Google joins Smart Africa Alliance to drive digital transformation in Africa

Google has joined Smart Africa as a platinum member of the Alliance, advancing its commitment to the digital transformation of Africa.

The Alliance is tasked with defining Africa’s digital strategy to ensure socio-economic transformation and this is in sync with Google’s vision for Africa. Therefore, Google will contribute towards closing the digital gap through advancing digital skills development. Africa has a growing youth population which offers an unparalleled opportunity for development and economic growth. Therefore digital skills development is essential for Africa to develop.

In addition to skills development, Google will use its vast experience, competencies and networks to contribute towards Africa’s development of broadband connectivity, data governance and the ICT startups and innovation ecosystem which are all key initiatives that Smart Africa is undertaking. Google and Smart Africa will also work together towards promoting the adoption of Artificial Intelligence, promoting the innovative use of data, encouraging cloud technologies, promoting digital government and enabling an inclusive payments system.

With 32 countries under the Smart Africa Alliance, representing 815 million people across the continent, the partnership between Smart Africa and Google is well poised to make a significant impact on the vision of Smart Africa.

Google joins other international and African technology firms as members of Smart Africa including Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, Facebook, Inmarsat, Liquid Telecom, Orange, Intel, Ericsson, Huawei and Tata Communications & Transformation Services. Smart Africa also partners international organisations such as the International telecommunications Union (ITU), the African Development Bank (AfDB), GSMA and the World Bank among others.

Google is focused on leveraging its expertise to help make advanced technologies available to more of the world’s citizens, regardless of geographic location. By creating innovative and accessible digital infrastructures and skills, Google and other organizations within the Smart Africa Alliance can lead the world into an era of advancement and sustainable development.

Together with other members of the Alliance, Google is committed to transform Africa into a single digital market.

www.smartafrica.org

Orange Mali and German Cooperation inaugurate 4th Orange Digital Center in Africa and the Middle East

Orange and the German Cooperation are inaugurating, an Orange Digital Center in Bamako, an ecosystem entirely dedicated to the development of digital skills and innovation.

Following on from Tunisia, Senegal and Ethiopia, Mali will inaugurate the fourth Orange Digital Center in Africa and the Middle East. Spread over 1,557 sq.m, the Orange Digital Center brings together the four strategic programs of the Orange group, namely: a coding school (Orange Digital Kalanso), a FabLab Solidaire -one of the Orange Foundation’s digital manufacturing workshops -, an Orange Fab startup accelerator and Orange Ventures Africa, the Orange Group investment fund. All of the programmes provided are free-of charge, open to all. They range from digital training for young people, 90% of which are practical, start-up acceleration, guidance for project bearers and investment.

Alioune Ndiaye, Chairman and CEO of Orange Africa and the Middle East, says: “I am very proud to inaugurate the fourth Orange Digital Center in Africa today in Mali, which is part of the network of 32 Orange Digital Centers deployed in all the countries where Orange operates to support the startups. The main objective is to democratize access to digital technology for young people – with or without qualifications – giving them access to the latest technological trends to improve their employability and give young Africans the ability to write their digital future.”

Working as a network, the Orange Digital Centers allow experiences and expertise to be shared between countries and offer a simple and inclusive approach to improve young people’s employability, encourage innovative entrepreneurship and promote the local digital ecosystem. Moreover, discussions are underway between Orange Mali and the Ministry of Higher Education for the digital transformation of universities in Mali. An Orange Digital Center Club will be installed in each university in the region, thus completing the system to give as many people possible access to new technologies and support in using them to their full extent.

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility approach, Orange Mali wishes to support new ideas, which bring progress for all and in particular those that create economic value and jobs at the local level. This is why Orange Mali wanted to set up and support, in a partnership-based approach, initiatives that help accelerate this positive change. As the leading contributor to digital development in the country, Orange Mali supports the emergence of a creative, prosperous ecosystem that gives digital players the opportunity to create and develop. 

Orange and the German Cooperation by GIZ are working together as part of a development partnership within the develoPPP program, which GIZ is implementing on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The goal is to fulfil their shared vision: fostering youth employability – and access to ICT jobs for women and girls – while supporting sustainable growth and the country’s digital transformation. This joint project by Orange and GIZ is an example of successful cooperation between German Cooperation and the private sector.

Because digital technology must provide opportunities for everyone, this initiative fully embodies our commitment as a responsible operator and meets the following six sustainable development objectives: (4) quality education, (5) gender equality, (8) decent work and economic growth, (9) industry, innovation and infrastructure, (10) reduced inequalities and (17) partnerships for goals.

So far, eight Orange Digital Centers have already been opened in the region: Tunisia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Jordan, Morocco, and Mali. This means other inaugurations are still to come in 2021.

Brelotte BA, CEO, Orange Mali: “Orange Mali is truly committed to the digital transformation. Being the partner of the digital transformation makes us a leading player in the socio-economic development of the country thanks to innovative ecosystems and specific actions intended to develop entrepreneurship. The Orange Digital Center brings together all the necessary skills in a single place to illustrate Orange’s commitment to digital inclusion.”

Orange is present in 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East and has more than 130 million customers at of 31 March 2020. With 5.8 billion euros of revenues in 2020, Orange MEA is the first growth area in the Orange group. Orange Money, its flagship mobile-based money transfer and financial services offer is available in 17 countries and has more than 50 million customers. Orange, multi-services operator, key partner of the digital transformation provides its expertise to support the development of new digital services in Africa and the Middle East.

www.orange.com

Nokia unlocks unlicensed private wireless networks with the world’s first MulteFire solution

Recently Nokia mentioned that CBRS in the US leads the world on vertical spectrum and that Nokia is addressing this opportunity with some key partnerships and innovations. Nokia is now unlocking the global unlicensed spectrum with the industry first MulteFire 4.9G/LTE private wireless network solution. This solution features the industry’s first certified MulteFire device: the Nokia Industrial MulteFire router 700.  

The availability of licensed spectrum is often seen as a barrier to the deployment of new private wireless networks. While the situation has improved in quite a few countries, it is not yet ideal for all markets. When it comes to unlicensed spectrum, some countries allow the use of LTE-U on the unlicensed 5.8 GHz bands, which are traditionally used by Wi-Fi or wireless backhaul. But these bands are mainly used for static point-to-point applications and mobility is not allowed.

MulteFire now makes it possible to quickly set up and tear down a private LTE/4G network anywhere that Wi-Fi is allowed in 5.x GHz spectrum without worrying about spectrum availability, site footprint and boundaries, regulatory consent or licensing costs. It is a new very important option for small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs), and we hope it will help take private wireless to the mass market.

Communication service providers (CSPs) should also rejoice because MulteFire gives them a tool to tap into the SME market and offers private wireless more easily in countries where they don’t own any spectrum. Value-added resellers and distributors will also find MulteFire private wireless networks to be an ideal fit for their high-volume models.

One of the cherries on the cake with MulteFire is the potential to add capacity to existing licensed networks by deploying a few extra MulteFire access points. These access points can use the existing core network and operations and maintenance (O&M) functions.

Finally, MulteFire opens-up many new segments that lack access to licensed spectrum for some of their use cases. For example, MulteFire could be used to build temporary networks for events, construction sites, broadcasting, public safety operations, defense sites or field operations.

The Nokia Industrial MulteFire router 700 can break free from deployment and regulatory constraints to reliably connect a broad and growing range of IoT and digital assets in areas such as:

  • Communications, including LAN, business- and mission-critical communications, Industrial Ethernet and Machine Type Communication (MTC)
  • Visual intelligence, including video surveillance, image recognition and video analytics
  • Asset insights, including tracking, predictive diagnostics and supply chain management
  • Cloud automation, including automated guided robots (AGRs) and vehicles (AGVs) and remote machine control

By opening the world, new uses and making private wireless easier for SME, MulteFire further enhances Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) plug & play and easy-of-use capabilities. The solution can be delivered using an as-a-service package approach with a quick set-up service and includes a catalog of applications. 

With such announcement, Nokia opens-up the field of the unlicensed spectrum to drive growing MulteFire ecosytem and pave the way for the future 5G NR-U market and use cases.

SoftBank, Smart Africa collaborate to provide affordable broadband solutions, enhance digital transformation in Africa

Japan’s SoftBank and Smart Africa entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to collaborate on innovative solutions towards achieving the vision of providing affordable broadband. Through this partnership, SoftBank and Smart Africa will work to bridge the digital divide by providing accessible and affordable internet connectivity to Africa’s underserved regions.

Through various projects and activities, Smart Africa has an ambitious strategy to double broadband penetration to 51% in Africa by 2025. As part of achieving this vision, Smart Africa is working to implement the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project, an initiative that aims to deliver affordable internet connectivity for African citizens through the large-scale joint procurement efforts of Smart Africa member countries. To contribute to the Project, SoftBank will deploy its Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) Solutions to reduce internet costs and build affordable internet infrastructure. SoftBank also became a Smart Africa Gold Member in October 2020.

SoftBank’s NTN Solutions will utilize the connectivity services of OneWeb, Skylo, and HAPSMobile, among other solutions, that provide connectivity from space and the stratosphere. SoftBank aims to deploy NTN Solutions in African markets by collaborating with Smart Africa and working closely with its member countries.

SoftBank and Smart Africa will begin their collaboration by identifying demand for NTN solutions and conducting further feasibility studies in the five African countries that have already expressed interest in the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project (the Republic of Djibouti, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of Kenya, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Republic of Rwanda). SoftBank and Smart Africa will also draw up implementation plans and consider potential market entries in the future.

The partnership, with a vision to expand the area of work from internet infrastructure into digital transformation (DX), will boost the transition and development of a knowledge-based social economy in Africa. The collaboration will also align with the fundamentals of Smart Africa’s goal, which is the realization of a single digital market on the continent through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). To bridge the digital divide, SoftBank and Smart Africa will also study ways to collaborate and engage with organizations such as the HAPS Alliance, which seeks to promote the commercial adoption of HAPS, among others. Further, through a series of engagements in the coming future, this partnership will also consequently work to contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing digital solutions that address societal challenges.

“The vision of transforming Africa into a single digital market requires us to embrace partnerships. Therefore we are honoured to welcome SoftBank Corp. into the Smart Africa Alliance. Together, we will be able to inject further innovation into Africa’s digital innovation as we move towards creating a Single Digital Market by 2030,” said Lacina Koné, Smart Africa’s CEO.

Contributing to the SDGs is a top managerial priority for SoftBank, and the company has identified six key initiatives (materiality) to achieve them. “Building high-quality social communication networks” is one such initiative, and SoftBank is working to build sustainable communication infrastructure so people anywhere can connect to stable and trustworthy networks.

“We believe our NTN solutions will be extremely effective technologies to provide connectivity to African countries and regions that lack sufficient Internet access. With our NTN solutions powered by OneWeb, Skylo and HAPSMobile, we’ll work closely with Smart Africa to provide telecommunication networks,” said Hidebumi Kitahara, SoftBank Corp. Vice President and Head of the Technology Unit’s Global Business Strategy Division.

www.smartafrica.org

www.softbank.jp

Google Cloud and Ericsson partner to deliver 5G and Edge cloud Solutions

Google Cloud and Ericsson announced a partnership to jointly develop 5G and edge cloud solutions to help communications service providers (CSPs) digitally transform and to unlock new enterprise and consumer use cases.

Globally, industries with edge presences – including communication service providers, retailers, manufacturers, transport businesses, healthcare and media/entertainment providers – face pressures to build more digitized businesses and new digital experiences for their customers.

To help businesses address this shift, Google Cloud and Ericsson are working together to develop new solutions at Ericsson’s Silicon Valley D-15 Labs, a state-of-the-art innovation center where advanced solutions and technologies can be developed and tested on a live, multi-layers 5G platform.

Ericsson and Google Cloud have already completed functional onboarding of Ericsson 5G on Anthos to enable telco edge and on-premise use cases for CSPs and enterprises.

As part of the partnership, Google Cloud and Ericsson are also piloting enterprise applications at the edge on a live network with TIM. The project, which will automate the functions of TIM’s core 5G network and cloud-based applications, will use TIM’s Telco Cloud infrastructure, Google Cloud solutions and Ericsson’s 5G core network and orchestration technologies.

The joint offerings will help enterprises in the automotive, transportation, manufacturing and other sectors improve efficiencies and lower latency by bringing connectivity close to companies’ physical locations.

Thomas Kurian, CEO, Google Cloud, says: “Organizations have a tremendous opportunity to digitally transform their businesses with 5G and cloud capabilities like artificial intelligence and machine learning at the edge. We are proud to partner with Ericsson to help build a foundation for communications service providers and enterprises alike to take advantage of cloud technology and cloud-native services, from telecom network core to the  edge and enterprise premises.”

Niklas Heuveldop, President and Head of Ericsson North America, says: “5G is a powerful innovation platform. Combined with edge cloud capabilities, 5G has the potential to accelerate the digital transformation of virtually any sector of industry or society. We are excited about our partnership with Google Cloud as we engage with our customers to leverage our combined capabilities to solve real-world business challenges for the benefit of consumers, enterprises and society at large.”

Ericsson and Google previously formed a services partnership to enable the digital transformation of operator networks and application migration through cloud-native, container-based solutions.

www.ericsson.com

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. 

www.mtn.com

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.

www.mtn.co.rw

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.

mtn.co.rw

MTN Rwanda considers setting up financial tech firm

The development is an attempt by the telecom operator to increase relevance to financial technology which is increasingly characterizing the financial industry in aspects such as inclusion.

MTN Rwanda CEO Mitwa Ng’ambi said that with financial technology fast becoming influential in digital finance, they have been considering setting up an independent subsidiary running financial technology operations.

This would see Mobile Money move from a department within the telecom to a stand-alone company.

“Mobile Money was initially set up as a department within MTN Rwanda. Where we stand today, we see the future of digital finance, Fin-tech so much bigger than what we are today,” she said.

She said that they had already commenced engagement with the regulator, Central Bank, to establish the requirements and characteristics of the new firm.

She, however, said that the timelines for the establishment and constitution of the new firm are yet to be determined.

The new firm, she said, is expected to be agile to trends in fin-tech hence the autonomous structure.

This comes at a time when Fin-tech is expected to be a key driver in driving financial inclusion, fostering savings, access to short-term credit among others.

With increased mobile penetration and usage, the avenue could bridge a gap in access to financial services which financial sector operators such as banks have been unable to bridge.

In 2020, MTN Rwanda saw a significant uptake of their Mobile Money and data services with initial estimates pointing to a 20 per cent (year on year)growth in revenue.

Though audited financials are not out yet, Mark Nkurunziza, the operator’s Chief Financial Officer, said that they have noted a shift in revenue composition with data and Mobile Money increasingly raking in significant portions of revenue.

Chantal Kagame, the firm’s Chief Business and Corporate Affairs Officer, noted that during the course of 2020, the active mobile money user base had grown from 2.8 million to 3.2 million while MoMo Pay users had increased from about 200,000 to about 1.4 million.

This, she noted was indicative of progress in uptake of cashless payments within the economy.

“We currently have more than 2.4 million customers using MoKash both by saving and taking loans. These are mainly by low-income earners where the service has helped them to save, take loans and develop their lives in general,” she added.

However, with the increased uptake and usage mobile money, there has been an increase of fraud which the firm said is constantly working to curb including

MTN is also expected to list on the Rwanda Stock Exchange by way of introduction allowing Rwandans to invest and partake in its returns.

The development will see the 20 per cent stake held by Crystal Telecom Limited held directly by the public.

 While 100 per cent shares of MTN Rwanda will be listed on the stock exchange, the 20 per cent stake held by Crystal Telecom will be available for trading by the public. MTN Group will hold the 80 per cent shares.

The Board of Crystal Telecom has recommended that the shareholders of CTL become direct shareholders in MTN Rwanda when the listing happens through a transaction where CTL shall repurchase all its shares from its shareholders in exchange for MTN Rwanda shares as consideration (share swap).

The board has proposed that when MTN Rwanda lists, the share swap will be on a 1:1 ratio basis, with each shareholder receiving 1 MTN Rwanda share for every share repurchased by the CTL.

The share swap and the approval, therefore, shall be conditional upon the successful listing of MTN Rwanda on the RSE, an announcement by the Board mentioned.

CTL is also expected to wrap up operations and close the shop thereafter.

www.mtn.co.rw