Etisalat Misr has allocated investments worth EGP 5bn to the Egyptian market during 2021, according to the company’s CEO Hazem Metwally.
Etisalat Misr also aims to attract about 20 million customers to its “Etisalat Cash” services, particularly after the strong growth witnessed by the electronic payment sector, supported by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the state’s plans to achieve financial inclusion.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Metwally added that Etisalat Misr will focus on expanding investment in modern technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).
What opportunities has the pandemic created in the mobile market? What negative and positive effects has the coronavirus placed on the company, and the mobile market in general?
The information and communications and technology (ICT) sector was able to achieve remarkable growth rates despite the pandemic, as it was one of the most fortunate sectors due to the precautionary measures and social distancing measures taken by the Egyptian government. These measures were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, which contributed to creating opportunities for learning, working and shopping remotely, as well as accelerating the pace of implementation of the government’s plans for digital transformation and building a digital Egypt.
These measures prompted citizens to use technology and the Internet, and to pay dues via electronic payment methods, which witnessed unprecedented growth rates.
For Etisalat, we launched a package of precautionary measures and services to ensure we helped curb the spread of the virus. We have launched many services and applications that improve the customer’s experience, and ensure they perform many services from their phones without the need to visit branches or talk to customer service representatives.
Among the most prominent provisions we have provided to our customers during this period is the Etisalat Cash application for money transfers, exchange, deposits, bill payments, and online purchases in an easy, fast, and safe way. We also introduced the My Etisalat application that enables customers to recharge and pay bills and obtain their information, offers, for example.
This is in addition to the Etisalat business application and the new system B-Ahead to assist owners of small and emerging businesses in pursuing their businesses from home in line with the state’s policy to reduce human gatherings.
The company has also increased the number of its ADSL packages by 20%, and granted 30 times the charged balance minutes and free units to customers when recharging using electronic payment methods.
We have provided a range of different entertainment services to encourage people to stay at home and facilitate the home quarantine period, especially with the advent of the holy month of Ramadan.
Among the most prominent entertainment services is the launch of the Etisalat TV platform, which provides 109 TV channels to Etisalat customers, completely free of charge, for a month.
We also provided a set of sports videos so that Etisalat customers could practice sports from home, and Etisalat Music also presented an online party with the distinguished artist Hamid Al Shaeri, who met with the audience.
As for decisions related to preventive measures inside the company’s buildings and branches, employees have been allowed to work from home, in coordination with managers, to ensure that work continues as required. This gives priority to mothers and people with chronic diseases to work from home. At the same time, we doubled the internet capacity allocated to employees to support them in providing the required service from home.
Recently the company acquired new frequencies. How will these frequencies improve the quality of mobile services?
Etisalat succeeded in obtaining a new set of frequencies in the 2,600 Time Division Duplex (TDD) frequency band, under the usufruct system for a period of 10 years. This came after the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) approved the financial and technical offer of the company, which was worth $325m.
Half of the amount, or $162.5m, will be paid as soon as the frequencies are available, in accordance with the bidding conditions announced by NTRA before bidding. It confirms that the company spares no effort in order to provide the best service to its customers and keep pace with the increasing growth of customers on the network.
Certainly, these frequencies will contribute to improving the quality of mobile services in Egypt and accommodating the growth in the use of data transmission services by customers.
What are the challenges that the company faces in the local market?
At Etisalat Misr, we are always keen to meet all challenges to keep our development plans steady, in order to provide the best services to our customers. The company has succeeded in overcoming all challenges and has achieved great growth rates.
The company has great confidence in the Egyptian economy and our vision of the promising Egyptian market, which Etisalat Group pays great attention to and places the Egyptian user at the top of its priorities to provide them with the best services.
Also, since it started working in Egypt, Etisalat has developed specific strategies to transform into an integrated operator to provide unique telecommunications services to customers. We have succeeded in becoming the first integrated digital operator for telecommunications services in Egypt, and we are continuing to expand our business volume in the Egyptian market during the coming period due to our provision of all integrated communication services.
What is the total investment the company has made in the local market since the start of its operations in Egypt?
Etisalat Misr is the first integrated digital operator for telecommunications services and one of the largest investors in Egypt, and it is the strongest network in the Egyptian telecom market thanks to its continuous investments. This falls in line with our new slogan, “MuchStronger”, as we have invested more than EGP 55bn in Egypt since 2007.
What are the most prominent features of Etisalat’s plans in 2021?
We increased the company’s capital to about EGP 20bn, whilst injecting new investments worth EGP 4.5bn during 2020. This took place with the aim of continuing to develop networks and improving the services provided, expanding our activities in the data transmission sector, and supporting investment in future technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).
We plan to pump new investments of about EGP 5bn in 2021, to continue improving and developing our services and supporting investment in future technologies such as the IoTand AI.
Perhaps Etisalat’s distinguishing feature is that we adopt long-term planning for investments as we study all financing methods that qualify us to lead the market and achieve the highest return on investment.
Has COVID-19 changed the company’s priorities?
Of course, the coronavirus has caused a change in our priorities, and the change was not for us alone or in Egypt only, but took place at the global level. This is because the impact of the pandemic was inclusive of all sectors around the world, which led to global companies taking steps to redistribute their investment maps, despite the negative economic effects of the crisis on all sectors.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, we have been in a state of constant work to think about what we must do in terms of aid and support, whether for our customers or for the whole community.Indeed, we have taken a package of decisions that stem from our societal responsibility in the health sector to contribute to the success of the state’s efforts to limit the spread of the disease.
Etisalat was keen to provide an era of services to different people with different needs and aspirations, as we contributed to face the crisis through various axes. These included supporting the government’s directions towards expanding the implementation of the financial inclusion strategy, in addition to developing public services and providing them remotely and completing communications plans in automating government services in various economic sectors.
How has the pandemic affected the growth of Etisalat’s e-wallet service customers?
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, as Etisalat Misr achieved high growth rates in the number of users of the electronic payment services “Etisalat Cash”. This took place by providing a package of services and facilities that were necessary to encourage Etisalat customers to fully shift from cash payment to electronic payment.
During the crisis, we offered several great privileges to our customers, as Etisalat Cash clients enjoyed withdrawals and deposits with a maximum of EGP 10,000 per day and EGP 50,000 per month, instead of EGP 3,000 per day and EGP 5,000 per month.
Etisalat allowed a period of up to 90 days for customers to download the “Etisalat Cash” application and upload their national ID card picture. This could also be done by dialling *777# and entering the national ID number to match it, instead of going to the branch.
We have also cancelled the fees for monthly transfer transactions to all mobile wallets, and cancelled fees for withdrawals from ATMs.
What are your plans to increase the use of Etisalat Cash wallets?
We plan to increase the service’s customer base to 20 million customers within the framework of the state’s plans to support financial inclusion, and for that, we have launched a number of awareness campaigns to support financial inclusion, and we are heading to launch new services to enhance the financial inclusion plan.
In addition, there are new legislations that contribute to supporting electronic payments, and measures taken by the Central Bank of Egypt to expand these services, including the transfer of funds via mobile, which increases the rate of growth in this regard.
Is competition in the mobile market fair? Or the market needs more regulation?
The Egyptian market is one of the largest and most promising markets in the Middle East. It is a market that grows and develops at a tremendous speed, and enjoys more opportunities as the Egyptian government is keen to advance the communications and information technology sector, which is one of the most vital and fastest-growing sectors. Since 2018, the sector has witnessed a growth rate of 16%, It also contributes to the GDP by 4% and contributed to creating about 320,000 job opportunities until 2019.
The proceeds of Egypt’s exports of ICT services rose to $3.6bn, in addition to information security becoming one of the most important priorities for companies in the ICT sector and the government alike, as work is currently underway to transform Egypt into a regional communications centre.
This means that there are real government efforts towards the advancement of the Egyptian telecom sector and the keenness to provide an atmosphere of fair competition, and the presence of four companies that provide integrated services increases competitiveness and leads to a higher quality of customer service.