Given its high population density and the low penetration rates across all telecom sectors, Burundi remains potentially one of the most attractive telecom markets in Africa for investors. Nevertheless, investor reticence is still evident given the country’s low economic output and the fact that outside the main urban areas fixed-line infrastructure remains poor. Compounding these practical difficulties is the continuing political turmoil which can has rendered the investment environment problematic.
To overcome difficulties associated with the poor telecom infrastructure the government, supported by the Word Bank, has backed a joint venture with a number of prominent telcos to build a national fibre backbone network, offering onward connectivity to submarine cable infrastructure landings in Kenya and Tanzania. The first sections of this network were switched on in early 2014, and additional provinces have since been connected. In addition, the government in early 2018 kick-started the Burundi Broadband project, which aims to deliver national connectivity by 2025. Based on this improved infrastructure the government and ITU have developed an ICT strategy to make use of telecoms to promote the country’s socio-economic development through to 2028.
International bandwidth increased almost five-fold between 2014 and the end of 2017, resulting in lower retail prices for consumers. There have also been efforts to encourage the country’s ISPs to join the national IXP in a bid to cannel internet traffic locally and thus reduce the cost of providing services to end-users.
Two of the mobile operators have launched 3G and LTE services to capitalise on the growing demand for internet access. The number of mobile subscribers grew rapidly for several years, and though this slowed in 2016 there were about 6.6 million subscribers as of early 2020. Mobile penetration, approaching 60%, remains low by regional standards, suggesting considerable room for further growth. A new player, Viettel Group, which received a licence to provide mobile services in early 2014, launched 2G and 3G services in June 2015 and LTE services in February 2016. It soon became the leading player in the country, with an extensive fibre-backhaul network which it can use to provide fixed-line services.
The long-established plans to privatise the national telco Onatel (which also operates one of the mobile networks), have been delayed several times, but the government since 2013 has made efforts to kick-start the process.
BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.
On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.
Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.
The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.
Office National des Telecommunications (Onatel, Onamob); U-Com (Orascom, Telecel Globe, Leo); VTEL Holdings (Tempo, Africell Safaris); Econet Wireless Burundi (Spacetel); LaCell SU (Smart Burundi); Renaissance Capital; BNP Paribas; Millenium Finance; Linkstone Capital.
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BuddeComm's strategic business reports contain a combination of both primary and secondary research statistics, analyses written by our senior analysts supported by a network of experts, industry contacts and researchers from around the world as well as our own scenario forecasts.
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