CI Telecom, a subsidiary of Orange, is the market leader in the rapidly growing telecoms sector in Cote d'Ivoire. In this interview with Worldfolio, General Manager of Orange-CI Telecom speaks about the telecoms sector in his country, his company's leading position within it and its innovative Orange Money service. Already used by 2.5 million customers, it is revolutionizing the way in which people pay for products and services and make cash transfers
After many years of crisis, Côte d’Ivoire has returned to economic growth. What has been, according to you, the recipe for the success?
To me, the growth in the African countries rests on the stability – the conditions of which the States create through strong political wills. In the case of Cote d’Ivoire, it is obvious. As a matter of fact, the stability of this country up to the 90s allowed it to build quality infrastructure: roads, ports, schools hospitals, power plants.
Unfortunately, for more than 10 years, there has not been a real investment in these fields. Today, the state is reinvesting in infrastructure, these are the signs of a return to economic growth.
The sector of telecommunication has been one of the mainstays of the economy. How does Cote d’Ivoire compare with some other countries of West Africa?
Ghana has a rate of penetration of about 100 %, in Côte d’Ivoire, we have 22 million inhabitants; about 18 million customers for 6 operators in activity. It is therefore a very dynamic sector with a rate of penetration of 89%.
Compared to other countries in West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire had a delay on the passing of some regulations and in the implementation of some new technologies, like 3G. But we have caught up.
CI Telecom is the leader in telecommunications in Cote d’Ivoire, a market in which there is tough competition. What have been the factors for your success in Côte d’Ivoire?
The main factor for our success is, undeniably, investment. It represents today 20% of our annual turnover, and helps us to assure that we have the best network coverage and the best quality of service anywhere in Côte d’Ivoire. This factor is significant and will allow us to cover 95% of the population and more than75 % of the territory in GSM.
The second factor is our position as number one in innovation. We created a technology center and an Orange Service Group which works with several local incubators to develop and make new services emerge.
The third reason for our success is based on the men and women of our enterprise. We pay very particular attention to the quality of our human resources and to their welfare.
Do you believe that the customer relationship is a decisive factor?
Above the prices fixed and the removal of tax of the equipments, the customer relationship remains also an important axis. From one part, I remain convinced that in a market where the operators propose in general, practically the same service, the difference depends on the customer relationship; that is certain. We give priority to the customer relationship.
In the west, they hardly use cash anymore for everyday transactions: but rather the debit or credit cards. In Africa, it is completely the opposite; cards are almost non-existent and they prefer to use cash money. Orange Money experienced very rapid development because of its social impact. With multiple uses, the service enables the transfer of money, to pay for purchases and invoices; Orange Money is today used by more than 2.5 million customers and there are 200,000 transactions per day through this service.
That is why we work for the opening of many other service points, to facilitate these operations, to bring the services closer to our customers and create jobs. Orange Money is a true success story made possible in partnership with a local bank.
According to you, are there any opportunities for partnership with British business in the sector of telecommunication in Côte d’Ivoire?
As you know, Orange was initially an English brand. Therefore, I remain convinced that the prospects for collaboration remain innumerable in the areas of services, customer service, the training of human resources – areas in which the United Kingdom has well-known advantage.
Please tell us about the foundation that you created. What areas does it focus on and what are the projects undertaken by the foundation that you are most proud of to date?
The foundation Orange-CI Telecom was created in 2006 and focuses in the areas of health, education and culture. Up to this day, we have undertaken more than 275 projects all over the country.
In 2012 we initiated the “project village” which consists in endowing villages at the same time with a village water pump, a health care center and a school. Five villages have already benefited from these facilities. We collaborate with the state through the technical ministries (infrastructure, education, health). I shall mention the UNFPA, our partner which equips all the health care centers that we achieve. It is a major project we are proud of that has helped to substantially improve the quality of life for rural communities. It has anyway been retained by the Orange group as a model of good practice of business sponsorship and will be duplicated in other subsidiaries.
How do you see Orange-CI Telecom in a short term?
I see Orange-CI Telecom as, like now, the leader in telecommunication in Cote d’Ivoire. I also see the workers being proud of their enterprise, an enterprise more known as socially responsible in all areas. Because of that, it must keep on contributing to the development of the country. In short; we will remain simply the nation’s preferred operator.