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MTN continues to blaze trail with digital innovations in Ghana

From their entrance into the Ghanaian market in 1996, the company, initially known as Spacefon and later Areba before the merger with MTN, has blazed the trail in the revolutionary digital evolution of the local telecoms space, writes Koku Devitor

AFTER 25 years of operations in Ghana, telecom giants, MTN continues to dazzle the local telecoms market with trail-blazing innovations for subscribers.

The company launched the Ayoba Hackaton contest in June to boost its digitisation agenda and offer opportunities for Apps developers and start-ups.

The leading telecoms company believes the programme would deepen the creativity of App developers with the opportunity to launch their services through micro-apps on Ayoba, a super App of MTN so far present in eight African countries and parts of Asia.

‘Our vision as an organisation is to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our customers. We also have the ambition, which drives all that we do in the digital space,’ Noel Kojo-Ganson, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of MTN Ghana, said during the launch.

The CMO said it is the firm belief of MTN  that ‘everyone deserves the benefit of a modern connected life and with the right digital solutions we can drive Africa and Ghana’s progress.’

From their entrance into the Ghanaian market in 1996, the company, initially known as Spacefon and later Areba before the merger with MTN, has blazed the trail in the revolutionary digital evolution of the local telecoms space.

The only other mobile telecoms companies preceding Scancom, owners of MTN Ghana, into the nascent industry in Ghana at the time, operated on analogue and CDMA platforms.

But since the launch of its GSM system in Ghana, MTN has pioneered the introduction of SMS messaging, allowing their customers to chat using text messages in addition to voice calls.

Since then, the company’s operations in Ghana have been characterised by one exciting innovation following the other, including the rollout of the 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies with the GPRS service that allows multimedia functioning of cellular phones, including browsing the Internet.

The company introduced the Spacefon-to-Spacefon (Space-to-Space) services around 2005, creating the opportunity for individuals to operate portable communications outlets from where people could reach users of the network’s voice services at a small fee. Then came the airtime transfer business, which also created real permanent or temporary jobs for Ghanaians, especially the youth.

True to their nature, the telecom giants embarked on a project in 2009 that will change the face of financial intermediation in the country for good- MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) was born, putting financial inclusion in the palms of their customers with very little stress.

Over the past 12 years, the mobile phone carrier has committed resources and hard work with innovative marketing to building the mobile financial service brand. The result is that MoMo is almost a household name in financial intermediation in Ghana, attracting a large customer base.

According to BizzTech Africa’s May 2021 edition, MTN Ghana’s footprints in financial intermediation ‘keeps expanding with active MoMo users increasing by 1.5 million to 10.6 million, from the company’s 24.4 million subscriber base, controlling more than 75 percent of that market.’

The mobile money platform became the most reliable mode of payment for most businesses and individuals during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

Besides the financial inclusion and convenience created for individuals and businesses, the MoMo operations also followed the job creation path of earlier innovations, providing employments for many with 206,000 agents and 172,000 merchants.

Not resting on its oars, the company seeks to strengthen its position as the market leader in digital innovations by launching the 5G technology by 2022.

‘Innovation has been a core pillar of our growth. We always try to be the first to launch the next technology, and bring that technology to the market place and create value from that technology. So hopefully, we will start the 5G network next year,’ Selorm Adadevor, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MTN Ghana, said.

Adadevoh said this during an interaction with Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA) and other media fraternities at the Editors Forum in August.

He added that the company would sustain its investment drive to achieve its digital operator status to enable customers to perform their activities on the network wherever they are.

‘We shall also continue our investments in infrastructure as we strategize to become a full digital operator by 2023,’ added Adadevoh.

In an interview, Sylvester Antwi Nyamah, a network engineer at Ucom Ghana Limited, described MTN as the leader in digital innovations in the local telecoms market, introducing products before others follow.

‘Their MoMo platform and digital bill payment have impacted many lives and businesses. Many customers now carry cash on their phones instead of physical cash, which gets stolen,’ he stated.

Nyamah said, ‘MTN has had a great impact on the sector, and their digital innovations have led to customer satisfaction to a large extent.’

With a market share of about 68 percent, MTN dominates the mobile data space in Ghana with 10.8 million active data subscribers.

The company’s hard work has also been rewarding, with revenue increasing by 25 percent to 5.5 billion Ghana cedis in the first three quarters of 2021 from 4.45 billion cedis over the same period in 2020.

Despite the impact of Covid-19 on businesses with a general economic downturn, MTN reported a 33.9 percent growth in its profit after tax to 1.4 billion Ghana cedis in 2020, from 1.01 billion cedis the previous year.

Kofi Dei-Tutu, a banker and financial analyst, described the impact of MTN on the telecoms market in Ghana as very significant, bringing customer satisfaction to many, as their subscribers enjoy a high level of network reliability.

He, however, urged the company to work on the security of its mobile money network since many people had been falling victim to fraudsters.

‘I wonder how the fraudsters come by names of subscribers so accurately and try to swindle them. The company needs to build a stronger security system around the MoMo business to secure customers’ funds,’ he urged, adding though that the positive impacts outweighed these challenges.

Dei-Tutu also observed that the company’s data charges were quite expensive for the average customer, and although ‘MTN offers a degree of network reliability, the data charges get scary some times and get exhausted  faster than expected.’

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