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Q&A With Wim Vanhelleputte on MTN’s “Uganda is Home” Campaign

Uganda is Home campaign is a recommitment of MTN to Ugandans that the company will continue to invest in the socio-economic well-being of the country besides its business operations.

At the tail of August telecommunication firm, MTN Uganda launched a countrywide campaign dubbed “Uganda is Home” manifested through a reforestation activity across different forest reserves. The campaign comes prior to the telco making 23 years in the country next month. Having been in the country all these years, the telco feels Uganda is home, and through this campaign, they want to give back to the community as they have always done.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Wim Vanhelleputte expounds more on the ‘Uganda is Home’ Campaign.

What is it about the MTN new campaign dubbed “Uganda is Home”?
When we first came to Uganda in 1998, we came as an outsider into this market. But Uganda welcomed us. Simple hellos turned into friendships which turned into family bonds —and where there is family, there is a home.

Over the years, we’ve done things in Uganda with Ugandans to establish and build our roots here. We have invested in democratizing communication, mobile money, data. We have invested in developing the sports and music industries and through our CSR arm; MTN Foundation, we have supported the government in key areas like health, education, youth empowerment, and other government priority areas. All of these were for the purpose of building our roots here.

MTN Uganda CEO, Wim Vanelleputte (2nd from left) receiving the telco’s ‘Second National Telecommunication Operator Licence’ from UCC Executive Director, Irene Kagawa Ssewakambo. (FILE PHOTO)
MTN Uganda CEO, Wim Vanelleputte (2nd from left) receiving the telco’s ‘Second National Telecommunication Operator Licence’ from UCC Executive Director, Irene Kagawa Ssewakambo. (FILE PHOTO)

Uganda trusted us and the government decided to renew our license to operate in the country which for us speaks to the fact that Uganda trusts us and we trust Uganda.

ALSO READ: MTN UGANDA GETS A 12-YEAR LICENSE RENEWAL AFTER PROTRACTED NEGOTIATIONS

Therefore, through this new campaign “Uganda is Home”, MTN has embarked on an ambitious project of restoring 220 hectares of forest cover —in preparation for the company listing 20% of its shares on the Uganda Stock Exchange to give an opportunity for Ugandans to own a part of the telco.

The reforestation initiative as well as the overall “Uganda is Home” campaign is a recommitment of MTN to Ugandans that the company will continue to invest in the socio-economic well-being of the country besides its business operations.

How does reforestation relate to setting up a home in Uganda?
This is something that we have learned from being in Uganda all this time. I believe it happens in other parts of Africa. When someone sets up a new home, or even when they acquire land on which they intend to build their home, there is a tendency to plant a tree or trees as a statement of ownership, a symbol of the establishment of oneself on that land. As we deepen our roots here, we are launching regional MTN reforestation activities across the country because MTN has a national presence. The reforestation activity is therefore a symbolic act for MTN that speaks to the deepening of our roots in Uganda.

MTN Uganda CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte pictured watering a tree he just planted in the Uganda is Home campaign. (FILE PHOTO)
MTN Uganda CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte pictured watering a tree he just planted in Uganda is Home campaign. (FILE PHOTO)

How big is the reforestation drive?
We launched the drive on Tuesday, August 24th, 2021 at Kyewaga forest reserve in Entebbe where 20 hectares were restored. As mentioned already, 220 hectares will be reforested, 10 hectares representing every year that we have already been here. We shall be doing 50 hectares each in Barifa CFR in Arua, Kagombe CFR in Kibaale, Jubiya CFR in Masaka, and Ogera Hills CFR in Serere district.

Can you highlight some of the milestones MTN has achieved in these 22 years?
When we first came here, telecom penetration was at just 0.28%. Many Ugandans had no access to telecom services. We introduced a business model that opened up telecom services to the masses. For example, we launched with prepaid services, extended network to the rest of the country, introduced affordable entry-level handsets like the Kabiriti.

We changed the financial landscape in this country when we introduced mobile money services which have become a new way for financial transactions of any kind in Uganda and this is a growing service.

We launched our support in industries like the music industry at a time when South African and Congolese music dominated the local industry. Today that is a multi-million-dollar industry employing millions.

Wim Vanhelleputte (far left-standing), the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda congratulates the Ugandan team that represented the country at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Wim Vanhelleputte (far left-standing), the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda congratulates the Ugandan team that represented the country at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

We have rendered our support to sports like athletics since 2004 and today we can all see the results with world records and Olympics medals. Through partnerships, we bring the local football league to sitting rooms across Uganda at a time when fans can’t go to stadia. We have supported football from the national team, to clubs like KCCA and Onduparaka.

Through the MTN Foundation, we have refurbished and equipped over 30 health centers and over 100 schools across the country. We have been one of the largest contributors to the government coffers thereby supporting the government’s development agenda. Currently, MTN employs almost 1,500 employees directly and over 100,000 others indirectly. So as you can see, we have really been building our roots here and are only happy to deepen them further.

Since you’re establishing roots, what plans do you have for Uganda?
When our license was renewed, there was a requirement for us to sell 20% of the company to Ugandans through listing on the Uganda Securities exchange. This was supposed to happen by 2022. So this campaign is in preparation for that. Ugandans will have a chance to become part-owners of MTN Uganda. That is something very big. I mean being able to own part of a company that you have helped support for 22 years.

Our plans for Uganda are to exponentially grow what we have achieved together so far. To begin with, we are committing about USD$350 million (roughly UGX1,230,950,000,000) investment in network expansion and upgrade over the next five years. We are bringing to life our slogan, ‘Everywhere You Go’. Ugandans can look forward to clear and crisp network quality and the accompanying services across the entire country. This is just one of many initiatives to grow with and develop the country that has become Home.

ALSO READ: MTN UGANDA TO DEPLOY TIP DCSG AT SCALE TO ADVANCE NETWORK AUTOMATION

We shall also continue engaging with the government and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that communication is more accessible and affordable. At MTN we believe that everybody deserves the benefits of a modern connected world and our goal is really to ensure that we deliver on our promise to Uganda.

Give us your parting shots?
We would like to say that what we have achieved together would not have been possible without the support of our customers. But very importantly, we would like to thank the government for providing us with a conducive environment for doing business, and our regulator the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for continually engaging industry players towards a better and more vibrant industry.

To all Ugandans, we have come a long way, lets continue working together towards bettering our nation. There is a lot more in store that we are looking to do for the benefit of Ugandans and ourselves and as we go on, we shall be making announcements about the next steps.

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