Multi-country African mobile network operator Africell on Friday signed a USD100 million loan agreement with US government-backed development financier Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to fund expansion of its infrastructure and services, Reuters reported. The deal was signed at the African Development Bank’s Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, forming part of OPIC’s USD1 billion investment initiative for African infrastructure and technology (‘Connect Africa’) launched earlier in 2018. Referring to the increasing importance of mobile broadband network rollouts in developing African nations, OPIC’s managing director for Africa Worku Gachou said: ‘The developmental impacts that having data connectivity and data access does for communities is transformational.’
Africell has roughly 14 million mobile customers in Sierra Leone, Gambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda; it is the market leader in mobile subscribers in Gambia and Sierra Leone, whilst it holds third market place in Uganda and is fourth-placed in the DRC, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database.
Africell’s chief investment officer Ian Paterson told journalists at the signing of the deal that the financing would be used to develop services in the group’s existing markets, clarifying that it was not aimed at expansion into additional countries. ‘We will be looking to invest the proceeds to expand our networks, develop new products and services, really using the platform of customers we have today and trying to layer on more value added services to them,’ he said. Another report from APO Group said that the project is expected to impact Uganda and the DRC in particular, by expanding the availability and quality of affordable mobile telephone and internet services.