FT looking to champion rural access across Africa

French telecoms heavyweight France Telecom (FT) has set out an ambitious plan to become the ‘champion of rural Africa’, through the introduction of low-cost products and services aimed at doubling its sales there by 2015. The Financial Times writes that FT is pinning its hopes on a dramatic expansion in key, fast-growing African and Middle Eastern markets to offset a gradual decline in its traditional cash cows – its domestic fixed line and mobile operations. The Paris-based outfit yesterday elaborated on a strategy designed to double its revenues in the region – which reached USD4.7 billion in 2009 – through the installation of new networks, which it hopes will lead to the addition of masses of low-income rural customers using its Orange-brand mobile internet services. FT said its priority was organic growth rather than large-scale acquisitions. However, earlier this year the group’s CEO Stephane Richard said that up to two-thirds of the additional revenues he is targeting from the Middle East and Africa by 2015 would come from acquisitions. In September 2010 the French group acquired a 40% stake in Meditel, Morocco’s second largest operator. Today, FT has around 55 million users in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East.