Bridging the digital divide: Empowering rural communities in Zambia 

26 April 2024

Imagine a world where the digital divide no longer separates communities, where every individual has the power of connectivity at their fingertips, regardless of their location. This is the vision that propels MTN’s tireless efforts to extend mobile network coverage deep into rural Africa. 

Sub-Saharan Africa is not only the fastest growing region in the world, but also has the world’s largest population percentage that does not have mobile coverage. Many rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa have no telecom infrastructure or power grid, leaving an estimated 210 million people with no usable mobile network service. 

At MTN, we believe everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. Connectivity more than just a network; it is a lifeline that can change lives. For entrepreneurs, it means reaching online buyers; for farmers, it’s accessing market information; for healthcare workers, it’s calling for urgent help. The potential is immense, but the challenge of reaching all communities is daunting due to the significant costs of erecting mobile towers in an isolated rural context.

That is why MTN Zambia has teamed up with Africa Mobile Network (AMN) to extend mobile network coverage to rural communities across Zambia. AMN’s innovative approach optimises sites for rural environments and harnesses solar power to create self-sustaining stations that bring 2G, 3G, and 4G connectivity to rural villages.  Leveraging the AMN Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) model, MTN is able to reach more remote areas without the need for upfront investment or operational risks. 

In partnership with AMN, we not only establish network infrastructure but also offer heavily subsidised mobile phones to the people living in newly connected villages, ensuring accessibility for all. Additionally, we support the establishment of airtime dealers and mobile money agents, enabling villagers to easily access mobile money services for deposits and withdrawals. 

The impact is palpable. Gertrude Banda from Mawanda Village in Zambia reflects, “A long time ago we used to write letters to Lusaka. Now MTN thought of us and gave us phones so that we can communicate with people in Lusaka. When money comes, we are able to collect from MTN Mobile Money. Things are much easier because of the phones MTN has provided. So we are very grateful to MTN for bringing us phones here in our village.”

Stanley Kaluba, a Clinical Officer in Mawanda, echoes Gertrude’s sentiments: “We use the MTN network to make referrals for patients that need to go to the hospital and to call an ambulance in emergencies. MTN is a very good network, and since the time they installed this tower, it has really helped us.”

But connectivity isn’t just about enabling access to networks and affordable phones; it’s about economic empowerment. David Phiri, a mobile money agent, shares, “People come to my shop to withdraw money or open mobile money accounts. They can buy airtime through MTN MoMo or receive money from Lusaka. There are so many things I am able to do for a living now. I am very thankful.” The benefits of digital transformation extend beyond individuals to entire communities, where daily activities such as transferring money, taking and repaying credit loans, subscribing to an insurance policy, or paying school fees for their children can now be conducted via mobile phones. 

MTN remains deeply committed to playing a transformative role in Africa’s mobile internet revolution.  While the road ahead is filled with challenges, our resolve remains unshaken and we are working hard to close the coverage gap in rural and remote areas. With each village brought online, lives are transformed, communities thrive, and the promise of a more connected Africa becomes a reality.

We know that achieving this, and doing so quickly, would not be possible without the active collaboration of our partners. Each partnership we form, whether with a government, industry peer, innovator, community member, or employee, contributes a unique piece to a tapestry of positive change that transcends individual efforts.  We look forward to continuing to work with all these key role players as we go forward together into the future.