Africa will surprise with 5G use cases, says MTN CEO Mupita

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 26 Apr 2022
Ralph Mupita, MTN Group CEO.
Ralph Mupita, MTN Group CEO.

Africa will soon surprise the world with its 5G technology use cases.

This is according to Ralph Mupita, president and CEO of MTN Group, who today said the consolidation of the telecoms sector is inevitable, as the market is heading towards a saturation point.

Mupita asserted his views on the future of telecoms on the continent at the PSG Think Big webinar series, positing that economies of scale and a duopolistic environment are the logical ways for the mobile operators to protect their margins.

The Think Big series is an initiative by financial services group PSG for thought leaders to debate and discuss some of the country’s important matters.

“Having a market that is saturated by a number of players is not sustainable. There is simply not a big enough profit pool to meet the return and other financial objectives of a number of industry players,” said Mupita.

“Within the next few years, we will see a sector dominated by two to three major players who have the capabilities and capacity to rally massive amounts of capital investment locally and abroad, to sustain the industry’s expansion.”

Mupita, who leads Africa’s biggest telco, with 272 million subscribers, also gave a glimpse of the strategic shift of focus by MTN, which he said is indicative of the group’s broader objective to consolidate its business model and move decisively towards solidifying its position as a truly Pan-African company.

This shift, he said, includes the process MTN Group embarked on of spinning off its fintech division and it will be looking to bring in strategic investors into the group’s fintech business to bolster its expansion in the space.

The group has set the second quarter of the 2022 financial year as the deadline to spin off its lucrative fintech business, while the fibre unit will be unbundled a few months later.

“We are very determined to deepen digital and financial inclusion across Africa. Africa has an opportunity to leap-frog economically by leveraging digital infrastructure and services to drive social-economic growth,” said Mupita.

“We have seen the positive impact that mobile money has made in countries like Ghana and Uganda, and we believe that by expanding into this area, we can create a win-win environment for business and for broader African society.

“We see a similar opportunity in a market like Nigeria, now that we have a payments services banking licence, where we will commence operations soon.”

MTN was granted final approval for the Mobile Money Payment Service Bank licence in Nigeria earlier this month.

With the licence, MTN will offer a wider range of mobile financial services beyond the traditional person-to-person mobile money transfers, such as lending and bill payments.

Further, Mupita gave an outlook of the emergence of 5G technology, saying “Africa will surprise on 5G”.

He explained: “Driverless vehicles for consumers may not be such a far-off reality. We’re seeing use cases developing for 5G in mining, ports, manufacturing and other industrial applications around the continent. As we continue to invest in the development of African infrastructure for African society, we see MTN making a significant contribution to these kinds of new digital technologies.

“The ‘Elon Musk dream’ is well within our reach. Essentially, 5G entails machine-to-machine communication, and examples of this are already in existence in the mining sector, where MTN has played a key role with partners in the development of driverless vehicles in open-cast mining pits in South Africa.”