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.


Mobile Operator Quartet Dominate African Market

Article Image
One in ten Africans is an Orange customer, the French giant has boasted, putting the mobile operator among the top four biggest operators on the continent when measured by subscriber numbers.

Orange had around 122.5 million mobile customers across the MEA (Middle East and Africa) region at the end of the second quarter of 2019. (See Africa & Middle East the Key 'Growth Driver' for Orange.)

But it has a long way to go before it can claim the region's mobile crown.

MTN is by far the biggest operator in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, with 236.6 million customers across its 21 operations at the end of March 2019. (See Major Markets Help MTN Deliver a Strong Q1.)

Vodacom, meanwhile, had 110 million group subscribers in its six African operations at the end of March 2019 (if you include Safaricom, in which Vodacom owns a 35% stake). Vodafone, Vodacom's parent, had an additional 49.3 million customers in its operations in Egypt and Ghana at the end of June. (See Lower Out-Of-Bundle Revenue Hits Vodacom's South Africa Sales .)

Airtel Africa is in fourth place, with around 99.7 million customers across 15 markets in Africa at the end of March 2019. (See Airtel Africa Reports 7% Sales Boost in Fiscal First Quarter.)

Together, the four operators have about 617 million mobile customers across the MEA region, about 45% of the region's entire mobile user base.

In total Africa has just over 1 billion mobile users, according to statistics gathered by market research company Ovum, while there are almost 380 million in the Middle East.

Mobile money
Mobile money services are hugely popular in Africa: Orange noted in comments emailed to Connecting Africa that 40 million of its customers in 17 countries are excluded from any traditional financial services and, subsequently, use Orange Money to make necessary transactions via their mobile phone. Around 15 million of those are active users, representing 13% of Orange's mobile customer base. Orange would like to increase penetration to more than 70%.

Mobile money services allow customers to pay bills, purchase goods and transfer money through basic text-messaging functionality. The trailblazer in the market has always been Safaricom's M-Pesa platform, which started in Kenya but which now is used by more than 37 million users across Vodacom, Vodafone and Safaricom's territories across Africa and in India.

At the end of March 2019, MTN had 28.3 million active Mobile Money customers across its operations, while Airtel had about 14.2 million mobile money customers in Africa according to its prospectus published in June.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: Pan-African fintech KamaPay

This month's hot startup is pan-African fintech KamaPay, which helps individuals and businesses make cross-border payments on the continent.


Afretec awards $3.3M in grants to African research teams

The African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec) has awarded grants worth $300,000 each to 11 university research teams across Africa to advance digital technologies.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives


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.


Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.


Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up