Johannesburg, South Africa. Harith General Partners (“Harith” or “HGP”), Africa’s largest infrastructure investment fund, is pleased to announce that is has expanded its telecoms portfolio with a US$ 24.1 million investment in Open Connect Limited (“OCL”), Malawi’s largest and only redundant fibre network provider to the domestic market.
Harith’s investment will see it become OCL’s biggest shareholder with a holding of 60%, held via its Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund 2 (PAIDF 2), which has access to over US$435m in capital. The other major shareholder in OCL is Press Corporation Plc (“PCL”), the largest holding company in Malawi which is listed on both the Malawi Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange as a global depository receipt. Other shareholders include the Malawian Government, Old Mutual, NICO Holdings Plc and Investments Alliance Ltd.
OCL has the largest fibre optic coverage in Malawi. It provides carrier of carrier, redundant light and dark fibre services to leading Mobile Operators, Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and Terrestrial TV providers. As the largest and only redundant fibre network provider in the Malawian domestic market, with key international fibre links to Mozambique and Tanzania, OCL additionally has a direct connection to SEACOM’s Indian Ocean Submarine Cable and to EASSY via Mozambique de Telecommunication (TDM). This network consists of approximately 2250 kilometres of fibre.
Tshepo Mahloele, Harith CEO said: “As a leading investor in the telecoms sector on the continent, Harith believes partnering with a proven operator in Malawi and thus expanding our portfolio into east Africa, is a logical step in our company’s investment development strategy. With our investments in Main One in Nigeria and Dark Fibre Africa in South Africa, we have proved that access to communication is a massive growth enabler for African economies, and we believe OCL will continue to grow its market leading position in this part of our continent.”
Harith made its OCL investment at a time when OCL was looking to upgrade its offering and thus continue to provide excellent connectivity to its customers. The major revamp the network will undergo will ensure OCL maintains its competitive advantage.
With a population of over 18 million, Malawi’s economy has historically relied on agriculture, but the service sector (of which telecommunications is a key sub-sector) has seen significant growth over the past couple of years, and now contributes the largest portion to the economy, which is expected to grow by between 3.9% and 4.9% this decade. The growth potential of the services sector is expected to remain strong as ISPs seek to grow their customer base and mobile phone operators have huge potential to increase sales, internet subscriptions, as well as expand new services such as mobile banking.
OCL is focused exclusively on the operation of long-distance subterranean backbone, metro-ring and backhaul fibre to private sector, carrier to carrier operators, and has a fibre network in Malawi of over 2250km, more than triple that of its nearest competitor.
Dr George Partridge, Group Chief Executive of PCL said : “As a leading investor in Malawi, we are proud to partner with an investor of Harith’s stature in the next development phase of OCL. The coming in of Harith presents an exciting opportunity for OCL to grow from its already market leading position into an even more powerful force in the telecoms space in east Africa.”
Harith has two substantial investments in the telecommunication space on the African continent. In South Africa, Harith is a major shareholder in Dark Fibre Africa (http://www.dfafrica.co.za), the country’s premier open access fibre optic company, providing clients with the infrastructure they need to run their businesses.
Harith is also invested in Main One, a communications services company providing open access wholesale, international connectivity and broadband capacity to countries in West Africa. It built and owns the first privately owned submarine cable over a distance of 7,000 kilometres along the West African coastline, with initial landing stations in Nigeria, Ghana and Portugal. Main One provides open access, wholesale, international broadband capacity to countries along the western coast of Africa. On its part, PCL is also the majority shareholder in Telecom Networks Malawi Plc, a leading ICT and mobile telecommunications service provider in Malawi. Harith and PCL look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship for the better development of ICT in Malawi and beyond.