November 9, 2018 / 8:47 AM / 9 days ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. OPIC signs $100 million loan deal with Africell

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JOHANNESBURG, Nov 9 (Reuters) - African telecoms firm Africell on Friday signed a $100 million loan agreement to fund an expansion of its communications infrastructure with U.S. development financier the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

The deal was signed on the sidelines of the African Development Bank's Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, and forms part of the OPIC's $1 billion investment in African infrastructure and technology launched earlier in 2018.

Africell's chief investment officer Ian Paterson told journalists at the signing of the deal that the financing would be used in the markets where the company is already operating rather than expansion into new markets.

"We will be looking to invest the proceeds to expand our networks, develop new products and services, really using the platform of customers we have today and trying to layer on more value added services to them," he said.

Africell boasts 12 million customers in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Mobile network access, and particularly increasing data penetration, has had a huge impact in underdeveloped African countries where services like mobile money and microlending have boosted financial inclusion among the unbanked.

"The developmental impacts that having data connectivity and data access does for communities is transformational," said Worku Gachou, OPIC's managing director for Africa. (Reporting by Joe Bavier Writing by Mfuneko Toyana Editing by James Macharia)

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