Ghana telecoms market
03 September 2015 |
Situated on Africa’s west coast between Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, Ghana was the first black African colony to achieve independence in 1957, and the country’s telecoms sector today is continuing the forward-thinking attitude of its ancestors.
Thanks to its liberal regulatory environment (see page 48), Ghana was also one of the first African countries to connect to the internet. Mobile penetration has surpassed 100%, and the country’s overall economy is thriving. With its reputation as one of the most stable democracies in Africa, it comes as no surprise that it is attracting considerable attention from both national and international investors.
The market is led by fixed-line incumbent Vodafone Ghana (formerly Ghana Telecom), and served by five other mobile players; Airtel (formerly Zain), MTN, Millicom Ghana (Tigo), Expresso Telecom and Gio Ghana. At the beginning of this year, and in a bid to further increase competition in the industry, the country’s National Communications Authority (NCA) invited applications for telecoms licences.
“This licence is expected to enable Ghanaian-registered entities to participate in international telecommunications trade, which is likely to boost the national income accrued from international traffic,” the NCA said in a statement in January.
“It is for this reason that the government of Ghana has decided to further liberalise and regulate international wholesale carrier services by issuing licences to local carrier operators, to be referred to as international wholesale carrier licensees.”
Indicative of Ghana’s progressive nature, the national information technology agency (NITA) – the ICT policy arm of Ghana’s Ministry of Communications – teamed up with Alcatel-Lucent in May this year for the launch of the Eastern Corridor rural fibre project. This comprises a 775km fibre-optic network and is designed to expand connectivity between Ghana’s coastal line and its northern boundary with Burkina Faso. It serves major towns such as Nkwanta, Bimbila and Tamale as well as 23 smaller communities.
“The new eastern corridor optical backbone network will offer a great number of direct socio-economic benefits for the communities within the catchment areas of this project,” says William Tevie, director general of NITA. “It will, for example, attract new business, offer teaching and learning opportunities as well as telemedicine and new e-health services. It will help us to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban locations and create employment, allowing us to take an important step towards realising the vision of giving our people access to a range of critical services how and when they need them.”
Millicom Ghana (Tigo), which holds a market share of approximately 17%, announced in July 2015 that it was planning to invest $24 million in expanding its 3G networks in the country. In a move designed to ease high-traffic congestion, close the gap between communities and boost overall network quality and capacity, the upgrade will largely target urbanised areas across Greater Accra, Ashanti and Western regions of the country.
The operator will initially install 114 cell sites in these regions during the remainder of 2015, and a further 161 cell sites will be added to Tigo’s network over the next couple of years.
The latest investment is from Vodafone Ghana which has embarked on a $1 million network expansion project in the western region of the country. The project is designed to bring uninterrupted connectivity to oil and gas companies in Takoradi on the western coast.
“We are committed to investing and upgrading our network to meet our clients’ high demand for data and voice services,” comments Haris Broumidis, CEO at Vodafone Ghana. “Our
strategy as a business has always been to deliver unmatched experiences for our customers. It’s what differentiates us on the market.” In terms of foreign investment, the Ghanaian embassy lists multiple international firms that have invested in the county across a broad range of sectors and including AT&T.
Kurt Davis Jr, investor, banker and advisor based in Johannesburg, lists telecoms as one of his top five investment opportunities in the country: “Opportunity for growing the voice market is hard to ignore, but tower managers and telecoms investors alike will see the greatest growth in data services.”