MTN is planning to invest in both 4G and 5G to allow the firm to improve its network so that it can offer stable and strong connections. These investments are expected in areas where the operator has no access to such infrastructure, MTN Rwanda, in particular.
The Group President and CEO, Ralph Mupita, made the remarks during an exclusive interview with local press while responding to concerns on limited rural connectivity. “We have a 3G license and I understand the government is working on a revised broadband policy, something that we strongly support.”
Currently, MTN accesses 4G technologies upwards through another operator, “but the broadband policy is going to create an ability for us too and that is another area that I think I would say watch the space and how that broadband policy evolves. We will invest to acquire more spectrum so that you have the best connection as we have other best connections in other parts of the market,” he said.
The President explored a host of issues ranging from the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, gender equity, bringing the African youth on board, emerging technologies and the just concluded CHOGM2022.
@MTNGroup President & CEO @RalphMupita and Chairman Mcebisi Jonas share a light moment with H.E. @PaulKagame on the sidelines of #CHOGM2022 Heads of Government & CEO's Roundtable.#WhatAreWeDoingToday#CBF2022 pic.twitter.com/lHOYztvAf8
— MTN Rwanda (@MTNRwanda) June 23, 2022
MTN has set a target of rolling out 100% rural broadband coverage by 2025 as part of long-term sustainability targets.
“We want all our up-courses to be providing at least a 3G service deep in the rural areas. We shall figure out how we get there either by ourselves or through partnerships, but we are highly committed that we put the capital to connect those very people, those mothers, aunts and uncles who are in rural areas.”
The group has also set another interesting target of bringing the women into the MTN boardroom as well as into the overall employment structures and very targeted specific levels.
“It is very important that we create an enabling environment for women to feel like they belong, because when somebody belongs, they perform, they bring the best,” says the Group President, adding that the advantage for MTN which is difficult to replicate is taking strength out of diversity and having women in leadership positions.
He noted that the world is facing a big threat right now, the so-called global reset. So, the youth have to be involved in those discussions, take leadership positions in those discussions starting with this issue of where globalization is going.
Covid and the Ukraine war has all of a sudden shattered that globalization and there is a retreat from globalizing, democratization and many other aspects.
The youths must be involved in trying to find solutions that are about “how we can sustain ourselves.”
For example, Africa is about to enter a very significant period of hunger and starvation because of rising food prices and the countries that are most vulnerable are actually those markets MTN operates in. Mupita believes the youth have to be at the table to figure out because this is their future.
“The most encouraging part in my trips to Kigali is that Rwanda is creating platforms where the youth also have a voice around how they want to determine the future. Half of the people on this planet are now women and 80% are youth. So, there is going to be space and room and the sense of belonging there,” he noted.
Africa Free Continental Trade Area (AFCFTA)
Speaking about the AFCFTA, the MTN Group President advised that African leaders need to focus on taking action and be solution oriented. There should be less talk shops, going to podiums about the African union discussion.
“In the industry that we are in as MTN, I would argue that there has never been a better time for us to think about a single digital marketplace structure. How do we build data centers, fiber in a way that cuts across borders very seamlessly and we have the investment put into it? We need to create an enabling environment for capital to come in because capital will support the digital marketplace and regulatory harmony.”
“The harmonization of regulatory conduct and policy on a pan African basis is one of the first things we need, and we need a social contract between business and the government to say look, bring your private capital to provide this public good and here is what we need, we need the cost of data to fall,” he noted.
He added that, “We can build a completely border-less digital market and create e-commerce platforms that enable you to use digital money transfer interoperability from Rwanda to the DRC, all the way to Côte d’Ivoire, why should that be impossible? Interoperability has to happen in mobile money at some point. There are those who fought and I’m saying you cannot fight that; the banking system works because there is interoperability. So, the digital marketplace can actually happen.”
Dealing with the effects of COVID-19
On handling and navigating through the current global covid-19 crisis, the MTN Group President notes that the pandemic, now becoming an endemic, taught us many things. “We cannot sit in our comfort positions as business, government and society and say this is what we do.”
“We understood very quickly as MTN and that African was going to be lost in queue for the much-needed vaccines, and we got a call in January last year from the AU special envoy asking us to facilitate Africa in getting adequate vaccines and said “look, there is an issue right now, we need to rapidly get particularly for our front-line health workers.”
“Our board supported US$25 million required to support seven million health workers with much needed vaccines because these vaccines are not coming out. That whole vaccine inequity issue. So, we stepped into a gap because we felt that that gap had to be occupied by a corporate and if we did something maybe others would follow and we did see others following, we saw MasterCard coming in and the other corporate companies that stood in because the world we live in today really requires a solution-oriented meeting of minds of business government and border society.”
"To do that we are looking at partnerships across markets with big providers of low cost data capable handsets and financing arrangements with financial institutions." – @RalphMupita #TimeWithRalph#CHOGM2022@MTNGroup pic.twitter.com/D0wJrGjD8n
— MTN Rwanda (@MTNRwanda) June 23, 2022