I hope that you are all keeping well and safe.

Many of you, will by now have heard, that MTN Group and our equity partners Silk Road Fund from China were unsuccessful in a bid for a new telecoms licence to operate in Ethiopia.

Over the weekend, the Ethiopian telecoms regulator awarded only one of two licences on offer to a consortium led by Kenya’s Safaricom. We remain respectful of the decision by the Ethiopian authorities , and thank them for the opportunity to participate in the bid process.

I would like to thank the many teams (internally known as the Project Lion team) for working diligently and tirelessly on the Ethiopia bid. I know that you are all bitterly disappointed (as I am too), and this is to be expected and appreciated. I also know that you fully supported the approach taken on the bid, and remain of the view that we made the right decisions, given the licence conditions on offer and other related issues on the bid.

My thanks know no bounds to the Project Lion team and Group Exco, who worked with me on motivating the bid proposal to the MTN Group Board. These are MTNers we can all be proud of, and who exhibit the best of what it means to be #goodtogether! I would like to also thank the Group Board for their wisdom and support through the bid process. As I was immersed in my own disappointment and trying to get my perspective and balance back, I received the following message: “In the Quran, there is a saying: But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing, and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not…”

I was grateful for the power on perspective of the message, and picked myself up to carry on with the wonderful work and responsibility that we have to our stakeholders. Press speculation has been that we bid US$ 600m for the licence, and I can confirm that to be true. There has also been further press commentary that our bid was approximately 29% lower than the successful bid. We and our equity partners remain very comfortable with the discipline we showed in making our decision on the value of the opportunity.

We were guided by our capital allocation and returns framework. This framework informs all the investment decisions we make, including capital expenditure for our “second to none” networks. When we make investment decisions on all the exciting opportunities that present themselves, we evaluate them in an integrated approach – considering strategic, commercial, technology, risks and other material issues to guide the  capital we allocate to these very opportunities.

This discipline in capital allocation will be so central to the successful execution of the Ambition 2025 strategy and revealing the tremendous value in our business and across our markets, as well as meeting our promises to our investors as per our enhanced medium-term guidance.

With our Ambition 2025 strategy, we have so many opportunities ahead for MTN Group. We are delivering leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress. We are  growing. We are continuing to unlock value for our stakeholders. Our excitement, discipline and focus will remain undiminished! I would like to thank you all for your commitment to delivering on our core belief and purpose that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life.

Please stay safe – wear your masks and continue to practise social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols