Following contributions to a US$450 million investment round for IHS Towers, which controls mobile towers in Rwanda, Zambia, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast. According to Director Ed Stumpf, African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) is looking to invest in a new cellular tower management company in West Africa.
AIIM is exploring investing in a new TowerCo with opportunities in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Ivory Coast, where there is demand for 10,000 towers over the next five years,” Stumpf added. According to Tellimer research, African telecommunications companies are “moving towards asset-light models through sale and leaseback agreements of mobile towers” with tower providers.
Helios Towers has recently purchased Airtel Africa’s towers in Madagascar and Malawi. MTN Group has also hired experts to look into the possibility of selling and leasing back part or all of its 13,000 towers in South Africa. Some African companies are also leading the charge for infrastructure sharing among mobile operators, a condition that tower companies can better control.
According to Stumpf, this is an area where AIIM is looking to expand its investments. After recently investing in South Africa’s MetroFibre Networks, the company is now focusing on “metro and last-mile terrestrial fibre deployment.” In December 2020, a US$105 million “equity investment round” was launched to “support MetroFibre’s capital expansion” over the next three years.
“There is still potential to improve connection through regulation, assisting in the acceleration of downstream demand development by pushing more affordable end-user pricing by supporting competition and infrastructure sharing across many sections of the digital value chain,” Stumpf explained. Despite the flurry of current and projected sub-sea fibre landing and connectivity across Africa, he stated that “considerable investment is still required to establish terrestrial networks, particularly in the urban and last-mile access regions of the value chain.”