Sudatel to expand in Africa despite US sanctions

19 Nov 2007

Sudan’s incumbent telco Sudatel is pursuing its African expansion by seeking stakes in Nigerian and Congolese operators, its CEO Emad Ahmed has said, reported by Reuters. Sudatel, which is 26% state-owned, features on a Washington blacklist of 31 Sudanese companies barred from doing business with American firms. The list was drawn up in May 2007 as part of US pressure on Khartoum to halt violence in the troubled Western Darfur region. Ahmed, visiting Senegal to hand over a USD200 million cheque for a full-service telecoms licence there, said the sanctions were not inhibiting its growth into West Africa, where it started mobile phone operations in Mauritania earlier this year. ‘We are now in discussions with the government of Nigeria…to acquire part of an existing operator,’ Ahmed said, adding that his company was also in similar talks in Congo.

‘In Niger, there is a [cellular] tender which is already launched. We are going to participate in that tender,’ he went on to say. According to Ahmed, Sudatel was focusing on West Africa, where telecoms markets are faster-growing than those of southern Africa. Sudatel recently paid USD100 million to launch mobile phone services in Mauritania, before winning the licence for fixed line, mobile and internet service in Senegal. Sudatel expects to start services in Senegal in six months and have coverage of all of Senegal’s main towns within three years. Investment of USD500 million over five years has been earmarked for infrastructure there.

The CEO said that Sudatel had no intention of defying the US sanctions and had notified its suppliers, including Ericsson, Nokia, Alca-Lu, Siemens and Huawei, that they must not introduce any US components into Sudan. ‘The sanctions do not affect Sudatel at all. We are still dealing with the main builders of telecommunications … except American companies…the technology is available everywhere,’ Ahmed said.

Congo, Dem. Rep., Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Sudatel (Sudani)