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What does Bharti Airtel’s acquisition of MTN mean for Africa?

Bharti Airtel is India’s largest mobile services company with over 62 million subscribers. MTN, the South African-based mobile group is Africa’s largest mobile network with over 68 subscribers in 21 countries throughout Africa and the Middle East. Bharti Airtel is currently considering a large stake in MTN to create what will become  one of the world’s largest mobile companies in Asia, Africa and Middle East. However, what concerns me is what this mega deal will mean for Africa, and especially MTN’s competition in Africa, should it go through.

Bharti Airtel’s story is an interesting one as it gives you an idea of what makes them India’s largest and most successful mobile network. Bharti Airtel was the first mobile network in India to build a national network that covered most of the country. It is also largely credited with pioneering an emerging markets model for mobile services by serving both high-end and low-end customers, country-wide. Its network coverage is over 80% of India and its currently growing its business by focussing on rural villages and towns, where they already have 1400,000 covered.

In a nutshell, Bharti Airtel has mastered the Indian marketplace and has adapted when it had to, learning and evolving as it grew. Bharti Airtel created a model approach to becoming a successful in a market that has both extremes of wealth and poverty, in a very diverse market environment. It’s my guess that by Bharti Airtel teaming up with MTN, Africa will see some of the same innovative strategies localized, and rolled out. This could lead to some big (positive) changes for the customer which will ultimately only increase MTN’s success in Africa. I hope the competition are ready.

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