Telecom Giants Battle for Kenya

Mobile-phone companies across Africa are drawing battle lines to capture the rising middle-class consumer. But in Kenya, the war already is well under way, stocked with ammunition from abroad.

In the past year, units of India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. and the U.K.’s Vodafone Group PLC have been locked in competition. Vodafone’s Safaricom Ltd. dominates the Kenyan telecommunications sector, with 77 percent of the market.

But in the third quarter, Bharti’s Airtel Kenya boosted its market share to 15 from 11 percent in the second and captured 60 percent of new mobile customers each month, according to Rene Meza, Airtel’s managing director in Nairobi. Airtel Kenya is on a path to “market leadership,” the 33-year-old Paraguayan says.

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