Mobile makes headway in Uganda

Once referred to as the Pearl of Africa, then devastated by civil war, peace and radical economic reforms have transformed the country. Major initiatives have been launched to bring telecommunication services and the Internet to both urban and rural parts of the country, partly funded by the highly successful operators through a Universal Service Fund. An initial competition framework has been implemented and both the public and private sector encourage continued liberalization.

Although Uganda is one of the smallest markets in the region, it is also one of the fastest growing markets in Africa and the Middle East. All market segments are experiencing strong growth. Sylwia Boguszewska, analyst at Pyramid Research explains, ‘In the next five years Uganda will experience the second highest percentage increase in terms of mobile subscriptions among the African countries (after Cameroon).’ These expectations build on the fact that mobile penetration rose from just 1.9 percent at year-end 2002 to an estimated 39.0 percent in 2009. She goes on to explain, ‘It will increase further to reach 70.7 percent penetration by 2014, while the number of mobile subscriptions will exceed 27 million.’

ICTs take root in Uganda

Needless to say, the Ugandan telecom sector continues to go through a major transformation. This is largely the result of a successful liberalization process. The country now boasts five mobile operators with new entrants at the fringes. The three most established includes MTN Uganda, Uganda Telecom, and Zain Uganda. These were later joined by Warid Telecom, which entered the market in February 2008, and Orange Uganda, which launched in March 2009. Anupam is a sixth operator sniffing out opportunities. It’s no surprise the sector has become the country’s most important tax payer and a vital piece of the economy.

This increased competition helps to drive down prices, with new entrant Warid being particularly aggressive in their fight to attract new subscribers. Sylwia of Pyramid Research goes on to explain, ‘Last year, the three mobile operators – MTN Uganda, UTL, and Zain – commanded 85 percent of mobile market subscribers, while Warid Telecom, despite its late entry in 2008, managed to gain a significant 15 percent market share.’ MTN’s Zone pricing scheme is another service that is proving popular. Depending on your location and the traffic on the network the service will calculate rates in real time. The service makes a difference given subscribers can sometimes score a 90% discount and It’s not uncommon to walk an extra two minutes because you might get a better rate.

These developments aside, Uganda as a country still has a long way to go. The World Economic Forum recently released the Global Information Technology Report 2008-2009 known for their Network Readiness Index (NRI) – This shows how prepared countries are to use ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) effectively. The report states, ‘Africa does not compare well to the 134 countries indexed for the report. Tunisia is at number 38, Mauritius 51, South Africa 52, Egypt 76, Botswana 77, Senegal 80, Morocco 86, Nigeria 90, Gambia 91, Namibia 92, Kenya 97 and others.’ At the end of the list Uganda ranks in at 120 while only countries like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Chad follow.

Dec 1996

45,145 – Fixed Phone Lines
3,000 – Mobile Subscribers
2 – Internet Service Providers
14 – Private FM Radios
4 – Private Television
2 – Courier Service Providers
1,258 – Pay Phones

Mar 2007

137,916 – Fixed Phone Lines
3,015,493 – Mobile Subscribers
17 – Internet Service Providers
158 – Private FM Radios
32 – Private Television
25 – Courier Service Providers
16,059 – Pay Phones


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About zia505

The world is changing right before my eyes. Sometimes I don't know how I will ever keep up. There are so many ideas floating around on this internet. If only I had the means to collect them....

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