September 2, 2020

Engage 2025: ORANGE’s strategic plan to meet Broadband Advocacy Targets

Case Study By

Mr Stéphane Richard

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ORANGE SA & Chairman of GSMA

In May 2020 ORANGE purpose that drives us and brings us together as a community was integrated into the company’s bylaws: “As a trusted partner, Orange gives everyone the keys to a responsible digital world.” It informs the role.

The ORANGE strategic plan called Engage 2025 renews its environmental and societal commitments, and formulates ambitious engagements (1) to fight global warming by achieving carbon neutrality in 2040 – 10 years before the mobile industry commitment through GSMA – and (2) to reduce the digital divide by expanding network coverage, providing inclusive offers and affordable smartphones, offering training and coaching.,

Our industry has a great power connecting people, providing them an access to essential services such as education, jobs, information and finance. With our great power comes a great responsibility for a long-term sustainable growth. In 2020, Orange has led a deep internal and cross fertilization approach to evaluate its contribution to SDGs. This has allowed for the identification of 6 SDGs on which the group has a major impact. They are reflecting Orange’s Corporate purpose, our strategic ambitions and commitments, our core activities and way to do business.

We defend the positive role of digital in achieving the SDGs (SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure) as well as our commitment to reduce our environmental footprint (SDG Climate Action and SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production) and to fight for the reduction of inequalities (SDG 10 Reduced inequalities). We advocate advanced cooperation (SDG 17 Partnerships for the goals), and business practices that are consistent with respect for fundamental freedoms and ethical and responsible behavior (SDG 16 Partnerships for the goals).

We are keen to further improve inclusion by tackling the digital divide. Our initial response involves rolling out networks in rural areas in partnership between the public and the private sector. This is already true in France, as part of the New Deal and Public Initiative Networks but also in Africa and the Middle East, where Orange Group leverages innovative technical solutions to expand coverage in rural areas. Our engagement is to deploy 8 000 new 4G mobile sites by 2023 (vs 2018) in Africa and the Middle East zone. But only 20 % of the digital divide is due to a lack of coverage. Indeed, one of the main obstacles to getting people online is their lack of know-how and resources. That’s why, in all our operating countries, we promise to help people access digital technology and teach them how to use it. We’ll also continue to offer ever-more affordable smartphones in Africa and the Middle East.  

These commitments are definitely aligned with the broadband Commission for Sustainable Development 2025 Targets. 

Advocacy Target 3: Getting people online: By 2025, Broadband-Internet user penetration should reach: a) 75% worldwide b) 65% in developing countries c) 35% in Least Developed Countries

Broadband network deployment in all countries, in urban, suburban and rural areas, is key to increase Broadband-Internet user penetration. Every year Orange invests €1 billion in Africa and the Middle East, mostly for network deployments and upgrades.

The “Africa Coast to Europe” (ACE) undersea cable already connects France and Portugal to 24 Western African countries, either directly for coastal countries or through land links for landlocked countries such as Mali and Niger. ACE is the first international submarine cable to land in Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tomé and Principe and Sierra Leone. Initiated by Orange, and led by a consortium of 19 members, ACE has received financial support from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank as it represents a vehicle for social and economic growth in the newly connected countries.

Orange is also part of the 2 Africa consortium: 2Africa will be the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region. 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa. The system is expected to go live in 2023/4, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system. 2Africa will deliver much needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, supplement the fast-growing capacity demand in the Middle East and underpin the further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.

In countries where the 2Africa cable will land, service providers will obtain capacity in carrier-neutral data centers or open-access cable landing stations on a fair and equitable basis. This will support healthy internet ecosystem development by facilitating greatly improved accessibility for businesses and consumers alike.

To complete the undersea cables and to cover the inland, Orange announced, last November, the construction of a new international backbone network in West Africa. This infrastructure will be built around a terrestrial fiber optic network coupled with submarine cables and will benefit from centralized supervision. This multi-regional West African network will connect to the rest of the world through various submarine cables and will link up all the main capital cities in the region: Dakar, Bamako, Abidjan, Accra, Lagos… 

This new network is designed to provide large-scale international capacity and, in consequence, will help support the development of a digital ecosystem and meet business needs in West Africa. 

To provide last-mile connectivity, Orange has deployed 3G and 4G mobile networks in the countries where the Group is present in Africa and the Middle East. Today, 2G coverage is available to nearly 100% of the population in Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt; and 70% of the population of the 18 Orange footprint countries have access to 3G. 4G is available in 15 countries where Orange has a presence. 

Furthermore, Orange aims to offer innovative solutions to bring mobile internet connectivity to people living in areas with little or no coverage, and to stimulate development through digital inclusion and the services it enables (e.g. e-education, e-health, e-agriculture & financial services). In order to promote digital and social inclusion, deployment of ‘ultra rural’ sites is essential through partnerships with other operators and players offering end-to-end, low-cost and innovative solutions.  

In Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Orange has taken the first steps towards rural network coverage by partnering with specialized businesses, and supplying mobile micro-sites equipped with solar panels and satellites to handle traffic. In addition to these initiatives, Orange is also looking into new solutions for scaling up mobile coverage in rural areas. 

To date, 460 sites have been deployed in white zones in Cameroon and the DRC, covering a population of 1.2 million. 

Advocacy Target 2: Making broadband affordable: By 2025, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries at less than 2% of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita

In Africa, devices price often acts as a barrier to mobile phone ownership, and by extension, to Internet access. Orange has launched an affordable featurephone: Sanza. Sanza is being sold for around €20, depending on the country (for example 13,900 CFA francs in Cameroon), with an offer that includes calls, SMS messaging and data.

Price is not the only barrier to Internet access: for a long time, illiteracy and the use of local languages have also played a role. The Google Assistant voice recognition tool available on Sanza helps to solve this problem. Already compatible with a variety of accents in French and English. The phone menu is already available in Arabic, Swahili, Portuguese, English, and French.

Sanza users can access popular apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Maps and Google Search, as well as Orange apps such as Orange Money and My Orange.

Orange aims to propose services which allow the consumers to facilitate their everyday lives and help to reduce their expenses. For example, in Madagascar, Service Plus, a dematerialization of administrative services, is part of a bid to simplify daily life: travel is reduced, therefore minimising the associated risks and costs. Madagascans no longer need to travel long distances to obtain administrative documents, such as birth certificates. Many services are also developed in the field of healthcare, such as the vaccination reminder tool m-Vaccin in Côte d’Ivoire, co-financed by GAVI. 

Advocacy Target 4: Digital skills and literacy: By 2025, 60% of youth and adults should have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills

Large-scale roll-out of digitally delivered training and training in digital skills: This is the goal of initiatives such as the online education platform Orange Campus Africa, and the Orange Digital Centers, which offer training in digital skills and are open to everyone. Orange Digital Centers have already opened in Tunisia and Senegal, and will soon be inaugurated in Morocco, Jordan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Liberia. Each Orange Digital Centre includes a coding school, a Solidarity FabLab, a start-up accelerator “Orange Fab”, and access to venture capital through Orange Ventures Africa.

The Orange SuperCoders programme targets young people aged 9 to 14. Boys and girls are introduced to digital culture while teaching them about coding in a fun way. Children are invited to design games and animations on the Scratch coding platform under the supportive leadership of Orange volunteer coaches. Since 2015, Orange Côte d’Ivoire has conducted more than 30 SuperCoders workshops and trained nearly 1,000 children. In 2019 the programme was opened up to the country’s public schools. Since January 2019, 400 students from different areas of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s largest city, have participated in 16 workshops.
In total, nearly 6,500 children across 11 countries have benefitted from the Orange SuperCoders programme.

Advocacy Target 6: By 2025, un-connectedness of Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises should be reduced by 50%, by sector.

Orange identifies, supports, and promotes digital talent with a view to facilitating sustainable socio-economic development in Africa and the Middle East. In countries where the Group is established, Orange is strengthening its position as a major player in using digital transformation to help local innovation. It draws on an array of approaches to achieve this: from training to investment, to supporting and accelerating start-ups.

Orange support startups through different investment funds: 

Venture Capital: Orange Ventures (€150 mn) is an early-stage, risk-oriented Corporate Fund investing globally. Orange Ventures Africa (€50 mn) targets innovative services and business models ( One of the latest investments will help Africa’s Talking, a Kenyan leader in API access, expand into Africa. 

Teranga Capital, in which Orange Senegal holds 25%, is a €7 mn equity impact investment fund dedicated to promising SMEs in Senegal. Founded in partnership with I&P, Fonsis (Fonds Souverain Sénégalais), Total, and Société Générale, Teranga Capital is the first venture capital fund targeting the 

“missing gap”, i.e. financing needs between €75,000 and 300,000. Alongside with long-term finance in the form of minority equity participations, Teranga Capital provides very close management coaching to support the growth and consolidation of the SMEs in portfolio ( 

Further funds dedicated to African entrepreneurs in which Orange invests are: Comoé Capital, an investment fund which provides Ivorian start-ups and SMEs with €75,000-300,000; Partech Africa; and the French African Fund (FFA) managed by AfricInvest 

A key sector on the African continent, agriculture is currently undergoing a digital revolution, which is improving productivity and helping meet social and environmental needs. 

Orange has launched 13 services dedicated to African farmers in 6 different countries. Today, more than 800,000 farmers use these services, tailored to be affordable for small-income households.  

One of these services is Sandji, launched in Mali in 2016. Sandji is a decision-making tool that was developed to help small farmers plan their agricultural activities. At 7am every morning, the farmer receives an SMS in French or Bambara providing a 48-hour forecast of the predicted volume and intensity of rainfall on their land, as well as the likelihood of rain in each timeslot. They also receive monthly and seasonal forecasts. These highly accurate forecasts and knowledge of the prices of agricultural products enable farmers to reduce risk and costs, increase yields and optimize their use of expensive resources. This means that they can make well-informed decisions throughout the agricultural cycle. 

Advocacy Target 5: Digital financial services: By 2025, 40% of the world’s population should be using digital financial services & Advocacy Target 7: Achieving gender equality in access to broadband by 2025

Launched in 2008, the Orange Money solution has made it possible for millions of Africans who are excluded from traditional banking to deposit, withdraw, transfer and make payments, right from their mobile phone, in a 100% secure manner. Seeing the system’s success, Orange Money is continuing its development in the Africa and Middle East region and continues to innovate to facilitate financial transactions for the local populations.

Offered in 18 countries, Orange Money has 48 million customers and is distributed at some 220,000 points of sale.

Micro-credit is a powerful tool for improving financial inclusion, whether to manage unforeseen events in everyday life or make a business idea reality. Seeing the success of m-kajy, a credit service launched by Orange Madagascar with the PAMF (Première Agence de Microfinance or First Microfinance Agency), new financial credit and savings services will soon be offered in other countries in the region thanks to the creation of Orange Bank Africa. In July 2019, the Group secured a banking licence with the Central Bank of West African States.  

Micro-credit is also an effective tool for women’s financial independence. Often not eligible for conventional financing, women can use it to develop their own income-generating business. Orange Côte d’Ivoire came out with a dedicated Orange Money offer in 2017, offering preferential rates on withdrawals and transfers. 

In 2020, to supplement this service, a savings insurance offer specially for women was rolled out with a minimum savings amount of 500 CFA Francs (EUR 0.77), as well as a health insurance offer that can also entitle them, subject to eligibility, to benefit from a free hospitalization allowance. 

Orange aims to offer solutions accessible to the broadest population regardless of their income or where they live. So the launch of Orange Bank Africa to provide greater access to financial services and improve the financial inclusion of people living in West Africa, has been announced on July 23rd. 

 Orange Bank Africa will address the needs of a large part of the population, often excluded from the world of conventional banking, allowing them to borrow and save small amounts that are nonetheless essential for their everyday lives. When it launches, Orange Bank Africa via its Orange Money service will offer a range of savings and micro credit services allowing customers to borrow as little as 5,000 CFA francs instantly using their mobile phone. 

The ideas and opinions expressed in this insight are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of ITU and UNESCO or the Broadband Commission. The mention of specific companies, products or services does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by ITU or UNESCO or Broadband Commission in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.