Pan African Towers (PAT), a leading digital infrastructure company based in Nigeria, has just sealed a strategic investment deal with Development Partners International (DPI), a premier investment firm focused on Africa, and Verod Capital (Verod), one of the continent’s leading investment management firms. In this exclusive interview with BusinessDay’s Deputy Editor, Ololade Akinmurele, PAT’s CEO, Azeez Amida, speaks on the deal and what it means to the company. Excerpts:
Pan African Towers has just signed a strategic investment deal with Development Partners International, a premier investment firm focused on Africa and Verod Capital, one of the continent’s leading investment management firms. Can you give some details about the deal after you tell us about what your company does for those who don’t know?
Pan African Towers (PAT) is Nigeria’s leading provider of digital infrastructure. We specialise in providing telecommunications and tower infrastructure as well as wireless services – such as Built-to-Suit, colocation, Distributed Antenna Solutions and buy-lease-back – to a growing and diverse customer base of more than 1,200 tenants that includes Nigeria’s leading Mobile Network Operators (“MNOs”).
We are an ambitious indigenous company with a presence of 760 sites across Nigeria. Now, backed by Development Partners International (DPI) and Verod Capital, we are ready to build on our recent achievements and reaffirm our position as Nigeria’s largest home-grown digital infrastructure provider.
Our partnership with DPI and Verod will enable us to grow the business sustainably while actively reducing the carbon footprint of our network to uphold best-in-class ESG practices. Much more, our goal is to continue to position PAT as a major local value driver in Nigeria.
With this development, will PAT’s leadership retain management control of the business?
The entire process was management led. I will continue to lead PAT with the support of our excellent management team. Together with DPI and Verod we will take the business into its next phase of growth by expanding our site presence and reaching new parts of the country where mobile and wireless penetration remains low.
Will DPI or Verod have seats on the Board following the transaction?
Yes; DPI and Verod will both be on the Board following the transaction, enabling us to leverage their deep sector experience and market expertise.
What is the growth plan under the new ownership and with the new investment?
Under the new ownership and new investment, PAT’s experienced management team will work closely with DPI and Verod to deepen and enhance relationships with existing customers, such as Airtel and MTN, while continuing to expand our customer base. Our immediate goal is to strengthen our baseline. We plan to invest in our infrastructure and deploy efficient energy systems. Second is to ensure we realign our goals with the MNO’s to ensure we are able to deliver services that match their expectations and also meet our return expectations.
Our mission is to accelerate the Nigerian market and support the growth of the mobile telecommunications sector in the country. We will do this by expanding our footprint and realising the company’s vision of becoming Nigeria’s digital infrastructure provider of choice.
We’re also planning on leveraging this opportunity to accelerate investments in our existing infrastructure and to expand our tower footprint by constructing quality assets across the country which will contribute to the creation of additional jobs and the further development of the country’s digital infrastructure.
With the new investment are there plans to expand beyond Nigeria?
At PAT, we like to keep an open mind and DPI and Verod have decades of experience helping companies like ours spread their wings and expand into new countries and new markets. However, our immediate focus is on reinvesting in our existing infrastructure to deliver an improved service to our customers while growing our network of tower assets across the country.
As a proud, home-grown Nigerian business, we are honoured to support our customers and the end-users of digital services, both small businesses and everyday people up and down the country.”
Where do you see the opportunity in Nigeria’s digital infrastructure market?
Pan African Towers is uniquely positioned to benefit from Nigeria’s digital innovation boom. As the leading homegrown player, we want to be the digital infrastructure provider of choice for Africa’s largest telecommunications market and accelerate access to the cutting-edge digital services that are reshaping our economy.
There has been steady improvement to our country’s digital infrastructure over the last decade. By 2021, roughly 40,000 towers were already constructed – mostly Third and Fourth Generation (3G & 4G) capable. Going forward, according to government estimates, 70-80 thousand towers will be required for proper quality and coverage. It is PAT’s mission to help fill this supply gap and deliver access for homes and businesses across the country.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a business today and what role can the government play in solving them?
For us, the biggest challenge has been ensuring that we can access the resources we need at a rate that keeps up with our growth trajectory. Now, backed by DPI and Verod, we have investors that fully understand our market and we look forward to working with them to achieve our strategic objectives. We have the confidence to invest in new and existing assets, to grow our number of staff and pursue a range of exciting growth opportunities.
The government has shown strong belief in Nigeria’s digitalisation journey; and we want to see them double down with continued investment in this area to support the technology and telecommunications sector to thrive to the benefit of the country and its economy.