Airtel set for Sh22bn IFC cash for Kenya, Rwanda, DRC units

Customers walk past an Airtel shop.  

Photo credit: Photo | Shutterstock

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is set to invest $165 million (Sh26.99 billion) in Airtel Africa to fund its operations and refinance existing loans across three subsidiaries in Kenya, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The IFC revealed that it plans to give Sh22.27 billion debt from its own account and mobilise another $35 million (Sh4.72 billion) from its Managed Co-Lending Portfolio Programme (MCPP)—the lender’s syndications platform for institutional investors.

The MCPP creates opportunities for institutional investors and credit insurance companies to invest alongside the IFC on commercial terms in globally diversified loan portfolios.

“The proposed funding will support Airtel Africa operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Kenya to cover capital expenditure (CAPEX) needs and refinance USD-denominated debt,” the IFC said in a disclosure.

“The CAPEX component will be directed towards modernising the telecom network by purchasing active equipment on sites for 4G, such as antennas, software updates, packet cores, base transceiver stations, and the acquisition and/or buildup of fibre capacity,” the World Bank private sector lending arm added.

The funding is subject to approval by the IFC board.

This would be IFC’s second investment in Airtel Africa after a previous disclosure in 2022. The planned $150 million (Sh20.24 billion) IFC investment in Airtel Africa was targeted at supporting the telco’s capital expenditure requirements for two years in seven of its 14 operating companies, namely Chad, DRC, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Congo, and Zambia.

The capital expenditure included rolling out new telecom sites, including towers and base stations, upgrading existing sites to support 3G/4G or potentially 5G services, and adding carrier bands and sectors for capacity and network upgrades.

The 2022 planned IFC funding to Airtel Africa also aimed at investment in fibre transmission infrastructure through microwave or fibre connection of sites of the network and investment in IT systems and sales networks.

Airtel Africa has integrated mobile network operations in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including mobile voice and data services as well as mobile money services. Airtel is a public company limited by shares incorporated in the UK and is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Bharti Airtel Limited, an Indian telco with operations in 17 countries, is a majority shareholder with a 56 percent shareholding in Airtel Africa.

Airtel Africa revealed in February plans to build a data centre in Nairobi, which will become its second such facility on the continent after Nigeria as it moves to diversify its revenue streams. The telco said the Nairobi data centre, which will be usable in telecoms and other sectors, will have a capacity of seven megawatts, much smaller than a 36-megawatt facility it plans to build in Lagos, Nigeria.

Airtel Africa chief executive officer Segun Ogunsanya said in February that beyond the two data centres in Lagos and Nairobi, the telco is also going to have smaller data centres in its mobile cable landing stations including Tanzania, DRC, and Gabon.

In the Kenyan market, Airtel Kenya has stepped up investments in voice and mobile money business. The telco reveals that most of the 5G sites it has deployed are in Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and Tanzania.

Editor's note: The story has been revised to indicate that IFC plans to invest in Airtel Africa as the funding is subject to approval by its board.

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