The Malawian mobile telecommunications market is a duopoly, with Telecom Networks Malawi (TNM) and Airtel Malawi (Airtel) as the two players. These hold 56% and 44% of registered sim cards for Airtel and TNM respectively.

TNM started operations in 1995 and offers standard GSM products such as voice, SMS, mobile data, and mobile money. Airtel came into the market in 1999 and offers similar products, with the exception that mobile money services are offered to the public on behalf of Airtel Mobile Commerce Limited. The MSE listed Airtel does not include the mobile money business. The products and services of the two companies are thus not differentiated but essentially commoditised.

We estimate Malawi to have approximately 10 million sim cards in the market, which is roughly 52% of the Malawian population. However, the “person penetration” rate is estimated at 8 million individuals, which is a less 42% penetration rate. The difference between the number of sim cards in the market and unique “person subscribers” would
suggest that there is a lot of multi-simming with most of the subscribers having both Airtel and TNM sim cards.

According to the GSMA, Malawi is a relatively advanced market in terms of 3G penetration rates having experienced strong growth in the recent past. 4G subscriptions, although growing, remain minimal. However, the evolution of the connectivity landscape since 2G suggests that data-driven 4G subscriptions will continue to increase as smartphone ownership rises.

When it comes to the internet, it is estimated that only 16.4% (3.45 million Malawians) have access to the internet. As such, there is plenty of runway and room for growth as internet becomes a human right. It has been observed that internet subscribers are growing faster than other segments.