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Rural Africa to increase connectivity via investment

LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – A consortium of investors led by African private equity fund manager Metier has plugged USD 36 million into Africa Mobile Networks, a mobile network infrastructure builder.

The consortium investing in Africa Mobile Networksinclude United Kingdom development finance institution CDC GroupKfW Group subsidiary Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft(DEG), Proparco, and the equity business of Mauritius Commercial Bank, among other financial institutions and investment managers.

The consortium will also acquire existing shares of Africa Mobile Networks worth USD 3.5 million, as well as a minority shareholding in the company, as part of the transaction.

Africa Mobile Networks builds mobile networks, including in rural areas across Sub-Saharan Africa, and has partnerships with an array of large mobile network operators including Orange and Vodafone. To date, Africa Mobile Networks operates circa 2,000 mobile network base locations in rural areas in 10 countries, offering services to 7 million individuals who previously had no connection.

The company is now the fifth largest independent tower company in Africa, and it has grown in recent years via acquisitions including that of Silicon Valley-based Range Networks, last year.

Africa Mobile Networks plans to use the proceeds raised from the Metier-led investment consortium to grow its current circa 2,000 network towers in 10 countries to over 5,000 in more than 15 countries before year-end 2023.

In a statement, Africa Mobile Networks’ CEO Michael Darcy called Metier a “prestigious partner” which has a “long track record of strong values and strong financial returns, backed by some of the world’s biggest development finance institutions”.

Darcy added that by collaborating with such “heavyweight investors”, Africa Mobile Networks can “take a huge step forward in building many, many tens of thousands of towers across most of sub-Saharan Africa to connect and empower hundreds of millions of Africans who are disenfranchised today”.

Metier’s chair, Thierry Dalais, said: “That we are able to assemble and lead a first-class set of investors to bring more telecommunication connectivity to the unconnected at an affordable price, is doing good in our view.”

CDC Group’s head of mid and large funds John Owers also noted that “CDC’s patient and long-term capital will help to bring essential telecommunications services to previously unconnected parts of Sub-Saharan Africa – facilitating greater mobile connectivity, promoting social inclusion and enabling these communities to enhance their economic activities”.

Expanding on the larger economic benefits of this transaction, DEG’s vice president Christof Gross said: “Investing in telecommunications and digital infrastructure is essential if we want to harness the potential of the fourth industrial revolution to create jobs and support sustainable development.”

Plans to build a new fibre network to improve the internet connection between East and West Africa were been laid out via a partnership between social media giant Facebook and a Pan-African technology company, also this month.

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