Rwanda’s Biggest Mobile Provider Runs To Government For Help After Facing Serious Competition From Airtel


Rwanda’s biggest mobile provider has gone to the government for help after facing serious competition from Airtel.

In Kenya Airtel has never come close to really being a serious competitor against Safaricom no matter how hard they try. However, In Rwanda Airtel seems to be taking over as MTN Rwanda is now feeling threatened by the increasing interest that Rwandans have for Airtel.

What’s the history?

Once upon a time in 1998 Rwanda was trying to heal from the genocide that took millions of lives, as a way of trying to create a marginal market MTN Group was convinced to provide GSM services to the country which lead to them being unchallenged for 22 years.

At the time RPF provided the capital that was needed and additionally Crystal ventured at the time Tristar investments took charge. Just the same way we have Safaricom and other giant telcos our number one option is more often than not Safaricom, the same goes for MTN, it’s managed to be the top telecom in the market and has maintained the position for a number of years now.

The irony is that MTN has been accused of having poor service and horrible network but because of their connection to the ruling party they have been the untouchables. Airtel on the other hand have become quite popular especially because of their controversial adverts and that are specifically targeted to their competitors they end up ruffling a number of feathers.

On the Airtel advert you’ll see a clear representation of what they are trying to say. One person is seen wearing a yellow outfit while trying to run away from a rope while being held by another person who is wearing red/white colour. Yellow is MTN’s colour while red is for Airtel.

While Kenyans may argue that Airtel has poor network coverage in Rwanda social media users have stated that Airtel has beer internet speeds and a whole lot of other services.

MTN didn’t take the advert lightly and instead reported Airtel to the Rwandan Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), which also responded and said Airtel doesn’t name MTN by name, the “design, colour and the content” were meant to “unfairly discredit, disparage or attack” MTN.


Now the most random things happened after the statement, RURA’s director general Lt Col Patrick Nyirishema was replaced by cabinet. The new boss is Dr Ernest Nsabimana. One main reason why MTN feels threatened is because Bharti Airtel managed to acquire Tigo Rwanda which reduced telecoms from 3 to 2 and since then it’s been a stiff competition.

If you ask me MTN is feeling entitled due to the fact that they have enjoyed the privileges of being the governments pet and now instead of rising to the occasion and competing as they should they are basically throwing tantrums.

By running to government for protection against Airtel, the team at MTN Rwanda hopes the favour it has enjoyed all these years is still the order of the day; sure the competitor will be called to order, which has actually happened. The adverts in Kenya were allowed to run smoothly and we loved the stiff competitiveness but in Rwanda it was cringed upon and ruled as unfair.