Zain sticks with 'challenging' subscriber targets

Kuwaiti mobile telco firm reiterates African subscriber targets, despite global economy.

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By  George Obulutsa Published  February 16, 2009

Kuwaiti mobile phone firm Zain is sticking to challenging 2009 subscriber targets for Africa despite the global economic slowdown, its regional head said on Monday.

Majority owned by Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund, the telecoms company aims to be a top 10 global operator with 110 million customers by 2011.

"We are very optimistic. We are targeting (growing) our customer base 50 percent again, year-on-year, in 2009," Chris Gabriel, Zain Africa's chief executive, said after the launch of a cash transfer service, Zap, on its Kenyan network.

"Obviously with the economic outlook, Zain will feel the impact of that, but we continue to grow our market share. We continue to progress with our targets," he said.

Zain operates in 16 African countries and says it has market leadership in about 10. It is the number two mobile company in Kenya, east Africa's biggest economy.

"We see Africa as a growth engine," Gabriel said, adding the region's contribution to group revenues was "significant", without giving further detail.

Zap was also launched in neighbouring Tanzania on Monday.

"I see potentially in a year's time, more than a million people using it on a day-to-day basis," Heiko Schlittke, finance director for Zain Tanzania, told reporters in Dar es Salaam.

Zain started offering services in Ghana in the last quarter of 2008 and Gabriel said it was pleased with business there.

"In less than two months of operations, we have over half a million customers," said Gabriel, adding the group was still looking to start operations in South Africa.

Zain's Africa strategy is based on products and services such as broadband, blackberries, content and music.

"The infrastructure is there. It is a matter of making sure that content and services are relevant to a particular geography," Gabriel said. (Reuters)

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