MTN Group announces new mobile money partnership with Flutterwave across Africa

MTN is pleased to announce a mobile money partnership with Africa’s leading payments technology company, Flutterwave. This partnership will allow businesses integrating Flutterwave in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia to receive payments via MTN Mobile Money (MoMo). 

MTN MoMo is a fintech platform providing consumers and businesses with an electronic wallet, enabling electronic transfers and payments as well as access to digital and financial services. At the end of June 2021, MTN MoMo had 48.9 million active users and 581,514 merchants. MoMo enables businesses to accept and make payments within the mobile money ecosystem. This new partnership will enable Flutterwave to offer MTN Mobile Money as a payment method to its business customers.

In recent years, Africa has witnessed an explosion in mobile penetration as smartphone adoption has risen rapidly. According to the GSMA, this year Africa will hit the half a billion mark of unique mobile subscribers and the continent will reach 50% subscriber penetration by 2025. Sub-Saharan Africa alone is responsible for more than 45% of the world’s mobile money accounts with the number of account holders exceeding half a billion by 2020, as shared on Statista.

Through this partnership, MTN and Flutterwave will positively contribute to this trend by increasing mobile money usage and penetration in Africa to improve local economies and livelihoods as well as create opportunities for individuals and businesses across the continent.

Commenting on the partnership, Serigne Dioum, MTN Group Chief Digital and Fintech Officer said: “As we progress on our journey to becoming the largest fintech platform in Africa, we will empower millions of businesses to embrace e-commerce in our markets to accept digital payments from MoMo consumers. We believe this is an enabler to accelerating digitized payments in Africa. Building strong ecosystems through partnerships is central to our platform strategy and we will continue to invest in expanding the reach of our platform to consumers and businesses in Africa.”   

Commenting on the collaboration, Olugbenga “GB” Agboola, Founder and CEO of Flutterwave, said: “Africa has one of the highest growth rates for mobile money adoption and e-commerce in the world. It makes sense that we help provide a seamless payment method to support and ensure African businesses reap the full benefits of the e-commerce boom in the region. Our goal has always been to grow a new wave of prosperity in Africa by creating more avenues for businesses in Africa to accept payments. With this partnership, we can achieve this while creating endless possibilities for our customers.” 

The new partnership will further expand on Flutterwave’s previous collaboration with MTN, beyond Uganda and Rwanda – with the potential of deepening adoption of digital payments and e-commerce in Africa, a sector expected to reach $29 billion by 2022, according to Statista. 

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Ayoba launches a continent wide campaign ‘Life inside ayoba’

MTN in partnership with ayoba has launched a dynamic media campaign entitled: ‘Life inside ayoba’ that will bring the African super app to life. The campaign brings together all the features of the ‘super app’ including chat, voice and video calling, channels, music via playlists, gaming, micro apps and payment facilities (only in certain territories).

The campaign is set to launch in early September and is designed to highlight the simplicity of the app, and the advantages a user gains in using all the exciting features.

“Ayoba is a strategic platform for MTN as it harnesses Africa’s unique digital ecosystem and context. We believe it to be a triple play opportunity to advance free messaging, content distribution and e-commerce powered by an open platform. Made in Africa for the World, ayoba is highly localised and tailored for African and Middle East consumer needs. This campaign is perfect for our markets, its vibrant and relevant and is sure to appeal to all who use it, ” says Serigne Dioum, Group Chief Digital and Fintech Officer.

Digital revenue increased by 23.8%* at half year, supported by the greater uptake of our services. In the period, our instant messaging platform ayoba, recorded 8.0 million monthly active users, an addition of 2.5 million since December 2020. It has now been integrated into 18 MTN markets.

Our goal is to reach 19 million monthly active users (MAUs) by 2021 and 100m by 2025. Our plan is to leverage MTN existing base to scale up quickly and then grow as OTT player in new markets

The ayoba TV campaign is supported by radio, localised to each broadcast territory as well as outdoor, print and on-ground activations through our unique trade tool. The message is simple – ayoba has everything you need “all-in-one app”. 

“There is a need to go above the line to raise the awareness of ayoba. We strongly believe that our app will appeal to many in Africa and the Middle East and provides digital solutions to the day-to-day life of the consumer.  In building the campaign we looked at what unites our African users, rather than what divides them.  We had to show users that they can find everything they need in our all-in-one app.  This approach has brought us a textured and innovative campaign, and we are very proud of it. We excited to launch the campaign with the full support of MTN’” says Burak Akinci, Chief Executive Officer of Simfy (ayoba).

2021 has been a fast-paced year so far for the messaging app, Ayoba celebrated its second year in operation in May 2021 and recorded 8 million monthly active users as of July 2021 across MTN’s 18 markets.

Ayoba is accelerating not only digital inclusion but also financial inclusion, MTN MoMo has been integrated into ayoba in select markets including Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, and Congo Brazzaville. 

Ayoba has recently receive the award for Best OTT Brand of the Year at the Marketing World Awards 2021.  This adds to the 2020 win for ayoba at the Africa Digital Award for Best Mobile Application in November 2020.

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MTN to launch OpenRAN in Africa

MTN Group is leveraging our expansive footprint across Africa to test and ultimately deploy OpenRAN – an innovative  technology that will enable us to launch new services more quickly, cost-effectively and seamlessly, supporting our strategy, Ambition 2025: Leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress.

We plan to modernise our radio access networks using OpenRAN. This is in line with one of five vital enablers of our strategy: to build technology platforms that are second to none, thereby allowing for the rapid expansion of 4G and 5G population coverage across our markets.

With up-to-date technology, we can expect a reduction in our power consumption and associated carbon emissions. This, in turn, supports our plans to decarbonise our network and achieve net zero emissions by 2040, our Project Zero.

OpenRAN allows for the disaggregation of hardware and software elements of a network, enabling telcos to build a network using components with the same specifications and scale from a diverse base of vendors. A disruptive trend, it is gaining popularity as the industry seeks to promote an open and interoperable ecosystem between various vendors.

We at MTN aim to roll this out by the end of 2021 in collaboration with our partners Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, TechMahindra and Voyage.

As an early adopter, MTN first rolled out open-source technology in 2019 to improve rural coverage. This was in line with our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. To date, we have deployed over 1 100 commercial sites in more than 11 countries and were among the pioneers of open-source adoption, facilitating cost-effective deployment in unconnected areas.

For all mobile network operators, radio access network (RAN) makes up the bulk of capital and operating costs. By applying OpenRAN, MTN targets further innovation and cost efficiencies.

“At MTN we are alive to the potential of open interfaces. There is a lot of value that dominant players bring to the business, but telecommunications today is as much about the stability of the network as it is about new services,” says MTN Group Chief Technology and Information Officer Charles Molapisi. “Customers measure us against the speed with which we can deploy the latest technology and we are committed to finding faster and better ways to do that.”

The many benefits of OpenRAN include diversifying the vendor landscape, disrupting the cost flow, and removing dependencies on proprietary suppliers. It also promises cost savings and flexibility as it allows operators to use generic hardware and open interfaces. It enables a so-called ‘Lego architecture’ where many different vendors supply the components and software products that together make the end-to-end radio network work. By modernising the network, we reduce our power consumption and emissions in support of our Project Zero. 

“While OpenRAN brings a new architecture to mobile networks and more suppliers to deal with, it gives telcos much-needed flexibility,” says Amith Maharaj, MTN Group Executive: Network Planning and Design. “This means that MTN can now look at building a network that can meet cost and capacity requirements of specific markets, or even rapidly deploy 5G and/or 4G seamlessly with existing legacy services. This is a real game-changer for mobile advancement in emerging markets.”   

While the technology is still in its early days and widespread adoption is likely years away, MTN has already collaborated with a number of global players to reap the benefits and trigger innovation. In efforts to drive OpenRAN standardisation, we are also participating in Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project.

“Early adoption gives us the ability to improve and deploy appropriate network architecture underpinned by technology, both tried and tested, and disruptive, to ensure we continue to deliver an exceptional experience, and ultimately play our part in harnessing the power of technology to lead digital solutions for Africa’s progress,” concludes Molapisi. 

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MTN Group reports resilient first quarter 2021 results as data and fintech services accelerate

MTN Group today announced a strong and resilient operational and financial performance in the first quarter of 2021, with growth in service revenue exceeding medium-term guidance, driven by gains in data and fintech revenue.

“The MTN Group has delivered a solid Q1 2021 trading performance, with service revenue and EBITDA margins expanding on the back of continued commercial momentum and resilient networks,” said MTN Group President and Chief Executive Officer Ralph Mupita, adding that the Group’s Ambition 2025 strategy had gained execution traction during challenging COVID-19 macroeconomic conditions in the quarter.

In constant currency terms, service revenue grew by 17.8% to R42.3 billion at end-March 2021, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by 21.3% and the EBITDA margin widened to 44.2% from 42.7%.

“The overall Group results were supported by double-digit service revenue growth from our large operations and continued focus on our expense efficiency programme. We are encouraged in particular by the strong performance of MTN South Africa, as well as accelerating data and fintech services across the group in the period,” he said.

MTN South Africa (MTN SA) recorded strong performances across the consumer, enterprise and wholesale businesses. Underpinned by market share gains and a subscriber base of 32.1 million, an 11.8% increase in service revenue and good cost containment drove a 3.2 percentage point expansion in MTN SA’s EBITDA margin to 39.8%. MTN Nigeria and MTN Ghana – both of which reported Q1 results in the past week – continued to build on their solid operational execution and commercial momentum.

Group data revenue grew by almost a third amid sustained demand for work-from-home services, digital entertainment as well as online education offerings. Fintech revenue also accelerated, expanding by more than 31% as the value of fintech transactions increased by 87% to US$53 billion.

“We are pleased with the momentum in driving our platform strategy and the fintech separation project is progressing well, in line with our Ambition 2025 strategy,” said Mupita. “MTN Rwanda recently received a licence to operate a separate fintech entity, bringing the number of structurally separated entities to 12 (out of 16 fintech markets). We continue to progress our work in establishing the Topco structure for fintech, and anticipate that this will be concluded before Q1 2022.”

The Group’s strong overall performance was despite a 1.7 million decrease in subscriber numbers to 277.9 million as MTN Nigeria’s subscribers declined because of restrictions on all new SIM sales and activations in that market. In this context, the Group’s active data subscribers declined by 1.3 million to 115.6 million, while the number of MoMo customers increased by 0.2 million to 46.6 million. Excluding the impacts of MTN Nigeria, MTN Group total subscribers and active data subscribers increased by 3.4 million and 1.3 million respectively.

COVID-19 continued to impact lives and livelihoods across the world, including at MTN. By 31 March 2021, the Group had reported 1 557 COVID-19 infections and mourned the loss of 11 MTN employees to the virus across our markets. We continue to prioritise the health and safety of our people.

Alongside equity partners, in April we submitted a bid for one of two telecoms licences to operate in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most-populous country which represents the last and largest telco liberalisation opportunity in the world. MTN’s participation in the bid process aligns with our pan-Africa focus and capital allocation framework.

The Group remains committed to its asset realisation programme (ARP) and is confident of making progress on realising the 29% stake in tower company IHS Group in the short term. This is key to MTN’s ARP. IHS continues to explore an IPO of its shares in line with its public statement made in August 2020.

“Looking ahead, we are focused on executing our Ambition 2025 strategy, driving growth, de-leveraging the Holdco balance sheet and unlocking value, whilst navigating the impacts of the pandemic,” concluded Mupita. 

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MTN Rwanda lists by introduction on the Rwanda Stock Exchange

MTN Rwanda  has become the first mobile network operator to list its shares on the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE).

As part of the listing by introduction, Crystal Telecom Limited’s shareholders now hold a direct 20% stake in MTN Rwanda and can trade their MTN Rwanda shares directly on the RSE. These shares were previously held by Crystal Telecom PLC.

MTN Rwanda CEO Mitwa Ng’ambi said the listing was good news for MTN and Rwanda: “We are honoured to be the first telecommunications network provider in Rwanda to be listed on the RSE. We are committed to further establishing our presence, expanding our connectivity, driving digital inclusion and contributing to the sector and economy.”

She said MTN was proud of its journey in Rwanda in the past 23 years: “We are grateful to our customers, partners and stakeholders and look forward to this new chapter. Listing on the RSE is a major milestone for us and the platform for even better and bolder things to come.”

MTN Group President and CEO Ralph Mupita said the listing demonstrated MTN’s commitment to Rwanda: “This listing will assist in deepening the Rwandan capital markets by broadening public ownership over time and will also establish the basis for a new and emerging telecoms and technology asset class on the exchange.”

This listing by introduction is part of MTN Group’s work to continuously promote local ownership and participation in MTN businesses across its markets and provides an opportunity for Rwandans to invest directly in the country’s leading network operator. 

“MTN Rwanda joining the Rwanda Stock Exchange as we celebrate 10 years of operations as an Exchange is another big milestone for our market. We hope that the powerful brand recognition brought by MTN Rwanda on the market will attract more private sector companies both locally and internationally to join the market and enjoy the benefits of listed companies,” said Pierre Celestin Rwabukumba, CEO of the Rwanda Stock Exchange.

Ahead of its listing by introduction on the RSE, MTN Rwanda changed its status from a private company to a Public Liability Company (PLC) effective December 2020. The full company name has therefore been changed from MTN Rwandacell Limited to MTN Rwandacell PLC.

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MTN Rwanda Launches “Level Up Your Biz” to Support Youth-led Businesses.

MTN Rwanda is pleased to announce that it has partnered with Inkomoko Entrepreneur Development to support Rwandan youth-led businesses on their entrepreneurship journey with the Level Up Your Biz programme.

This 10-month programme will offer seed capital, valuable training and mentorship opportunities to eligible young entrepreneurs.

Speaking about this initiative, MTN Rwanda’s Chief Consumer and Digital Officer, Yaw Ankoma Agyapong said, “We set up Yolo as a platform to help the youth of Rwanda unleash their potential and drive them to achieve greatness. We are keen on investing in developing youth and want to make sure they are well-equipped to sustain their businesses, in line with MTN’s drive to contribute to the growth of SMEs thus promoting Rwanda’s growth.”

MTN’s partnership with Inkomoko aims to empower and provide youth-led businesses with the right practical knowledge and skills, that will strengthen their innovative capabilities amidst an evolving digital world.

Through a competitive application process, 6 youth-led SMEs/start-ups will be selected to receive:

  • A free 5-month accelerator from Inkomoko, including training, assessment, and consulting.
  • 3 out of the 6 businesses will compete to be selected to receive monetary funding support from MTN.
  • Webinars with industry experts to help boost their businesses.
  • Communication essentials and advertising platforms from MTN

Only participants whose business plans fulfil the criteria below of viability and sustainability will be selected for the programme.

  • The applicant must be Rwandan.
  • Must be a business owner aged 18-30.
  • Must have digital presence or use e-commerce.
  • Must have annual revenue of less than Rwf 200,000,000.
  • The company must have proof of registration with Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for at least 1 year.
  • Priority will be given to youth-led businesses that are making a social/environmental impact.

Sara Leedom, Inkomoko’s Chief Operating Officer also commented on this partnership by saying, “‘Levelling up’ means taking on the next challenge. We at Inkomoko see youth entrepreneurs in Rwanda take on the challenge of being more digital, using eCommerce, and embracing innovation. Inkomoko is excited for our partnership with MTN to help young entrepreneurs embrace the challenge and grow even further. Level Up Your Biz is an opportunity for digitally connected entrepreneurs to gain more management skills from Inkomoko and digital tools from MTN.

Level Up Your Biz is in line with MTN’s digital ambition as it focuses on capacity building for businesses that use digital platforms to innovate and provide local solutions that address a market need in Rwanda.

Our mission is to lead digital for a brighter Rwanda where everyone is connected to the digital world.  By supporting these young entrepreneurs, we see ourselves as partners on their digitization journey as they realise their entrepreneurial dreams,” concluded Agyapong.


For any enquiries about the Level Up Your Biz programme, email info@inkomoko.com.

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MTN joins JAC and GeSI to accelerate sustainability across its supply chain

MTN Group has joined the Joint Audit Cooperation (JAC) and the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), two globally recognized industry bodies committed to promoting technologies and practices that foster environmental, social and governance sustainability.

According to the telco, these memberships are a vital step in the realisation of its sustainability vision of creating shared value for our stakeholders through responsible economic, environmental and social practices.

“As the leading operator in many of our markets, we recognise that in partnering with JAC and GeSI we have a significant opportunity to contribute to the collective agenda of driving greater adoption of sustainable environmental and social practices across our supply chain and the sector. This is how we realise the outcomes we aim for in placing ESG at the core,” says MTN Group Executive for Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Nompilo Morafo.

Telecommunications is a rapidly changing industry, vibrant with emerging technologies and competitive disruptors that are altering established business models and creating new sustainability-related opportunities and risks.

MTN Group Executive for Procurement & Supply Chain Management Dirk Karl says: “We recognise the unique blend of know-how that these two well-established bodies bring. In joining, we are able to verify the sustainability performance levels of our top 20 suppliers and their sub suppliers who have already been audited. The memberships also provide a platform to further enhance the audit coverage across our supplier base.”

Members of JAC – which was founded in 2010 and whose members include many of the world’s largest telecoms operators – share resources and best practices to develop long-term corporate social responsibility implementation in the different tiers of the ICT supply chain globally. Collaboration between the largest operators promotes sustainable sourcing globally.

“On behalf of JAC and its member companies, we are very pleased to welcome MTN on-board with us and look forward to working together. This provides us with further diversity from African and Middle Eastern continents in our collaboration on making progress on supply chain sustainability topics and issues,” says Paras Shah, JAC Chairman.

GeSI works to facilitate real-world solutions to real-world issues by contributing towards a sustainable future, communicating the industry’s corporate responsibility efforts and driving the sustainability agenda.

“GeSI’s mission is to help create a smarter, more sustainable world with digital solutions at its core,” said Luis Neves, Global CEO of GeSI. “We are thrilled to have a company like MTN, a leader in its industry sector and region, join us as a Member. Their engagement reinforces GeSI’s work to harness innovative digital solutions as a force for good as we commit to the 2030 Agenda. We look forward to a long partnership with MTN.”

MTN strives to always conduct business in a way that supports the long-term sustainability of the societies in which we operate. To meet these objectives, we conduct business with suppliers and partners who share our commitment to high ethical standards and operate in a responsible manner.

To provide our customers with the products and services they need, MTN relies on a multi-faceted and multi-layered global supply chain, which consists of approximately 15 000 suppliers. Not many telcos – particularly pan-African telcos – are members of both JAC and GeSI. By becoming a member of both organisations, MTN can ensure ethical, sustainable, environmentally responsible supply chain partners.

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MTN Rwanda to list by introduction on Rwanda Stock Exchange

MTN Rwanda has announced that it will list on the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE) on 4 May 2021. 

This announcement follows the approval by the Capital Market Authority (CMA) and the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE) of MTN Rwanda’s listing by introduction on the RSE and the approval of Crystal Telecom’s (CTL) shareholders to distribute the 20% of MTN Rwanda’s shareholding held by CTL to CTL shareholders effective from the listing date.

The listing of MTN Rwanda will see 1,350,886,600 ordinary shares with a nominal value of Rwf 1 each being registered with the RSE at an initial listing price of Rwf269 per ordinary share. CTL shareholders will become direct shareholders in MTN Rwanda and be able to trade their MTN Rwanda shares on the RSE.

Commenting on the announcement, Mitwa Ng’ambi, CEO of MTN Rwanda, said: “The official listing of MTN Rwanda’s shares on the RSE will take place on 4 May 2021. We look forward to participating in the capital markets of Rwanda and see this as an exciting opportunity for the investor community at large to participate directly in the ownership of MTN Rwanda. We are also excited to welcome former CTL shareholders as MTN Rwanda shareholders.”

CMA Executive Director Eric Bundugu noted: “We welcome MTN Rwanda’s listing by introduction on the RSE as a demonstration of an international company local investors can continue to participate in as well as being an attraction to foreign investors into the Rwandan capital market. The listing will also continue to provide liquidity for existing and future shareholders.”

Iza Irame, CTL’s CEO, said: “We are happy to see this important transaction materialize. It will allow our shareholders to retain their economic interest in MTN Rwanda while gaining from the efficiency and visibility that comes with direct ownership.”

Celestin Rwabukumba, CEO of the RSE, said: “MTN Rwanda joining the RSE list of companies is a great and welcome development for our market as it increases our market capitalization. The company being of a good size adds on the number of leading brands to our Exchange and offers more visibility into the company’s operations to shareholders and the general investing public, which in turn should trigger more interest from potential new investors going forward.”

MTN Group President and CEO Ralph Mupita called the listing a milestone: “Enabling Rwandans the opportunity to participate in the company’s success is part of our work to promote local ownership and participation in MTN businesses across our markets, and to create shared value.” He added that the listing was particularly significant given the increasing importance of broadband access in driving economic and industrial development across Africa.

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Rwanda farmers receive smartphones to boost new age agriculture

Female leaders of farming cooperatives in Rwanda have been given smartphones to sensitize farmers on agriculture best practices under the #ConnectRwanda initiative.

Farmer promoters and cooperative leaders play an important role in ensuring that best practices in agriculture are followed, hence resulting in better produce. On average, a farmer promoter has access to around 4,000 farmers. With these new smart phones, the beneficiaries will be able to easily access agriculture information and disseminate it to the farmers in their catchment area.

In her remarks, Hon. Paula Ingabire; Minister of ICT and Innovation said: “Agriculture being the backbone of Rwanda’s economy, women are great contributors to the growth of this sector especially in rural areas. In order to reach more development, women in agriculture should be placed at the centre of this transformation. Constituting more than 60% of the Rwandan agricultural work force, it is imperative that technology should not leave them behind in order for Rwanda to achieve great advancement in ensuring food quality and food security. We thank all our partners in this initiative.”

Prof. Jeannette Bayisenge; The Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, said “We welcome this partnership between the Government of Rwanda and MTN through which female farmer promoters well given smart phones. These smartphones will help them to remain at the forefront in their agricultural activities and contribute on their families’ welfare.”

Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana; The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources comments “Female leaders of farming cooperatives need to access information and disseminate to those in their catchment area for effective operations. Now that they are equipped with the smartphones, they will be able to access and share information easily. This will help them to improve their agricultural activities.”

Hon. Gatabazi Jean Marie Vianney; The Minister of Local Government said: “We thank The President of The Republic for always striving for inclusive development. The smartphones you have received are bringing you technology, ensure to maximize their benefits towards a sustainable development.”

“We are glad to continue the Connect Rwanda initiative in partnership with the Ministry of ICT & Innovation, this time specifically focused on women farmers with the aim to empower them and their businesses, as we drive digital for a brighter Rwanda. As we wind down Women’s Month, we continue to recognise the importance women play in our economy and we are confident that these efforts to drive smartphone and internet penetration will make a difference.” – said Mitwa Ng’ambi, MTN Rwanda CEO

#ConnectRwanda Initiative was launched by MTN in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation in December 2019, with the objective of providing smartphones to unconnected households countrywide to leverage the digital economy. The essence of the initiative is for private companies, government institutions and individuals to come together and drive the digital agenda to connect all Rwandans.

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Women’s month: Reflections from a woman in tech

Over the last year within MTN Rwanda, I have watched several young men and women take on and flourish in new roles across the organization. I am particularly encouraged by some young women in our Technology Department that have grown into senior engineers and formidable managers of teams.

Each time I see them excel, I am reminded of my own journey that led me to the exciting world of technology. I first joined the telecommunications world as a fresh IT graduate, but you would be surprised to learn that this was not always the plan.

Having excelled at Maths and Sciences in High School, I was placed in the school of Natural Science at University, taking courses such as Biology, Physics and Chemistry. The end goal for me was not clear at the time, but I foresaw that I would be a bio-chemical scientist of some sort. As fate would have it though, two months into my studies, the university I was attending closed indefinitely leaving me no choice but to hurriedly apply to another school.

Applying to this new university, I naturally put down Natural Sciences as my first and only academic preference. This was risky because if this stream were fully subscribed, I would have had to opt for whatever other courses were left. Lo and behold, I arrived at the new university only to find the Natural Sciences intake was full and the only other under-subscribed stream was Computer Science.

Unsure about whether technology was “my thing”, I spoke to the department head for advice, whose words I will never forget, “with a training in computer science or technology, you get a degree in ‘versatility’ – you can literally work in any industry”. With that said – my path was set, and I went on to study Computer Science and later a Master’s in Information Technology. So, yes, I am an IT Engineer albeit by accident, and have zero regrets on what has been a most exciting and futuristic path.  

I am an IT Engineer by training, Telecom CEO by profession but also daughter of a very fierce gender equality advocate of a mother. I have thought about her a lot in this month of March when we celebrate women. Ever since I can remember, my mother has held strong beliefs in the boundless capabilities of women.

With words like “Mitwa, you must make something of yourself, for yourself and for others”, she has built me into who I am today. She also believes that one should never make apologies for being the voice representing women as they have historically started a few paces behind in the race to success and thus deserve all the support they can get if we are to achieve a gender equal world.

In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Goals for Development which are an urgent call to action by all countries. Goal 5 is achieving gender equality. It is said that we cannot achieve peace and prosperity now and into the future if this goal is not met.

Gender equality comes with massive implications. According to McKinsey, advancing women’s equality in Africa could add $316 billion or 10% to GDP by 2025.  Further, the World Bank reiterates that boosting female employment and economic diversification can make the difference between a gainful decade and a lost one.

It is well documented that diversity and inclusion make companies more innovative, customer centric and profitable. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies that have more diverse management teams, have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. This finding is huge for tech companies where innovation is key for growth.

In the telecommunications world, the gender gaps are slowly closing however there is still a lot of work to do. According to the GSMA, in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a 37% gender gap in mobile internet use and women are 8% less likely than men to own a mobile phone.

At MTN Rwanda, we are hyperaware and sensitive to these statistics. We constantly challenge ourselves to find innovative ways to contribute to the closure of this gender gap.

Through the MTN Foundation, we recently launched the second edition of the Connecting Women in Business initiative that seeks out and provides financial support to cooperatives that are formed and led by women.

On my recent visit to Rubavu, it was great to see the positive impact that this support has had on last year’s winners. My heart smiled listening to how Cooperative Twivane Mu Bukene in Cyanzarwe sector, doubled the size of their farmland and thus their product yield on the back of the support they received last year.

Internally, our commitment has been to increase the participation of women in leadership and technical roles. The biggest step in this direction was the establishment of the Women’s Empowerment Network (WeNet) within MTN Rwanda whose mission is to provide a forum for MTN Rwanda’s women to educate, empower and inspire each other.

With WeNet, we have seen the implementation of initiatives that are aimed at preparing women for opportunities within the organization. These initiatives include public speaking trainings, mock interviews, mentoring programs to mention but a few and in only one year, we are already seeing the fruits of these initiatives.

On the softer side, the network, which I too am a part of, is built on the principle that each and every one of us is our sister’s keeper. Sisters keep each other honest, push each other to step out of their comfort zones, and encourage one another to do more and be more. WeNet has only been in existence for a year, but in that time, we have seen more women stepping up to apply for jobs, speaking up and making their views heard.  I am super proud of them all and while we are encouraged by early results, we are only inspired to do more. Diversity and inclusion remain an important pillar of focus at MTN Rwanda.

It is important for us all to keep an eye on the goal of achieving gender equality by 2030. We need to be intentional and specific on the steps we are taking to contribute to attaining this goal. As leaders of organizations – it starts with awareness; how many women do we have in our organizations? Do we know their participation levels at all ranks of the organization? Are we aware of any disparities that exist?

We may not be able to resolve all gaps over night, but awareness is the first step in getting to a gender equal world. I wake up every morning not thinking of myself as a female CEO but simply as a CEO, leading an organization to the best of my ability. I look forward to a world where there is no longer a “first woman to do this” or the “first woman to do that” – but simply a world where there are professionals all living the best versions of themselves.  So yes, this year and for time to come, I #ChooseToChallenge.

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