Mali’s mobile market could see increased competition later this year in the form of the country’s first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), subject to the state finalising legislation allowing for such activities.
According to Balancing Act, Aidou Telecom has been formed by Dr Adama Traore, a notable figure in the Malian telecoms landscape who set up the Reseau Malienne Consommateurs de la telephonie mobile (REMRCOTEM), which handles complaints from consumers and communicates them to the nation’s telecoms operators. Work on forming an MVNO is understood to have first begun during the Malian government’s sale of a 51% stake in Societe des Telecommunications du Mali (SOTELMA), which today offers services under the Malitel banner, in March 2009. During the bidding process Dr Traore claims to have been contacted by South Africa-based MTN, and it was a conversation with that company that he said prompted him to consider the creation of a virtual operator. ‘MTN advised me and indicated the way … It was a learning experience for MTN.’
With Traore saying he subsequently approached the Malian telecoms regulator regarding the idea, he was reportedly asked to prepare a business plan, which he did in 2009 in conjunction with French-US vendor Alcatel-Lucent. However, while a MVNO concession was said to have been premised on a change in the regulatory framework, necessary legislative changes were not forthcoming, and the state’s plan to introduce number portability was also said to have prompted Dr Traore to delay plans to enter the mobile sector. Now, however, it has been claimed that the regulatory text that would allow for the introduction of a virtual operator in Mali has been informally approved by the new telecoms minister. As such, with it hoped that the government will formally ratify the rules in the coming months, Aidou Telecom could be up and running as early as August 2015.
In terms of the company’s plans, it is understood that Aidou Telecom will look to offer voice and data services at prices some 40% lower than the country’s incumbent cellco’s – Orange Mali, Malitel and Alpha Telecom. Further, it has also set out its stall to be locally owned, with at least 50% of the would-be MVNO’s shareholders expected to be Malian.