MTN may quit South Sudan because people there are buying bread instead of mobile phones


MTN, the troubled South African telecoms group, is paring back its operations in South Sudan, blaming currency volatility and economic turmoil.

After investing over $170 million over the past two years, Africa’s biggest mobile phone firm has failed to generate a profit in Africa’s newest nation. Its struggles have forced the company to cut its workforce in South Sudan from 170 to 80 people, and halt plans to build 40 communications towers across the country.

On Tuesday, (Mar. 29) Khumbulani Dhlomo, head of corporate services at MTN, told reporters in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, that its subscriber base was in decline. “People now have to choose between buying a phone, buying airtime, and buying bread,” he said.

South Sudan gained independence from the north in 2011, ending one of the continent’s most entrenched conflicts. But the hopes that came with independence quickly dissipated as divisions within the new country’s political leadership led to a civil war in 2013 that left thousands dead. A peace deal struck last August between Salva Kiir Mayardit, the country’s president, and rebels loyal to ex-vice president Riek Machar ushered in an uneasy truce.
Source: Quartz Africa 30 March 2016