As it celebrates its eighth anniversary in the Rwanda market, Airtel, the Indian-based telecom giant has acquired a 12-year unified license to operate as Airtel Rwanda, after operating for two years as Airtel-Tigo.
Mid-December, 2018, Airtel Rwanda took over Tigo Rwanda in the largest merger in the history of telecommunication in Rwanda. The deal meant a 100 per cent acquisition of Tigo Rwanda’s equity.
Amit Chawla, the Airtel Rwanda Managing Director, on Thursday, announced the merger.
“In the past two years, we have been tirelessly working to merge two big brands, and we are delighted to tell you that we have successfully accomplished that. We are now one brand, Airtel,” Chawla said.
He added: “What it means for us is that is the customers will see us as one uniform face, which means that the customer will be able to see the harmonisation of products. Both sides of customers as to Airtel and Tigo will be able to use and see the benefits of the network, products and services.”
Boost to cashless economy
The telco has also launched Mukazi Kose, a promotional campaign aligned with the government agenda to drive financial inclusion through ICT.
The campaign, Chawla said, covers the entire ecosystem from voice to data and everything between.
“This campaign is launched to accelerate cashless economy that the government is pushing. We feel there is a need to drive financial inclusion in the community,” said Chawla and continued.
“Secondly, we feel there is a need for driving the public utility bill transactions through the medium of mobile financing services”.
Among various packages, the campaign introduces zero-fee person-to-person money transfer. Normally, mobile money transfers and cash-out involve a service fee, but Airtel has erased the transfer charge.
Moreover, fees normally charged to pay water bills using Airtel Money have been scrapped while one will get bonus money for buying electricity. All products purchased through Airtel Money such as packs or data bundles will earn you a 30 per cent extra.
In her remarks, Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, commended Airtel’s people-oriented philosophy and investment into the country’s development through innovation.
“I want to recognize some of the initiatives that you are launching today, especially when you talk about scraping mobile money transfer charges, making payment of utilities free. I think this is a good step in driving inclusion in the country, and when we talk inclusion, we are not just looking at digital inclusion but financial inclusion as well.
The push and pull transactions between Airtel and bank accounts, and person-to-merchant are as well free of charge.
These trends add up to a binge of existing giveaways such as using free Facebook, internetwork voice packs. Withdrawal, however, still charges an “almost negligible fee” of 1 per cent going as the agent’s commission. Chawla says it is the next step to waive away.
‘Connect Rwanda’ effort
The director commended President Paul Kagame’s support toward the Connect Rwanda Campaign and noted: “We thought there could be no other way to be part of this campaign than by connecting people, by making transactions completely free.”
Nevertheless, he pointed out that the firm is undergoing talks with MINICT and other bodies to see how they can slide their inputs into the challenge.
With the merger, Airtel doubled its service centers and deployed 600 more kiosks across the country to take its services closer to customers who are over 5 million, according to figures from RURA.
In 2018, Airtel was the first mobile money service in Rwanda to distribute to its customers interest generated from their trust accounts. Airtel Rwanda currently posts over 98 per cent of 3G population coverage, topping the list of competition.