Recent research suggests that a fourth mobile operator in South Africa is potentially untenable; however, South Africa is relatively far down the list of countries in Africa when it comes to the number of operators it hosts.
Within the 53 member countries of the African union, the average number of operators per country stands at 3.5.
Leading that list is Nigeria, with nine operators. This is no surprise, however, as the country boasts a population of 162.4 million, and has approaching 90 million subscribers. This rate is expected to exceed 80% in the next three years.
Tanzania has as many as seven operators serving 46.2 million people; and with a population two fifths of that of South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire awarded a license to a sixth operator in April.
Cafe Mobile became the country’s first domestically-owned operator, and according to Reuters, Ivory Coast counts between 15 and 16 million mobile phone subscriptions.
The DRC has six operators, with an additional operator waiting in the wings. Over the years, the country has seen as many as 16 firms given wireless licences, but legal and financial troubles have plagued any further progress. Despite this high number of operators, the country’s mobile penetration rate is put at less than 15%.
Ethiopia, with one of the larger African populations (84.7m), has only a single operator. This monopolistic control has stifled telecoms progress because the country’s penetration rate is as low as 17%, according to the GSMA.
On the other end of the scale, the Seychelles has 86,000 island inhabitants, but can celebrate a mobile penetration rate exceeding 100%.
Sao Tome & Principe with a population of about 169,000 has a penetration rate of approximately 58%, meaning a total subscriber list of less than 100,000 people.
African Mobile Operators by country
||Number of operators||Operators|
|Algeria||36.0||3||Nedjma, Mobilis, Djezzy|
|Angola||19.6||2||Unitel, Movicel (Angloa Telecom)|
|Benin||10.0||5||MTN Benin, Bell Benin Communications, Libercom, Globacomm, Moov|
|Botswana||2.0||3||Mascom Wireless (MTN), BeMobile, Orange Botswana|
|Burkina Faso||17.0||3||Airtel, Onatel, Telecel Faso|
|Burundi||8.6||5||Africell, Econet, Office National des Telecommunications, Lacell, and Telecel-Burundi|
|Cameroon||20||3||Camtel, MTN Cameroon, Orange|
|Cape Verde||0.5||2||Cabo Verde Telecom, T+ Mobile|
|Central African Republic||4.5||4||Moov, NationLink, Orange, Telecel Centrafrique|
|Chad||11.5||3||Airtel, Millicom, Salam|
|Comoros||0.75||2||Huri, Comoro Gulf Holding|
|Congo Brazzaville||4.1||4||MTN Congo, Airtel, Warid, Azur|
|Cote d’Ivoire||20.2||6||Cafe Mobile , Comium (Koz), Green, Moov, MTN Cote d’Ivoire, Orange|
|DRC||67.8||6||Airtel, Orange, Congolese Wireless Network, SuperCell, Tigo, Vodacom|
|Egypt||82.5||3||Etisalat, MobiNil, Vodafone|
|Equatorial Guinea||0.72||2||Orange, Hits Africa|
|Gabon||1.5||4||Azur, Airtel, Libertis, Moov|
|Gambia||1.7||4||Africell, Gamcell, Comium, Qcell|
|Ghana||25.0||6||Airtel, Expresso, Glo Ghana, Millicom Ghana (Tigo), MTN, Vodafone|
|Guinea||10.2||5||Orange, MTN, Sotelgui, Cellcom, Intercel|
|Guinea Bissau||1.54||3||Orange Bissau, MTN, Guinetel|
|Kenya||41.6||4||Airtel, Safaricom, Orange, Yu|
|Lesotho||2.1||3||Econet-Ezi-Cel, Tele-Com Lesotho, Vodacom|
|Liberia||4.1||4||Lonestar, Atlantic, Cellcom, Comium|
|Libya||6.4||2||Libyana, Al Madar Telecom|
|Madagascar||21.3||4||Airtel, Telecom Malagasy, Orange, Life (not yet in use)|
|Malawi||15.3||4||Airtel, TNM, G-Mobile and Celcom (not yet in use)|
|Mali||15.8||3||Malitel, Orange, Planor (not yet in use)|
|Mauritania||3.5||3||Mauritel, Chinguitel, MATTEL|
|Mauritius||1.3||3||Emtel, Mahanagar Telephone, Orange|
|Mozambique||24.0||3||Movitel, Vodacom, mCell|
|Morocco||32.2||3||Maroc Telecom, Inwi, Medi Telecom|
|Namibia||2.3||2||mCell, Leo (Orascom Telecom)|
|Niger||16.0||4||Airtel, Sonite, Moov, Orange|
|Nigeria||162.4||9||Airtel, Etisalat, Globacom, Starcomms, MTN Nigeria, Mtel (NITEL), Visafone, Zoom, MultiLinks|
|Rwanda||10.94||3||MTN, Tigo, Bharti Airtel|
|Sao Tome & Principe||0.17||1||CST|
|Senegal||12.7||3||Expresso, Orange, Tigo|
|Seychelles||0.08||2||Airtel Seychelles, Cable & Wireless|
|Sierra Leone||6.0||4||Africell, Comium, Airtel, Sierratel|
|Somali Republic||9.55||6||Golis Telecom Somalia, Telcom Mobile, Hormuud Telecom, Nationlink, Somafone, Somtel, Haatif Telecom|
|South Africa||50.5||4||MTN, Vodacom, Telkom Mobile, Cell C|
|Sudan||34.3||5||Canar, MTN, SMTC, Vivacell, Zain|
|Swaziland||1.06||2||MTN Swaziland, SPTC|
|Tanzania||46.2||7||ZanTel,Vodacom, Airtel, Benson Infomatics, Sasatel, Tigo, Tanzania Telecommunications|
|Tunisia||10.67||3||Tunisie Telecom,Tunisiana, Orange|
|Uganda||34.5||6||MTN, Airtel, UT Mobile, Warid, Orange, Essar|
|Zambia||13.47||3||Airtel, MTN, Zamtel|
|Zimbabwe||12.7||3||Econet, Telecel Zimbabwe, TelOne|