Orange deputy CEO Ramon Fernandez (pictured, left) backed its Middle East and Africa unit to become a major source of revenue growth as it focuses on increasing data usage, widening the scope of mobile financial services and further expansion into B2B.

During an Orange MEA analyst event, Fernandez and Orange Middle East and Africa CEO Alioune Ndiaye (pictured, right) outlined the operator’s plan to step-up efforts to grow the unit, given the untapped potential and predicted economic growth in the region.

Fernandez said its strategy would focus on improvements in existing markets rather than an acquisition spree, however he did not completely dismiss entering new markets deemed to have potential.

“It is not the priority,” he added. “But that does not mean we will exclude any footprint extension when it is going to be value creative.”

Fernandez pointed specifically to a potential opportunity in Ethiopia, where authorities look likely to open the telecommunications market to outside investors. Both Ndiaye and group CEO Stephane Richard have attended meetings in the country over the last few months, he confirmed.

Throughout the event, Ndiaye talked-up his division’s position, noting unlike MTN, Etisalat and Airtel Africa, none of its markets provide more than 17 per cent of regional revenue or EBITDA.

As a result, the company has avoided “crises” in specific countries.

Looking ahead, among new services the operation is mulling are additions to its mobile money operation, including loans and business products aimed at enterprise customers. These include cloud infrastructure, data centre services and security products.

In terms of data consumption, the company believes this will be fuelled by growth in smartphone usage, partly due to the increased availability of cheaper handsets, including the $20 Sanza handset.

Ndiaye said ultimately the company aimed to be the number one provider of data in all of its markets in the region. Orange reports it is currently the largest or second-largest operator in all of its MEA markets.

Fernandez added: “There is an emerging middle class, economic growth and there is an underpenetrated market for the services we can offer. The digital tools, the mobile phones and, tomorrow, the smartphones are going to become a fantastic accelerator”.