Telecommunications is one of the fastest growing industries on the continent, with many companies looking to either enter or expand on African soil.The telecom operators with the most active customers are MTN in Ghana and Nigeria, Safaricom and Vodacom in Kenya and South Africa respectively and Airtel in Uganda, according to a recent GeoPoll straw poll, which sought to determine the level of customer service and service delivery among telecommunications operators Sub-Saharan Africa.


The rate of mobile phone and internet penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) continues to grow. According to the According to the Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2017 report by GSMA, at the end of 2016, there were 420 million mobile subscribers in SSA; the region continues to grow faster than any other region. The same report projects that the region will have more half a billion subscribers by 2020. At the heart of this growth are the telecom operators.

A new report by Analysys Mason, predicts that the African telecoms market is set to be one of the main growth success stories for the telecoms sector in the next 5 years. The report also projects that smartphones will account for 26% of handsets in SSA by 2018, as device prices decline and users upgrade.  The report notes that telecom operators continue to stimulate smartphone adoption via targeted campaigns, promotions on low-cost smartphones, and bundled data packages.

According to the African Business magazine, as the mobile telecoms market begins to mature, African service providers are beginning to offer new products. The focus has switched away from securing ever more subscribers, towards boosting their average revenue per user (ARPU) rates through encouraging greater data consumption and mobile banking. Having an increased number of active users is good for the telecoms business.


MTN – Hardly a surprise to many, in a recently published revenue presentation. This company had more than 176 million subscribers spanning 16 countries is Africa and 6 countries in Middle East. It recorded revenue of R66.4 billion for the Q1 of 2012 out of which R38 billion were made in just Nigeria and South Africa. Currently the subscriber base for MTN South Africa stands at 29.5 million subscribers. The company also recorded revenue of $15 billion back in 2015.


Safaricom – Safaricom is the biggest telecom company in Kenya formed back in 1997. By then it was a fully owned subsidiary company of Telkom Kenya. Later on, Vodafone, UK-based mobile provider bought up 40% stake in the company. By 2010, Safaricom had a little over 12 million subscribers. Today, the company has a total of 25.94 million users even as the total number of active mobile phone users dropped by 1.2 million. The new reporting rules to only account for active customers means that Safaricom’s 25.94 million subscribers in the period under review now account for seven out of every 10 mobile subscribers in Kenya.


Vodacom – This telecom parent company is the UK-based Vodafone. It is also the 2nd biggest trading company in Africa, recording revenue of more than R9 billion in 2010. In Africa’s wide scale ranking across all the industries, it ranks at 9th place in terms of revenue while Vodacom South Africa ranking at 14th place. Currently it enjoys a revenue growth accelerated to 7.7% boosted by stronger device sales with a local subscriber base of 40 million.


Airtel – Bharti Airtel reported a profit of $6 million Africa for the fourth from a loss of $57 million a year ago, on the back of growth in the data customer base and consumption, while overall revenue growth was helped by currency stabilization in most markets. Mobile data revenue increased 14.5% to $157 million from a year earlier. Mobile data now represents 17.7% of total revenue compared with 15.7% in the same period a year ago.


Some other large telecom companies in Africa would be Telkon (South Africa), which operates in other 38 countries across Africa, Orascom Telecom (Egypt), one of the biggest operating GSM networks across Africa, Middle East, Asia and Canada, Maroc Telecom (Morocco), the main telecom company in operation in Morocco, and Mobinil (Egypt) that has more than 30 million subscribers with network coverage of 99% of the population of Egypt.