Funds managed by Finnish development financier Finnfund and fellow impact investor BlueOrchard Finance have made a $20m (€19.8m) debt investment to help Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) expand its network in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.

The OP Finnfund Global Impact Fund I fund and the BlueOrchard Sustainable Assets Fund have made the investment to help the telecom provider expand its network services to an estimated 35m people.

AMN aims to build 10,000 base stations in over 20 Sub-Saharan countries. The company’s portfolio is spread across different countries, with exposure to a significant number of least-developed countries such as DRC, Liberia, Congo and Guinea. 

Philipp Mueller, CEO of BlueOrchard, a company owned by Schroders, said: “AMN is connecting the unconnected in Sub-Saharan Africa by providing mobile network access for rural areas. We have a unique opportunity to accelerate digital inclusion in growth markets and digital infrastructure is a key driver of sustainable growth and shared prosperity.

“BlueOrchard is committed to seizing this opportunity and accompanying its partners and investors on this journey.”

Jussi Ahonen, Finnfund’s head of digital infrastructure and solutions portfolio, said: “AMN is a great example of an innovative digital infrastructure company. AMN provides a solution to the markets that have not been served by the traditional business models.”

Tuomas Virtala, the head of asset management at OP Corporate Bank, said: “Improving rural connectivity is a strategic priority for OP Finnfund Global Impact Fund I and the linkage between the increased mobile penetration and GDP increase is clear.”

Ashwin West, the head of sustainable infrastructure investments at BlueOrchard, said: “Conventional telecom tower companies are unable to serve the rural population economically due to the significant costs of erecting mobile towers in a rural context.

“AMN addresses this problem with an ultra-compact base station which delivers GSM voice, SMS and data service, serving most villages with a single tower. This ultra-low capex and opex is the reason why AMN can build and operate base stations profitably where others using conventional technology and processes cannot.” 

Michael Darcy, AMN’s CEO, said Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 1.1bn people, one-seventh of the global population, 62% of which is classified as rural.

“It is not only the fastest growing region in the world, but also has the world’s largest population percentage that does not have mobile coverage.

“According to estimations, more than 300m people in Sub-Saharan Africa are living in villages which have no usable mobile network service today. We have set out to address this challenge.”

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