Interview with Mamadou Bamba, Chief Executive Officer of Orange Côte d'Ivoire
What is Orange-CI?
The group Orange - Côte d'Ivoire Telecom offers fixed, mobile, and Internet services in Côte d'Ivoire. The results prove that Côte d'Ivoire Telecom's leadership is one of the major companies and economic operators in the country.
The group's approach to clients and its corporate behavior is based on five fundamental values that guide the company's actions: audacity, dynamism, simplicity, proximity, and transparency. These values are playing a paramount role in influencing the group's communication and allowing them to build a successful brand.
The group constitutes more than just logos and a plethora of specific colors. It gives life to a project founded on the principles of a true corporate culture.
Every day, the group's employees strive to offer the best to their clients in order to satisfy their needs and to maximize the benefits of Orange-Côte d'Ivoire Telecom's services.
The government's mission is to transform the country during the next decade so that it can be a knowledge based economy. What is the state of the telecom sector, and what are the opportunities?
The telecom and ICT sector is one of the most important sectors in Côte d'Ivoire. In the future, the sector is going to play a crucial role in social and economic development and in the transformation of the country.
The sector's revenue currently represents up to 5% of the country's GDP. The greatest concern in the industry is the mobile market itself. With five operators, seven granted licenses, and a population of 21 million, the market is oversaturated with operators. Overall, the industry is performing well as compared to other sectors of the economy. There has been significant job creation upstream and downstream in the industry. For example, as the sector grows more sophisticated and develops retailers and distributors, it leads to job creation.
What are some of the problems the ICT sector is facing?
... we make our clients' lives simpler. How do we achieve that? For one, there was the launch of mobile banking and the bonus zone, which allows populations to communicate at relatively low rates. We're always looking for other ways to innovate.
The greatest problem lies in the assignment of frequencies, or in other words, quality. Too many operators and too many distributed licenses translate into lower quality because the resources in frequencies are not as great. However, there are opportunities. With market penetration at 71%, there is growth potential, the market is not oversaturated. As it happens, there exists such a thing as a "Fonds National des Télécommunications"(National Telecommunication Fund) which should allow infrastructure development in the "white" zones of the country and in the remote areas. There are growth opportunities in those regions.
What is the group's business strategy? How does Orange-Côte d'Ivoire to be number one before its competitors?
The Orange group strategy is quite simple: innovation and quality of service. Orange-Côte d'Ivoire Telecom enacts this strategy by aunching as many new products as possible. Orange group and France Telecom worked together to establish a technology centre in Côte d'Ivoire that will open in January 2012 and will allow us to launch products and contents that are attractive to clients. These actions all encompass innovation.
Furthermore, Orange-CI has always focused its attention on maximizing quality of service. The network was destroyed, but within the span of five months, Orange was able to rebuild it. The group wishes to reinstate this quality of service on its three services: mobile, Internet, and stationary.
What distinguishes Orange from other operators?
Orange has a very strong brand that is found all across the continent in as many as 17 African countries. The Orange group is also present in Europe. Moreover, Orange makes its clients' lives simpler. How does it achieve that? For one, there was the launch of mobile banking and the bonus zone, which allows populations to communicate at relatively low rates. We are always looking for other ways to innovate.
When it comes to innovation and making life simpler, Orange launched mobile insurance through an insurance company not long ago so that as many people as possible can benefit from this life insurance. We plan to continue in the same direction so that our clients can have access to a maximum of "life" services.
What is your medium-term and long-term strategy?
The strategy is to create a convergent, integrated operator with all three services (fixed, Internet, and mobile). Orange also wants its clients to have the best possible quality of service.
The group has to consider everything. For example, the development of broadband mobile has been hamstrung by many internal factors. Côte d'Ivoire is late when it comes to data mobile and broadband mobile technologies. Orange cannot develop content at a techno centre without an interface that allows high-speed navigation. Orange CI was chosen by Apple itself to launch the iPhone in Côte d'Ivoire. As of today, iPhones are used with EDGE networks. We must be able to ensure high-speed connection with a 3G network in order to maximize the customer benefit from using these devices. The iPad has already made its mark worldwide on the market, alongside the iPhone and other future products.
This is why Orange must get this broadband mobile technology in Côte d'Ivoire and make up for lost time.
Is Orange's innovation (iPhones, iPads) and strategy truly geared towards this less sophisticated market?
Yes and no. Today there is a genuine demand for information and content. The information, especially in the Ivorian context, can save lives. Orange witnessed such a reality during the crisis when information shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media allowed people to save lives and make it through the post-electoral crisis. People got the right information at the right time. This is why it is important, and this is why Orange needs to make up for its disadvantage. The group can catch up very quickly.
How does the group approach the question of sustainable development and social responsibility?
It is important to note that Orange CI and Côte d'Ivoire Télécom were the first to launch a foundation in Côte d'Ivoire with the mission to improve health, education, and culture. The group has created a social responsibility department for the company, bearing witness to its constant interest in the CRS. The department allows Orange to maximize and aggregate the CRS activities.
Orange initiated a number of actions that were slowed down by the crisis with the aid of "ekophones", which allowed villagers to have their own date centers to make and receive calls along with other features. Through some of the group's interfaces, business women were able to learn how to sell their products, transfer funds, and secure their revenues. Finally, Orange is trying to reduce its use of plastic bags in favor of biodegradable bags. In 2012, the company will mark a new era of corporate social responsibility.
What is your approach to corporate clients as opposed to individuals? What does Orange have more than its competitors?
Orange has a corporate line of services, Orange Businesses, which allows the group to have the best possible network through its fixed infrastructures. For one, Fiber optics networks allows us to provide banks and a number of agencies with a considerably high bandwidth. Orange Business Services can do it and knows how to do it.
In Côte d'Ivoire, we are very lucky to have the sea nearby. Orange is now the owner of an underwater cable. We are also about to launch a SCAN cable between Europe and Africa, which will enable an even greater speed starting from the beginning of 2012 and thus reducing costs. From then on, quality will peak and prices will go down for bandwidth.
In the months to come, it should become possible to make calls between Côte d'Ivoire and any country or continent without having to move or bring in IT teams. This possibility truly is cost optimization for Orange Businesses.