The win sees the operator expand into its fifth African market
Around a year ago, Angola’s fourth telecoms licence was issued to a virtually unknown entity called Telstar, set to take on existing operators Angola Telecom, Movicel, and Unitel. However, the licence was revoked just days after its allocation, with the Angolan president, Joao Lourenço, pulling the plug citing alleged non-compliance with certain procedural requirements. This revelation left the fourth telco licence vacant, presenting an interesting opportunity for foreign telcos. Angola’s mobile market is home to some 14 million users and, despite the severe poverty in much of the region, has a large potential for growth. Currently, the population is currently served by the duopoly of Unitel and Movicel – state-backed Angola Telecom has plans to launch its own mobile network, but for now remains only a fixed line operator – meaning there is certainly space for a fourth operator. South Africa’s MTN was initially reportedly as interested, as was Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI), but both of these companies later decided against submitting a formal bid, leaving Africell with a clear path to winning the licence. One factor which may have proved off-putting to a potential investment is the widespread corruption in Angola, which ranks among the worst in the world this regard. Indeed, many of the players in this story are themselves mired in underhand practice scandals. BAI has been accused of money laundering for the country’s political elite, while Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Africa’s richest woman, who owns 50% of Unitel, was indicted for a range of financial crimes at the start of the year. Africell currently operates a number of mobile networks across Africa, with units in Gambia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. This licence will allow them to offer 2G, 3G, and 4G services throughout the country, as well as internet, fixed telephone, and pay-TV services.