MTN Benin – Empowerment Through Connection
With a young market and rapidly developing technology, MTN Benin is working to stay ahead of the curve.
For over 20 years MTN Benin has been the market leader in Benin, focused on delivering digital solutions for the Beninese supported by a strong core offering in the voice, data and fintech markets.
“We have 7 million subscribers and close to 4 million mobile money subscribers,” points out Uche Ofodile, CEO of MTN Benin.
This strong customer base allows MTN Benin to enact Ofodile’s real passion, investing back into the country. The MTN Benin Foundation has made over 6 billion CFA francs in investments over the last decade.
“We see our position not just as a business, but as part of the local landscape. Our goal is to ensure every person in the country has online access,” Ofodile tells us.
It has been an uphill effort to catch up the local market and infrastructure on ten years of technology. MTN Benin has taken the market through 2g, 3g, and 4g, has introduced fintech such as mobile money and is looking towards 5G.
“We’re starting to see 5G be launched in South Africa, Nigeria, and we’re hopeful that the conversation will come to Benin soon, and we hope to launch it as well,” Ofodile says. “We grow with our customers. As they learn new skills, we provide them with new ways of doing things to achieve their ambitions. We do that in a way that is very different from other companies. We ensure our relationship with our stakeholders is not transactional. We look not only from a products and services point of view at what are young people doing but at how we fit with the lives of our consumers.”
Empowering A Young Country
Around the world, telecommunications companies need to pay attention to the younger generations, and the latest evolving uses of communications technology, but this is even more true in Benin than elsewhere.
“Benin has an average age of 18. We have a lot of young people. Their interaction with us will be different and we need to be ready for that,” Ofodile points out. “Finally, the MTN brand is very strong across Africa. It has been here for many years and has grown up with people. For many people, MTN was their first SIM card, and we have evolved as a brand. In the past the brand’s tagline was ‘Everywhere you go’, and we still believe that. But today the question is different. It is about understanding the needs of young people, of the businesses, of the government’s ambitious agenda for Benin. The question now is ‘What are we doing today?’”
The focus on building opportunities for young people can be seen in a project MTN Benin called “Yellow Video”.
“It has become an opportunity for us to showcase not just local content but also our amazing young entrepreneurs across the country,” Ofodile says. “This has been one of our most successful launches in the digital space. It very quickly became something bigger than we expected. Young people really adopted it, showcasing who they are and what they do to the world, and that has been phenomenal.”
For Ofodile, empowerment is clearly a topic that is close to her heart.
“If you just think about what’s happened on the continent over the last decade or more, once people start to have access to data it changes not just the individual but the community and the economy,” she tells us. “If you look at our work from that point of view, you understand the responsibility we hold in our hands.”
Ofodile has seen this first hand, having recently travelled across the north of the country to look at how MTN Benin could expand its network footprint, explaining to local customers the difference between a 2G and a 4G site, and how it enables people to do so much more for business, education, and healthcare.
“We talk about value-based investments,” she says. “We know when we add in new technology, the world of opportunities that opens to people across the country. It opens opportunities for each individual, their families and communities. That for me is what empowerment is about.”
She points to the difference mobile money has made in Benin, leaving behind the days when people would have to send money to their families by bus, rather than transmitting it instantaneously across the country.
“Someone in the far north can sell services to someone hours away, where just a few years ago that would have been impossible,” Ofodile points out. “We are opening opportunities for people who are not in the centre of the country. I am very passionate about this. Technology creates a degree of equity in the ecosystem. It allows people access to new opportunities. We believe everyone should have those opportunities, and ‘everyone’ is the key word there.”
A Rapidly Changing World
The challenge is that MTN Benin is racing towards a moving finish line, the technology, and the environment it exists in, is constantly in a state of change.
“The technology is changing very quickly, and the way people use technology changes with it,” Ofodile says. “You have to make sure to stay on the cutting edge of digital and information security to make sure that your customers can use the technology safely. There is a lot of discussion about child safety and right-to-privacy. How do you ensure that as you continue to provide access across the country? The issues change and it is very important to stay ahead of the curve.”
It is not just about the technology, but the rules that apply to that technology.
“The speed of changing technology means that sometimes you have this challenge of technology running faster than the regulation,” says Ofodile. “How do you continue to work closely with various governing bodies and regulatory agencies to ensure alignment on where the technology is going and what needs to happen around that?”
As well as technological and regulatory developments, the market itself is undergoing big changes.
“We are expecting new competitors. Historically we have had one main competitor, but we are expecting a second operator to enter the market,” Ofodile tells us. “There are also a lot of fintech companies across Africa looking to see how they can evolve, and Benin is not out of that race. Companies are coming into Benin offering all kinds of new fintech products and services.”
MTN Benin is invigorated by these new entrants into the market and is responding with ambitious proposals of its own in the form of the Ambition 2025 strategy.
“It concerns transitioning from being a telecommunication company to a tech firm, centring connectivity as a free offering,” Ofodile tells us. “We will continue to invest in technology because if you want to be a platform business and believe access is a key pillar you must have second-to-none technology. Ultimately, you will see we lean into providing digital solutions for the Beninese people.”