DATA COMMANDER

Zambia 2014 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Charity Chanda Lumpa, Managing Director of Airtel, on the internet as the next great frontier in Africa.

Charity Chanda Lumpa
BIOGRAPHY
Charity Chanda Lumpa joined Airtel in May 2013 as the first female and Zambian Managing Director for Airtel Networks Zambia. Prior to joining Airtel, she was the Head of Group Credit Administration at Ecobank Transitional Inc., based in Lome, Togo. She held various senior management positions at the Zambia National Tourist Board, Stanbic Bank, Barclays Bank Zambia, and Citibank Zambia. She obtained her MBA in 2001, and has a Master’s in Marketing Management.

Airtel is the largest mobile operator in Africa. What is the importance of Zambia for Airtel?

Zambia is centrally located, with easy access to eight neighboring markets. Zambia's position increases our market size, and gives us a solid platform for innovation and services, and allows us to expand coverage outside of the country. Areas beyond Zambia's borders with Tanzania, the Congo, Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Malawi provide high returns on coverage. Zambia is also one of the most reliable countries in terms of growth and, more importantly, peace. Peace and a sound economy go hand-in hand. It is possible to invest with confidence in Zambia, because the government's policies are pro-business, and this country is a safe and secure destination for FDI and local investment.

Since 2010 you have invested $280 million in developing your network in Zambia? How is this investment paying off?

Airtel has a strong following, and we have earned our customers' loyalty. Maintaining this relationship with our customers is at the core of our business strategy. Our recent investments have allowed us to maintain our dominance in the Zambian telecommunications industry.

How do you see the development of mobile banking?

Airtel Money is the most exciting product that Airtel has introduced in Zambia, and it allows customers to transfer money with their mobile phones. Airtel Money also enhances financial inclusion by allowing banks to extend their reach to the furthest corners of Zambia, where there are fewer branches. We are currently working with the Central Bank to increase the financial inclusion of under-banked Zambians. The internet, is the next frontier.

Is this why you recently launched a partnership with Facebook?

Our partnership with Facebook is the first of its kind in Africa. Airtel was at the forefront of pioneering the Facebook phone, and we hope to increase engagement with customers over 14, which is the target age for increased engagement with online platforms. By familiarizing customers early on, we expect to create long-term, high-tech customers.

What are your future plans for expansion here in Zambia?

Before tackling expansion, Airtel needs to pursue consolidation. We need to enhance our network and extend the coverage available to our existing customers. Expansion is necessary for us, but first we should look to consolidate our position in existing markets. Expansion also means covering more rural areas, where we already have a significant number of towers. Our goal is to consolidate and deepen our reach, in order to really deliver the quality that we promise.

What differentiates Airtel from the other major players in Zambia?

Our footprint makes us unique. We have the largest geographical coverage, meaning that we have access to the largest potential customer base. Because of the scale of our coverage, we provide communication services to rural Zambians, allowing them to integrate into the national economy and society. The government is currently pursuing a policy of universal access, which it is promoting through Airtel because we are everywhere. This year alone we plan to erect close to 200 more towers. Our market is also evolving, and, as we grow, we are making sure that new technological needs are given careful consideration.

Airtel Zambia has a huge investment in corporate and social responsibility (CSR). Could you tell us about some of the initiatives you carried out this year?

CSR is a key component of our business. This year alone, $900,000 has been allocated to Airtel Rising Stars, a football initiative that focuses on identifying young soccer talent. We do this to show appreciation to our communities. In addition to Airtel Rising Stars, we have focused on improving health and education services in Zambia. All of our programs are aimed at empowering the youth. We incentivize education with the goal of raising disciplined, responsible citizens. Athletic development requires discipline and training, healthy eating and living, and respectful relationships. Airtel means to be a part of this because CSR is critical for continued growth, and molding future leaders.