Zain, the leading mobile telecommunications operator, present in 24 countries across the Middle East and Africa, scooped up two major prizes at the prestigious 2009 Global Telecoms Business (GTB) Innovation Awards at a gala ceremony in London last week. The event was attended by over 350 industry leaders from across the globe.
Zain’s Zap mobile commerce service won the Innovation in Mobile Banking award, while Zain Group CEO Dr Saad Al Barrak won the Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for personal contribution to the telecommunications industry.
The Editor of GTB, Mr. Alan Burkitt-Gray, in awarding Dr Al Barrak said, “He is a dynamic and inspiring Executive who is driving telecommunications forward. Under his leadership, one company has grown to become one of the fastest growing operators in the world, delivering to Zain’s customers in Africa and the Middle East exciting services that are way beyond what is available in most other parts of the world. Zain has become one of the most exciting telecoms operators in the world .”
This endorsement is one of many since Dr Al Barrak was appointed CEO of the Company in mid-2002, when the company was a single operator in Kuwait, serving only 600,000 customers. Under his leadership, it now has a commercial presence in 24 countries and serves over 65 million customers. Zap mobile commerce and ‘One Network’ are just two of the pioneering initiatives he has overseen alongside the company’s numerous Corporate Social Responsibility activities across the two continents.
Dr Al Barrak said, “Zain is changing how people look at telecommunications and the role mobile telephony plays in improving social and economic well-being. I accept this award on behalf of the entire workforce across all Zain’s operations, without whose dedication, hard work and vision, we would not be where we are today,” he said. “But now we must look to tomorrow and continue to provide our customers unique and much needed services fulfilling our brand promise of ‘A wonderful world.”
The Innovation in Mobile Banking Award given to Zap mobile commerce service is the latest chapter in Zain’s efforts to not only push the boundaries of mobile communications, but also reshape the future of banking in Africa and soon in the Middle East. The service has initially been launched in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and will eventually be rolled out across all Zain’s Africa and Middle East operations creating a potential customer base of 600 million people, many of whom have never had access to formal financial services.
Zap is part of Zain’s pioneering ‘One Network’, a service that allows customers to communicate freely across geographical borders and continents without roaming call surcharges and without having to pay to receive incoming calls wherever they travel in the 19 countries that currently participate in the service. To use Zap’s banking and payment services, Zain customers only have to complete an application form with one of the tens of thousands of registered Zain agents in villages, towns and cities across East Africa.
“For any market in the world, the combination of services we are providing through Zap mobile commerce would be exciting,” declared Dr Saad Al Barrak, “but when set in an African context, the implications are especially profound given the critical economic needs of many Africans living in the countries in which Zain operate. In this sense, what we deliver contributes to more than just a healthy bottom line; it genuinely helps improve lives.”
Zap allows Zain customers to use their mobile phone to pay bills and pay for goods and services. They can receive and send money to friends and family as well as send and receive money to and from bank accounts. They can also with withdraw cash, top up their own, or someone else’s, airtime account and manage their bank accounts.
Mr. George Held, Zain Group Marketing Director, Products and Innovation received the Zap Innovation award on behalf of Zain.
Zain is a leading telecommunications operator across the Middle East and Africa providing mobile voice and data services to 64.7 million active customers as at 31 March 2009. In terms of country footprint, Zain is the 3rd largest mobile operator in the world with a commercial presence in 24 countries.
Zain operates in the following countries: Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Palestine (currently operating as Paltel Group), Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In Lebanon, the company manages ‘mtc-touch’ on behalf of the government. In Morocco, Zain owns 31% of Wana Telecom through a joint venture.
Zain offers innovative services in its markets such as ‘One Network’, the world’s first borderless mobile telecommunications network enabling customers when abroad to receive calls and sms without charge and to make voice and data calls at local rates throughout 19 countries in Africa and the Middle East. This service allows a customer to top up airtime in their home country or from more than 1,000,000 outlets within Zain’s ‘One Network’ footprint.
The Zain brand is wholly owned by Mobile Telecommunications Company KSC, which is listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (Stock ticker: ZAIN). Zain is listed in the Financial Times’ Global 500 Index which ranks the world’s largest companies based on market capitalization Zain aims to become one of the top ten mobile operators in the world by end of the year 2011.