Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


What's Next for Nigeria's Mobile Market?

Article Image
Blink and you might miss a significant shift in Nigeria's massive mobile market of about 155 million users.

The focus of recent attention has been Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services (EMTS), the country's number four mobile operator that had until very recently been backed by the giant Etisalat Group and which had built a subscriber base of almost 20 million customers, about 13% market share, using the Etisalat Nigeria brand. (See Etisalat Sets Brand Deadline for Nigeria Operator.)

But following the Etisalat Group's departure and negotiations over brand rights, EMTS has now relaunched as 9mobile -- a quick visit to the company's website makes the transition very clear. (See Etisalat Nigeria to Become 9Mobile.)

What is less clear is what will happen next.

In the past few weeks, the names of Orange and Vodafone have been suggested as potential new investors in EMTS, filling the void left by the Etisalat Group. (See Orange, Vodafone Eye Stake in Etisalat Nigeria Report.)

Now, according to a report in India's Economic Times, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has suggested in a note to clients that Airtel Nigeria, the West African country's number three mobile operator with about 23% market share, has an opportunity to get involved in market consolidation activities.

Airtel Nigeria is the largest of Bharti Airtel's African operations (it is active in 15 markets across the continent) and could become a very significant operation, possibly even be the market leader, if it was to combine its business with one of the other mobile players in Nigeria. (See African Revamp Has Paid Off, Reports Airtel.)

The research note issued by Bank of America Merrill Lynch falls short of suggesting that Airtel Nigeria should merge or form a joint venture with EMTS, but if such a combination was to happen, that would create an operator with a market share of almost 36%, second only to market leader MTN (about 40% share) and well ahead of Globacom, which boasts a 24.5% market share. (Note: All statistics are based on end of year 2016 numbers.)

The team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch also notes, though, that Airtel is predisposed to forging alliances to create larger operators with greater economies of scale: In Ghana it is combining its operations with that of another pan-African mobile operator, Millicom.

So keep a close eye on the Nigerian market, which with annual service revenues in excess of US$7 billion (depending on exchange rate movements) and further growth potential, could be very lucrative in the years to come for operators that can balance costs, take new services to market and ramp up their subscriber bases without getting hamstrung with unmanageable debts, which is where EMTS came a cropper.

Ray Le Maistre, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, International Group Editor, Light Reading for Connecting Africa.

Innovation hub


Four agritech startups to watch in 2024

Connecting Africa has compiled a list of four agritech startups that are making a difference in the communities they serve.


Paymentology looks to strengthen its African roots

Global issuer-processor Paymentology's CEO Jeff Parker spoke to Connecting Africa about the company's African roots and aspirations to work with more banks, fintechs and enterprises both on the continent and globally.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Africa Tech Perspectives


Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.


The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2024

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in February 2024 in the Middle East and Africa included 5G launches in Senegal and 5G trials in Egypt as well as Kenya's first 5G MVNO. Airtel also launched a new wholesale connectivity business while MTN and Huawei are planning a joint Innovation Technology Lab in South Africa – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: January 2024

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in January 2024 in the Middle East and Africa included a $200 million fintech deal between MTN and Mastercard as well as 5G network trials by Telecom Egypt – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up
Tag id test-002