UAE's e& commits $6bn to advance technology infrastructure in 16 countries

The investments will help boost digital capabilities and economic activity in markets across three continents

The Ameca Robot from e& at the UAE technology company's stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. AP
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UAE telecoms and technology company e&, formerly Etisalat Group, has committed $6 billion over the next two years to boost the digital capabilities and economies of the markets it serves across three continents.

The investment pledge between 2024 and 2026, made to the International Telecommunication Union’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, will cover 16 markets, e & said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Friday.

The coalition is a leadership-level pledging platform used to mobilise new resources, partnerships and commitments to achieve “universal and meaningful connectivity”, according to the Geneva-based ITU, a specialised agency of the United Nations.

The investments will help boost connectivity, ensure access to cheaper telecoms services and expand the use of artificial intelligence.

“We aim to drive economic growth, innovation … significantly reducing inequalities … [for] a more inclusive and connected digital world”, said Hatem Dowidar, group chief executive of the Abu Dhabi-based conglomerate.

E&’s investments cover the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan and Togo.

The pledge will support the advancement of economies that are “digitally inclusive while making people’s overall lives better”, Mr Dowidar said.

E& said it will also help facilitate the widespread adoption of digital services, including mobile financial solutions, telehealth and education in underserved areas.

The group is also set to reinvest in building networks of the future to accelerate technology adoption and increase fibre penetration and fast mobile network speeds, it added.

“With these investments, we can also better serve customers and allow them to engage in more economic activities,” Mr Dowidar said.

E& is among a number of technology companies that have made a pledge to Partner2Connect at the MWC.

The commitments include China Telecom's $1.4 billion for the country's remote villages, Veon's $600 million to build Ukraine's digital infrastructure and Qatar's Ooredo, which committed $1.1 billion for developing countries across North Africa, the Middle East and Indian Ocean.

Partner2Connect has mobilised commitments worth more than $46 billion over the past two years.

“Universal meaningful connectivity is within our grasp. Thanks to these new commitments, millions of people will benefit from accessible and affordable connectivity across the world,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, secretary-general of the ITU.

With the telecoms industry disrupted heavily by technology, operators are rapidly transforming their operations to widen their operational reach and add new revenue lines as competition intensifies.

E& is open to acquisitions or partnerships that will allow it to diversify its portfolio, expand locally and overseas, and increase its consumer base, the company's top executives earlier told The National.

Robust economic growth in e&'s markets have boosted its bottom line, with the company this month reporting a 3 per cent rise in it 2023 profit to $2.8 billion. Revenue for the reporting period climbed 2.5 per cent annually to $14.65 billion.

The company is also projected to lead revenue growth in the GCC telecoms sector this year as companies shore up their assets in new international markets, according to Moody's Investors Service.

Updated: March 05, 2024, 10:23 AM