"The commercial marks of Alizé, Sentoo and Keurgui TV in Senegal and the Sonatel department in Mali are to adopt a joint name: Orange," according to statements by the General Director of Senegal's Sonatel company. The name is part of a broader global rebranding exercise being conducted by the companies’ main shareholder France Telecom.

General Director Cheikh Tidiane Mbaye on Wednesday told the Senegalese press in Dakar that many of the formerly state-owned company's operations would change its branding to "Orange". He announced the "change of visual identity of all the activities within the sector of mobiles, Internet and broadcasting" where Sonatel is engaged in Mali and Senegal.

Mbaye said it was necessary to "unite into an international brand to strengthen its commercial potentials" and considered Orange being a brand of "international reference present in 166 countries with an ample fame." The Sonatel DG added that the decision had only been taken following a large number of debates (it was opposed by the company’s union) and almost 18 months of feasibility studies.

The Sonatel chief however also recognised that the current level of services offered by his company did not meet expectations of either its custumers or of Sonatel itself. But he assured that from today, with the rights to the brand Orange being granted by itsmajority shareholder France Télécom to Sonatel, "essential parts of our efforts will focus on an improvement of the quality of the networks."

The Senegal-based company during the last year has presented quarterly revenue reports around 75 billion franc CFA (euro 114 million). At this stage, therefore, Sonatel's objectives were to offer its clients "a new generation of services" based on convergences that already were technologically possible, including fixed lines, mobile networks, the Internet and broadcasting. But according to Mr Mbaye, "only one global telecom operator can offer all these perspectives of evolution to its clients."

Asked about the costs of this new move, the director did not want to go into details and limited himself to emphasise that shareholder France Télécom had supported the change of brand in several ways, including financially. He added that Sonatel was investing in this transformation to increase its revenues.

Being the dominant market leader in Senegal and holding around 75 percent of national subscribers, Sonatel hopes to be able to increase the customer basis even more by this change of branding. In Mali, Sonatel is the most important private player on the telecom market where it owns Ikatel. It challenges the state company Sotelma but claims to have 85% of the all-important mobile market. All Ikatel operations will change their name to Orange.

In Senegal, however, the mother company will not change its name and Sonatel "remains the brand of the company," Mr Mbaye underlined. No legal changes for employees or regional offices therefore would have to be implemented, he explained.

afrol News / Le Quotidien