Chad offers potential despite challenges – R&M

Chad offers potential despite challenges – R&M

During the last decade Chad's economy has been dominated by oil exports, and as a result economic growth has been adversely affected by the falling prices for the commodity on international markets, reports Research & Markets.

Economic difficulties, with a sharp fall in GDP recorded for 2017, have been exacerbated by civil unrest and by an influx of refugees from neighbouring countries. Declining revenue has encouraged the government to attempt to renegotiate the terms of licences which only grant it 12.5% of revenue from oil exports, while it has also endeavoured to access oil money held in an escrow account set up by the World Bank and intended to be used to alleviate poverty.

The country remains one of the least developed on the continent, while telecom infrastructure is particularly poor, with penetration rates in all sectors fixed, mobile and internet well below African averages. Nevertheless, despite difficult operating conditions, large scale poverty and low spending power, Chad's telecom market offers some potential for investors to develop services given the low starting base.

The tax on mobile operators has been increased in stages in recent years, from 4% in 2014 to 7% in 2016. In January 2018 it was increased again, to 9%. Of this, the Treasury received 4%, the regulator 2.5%, the Information and Communication Technologies Development Agency (ADETIC) 1.5%, the National School of Information and Communication Technologies (ENASTIC) 0.6% and ANSCIE 0.4%. In addition to this tax an 18% excise duty was introduced in 2016 on telecom services, which has resulting in lower usage among subscribers and consequently a negative impact on operator revenue.

The two main operators, Tigo Chad and Airtel Chad, have invested in infrastructure and have become the main providers of voice and data services. However, the difficult economic conditions of the country, compounded by a tax on telecom services which has adversely affected customer spend and consequently on operator revenue, have encouraged these players to consider exiting the market. Tigo Chad's parent company Millicom International entered into discussions with Orange Group in April 2017 and with Econet in the following October regarding a potential sale, while in May 2017 Bharti Airtel announced that Chad was one of its regional markets which it considered offloading. Tigo Chad was sold to Maroc Telecom in March 2019, marking the latter's entry into a market in which it has shown an interest since 2014.

The mobile sector has developed steadily under the auspices of Tigo Chad and Airtel Chad. The national telco and fixed-line operator Sotel Tchad (ST) operates the country's third mobile network as Salam Mobile. Salam Mobile is mainly focussed on voice services since its dependence on GPRS and EDGE technologies offer only basic mobile data services. The country's first 3G/4G mobile licence was awarded in April 2014.

Chad finally gained access to international fibre bandwidth in 2012, but it still lacks a national backbone infrastructure to support efficient broadband services. However, the World Bank-funded Central African Backbone (CAB) project has made progress, and Chad is also party to a trans-Saharan Backbone project which will link a fibre cable to Nigeria and Algeria. Investment in the national backbone is continuing though progress across all 12 sectors has been hampered by delays.

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