Restructuring as a Response to a Challenging Environment
Chapter 6: Structural and strategic adjustment among African mobile operators
Africa is a continent of contrasts, as is demonstrated only too clearly in the sections that follow. However, given such matters as the large number of countries/islands on the continent, their geography, history, culture and access to natural resources, this hardly comes as a surprise. Nevertheless, one thing that has always been a very common feature across the continent is a poor fixed-wire infrastructure, so the advent of mobile communications has been much more significant than in, say, Europe and the USA. Up until the middle of the first decade of the 2000s the total number of mobile subscribers remained fairly small – China and the USA could each muster more subscribers than the whole of Africa in 2005 – although this was clearly not going to last. But potential has to be exploited and, if nothing else, it is hugely expensive to roll out mobile networks across a continent the size of Africa. This raises a number of related questions. For our purposes, the main ones relate to identifying key differences between countries and the role of both domestic and overseas-based operators. Since the period up to the end of 2007 is amply covered in Curwen and Whalley (2008), what follows will refer to that period only where necessary for the purposes of understanding historical continuity. Altogether there are 56 countries and islands in this region.
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