Africa’s mobile operators

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

Country Population (millions)
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
Djibouti 0.9 1 Evatis
Egypt 82.5 3 Etisalat, MobiNil, Vodafone
Equatorial Guinea 0.72 2 Orange, Hits Africa
Eritrea 5.4 1 Eritel
Ethiopia 84.7 1 Ethio-Telecom
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
Togo 6.1 2 Togocel, Moov
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
Average 3.5

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Africa’s mobile operators