While mobile technology has brought many gains for East Africans in money transfer, communication and increasing access to the internet, the competition amongst telecommunication operators can only be described as cut-throat.
One of the most vibrant markets is Kenya where one of the operators Safaricom Ltd. revolutionized money transfer with its mobile money transfer service M-Pesa which has since been replicated across the world. Safaricom has 17.95 million subscribers while its competition Airtel Kenya has 4.17 million, Telkom Orange commands 2.75 million and yuMobile holds 1.63 million subscribers. The four operators are constantly engaging on price wars to grow their market share in the country which has 26.49 million subscribers. Money is big in telecoms as was proved by safaricom in 2009 with its record Ksh. 21 billion pre-tax profits.
In Tanzania, South African owned company Vodacom Tanzania faces off with Zanzibar Telecommunications Corporation (Zantel), Bharti Airtel, MIC Tanzania Limited (Tigo) and fixed line operator Tanzania Telecommunications Company (TTCL) being the major players.
With increased competition in voice, telecoms are shifting focus to data, mobile money, m-commerce and other value add services to attract customers.
In Uganda, six operators namely, Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) – a South Africa led consortium, Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL), Orange Telecom Uganda, Airtel Network Uganda, Waridi Telecom and I–Telecom run the show in the market which had 14 million mobile phone users as at June.
South Africa’s MTN Rwandacell and TIGO Rwanda Ltd were the main players in the sector, which is among the fastest growing in Africa, until Bharti Airtel Rwanda broke the duopoly with its launch in March. Rwanda has about 4 million mobile phone subscribers with projections of hitting 6 million subscribers by 2015.
Since 2009, when the first of four undersea fibre optic cables went live in Kenya bringing broadband Internet connectivity to the region, communication and business transactions have changed with growth of e-commerce.
Kenya’s ambitious Konza Technology City, a 20-year US$14.5-billion project of what will be become the “Silicon Savannah” is set to create numerous opportunities. The project to be established on 5,000 acres in Machakos County, 60km from Nairobi, which will comprise of a technology park, university campus, international business district Science Park, and residential properties is bound to open a plethora of opportunities.
The land of the Safari – East Africa has always proven its tourist magnet status. Thanks to the regions sandy beaches along the Kenyan Coast, favorable weather patterns, game parks that are home to different species of wild animals and birds, rich history, diverse culture and exotic islands like Tanzania’s Zanzibar and Kenya’s Lamu and Malindi. All these and more have been the major factors ensuring a constant tourist throng to the horn of Africa.
Kenya earned Ksh. 98 billion (US$11 billion) from tourism revenues last year after attracting 1.26 million tourists. In Uganda, the sector, which contributes nearly 26 per cent of the country’s total exports earnings, brought in US$600 million in 2010. By the end of the third quarter of 2011 tourism earnings in Rwanda was estimated to be about US$183 million while in Tanzania, the sector brought in US$1.3 billion in 2010.
Some of the leading investors in the region include The Serena Group of Hotels which has more than 25 establishments and the Sarova Hotels which boasts of eight facilities across the region. Private Safaris (E.A), Somak Safaris and Pollmans Tours & Safaris lead the pack among tour operators.
One of the key opportunities in the tourism industry is accommodation. Business and conference tourism has been growing steadily over the years as more investors set base in East Africa creating more demand for accommodation facilities.
Italian billionaire Flavio Briatore is establishing a five star hotel at the coastal resort of Malindi in Kenya while Richard Branson last year announced he will be opening a luxury safari lodge in the Masai Mara.