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Carriers Vie for African Mobile Markets

Date: 1/28/2008 2:44:03 AM

Several cellular service providers are expanding operations in Africa as a new mobilephone manufacturing plant was announced in Zambia, sparking fresh hope that increasing competition will help bring down the cost of telecommunications in a swath of African countries.

Luxembourgbased Millicom International Cellular and Warid Telecom of the United Arab Emirates are launching services in several countries in Africa including Uganda, CongoBrazzaville, Chad, Ghana, Tanzania and Senegal, said company officials this week.

Warid Telecom President Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan said the company plans investments of US$1 billion.

"We aim to become the biggest mobile phone company in the countries we are operating and eventually the whole Africa," Al Nahayan said.

In Uganda, for example, the company has already invested $250 million. This includes setting up 380 base stations around the country out of a planned total investment of $400 million there.

Meanwhile, Millicom is building a wireless network, which would help in creation of both a telecom and economic infrastructure, said company CEO Marc Beuls. Beuls said that African countries are in favor of spending money on mobile networks this year in order to improve telecommunications.

The launch of the two international mobile companies brings to five the number of international mobile communication companies serving the African region, include Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN), Celtel International and Vodacom.

Meanwhile, Zambias minister of commerce, trade and industry this week announced the establishment of a mobilephone assembling plant in the country that will be exporting phones to countries in southern and eastern Africa.

Commerce and trade minister Felix Mutati said that M mobile, a Malaysian cellular phone manufacturing company, will assemble about 500,000 units annually for local use and for export to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) regions.

The plant is expected to be operational by the end of this year and will become the first mobilephone assembling plant in the SADC and COMESA region. The COMESA region has 21 countries, including Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The plant will be established in partnership with Melcome, a Zambian company.

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