Kuwait wireless companies expand in Africa

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Kuwait-based mobile telecom companies are set to take advantage of a yawning market with the announcement that two Kuwaiti operators will expand their services to several African countries this year.

Kuwait’s HiTS has signed a US$180 million agreement with Huawei Technologies of China to build a network in Tanzania and expand services throughout Africa. Meanwhile, Zain, also of Kuwait, will expand services to three more African countries this year.

Zain operates as Celtel International in Africa and already services 15 countries on the continent, including Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria. HiTS holds operation licenses in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea, and owns shares in Liberia’s Atlantic Telecom.

Zain CEO for Africa Chris Gabriel said Zain will take over three African mobile companies over the next six to 12 months in order to consolidate control of the African market. Funds for the acquisition will come from the company’s listing on the London Stock Exchange this year, which is expected to raise more than US$5 billion.

It is not yet clear which networks Zain would like to acquire, but Gabriel said the company is looking at opportunities throughout Africa as they arise.

Last week, however, HiTS also revealed that it wants to establish its footprint in Africa by making rapid expansions. The agreement signed with Huawei Technologies allows Huawei to build HiTS’ network across Tanzania in three months in order to accommodate an initial 2 million customers.

“By the end of this year, we will start operations in Tanzania, and we are planning to spend US$500 million in Tanzania alone in the next five years,” HiTS Tanzania CEO Gerhard May said.

The Tanzanian Communication Regulatory Authority gave the company a license to operate in Tanzania in September of last year, making HiTS the country’s seventh mobile operator. The license allows HiTS to operate in voice and data mobile communication.

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