By Peter Beckley
A $100 million financing agreement between one of Sierra Leone’s leading Mobile Network Operators, Africell and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC”), the U.S. government agency that finances and supports investment by American businesses in emerging markets, has been deemed by many in the business sector as ‘the best thing that has happened to the Mobile Network industry in Sierra Leone” in a long time. Africell and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation signed the $100m financing commitment in November 2018 and concluded the financing agreement in May 2019.
As the Minister of Information, Mohamed Rado Swarray said at the official cocktail for the signing of the agreement, held on the premises of the American Embassy in Freetown on Tuesday 6th August 2019, the government considers the agreement as a ringing endorsement of the investment climate that it is trying to create.
“I want to applaud the efforts of the U.S. Ambassador, Her Excellency, Maria Brewah for marketing the private sector in Sierra Leone and we hope to see tangible results out of our other engagements” the Minister said.
In an earlier statement, the U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Maria Brewah said the U.S Overseas Private Investment Corporation financing with Africell, represents yet another example of the strong partnership between the United States and Sierra Leone, adding that it is a critical part of the ongoing partnership that involves collaborating with the private sector to help create investments in critical infrastructure such as telecommunications.
She went on further to say that established in 1971, OPIC services are available to new and expanding businesses and it is planning to invest in more than 160 countries worldwide to help American businesses gain footholds in new markets, catalyse new revenues, and contribute to jobs and growth opportunities both in the United States and internationally
CEO of Africell, Shadi Gerjawi, said the company has established itself as the market leading operator in The Gambia and in Sierra Leone and is rapidly growing operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.
“Today, Africell’s total number of active subscribers is approximately 14 million. The financing will be used to expand the availability, reach and quality of communications and associated value-added services across Africell’s operations in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda” he confidently affirmed.
Africell was established in 2001 and is one of the fastest-growing mobile telecommunications operators in Africa with a focus and skillset tailored for operations in frontier markets.