The Top 10 Fastest Growing Operators in Africa/Middle East

The ten fastest growing mobile businesses in the Middle East and Africa added more than 40 million customers between them over the last year, for an average growth rate of 44%. The first five places are taken by operators for just three countries and indeed, there are only seven separate markets represented in total. All five exceeded the regional average growth rate.

The largest gain, both absolutely and proportionately, was recorded by TCI in Iran, which nearly doubled in size over the period to 17.79 million customers with an 89% increase. No other company came close to this. The next best result came from Globacom from Nigeria, which managed to add just under 6 million new customers over the period. Given the presence in the market of both MTC and MTN, this was no mean feat. As it is, MTN's Nigerian subsidiary also features in the top half of this list, in fourth place with 4.4m new customers.

Third and fifth places are taken by Egyptian businesses, with the Orange/Orascom Mobinil venture coming out ahead of Vodafone Egypt, both absolutely (+4.67 million against +3.9 million) and relatively (+65% against +55%). During the first nine of the last twelve months, Mobinil stretched its lead over Vodafone from 142k to more than 1.2 million: Vodafone fought back in the last quarter, but is still 918k behind its rival.

The remaining five companies all connected more than 2.5 million customers over the last twelve months. Vodacom in South Africa culled over 0.4 million inactive customers in the third quarter, but despite this, still managed to show growth of 3.5 million. No such problem faced STC in Saudi Arabia, which enjoyed one quarter of million plus growth and two of close to one million before the rather flatter 0.2 million seen in this latest period. In total, STC added 3.23 million new customers.

Safaricom in Kenya is eighth in the ranking by annual net additions, with just over 3 million adds. The company is on an impressive trajectory at present with this last quarter having seen more than twice as many new connections as in Q3 07. The last four quarters have seen new customers joining at an accelerating pace as Kenya's penetration moved up through the 20% level towards higher ground. The last two companies on the list are operating in more mature markets. MTN South Africa added 2.85 million new customers over the last twelve months, a 27% increase, while Maroc Telecom fell just short of that with 2.79 million connections, for a 31% proportionate improvement. Nine of the ten companies here were also on the list of fastest growth over the last quarter, the sole exception being the last named entity. It took the place of Irancell, which had not started operating twelve months ago. Another five companies - Mobily Saudi Arabia, Orascom Algeria, V-Mobile Nigeria, Algerie Telecom and Libyana Mobile - all managed more than two million adds, while a further eight added one million or more.