Pan-Africa carrier MTN is placing job creation and small and medium enterprise (SME) development at the centre of its future plans in all countries in which it operates.
The company has committed to creating jobs across its South African business and the rest of the world that will cover both operational and functional roles, according to MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa.
He says the mobile operator has always sought to use its footprint and brand to brighten the lives of communities in which it operates.
For SA, the news comes as the country experiences weak job-creating capacity that has led to chronically high unemployment.
Unemployment in the country is at its highest level to date. The results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2019, released by Statistics SA, indicate the official unemployment rate increased by 1.4 percentage points to 29% compared to the first quarter of 2019.
In an interview with ITWeb to commemorate MTN’s 25th birthday, Motsa said the company has helped change lives and continues to support job creation.
“Experts agree that SMEs are the engine of economic growth and employ over 60% of the workforce. Being mindful of the important role that the MTN SA Foundation plays, we have supported several enterprise development initiatives, such as the National Gazelles, in partnership with the Department of Small Business Development,” Motsa explained.
The National Gazelles is a flagship programme of the Department of Small Business Development and identifies a group of 40 businesses every year to benefit from an integrated business development programme aimed at accelerating their growth.
Motsa noted MTN has provided a R2.5 million per annum grant to the programme.
According to Motsa, the three-year partnership comprises grants to high-potential SMEs in the ICT sector, along with services to be provided by MTN Business to the selected entrepreneurs.
“Grants will be used to boost growth through asset funding, supporting market access and innovation.”
Additionally, Motsa said, MTN SA, through its foundation, has partnered with Datacomb Development Hub, the University of Free State and Hodisang Dipeuo Holdings to run incubation programmes that impart much-needed skills to emerging enterprises.
“The MTN SA Foundation has a long-standing partnership with Datacomb, which can be traced back to 2013 when it teamed up with the non-profit organisation to run its 12-month accelerated business development programme for SMEs.”
The programme targets SMEs from Soweto, Alexandra and Tembisa, and aims to produce SMEs that “are resilient, innovative and able to survive and grow in the market by giving them the tools required to run their businesses efficiently, raise capital and access opportunities in the market”.
Dire need for growth, jobs
Motsa told ITWeb the mobile operator believes that providing its customers with high-performance networks will go a long way towards enabling industries and leading the delivery of a bold, new digital world.
This, he noted, was brought to life with MTN’s digital master class which equipped SMEs with digital skills.
“We believe that the digital world is rich with opportunities, and as South Africa’s best network, we continue to partner with organisations such as IamAnEntrepreneur, SimoDisa to ensure we continue to support small businesses to ensure they have the essential skills in the business environment.
“We are in a better position to unlock these opportunities for individuals and small businesses.”
Furthermore, he pointed out, MTN has a defined vision of digital access that can drive financial inclusion, empowering and enabling SMEs.
“Over the past few years, Africa has led the charge in developing solutions aimed at facilitating access to financial services to millions of unbanked and under-banked people.”
He said innovative solutions such as mobile money have helped to kick-start the birth of a new payment and remittance ecosystems.
“Mobile money has created an army of mobile money merchants and agents, thus contributing to the development of SMEs and employment creation, and has revolutionised a number of industries, including agriculture which has helped many countries and communities to edge closer to attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Turning to network development, Motsa noted that over the past four years, MTN SA has invested over R45 billion to improve its network quality and coverage in SA.
“Owing to this substantial investment, MTN’s 4G network now covers over 95% of the population, while its 3G footprint blankets approximately 99% of the population.”
The telco’s microwave link network now serves well over 70% of businesses, while the fibre-to-the-business network spans over 18 000km and has a capacity to serve over 30% of the business community.
“In today’s digital age where consumers can easily access entertainment and information from the palm of their hands, high-performing networks are critical for data-heavy applications such as video conferencing, online gaming, downloading and streaming.
“It is not just about achieving higher speeds for the sake of it, but giving consumers access to future-proof technologies that will ensure they can optimise their use of smart devices and take advantage of the range of applications that are on the market today.”
According to Motsa, the days of being a one-dimensional service provider “are truly over and MTN is fast transforming from just being a mobile phone company to becoming a multi-purpose digital platform innovator”.
MTN is also embarking on an extensive infrastructure modernisation drive in preparation for coming fifth-generation wireless cellular technology and to accommodate more spectrum.
“Modernising the network will benefit businesses and enhance user experience with seamless connectivity on South Africa’s best network.”