As Tigo celebrates seven years in Rwanda, we spoke to Tigo Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Chantal Umutoni Kagame, to ascertain its achievements as well as the challenges it has faced since 2009. Below are excerpts of the interview
QN: It has been seven years since Tigo entered the Rwandan market, what would you say has been your biggest challenge and achievement since then?
Chantal Umutoni Kagame: When Tigo started operating in Rwanda in 2009, we had zero subscribers. So, the biggest challenge we faced was growing our subscriber base and increasing our network coverage across the country.
Today, more than 3 million Rwandans own a Tigo number and our network covers almost every part of the country. We are very proud to have been the first telecom in the country to introduce prepaid 3G and 4GLTE on mobile. Our growth has not only benefited Tigo, but the country as well. We are one of the biggest taxpayers in the country. Last year we paid about $USD 13 million in taxes. In terms of employment, Tigo provides jobs to thousands of Rwandans.
Through our network, Tigo Rwanda has provided connectivity to millions; the ability to communicate has created opportunities for economic development that would have simply been impossible before. This connectivity is one of the biggest catalysts for the development that we see today and we at Tigo are proud of our role in this.
None of this would have been possible without our customers; that is why we launched the ‘Turahabaye’ (We Are Here) campaign, a series of free concerts and corporate responsibility initiatives across the country that aimed at getting closer to our customers and showing them how much we valued them.
QN: Since 2015, when Tigo became the first telecom to provide post-paid 4GLTE for mobile, have you observed a change in the way the market embraces high speed internet?
Chantal Umutoni Kagame: High speed internet is something that the Government has put a lot of investment in; we are happy to play our role. I believe that high speed internet will soon be seen less as a luxury and more like a necessity. We are seeing it already today with more people using 4G LTE to download movies and shows on sites like Netflix.
QN: Recent RURA statistics reveal that there are 9 million mobile number subscribers in Rwanda, which is almost 80% mobile penetration, do you think that there will ever be 100% mobile penetration? What role will telecoms, like Tigo, play in this continued growth?
Chantal Umutoni Kagame: 100% mobile penetration is possible. With the continual fall in the prices of handsets alongside a GDP growth above 6% a year, I know more and more people will be able to own a mobile phone. As Tigo, what we will do is continue providing the kinds of innovative services that make not owning a mobile phone a non-starter.
QN: Today, being profitable as a company isn’t enough; companies have the responsibility to give back to the community. What has Tigo done in the vein?
Chantal Umutoni Kagame: At Tigo we have always understood that we have a huge responsibility to our community.
This year alone, we have donated USD $12,000 to Pro-femmes Twese Hamwe, announced the Frw 50 million Tigo Womens Entrepreneurship Fund, handed Mutuelles de Sante cards to 743 vulnerable residents in Huye and Musanze District, given cows to genocide survivors in Gatsibo District and donated a solar power lighting system worth Frw 4.5 million to the Bisesero Genocide Memorial. We are also soon announcing this year’s Tigo Digital Changemakers competition, in which we will give four young entrepreneurs the chance to win Frw 7.5 million each to grow their companies.
What I am particularly proud of is the fact that a lot of the donations we gave this year came directly from our members of staff and not only from the company.
QN: As Rwanda moves towards a cashless economy, how will Tigo leverage its mobile financial service, Tigo Cash, to benefit both itself and the community at large?
Chantal Umutoni Kagame: I believe that mobile money will make holding physical banknotes obsolete. With Tigo Cash, businesses can now pay their workers easily using our Bulk Payment platform; with the Tigo Sugira savings account we provide the highest interest payment at 7% per year, higher than any commercial bank. Now you can withdraw and credit your BK, KCB, I&M and Access bank account directly using Tigo Cash. Today, we have provided POS machines in various supermarkets, restaurants and bars; you can now pay for things directly with Tigo Cash. We have brought more people into the financial system thereby increasing financial inclusion in the country.
QN: There has been talk of mobile number portability coming to Rwanda for a while now, how do you think it will benefit Rwandans?
Chantal Umutoni Kagame: Giving people the choice to choose which network they want to join is something that I believe is best for the customer. Tigo is well positioned in this market and I am absolutely confident that we will be ready for it.