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Africa needs more telecom service providers - many more. The Continent boasts 500 million mobile SIMs and an estimated 500 million more people yet to acquire a telephone connection. Despite an average of four Mobile Network Operators (“MNOs”) per country, Africa’s mobile subscribers are still not serviced adequately.

Conference, after conference, press release after press release, European telecom operators boast discoveries of how best to mitigate their voice revenue declines. After years of giving away broadband for next to nothing, today the very same telcos are fighting tooth and nail, backpedalling even, to reverse the irreversible.

An estimated 1.2 billion of the world’s 5.8 billion mobile subscribers are active mobile broadband users. The business opportunity for telecom operators to sell data services to smartphone users is clear, with e-mail, collaboration and storage type applications as the most obvious. What many market analysts consistently fail to recognise is the opportunity that lies with the 4.6 billion mobile users worldwide who do not have access to latest technology devices.

Being at the most conservative end of the finance community, bankers are expected to be cautious when it comes to lending out their precious funds to new borrowers. These days of course, caution even extends to long-standing relationships, at the dismay of CFOs. Unlike forward-looking equity investors with a ‘riskier’ outlook on life, bankers are backward looking.

ITU estimates 1.2 billion of the world’s 5.8 billion mobile subscribers were active mobile broadband users at the end of 2011. At 20% smartphone penetration, the business opportunity for cloud services to penetrate 1.2 billion subscribers is clear, with e-mail, unified communications, collaboration and storage type services being the most obvious.

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