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Sudan Tribune

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Sudatel Plans to Expand in Africa After Senegalese Investment

Sudatel Plans to Expand in Africa After Senegalese Investment

By Rose Skelton

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) — Sudan Telecommunications Co. will expand in west and central Africa after investing $200 million in Senegal to become that nation’s third mobile-phone operator, said Chief Executive Officer Ehmad H. Ahmed.

The Khartoum-based company, known as Sudatel, is considering investments in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger, Ehmad said in an interview yesterday in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. Sudatel already has a license to begin operating in Mauritania.

“We are currently having discussions with the government of Nigeria,” he said. “We are also having discussions to join existing operators in Congo and we have launched a tender in Niger. The southern African market is saturated so we are looking at places with more avenues, like west Africa.”

Africa is the world’s fastest-growing market for mobile phones. The number of subscribers may rise 40 percent this year to 278 million as operators including MTN Group Ltd., the biggest on the continent, expand their networks.

Southern Africa has the highest penetration of mobile phone usage on the continent with 66.49 subscribers out of every 100 inhabitants, followed by northern Africa at 36.82, central Africa with 9.74 and eastern Africa with 8.17 inhabitants, according to the International Telecommunication Union. West Africa has a mobile-phone penetration rate of 19.24, the ITU said in an e-mailed statement today.

Investment

Sudatel was awarded a license in September to begin operating in Senegal. It will compete with Sonatel, owned by France Telecom SA, which has a monopoly on fixed-line and Internet services, and Tigo, a unit of Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA.

The Sudanese company will provide fixed-line, mobile and Internet services to the country of 11.4 million people. Operations will start within 18 months and Sudatel will invest $500 million over the next five to 15 years in establishing its network, Ehmad said.

The company aims to cover 100 percent of the “well- populated and commercially active” areas of Senegal, within three years, he said.

In March 2007, Senegal had 3.5 million mobile-phone subscribers, according to research compiled by Informa, a London-based telecommunications industry research company. A quarter of Africa’s 213 million subscribers live in west Africa, which has a population of 266 million people.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rose Skelton in Dakar via