With operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, and Sierra Leone, Africell entered the Ugandan market in 2014 after acquiring the local operations of France’s Orange.
But it has struggled to expand against South Africa’s MTN, which has the largest number of subscribers in the East African country at more than ten million, and India’s Bharti Airtel.
“7 September 2021 – For commercial reasons, Africell Group is exiting the Ugandan market. All Africell UG mobile network services in Uganda will terminate on 7 October 2021 (the ‘Termination Date”), after which Africell UG will no longer be available as a roaming partner in the country.” the firm said in a statement
Africell had 2.3 million subscribers in Uganda, according to the firm’s website.
Africell Uganda says its vision was to be a leader in mobile services and giving an impact in the digital transformation of the society.
The statement by management says that the stiff competition has made it difficult to achieve its business objectives, hence the decision to quit.
The news is likely to benefit MTN which is preparing for an IPO in which it intends to sell 20% of its shares to the public.
The government last year mandated all the telecom firms in the country to list at least 20% of their shares as a way to allow its citizens to share a slice of profits.
In 2019, the company was reported to be indebted to the tune of 250 billion shillings, while it made a loss of more than 1.5 trillion shillings.
Some of the losses were inherited from their predecessors, Orange Uganda whose operations they took over in 2014.
Slowing growth in recent years, exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19 has trimmed the east African country’s economic prospects and led to a steady exodus of foreign firms, including supermarket chains from South Africa and neighboring Kenya.
Earlier, South Africa’s largest grocery retailer Shoprite Holdings SHPJ.J said it hopes to sell its assets in Madagascar and Uganda this financial year.
Africell’s departure follows the exit of Smart Telecom which closed operations in Uganda at the end of last month.