Pan-African telecommunications firm Airtel Africa has reportedly stopped investing in new tower infrastructure in Kenya, and other markets across the continent, as it prepares to sell most of its already-existing infrastructure assets.
This is in efforts to reduce ownership of infrastructure as Airtel Africa looks towards leasing instead, according to Business Daily Africa.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is funding Airtel Africa, stated in an investment disclosure that Airtel is looking to focus on a cost-saving “asset-light business model” and has “divested most of its telecommunications tower portfolio” with the telecom operator now apparently in the final stages of divesting the majority of its remaining tower portfolio to other tower companies.
“Airtel Africa currently maintains a limited number of strategic tower sites (approximately 2,500) across its business, and presently has no foreseeable plans to materially expand its owned towers portfolio,” IFC said.
IFC also reports that Airtel Africa is currently in talks with independent telecom tower companies in order to secure the leasing of space on the existing infrastructure of these companies and for the construction of new towers specific to Airtel’s business requirements, which would make the telco an “anchor tenant.”
The news of Airtel Africa divesting in infrastructure comes after reports earlier in March that its Nigerian arm – Airtel Nigeria – had upgraded all of its 2G and 3G cell sites in the West African country to 4G technology.
At the time, Surendran Chemmenkotil, CEO and MD of Airtel Nigeria, said the operator was committed to delivering mobile broadband to the whole country, including even remote locations, as he says that connectivity has a direct correlation with “boosting the nation’s GDP.”
It is not yet known whether Airtel Nigeria will be included in the company’s market-wide divesting plan, or if the company will keep its existing Nigerian cell sites among its 2,500 sites.