Mukesh Ambani Expands into Africa with New Telecom Venture


MukeshMukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, is set to make a significant entry into Africa’s telecom market with a new venture targeting mobile broadband customers in Ghana. The venture, spearheaded by Next-Gen InfraCo (NGIC), aims to capitalize on the rapidly growing demand for mobile broadband in the region. Harkirit Singh, Executive Director of NGIC, unveiled the details ahead of the company's official launch announcement in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

NGIC, with plans to commence operations by the end of the year, will offer 5G broadband services to mobile operators and internet service providers in Ghana. Singh emphasized that NGIC is committed to providing affordable digital services in emerging markets. Radisys Corp, a subsidiary of Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries Ltd, will play a crucial role by supplying essential network infrastructure, applications, and smartphones for NGIC’s Ghana-based operations.

Strategic partners for NGIC include Nokia Oyj, Tech Mahindra Ltd., and Microsoft Corp. These partnerships are pivotal, especially considering Microsoft’s increased focus on the telecom sector following its 2020 acquisition of two cloud networking companies. Ghana, a West African nation with a population of just over 33 million, currently hosts three major telecom operators: MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, and the state-owned AirtelTigo.

Singh highlighted that NGIC’s advanced technology, strategic partnerships, and exclusive possession of Ghana’s only 5G license will enable it to offer broadband services on a large scale. This would be a challenging and expensive endeavor for individual mobile carriers to undertake independently. Notably, NGIC has secured the exclusive right to provide 5G services in Ghana for a decade, with its license valid for 15 years. The company’s projected capital expenditure for the first three years is $145 million.

Ownership of NGIC is distributed among several stakeholders. Two African telecom firms, Ascend Digital Solutions Ltd. and K-NET, hold a combined 55% stake in the company. The Ghanaian government owns just under 10%, while local mobile operators and private investors retain the remaining shares. Singh, who also serves as the chief executive of Ascend, noted that none of the strategic partners, including Reliance, currently own equity in NGIC. However, they will have the option to accept part of their payments as equity in the future, contingent upon the venture's success.

NGIC aims to replicate the success of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd in India. Launched in late 2016, Jio revolutionized the Indian telecom market with low-cost data and free voice calling, leading to the closure of some competitors and the consolidation of others. Today, Jio is India’s largest mobile operator with 470 million users. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Ghana’s Minister for Communications and Digitalization, stated that NGIC will bring affordable mobile broadband services and devices to Ghana, mirroring the success of India’s mobile data revolution.

This partnership is also viewed as a diplomatic win for India, seeking to counter China’s growing influence in Africa through initiatives like digital inclusion. NGIC’s entry into Ghana marks a significant step in expanding affordable digital services in the region, potentially transforming the telecom landscape.