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“Angola is leading the development of the ICT sector in Africa”

Interview - July 10, 2014
With over 10 million customers, Unitel is Angola’s leading telecoms company. In an interview with Globus Vision, Deputy CEO and Chief Technology Officer Mr. Amílcar Safeca explains that as the company continues to pioneer Angola’s telecoms sector, the country itself is also leading the ICT sector in the whole of Africa.
The role of the African continent, in this period of western financial instability.

Africa is a continent with a huge potential of people and resources, which is indeed showing itself to the international community. According to macroeconomic studies, African countries, as a whole, present a GDP growth rate of 5.1% in the last 10 years; specifically for southern African countries, which include Angola, the expected growth rate for 2014 is 7.8%.
I believe that, in the coming years, due to the greater political stability in most countries, with investments that are being made in infrastructures and with a larger regional integration of the African countries, we are going to witness a more active and noticeable role of Africa in a global scale, economically speaking. Many African countries have been showing that they are capable of answering to the international expectations of the market and even exceed them and introduce innovation and wit in the business area.

The competition and potential of the Angolan ICT sector, compared to their homologous neighbours.

Angola is on the lead of the African development in the telecommunication sector. Angola has a relevant geostrategic position that can help to transform it into a hub for the telecommunications in Africa. Two important submarine cables of the West African coast go through Angola, namely SAT-3 and WACS, and there is an ongoing project to implement the first connection between Africa (Angola) and South America (Brazil) through the South Atlantic. In addition, in the last five years, around twenty thousand kilometres of long distance and metropolitan optical fibre were implemented throughout the whole country, with ramifications to neighbour countries. Unitel has had a very active role in this process, with a high-speed network that spreads itself though fifteen out of the eighteen Angolan provinces. Unitel provides mobile voice and data services in every city in Angola. In the main cities there are third (3G) and fourth generation (LTE) broadband services. Through Unitel, Angola was one of the four countries to first commercially launch LTE in Africa and the first to present LTE-Advanced in a commercial network.

Direct impact of the telecommunication sector on the economical growth of the Angolan nation.

Even though there are no official statistical data, I estimate that the number of direct jobs in the ICT sector in Angola is between ten and fifteen thousand and the indirect jobs are between forty and sixty thousand. It is a significant amount of people, and the number should grow considerably in the next years, along with the expected growth of the market. ICT are essential to the functioning of the modern economy, therefore the main public and private investments made in this area during the last years in Angola will help companies be more efficient and competitive and aid the emergence of new businesses and the economical growth of the country. In the future, ICT will be present in every aspect of the human life and in Angola it won’t be different.
Nowadays, mobile phone penetration in Angola is of about 70%, of which Unitel holds 75% of the market share.

In which way has Unitel contributed to the development of the Angolan provinces and telecommunications sector?

Unitel is the leading mobile operator in Angola. Having 13 years of existence, it already has more than 10 million clients and is increasingly closer to Angolans. With network coverage in every municipal capitals of the country, Unitel has been expanding its signal, making it possible for more and more Angolans to make mobile calls and have internet access. Unitel’s priority is to enlarge the coverage of its telecommunications network and the company stores to all national territory, by investing in new infrastructures and in the continuous improvement of the quality of its services.
This national presence has, undoubtedly, modified the way people communicate, in various places in Angola and, consequentially, it has contributed to the provinces development.
I believe that the telecommunications sector has in fact allowed a huge impact in the development of the country, not only by creating more jobs, but also by providing communication networks that are essential for a developed society, and by introducing great innovation to the way people and companies communicate.
Moreover, through our corporate social responsibility, we have been working in several social projects, such as providing Internet in schools.

Unitel’s historical challenges and successes, since its creation in 2001.

The telecommunication infrastructure network in Angola has had a remarkable development throughout the last decade, for which Unitel has contributed significantly.
Thirteen years ago, when Unitel was created, there were few Angolans that could easily communicate with their families and friends. There were no communication towers like we have today, nor quality connection cables, not even enough information on the matter. Nowadays, we reach millions of Angolans with our network signal, of which 10 million are already our clients that have the possibility of easily making phone calls or to access the internet.
During the 13 years of serving its clients, Unitel has had several important moments, among which I stress the first call and the network inauguration made by His Excellency the President of Angola, Mr. José Eduardo Dos Santos, on March 8th, 2001. On April 2nd of the same year the commercial operation was launched. Other milestones were the beginning of the expansion to the provinces like Benguela, in 2002, and the coverage of all Angolan cities in 2011. More recently, in December 2013, we’ve reached the 10 million clients landmark. This is is gratifying for all our employees and partner enterprises.

Unitel’s expansion strategy details prioritized international markets and Unitel’s responsibility as Angola ambassador abroad.

Our international expansion has already been made to Cape Verde and to Sao Tome and Principe, and we intend on staying in this path. We have a very strong international orientation and great competitiveness ability towards other international operators.
Unitel has been one the flagships of the Angolan development, all around the world. The fast but sustained development of the company, along with its innovation capacity and international expansion strategy, have allowed to position Unitel on an internationally level and in a very positive way, which is also for us a massive responsibility.

Unitel’s brand and image in Angola and in the international world

A professional marketing policy, that follows the needs of the consumers and presents customized solutions, in a line of communication that gives preference to transparency and modernity, has contributed for Unitel’s growth over time.
We are conscious of the strength that Unitel’s brand has gained – the recognition is already fairly broad. In order to do so, the advertising campaigns in the press, radio and television, the dissemination of information in the streets and stores, the information campaigns and initiatives targeted for the great public – like music festivals, events promotion and the support of national sports and culture – have been very important.
The trust that our clients – 10 million people – place in our brand is by now illustrative of our communication reach, but is also deeply challenging, to the extent that it demands us to be even more rigorous and to present new innovating and accessible services.
Due to our expansion to other African countries and to our pioneer way, Unitel is increasingly gaining a place in the international telecommunications area.

Other future plans for Unitel and expectations for the next five years.

Unitel will continue to invest in strategic and structuring projects in Angola in order to support innovation and to portray itself as a strong partner in the promotion of the ICT development in Angola. The investment in last-generation technologies and services that will make Internet more accessible and to promote digital inclusion will be essential. Internationally, we will keep on betting on and assessing opportunities in other markets.

Unitel’s participation in Angola Cables projects and the revolutionary impact of its WACS and SACS projects in the telecommunications area and in general economic terms.

Unitel is the second largest shareholder of Angola Cables and we see their connection through a high-capacity submarine cable between Angola (Luanda) and Brazil (Fortaleza) as a strategic and pioneer project that will allow the creation of a new international route, through South Atlantic by uniting Africa and South America.

Contribution to the qualification of Angolans and the description of Unitel’s social responsibility activities for the development (Unitel Training Academy).

Our social responsibility policy is profoundly rooted in our activity. From day one, Unitel has undertook the commitment of giving back to the community all the good that it has achieved and, in fact, it has done so, whether by the social support to populations in need – for instance, by donating to the local community every time we open a new store – or by the creation of youth education incentive programmes, like the project “e-net”, that allows free Internet access for high-school students of several provinces.
A very important aspect of our social responsibility policy is connected to the importance that we give to our employees. There are more than 2,000 people, distributed by all the provinces and municipalities. The large majority has, since the beginning, training offered by the company which has recently led to the creation of “Unitel Academy” – that reflects Unitel’s concern in ensuring the professionalism of its employees and in contributing to their growth. We have people that started by being store assistants and that are now part of the leading positions. This is only possible due to the opportunity creation, the bet on training and, of course, a young and entrepreneurial spirit for which we are known.

Unitel’s benefits in formalizing partnerships with innovative German companies that have a 2 million USD line of credit to invest in Angola.

The partnerships are only developed if the interests of both parts are taken into consideration and if there is a win-win relationship. I consider that it is advantageous for Unitel to work with German companies that want to invest in Angola, mainly on the local operations development, bringing them closer to the Angolan market. Unitel already works with some German companies, but there is still room to grow. Germany is the most important economy in Europe and has flagship technology and products in the ICT sector.

The sectors and areas in which the German innovation and technical know-how are more useful for the Angolan socioeconomic development.

Clearly in terms of infrastructure of telecommunication networks and operation support systems.

Final message to the German and international readers.

I would like to wish prosperity to all and invite the readers and businessman to come and meet Angola and its welcoming people. Angola is a land of opportunities but it needs partners that will focus on on the creation of local development and wealth.