Etisalat to 9mobile: The Story of ups and downs
Etisalat came into Nigeria with an accentuated fanfare. It was not hard to know that a new telecommunication giant was in town. As an early adopter and bought one of their first series of 0809ja sim cards, I chose the network because I didn’t fancy the ultimate dominance of the number one network as this made them very stiff to innovation, pricing. 11 years later, evangelizing for the brand and daring loyalty, I was ultimately disappointed and had no other choice than to move over to another network.
How Etisalat became 9mobile
In September 2007, Arabian Business ran a story detailing how the UAE telecoms operator Etisalat Group was entering Nigeria as part of a strategic partnership with Mubadala Development Company, an investment vehicle owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.
Etisalat Group was to hold 40% of the company, Mubadala 30%, and the remaining 30% was to remain with Nigerian investors. At the time, mobile penetration stood at a meager 20% (today it is between 94% and 107% depending on which figures you trust), and Etisalat was the third biggest fixed-line service provider and fifth largest mobile operator in the country.
Etisalat Nigeria launched with a lot of Nigerian style, including the 0809ja chant. The adverts literally gave goose pimples and broad smiles. The old and young were not left out.
I subscribed to the Etisalat Nigeria network in 2009. Smooth!
Nigeria was boasting of a 7% GDP growth rate increasing oil revenue and stable currency at the time, this timing could not be more right to get a loan to expand the business and make more profit cashing in on the booming economy.
In 2013, a consortium of about 13 Nigerian banks led by Access Bank, GTB, and Zenith Bank gave Etisalat a syndicated loan of $1.3 billion. This loan was expected to help refinance its existing loans and finance its working capital. $650 million was set aside for refinancing and the balance for network expansion.
The Etisalat Nigeria brand was projected as one that intended to weave into every bit of the African society, The Etisalat price for excellence saw that top-performing university students in certain areas such as Electrical Engineering were awarded substantial sums of money in form of scholarships.
There was also the much-coveted Etisalat Prize for literature. The Etisalat Prize for Literature(2013-2016) celebrates new writers of African citizenship whose first fiction book (more than 30,000 words in length) was published in the previous 24 months. The prize accepts any printed production in book form of any type or genre, written in English or published in English translation. Authors and their publishers can be based anywhere in the world. These awards were that of careful thought and rewarded writers by giving more recognition to their work.
The winner of the 9mobile Prize for Literature receives £15,000, a Samsung Galaxy Note, and an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück. In line with the prize’s vision of promoting upcoming writers, 9mobile sponsors a book tour to three African cities for the winning writer and shortlisted writers. The winning writer is also awarded the 9mobile Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, mentored by Professor Giles Foden, which includes significant opportunities to meet other writers, publishers and work on a second book. Shortlisted writers win a Samsung Galaxy Note and also embark on a book tour to two major African cities.
True to the vision, etisalat Nigeria has achieved something truly phenomenal, The network was easily the fastest broadband speed, reasonable network coverage and growing customer base. However, the economy was not as promising as it started. By 2015 the etisalt nigeria customer base was about 20 million strong and growing at a 2% YoY rate. This was impressie
Q4 2016, Etisalat lost 2 million subscribers and 3% of its Market Share. From 16% in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 13% by the fourth quarter of 2016.
Q1 2017, Etisalat lost a further 1 million subscribers and dropped to 12% market share.
Four years after the 2013 loan from the 13 Nigerian bank consortium, the economy has not been so good and the excessive currency devaluation was particularly harder of dollar debts.
By June 2017, the lenders to etisalat Nigeria had gotten enough of the drama and wanted an out. The company had defaulted in the loan repayment and
On Monday 3rd of July 2017, it was announced that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had finally taken over “highly indebted Etisalat Nigeria Ltd.” This follows the resignation of the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Matthew Willsher, and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Mr Wole Obasunloye.
All through the year 2019, 9mobile bled customers, it has been unable to get a grip of its ever shrinking customer base.
The future of 9mobile
The year 2020 has seen most of the telecommunications companies gain profits with massive margins. What does this hold for the 9mobile entity?
I am keeping the hopes high and look to switch back to the network when the services improve. This story will be updated as more information unfolds and we look to keep you updated- Subscribe to our nwsletter to be the first to get these updates.
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