Performance Analysis of Attractive Markets and Players: Future Growth Prospects

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Key Markets 

Though most of the mobile markets in Africa have witnessed double and triple digit growth in subscriber numbers over the last few years, mobile penetration across the whole of Africa in general remains low. The whole African continent, for instance, had a mobile penetration of only 10.3 percent at the end of 2004, and 14.3 percent at the end of 2005.

Figure 1, below, depicts the subscriber-base and corresponding penetration rate for some of the key mobile markets in Africa in 2005.

Figure 1: Africa - Major Mobile Markets (2005)

Source: Company reports, Blycroft estimates c. Blycroft 2011

Figure 1a: Africa - Major Mobile Markets (2010) 

Source: Company reports, Blycroft estimates c. Blycroft 2011

Such a situation coupled with liberalisation of the telecom markets and launch of advanced services has meant that there is a huge growth potential for mobile network operators in the region to increase their subscriber base. South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Kenya constitute the key mobile markets in Africa in terms of the potential for growth in number of subscribers. These markets have performed well all were below 50 percent mobile penetration in 2004; South Africa and Morocco were over the 100% mark at the end of 2010; Egypt and Algeria were over 80%; whilst Kenya and Nigeria had achieved 61 and 55%. .

Nigeria, which has the largest population in Africa, had reached only 7.6 percent penetration by the end of 2004, rising to 14.4 percent by the end of 2005. This trend is expected to continue with the favourable policies from the regulator and the (on-going) privatisation of NITEL. The number of subscribers in the country increased at a CAGR of 30.2 percent during 2005-2011.


Like Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt are also registered strong growth in subscriber numbers during 2005-2011, and across the continent other countries show strong growth signs.

South Africa, however, had the highest mobile penetration on the continent; the launch of 3G services in the country in 2004 enhanced the subscriber base in the region as well as generated higher ARPU for South African operators. The total number of subscribers will increase at a CAGR of 4.7 percent during 2005-2011.

Tunisia, which has the second highest level of mobile penetration in the region, also registered a CAGR of 9.7 percent during 2005-2011, driven by the privatisation of state-owned Tunisie Telecom in 2006 and launch of GPRS and EDGE technologies. In fact, the mobile penetration in the country reached 109% at the end of 2010. Tunisia's rapid growth, with penetration reaching such high levels in such a short time, is primarily because of its small population of only 9 million people.

Figure 2 forecasts the growth of subscriber numbers in key mobile markets of Africa from 2005 to 2011.

Figure 2: Major African Markets - CAGR 2005-2010, 2011-2015

Source: Blycroft Publishing c. 2011

In terms of level of competition, Africa has become increasingly competitive; with the mjority of countries now having 3+ operators, and 10 with 5+.

Figure 3: African Markets by Number of Operators 2005, 2010

Source: Blycroft Publishing.

Nigeria, which has the highest number of players in the mobile market at 9, was the fastest growing mobile market in the region in the period 2002-2004 with a CAGR of 147.3%. In 2006-2010 it recorded a CAGR of 23.5%, and this is forecast to fall to 4.9% in 2011-2015. This rapid growth in the Nigerian mobile market has been the result of the liberalisation policy and consequent competition in the market, a demonstration of the power governments have in expediting such development.

Figure 3 shows the number of MNO competitors in each of the key mobile markets in Africa in 2005 and 2010.

Figure 4: African Major Markets by Mobile Network Operators 2005, 2010

Source: Blycroft Publishing. c. 2011

Key Players

The key pan-African players in the market are Vodacom/Vodafone, MTN, France Telecom, Airtel and Millicom, with Orascom, Warid and Etislat playing lesser roles.

Vodacom is the largest operator in the region, with 14.4 million mobile subscribers as on 31st December 2004, followed by MTN and France Telecom, respectively.

Millicom had the highest growth in revenues during 2003-2004, while the two biggest operators, Vodacom and MTN, reported low revenue growth in the same period.

Orascom had the highest EBITDA margin, primarily due to its strategy of investing in the emerging mobile markets and consequently, shift their focus from undeveloped mobile markets to the developing markets in the region.

Figure 4 compares five of the leading mobile network operators in Africa in terms of their subscriber base (size of the bubble), revenue growth rate and EBITDA margin for the latest completed financial year.

Figure 5: Africa - Performance Analysis of Mobile Network Operators