Telecoms giant Orange confirmed its ambitions to expand its operations in Africa by opening a regional headquarters in Morocco on Wednesday. The firm’s Middle East and Africa (MEA) activities were previously run out of Paris, but will now operate exclusively out of North Africa’s commercial hub, Casablanca, a spokesperson told African Business.
The move “sends a highly symbolic message,” that the French firm wants to be closer to 30% of its customers, signalling “a turning point” in the company’s history, Alioune Ndiaye, the CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa said in a statement.
“[This] provides further proof of our desire to be even closer to our customers and to make Orange MEA the preferred multi-services operator for people in Africa and the Middle East,” he said.
The company hopes to cash in on burgeoning opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile money market. The continent now processes $1.3bn a day in mobile money transactions, more than any other region in the world. Almost half of the world’s mobile money activities (45.6%) take place in the sub-Saharan region. The region also accounts for 49% of the world’s operational mobile money accounts.
The firm sees the continent as “a model for digital transformation,” and said it is keen develop and adapt its digital payments services tailored to local needs. “We have always been convinced of the immense potential of this region,” Ndiaye said.
Orange is present in 18, mainly Francophone, African countries, and only three Middle East countries.
It boasted 121 million customers in the region in 2019, and claims that more than 1 in 10 Africans is an Orange customer. Its mobile-based money transfer platform, Orange Money, is available in 17 African countries, with 45m mostly Francophone customers.
The French mobile operator also hinted that an initial public offering of its MEA unit was on the table, which could take place in Paris or London later this year, Bloomberg reports.
The group has enlisted BNP Paribas and Morgan Stanley as advisers on the potential IPO, which is poised to be one of the biggest listings from the MEA region this year, according to Bloomberg.
Africa and the Middle East are Orange’s fastest-growing markets, with the unit growing at 6% annually and generating 5.2bn euros ($5.9bn) in revenues in 2018 and €4.2bn ($4.7bn) in the opening nine months of 2019, up from €3.8 billion in the same period in 2018.
The group is also considering entering Ethiopia’s telecoms and mobile money services sectors by 2020 as the country plays catch-up with its East African neighbours, chief financial officer Ramon Fernandez told Reuters last year.