Thursday, 29 August 2013

Has Tigo lost its way in Africa?

Has Tigo lost its way in Africa? I only pose the question because in its second quarter report for 2013, its subscribers numbers by African operation appear flat or in decline (see figure 1).

Even in Tanzania - its biggest market by some margin with 5.97 million subscribers - the subscriber base appears to max out at some 6.7 million at the turn of the year, and then falls to 5.97 million at the end of 2Q 2013.

Or take Ghana. This is a highly competitive market, which last year saw the arrival of Nigeria's Glomobile. Yet despite Glo's poor early uptake, Tigo ended 2Q13 with 3.3 million subscribers, down from the 3.63 million, which it had at the end of 3Q11.

In Senegal it has effectively flat lined since the end of 2Q 2012, when it had 2.64 million, and ending 2Q 2013 with 2.68 million, a gain of only 40,000 in 12 months. The Democratic Republic of the Congo again saw a flat profile in the last three quarters.

In fact, the only market in which Tigo has reported a rising subscriber base is Rwanda, which has risen from 1.22 million at the end of 2Q 2012 to 1.61 million a year later.

Tigo African Operations by Mobile Subscribers 3Q 2011 - 2Q 2013

Source: Millicom c. Blycroft 2013

Now it could be that these particular markets are currently experiencing low growth, and that Tigo is performing well against its competitors. But remarkably all the major markets - Ghana, Tanzania, DRC, Senegal and Rwanda - have all shown healthy growth during the period. The table below shows the performance of Tigo competitor's in its African markets.

The other operators in Ghana (so now excluding Tigo's subscribers) have added some 5.3 million mobile subscribers in the eight quarters examined; Tanzania's non-Tigo subscriber base flattened recently but nonetheless has added around 5 million. The DRC's other operators has recorded just under 5 million net additions, and Senegal added 2.5 million. Even Rwanda chalked up 2 million.

African Markets where Tigo is active showing subscribers  for other operators 3Q 2011 - 2Q 2013

In its 2Q 2013 report Millicom noted that it is now reinvested in Africa, where it said 'the business needed support for its networks and brand'. Some of the problem may well be that it has other investment priorities, as in the second quarter it invested some USD 154 million in capex, including USD 15 million in spectrum, in South America. The spend will return to Africa in 2013, with the capex to revenue ratio peaking at around 20%, excluding spectrum acquisition. This, Millicom notes, will be driven by continued investments in 3G 'capacity and coverage, notably as we roll out further countries in Africa'. Welcome news indeed.


John Summers
Africa & Middle East Telecom-Week