Multinational tech giant Orange needs little by way of introduction.
Turning over more than $45 billion a year and employing over 135,000 people around the world, it is now a household name having started out in the UK in 1993.
Today, the company is heavily present on the African continent, with one in 10 Africans being an Orange customer.
Bruno Mettling has played a leading role in building up the regional business, now serving as President of Orange’s Africa and Middle East division. Here he answers our questions on his career to date and some of the company’s latest projects.
Africa Outlook (AfO): What first inspired you to pursue a career in technology?
Bruno Mettling (BM): At first glance my career reflects a strong commitment to the human. I was mainly called upon to put my skills at the service of human resources management within Orange. This environment has enhanced my interest in digital and especially in the transformations it involves for society.
Today, new organisational, economic and environmental models are to be imagined. The rise of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, big data and 5G disrupt our routines – and all of this is exciting!
AfO: Can you briefly describe your mission or remit as President of Orange’s Middle East and Africa business?
BM: In order to better identify Orange’s activities in Africa and the Middle East, we created a new subsidiary in 2015. Today, we are evolving to become a full African subsidiary and strengthen Orange’s footprint on the continent. I have driven and accompanied this transformation, which involves a very decentralised organisation that allows us to manage our activities as closely as possible to our customers’ expectations and especially recruit high-level local talent.
In this context, it seems legitimate for me to no longer exercise executive functions since Alioune Ndiaye, former CEO of Sonatel, has taken over the group’s activities in the Middle East and Africa area since May 2018. However, I remain fully committed in my institutional role as President, to promote the positive impact of digital.
AfO: Looking at Africa specifically, why is this an exciting market for you?
BM: In Africa, the infrastructure deficit paradoxically presents a great opportunity for digital to invent new business models and solutions to help the continent’s development. One in every two inhabitants in Africa (and the Middle East) is under the age of 20 and this young generation is eager to adopt new technologies.
Also, there is a strong need for basic services in education, agriculture and health to fulfil the economic potential arising from the demographic explosion. As such, the role of Orange has evolved from a connectivity provider to a multi-service operator. Historically, our predominant business was voice calling. This has now been replaced by data and services. In a multi-sim market, developing additional services is a way to build customer loyalty.
We work in markets where digital can make a real difference (financial services, content, etc.) and in sectors that are emerging, not yet established or becoming structured like energy and e-health. Our goal is to position ourselves as a leading partner in the states and ecosystems of the African digital transformation, with a strategy based on our established strengths and by developing all of these services in partnership with public and private stakeholders as global funds in the e-health field.
AfO: Generally, how can digital technology help in the fight against epidemics such as AIDS, TB and malaria?
BM: New technologies could be used for predicting, preventing and controlling emerging infectious diseases. Mobile networks have brought SMS, voice and internet services but also massive data on phone usage. These technologies have the potential of improving adherence to medication, to remind patients when to take medication and of scheduled appointments through SMS and voice calls. Moreover, the collected data can be used to better understand these diseases and update the epidemic study.
AfO: Introduce me to the technology platform that you are providing in partnership with the Global Fund. What are its main features and how will it support Global Fund activities?
BM: We are currently developing innovative mobile health platforms to ensure broader access to healthcare services that can be used to follow patients remotely, while providing healthcare workers with all the information they need to make the right decisions and offer quality healthcare to all patients. Medical staff can develop more direct links with patients and ensure treatment is followed correctly, which is essential in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
AfO: What are your plans regarding its roll-out? Will the partnership extend beyond Morocco?
Regarding the roll out of the mobile health platform, our local developers are interacting with the health workers from Moroccan Ministry of Health to co-design the software solution. In parallel, we are also studying other adapted services and solutions in collaboration with health authorities in Ivory Coast, DRC, and Burkina Faso. For the coming year we are going to extend the public private partnership element of the Orange footprint.
AfO: Looking ahead, how does Orange plan to extend its impact on healthcare deliver across Africa?
BM: Orange is present in 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East and reaches 123 million customers in the region. The company will expand the impact of its healthcare projects by reaching underserved populations with new, digitally enabled healthcare services and by leveraging the extensive mobile network footprint of the group in the Middle East and Africa. Moreover, we plan to strengthen private public partnerships in collaboration with institutions such as Global Funds, GAVI and other funding providers.
Ultimately, digital technology needs to accelerate progress for everyone on the planet, and our social innovation, entrepreneurship and innovative digital services are designed to meet everyone’s needs.
Orange in Africa and the Middle East