Vodafone is to acquire a 70% stake in publicly-owned Ghana Telecom for $900 million in cash, opening up a potentially rich new market for its M-Pesa mobile money transfer system.
Politically stable and with a young population, Ghana is viewed as one of the most attractive markets in Africa with mobile subscribers growing at more than 55% p.a. and mobile penetration around 35%.
Ghana Telecom is the third-largest mobile operator in the country, with approximately 17% market share and 1.4 million customers as at 31 March 2008.
Commenting on the deal, Arun Sarin, Vodafone CEO says: "Our extensive operating experience together with our portfolio of products and services position us well to deliver a superior mobile experience to Ghanaian customers and significantly improve financial performance."
Vodafone is already active in Egypt, Kenya and South Africa, via its own brand, Safaricom, and Vodacom, which also has a presence in other African countries.
The company says its presence in Ghana will expand the footprint of M-Pesa, its mobile money transfer system which is currently targetting the unbanked population in Kenya.
Vodafaone and Nokia have both been lobbying for a for an overhaul of the regulatory framework that would open up the African markets for deposit-taking, clearing systems, and know-your-customer rules to incorporate the activities of mobile operators.