Marcopolis presents the Ivory Coast Report featuring interviews with key executives and government officials. The sectors under review are industry, telecom, banking, capital markets, IT, oil and gas, agriculture, services, transportation, energy and more.
French Company Orange is Leading in the Global Digital Technology Sector
A country with potential and a company with resources
The technology sector continues to grow in West African countries where past political instability and social unrest still effects its economy. Ivory Coast, in particular, is a recent model of a country with a growing and profitable ICT (Information and Communications Technology) sector. It also boasts a 70% mobile penetration rate in the country (one of the reasons the ICT market is dominated by mobile use). Because it is West Africa's third largest Internet market, companies from around the world are considering it as a prime location for a long-term presence. Orange, a french based digital operator, is at the forefront of the country's recent success in digital innovation and a growing ICT sector.
Because innovation in digital technology is growing in West Africa, Bruno Nabagné Kone, Minister of Posts and ICT in Ivory Coast, says that right now is an ideal time to invest in the country's technology sector. He says the instability in the country is coming to a halt, so the entire economy is expected to grow at higher rates than ever before. Also, the ICT sector is fully liberated from public operators and the government is only a small shareholder in the former operator.
Orange is committed to being a social and economic leader in the industry by bridging the gap between the people who have Internet access and those who don't have the means to getting digital services such as mobile devices and broadband Internet.
In an earlier interview conducted by Marcopolis, Minister Kone says “2015 is the year to develop the internet and to ensure the telecommunications sector continues to grow because it contributes to the future wealth of Ivory Coast.”
Orange is one of the top technology operators in this fast-changing country driven by technology through the Internet and mobile devices. It sees the potential and the future benefits that technology has to offer for the people of Ivory Coast and other African countries. With Ivory Coast vowing to be a knowledge-based economy within the next ten years and Orange striving to target communities that lack resources, the ICT sector has the potential to grow beyond Ivory Coast and to other West African countries.
Innovation at the forefront
As one of the largest mobile and internet operators in Europe and Africa, Orange is spreading its digital resources beyond its home borders of France. Because Orange strives to provide digital and mobile access to all communities the group is present in, Orange is paving the way for people living in remote places to have Internet access. With large swaths of Africa without Internet access and little to no modern technologies, there is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people untouched by the benefits of digital technology.
Out of the 7.3 billion people living on earth, 4.3 billion people still are without Internet access, 90 percent of them living in emerging countries, a geographic digital divide is created. Companies like Orange are expanding fixed and mobile networks to people in need of Internet and mobile access. Orange is committed to being a social and economic leader in the industry by bridging the gap between the people who have Internet access and those who don't have the means to getting digital services such as mobile devices and broadband Internet.
To combat the lack of financial resources and avenues to grow in digital innovation, Orange is helping African countries get better connection to the Internet through a project that is putting undersea cables from Penmarch (Brittany, France) to Cape Town (South Africa). Orange together with other 20 other members of the ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) consortium completed the second phase of the deployment of the ACE cable. Orange owns approximately a 40% stake in the ACE cable.
As a leader in digital endeavors, Orange Marine is only one of several companies that are capable to do this specialized work. Currently, Orange has a fleet of six cable-ships which operate mainly in the Mediterranean basin, the Atlantic and the Northern Europe zone.
The ACE cable is changing the way African countries can communicate with the rest of the world as well as provide more opportunities for economic growth. Its primary purpose is to expand the broadband internet access in Africa and to provide additional Internet capacity to existing national networks in African countries.
Nicole Clarke, Senior Public Relations Manager at Orange, says the construction of the cable is a vector of social development and economic growth. “The ACE cable will reduce the cost of access to international telecommunications networks, thereby removing a major barrier to the Internet's development in Africa,” says Clarke. “It is also closely aligned with Orange’s ambition to democratize internet access in Africa and narrow the digital divide between the two continents.”
The cable stretches 17,000 kilometers and by the end of the second phase it will extend to South Africa. Since the first phase was launched back in December 2012, seven of the connected countries (Gambia, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tome, Principe and Sierra Leone) have had direct connection to a submarine cable. Because of this cable, it has enabled them to access the international broadband network in a more efficient, faster way.
The ACE cable uses the latest fiber optic technology to provide better high-speed broadband internet quality than the traditional satellite source. The cable is placed close to 6,000 meters below sea level. Its wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) technology makes it possible to increase its capacity according to the various needs of its host countries. With WDM, the cable capacity can be increased without going back under the sea to fix the cables. As the internet and mobile technology evolves in African countries, this cable provides more flexibility in capacity and growth.
The ACE cable plays a specific role in connecting the West Coast of Africa with Europe and the development of such networks plays an important role in Orange’s ambition to democratize internet access (narrowband and broadband) in Africa and narrow the digital divide between the two continents.
Clarke explains that the impact of the telecommunications on countries' economic progress is well-documented. Many of the countries that are now reached by the cable do not have any kind of fixed landline infrastructure in place so this enables countries to have another avenue to digital access. “With the arrival of high-speed broadband via the ACE cable reaching 18 countries, either directly or indirectly, the possibilities for businesses and individuals alike are boundless,” Clarke says.
The future of broadband Internet in Africa is expected to grow due to the addition of the ACE cable. In total investment, the cable's construction amounts to around USD 700 million for the consortium, with around USD 250 million financed by Orange and its subsidiaries. This major investment furthers two of Orange's strategic objectives when it comes to digital innovation: to provide widespread access to the internet in more than 20 African countries where Orange is present, and to continue to improve the quality of its network service, which would provide additional benefits for its users across Africa. “The ACE cable plays a specific role in connecting the West Coast of Africa with Europe and the development of such networks plays an important role in Orange’s ambition to democratize internet access (narrowband and broadband) in Africa and narrow the digital divide between the two continents,” Clarke says.
Looking to the future through social responsibility
Orange is continually leading the global market through digital innovation that changes the lives of its customers worldwide. Beyond its technological and digital additions like the ACE cable, Orange's commitment to improving the lives of others through digital access remains a primary goal in all of its endeavors.
Operating in 12 countries (China, Ivory Coast, Egypt, the US, France, India, Japan, Jordan, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom and Tunisia), Orange's strategy and expertise is creating networks through local players in communities such as universities, company and start-ups. As the global digital revolution continues to grow, Orange is finding solutions that would make it easier for communities spanning countries to communicate easier and more efficiently.
A country with a high percentage of mobile phone users shows potential for a growing economy and residents who are versed in mobile technology. For example, out of the 22 million inhabitants in Ivory Coast, about 18 million are customers to telecommunications operators.
In Ivory Coast, the French phrase “faire un Orange Money” to mean a money transfer is now common to many Ivorians. Launched back in 2008, Orange Money is the the first ever mobile payment service. Customers and individuals convert their money for storage in an electronic wallet which enables them to do secure transfers. In countries where the number of people with bank accounts is relatively low (less than 24% in sub-Saharan Africa) this service allows the 13 million Orange Money users to have mobile access. In 2014 alone, there were more than 4.5 billion euros' worth of transactions completed. With Orange Money available in 13 countries (Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Guinea, Jordan, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia), the service is expected to spread in other developing countries.
In looking to the future, Orange continues to push the boundaries in the technology and digital industry, while helping countries establish an infrastructure that welcomes digital tools such as mobile devices and Internet networks.
Investing in the future generation of digital innovators is something that Orange is committed to. Because of lack of funds available for young entrepreneurs in the tech field, some don't have the opportunity to see their project come to fruition, but with Orange's new program, Orange Fab, launched in 2015, young entrepreneurs are able to carry out their projects that add value to the future of digital innovation.
It focuses on stimulating investment through financing young businesses that are transforming the work of telecommunications and digital operators. This program addresses business that are in transition from seed funding to corporate private equity players. It allows Orange to be at the heart of digital innovation by engaging young entrepreneurs and tech start-ups. It gives four Ivorian start-ups six months of exceptional working conditions, access to experienced coaches, and over 400 renowned industry mentors working in the digital industry.
In looking to the future, Orange continues to push the boundaries in the technology and digital industry, while helping countries establish an infrastructure that welcomes digital tools such as mobile devices and Internet networks. Because Orange's business is a central part of people's lives worldwide, the group continues to meet the expectations of its stakeholders both on an individual and societal level.