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MWC 2024: African telco deals

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Africa's telecom operators signed a number of key deals at the 2024 Mobile World Congress (MWC), which took place this week in Barcelona, Spain.

Pan-African operator MTN did deals with major vendors Ericsson and Huawei, while Airtel Africa announced a partnership with Cisco.

Orange Middle East and Africa (MEA) partnered with Microsoft and the World Bank, while Egyptian operator Etisalat Misr by e& signed a deal with Qvantel.

Here is a summary of all the deals secured this week.

Ericsson and MTN Group partner on sustainability, digital skills

Ericsson and MTN Group announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at advancing sustainability, digital skills and education across Africa.

Ericsson and MTN Group will collaborate on sustainability initiatives in line with principles of the United Nation's (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 – which aims to promote sustainable technologies to developing countries.

"This partnership builds on Ericsson's and MTN's unique experience and resources within the telecom sector in leading digital solutions for Africa's progress," the groups said in a joint statement.

The deal is aligned with Ericsson's Net Zero ambitions and MTN's Road to Zero pledge under its Ambition 2025 strategy.

The companies will explore opportunities to develop and promote innovative ICT solutions for the decarbonization of their value chain ecosystem, enabling sustainable practices and contributing toward achieving their Net Zero commitments.

Ericsson will provide its sustainable products and solutions that optimize network efficiency, reduce energy consumption and minimize network waste.

Additionally, Ericsson and MTN Group will leverage their expertise in skills development through Ericsson's Connect to Learn program and the MTN Skills Academy, which was announced at the MWC Africa conference in Kigali in 2022.

"By adopting a cooperative approach, working together, we will create a positive impact on the environment, empower communities through digital skills development, and contribute to a more sustainable Africa," Nompilo Morafo, MTN Group chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer said of the partnership.

Fida Kibbi, vice president and head of marketing, communications and sustainability and corporate responsibility at Ericsson Middle East and Africa, said the MoU builds upon the group's shared commitment to creating a more sustainable and connected Africa.

MTN Group also announced Ericsson would modernize its core networks in South Africa and Nigeria over the next five years; and extended a business support systems (BSS) modernization agreement with Ericsson to unlock new capabilities in 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) and MTN's cloud-native transformation across the group.

Orange and Microsoft partner on SMEs digital transformation

Orange Middle East and Africa (MEA) signed an agreement with Microsoft, through the Africa Transformation Office, aimed at offering Microsoft solutions to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across 17 countries in the MEA region.

Through the collaboration, Microsoft and Orange aim to support 15,000 businesses throughout 2024, with an ambition to reach 1 million SMEs by providing access to technology, tools and support to accelerate adoption. The goal is to promote digital inclusion and enable all economic players in the MEA region to benefit from the advantages of digital transformation. The initiative will also include micro-businesses and the education sector.

Orange's distribution network in the MEA region will provide SMEs with access to Microsoft solutions such as Microsoft 365, Copilot, Azure, and Dynamics 365 to help upskill Microsoft experts within each country.

The collaboration aims to prepare SMEs for digital adoption through joint training, marketing, and sales support programs.

"This collaboration with Microsoft is a significant step in our commitment to support the digital transformation of African businesses. By combining our network and Microsoft's solutions, we can provide SMEs with the tools and guidance they need to thrive in the digital economy," said Jérôme Hénique, CEO of Orange MEA.

"SMEs are the engine of economic growth in Africa. By collaborating with Orange, we can help them adopt digital technologies and unleash their full potential to create jobs, stimulate innovation, and contribute to the economic development of the continent," added Microsoft Africa President Lillian Barnard.

The groups will also establish a joint steering committee to ensure the successful execution of the partnership, which will be monitored through key performance indicators.

MTN and Huawei announce Innovation Tech Lab

MTN Group and Chinese vendor Huawei also announced they will create a joint Innovation Technology Lab at MTN Group's headquarters in South Africa, aiming to deepen cooperation in technological innovation.

The lab will serve as a neutral platform for collaboration within Africa's digital ecosystem, accelerating the development, deployment and adoption of innovative digital solutions driven across the continent, the companies explained.

The firms will use the lab to focus their research and development (R&D) efforts across 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, cloud computing, and digital financial services.

Huawei and MTN Group executives at an MoU signing ceremony at MWC 2024.   (Source: MTN Group)
Huawei and MTN Group executives at an MoU signing ceremony at MWC 2024.
(Source: MTN Group)

The partnership aims to accelerate the time to market of MTN's products and services while addressing the unique challenges faced in Africa, including improving network coverage in rural areas, enhancing energy efficiency, and affordability.

MTN Group CTIO Mazen Mroue said the lab is an investment in the growth of Africa's digital ecosystem.

"We believe that collaboration is essential for developing solutions that truly meet the continent's needs, and this lab will pave the way for a more inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous future for Africa," Mroue added.

Li Peng, Huawei's corporate senior VP and president of ICT sales and service, said the lab will help "supercharge" both MTN's R&D and Africa's digital economy, "bringing more prosperity to the African continent."

"Huawei will continue innovating with MTN to ensure they have the products and solutions required to best serve Africa's unique market," he added.

Airtel Africa and Cisco sign Network-as-a-Service deal

Pan-African operator Airtel Africa announced an expansion of its service portfolio, in collaboration with Cisco, to offer Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) solutions across various service platforms.

The NaaS offerings include services such as enhanced security, surveillance, connectivity, and cloud solutions, all delivered through a secure cloud platform.

Airtel Africa said it recognizes that in today's fast-paced digital landscape there is a growing need for businesses to accelerate their operations without the additional task of building or managing network infrastructure.

Cisco believes NaaS represents a paradigm shift in how organizations consume network infrastructure, allowing users to operate networks efficiently without the need to own, build, or maintain physical infrastructure.

This approach reduces the challenges associated with traditional network models, including capital expenses, manual service provisioning, and lengthy issue resolution processes.

Airtel Africa's NaaS offerings will be powered by Cisco's Catalyst and Meraki cloud-based platforms. The solutions are designed to replace hardware-centric virtual private networks (VPNs), load balancers, firewall appliances, and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) connections.

"As Africa transitions digitally, businesses will require a fusion of connectivity, mobility, security, and cloud into a service offering for every business irrespective of geographical spread or operational needs," said Oliver Fortuin, CEO of Airtel Business Africa.

"Airtel Africa NaaS also allows a managed service option, enabling Airtel Africa to fully manage the daily operational requirements of supporting such infrastructure as growth accelerates," Fortuin added.

The NaaS offerings will be accessible to all business customers, including small businesses, as well as global customers with operations worldwide.

"Together with Airtel Africa, we are reducing networking complexities and securely connecting the world through Network-as-a-Service. This innovative approach is a great option for businesses wanting to shift to a cloud operating model without a heavy lift," said Vish Iyer, Cisco president of service provider for Asia Pacific and Japan.

Qvantel supports Etisalat Misr BSS transformation in Egypt

Digital BSS company Qvantel signed an agreement with Egyptian operator Etisalat Misr by e& to implement its Qvantel Flex BSS solution to help in the digital transformation of Etisalat BSS.

The BSS solution, which runs on Amazon Web Services Outpost, will help the operator to develop and implement new use cases and try out new business models more quickly.

"Digitalizing and automating systems and operations has many benefits and can deliver a better experience for our customers. It can also increase our agility, accelerate time to market as well as open new revenue opportunities as we increase our portfolio to include a wide range of new services," said Amr Fathy, CTIO at Etisalat Misr by e& in Egypt.

Amr Fathy, CTIO at Etisalat Misr by e& in Egypt, and Matti Roto, chairman and CEO of Qvantel at MWC 2024 in Barcelona, Spain.   (Source: Qvantel)
Amr Fathy, CTIO at Etisalat Misr by e& in Egypt, and Matti Roto, chairman and CEO of Qvantel at MWC 2024 in Barcelona, Spain.
(Source: Qvantel)

Orange and MIGA secure guarantees to support telecom infrastructure expansion

Orange MEA will also deepen its collaboration with the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank (MIGA) to secure guarantees aimed at supporting the expansion of its telecommunications infrastructure across the region.

The goal is to catalyze significant advancements in telecom infrastructure, enhance connectivity, and promote economic development and mobile financial services inclusion.

"This long-lasting partnership with MIGA will enable us to pursue the expansion of our activities safely and meet one of our key commitments to leverage our expertise and resources to drive sustainable development and empower communities in the Middle East and Africa," said Jérôme Hénique, CEO of Orange MEA.

"Improved access to mobile connectivity is a prerequisite to economic prosperity. Digitalization of economies in Africa is a major priority for the World Bank Group. Our support allows Orange to continue building networks for provision of mobile banking and other data services," added Hiroshi Matano, MIGA executive VP.

The collaboration – facilitated through the International Development Association Private Sector Window (IDA-PSW) via the MIGA Guarantee Facility – encompasses all facets of Orange's operations in the MEA region.

Matano said that MIGA guarantees are a powerful instrument to attract foreign investment in low-income countries.

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*Top image is of one of the stages at the GSMA's MWC 2024 event in Barcelona, Spain. (Source: GSMA.)

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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