Having spent more than six months in the process of acquiring Orange Uganda, Africell officially decided and announced plans to push the button on a rebranding exercise that would be in effect on December 23rd.

The news was first reported in text message sent to some Orange subscribers.

“Be the first to know that as of 23rd of December, Orange becomes Africell. Stay updated on www.africell.ug,” read the SMS.

But the said website was, and is today, still showing “under construction” in a page titled “Coming Soon”.

The Orange.ug website still practically looks like an Orange website, except for the changed logo, and a banner notifying visitors of the 23rd December switch. It remains to be seen how long it will take the telecoms operator with over 12million subscribers across Africa to take full control of it’s Uganda operations, and how the current status affects its subscriber base.

Reports in November indicated that Africell plans to invest up to $150 million to improve the network of its recently acquired Ugandan unit, Orange Uganda Ltd., over the next three years, with a target of achieving a 20% market share in the fiercely competitive market.

Africell's website is still under construction.
Africell’s website is still under construction.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Ziad Dalloul said the  new investment would also enable it to attract more voice subscribers so it can reach its target of at least 6 million by 2019.

“The demand for data is exponentially increasing, in terms of speed and coverage. You need to offer high-speed data everywhere including the inland parts of the country, and this is quite challenging with the existing infrastructure.” he said. “We will be adding more weight to capture more of the voice market while defending the very nice share of data that already exists.”

Rising economic growth and increased smartphone penetration across Africa continue to drive up demand for data services, as more young Africans get online, analysts have said.

Uganda has total of around 19 million phone subscribers, with mobile phone penetration growing at around 10% a year over the past five years, according to the state regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

Africell, which launched its operations in 2001 in Gambia now has a 61% market share in Sierra Leone and Gambia, and has over 5 million subscribers in Congo. The Ugandan acquisition has added close to 700,000 new subscribers to the company, bringing its active subscriber total to 11 million on the continent.

It expects to have 15 million mobile subscribers across its operations on the continent next year—still small when compared with giants such Vodacom’s South African unit, which has over 50 million customers in Africa. However, with the company’s annual revenue, currently around $270 million, growing at around 30% a year, Africell is one of the fastest-growing telecommunications companies on the continent, analysts say.

But the recent launch of Vodafone in Uganda will make the competition steeper than Africell might have anticipated in November.