Billionaire Mukesh Ambani Expands into Africa With New Telecom Venture in Ghana

Accra, May 2024 — Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man and the chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd., is expanding his telecom empire into Africa with a new venture in Ghana. Next-Gen InfraCo (NGIC) plans to supply 5G broadband services to the region’s fast-growing mobile broadband sector.

Radisys Corp., a Reliance company, will play an important role in delivering critical network infrastructure, applications, and smartphones to the NGIC. Harkirit Singh, NGIC’s executive director, discussed the preparations ahead of the official launch announcement in Mumbai, India. The startup plans to start operations by the end of the year, supplying 5G broadband services to Ghana’s mobile operators and internet service providers.

“NGIC is based on the premise of building affordable digital services in emerging markets,” Singh told Bloomberg News. NGIC’s strategic partners include Nokia Oyj, Tech Mahindra Ltd., and Microsoft Corp., which will help the venture’s technological skills. These collaborations, together with NGIC’s ownership of Ghana’s sole 5G license, position the firm to supply broadband services at scale, drastically lowering prices for individual mobile operators.

Ghana, a country of approximately 33 million people, now has three major telecom operators: MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, and the state-owned AirtelTigo. NGIC’s exclusive right to provide 5G services for the next decade, backed by a 15-year license, is expected to shake up the market. Singh noted that NGIC’s strategic partners and technology capabilities will provide a competitive advantage.

Two African telecom companies, Ascend Digital Solutions Ltd. and K-NET, own 55% of NGIC. The Ghanaian government holds somewhat less than 10%, with the remainder held by local mobile providers and other investors. Singh, who is also the CEO of Ascend, stated that NGIC expects to spend $145 million on capital over the next three years.

Ambani’s investment in Ghana mimics the success of Jio Infocomm Ltd. in India, which changed the Indian telecom sector with low-cost data and free voice calls. Jio is now India’s largest mobile operator, with 470 million users. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Ghana’s Minister for Communications and Digitalization, is optimistic that NGIC will repeat Jio’s success by making mobile broadband services and gadgets more affordable to Ghanaians.

This move is not only an economic expansion for Reliance, but also a diplomatic victory for India, which seeks to offset China’s expanding influence in Africa through digital inclusion programs. Although Reliance does not currently own any equity in NGIC, strategic partners have the opportunity to convert a portion of their payments into equity in the future.

As Mukesh Ambani brings his disruptive telecom playbook to Africa, the industry is set for considerable upheaval, with NGIC leading the way in Ghana’s digital revolution.

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