• Erwa participates in keynote interview at Middle East Com conference and details Zain Sudan’s operational progress to date
• Country’s leading mobile operator investing heavily in network upgrades as well as in development and training of staff
• Targeting growth in mobile data and mobile money usage; ready to launch 4G services in three months upon regulatory approval
Zain Group, a leading innovator of mobile communications in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, details the headlining participation of its Zain Sudan CEO, Elfatih Erwa, at the Middle East Com conference, organized by Informa Telecoms & Media, and hosted at Mina A’Salam hotel in Dubai this week.
In a keynote interview in front of 400 industry leaders, Erwa detailed the impressive progress Zain Sudan has continued to make since his appointment as CEO in 2008, and the subsequent secession of South Sudan in 2011.
“Internally the company is doing well on all operational levels and we are investing heavily in network upgrades,” Erwa told the delegates in attendance. “We have experienced 15% revenue growth year-on-year in local currency terms, and enjoy a leading 41% customer market share that reflects a 60% share of revenues in the overall market.”
Erwa explained that Sudan’s contribution to Zain Group’s overall service revenues had fallen from a peak of 20% to now contribute around 15% given the local currency fluctuations that has seen the Sudan pound depreciate by over 120% in recent years. He also noted Zain Sudan was contributing a similar 15% of Zain Group’s net profit, highlighting the debt-free nature of the operation, which places the operator in a prime position to benefit from market opportunities as they arise.
“I believe we are coming into another take-off period in Sudan, and in some geographic regions we are already witnessing an explosion of data usage. We are interested in the growing area of mobile money, and have recently launched a commercial service with the Bank of Khartoum. We also see other good growth opportunities in the country especially in value added services and we shall be committing resources towards those also,” Erwa said.
Zain Sudan currently counts over 11.4 million customers, with an estimated 40% of them already utilizing their devices to access Internet content, with the operator awaiting approval to introduce 4G services. Erwa noted that the company has invested over US$100 million in network upgrades in the past 12 months (approximately 17% of its revenues) and recently introduced appealing data packages for its customers. Approximately 11% of Zain Sudan’s revenues are from data and Erwa expects this to grow to 15% by end of 2015 as smartphone usage picks up further.
“We could launch 4G commercially within three or four months of being given permission to do so by the regulator,” Erwa asserted. “We already have a number of competitive advantages including being one of the founding mobile operators in Sudan so we have good access to spectrum, and are viewed as a preferred provider in the country. We also benefit from significant synergies with Zain Group, and we are very fortunate to have the ongoing support of one of the leading telecom groups in the region,” he added.
On human resource issues, Erwa detailed how the company is investing heavily in the training and development of his dedicated workforce and how the company has recently increased salaries to meet rising inflation. “By doing this, we are rewarding our workforce for their dedication and successes to date. It also works as a retention tool to avoid operators abroad from poaching them. We have the best talent in the country and we strive to keep them.”
Looking ahead, Erwa said he believes the telecom sector in Sudan shall remain a significant one, if not rise even further in importance given the increase in mobile penetration rates and use of mobile data services. He also forecasts there will be little chance for the successful entry of new players, and believes in fact that the industry may be entering a period of consolidation given the three mobile and two fixed line operators already providing services in the market.
“I’m optimistic about the potential of the telecom sector in Sudan and similarly for the future of Zain Sudan. We shall continue developing our strong distribution channels and innovating with new services, focusing on providing customers the best mobile experience in the country. We remain committed to deliver our brand promise of a Wonderful World to the communities we serve,” Erwa concluded.
About Zain Sudan
Zain Sudan is the pioneer of GSM services in Sudan, being the first to offer mobile operations back in February 1997. Today it serves the largest base of mobile customers in the country with more than 11.4 million active customers, reflecting a leading market share of 41%. It is part of the Zain Group, a leading telecommunications operator across the Middle East and Africa providing mobile voice and data services to over 46.5 million active customers as of 30 June, 2014. With a commercial presence in 8 countries, Zain operates in: Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and South Sudan. In Lebanon, the Group manages ‘touch’ on behalf of the government. In Morocco, Zain has a 15.5% stake in ‘INWI’, through a joint venture. Zain is listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (stock ticker: ZAIN).
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