QIA Backs Airtel Africa’s Mobile Commerce Unit With $200M 

Qatar Investment Authority, Airtel Africa

Telecoms operator Airtel Africa notched a $200 million investment for its Airtel Mobile Commerce unit from the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), MarketWatch and other news outlets reported on Friday (July 30). 

Airtel Africa, with a valuation of $2.65 billion, is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and is focused on bringing telecommunication services across Africa. 

The investment will give QIA — the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar — a minority stake in Airtel Mobile Commerce, according to the reports. Airtel Mobile Commerce operates several of Airtel Africa’s mobile-money operations. 

The fresh infusion of capital will be used to further advance Airtel Africa’s “asset-monetization strategy,” with an eye on a possible public listing for its mobile money business sometime within the next four years. The new funding will also go toward debt reduction, network enhancements and sales infrastructure, MarketWatch reported.

In April, Mastercard backed Airtel Mobile Commerce with $100 million. The Airtel Africa subsidiary also notched a $200 million investment from TPG’s Rise Fund.

Airtel Mobile Commerce is the holding company for a cross-section of Airtel Africa’s mobile money operations in 14 African countries, including Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, per TechCrunch. Airtel Africa’s mobile money division is among the biggest providers of financial services in all of Africa, offering mobile wallets, cross-border money transfers, loans and virtual credit cards.

“Airtel Money plays a critical role in facilitating economic activity, including for customers without access to traditional financial services. We firmly believe in its mission to expand these efforts over the coming years,” Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud, CEO of QIA, said in a statement, per TechCrunch. He added that investment will help advance financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa.

Vodafone is mulling the possibility of spinning off M-Pesa, its African mobile money subsidiary. M-Pesa brings peer-to-peer money transfers to Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. The mobile money platform is also considering a move into savings, small loans and payroll.