MTN Celebrates Brand Refresh with Grand Industry Event

MTN Celebrates Brand Refresh with Grand Industry Event

MTN Nigeria officially celebrated the Group-wide brand refresh with a press briefing on February 27, 2022, at the Eko Hotels & Suites Grand Ballroom, Lagos. The company announced its brand repositioning using a contemplative slogan — “What Are We Doing Today?” It also articulated the context behind the new logo many had seen since 16 February 2022.

Present at the event were key members of the MTN leadership team, celebrities and well-established opinion leaders across relevant industries, media stakeholders and high-value customers.

This is the second brand overhaul since the MTN Group was founded in 1994. Back in 2004, the changes made to the brand resulted in MTN taking ownership of the colour yellow that is now synonymous with MTN. Importantly, it also helped to elevate the brand to where it is today, recognised as the most valuable in Africa.

The Company’s new logo forgoes the italics, the red underscore and the solid coloured oval present in the previous logo for a minimalist look that retains the oval (now represented as a solid outline) with the letters M-T-N nestled in it. These can be used against a sunshine yellow or plain white background in either black or yellow font colours.

The rebranding is an extension and visual representation of MTN Group’s refreshed strategy, dubbed Ambition 2025 and premised on Leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress. Through the delivery of this strategy, MTN aims to accelerate growth by building the largest and most valuable platform businesses and driving its industry-leading connectivity operations.

The Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Karl Toriola, explained that the rebranding exemplifies MTN’s commitment to continuously create value for all its stakeholders, with the new logo contextualising the company’s identity as a digital citizen, open to change, young at heart, inviting, digitally dynamic and progressive.

“We want to play our part in harnessing the potential and supporting the progress of our people by driving digital and financial inclusion. It is a well-known fact that the youth are central to achieving this potential. Whilst we remain focused on all our customers and stakeholders, our brand evolution demonstrates an enhanced focus on the youth,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Adia Sowho, MTN Nigeria’s Chief Marketing Officer, expressed her excitement with regards to the brand refresh, emphasising the company’s predilection for building digital platforms that enable Africa’s progress.

“The new brand identity is modern, simple, bold and digitally dynamic. It kicks off with a provocative and simple question, “What are we doing today?” With a clear and concise brand strategy that Opportunity + Energy = Progress, MTN understands that to truly unlock the full benefits and potential of the digital world people require a combination of drive, progressive thinking and the right tools,” she said.

“This rebrand highlights MTN’s commitment to continuously evolve and explore innovative initiatives that provide value to all our stakeholders. A pioneer of progress from the beginning, MTN looks to drive this progress further through action and doing. In delivering its vision, MTN aims to drive a positive shift in Africa and harness the continent’s boundless opportunity,” she continued.

Ambition 2025 is MTN’s strategy to accelerate long term business growth in Nigeria while leveraging emerging opportunities. Built on four key strategic priorities, Ambition 2025 informs MTN’s current and future projects as the company moves to create leading digital platforms for Africa’s progress while providing the tools to ensure the connectivity to access them.

Ayoba Reaches Three Million Monthly Active Users in Nigeria

Ayoba, Africa’s first instant messaging App, has reached a subscriber base of three million monthly active users in Nigeria.

Launched in 2019 and accessible on Android and iOS devices, Ayoba began as an MTN partner instant messaging app and was introduced into the Nigerian market in 2020 to support COVID emergencies.

Commenting on Ayoba’s milestone achievement, the Chief Digital Officer, MTN Nigeria, Srinivas Rao, said, “The world is increasingly becoming a fast-paced digital place with new technological advancements driving the constantly changing landscape. This is why at MTN, we are determined to lead digital transformation with easy-to-use connectivity solutions.

We work with like-minded strategic partners, who are committed to bridging the digital divide & bring effortless connectivity services to our customer’s fingertips.”

A key feature and offering of the app is the ability to instantly send, receive text and voice messages with any of their contacts whether they are on the Ayoba App or not. The function is available to all users on the App regardless of their device type or network service provider. MTN subscribers, however, get 700MB weekly for usage on the app.

Other key features include the most advanced end-to-end encryption – messages in any conversation are fully encoded until they are delivered to the destination, meant for the eyes of the sender & recipient only. Users can also subscribe to channels for locally relevant content across various categories. In addition, the App enables users to play over 120 games and listen to 200+ top local and international playlists via MusicTime.

Targeted at connecting millions of Africans across the world, the Ayoba App is available in 22 languages which include English, Pidgin (Nigeria) Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa. The App is currently accessible in Nigeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Afghanistan South Africa and 10 other African countries

MTN Nigeria Statement on Service Disruption on October 9th 2021

Lagos, October 11th, 2021: MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (“MTN Nigeria”) can confirm that subscribers experienced challenges connecting to the network during the afternoon of Saturday, October 9th, 2021. The service outage was caused by a disruption in the core network and affected voice and data services. MTN’s technical team were able to rectify the problem in about five hours, allowing service restoration for customers to begin connecting with one another. In addition, time-bound subscriptions are being extended to ensure full value is delivered.

Commenting on the service disruption, MTN CEO Olutokun Toriola said: “I want to apologise to all the customers that were affected by Saturday’s service outage. Our primary mission is to bring you the benefits of a modern connected life, and notwithstanding this unfortunate event, our commitment to providing the reliable service you’ve come to expect over the past twenty years remains unshaken.

I want to reassure all our stakeholders that our network team is working closely with our network partners Ericsson and Cisco to ensure that the reasons for the disruption are fully investigated, and appropriate action is taken to enhance the resilience of affected systems.”

Over N7 million laptops, smartphones to be won in 2021 mPulse Spelling Bee

MTN Nigeria has announced that enrollment in the 2021 mPulse Spelling Bee is now open on the mPulse website. Interested 9 to 15 year-olds and secondary schools registered on the mPulse plan nationwide are invited to enrol in the fully digital competition, which consists of three rounds, with the finale scheduled to hold on October 20. Once registered, contestants can use resources available on the portal to practice their spelling.

MTN mPulse provides affordable data plans and access to a bouquet of digital skills development and educational resources, “the proposition reflects our commitment to enabling platforms for youth education and empowerment, and supporting schools, teachers and students in our communities,” said Adia Sowho, the Chief Marketing Officer, MTN Nigeria.

“The mPulse Spelling Bee is designed to help students expand their vocabulary and explore the English language, which is an essential skill as they grow in life. It also allows them to practice public speaking, develop self-confidence, and engage in healthy competition. As an added bonus, there are fantastic prizes to be won,” she added.

Last year, 15-year-old Snow George of Starville School, Abuja emerged as the champion, and over N5 million in cash and prizes were won by the top 20 spellers. This year’s competition promises to be bigger and better. The top 20 spellers, their teachers and the spelling bee champion’s school will be rewarded with over N7 million in cash prizes, smartphones, laptops and goody bags.

For more information, please go to Students who wish to migrate to the mPulse plan may text mPulse to 344 or dial *344*1# on their MTN line.

MTN Nigeria Rewards 20 Customers with Brand New SUVs

…thanks Nigerians for 20 years of unflinching support

Nigeria’s largest telecommunications firm, MTN Nigeria, has expressed its gratitude to its customers and different stakeholders for their unflinching support. The company hosted a cross-section of media professionals and customers at its corporate Headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos on Sunday, August 22, 2021.

Twenty MTN customers went home with brand new cars at the event. The winners were randomly selected from subscribers that joined the network on the company’s anniversary each year since inception in 2001. An Editor of Guardian Newspaper, Chuks Nwanne, was one of the 20 MTN customers to receive a brand-new Honda HRV SUV from the company. Elated, Mr. Nwanne could not hide his excitement. He thanked MTN for giving him such a priceless gift.

Customers, publishers, editors, and reporters across broadcast, print and online media platforms were invited to the exclusive event in a show of appreciation by MTN’s executives to a cross section of stakeholders. Guests in attendance were treated to a night of comedy, music and poetry performances by foremost comedian Tee A, spoken word poet, Sage Hasson and a quartet led by Emmaolin.

In his remarks, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, OFR, Chairman MTN Nigeria appreciated the role that all stakeholders have played in enabling and supporting MTN Nigeria’s journey in the past 20 years and the impact on the economy. “When we look at where we are today, and how far we’ve come, what stands out is not just the number of people connected, or the amount of revenue generated, etc. We see the multiplier effect connectivity services can have on the social and economic ecosystem. And now more than ever, I am optimistic about what the future holds for Nigeria’s digital economy and I look forward to building it together, with all of you.”

“This 20-year journey is the result of the boundless possibilities in our nation, the incredible potential that the Nigerian telecoms and technology sector represent, and the guidance and support that we have received from millions of Nigerians, in every corner of the country. We are here today because of the role that each of you – media, customers, trade partners, retailers – has played in this journey. For this, we are humbled and grateful. To all of you, we extend our deepest appreciation and gratitude, and we deliver an important message – the best is yet to come,” Karl Toriola, CEO, MTN Nigeria stated.

Alfred Emwata Iserhienrhien who has been an MTN subscriber since 2001 and one of the recipients of Honda HRV expressed his elation. “I got this SIM card in 2001 and everywhere I go, it has been going with me.

I am happy about this gift; in fact, my mind is blown and on behalf of all the gifted persons I say thank you to MTN. We are all happy and grateful and will continue to dance because of this incredible gift.”

The ICT and telecoms company began operations in Nigeria in August 2001. Twenty years later, it has become an integral part of the country’s telecommunications success story. Earlier in August, MTN gave all customers free airtime and mobile data worth over ₦8.4 billion to commemorate its anniversary.

MTN has announced a series of activities as part of its milestone anniversary celebration including, participating in the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Programme (RITC) for an opportunity to reconstruct some road networks in South-Eastern Nigeria, incorporating some of the latest technology, build a world-class campus in Nigeria and sell down, up to 14% of its equity to Nigerians.

Partners in Progress. MTN Nigeria Joins FG Delegation at the 2021 Edition of UNIIS. Woos investors!

September 17, 2021: MTN Nigeria is participating at this year’s edition of the US-Nigerian Investment Summit scheduled to hold on the 17th and 18th of September, 2021 in New York City. The participation is in furtherance of the company’s commitment to partner with the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, to attract investors and investment to Nigeria.

Themed “Nigeria: The Future of Global Business”, the event builds on the success of the 2018 maiden edition. The Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Olutokun Toriola as well as Chief Financial officer, MTN Nigeria, Modupe Kadiri will be in attendance at the summit. Toriola will be speaking at the summit, highlighting opportunities in Nigeria with MTN Nigeria’s success story as a reference.

“Weare passionate about the development of our economy. Thiscan be seen in our unrelenting efforts in working with Government and institutions in different sectors to advance economic growth in our nation. We believe in the many opportunities Nigeria avails investors, and our 20 year journey is a testament to the promise the country holds,” said Toriola.

The US-Nigeria Investment Summit plays a vital role in attracting and facilitating business investment and job creation by raising awareness about a range of opportunities, and enabling vital direct connections between investors and the Nigeria economy. The investment summit features senior government officials, C-Suite business executives, and other thought leaders.

MTN Nigeria continues to advance its Good Together philosophy through strategic interventions, working with the people and government of Nigeria. Recently, the company announced a series of activities as part of its milestone anniversary celebration including participating in the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Programme (RITC) for an opportunity to reconstruct the Enugu – Onitsha expressway in South-Eastern Nigeria, building a world-class campus in Nigeria and selling down up to 14% of its equity to Nigerians.

MTN and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) agree strategic partnership

… MTN to become exclusive Communications partner to Nigeria’s national football teams

MTN and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have today signed a three-year, renewable contract for MTN to become the exclusive official communications partner to the NFF. The deal makes MTN the official partner/communications sponsor to all Nigeria’s national football teams.

The deal was announced at a formal signing ceremony held at Marriot Hotel, Ikeja, and attended by board members of MTN Nigeria led by the Chairman, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe (OFR) and NFF officials, led by the President, Amaju Pinnick. Also in attendance were the Chairman, Senate Committee on Sports, Sen. Obinna Ogba and the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Sunday Dare.

This is the latest investment from MTN in a growing relationship with Nigeria’s dynamic football ecosystem.

Commenting on the deal, MTN CEO, Karl Toriola said: “Football is a unifying national obsession. It brings people together, breaks down boundaries, creates conversations and inspires. We are privileged to have this opportunity to partner with the NFF and to be able to support all Nigeria’s National Football teams over the next three years. This is the start of what we hope will be an inspiring, productive and value-adding partnership that can combine the role that technology plays, with the incredible experiences that football provides for the millions of Nigerians who follow the national teams.”

Speaking at the ceremony, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick said: “I am delighted to welcome Nigeria’s largest mobile operator as a partner to the NFF and the Nigerian National Football teams, and grateful for their long-term commitment to working with us to support the ecosystem. Today is just the start of a new journey for Nigerian football, and we’re so excited to be on it. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be revealing more about our plans and how you can engage.”

On his part, the minister praised MTN for supporting the development of Nigerian football, while also calling on other corporates not only to emulate the ICT giant, but also explore the possibility of supporting the development of other sports in the country:

“All hands must be on deck to strengthen our competitive position not only in football, but in other sports. Through this partnership, MTN is building a sustainable legacy of support, partnership and exciting soccer experience for Nigerians, and I seize this opportunity to call on other well-meaning Nigerian businesses to join us in achieving a paradigm shift in the development of all our sporting federations.”

Recently, MTN announced a series of activities as part of its milestone anniversary celebration including, participating in the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Programme (RITC) for an opportunity to reconstruct some road networks in South-Eastern Nigeria, incorporating some of the latest technology, build a world-class campus in Nigeria and sell down, up to 14% of its equity to Nigerians.

National Production of COVID-19 Test Kits Boosted by MTN Foundation

National Production of COVID-19 Test Kits Boosted by MTN Foundation

With the emergence of new coronavirus (COVID-19) variants driving continued global concern, testing remains critical to slowing the spread of the virus and mitigating its threat to lives and livelihoods.

As part of Its ongoing support of the national pandemic response, MTN Nigeria through its foundation has donated Oligo-synthesizer equipment to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR). The equipment will aid local development of primers for indigenous production of test kits for COVID-19 and other diseases.

The handover and commissioning event took place at the NIMR auditorium on August 13, 2021 and had in attendance dignitaries and experts in the health industry like the Honourable Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora, Chairman, MTN Foundation, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi (OFR, mni), Director-General, NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Lawal Salako, Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Odunayo Sanya, amongst other stakeholders in the health sector in Nigeria.

Speaking at the event, the Honourable Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora said, “Our gathering is a testimony to our desire not to be left behind in the global resolve to confront the situation at hand that is COVID-19. It is a battle that can be won through collaborative effort like the one we’re witnessing today with MTN Foundation. NIMR has surpassed our expectations as the foremost medical research facility in Africa and appreciate MTN Nigeria for this donation.”

Speaking about the initiative, the Chairman, MTN Foundation, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi (OFR, mni) said, “Working with public and private sector partners to provide solutions that alleviate some of our society’s biggest problems and create lasting change in communities across the country is at the heart of what we do. As we celebrate 20 years of operations in Nigeria, we are further motivated to implement projects of maximum impact in our communities.”

“As an organisation, we embark on projects with a clear goal – To improve the quality of life of Nigerians. In line with this, we are pleased to have partnered with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in establishing the Oligosynthesis laboratory.”

The Oligo-synthesizer is extremely useful in current laboratory practice as it provides rapid and inexpensive access to custom-made DNA or RNA molecules of the desired sequence.

MTN Appoints Odunayo Sanya as Executive Secretary of MTN Foundation

MTN Appoints Odunayo Sanya as Executive Secretary of MTN Foundation

MTN Nigeria has appointed Odunayo Sanya as Executive Secretary of MTN Foundation. She replaces Nonny Ugboma who held the position from January 2009 to March 2021.

Odunayo Sanya has over two decades of experience in the education, banking, development and telecommunication sectors in Nigeria. She is versed in customer experience strategy & management, business process outsourcing, customer intelligence, contact center management, billing services, retail management, operations management, and collections and credit management. She is an alumna of the Lagos Business School and the International Institute for Management Development, Switzerland, with executive training at the Harvard Business School and Cornell University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Abuja and is a certified coach, speaker and trainer with the John Maxwell Team. Odunayo is an International Speaker and has presented papers across Europe and Africa. She is also a mentor on multiple platforms

With over 16 years of experience within the MTN Group, Odunayo has already served in different capacities across the organisation including General Manager, Planning & Customer Management, Senior Manager, Business Planning & Customer Management, Senior Manager Billing Services and Operations and Manager – Consumer, Small Business, VIP & Dealer Support.

In 2019, Odunayo received the Marketing World ‘Customer Service Thought Leader Award’ in Accra, Ghana. She was also the 2019 Global Leadership Program Speaker at Coventry University in the United Kingdom. She was voted the 2020 Sales Ruby Influential Leader of the year. In 2021 she was named among the Top100 Career Women in Nigeria by the 9to5 chick and The PowerWoman Network.

Prince Julius Adewale Adelusi-Adeluyi, Chairman MTN Foundation said; “These are exciting times for MTN Foundation and the MTN business at large. We look forward to benefiting from her expertise as we align with the overall Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), national priorities and the organisation’s corporate social investment objectives. We wish Odunayo all the best in this new role.”

Toriola: The Pace, Scale, and Growth of Nigeria’s Telecoms Industry Has Surpassed Expectations

Our CEO, Mr. Karl Toriola, speaks on the 20 years transformational journey of the telecoms revolution in Nigeria, its impact, and challenges. He also provides insight into the evolution of MTN as Nigeria’s largest telecoms company.

Q. Nigeria will be celebrating 20 years of GSM operations in August. How will you describe the 20 years journey in terms of coverage, service quality and customer satisfaction?

A. I think it’s been a process of constant evolution and constant learning for all of us, not just the industry, but for our customers and the government as well. Even the most optimistic market analysts did not anticipate the pace and scale of the growth in Nigeria’s telecoms industry when it was born in 2000. As an industry, we are delivering services to every LGA in the country and every sector of the economy; and the depth and breadth of our service delivery are continuing to expand. Today, our network connects 65.12% of Nigerians to 4G services, while 81.63% have access to 3G connectivity and 89.24% to 2G. That is an incredible journey for just 20 years, but we still have more to do.

In the beginning, the social and economic transformation that the telecoms sector catalysed was driven by voice and SMS. By the present ability to communicate with loved ones and teams at will, it is surprising to many of us that it was only 20 years ago when it was impossible to let someone know you would be late for an appointment! That first wave of transition is so deeply embedded in daily life now that it’s taken entirely for granted, but we mustn’t forget that despite the ongoing transition to data, millions of Nigerians still rely on voice and SMS services, especially the most vulnerable. That was so clear during the COVID lockdowns when we gave every customer free 300 SMS per month and saw more than 52 million customers send more than 4 billion messages in less than three months. We still have work to do here, with voice connections continuing to grow on the back of existing growth opportunities and a fast-growing population. We need to continue to expand into rural areas and serve the under-served, bridging the remaining connectivity divide.

While we do this, the transition to data is happening very rapidly and has accelerated since the onset of COVID-19. With more and more businesses reliant on remote working and e-commerce, demand is growing, and it’s essential that we continue to enhance service quality and reliability while being cognizant that these services need to be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. The data journey has really evolved over time. From the 2G connections that introduced broad access to mobile connectivity in 2001, through the 3G proposition that enabled more tasks to be delivered remotely, through to 4G, which is the backbone for video calling, SVOD and other data-heavy services, that process never stops. We’re on the verge of introducing 5G services, which is another potential game-changer, really driving the adoption of the internet of things.

When an industry is growing this rapidly and dynamically, it’s inevitable that we will take a few wrong turns; I think that is a part of every organisation’s growth. The important thing is to ensure that you identify them, learn from them and correct them. Pursuing the ultimate customer proposition is at the heart of my focus as CEO. We know that millions of Nigerians rely on the services that we provide, and its our responsibility to ensure they can. We’re getting better and better at it, but we will never stop trying to improve.

Q. How has telecoms impacted the Nigerian economy in the last 20 years?

A. I think it’s been transformational in so many ways, some that are clear to all and some that are perhaps less easy for the ordinary person to see. As I said earlier, I think many of the changes have become so embedded that it’s often difficult to relate to life without them.

But let’s start with basic economics. In Q4 2020, the Telecoms sector constituted 12.2% of Nigeria’s GDP. That’s an industry that was virtually nascent in 2001, contributing N1.20k for every N10 the Nigerian economy generates. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Apart from the huge revenues from the wider ICT sector, the numbers don’t incorporate the catalytic growth that the telecoms industry enables in other sectors. Think about the operational efficiencies that connectivity has enabled over the last 20 years. If you are a taxi driver, you can find your customers much faster, increasing the number of journeys you do in a day. If you are a farmer, you can access your markets remotely, optimising pricing. If you are a bank customer, you can run almost all your transactions through mobile applications or USSD, and banks no longer have to invest substantially in bricks and mortar. If you are an FMCG company, you can monitor your distribution network and supply chain in real-time. These are just some of the examples where connectivity and innovation are enabling other sectors to achieve growth faster.

In light of the enabling role of the sector, it will interest you to note that telecommunications is probably the only sector where consumer prices have dropped consistently year-on-year since 2001. The steady decline in tariffs has been driven by increasing demand for telecommunication services, stimulating increasing minutes of usage and activities on the networks by a growing number of people.

So I want to throw the question back at you. Can you give me a sector or individual in Nigeria or globally that the telecoms sector has not impacted substantively in the last 20 years? What would the world be like today without it?

Q. MTN is one of the first GSM operators to launch in Nigeria, at a time when other foreign operators were afraid to enter the Nigerian market, considering the perceived risk factors at that time. What actually encouraged MTN to enter the Nigerian market at that time.

A. We’ve always been an ambitious brand, keen to pioneer the growth of telecoms across the continent, and often in markets where others have not chosen to tread. We had strong local partners, who worked tirelessly to bring on board domestic investors and we believed in the market opportunity. Ironically, we believed in the opportunity based on considerably more conservative estimates than ultimately manifested. We entered the market thinking we could access maybe 10 million customers. Today we have over 70 million, and still counting. For anyone that looks at it today, it seems like it would have been a complete no-brainer to invest in 2001. It wasn’t, and that is why so many didn’t.

Q. Any regret, 20 years after, for taking the decision to launch in Nigeria?

A. None. Not one. Like any story, there are things we might have done differently on the journey since launch and important lessons we’ve learned that have helped us evolve and grow, but the decision to launch in Nigeria was the single best decision the business has ever made, and today we can confidently say that we are a wholly Nigerian success story.

What do I mean by that? First of all, MTN Nigeria is run and managed by homegrown talent, with Nigerians – representing all geo-political zones, making up over 99% of our 1,856 permanent workforce. It’s also worthy of note that many Nigerians hold leadership positions in OpCos across the MTN Group. For instance, we have Uche Ofodile, the CEO of MTN Benin, Chika Ekeji, the MTN Group Executive for Strategy and Titilope Fakuade, the CIO for MTN Liberia, to name a few.

Second, and most importantly, everything MTN Nigeria has achieved was enabled by the overwhelming support of our customers, the guidance and enabling environment created by our government and regulators, and the commitment of our partners. Together, since MTN Nigeria began operations, we have created over 2.5 million jobs, contributed over N2.3 trillion in taxes, levies and fees, and provided innovative services that impacted Nigeria’s socio-economic growth and development favourably.

Q. There is this controversy about which operator first launched its GSM services in Nigeria. What do you have to say about this?

A. All I can say is that we know exactly where and when we made our first call on the MTN network because it was made by our founding Chairman, Dr Pascal Dozie, on 16th May, 2001. Following that, we began commercial operations on 8th August 2001, and that is why we will celebrate our 20th anniversary on 8th August.

Looking back now, many have said that we took a massive risk launching such resource-intensive operations here at a time when few believed in the potential of Nigeria. I believe my predecessors saw a winning formula in the tenacity, industriousness and can-do spirit of Nigerians, but no one foresaw the scale and breadth of the growth that ultimately manifested.

Q. Subscribers’ expectations from MTN are high, being the largest telecoms network in Nigeria. What are the plans of MTN for subscribers as Nigeria celebrates GSM at 20 years?

A. I can’t provide details of our plans for our numerous customers as we clock 20, suffice it to say that we recognise the fact that without them, we won’t be where we are today. We have lined up celebratory campaigns with one theme running through all of them, and that is ‘together in progress.’ This is because for the past 20 years, MTN has been on a journey with Nigerians, and our success is also their success. In recognition of this, we plan to excite our customers with many offerings to show our gratitude to them.

Q. You became the second Nigerian CEO at the helm of affairs at MTN, what is your passion and goal and what are you bringing to the table?

A. I’m obsessively focused on trying to ensure that we can bring the most accessible, most reliable service to all Nigerians. We are ultimately judged on our service quality and our relationship with our customers and so that’s the lens I use for every decision I take. How can we serve them better? How can we deepen the value we provide? How can we help them to achieve their goals?

I’m also incredibly passionate about the role that we can play in supporting national socio-economic development, and I have become even more so since COVID. The role that the private sector has to play in addressing complex, national challenges has always been important, but it’s become even more so since the onset of the pandemic. Whether it’s supporting our most vulnerable customers to stay connected when they need it most, working with the government to intervene and deliver innovative solutions to national priorities like education and healthcare, or helping Nigeria attract much needed FDI by showcasing our success story, there is so much we can, and will do.

Finally, I am unashamedly Nigeria-centric. I believe MTN has an incredible heritage in Nigeria, but we can do more to deepen local ownership and value, and that is why you are seeing us focus on a public offer with maximum retail participation, and making a commitment to build a new Headquarters. These are all foundations for the next 20 years, in which we build and maintain a deeper, stronger, mutually beneficial relationship with Nigeria.

Q. Before you resumed office as CEO in March this year, you were once the CTO of MTN Nigeria, driving infrastructure roll-out. How will you compare telecoms infrastructure roll-out during your time as CTO and now, given the fact that infrastructure roll-out has slowed down across networks.

A. I think it’s important to understand that networks go through periods of evolution. In the early stages, it’s about coverage, and so it’s pretty intense. You are expanding geographically and keeping up with network improvements, while building out the kind of core infrastructure that enables future growth, like tower networks and fibre. But then you reach a point of maturity, expansion becomes more targeted and upgrades are done to existing infrastructure, which is less capital intensive than the initial build.

This does not mean that our absolute spending on CAPEX has decreased over the last 10 years. We spent more in 2020 than we have since 2013 and we’ve committed to investing a further N640 billion over the next three years to further expand network infrastructure, effectively maintaining that level of spending. What changes, naturally, as you grow and networks mature, is your CAPEX intensity, which is the ratio between revenue and CAPEX, which tends to decline progressively as you grow.

Q. Telecoms operators have been at loggerheads with banks over the use of USSD services and a time the banks disconnected MTN customers from accessing the USSD code on airtime vending. How was the issue resolved and what is the current development?

A. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, EVC of the Nigeria Communications Commission and the Central Bank Governor came together with representatives from the deposit money banks (DMBs) and the telecoms sector, to agree a structure that would be accepted by both parties. We continue to engage with all the stakeholders to conclude the operational modalities for the new pricing framework that has been agreed upon for USSD services. The mechanism for and timing of the recovery of the industry-wide outstanding debts that exist for USSD services provided to the DMBs form part of this process.

Q. Recently delegates from MTN Group in South Africa, visited MTN Nigeria and had a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. What was the outcome of their three days visit and how would the N640 billion that was announced, be spent on broadband expansion?

A. Yes, the visit was a great opportunity for me to formally introduce myself, as the incoming MTN Nigeria MD/CEO and Ralph Mupita, as the new MTN Group CEO to His Excellency, the President, as well as other senior members of the government. We took the opportunity to update them on our investment plans, including the N640 billion we are committing to capital expenditure and network expansion and upgrades. For instance, in support of the National Broadband Plan in 2021, we plan to have additional 510 2G; 616 3G; 4,745 4G sites as well as 200 U900; 1,226 fibre to site and 232 E-Band connections.

But we also talked them through our wider plans to deepen our support for Nigeria, as we transition through COVID and into an expanded digital economy. It’s important that we, as MTN, are supporting national priorities, not just areas where we have opportunities to grow as a business. My team have been working hard to define key areas of focus for expanded investments to support key social sectors like healthcare and education, above and beyond the existing commitments we have made through the MTN Foundation. We’ve also been identifying government programmes we can support, like the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit (RITC) scheme, which we have agreed to participate in, fronting the funding for one of the priority road projects in the country, in return for tax credits later on. Finally, I am pleased that we were able to communicate an expanded partnership with the CACOVID coalition, to continue to support their priorities for the next two years.

Q. Telecoms contribution to GDP dropped from 17 per cent in Q4, 2020 to 7 per cent in Q1, 2021, as released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics. What must have led to the drop, and how do you feel about the slide at a time when Nigerians are hoping that telecoms will drive the Nigerian economy?

I’m not sure these figures are correct. Our numbers suggest that in Q4 2020, the Telecoms sector constituted 12.2% of Nigeria’s GDP and declined slightly in Q1 2021 to 11.66%, so it’s certainly not a worrying decline, and I think if you tracked the contribution year on year, you would find it has been growing. I don’t think there is any doubt that the growth in Nigeria’s digital economy will continue. It’s a core focus of the government, from the President, through the Minister and to the regulators, and we are working closely with them to try and optimise the growth trajectory.

It’s also important to remember that growth in the core telecoms sector is only an indicator of how infrastructure usage is expanding, and this can be impacted by short term interventions like the NIN-SIM linkage programme, which actually have the potential to drive longer term growth because they pull more people into the formal digital economy. You have to look at the wider GDP numbers as well. How much of the growth in other sectors was potentially powered by the transition to e-commerce, for example? Defining what constitutes the digital economy and how it is measured is an important area in which everyone needs to be aligned.

Q. MTN was part of the operators that enjoyed five years exclusivity period from the telecoms regulator at the beginning of GSM roll-out in Nigeria, where several rights were allowed and taxes waived. How did this impact on telecoms operations?

A. It’s very common for new industries to be offered investment incentives, especially if the government is looking to attract new investors, and that was the case at the beginning of the GSM roll-out. Don’t forget that the early stage estimates for potential subscriber numbers were very small. The MTN business model was built on a target customer base of a few millions. The rights and waivers gave us the confidence to invest more aggressively, and so played an important role in the subsequent rapid pace of growth. Today, the telecoms sector is the largest single contributor to GDP, that alone is enough testimony on how the enabling environment and the initial incentives have yielded fruits immensely.

Q. Core Internet Service Providers are threatened that the tier one telecoms operators like MTN are offering internet services to their customers, thereby making incursions into an area of business that was specifically licensed for ISPs. What is your take on this?

A. That is simply not true. MNOs hold Unified Access Services licences, which enable us to provide a bouquet of services, including voice, data, multi-media, etc., to the consumer and corporate segments of the market.

Q. The tier two telecoms operators are complaining about the difficulties in accessing Forex to expand their business. Are tier one operators like MTN also complaining?

A. I think you have to view the current situation as a national challenge, triggered by a global pandemic that was outside the control of policy makers. Of course, it is exacerbated by structural challenges in the Nigerian economy that the government is working hard to address, but I don’t think anyone achieves anything by ‘complaining.’ We have to work together to try and overcome these challenges, in partnership with the government. We’ve been able to deliver our capital expenditure programmes throughout COVID, despite liquidity challenges with forex, so we’ve been able to keep building and growing the network, ensuring that Nigerians can not only stay connected, but access the faster, more reliable data services they need to manage remote working.

Q. Insecurity in the country is threatening network expansion in the telecoms industry. How is MTN coping with such challenges and what is the way forward?

A. First of all, insecurity is not a new challenge for us, not just in Nigeria but in other countries where we operate, and so it’s factored into our operating model. We’ve been operating networks in remote locations that are heavily impacted by insurgency for decades.

The idea that something has suddenly happened to threaten our network integrity in Nigeria is wrong, it hasn’t. We routinely have situations where it might be challenging to reach a particular site, or solve a particular problem, and so we alert our customers when that happens as we are obliged to, given how important uptime on our service is. I think the recent issues around this were blown significantly out of proportion by a sensationalist interpretation of standard customer communications.

Besides, when our customers live in areas that are challenging to access, we do not cut them off. Instead, we work harder to meet an even greater responsibility – ensuring that they have reliable connections. It will interest you to note that we serve more than 20 million customers across Nigeria

for whom MTN is the only available service provider. In 2020, we extended our rural connectivity programme to 583 live rural sites nationwide. We continue to explore new locations to connect, and thus far, we have identified over 3,000 locations across the country for a phased roll-out in the next three years.