Keeping it local in Africa and Asia, by Ian Limbach

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

?We are helping to create a middle class in Afghanistan,? says Karim Khoja, chief executive of Roshan, the country?s second mobile phone provider. ?Our shareholders could have brought their own people here and sold the service themselves – they would have made more money. But we are here to create an Afghan business environment. So we hired locally and looked for small businessmen as partners,? he adds.

Roshan, launched in 2003, employs nearly 500 staff, most of whom earn salaries several times those of government employees. The carrier?s dealer network gives work to a further 600. Now everyone in Afghanistan wants a mobile phone. ?We get delegations from villages begging to be covered by our network,? says Mr Khoja. ?Communications is not a need based on how much money you have, it a basic human requirement,? says Johan Bergendahl, vice-president of marketing at Ericsson

Sceptics point out that carriers and suppliers face saturated markets in wealthier countries and need new places to sell their wares. Indeed much of the chatter at 3GSM, the mobile industry?s main trade show, was on how to connect the next 1bn wireless customers, mostly in the developing world. Nokia estimates that there will be 3bn cellphone users worldwide by 2010, up from the current 2bn. ?Emerging markets will represent 80 per cent of this growth,? says Walid Moneimne, vice president of Nokia Networks.
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Source: Financial Times