Vimpelcom out and MTN in? Another multinational operator eyes Zim market

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
Is this operator headed our way? (image credit-

Oh boy, here we go again. Here’s how the story is being told. MTN wants a slice Zimbabwean telecoms and it’s been sniffing around for potential investment opportunities that could lead to it acquiring an interest within our borders. Sound familiar? That’s because we’ve heard it before.

A new report in the Financial Gazette has it on record from authorities in the Ministry of Finance that the regional mobile network operator has been in the country for at least two weeks, with “top-level executives” having been engaged in talks with faces from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, ZESA Holdings and some odd banks. (POSB has been identified as one).

This is not the first time MTN has been in our neighbourhood. First it was Telecel that was a prime target for acquisition, then the MTN/NetOne deal came into play and it lingered for over a year with Bharti Airtel also cited as another interested party in our state-owned mobile network operator.

We know how the story ended then. The deal didn’t happen, apparently because some members of our inclusive government weren’t hot for the deal at the time.

Now the same script is being acted out again, with a somewhat different cast. We’ve got MTN expressing an interest in the sector, meeting with the right people (notice how key aspects of African telecoms like financial services are represented in that cocktail of people courted by MTN) and creating a buzz around “much needed foreign investment”.

It’s easy to dismiss it as another “MTN Returns” thing, but with what has been happening with the Telecel Zimbabwe ownership story, it just might be worth taking a bit seriously. Not too seriously, just a bit.

Seeing that Vimpelcom is in the country to iron out issues surrounding its stake in Telecel (to sell what can and should be sold actually) and a government that says it wants to make reasonable decisions that ensure the continuity of a telecoms enterprise, this could be the one time when MTN is given a slice of the local market.

It would be prudent at the end of the day to have a player like MTN on board because with Vimpelcom out of the picture, the entire roster of current and potential investors left in Telecel doesn’t look geared for long-term investments in telecoms.

With all the hype that might follow the possibilities of MTN in Zimbabwe, I wouldn’t expect any investment from the African giant into a local telecoms operator to cause an immediate disruption in the market dynamics. That would have only happened if MTN, not TelOne, had been awarded the fourth mobile network operator licence.

If and when MTN does invest in local telecoms, perhaps, its impact will extend to insight on product diversification into anything that’s more than just mobile money. I’m getting ahead of myself here though. The best thing right now is to wait and see how it all unfolds first.

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  1. fourwallsinaroom

    If MTN comes to Zimbabwe, I will be the first to jump ship!

  2. ic0n1c

    Its an exciting prospect though, MTN has a strong reputation in Africa and can push the other telcos to be more competitive and innovative. Hopefully, the “talks” will be positive.

  3. Nqobile Ncube

    I could not have said it any better.

  4. Anonymous

    typo “This is not the first time NTN has been in our neighbourhood” MTN

    1. Nigel Gambanga

      Slip of the pen there! Just fixed it. Thanks for the correction

  5. Bored Zimbo

    at the end there, you mention ‘wait and see’. Reminded me of the time I first heard that phrase sometime early 2000s. I was in high school and the DeadBC anchor would say ‘Investors are taking a wait and see attitude’ ever so often.
    This to me shows that there is never certainty in our country. Which is a necessity for anyone running a business. There is never a time when an announcement is made and everyone jumps in. Nope, everyone has to wait and see if the gvt wont go back on its word, or some other reason.
    Aside: Google searched this phrase “investors * wait and see zimbabwe”

  6. Dee

    I cant wait…

  7. Anonymous

    Excitement is good, regrettably our country is not a business case currently.MTN could be looking at the future, no immediate tangible benefit to the expectant Zim population in terms of employment opportunities, improved service delivery and lower costs. Just to hang on until the time is ripe.. Watch the developments.

  8. joey k

    MTN network sucks. Vodacom would really be a game changer.

  9. anonymous

    MTN had a project to create seamless connectivity in Southern Africa Zimbabwe being the hub site location for this project. This is round about the time they showed interest in Netone. They might be in the country for Telecel or to partner with Telone for the mobile network. With the mess surrounding Telecel, they might go for the later. POSB will most likely be the bank pushing their mobile financial services. This is the reason they are talking to Goverment officials.

  10. Inini

    A 100% MTN licence would have been the best. But with our laws the most they could get is 49%, now imagine working with 51% of the EC group that is the zhwawos, the chiyangwas the makambas ,the mutasas and the so called war vets, if they go for telecel. If vimpelcom failed to control the company with 60% stake, who can with 49%. I will be waiting to see.

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