Russell Southwood
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Mobile voice calling booms (1993–2004)
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This chapter looks at the opening up of communications markets in sub-Saharan Africa to privately owned companies (known as liberalisation), and the privatisation of state-owned monopoly telecommunications companies, that brought large-scale investment into Africa to create mobile voice networks. This was both a political and a legal challenge. The chapter describes how market liberalisation and privatisation pitted the inefficient state telecoms behemoths against new mobile market challengers, with the latter introducing innovations like pre-paid calling. It describes how liberalisation in South Africa at the end of the apartheid era drew in international investment, and the licensing process in Nigeria that overcame corrupt practices. It concludes by looking at the uneven pace of liberalisation and privatisation up to 2004. The contrast between the struggles to set up a mobile voice operation in Zaire (described in the Prologue) and Zimbabwe illustrate the ‘old’ and ‘new’ ways of doing business in Africa. Whereas Telecel’s Miko Rwayitare and his partner relied on a relationship with a key politician, Masiywa’s struggle, and those of many others, was about due process and rules.

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Africa 2.0

Inside a continent’s communications revolution


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