In the heart of Africa, a digital revolution is quietly unfolding. While the world races ahead with 5G and smart cities, many in Rwanda find themselves on the other side of a digital chasm, separated not by lack of will or skill but by the simple yet significant barrier of smartphone affordability.
MTN Rwanda, in a groundbreaking alliance with the Bank of Kigali, is changing that narrative through Macye Macye, a device financing programme designed to put the power of connectivity into the hands of every Rwandan. This initiative aligns closely with UNSDG 10 by democratising access to technology and reducing economic inequalities.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), or simply SDGs, have set a global agenda for creating a more sustainable and equitable world. Comprising 17 interconnected goals, the SDGs aim to address some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. Among these goals, UNSDG 10, also known as Goal 10, specifically focuses on reducing inequalities within and among countries. It recognises that the growing disparities in income, education, and access to essential services pose significant barriers to achieving a just and prosperous world.
According to GSMA, in Sub-Saharan Africa, Smartphone adoption reached 50% in 2022. Despite these gains, Sub-Saharan Africa still has the largest proportion of basic or feature phone connections (46%), followed by South Asia (27%). In other regions, basic or feature phone connections account for less than 15% of mobile connections. The smartphone ownership gender gaps continue to widen in Sub-Saharan Africa, with women being 37% less likely than men to own a smartphone compared to the 16% global average. The main barrier to smartphone ownership is smartphone affordability.
Tackling this significant obstacle head-on, the Macye Macye programme enables MTN customers to secure smartphones and tablets through credit options. These devices are readily available across a network of MTN service centres, franchisee locations, and other retail outlets. The programme’s streamlined approval and onboarding process allows customers to become smartphone owners for a daily cost as minimal as Rwf200.
Financially, the programme is designed with the consumer in mind. The Bank of Kigali, recently honoured as the ‘Best Bank in Rwanda 2022’ by Global Finance, uses a credit scoring system based on an individual’s telecom service purchases over the past year. This allows for a more personalised and fair financing option, in line with UNSDG 10’s focus on financial inclusion. Moreover, each device comes bundled with complimentary data, talk time, and SMSes, courtesy of MTN. Payment flexibility is another highlight; customers can opt for daily, weekly, or monthly payment plans, all facilitated seamlessly through Mobile Money.
The societal impact of Macye Macye is profound. In a nation where approximately 75% of the population does not own a smartphone, this programme is more than just a commercial venture; it’s a catalyst for change. It democratises internet access and serves as a stepping stone for Rwanda’s transition into a digitally innovative economy. The programme recently celebrated a significant milestone, connecting 100,000 Rwandans with affordable smartphones and, by extension, a wealth of information and opportunities.
While the focus is on Rwanda, the programme’s success offers valuable insights that could be replicated in other African markets, each with its unique challenges and opportunities. As we look to the future, MTN remains steadfast in its commitment to bridging the digital divide, not just in Rwanda but across the African continent. Through initiatives like Macye Macye, MTN continues to make meaningful strides in connecting communities, fostering economic growth, and elevating the quality of life for its customers.