FY 2017-18 has been a watershed year for Airtel in Africa. Along with decent revenue growth quarter on quarter, absolute opex declined by 9.2%, thereby helping EBITDA margins improve to 33.4% from 24%. This has helped Airtel Africa achieve a full year positive PAT for the first time since acquisition.
Good progress has been made across the key focus areas set about at the beginning of the year: which were enhancing distribution excellence to gain more customers, winning more with our existing customers, delivering network excellence, building the right cost model and enhancing people productivity and performance.
Over the last year, the Customer KYC registration locations grew by over 50% to 180,000, enabling a higher new customer addition. This led to growing the customer base to 89 Mn through an addition of 12.5 Mn customers during the year (including 3 Mn through the acquisition of TIGO Rwanda).
In addition, over 10,000 exclusive mini shops and kiosks were introduced across the key operating countries to build a robust Airtel money infrastructure and provide assured float availability to customers.
Mobile data has been a big growth driver across the 14 operating companies and the network has been modernized through U-900 (3G service in 900 MHZ spectrum) in 11 Countries and 4G launched in 6 additional countries, taking the total countries with 4G to 8. With this our customers will get a best in class data network experience.
During the year, simplified voice and data bundles were introduced in most of the operating companies with a clear focus on ARPU enhancement. The Data Customer base has grown by 48% and Airtel Money Customer base increased by 31%. There has also been an encouraging increase in data and voice bundle penetration across all the operating units.
With an enhanced sales and distribution coverage, modernized network and simplified product bundles, the data usage has surged by 90%, data revenue has grown by 22.5% and Airtel Money revenue increased by 47%.
On the people front, the Company invested in functional and skill based training focusing on digitized delivery methods. Closer and tighter co-working between the operating countries and the Headquarters in Nairobi has helped build collaboration through building trust and fostering joint accountability.
With the intent of being No. 1 or No. 2 in each country, the Company merged operations with Millicom in Ghana into a 50:50 joint venture and acquired Millicom’s business in Rwanda to become a clear No. 2 operator. The merger and the acquisition respectively will enable the Company to build scale and run a profitable enterprise that can invest for the future to benefit customers of the two Countries.
Airtel has undertaken several initiatives to contribute towards addressing social challenges. The Company has focused on Technology and Partnerships with various organizations to drive social change and inclusive growth of the under privileged people in the Society. It has scaled up its internet for schools programs in Kenya and Zambia to benefit over 300,000 students and will continue to drive this initiative at a larger scale. Under the pan African educational program, ‘Adopt a School’, the Company has adopted 58 schools, supporting over 32,000 underprivileged children.
The Company’s Board has authorized management to initiate non-binding exploratory discussions with various intermediaries to evaluate the possibility of listing on an internationally recognized stock exchange.
Airtel Africa is poised for continued subscriber and revenue growth, building on the significant potential for mobile data and Airtel money in the operating countries, while continually investing in the network and distribution infrastructure.