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MTN GlobalConnect has significantly advanced its position as a leader in Pan-African fibre networks and platforms with strong 2021 results. On a mission to expand African connectivity and leading the journey is CEO Frédéric Schepens, who remains compelled and driven to create both social and economic benefits in Africa. Telecom Review has spoken with Fred to dig deeper and capture the story behind MTN GlobalConnect’s performance.

Please elaborate on the 2021 success MTN GlobalConnect has achieved

For the past four years, MTN GlobalConnect has continued to grow financially since its inception and focus on further developing its fibre network, and wholesale mobility platforms and solutions. The company has achieved this by adopting a lean and mean operating model and investing in human capital to grow its global workforce. 

What is behind this success? 

MTN GlobalConnect was launched in September 2017 as a business unit effectively operating as a start-up in MTN Group. Running the business with an entrepreneurial mindset, we hit the ground running from day one and built up the business by developing the wholesale fixed capacity and wholesale mobility operations at the same time. The GlobalConnect team applied their expertise identifying opportunities to optimise, monetise, expand, grow, and push boundaries. This led to the digital solutions that we offer today making us the best doorway into Africa. With MTN’s 270+ million subscribers underpinning our quest and as our main anchor tenant, we deliver high-quality digital solutions that cater for our customer base. Our internal customers (MTN OpCo’s) are enabled to service their retail consumers and enterprise operations. Our external customers like hyperscalers, global and local carriers, and service providers are empowered to increase their brand footprint in the African continent.  

Please walk us through MTN GlobalConnect’s evolution and rapid growth 

By becoming an operating company in MTN Group in 2019, MTN GlobalConnect gained traction to grow whilst focusing on the design of key products and solutions for the wholesale market. With a keen eye for optimisation, the Y’elloConnect Mobile Hubs were launched for signaling, voice, messaging, VAS and roaming.

2020 was the start of the pandemic and a year we describe as ‘The Resilient Team’. MTN GlobalConnect managed to not only sustain its figures but increase revenues and EBITDA by 48% YoY. Developing a very resilient attitude in the face of the pandemic and its disruption, the team stepped up and committed to the industry promise, making connectivity an essential service. With effectiveness and efficiency at the forefront, we focused internally and launched our BSS platform HARAKA for fixed connectivity, automating the internal process and reducing the time-to-market for service delivery. 

We are proud to say we have reached significant milestones in 2021. MTN’s proprietary fibre network (what is actually owned) is now 100,000km, and GlobalConnect’s total revenues exceed US$500 million dollars. 

In June 2021 at the Capital Market Day, you announced MTN GlobalConnect’s strategy as leading FibreCo in Africa. What update can you offer?

At the heart of all this growth, is our mission to meet the explosive data traffic growth and accelerate the digital economy in Africa. In 2021, we rolled out terrestrial fibre in some of our markets including South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. We have concluded 15 new cross-border links across Africa, and we also started the process of separating assets in several countries. 

We continued to develop process automatisation and implemented a digital enablement programme that had a direct impact on the high customer satisfaction rates we achieved in 2021.

Moving forward, how would you describe the evolution of MTN GlobalConnect?

It is actually very simple; the company is a combination of networks and platforms. This approach builds up both the physical and digital assets that are needed to progress Africa’s digital economy. 

Our fixed capacity business will evolve as a network-as-a-service (NaaS). The wholesale mobility business is developing its platforms for signalling, voice, messaging, VAS and roaming and will emerge as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) business offering. 

With the belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, the NaaS and PaaS business model and solutions accelerate our ability to meet Africa’s digital growth.  

Our team continues to grow, and we are constantly looking to attract talent and expertise driven by the same values that inspire us on our journey.

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