Niger’s government has awarded a consortium led by France Telecom a telecoms licence permitting the provision of fixed, mobile and internet services in the west African nation. The consortium, in which the Gallic incumbent joined forces with Nigerien businessman Mohamed Rissa and Orange Mali investor Moctoar Thiam, offered EUR48 million (USD71.3 million). Other bidders included Maroc Telecom and local group Universel Niger. Before the winner was announced, Communications Minister Mohamed Ben Omar had said that officials would be paying close attention to the technical aspects of each bid, because previous tenders had focused on financial terms to the detriment of technical criteria. ‘We want a quality service accessible to as many people as possible,’ he said.
France Telecom is already present in twelve African countries, and plans to launch services in Niger under its Orange brand. With a growing population of around 13 million, and a mobile penetration rate of under 5%, Niger offers good prospects for growth. It already has three mobile operators, Celtel Niger, fixed line incumbent Sonitel’s wireless subsidiary Sahel-Com, and Telecel Niger, who share a total of around 709,000 subscribers, although complaints about the low quality of service from both customers and legislators are rife.