SES opens new Africa office


Global satellite operator SES has opened an office in Johannesburg with newly appointed Africa head Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou at the helm. The office is situated at Montecasino and will complement two other SES offices in Africa – one in Ghana and another to be opened in an East African city yet to be confirmed.

Guimba-Saidou, who has spent the last 15 years working at Intelsat, presented the SES vision for Africa at a media lunch held in Sandton on 21 May.

“As a group SES is merging its various components to mobilise resources in order to better serve our customers all over the world,” he stated. “ICT has played a big role in Africa and we’re a firm believer that the continent is in a new era. SES is very excited about investing in the region and our strategy is based on what we believe will drive the industry in Africa over the next few years.

“Our vision is clear – not only do we believe in Africa but we want to do business here in the best possible way. This means bringing the best technology to Africa as cost-effectively as possible.”

Guimba-Saidou noted that one of the main drivers of satellite is to consistently ensure that viewers have the best quality images when watching TV. SES also has to ensure 100% coverage in all of its footprints.

He continued: “SES currently has eight satellites covering Africa. On 14 February SES-4 was launched to extend the reach of French broadcaster Canal+. SES-5 will be launched soon to facilitate more free-to-air (FTA) satellite stations in Africa. In addition Astra 2-F will be launched a bit later in the year. All these satellites were created with the vision of how better to serve Africa.”

According to Guimba-Saidou more and more TV licences have been granted across Africa and pay-TV is also increasing. “There is a growing demand for government-related services like education and health and strong demand for broadband and rural connectivity. I don’t like the term ‘rural’ because of its negative connotations – I prefer the term non-urban.

“People living in non-urban areas need the same services as urban dwellers. Suddenly Africa has become the goldmine not only for satellite companies but telcos as well. SES must meet Africa’s demands and bring capacity where it makes the most sense. We want to help bridge the digital divide and connect the unconnected. SES wants to bring TV into African homes.”

At the moment there are one million TV homes in Africa served by SES and the operator transmits 526 channels on the continent. There are more than 60 FTA channels in 40 African countries.

“Satellite should play a bigger role in Africa. There used to be a perception that satellite is expensive but that’s no longer the case. Most of the mobile phone subscriptions in Africa are thanks to satellite and there are close to one billion mobile users in Africa. The use of satellite can impact significantly on a country’s gross domestic product (GDP),” commented Guimba-Saidou.

SES Media Relations manager for Africa Kirstin Steffen noted that according to the latest SES research satellite has overtaken terrestrial and cable as having the most receivers in Europe.

“More than 150 million homes in Europe are connected by satellite,” explained Steffen. “There is also the concept of satellite direct-to-home (DTH) services and satellite is very useful when it comes to transmitting high definition (HD) programming because of the large bandwidth required. During the last five years satellite penetration in Africa increased by 16% while cable and IPTV penetration rates are marginal and will remain low.”

Both she and Guimba-Saidou stressed that satellite is cost-effective, technology-agnostic and can feed terrestrial towers. “It can thus be used to complement digital terrestrial television (DTT) roll-out in a country. We have been in contact with the various South African authorities regarding the country’s impending migration to DTT,” they said.