Orange’s MEA chief decries tax and regulatory restraints

Jérôme Hénique, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa (MEA), talks to TelecomTV at MWC24 in Barcelona.

Jérôme Hénique, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa (MEA), talks to TelecomTV at MWC24 in Barcelona.

  • Orange has been recording double-digit revenue growth in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) 
  • The business is focused on four main growth engines 
  • But its ability to invest in supporting infrastructure and technology is hampered by regional tax rates and regulations, according to the operator’s regional CEO Jérôme Hénique

Taxation and regulation are impeding Orange’s ability to invest in next-generation networks in the Middle East and Africa, according to Jérôme Hénique, CEO of the telco’s operations in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

Speaking with TelecomTV during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024 in Barcelona, Hénique explained that taxation is the main challenge faced by the telco group in most of the countries in which it operates across the MEA region, with tax rates equivalent to up to 30% of Orange’s revenues in some markets.

“That’s a very heavy burden because it impacts our ability to invest and we need to invest now in the new generation networks,” such as 5G and fibre, he argued.

According to the executive, the second-largest hurdle for the operator in the Middle East and Africa is around regulation.

“When we’re renewing our licences and bidding for new spectrum, we need a better framework in some of the countries,” Hénique noted.

Despite this, he stated, Orange has managed “to operate well and to have a positive discussion with all stakeholders, including governmental and regulatory agencies.”

Hénique’s statement on the way MEA business operates is backed up by its financial performance: It is the company’s best-performing region, with its revenue growing by 11.4% year on year to €7.2bn in 2023.

The region’s chief noted that each of the 17 markets in which Orange operates in the region has booked increases in the past year, making the business “the main growth engine for Orange Group”.

The telco is now focusing on four main areas of growth for its Middle East and Africa operations. The first one is mobile data – and to further boost its performance, Orange is investing more than €1bn per year in 4G and 5G network deployments in the region. 

The second growth area is deployments of fixed broadband, including fibre and fixed wireless access (FWA). 

The third one is the mobile financial service, Orange Money, which already has more than 35 million active users. 

The business unit’s last growth area is the business-to-business/enterprise services sector, which has seen double-digit growth in 2023, driven by other business lines, such as fixed broadband and mobile data.

The CEO also discussed potential M&A moves for Orange in the Middle East and Africa, and shared his views on the role of AI for further growth. 

To find out more about his vision on these topics, watch the full interview – MWC24: Orange’s Jérôme Hénique on growth in the Middle East and Africa.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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