Mining & Business Magazine : Mr. Lokossou, can you explain to us why Orange is present at DRC Mining Week in such a massive way?
Gérard Lokossou : For a little over a year now, Orange has changed its vision for Africa. The company is increasingly positioning itself as a multi-service operator, a privileged partner in the digital transformation of the continent.
M&B : Can you tell us more about it?
GL : The needs of populations are changing: in addition to networks and connectivity, which are at the heart of our business as a telecommunications operator (voice, SMS & data), basic service needs offer us development opportunities. Examples include financial and banking services, through Orange Money, or access to electricity for household needs, through Orange Energy.
Thanks to our infrastructure and our capacity for innovation, we are also positioning ourselves as an operator that should help accelerate the development of industries. This is particularly true in the mining industry, where we provide enhanced connectivity solutions.
Our presence at the 15th edition of the DRC Mining Week allows us to assert our leadership and support for the development of the mining industry, but also to promote our latest innovations: 4G+, point-to-point link solutions throughout the territory as well as possibilities via various satellites where isolation is still too important.Our traditional business, connectivity and voice, is opening up to new businesses such as financial services, with Orange Money, or energy, with Orange Energy. The other aspect of our vision, which justifies our presence here, is our positioning as an operator that must help industries, particularly mining industries, to flourish through our connectivity solutions. Our presence at DRC Mining Week allows us to affirm our support for the development of the Industry, but also to promote our latest innovations: 4G, point-to-point link solutions and satellite.
M&B : When will you be ready for fibre?
GL : We already have a significant amount of fiber and we continue to deploy it every year, not only for our own needs, but also for the needs of our customers. For a geography like ours, fibre cannot be the only solution, but rather we must think in terms of combinations of solutions to meet needs while making access affordable for the greatest number of people. The legal framework and incentives under discussion with the authorities should help in this regard.
It’s one of the big challenges, but it’s also an opportunity! The size of the country means that there is no single solution to provide connectivity. Indeed, fibre is a solution based on which we have a massive deployment project, not only for connecting our sites, but also to be able to connect companies and homes. There is no reason why we should not have the quality of service here in the DRC that Orange is able to offer in other continents, for example in Europe.
M&B : I come back to energy. How many homes have been connected?
GL : Today, we provide, distribute and pay for electricity access solutions to Orange customers in partnership with SHS (Solar Home System) manufacturers: we are at just over 15,000 households, mainly in Kinshasa. Our ambition at the end of the year is to reach 20,000 homes. The need is enormous and we are working with the authorities to ensure that a legal, appropriate regulatory and fiscal measures framework is put in place, for they will be able to provide these
needs within 3 years, with a view to enabling more than 100,000 households to be connected in the DRC. This framework should enable more than 100,000 households in the country to be connected within three years.
M&B : You personally have been in Congo for about eighteen months, what are your biggest challenges?
GL : In DR Congo, we are rather converting challenges into opportunities. Because of its geography and the size of the population in rural areas, this represents a challenge in terms of coverage. We also have an infrastructure deficit, especially in terms of energy. Solutions to this problem are often complex, but it gives us the opportunity to show the strength of the Orange Group and position ourselves as a true leader.
M&B : What can you tell your customers about the improvements to be expected in the coming months?
GL : Our investments are now making it possible to cover more than 90% of the population in 3G throughout the DRC. As for 4G+ (which we are the only one to offer in the market), we will continue its expansion. And here again, we promise a particular experience that I cannot afford to disclose at this time, but M&B will be the first to do so.
M&B : What is the difference between 4G and 4G+?
GL : With 4G+, we are able to provide data rates that cannot be achieved with 4G. It is a much more advanced version and we are able to deploy it on a number of sites.
M&B : A last word for your customers?
GL : It’s a word of thanks. I think we have started a journey whose ultimate goal is to bring them the best and bring them closer to the essentials... We continue to work, there are things to improve. The challenges that come before us are opportunities that will allow us to satisfy their needs and send them to horizons they do not even suspect today....