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Telecel spreads wings

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TELECEL Zimbabwe Ltd, a unit of Orascom Telecom Holdings Ltd, sees an opportunity expanding banking services via mobile phones as it seeks to generate higher revenue per user, general manager Angeline Vere has said.

Bloomberg

“We have all seen how mobile banking can allow unbanked people into the mainstream economy and how it can drive growth for the whole economy,” Vere said yesterday by e-mail. “We believe it is an area of opportunity.”

Telecel, with 2,5 million subscribers, is the country’s largest telecommunications operator after Econet Wireless Holdings Zimbabwe Ltd and also competes with State-owned NetOne. With Zimbabwe’s mobile teledensity at 97%, the company is focusing on data offerings to win more customers and retain existing ones who may spend more, Vere said.

“You can also look at the average revenue that a subscriber can generate and improve your profitability even if your subscriber numbers are not growing,” she said. “This is done through offering additional value-added services that maximise usage of the network, especially data-based services.”

While Econet and NetOne operate mobile-money platforms, Telecel discontinued its service in 2011 though its customers can still send and receive cash through the ZimSwitch network, which is managed by a separate company.

Figures on mobile-phone usage in Zimbabwe are distorted by the prevalence of people using numerous subscriber-identity modules, known as SIM cards, signalling there’s room for further growth in the industry, Vere said.

“The official figures point to high levels of penetration, but we are also aware that there are very high levels of multiple SIMs in this market,” Vere said. “There is still room for improvement especially in terms of the quality of subscriber one can attract and have on their network.”

The company is engaged in talks about the sale of a majority stake of the company to black Zimbabwean investors, she said. The State introduced a law in 2010 requiring all foreign and white-owned businesses to sell or cede 51% of their ownership to black citizens.

“Efforts are currently underway among the shareholders to resolve this issue and it is being given the necessary priority,” Vere said.

The government might revoke Telecel’s licence unless it gives the majority of shares to local shareholders, the State-controlled Herald newspaper reported on May 31, citing Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Minister Nicholas Goche.

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