MTN’s digital revenue declines after clearing SMS-based services that cause airtime to vanish

Selorm Adadevoh - MTN Ghana CEO

Revenue from MTN Ghana’s digital services has been declining year on year for a while now, and the CEO, Selorm Adadevoh says it is because the company has cleaned up its value-added service (VAS) portfolio to remove all unsolicited subscriptions that were reportedly causing people’s airtime to vanish without their knowledge.

He made the disclosure at this year’s MTN Media Forum, which is an annual forum where MTN shares details of its activities and performance in the previous year with the media and allow journalists to ask all the hard questions and receive very frank answers.

In the spirit of frankness, Selorm Adadevoh stated that 80% of MTN’s digital revenue comes from the SMS-based VAS portfolio, while rich media content and digital marketing constituted the remaining 20%.

”So because of all the media reports and articles about people’s airtime vanishing as a result of unsolicited SMS-based VAS content, we had to clean up that portfolio and that is what accounts for the decline in our digital revenue,” he said.

In MTN’s 2022 full year results, it reported, for instance that, digital revenue declined by 18.8% YoY to GHS144 million due to a 15.9% decrease in active digital subscribers, which the CEO has now clarified that it had to do with cleaning up the VAS portfolio.

It would be recalled that last year, Techfocus24 editor, Samuel Dowuona went on a single-handed campaign, with the blessing of some telco and VAS industry executives to help rid the VAS space of players who made it a practice to sign people on to content and “steal” their airtime without their consent.

The campaign, dubbed “StopTheAirtimeLoot” exposed several cases of individuals having been signed on to as many as 30 unsolicited SMS-based paid subscriptions on their blind side. Indeed, because telcos earned up to 80% of the revenue from the “loot” they seemed to have abandoned their gatekeeping role, which allowed their VAS partners, working with workers to abuse and steal from customers.

The graveness and widespread nature of the problem, as exposed by Techfocus24, triggered a directive from the National Communications Authority (NCA) leading to telcos having to clean up their VAS portfolios to stop the loot, which then impacted their revenues from that space, as acknowledged by the MTN CEO.

According to Selorm Adadevoh, MTN is now working on more rich media and digital marketing content to excite customers so it can boost its digital revenue again.

He said the company is also working on ensuring digital inclusion by putting more affordable smartphones into the hands of many more Ghanaians so they can access more digital content on the network.

Some of the initiatives to drive the adoption of digital is the incentives given to customers who use MTN’s digital channels and the buy now pay later (BNPL) program MTN is running with Samsung to put more smartphones into the hands of Ghanaians on payment by installment basis.

The CEO also said that this year, the company will focus its corporate social investment into more digital and ICT projects to further bridge the digital divide and drive digital inclusion across the country.

Earlier in the week, Chief Digital Officer at MTN Ghana, Dario Bianchi said, at another forum, that he had a target to eliminate all USSD channels on MTN and drive digital adoption. But he soon woke up to the reality that an overwhelmingly huge chunk of MTN mobile money customers, for instance, use USSD rather than digital channels for transactions.

Head of Products and Services at MobileMoney Limited (MTN MoMo), Sylvia Otuo-Acheampong pointed out, at the same forum, that out of MTN’s over 13 million mobile money customers, just about 400,000 use digital channels like MyMTN and the MoMo apps, and the rest use USSD so it will not be a good idea to eliminate USSD anytime soon.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here