By TBY | Mozambique | May 27, 2014
Although Mozambique's ICT sector is gaining traction, it still has a long way to go before it catches up with the top-tier African countries. The abundance of opportunities, however, is clear.
The telecommunications sector in Mozambique has registered noticeable growth during recent years, particularly in the value-added services segment. The government, in 2013, drafted a revision of the 2004 Telecommunications Act, aimed at developing greater competition and facilitating access to networks and infrastructure in a bid to reduce investment costs. Roughly 40% of the population has access to telephone communications. The country has only one fixed-line operator, Telecomunicaçíµes de Moçambique (TDM), which is state owned. Although TDM has been investing $40 million per year to meet rising demand, some figures suggest that there are only 88,100 landlines in the country. In mobile, 70% of subscribers in Mozambique are located in Maputo. Contrasting with the lack of dynamism of the fixed-line network is the rapid growth of the mobile-cellular network. According to Ministry of Transport and Communication data, the number of mobile telephone subscriptions has grown by over 288% since 2006. The mobile market now enjoys a 36% penetration rate. There is, however, further growth potential considering the more advanced nature of mobile penetration in other African nations, often stimulated by the launch of commercial services. Mozambique’s largest operator, Mcel, has the most extensive network coverage and, in 2012, it also had the most subscribers at 4.5 million.
The awarding of the second mobile license to Vodacom in 2002, following the opening of the mobile market in 1999, ended the Mcel monopoly. Today, Vodacom Moçambique has a 38% market share. The third operator, Movitel, which is backed by Vietnam’s Viettel, entered the market in 2011. Jerry Mobbs, CEO of Vodacom Moçambique, sees the entrance of Movitel to the market as positive, “when you go from a two-player to a three-player situation in a market of 25 million people, you find that the quality of service tends to improve, thanks to competition.” The growth of the sector is also providing an investment impetus for other foreign firms looking to take part in the spread of infrastructure. Huawei is one such company in Mozambique. “Huawei provides all of Vodacom’s network technology, and we provide 70% of Movitel’s network. We are also working on projects with TDM and mCel,” Cheng Lizhu, Managing Director at Huawei, told TBY.
Mozambique is connected to the rest of the world via SEACOM (African Cable System) and EASSY (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System). The deployment of SEACOM in 2009 and EASSY in 2010 has brought more bandwidth to the country and reduced the cost of internet and data communications. The internet market today represents 7.4% of Mozambique’s telecoms sector. There are 1.1 million internet users in Mozambique, meaning that 4.8% of the population has access to online services, compared with 43% in neighboring South Africa. In 2012, the country had 89,737 internet hosts. Mozambique’s national fixed-line operator, TDM, also offers ADSL internet for residential and business customers. Further improvements can be expected from the ongoing rollout of national fiber backbone networks by TDM and mobile operators. Zainadin Dalsuco, CEO of Telecomunicaçíµes de Moçambique, told TBY that the fiber-optic services the company provides link all provincial capitals through a 10,000-kilometer network: “In 2008, all programs were linked through a national transmission network using optical-fiber cables. This infrastructure allowed TDM to satisfy demand.” However, wireless broadband today represents almost 96% of internet subscriptions, meaning that the focus will likely remain on mobile.
INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY
On the way toward a developed ICT sector, Mozambique’s policymakers are strongly aligned with the Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy (MOSTIS). The strategy, created to establish an enabling framework, including strategic objectives and programs, was adopted in 2006 and represents a roadmap of the sector up until 2015. Several initiatives have already been undertaken by the Ministry of Science and Technology, which is rolling out technological infrastructure to serve pressing national needs. Examples include the Center for Research and Development in Ethno-Botany (CIDE), the Center for Research and Transfer of Technologies for Community Development (CITT), the Millennium Villages, the Government Data Centre, and many others. “We are of the opinion that the Science and Technology Parks will be incubators of technology and business,” said Louis Augusto Mutomene Pelembe, Minister of Science and Technology.
A key mechanism for providing funding streams for science and technology, the National Research Fund (NRF), was recently established and is currently being developed. This national institution, established and mandated to operate by the Ministry of Science and Technology, will invite proposals for funding, evaluate them, award funding, and monitor the results of funded proposals.
Going forward, ICT stands to boost the economy and provide Mozambique access to better information on global markets. “For Mozambique to achieve the desired socio-economic development, we must urgently go for approaches that emphasize a knowledge-based economy, in which the synergies of relationships between education and research institutions and the private sector and the government are increasingly important,” concluded Minister Pelembe.