Introduction – Pleasure and Appreciation
It is with great pleasure and excitement that I welcome you to share in our joy of achieving this milestone of 25 years of telecommunication services in Ghana.
We are deeply humbled and recognize that this achievement has only been possible with the support and contributions of so many before us, who have toiled and built the foundation upon which we stand today. To you all, we say a big ayekoo!!
Your Excellency, on behalf of the Scancom PLC Board of Directors and MTN, I will like to express my sincere gratitude for honouring our invitation to be our Special Guest of Honour on this august day. I will also like to take the opportunity to thank your government and past governments for the immense support through the 25 years. In fact, telecommunications today is nothing like it was in 1996 and the same can be said for the advancements and evolution of policy during the period.
I will also like to recognize the role the people of Ghana have played in MTN’s business successes. Firstly, for giving us the opportunity to serve you and secondly, for your patronage, feedback and loyalty over the past 25 years.
Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you Ghana.
Brief history of Scancom PLC
Distinguished Guests: let me take us back two and half decades to how it all begun – I guess we can call it a throwback. The company that is now Scancom PLC was registered in 1994 and started commercial operations in 1996 with network coverage in Accra and Tema.
The MTN journey started from humble beginnings in an office on Graphic road, with 20 employees of which only one of the six Ghanaians is still with us – Cynthia Addoquaye. In that journey, this company has evolved through different brand names: from Spacefon (the first GSM mobile service provider in Ghana with only a postpaid service), to Spacefon Areeba, then to Areeba and then finally, to MTN. With these brand name evolutions our tag lines have also evolved from “Communication for the nation” to “the heart of your world” and finally to “everywhere you go”.
By the year 2006 (our 10th anniversary), the company had acquired 2.6 million subscribers making it the largest mobile phone community in the country. It was at this point that the business was acquired by MTN Group. Today, after 25 years, we have employed over 2,500 Ghanaians and created over half a million jobs (including hundreds of thousands of airtime resellers, mobile money agents and mobile money merchants); also, we currently serve about 25 million subscribers, and have gone from a post-paid voice only service to Prepaid voice democratising telecoms for everyone’s access, to Data, Mobile Money, Enterprise Solutions, Digital and more recently, new Platform services to guide us into the future as we seek to remain relevant in a fast changing world and in the new normal.
We look back at our journey with pride, humility and appreciation, counting our many blessings along the way and recognizing our contributions to the lives of many Ghanaians, many businesses and to our country, Ghana.
A Bold Investor – MTN
… but it has not been without struggles and challenges. MTN has always seen Ghana as a market to invest in because of the confidence we have in the governance and political stability, policy predictability and consistent economic growth over the years and in recent time. This appetite has driven our investment decisions to invest over six billion US dollars in infrastructure since inception. We have also had to take various commercial risks such as sustaining investments in mobile money for over six years despite the lack of profitability, when others exited or did not invest at all. Investing in 3G at a time when 3G devices were not available in the country and if they were, they were not affordable. A similar situation for 4G more recently.
In our travels, we have turned our challenges into opportunity through belief, innovation, commitment and hard work, and the achievements we celebrate today, are grounded on these very principles.
We look at our achievements over the period through many different lenses. Firstly, we have helped and ensured that families and loved ones stay connected; we have supported businesses to grow leaps and bounds while making health, education and commerce accessible to many Ghanaians; we have enabled productivity and economic growth by giving SMEs and the informal sector the tools to build new businesses and grow existing ones; we have inspired many Ghanaians to innovate by leveraging the power of technology and believing that it is possible based on our own success.
Most importantly though, we have impacted the lives of Ghanaians in many ways over two and a half decades including our social interventions in communities around the country through the MTN Foundation and our financial inclusion efforts bringing banking services to many who knew otherwise, a transformation that rolled off our lips like no other with the popular chant “men saa kaa ooohh”.
I quote a famous reggae musician, Bob Marley: “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”.
MTN prides itself in its high ethical standards upon which our operations are run. We take our statutory obligations seriously and have ensured our commitment to our tax obligations which has been recognized several years running where MTN has been adjudged “the number 1 taxpayer” and “the largest taxpayer in the country” by both the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
However, we recognize that our role in Ghana’s economic growth and future goes beyond our statutory obligations. We have a role to play in deepening the digital ecosystem and ensuring connectivity for all including rural communities, as part of supporting Government’s ambition for a digital Ghana.
To do all of this, we have had to place a marker on “first” and I am proud to say we have been the first at most, if not all, technological innovations in Ghana since our launch starting from GSM to more recently, a landmark IPO which was the first the world over to democratize the purchase of shares through mobile money to 4G+ technology and digital.
It is our fervent belief that businesses exist today for reasons beyond financial returns. This is what has fueled our consistent commitment to invest in education, health and economic empowerment through the MTN Foundation with over 187 projects since inception.
Your excellency as education is a prime focus of your Government, you will be interested to know that, as far back as 2002, Scancom had already set up the Spacefon Scholarship Scheme which has now become the MTN BRIGHT Scholarship program. This scholarship scheme has provided assistance to hundreds of needy and brilliant children all over the country since the days of Spacefon and our commitment continues in this respect.
Distinguished Guests, part of being a Ghanaian company is to live the culture we so believe in. Our culture is founded on dance and music from ceremonial dances such as Adowa, Bambaya, Agbadza and Kpalongo (to name a few). For this reason, MTN has consistently supported various programs in Music, Sports, Entertainment and many more. Our much-acclaimed “Stars of the Future” and “Hitmakers” platforms have unearthed stars like Efya, Jane, Kwame Eugene, Kidi and several others.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate this milestone, we acknowledge with humility that this success is a collective one and so please permit me to acknowledge some of those who have contributed to our story so far.
- 25 years of brightening lives would not have been possible without the hard work and extensive contributions of the young men and women who led the charge – some of whom survived in the scorching sun day in and day out selling recharge cards and on-boarding new customers, others were implementing a network that can give Ghanaians the quality of service they deserve while others, were developing and implementing new innovations and strategies to win in a competitive industry.
- Let me also acknowledge and appreciate all former employees, past CEOs and Executives for their great leadership. I would like to single out the first CEO of Scancom Ltd, Mr Ghassan Oweida, the 2nd CEO Mr. Sadi and Mr. Ahmad Farroukh – I am sure most of you remember these Scancom legends. I salute all the CEOs who managed MTN Ghana – starting with Mr. Brett Goschen, Mr. Michael Ikpoki, Mr. Serame Taukobong who fortunately is here with us today for the celebrations and Mr. Ebenezer Asante who is now the Vice President for MTN West and Central Africa region – we thank you all for your sterling contributions.
- Finally, let’s give a resounding applause to all MTN employees both past and present.
Government, Policy Makers and Regulators
- We appreciate all Government, Policy makers and regulators for your contributions in advancing policy from deregulation to creating the enabling environment for the dream of a digital Ghana to be possible. We appreciate your guidance and contributions to shaping the industry over the years, even when you use a stick.
- To our 25 million customers, we appreciate you for your loyalty, your feedback, your commitment to the brand, and for believing in us through this journey. Ye da mo ase!!
Trade and Technology partners / Suppliers
- We appreciate your collaborations and contributions in helping us translate our vision into actionable projects and services to meet the needs of our cherished customers.
- We appreciate your collaboration and support, you have kept us honest when we stray and you have helped us tell our story positively through the years; your contributions have been significant to our success and we are most grateful.
- You are the reason we are in business and we appreciate the strong and trusted relationship we have built over the years. The role of the traditional authorities, market women, influencers etc. cannot be overemphasized.
- We appreciate the confidence and belief you have in our business to invest in it. We won’t let you down.
Let us take a look beyond the 25 years
While we celebrate what is past, we must also think about what is ahead. Our vision is “to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our customers” and this underpins our sustained investment in the MTN Ghana business in the areas of rural connectivity (encapsulating “everywhere you go”) and in implementing digital platforms to give the opportunity to our customers to live a modern connected life.
To achieve this, we have repositioned our strategy from BRIGHT to Ambition 2025, which aims to build the largest and most valuable platform business with a focus on Africa. Ambition 2025 is anchored on five pillars: Fintech Solutions, Digital / ayoba, Enterprise, Network as a Service, and an API Marketplace.
In this strategy, we see exciting opportunities for mobile commerce where fintech intersects with our ayoba business. We are hoping to aggregate APIs to accelerate the digital ecosystem expansion E.g., a customer should never need to interact with an agent to manage their MTN experience; all SMEs should be able to become digital without IT skills inhouse by leveraging our platforms and by so doing can pay taxes digitally through MoMo; we should be able to use QR codes for trotro or taxi payments; we must have the ability to pay tolls by scanning car number plates; we should be able to track criminals through digital safety cameras on our streets and from artificial intelligence, identify the national ID card details for a camera image and lastly, we should be able to stamp out MoMo fraud using a similar artificial intelligence identity tracking algorithm.
Despite our success over the 25-year period, MTN is not resting on its laurels and our commitment to contributing to Ghana’s digital development could not be higher. This year alone, MTN is investing approx. 150 million US dollars in the network and IT systems to continue to connect the 15% of Ghanaians in our remotest communities without connectivity and increase capacity and experience for those who already have service.
We are also committing as part of our 25th anniversary a 25 million US dollar fund over 3 years, to work with Government through the Ministry of Communications and Digitalization to support the development of Ghana’s digital ecosystem. One of the legacy projects we have already committed to is the building of an ICT hub in Ghana.
For the 25th anniversary celebration specifically, we have developed a comprehensive program to celebrate with all stakeholders, from our customers, our people, to all categories of our partners. Further details will be announced by the Chief Marketing Officer, Noel Kojo-Ganson, in a brief media engagement shortly after the main launch event.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude, I would like to emphasize that the 25-year journey has not been a walk in the park. We are where we are today, because of the sacrifices of many, several of whom are not here with us today; I also acknowledge the systems and policies that have guided our existence and journey through the 25 years.
Our story is well chronicled in the book “Telephone Conversations: A history of telecommunications economics and MTN in Ghana” authored by Ivor Agyemang-Duah, and we will share more insights on our journey in subsequent engagements as part of our celebrations.
Let me remind and urge all of you to stay safe during this COVID-19 pandemic by following the health and safety protocols. I also urge you all and our customers to observe the digital hygiene protocols in order to stay safe from scammers and fraudsters by relying on information only from official MTN channels.
Your excellency, thank you once again for joining us today to celebrate this major milestone for MTN and for Ghana. To all our distinguished guests, thank you for your time and presence once again and for your role in making the past 25 years a memorable and worthy story.
Enjoy the rest of the celebrations and remember the future is not BRIGHT, it is BRIGHT YELLO.
Thank you very much.