Airtel records 6.9% subscriber growth and massive profits in Q1 2021

May 13, 2021
3 min read
Airtel Africa
Photo Credit: <a href="">jbdodane</a> Flickr via <a href="">Compfight</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Telecom giant, Airtel, has released its financial report for Q1 2021. It increased its data and mobile money subscribers significantly between January and March 2021. The company also saw a massive rise in profit from Q1 of 2020 to Q1 of 2021. 

Comparing revenue from Q1 2020 with the first quarter of this year, Airtel saw a significant increase in revenue. The revenue for Q1 2021 stood at $1.03 billion, dwarfing Q1 2020’s revenue of $899 million by 21.7%. However, a constant currency change puts the revenue growth at 15.4%.

As with previous reports from Airtel and other telecom giants like MTN and Safaricom, voice is still king. However, data and mobile money recorded increases of 31.7% and 38.7% from Q1 2020, respectively. 

The report says that the COVID-19 pandemic has “shown that the telecoms industry is a key and essential service for these economies, allowing customers to work remotely, reduce their travel, keep connected and have access to affordable entertainment and financial services.”


For the period in question, revenue from voice stood at $547 million, 12.8% (constant currency) more than last year’s. Although considering currency fluctuations, the revenue would be 7.2% higher (reported currency). 

In terms of subscribers, Airtel nailed a 6.9% growth from Q1 2020. Its total subscriber base grew from $110.6 million in Q1 2020 to $118.2 million in Q1 2021.

Data revenue in Q1 2021 increased by 31.7% from Q1 of 2020. The $315 million revenue from Q1 2021 surpassed Q1 2020 -- $253 -- by $162 million. 

The rise in data revenue can be inferred from the increase in data subscribers. The network increased its data subscribers by 14.5%, putting the number of data subscribers at 40.6 million, 5.2 million more than 3.4 million in Q1 2020.  

Airtel’s Mobile Money accounted for the least revenue, with $110 million in revenue. However, it surpassed the $83 million of Q1 2020 by 38.7%. Its mobile money customer base went from 18.3 million in Q1 2020 to 21.7 million in Q1 2021, an 18.5% increase.

Though mobile money accounts for the telecom giant’s least revenue, it wants to drive financial inclusion with the platform. It believes that the unbanked customers across the 14 countries where it is present can benefit significantly from its mobile money services. 

Airtel has increased its mobile money agents by 30.7%. However, the report did not state the number of mobile money agents there was prior and the precise number it’s at now. Airtel’s Mobile Money services currently serve 21.7 million customers, 18.3% of Airtel’s customer base. 

Despite a mere 6.9% growth in total subscribers, Airtel recorded significantly higher profit from Q1 2020. Q1 2021's profit before tax was $215 million, a 121% rise from $97 million in Q1 2020. 

After tax, Q1 2021 and Q1 2020 profits stood at $154 million and $77 million, respectively, a 100% difference between both periods. Airtel attributes the staggering rise in profit to the effective execution of its strategy.  

The company generated total revenue of $422 million in Nigeria for Q1 2021, a 23.9% rise from $377 million in Q1 2020, making it the telecom giant’s biggest market for the period in question.  

Airtel recorded more revenue in Nigeria than in the East African countries — Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia — where it is present.  

While Nigeria’s growth surpassed all six countries combined, East Africa still has significant revenue growth of 23.9%. It exceeded its $310 million revenue in Q1 2020 by $48 million, bringing Q1 2021's revenue to $358 million. 

Francophone Africa also boasts of big business between January and March 2021. Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon and the four other Francophone countries where the network is present saw a revenue increase of 15.9%. 

Interestingly, Nigeria outperformed all seven countries by $162 million (38.4%). Francophone Africa recorded a revenue of $260 million in Q1 of 2021, a significant leap from $215 million in Q1 2020.

Surprisingly, Airtel still plays second or third fiddle to its competitors (MTN and Glo) in major markets. Perhaps this is why Airtel Africa’s parent company, Bharti Airtel, has appointed Segun Ogunsanya — Airtel Nigeria CEO — as Airtel Africa CEO. 

Succeeding Raghunath Mandava as the new CEO, Ogunsanya’s management of Airtel Nigeria, a large market, could help Airtel Africa lead telecommunication in Africa. 

Airtel’s boisterous performance in Q1 2021 would appear that its strategy is working. With such margins between the same period in 2020, keeping to the strategy could yield amazing rewards for the telecom company.

Featured image credit: Photo Credit: jbdodane Flickr via Compfight cc

He's a geek, a sucker for Blockchain and an all-round tech lover. Find me on Twitter @BoluAbiodun1.
He's a geek, a sucker for Blockchain and an all-round tech lover. Find me on Twitter @BoluAbiodun1.
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He's a geek, a sucker for Blockchain and an all-round tech lover. Find me on Twitter @BoluAbiodun1.

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