India’s Bharti Airtel is eating away at Safaricom's market share. Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, also has something to do with it

India’s Bharti Airtel starts eating away Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator, Safaricom, market share fueled by Raila’s ‘curse words’
  • On Tuesday, data from market regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) showed that Safaricom subscriber market share for the period ending December 2018, continued to drop.
  • Safaricom, which is part-owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone, shed 0.9 percentage points of subscriber market share to 63.3 percent.
  • On the other hand, Airtel Kenya’s subscriber market share jumped to 23.4 percent at the end of December, from 14.9 percent in September 2017.

Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator's market share is starting to chip away thanks to fierce competition and Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga ‘curse’ words.

On Tuesday, data from market regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) showed that Safaricom subscriber market share for the period ending December 2018, continued to drop. The drop is Safaricom’s fifth straight quarterly fall.

Safaricom, which is part-owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone, shed 0.9 percentage points of subscriber market share to 63.3 percent, compared with 71.9 percent in September 2017 when the losing streak started.

The company began to lose market share after opposition leader Raila Odinga called for consumers to boycott Safaricom, accusing it of playing a role in an August 2017 presidential vote whose outcome he successfully challenged in court.

“Big corporations are part and parcel of killing democracy in Kenya. We have the power and if they want to stifle our democracy, we can retaliate," Raila said at the time.

On April 1st 2018, five months later, the opposition leader called off the boycott but the damage had already been done.

The losses have further been sustained by an aggressive hunt for subscribers by the local unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, which happens to be the second biggest operator in the country.

Safaricom, which is in a closed period ahead of full-year results on May 2, did not comment on the latest figures.

Both Safaricom and Airtel have been increasing their quarterly user numbers but Airtel has reported faster growth in subscribers.

Airtel Kenya’s subscriber market share jumped to 23.4 percent at the end of December, from 14.9 percent in September 2017.

In February 2018, Airtel said it had agreed to merge with Telkom Kenya, the third biggest telecom operator, in order to have a chance at giving Safaricom a run for her money.

Investors however, appear unshaken and have shrugged off the developments with Safaricom’s shares rising 22 percent this year to trade at 28.25 shillings ($0.2804).

According to regulator data in 2015, Safaricom had enjoyed the lion’s share of revenue, with more than 90 percent in key categories such as voice calls. The latest revenue data was not available.

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