Malcel Founder and the company brand
* The process of vetting their license was rigorous and we are satisfied with the application as submitted
* We are still in the process of working with them until the Gazetting of the license as per law and regulations—MACRA Director General Daud Suleman
* Malcel Plc also registered a mobile money company named MCASH to be used as a vehicle for enhancing financial inclusion
* We are honoured to be given an opportunity to serve Malawians through state-of-the-art telecommunication services
By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawian telecommunications company, Malcel Plc, that plans to enter the market next year has successfully been awarded an operating license by Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA).
Confirming the development, MACRA Director General, Daud Suleman said: “The process of vetting their license was rigorous and we are satisfied with the application as submitted. We are still in the process of working with them until the Gazetting of the license as per law and regulations.
“The financial viability and stability of their application assured us and we will continue to work with them as they start their operations in the country.”
Suleman attested that the coming in of Malcel is a good development to the consumer and “hopefully it will help to bring prices down and level the playing field for the growth of the digital economy in Malawi”.
“This is good for the economy, external investment plus job creation,” he said. “What’s more important is to know that the company is owned by local Malawian tech-entrepreneurs, which is a good sign of both local empowerment and Malawians getting involved in the telecoms market.”
Responding to our enquiry for confirmation from his Johannesburg base, Malcel Founder, CEO and Deputy Executive Chairman, Bonface Ndawala confirmed the development, saying they are “honoured to be given an opportunity to serve Malawians through state-of-the-art telecommunication services”.
“We plan to start rolling out our network in Malawi from the 4th quarter of 2022 and we will start formal operations with the first call made on our network in Q4 2023.”
He disclosed that Malcel will pump into Malawi an investment worth US$280 million and much more will be invested through the Telecom Tower company that they are working with for this venture.
On ownership, Ndawala said this new player in the telecommunications industry in Malawi is a partnership between a couple of companies namely Bedrock Holdings — a Malawian company comprising local telecom executives owning a 30% stake in Malcel and Danish company, Eferio Communications Limited which owns 60%.
“The remaining 10% has been earmarked for other local and foreign shareholders with whom Malcel is in discussions to take the remaining stake in the company.
“Through our collaboration with Eferio Communications Limited, we have secured a US$250 million facility for this project and we are in the process of negotiating for the remaining US$30 million with various investors to bring the total investment to US$280 million.
Asked how the idea on Malcel was mooted, Ndawala — who has over 22 years of experience working and managing telecoms companies in Southern Africa, East Africa and West Africa said: “I have over the years worked for and managed companies from Europe, Middle Eastern, South Africa and Asia.
“I felt it was time we came up with our own set up — locally founded and locally owned. The Malcel was hatched by me, and I then approached some like minded compatriots to join me in this quest.
“And upon seeing the potential and realising that we could produce something special, we refined the plan with expert input from different sections to come up with what we have today.
“First, we set up Bedrock Holdings to represent our stake in Malcel and I went on the hunt for potential partners which is when we convinced Efirio Communications to join us and together we secured the said funding for this project.”
He added that they have also registered a mobile money company named MCASH, which will be used as a vehicle for enhancing financial inclusion in Malawi, saying: “We will deploy Fintech Solutions that address people’s everyday needs as we are coming into the market as a solutions-based digital network provider.”
On his partners in Bedrock Holdings, Ndawala was non-committal for the moment, just indicating that they are “mostly former employees of Celtel and Zain; some are ex-TNM staff, and among them are architects of mobile telecommunications in Malawi”.
He singled out Davie Huwa, who is their CTO who built the initial Celtel network back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, saying: “That should give you an idea of the sort of expertise and experience that we are talking about”.
On competition against the two incumbent mobile service providers, Airtel and TNM, Ndawala said: “We welcome such competition in the market place — that is always a good thing for the customers.
“We want to give Malawians a real third alternative so we will fight on service to the subscribers. Whoever has the best service, which leads to the best customer experience, will have the edge in this fight.”
“We have a very robust plan, we will deploy the best technology on the market, we aim to match the network coverage of the two incumbent operators with a planned 1,300 sites over 5 years.
“We know the market very well, we know the industry very well, we are incredibly well-funded and above all we have assembled a robust, formidable and very experienced team to execute that plan.
“So, for us we will follow our plan regardless of who the competition is, and we are pretty confident that we will achieve that plan.”
He assured consumers that “something exciting is about to break in Malawi’s telecommunication industry, it’s brand new, has a lot of offerings, quality voice calls, fast data speeds and is very innovative”.