Impact Investing Case Study – Helios Towers

3 min read 3 Aug 22

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Helios Towers is the third-largest independent tower telecommunication company in Africa. Its principal business lies in building, acquiring and operating telecommunications towers that are capable of accommodating and powering the needs of multiple tenants. These tenants are typically large mobile network operators (MNOs) and other telecommunications providers who, in turn, provide wireless voice and data services, primarily to end-consumers and businesses.

Helios was formed in 2009, and today operates some 9,560 towers across Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Congo-Brazzaville, South Africa, Senegal and Madagascar. And, following acquisition agreements which are subject to regulatory approvals, it expects to establish a presence in five new markets across Africa and the Middle East, with the total site count expected to increase to approaching 14,000.

Helios Towers’ business model is similar to that of a real estate firm, with the group’s success dependent on being able to offer high-quality locations to clients. The company uses a geographical information systems (GIS) tool, which helps to find locations that maximise the transmission signal, improve coverage for MNOs, and have desirable population characteristics and topology. The group undertakes this analysis both when it builds towers and when it acquires them.

Helios operates in parts of Africa that have among the lowest mobile penetration in the region. Its main markets have an average mobile penetration rate of 50%, well below that of overall Sub-Saharan Africa (at 73%) and developed countries (at 98%). The group’s co-location business model (where up to four MNOs can share a mobile tower) also results in lower costs for its customers and reduces their carbon footprint. In this way, Helios enables greater access to mobile and communication services in its underdeveloped markets, which is increasingly important for driving financial inclusion and access to health and education services, making it highly impactful. In this way, Helios Towers’ business most clearly aligns with SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure.*

In brief:

  • Local market: Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Primary United Nations Sustainable Development Goal: SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure*
  • Helios covers 107 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa, in areas with low mobile penetration
  • The company has over 8,600 tower sites, and 100% of its revenues are considered impactful
  • Helios increases access to information and communications for underserved communities
  • Increased mobile communications improves access to financial services and healthcare, helping to develop economies and communities
  • Helios is the third largest mobile communications tower business in Africa
  • The company is in a solid competitive position, with strong expertise, high barriers to entry and is established within its markets

*While we support the UN SDGs, we are not associated with the UN and our funds are not endorsed by them.

All company data sourced from Helios Towers. Figures shown were latest available from company literature, as at July 2022.

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