Atta Africa Financial Update

Key commercial and political activity in Africa for private equity investors by DCE Partners, UK Private Equity advisors to Atta.

African fourth generation. The ICT sector has been the flag-bearer of Africa’s success story in recent years, with giant telecoms from South Africa, India and further afield scrambling for market share in the continent’s economic hubs. Voice penetration has experienced a spectacular rise, MTN now boasts 230 million subscribers and a market capitalisation of R323 billion (US$24 billion). These major players’ investment in the sector have made it challenging for new entrants to compete, and few new markets have been left unexplored.

The ‘leapfrog’ effect has been noted as the main cause of the telecommunications sector’s emergence in Africa. Skipping the expensive copper-wire revolution of the developed markets has driven innovation and changed market dynamics at all levels of society.

Technology still has the potential to disrupt the status-quo and create new markets. Spearheaded by third and fourth generation mobile broadband, wireless Internet technologies are gaining ground where they failed in the West. Evolving from GPRS and EDGE, the high-speed LTE wireless broadband technology is gaining ground. Regulatory restriction in countries like Ghana are protecting such services from direct competition with the voice-services giants. Netherlands-based Afrimax has just raised US$120 million from a Japanese consortium backed by the IFC to expand its broadband network into Uganda, Tanzania and the DRC. A week before, Smile Telecoms raised US$365 million in debt and equity to expand its LTE network in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda and is planning a launch in the DRC in 2016.

Technological innovation seldom fails to play a disruptive role in markets. Africa is no exception.