Kemi Osukoya
January 12, 2016

Orange Group said Tuesday that it has reached a purchase agreement to acquire Liberia’s leading mobile operator, Celllcom Liberia, from  Cellcom Telecommunications Limited.

The acquisition will be made through Orange’s subsidiary, Orange Cote d’Ivoire, the company said, and it is part of the international expansion and development strategy Orange made effective last year to expedite its growth in new emerging markets, with particular priority and focus on the African markets.

In recent months, the French telecommunication group has focused on strengthening its positions and expanding its footprint across Africa through several joint ventures and initiatives with African emerging companies and startups.

Last month Orange awarded its “2015 Orange AMEA Developers Challenge” prize, valued at 10,000 Euros, to FarmConnecta, a Botswana-based startup that developed an information sharing and billing system designed for the agricultural community.

The annual competition and prize has become a part of the group’s efforts to accelerate, support, provide technical assistance, and platform to local developers and, digital startups ecosystems through its Open Innovation Initiative in Africa and the Middle East.

The Cellcom deal further offers Orange the opportunities to build on that strong momentum in one of Africa’s growth potential markets.

Liberia is estimated to have a mobile penetration rate of 66 percent, with significant market share in number of subscribers, which makes it an excellent hot spot for growth over the next years.

Last month, members of the World Trade Organization unanimously approved Liberia’s membership into the organization, marking a major turning point for the country, which in the last 12 years has experienced a devastating civil war coupled with a debilitating Ebola outbreak that put a huge dent since early 2014 in the country’s economic recovery.

The World Health Organization last fall announced that the Ebola outbreak has finally ebbed, allowing the government to turn its full focus to transitioning and transforming the economy through trade and investments.

Accession into the WTO will provide Liberia with appreciable gains and benefits to trade with big economies as its begins to reintegrated into the international economy and trading systems.

The Liberian government is further taking steps to improve trade relations with regional and international companies, and is aggressively pursuing new investment opportunities as well as solidifying current investments in infrastructure projects that will modernize its ports to advance trade and investments, and socioeconomic for the over 4.3 million population who will benefit from the country’s economic growth.

Following the WTO approval, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued an executive order to advance the country’s national trade policy, and said her administration plans to use trade as an engine of inclusive growth and as a vehicle to reduce poverty, especially among women, children and the most vulnerable communities of the population.

President Sirleaf said the WTO membership marks “another turning point in our history, particularly in our journey of economic transformation for inclusive growth. Our transformation can neither be done alone, nor in isolation, but by forging partnerships.”

The ceremony, which took place in Nairobi during the WTO Ministerial meeting, was also attended by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, and other trade ministers, including U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Liberia will become the 35th LDC WTO member and the eighth LDC to accede to the WTO since 1995, once it ratify its membership by June 2016.

Orange said it will provide marketing expertise and technical capacity to further strengthen Cellcom’s network operators, enhance services to consumers and contribute to the economic growth of Liberia.

Cellcom’s founders and employees will remain involved in the business to ensure a smooth integration, the company said and will support performance and continue long-standing relations with the government of Liberia.

Orange will hold 100 percent stake in Cellcom Liberia, once the deal is completed.

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