By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. February 15, 2013: Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Chairman of Etisalat Nigeria has admitted that it will be difficult for any operator to overtake the market lead of MTN Nigeria because of the huge gap between the number one mobile phone company and its market rivals.
The millionaire entrepreneur who graced the cover of the February edition of Forbes Africa magazine admits in an interview with the magazine that while his company Etisalat, the last entrant into the market, has ramped up over over 14 million active connections, he doubts any rival catching up with MTN Nigeria owned by South Africa’s MTN Group.
The magazine quotes Belo-Osagie as describing the challenges of catching up with the telecoms market leader by subscriber numbers as “a management and intellectual challenge which he enjoys.”
According to Forbes, with an air of confidence that is almost palpable, the Etisalat Chairman offers a concise analysis of the industry and admits that, “Realistically, I don’t think that any company can beat MTN in Nigeria because the gap is very wide between MTN and everybody else.”
Belo-Osagie adds that “and while I think that MTN can improve its quality of service, I think that it has a strong management; there is a real commitment to Nigeria from MTN, and they’ve also done a lot in terms of the development of local staff.”
Belo-Osagie who is ranked among Africa’s richest men with an estimated net worth of $400 million offered a rare insight into the emergence of Etisalat which has today grown to become the number four operator by subscriber numbers.
At the end of December 2012, MTN Nigeria had gained over 48 million active connections on its network, according to the latest market information by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms regulator.
During this period, all the GSM mobile phone operators in Nigeria, MTN, Globacom, the second national operator, Airtel Nigeria; owned by the India’s Bharti Airtel; Etisalat, the GSM market’s last entrant Nigeria and the moribund Mtel ended the year with 109 million subscriber lines.
While MTN had 48 million active lines; Globacom closed 2012 with 24.1 million subscriber lines; Airtel Nigeria with over 23.1 million lines; Etisalat with 14.3 million lines and Mtel had only 259,000 active subscriber lines.
The market information reveals that no competitor has been able to match MTN Nigeria’s market leadership as it controlled 43.5 per cent of the overall GSM market at the end of 2012.
Since MTN and other telecoms companies were licensed in 2001 to provide mobile telecoms services in Nigeria, the operators have continued to make massive investments in network infrastructure across the country.