaces Hendrik Kasteel, who left the group in March. Since then, MTN Cameroon chief financial officer Ebenezer Bodylawson has been acting CEO, steering the operation of more than 10 million subscribers.

Uche joined MTN in 2018. Since then, she has repositioned MTN Liberia as a competitive player in the market and grown its customer base to 1,45 million. The group is in the process of appointing a new CEO for MTN Liberia and will make an announcement in this regard as soon as the process is finalised.

MTN Group works to bridge the digital divide, connects 100 million to the internet

Access to the internet has the power to change lives and bridge inequalities and MTN Group reached a significant milestone by recording 100 million active data users on its networks across Africa and the Middle East.

“We believe that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life,” said MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter. “We are delighted to have connected 100 million of our customers to the power of the internet as we have increased data coverage and reduced the cost to communicate across our markets.”

MTN has a total base of more than 257 million customers in 21 markets. Growth through scaling data and digital services is central to its strategy. The group is overcoming the barriers to greater mobile internet adoption by extending its 3G and 4G coverage, accelerating smartphone adoption and transforming prices.

In the past three years, well over 100 million more people in MTN’s footprint have been covered by its data network. This brings the group’s network coverage for data services to beyond 480 million people. However, about 60% of rural populations in Africa remain unconnected. To benefit from connectivity, they need affordable devices as well as the digital literacy to easily access relevant and meaningful content.

To support smartphone adoption, in 2019 MTN distributed 675 000 affordable data-enabled handsets across 12 markets. It also launched a digital literacy programme in nine markets, helping over three million people improve their understanding of the mobile internet and applications.

Data affordability is also key. In 2018 and 2019, MTN reduced entry-level data rates across its footprint by 60%. In 2019 alone, it cut the effective data price per megabyte by 34%.

“We believe the consumer mobile data market will grow enormously over the next few years,” said Shuter. “The COVID-19 pandemic has served to accelerate the adoption of mobile data, digital services and financial services. As a result, we have recorded increases of up to 50% in data volumes in some markets, as work and studying from home becomes a reality for many.”

“Over time our ambition is to grow our customer base to 300 million and for at least 2/3 to be accessing the power of the internet on an MTN network – so  the 100 million achieved today marks the halfway mark in the MTN journey.”

MTN assists with the development of the Africa COVID Communications and Information Platform

Together with host nations and strategic partners, MTN has supported in the establishment of the Africa COVID Communications and Information Platform (ACCIP) driven by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Africa Center for Disease Control (CDC) to assist countries on the continent respond to the impact of COVID-19.

The Platform launched today, aims to support each country’s national COVID-19 taskforce to enhance its ability to analyse the situation and implement the necessary responses, as well as direct resources to mitigate the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Together with the other partners, MTN has played a key role in the development of the platform as well as the creation and operationalisation of the mobile platform templates and operating protocols.

“As a pan-African company, we are vested in the continent’s development and its ability to rise out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than before. Driven to enable digital and financial inclusion, we felt it important to use our technology, expertise and network for the good of Africa and its people,” said MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter.

“As we worked with the various partners to develop the platform, we were mindful of the realities faced in African markets where smartphone penetration and internet penetration are low. This platform offers free-to-use services using a combination of text and voice interactions,” he added.

Set to reach more than 600 million users across the continent, the ACCIP represents an impressive mix of high and low tech to take practical advantage of the richness of data generated by users of even simple 2G phones.

Anonymous user-generated survey data will be transmitted to an artificial intelligence-driven system which will then combine it with public information from social and other digital channels for targeted analysis.

The ACCIP platform will allow policymakers to share insights and harness data to inform decision making at a regional and national level for the benefit of local populations. National authorities will ultimately also be able to conduct community-level messaging for social welfare, facilitating cash distribution (including e-payments) or targeted information on local food distribution or the provision of clean water. When data shows emerging virus hotspots, authorities will be able to direct medical resources to those areas, as well as alert residents of their availability.

Ayoba provides connections and vital information during COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19 has touched every part of Africa. Governments’ lockdown restrictions to limit the spread of the virus have meant many people have felt isolated from their friends, families and colleagues. But Africans are increasingly turning to mobile tech solutions, including Over-the-Top (OTT) applications, to keep in touch and to stay informed about the pandemic.

MTN in partnership with the Ayoba app allows MTN customers to connect with loved ones with no data costs. MTN has been offering zero-rated data for Ayoba in most of the 16 markets where it has been launched.  This translated into 6 144 terabytes of free data and ca. $147,7m value provided via Ayoba during the COVID-19 period.

“MTN’s is working to provide access to affordable communications so people in our markets can reap the social, economic and developmental dividends of being online,” says David Gilarranz, MTN’s executive for group digital services. “Leveraging our established customer base, MTN has built a digital ecosystem spanning OTT services in messaging, media and advertising that aims to bring more people into the digital world.”

 With lockdown measures still in place in many markets, the need for reliable information on COVID-19 has never been more critical. MTN customers are also benefiting from four dedicated Ayoba COVID-19 channels that provide vital information from relevant authorities at no data cost. In addition, MTN has added six channels for education, self-help, jobs and skills development information.

Since the beginning of April, Ayoba has reached over 2 million monthly active users. It offers users access to an ecosystem of digital and rich media services through channels, micro-apps and payment solutions, embedded within an African super-app.

At the same time, Ayoba is highly localised and tailored for African and Middle East consumer needs. The platform supports 20 languages spoken across our markets. Users can send and receive encrypted messages, share photos, videos, files and voice notes and can also subscribe to live channels. Localised content is available through curated channels aimed at entertaining, educating and empowering communities as well as a range of games.

Developed as an open digital platform that enables third-party innovation, Ayoba has the capacity to offer a rich and diversified experience. Businesses and content providers can engage with their customers using channels. Through this partnership with Ayoba, MTN delivers more value to the broader ecosystem of businesses, users and local developers and create experiences that are optimised for local communities.

Ayoba can be downloaded onto smartphones from the Google Play app store as well as the www.ayoba.me website.

MTN supporting fundraising campaign which benefits UNICEF and WFP’s COVID-19 response across Africa

This International Day of the African Child, MTN is pleased to be supporting the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to help mobilise funds for children and families across Sub-Saharan Africa affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MTN is doing this by enabling SMS fundraising throughout a month-long campaign to raise funds for those most severely impacted by the virus on the continent. All proceeds raised through the campaign will be donated in full to UNICEF and WFP, who are supporting COVID-19 affected communities across Africa.

The pandemic’s closure of schools is putting at risk the futures of millions of Africa’s children, compromising their ability to learn and their access at school to healthcare and food. Because of COVID-19, some 253 million children across the continent are not going to school and 65 million are missing out on school meals.

“Healthy, well-nourished kids have a much better chance of fulfilling their potential,” said Nompilo Morafo, MTN Group Executive for Corporate Affairs. “Inclusion is at the heart of MTN and this is why we decided to support the campaign by UNICEF and WFP to raise funds for health supplies and food.”

“The COVID-19 epidemic is affecting children in many ways” said Dr Jama Gulaid, UNICEF Representative in South Africa. “UNICEF appreciates the assistance of MTN which is helping us and our partners reach children with vital services: health, protection and water sanitation and education,” Gulaid added.

The World Food Programme Regional Director for Southern Africa, Lola Castro said, “With so many people on the continent already acutely food insecure, we are extremely concerned about the prospect of COVID-19 causing a hunger catastrophe.”

 In this unprecedented global crisis, the poorest and most vulnerable communities are the most at risk. Together we can give them a fighting chance with access to the basics: clean water, food, soap, gloves, and masks. The donations will help UNICEF and the World Food Programme deliver life-saving health supplies and nutritious food.

To donate: In SA, SMS “donate” to 42164 to donate to UNICEF and the WFP. SMS cost is R30. Network Fees Apply, closing date 30 June 2020. Rest of the world, https://help.unicef.org/africa.

Significant transformation milestone reached as MTN SA achieves Level 1 BBBEE status

MTN SA’s commitment to transformation and improving access to mobile technology across SA has resulted in the company today achieving the significant milestone of Level 1 B-BBEE Contributor Status.

This achievement comes at a time when South Africa ramps up efforts to recover the economy and speed up the inclusion of Black Owned businesses in these efforts. MTN stands in strong support of government’s commitment to ensure that South African’s are able to benefit from transformation across business, employment and skills development.

The strategic intent was to reach this important level within three years, but MTN is proud to have reached its target in only two years thanks to the accelerated and concerted commitment of its entire team.

The result of this can be seen in the procurement spend with Black Owned vendors where in 2016 MTN spent R3.5 billion but by 2019 that had increased to R7.1 billion. In 2016 MTN had spent R9.2 billion with Black Women Owned vendors and this had increased to R10.5 billion in 2019.

“MTN believes in the future of SA but without broad levels of sustained and consistent inclusion and access to technology, the country will not reach its potential. To this end, our 4G coverage has reached 96% of our population, ensuring that we do not leave any township or village behind. We are extremely proud to have therefore reached Level 1 status ahead of target and look forward to doing even more to drive change and improve lives for all South Africans,” says MTN SA CEO, Godfrey Motsa.

MTN’s B-BBEE strategy identifies Enterprise and Supplier Development and Skills Development as two key focus areas.  “This strategy is premised on making our customer’s lives BRIGHTER by contributing to Shared Value creation through addressing socio-economic challenges at scale,” says Motsa.

Great strides were made in the last two years by focusing on the key strategic objectives.

“The powerful collaboration between business and team MTN to ensure alignment between the organisational strategies and the B-BBEE objectives has been a major factor behind our success,” he adds.

MTN intends to implement this winning strategy across all transformation touch points within the business. “This is just the beginning; we are pro-transformation and open for even more collaboration as we invite black business to engage even more with MTN going forward.”

“The re-alignment of our procurement policies resulted in notable traction in spend with Black Owned vendors seeing an increase of R2.2bn, Exempted Micro Enterprises which saw an increase of R448m and Black Designated Group suppliers with an increase of R272m in 2019,” Motsa explains.

It is also notable that MTN SA upheld its pledge of participating in and permanently appointing 1000 youth for the YES4Youth Programme as our contribution in addressing the youth unemployment challenges that our country faces. “This programme immediately proved to be a success for ourselves as we benefitted from a new talent pipeline and the YES4Youth cohort where permanent employment was created,” he adds.

“MTN was born in democracy and we believe that transformation is in our DNA. We will continue to demonstrate that through truly inclusive economic growth. As the country faces up to the socio-economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, MTN will leverage its firm foundation to ensure that all South Africans can enjoy the benefits of the digital world,” concludes Motsa.

Further reading