Lesothoâ€™s biggest mobile network operator, Vodacom Lesotho (VCL), lost about 171,000 subscribers in the period between April 2022 and March 2023, according to its financial results.
VCL had 1,882,000 customers at the end of March last year but this number dropped to 1,711 customers in March this year.
The number of customers is based on the total number of mobile customers who used any service during the previous three months.
This includes customers paying a monthly fee that entitles them to use the service even if they do not actually use the service and those customers who were active whilst roaming.
The financial results also show that VCLâ€™s data customers also dropped by about 4.8 percent from 874,000 in March last year to 832,000 subscribers on March 31, this year.
Data customers are based on the number of unique users generating billable data traffic during the month.
Also included are users on integrated tariff plans, or who have access to corporate APNs, and users who have been allocated a revenue-generating data bundle during the month.
A user is defined as being active if they are paying a contractual monthly fee for the service or have used the service during the reported month.
Vodacom Group Ltd preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2023, also show that VCL revenue fell by 3.2 percent (about M49 million) from M1.244 billion in 2022 to M1.204 billion in 2023.
The results further show that VCLâ€™s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), fell by M33 million or 7.3 percent from M454 million last year to M421 million this year.
VCL is a member of the Vodacom Group. Sekha-Metsi Consortium, â€œa group of local business people and public figuresâ€, holds a 20 percent share in VCL with the remaining share held by Vodacom Group, according to information provided on the companyâ€™s website.
Vodacom Group operates as a subsidiary of Vodafone Group Plc â€“ one of the worldâ€™s largest communications companies by revenue.
Despite the drop in VCLâ€™s subscriber count, revenue, and EBITDA, Vodacom Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Shameel Joosub, commented: â€œOur international operations in DRC, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania produced good growth, underpinned by a 31.1 percent increase in M-Pesa revenue and a 33.2 percent rise in data revenue.â€
The statements show that in Lesotho, M-Pesa subscribers increased by 8.6 percent from 992,000 in 2022 to 1,077,000 in 2023.
M-Pesa revenue, according to the statements, also increased by 15.2 percent from M145 million last year to M167 million this year.
VCL describes M-Pesa as a revolutionary financial service that transforms lives through its simplicity, convenience, affordability, and security.
It says M-Pesa remains the first choice for Basotho who need to send money anywhere in Lesotho to any person with a mobile phone.
M-Pesa, according to VCL, is an innovative way that has transformed the mobile phone into a secure digital wallet through which customers can pay bills, buy airtime, deposit, and transfer money; receive international money transfers without the need of having a bank account or a modern handset and at the most affordable rates.
â€œIntroduced in 2013, Vodacom M-Pesa has been reaching out to every corner of Lesotho ever since. Its success has extended financial inclusion, and economic empowerment and facilitated the creation of hundreds of small businesses,â€ VCL says on its website.
It adds: â€œVodacom M-Pesa has three core focus areas: payment, collection solutions, agent and merchant distribution (liquidity), savings, and credit solutions.
â€œWith 88 percent market share in the mobile money space, and over a billion Maloti in monthly transactional value; VCL Financial Services has cemented its place as a formidable player in the financial services arena in Lesotho.â€