Industry Thought Leadership

Socio-Telecom Link in Mauritania

June, 2017
Mohammed Elmalik
Senior Manager, Commercial Department

Chinguitel Telecom Company, (Sudatel Telecom Group Subsidiary)

Mauritania is a unique country that has a variation of everything. It falls geographically in Al-Maghreb al-Arabi and north of sub-Saharan Africa. A few miles away from the desert, one would find the ocean in the capital city Nouakchott. Within the same mile, you can see the latest car models and the poorness in the city. A rich man is a humble man wearing the traditional dress of Mauritania “Daraa”. They would take the opportunity to go to the desert whenever they get a chance. It’s a relaxing original spot for most, far from the crowed and the quick rhythms of the city that most foreigners see it as calm. However, Nouakchott as capital represents only 0.4 % of the total land of the country and accommodates about 30% of the population. As you go in the streets and interact with people, you hear different accents and languages; Hassania (Arabic in nature), French, and some local African languages.

Telecom Sector Overview
The variation & uniqueness of the country also applies to the telecom industry. Three Mobile Network Operators are competing on such small population; approximately 3.6 million, on the other hand ARPU is more than 5 USD that is high in comparison to Africa and to the region, and the mobile penetration rate is exceeding 100% and its also higher than the African average of penetration 81%. A dramatic increase in internet penetration is witnessed, from 0.7% in 2010 to 41% in 2016, 3G launch in was in 2011.

Wide range of telecom services are offered in the market from the very basic ones to the highly advanced. CDMA is still popular in the market for talkers and those who travel frequently to the regions where there is no or limited electricity, its battery last for long time and it has wider network coverage length that why! A very obvious characteristic of the market is the domination of the bonus on recharge cards, it grows in popularity & complexity day after day and it’s a tangible thing that why! In addition, VAS services are booming. You find advanced services compared to other markets such as gifting packages to your beloved friends & family instead of transferring credit and beep call service (which allows making “call” without having credit), although MCN as a traditional VAS service was launched late in the market!

The Ministry of Telecommunication is running strategic projects on national connectivity infra-structure, Fiber optics between and within the cities through WARCIP project, this to insure infra-structure for future digital services. In addition the ministry supports and facilitates to operators covering areas with low population. It’s crucial for the Authority of Regulatory to grantee good level of service in the market through regular tests on MNO’s. It’s applying rules to insure fare competition in the market; it has been awarded “Best Authority of Regulatory in West Africa in 2012” by Africa Telecom Forum.

Social Telecom link:
Since each market is unique with its own cultural attributes, it is noted that the social life and telecom are impacting each other.

The traditional dress for men (called Daraa), has a very big pocket in the front. Daraa also works as sleep dress when its cold, face cover from the sun when its hot. These bigger than average pockets in the national dress provides a comfortable choice to carry more than one handset. The multi handset behaviour is affecting the loyalty in a negative way.

Looking at wedding traditions, serving “Bounty” chocolates is a traditions at wedding parties. it’s customary for the groom to provide small gifts to friends of the bride. Nowadays, scratch cards with different types of chocolates is gifted. In the past, this used to be a recorder or traveling bag with some clothes. This is just an example of how the telecom is linked to societal traditions and reshaping lives! In addition, few days after the wedding, the bride has to receive a brand new handset. Latest models are preferred. This signifies giving the girl freedom, because conservative families don’t usually allow usage of mobile before marriage. They use the mother’s mobile. These factors often have an impact on estimating addressable market sizing.

Word of mouth is more powerful than you can imagine. In a small, highly connected society, families and friends gather to drink green tea (locally named Attay) and share news, as well as experiences and exchange information. This is how typical communication looks like. Not much ATL (Above The Line advertising on the streets or TV commercials)

One of facts that the society is highly interconnected and people are so kind, its normal to ask anyone nearby to make call when your phone is off. In occasions such as Eids, gifts are given and smartphones are common, and that is one of the thing helped the increase in the internet penetration and usage somehow. Also a significant amount of international traffic is noticed, its mainly directed towards nearby countries because lots of trading across boarders is very common also some tribes are socially linked with nearby countries.

One of the good things especially about youth, that they are having business mindset. Lots of entrepreneurs are starting up and the government support such trend. They use different numbers for different purposes and they know how to smartly optimize and allocate their spending across the MNO’s. With numbering plans easy to catch and to remember “8 digits”, most of customers don’t have to worry about their number being an address or an identity that is a challenge for MNO’s to maintain good level of loyalty in such high penetration rate, yet one of the numbers is used as an identity by considerable amount of customers.

Financial sector is growing. In a small, highly-connected society, the social link is driving customers’ behaviour. The need to exchange money between the urban and rural areas, given the limited availability of mobile financial services, created casual social networks that dominated the money transfer sector. These casual networks have a distribution network far larger and far stronger than that of banks and mobile telecom operators

One of the “Sufi orders” and it is one of the largest place for religious education located in South East Nouakchott. It accommodates Mauritanians and other nationalities. Fixed Wires Telephony was ordered to enable students to connect with their families although 3G mobile network was available in the area. Internet services may disturb students focus on education if it’s misused. Again, this is an example of the relation between telecom & society. Also changing the traditional image of religion education centers from being “isolated” to being “connected”. Any limited connectivity better than nothing.

More and more examples on how social life and telecom are connecting to each other, especially in regions and rural areas, and this is just a highlight about this link, I believe the social telecom link exists in each market and it is important to understand customer behaviour in each market.

Source: Authority of regulatory.