By Arthur D. Musinguzi
It is very heart breaking that I have to throw away my Africell simcard. I have been a loyal Africell customer more than I have been in other spheres of life to anything. It has been a journey of 7 years cheap data while using the line.
I remember I was gifted my line by one of the managers who since left. I have used Africell from the time it came to Uganda. I was with it when it was still Orange Uganda in 2014 to October 2021 when it’ll be leaving.
While MTN and Airtel were still struggling with 3G internet, Africell’s 4G network was launched and was reliable unlike the rest.
It is a very sad situation especially because our data and airtime will be taken unless used. There’s also no clear telecom they are transferring us (the 3,000,000) customers to. At the moment, we lost, unclaimed.
Much as I have been a big data consumer and customer of Africell, I cannot hide from the fact that their biggest mistake in the end culminated into their downfall: poor planning. Africell only had a data-only strategy and failed to attract new clients with other added services. That alone shows a poor investment strategy. Whereas other telecoms are reaping big from mobile money services to the extent of posing a fear to banks, Africell significantly failed to market Africell Money.
Even at gun point, I’m to this day unable to recite my Africell money pin. Africell just didn’t market it as their product.
I understand every economy is going through it with the COVID pandemic that has upended ordinary life and business but Africell’s problems of Africell started at its inception. They were buried in its strategy that top management failed to change.
The consequences are now on Ugandans. I personally have friends who work in the telecom and have families to take care of and as of now are rendered unemployed. To make matters worse, the final nail in Africell’s coffin has come during the COVID pandemic which has affected economies significantly and household income for many Ugandans.
Africell’s highly regarded business was data, but could not cut into the market share of Airtel and MTN when it came to other services.
Well, knowing Uganda is a digital baby, I don’t think they should have only positioned themselves as a ”cheap internet buffet restaurant” alone. There were other things to leverage and get their Returns On Investment.
Therefore, telecoms need to do a very good market study and research before simply entering the market.
Africell departs the Ugandan market deeply indebted but what is worse that many customers will not have a chance to pay up what they owe the network in form of packages like “Wewole.” I have not heard of a plan to recoup this money.
Clearly, hundreds of people who have been feeding on Africell branches are going to face it rough because of the poor planning of their beloved telecom. This includes people like me who were once their Social Media Influencers in their good days and witnessed the company grow from zero to over 1,000,000 and to the now 3,000,000 plus customers.
The negative impact is big especially for those that were directly working for it right from security guards as you enter the premises, to the landlords of the premises they were renting, to the customer care people, to the front desk workers and the entire management and most importantly to us the customers.
I have come to agree with the bitter fact that if us the 3,000,000 customers were that useful, Africell wouldn’t be exiting the market. So, I have to bid farewell to the muntu wawansi telecom. It will be very difficult to get a telecom with services as good yet cheap as for Africell.
The Writer is a Government Citizens Interaction Centre- State House, Communications Officer
General Secretary Top Bloggers Uganda and a loyal Africell Customer