3 months for 4 Ivory Coast mobile operators to merge

By Issa Sikiti da Silva

Four ‘small’ mobile operators in Ivory Coast namely Green, Comium-Koz, Mobile Coffee and Warri have been given a three month ultimatum by the government to merge and form one single operator, or face the chop.

The four networks hold only 6% market share out of the 21 million users in this West African nation.

Posts and ICT minister Bruno Nabagné Kone said shortly after the cabinet meeting held in the city of San Pedro that the purpose of the merger was to strengthen the cellphone sector and optimise the use of spectrum resources.

“You have heard several times that the ministry has proposed to reduce the number of operators, and above all ensure that operators who do not meet their commitments gradually exit the market,” Koné said.

The operation aims at making the market become stronger, more readable and understandable, he said.

 “We have alerted the operators concerned over the past year. This is not something that will surprise them,” he added.

But the proposal has generated a wave of comments in the streets of this previously prosperous nation, with many observers wondering whether the single operator will be able to ‘swallow’ all the workers currently plying their trade at these different companies.

 “I’m pretty sure many people will lose their jobs, I see it coming,” airtime street vendor Alexis Keita said this week in the commercial Abidjan. “It’s also a loss of income for us."

“It’s an unfair decision. It’s really sad. Well, Ouattara is a dedicated economist, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing,” IT student Marie-Laure Yao said.

The cellphone sector in Ivory Coast contributes 20% to the country's GDP.

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