Mobile phone companies make big money in Ghana
Ghana News Agency recently reported that mobile phone users in Ghana paid service providers an average of five dollars a month for calls each subscriber made and received. The First Quarter Report of 2009 lodged with National Communication Authority (NCA) indicated that MTN made an average of $8.00 per month from each of its subscribers.
Tigo made $5.30; Kasapa, $4.70; while Zain made $3.00. The figure for Vodafone was not readily available. Even though MTN Chief Executive Officer, Brett Goschen, recently stated during a presentation at a Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Club 100 forum, that each subscriber paid his Company $5.00 dollars a month the actual average, judging from the first quarter figures of the four operators was $5.50.
“It is projected that the telecom sector will contribute 10 per cent of GDP this year”, Mr Goschen said.
Even though the figure of Vodafone was not available it is reasonable to credit it with the average revenue per user (ARPU) figure of $5.50.
Adding up these figures and relating them to the subscriber base of these mobile phone service providers one gets the quantum of the receipt of each of the companies.
MTN, the market leader, with 6.8 million subscribers representing 54 per cent of the 12.64 million mobile phone users in the country, and with each subscriber paying $8.00 dollars a month, raked in an average of $54,400,000 a month. Projecting this over a year comes to $652,800,000.
Tigo with 2.9 million subscribers representing 23 per cent of the total mobile phone users makes $15,470,000 a month and $185,640,000 a year; Vodafone with 1.65 million subscribers in March 2009 and using the average figure of $5.50 per customer made $9,075,000 a month and if this is projected over a year would come to $108,900,000. Kasapa makes $4.7 ARPU a month from each of its 400,000 subscribers. This means in a day Kasapa makes $ 0.17 a day from each subscriber and a total of $67,142.9. In a week the Company makes $1.2 per subscriber and a total of $476,000. The total for the month is $1,880,000 and that comes to $22,560,000 a year.
Zain is trailing with $3.00 ARPU per month. This means in a day Zain makes 0.11 cents per subscriber and a total of $97,900 from an estimated 890,000 subscribers. The Company made $0.75 per subscriber in a week making a total of $300,000; the total for the month is $1,200,000 and that comes to $14,400,000 for the year. From the estimates above, one could further estimate the aggregate ARPU the five multinational telecom operators made in a day, a week, a month and a year based on the total subscriber level of 12.64 million subscribers as at March 2009.
In a day, they made an aggregate of $2,980,935.77; in a week – $20,487,250.1; in a month – $82,025,000, and in a year, $984,300,000. It is important to note that these estimates are based on ARPU declared by the operators themselves, without evidence of any auditing from NCA to verify the authenticity of the figures. The estimates may not be spot on because the ARPU declared by the operators are likely to be lower than the actual. But at least they give an idea of how much money the telecom companies are making from individual customers on the average.
A similar thing happens in the mining industry. According to a report by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Government takes what the concession holders declare on face value and, therefore, accepts the peanuts they pay in royalties and taxes without doing a proper audit to check the quality and quantity of minerals extracted in order to determine if the mining companies under declared profits or not.
MTN, for instance, declared 793 million Ghana Cedis ($528.7 million) as revenue by close of December 2008. But the annual estimate for 2009, as per ARPU declared in March 2009, came to $652.8 million; an increase of $124.1 million, a projected 23.5 per cent increase. Checks by this Writer from at least two of the wireless operators, MTN and Vodafone, indicated that there were huge disparities between high-spending and low-spending subscribers, which could paint a different picture in actual earnings per subscriber. According to sources at Vodafone, for instance, high-spenders spend between 300 Ghana Cedis and 500 Ghana cedis in a month, besides what the company also makes from incoming calls to those high-spenders.
The mid-spenders are between 50 Ghana Cedis and 200 Ghana cedis and there are people who spend as low as 5.00 Ghana Cedis a month on Vodafone. MTN subscribers include high-spenders who spend between 250 Ghana Cedis and 300 Ghana cedis a month, mainly post paid customers; mid-spender between 50 Ghana Cedis and 100 Ghana cedis and some prepaid customers spend as low as 5.00 Ghana Cedis a month . Some MTN post-paid customers, sources say, are able to live without spending a pesewa on a call for the whole month so they end up paying the 2.50 Ghana Cedis line rental out of a mandatory monthly 50.00 Ghana Cedis deposit with the operator.
It is important to note that for post-paid customers, Vodafone and Tigo have stopped charging the mandatory 2.50 Ghana Cedis monthly line rental fees.
Taking a cue from a GNA report on the earnings of mobile phone operators, some state institutions, including Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has proposed an increase in the “talk tax” so that the money accruing could be invested into the water sector to make potable water accessible to more citizens.
MTN, for instance, declared that it paid taxes to the tune of 222.80 Ghana Cedis ($148.5 million) in 2008, which constituted 28.1 per cent of their total revenue for that year and five per cent of Government’s total tax revenue for the year.
It is also important to note that besides the taxes they pay, the telecom operators also contribute one per cent each of their total revenue into the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFTEC), which goes into mounting cell sites in un-served and underserved communities for the purposes of co-locations.
So far, GIFTEC has mounted 40 of such cell sites across the country, where operators are sharing infrastructure to serve their customers. Again, the operators separately invest substantial amounts into high-impact corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, particularly in education; health; environment; economic empowerment; sports; music; arts and entertainment. The market leader, MTN, for instance, invests one per cent of pre-tax profits, every year, into CSR through its autonomous CSR wing, MTN Ghana Foundation.
Tigo recently launched the Millicom Fraternity for Humanity Programme; Vodafone, Zain and Kasapa have their own CSR projects spread across country; and Vodafone has also announced on its websites the launch of Vodafone Foundation soon. Besides, the sector is employing thousands of Ghanaians and providing peripheral jobs for and income to tens of thousands. MTN Ghana directly employs 2,000 people; Vodafone inherited 4,000, out of which it is laying off 1,892. Tigo recently said it employs 411 regular staff plus over 207 outsourced jobs and 36 contracted position, totalling 654 employees.
Vice President John Dramani Mahama recently informed the telecom operators that the Government would, in the near future, invite them to discuss how Ghanaians could participate more in and reap higher benefits from the sector, and also how the sector could assist to improve the export sector, since the telecom industry consumed most of the foreign exchange generated by the export sector into the country.
Based on the Vice President’s proposed discussion with the industry players, Ghanaians could probably expect more direct benefits from the huge revenue they are contributing to the telecom sector through the use of telecom services.