We discuss the future of telecoms and bridging the digital divide with Ayham Moussa, CEO of MTN Congo.
As part of the MTN Group in the WECA (West and Central Africa) region since 2005, MTN Congo has embraced the spirit and values of Africa’s largest mobile operator.
The company offers top-line technology and services to its customers in the Republic of the Congo (Congo), and is spearheading the telecoms space in the country.
“We are a significant and dedicated contributor to the development of Congo in terms of employment, the environment, and the economy,” opens Ayham Moussa, CEO of MTN Congo.
Having invested over $1 billion over the past 20 years, built world-class networks, and established a very reputable brand, MTN Congo ranks among the top five contributors to the Congolese economy.
Spanning almost 350,000 square kilometres, Congo is a sizeable country in which the company is determined to reach and include the whole population, bridging financial and digital divides in the process.
“It is heart-warming to travel and meet newly connected ultra-rural communities in Congo, and see them reaching out to this dazzling world of opportunities for the first time,” Moussa smiles. “Such endeavours fundamentally crystallise the purpose of MTN Group, to help overcome barriers and reach out to everyone throughout the continent, regardless of where they are.”
Congo is fascinating from a technology point of view. With mobile user penetration of more than 160 percent of the addressable market in the country and a staggering 61 percent of mobile users utilising MTN Congo’s financial services, the highest across MTN Group’s operations, the company recognises the potential and appetite of the Congolese population for new technologies.
Indeed, customers here have been impressively quick to react to new services in the digital space such as instant messaging, mobile TV and financial services, the latter of which MTN Congo is now heavily involved in with a large customer base engaged everyday through MTN Mobile Money (MoMo).
MTN MoMo is a FinTech platform providing consumers and businesses with a host of innovative digital financial services, enabling users to access payments, e-commerce, insurance, lending and remittance services, among other things.
“Today, MoMo enables more than 1.9 million subscribers each month, thus becoming their main payment utility to perform quicker and more secure financial transactions in their day-to-day lives,” outlines Moussa.
As the wider MTN Group continues to scale mobile financial service solutions and create an integrated FinTech platform and ecosystem, MTN Congo thereby supports greater digital and financial inclusion as well as cashless and digital economies.
“MTN Congo is actively working to increase digital inclusion in the economy through our business solutions, which connect small and large enterprises alike and digitise their daily activities. We hope to see people access high quality digital and financial services at any time, any place, to sustain better lives for themselves and their families,” Moussa adds.
“Other ambitious services are also underway, and the more ambitious we grow, the more acceptance we get from our customers.”
The unparalleled traction of MTN Congo’s newly built platforms is best evidenced by the success of MTN Ayoba, an all-in-one app that allows people to chat, call, read, play and listen to music. Users can chat with anyone regardless of whether they have the app or not, and MTN subscribers can chat with other Ayoba users on other mobile networks.
Naturally, MTN Congo is also very excited to witness what 5G will bring to the future of connectivity, built around offering more customised and personalised telecoms services to create more engagement and higher quality applications. The company therefore strongly believes that 5G technology will uplift the user experience to whole new levels.
“Rolling out 5G is a sophisticated process that involves spectrum allocations, considerable investment, complex designs, and delivery plans. MTN Congo will spare no efforts to undertake this new realm and lead the introduction of 5G to the market,” emphasises Moussa.
“Congolese citizens can rely on us for 5G services on their mobile phones and inside their homes and enterprises.”
As a socially responsible company, MTN Congo has strengthened its CSR actions since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, focused on finding solutions and mitigations to help communities combat the pandemic.
Once the first COVID-19 cases were discovered early in 2020, the company took specific measures to counter the spread of the virus within Congolese communities in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and guidelines issued by government.
“When COVID-19 hit, we realised that it was time for big brands such as ourselves to step up and change the way we work and communicate,” Moussa explains.
“We invested and expanded fast, and made it possible for the Congolese people and economy to continue operating and connecting seamlessly through our services.”
Knowing that raised awareness among the population would help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, a communication campaign was initiated by MTN Congo via its social networks and SMS services. With the closure of schools due to lockdown measures in the country, the company stepped up to help produce and broadcast free courses on its streaming platform, Télé Na Ngai (TNN), and on Congo’s national television channel.
To further support the Ministry of Health in the fight against COVID-19, MTN Congo provided free-of-charge communications packages to health workers on the front line of battle. A number of computers, printers, and modems with 4G internet connectivity were also donated to the Congolese government, with the intention of creating 20 new COVID-19 vaccination sites.
“CSR is embedded into our environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy framework, and our ambitions go beyond being a responsible citizen. We continue to reinforce the positioning of MTN Congo as the partner of choice,” Moussa tells us.
PRESERVING THE PLANET
One of MTN Group’s primary goals is to use technological advancements to play its part in preserving the planet. The company believes in the benefits of a healthy planet, and has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 as the impacts of climate change become increasingly visible around the world.
To realise its targets, Project Zero was launched in 2019 to leverage the latest technologies and service partners to enable business sustainability via greater energy efficiencies, low carbon emissions, risk reduction and cost control. The programme prioritises renewable solutions, efficient emerging technologies and energy storage.
“The goal of Project Zero is to reduce CO2 emissions across all operators within the group. MTN Congo is thoroughly working with partners and has put solid plans in place to convert our power sources to total green energy in the coming few years,” shares Moussa.
MTN Congo showcased two projects in 2021, the first of which was a cleaning project against pollution on GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) sites undertaken quarterly in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and the Congolese hinterland.
A system to monitor all MTN Congo facilities was implemented by the company to comply with reports, inspections and controls carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Environment. Field trips were also organised to assess their condition, raise awareness among internal management stakeholders, and ensure that they maintain sites accordingly.
“Through this project, MTN Congo aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 12 for responsible consumption and production. It aims to promote environmentally friendly production, reduce waste, and stimulate recycling in partnership with technical partners in charge of maintaining all installations,” Moussa highlights.
The second project showcased by the company in the past year concerned energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction, focused on rural areas of northern and southern Congo.
“We primarily tackled critical backbone and hub infrastructure, both of which have naturally higher energy demands than regular sites. They play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide by providing rural communities with access to vital communication and essential economic services such as mobile money, e-commerce, and social media,” notes Moussa.
“Installing diesel generators increases carbon emissions and pollution in these remote communities, hence the urgent need to transition to a green and sustainable energy source.”
To install innovative, renewable and clean energy solutions in rural communities without compromising on quality and reliability, MTN Congo is investing to upgrade sites with new batteries, solar and hybrid energy technologies, which will allow these rural hub sites to generate fewer carbon emissions.
The addition of nine solar-powered MTN Congo sites, an increase of 41 percent, will support MTN Group’s global ambitions to be carbon neutral by 2040.
When it comes to sustainability, paper consumption has always been a challenge for large organisations. Workplaces have historically relied heavily on paper, however early in 2020, MTN Congo embarked on a paperless journey with three main KPIs in mind: sustainability, risk reduction, and business efficiency.
“Our target is to eliminate printing papers from our offices, while adopting state-of-the-art technologies to digitally engage our employees, business partners and customers, eliminating the need to submit documents to us,” Moussa says.
Set to complete its paperless transformation by the end of 2024, MTN Congo began by implementing technology to optimise document sharing and collaboration, enhanced by digital signatures to minimise the need to print paper for the sake of signing forms.
The company’s next goal is to provide an enterprise-wide governance model for storing and securing this information, to be used in automated processes where MTN Congo can benefit from modern technologies such as AI and robotics.
“This paperless journey requires a lot of change in terms of culture and the way we do business, but it also opens up a lot of opportunities. “We will continue to address them by providing the right tools and creating awareness about the importance of this journey for our business and, more importantly, for the environment.”
Aware of its social responsibility, the MTN Congo Foundation was created in 2007, which has given rise to many social projects in areas including health, education, sport and community development.
For instance, MTN Congo has implemented projects such as Yellow Line, an HIV and STD information line supported by French non-profit organisation, Sidaction, and contributed to the acquisition of mobile HIV testing units.
To promote youth empowerment and entrepreneurship, meanwhile, MTN Congo has also trained a number of young Congolese women in the likes of office automation and computer graphics. “Our objective was not only to promote female youth empowerment, but also to reduce the skills gap and offer the same employment opportunities to both women and men,” affirms Moussa.
“Through this project, the MTN Congo Foundation successfully contributed towards UN SDG 8 focused on sustained and inclusive economic growth that can spur progress, create decent jobs for all and improve living standards, especially in the wake of COVID-19.”
The same goes for Y’ello Startup, an incubation programme launched to help young Congolese entrepreneurs design and deploy innovative digital solutions that have a material socio-economic impact.
In 2019, during MTN Group’s annual employee volunteerism programme, 21 Days of Y’ello Care, MTN Congo even set up a business incubator together with the Pointe-Noire Chamber of Commerce. This was intended to host innovative start-ups in different sectors and provide private offices, open spaces, and coaching.
Through an ambitious school connectivity drive first launched in 2009, MTN Congo has installed libraries and connected rooms in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and the hinterland, with a further two launched in the past year.
MTN Congo continues to develop and support education in the country, and position ICTs at the heart of primary and secondary education as a training and development tool.
The focus is also to significantly reduce the digital divide in schools, and ensure that connectivity and new technologies are available for communities while promoting training and investing in human capital.
“We place a strong emphasis on UN SDG 4, focused on quality education to enable upward socio-economic mobility, escape poverty, and promote school enrolment rates at all levels, particularly for girls,” Moussa outlines.
Further contributing to the progress of UN SDG 4 is the Y’ello Back to School project, aimed at encouraging employees in the cities of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire to donate school bags to help children in need to resume education at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
MTN Congo Foundation was able to offer bags complete with important school materials such as pens, pencils and notebooks, an impactful initiative to increase the rate of children attending school, especially in the difficult COVID-19 climate.
The pandemic has also accelerated MTN Congo’s community commitment through the Home School project, which came into being at the onset of COVID-19. Through this initiative, the company prioritised bridging the digital divide and improving the Congolese education system through the digitalisation of teaching and the integration of products and services into the Ayoba app.
TAKING THE LEAP
For Moussa, “diversification” best describes MTN Congo’s ambitions for the year ahead.
“This is the year where we take a giant leap; this is what my team is determined to do,” he states proudly.
MTN Congo’s strategic plans revolve around accelerated growth, through superior customer experience and second-to-none networks. Digital and financial inclusion are imperative, driven by MTN Ayoba as a one-stop-shop for customers and the opening of MoMo APIs.
As well as utilising the latest AI technologies to ensure better decision making, the company plans to enable environmental and socio-economic progress in Congo through MTN Group’s We’re Good Together initiative, with a focus on human resources as its most valuable asset.
“We will leap forwards in terms of customer service and satisfaction, and in addition to sustaining the growth and reach of our services, we have started multiple programmes related to digital transformation, digital development, data-driven organisations, and offering platforms at scale,” Moussa reveals.
Collectively, all these initiatives, supported by the introduction of the latest technologies and working models, will fuse into the successful transformation and conversion of MTN Congo from a telecoms service provider to a technology and digital service provider at scale.
“This transformation is not something easy to tackle; many operators have failed to make it work. That is why we are carefully drawing our path, and getting the best-qualified expertise to help us triumph.”