LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – AFRICA: Mwenzi Mulenga, head of legal and regulatory at MTN Zambia, described the company’s efforts to offer more local languages as “a huge success, but it has come with a huge cost”.

The executive said while there had been a government effort to drive use of English in the country, this had now been deprioritised, and “what has happened is that most people have reverted to using their mother dialects more so than English”. This makes doing business a challenge, particularly in rural areas.

“For ourselves as operators, for quality of service, one of the key factors is complaints, and we saw a huge rise in complaints, especially when we introduced a new product or service. When we interrogated those figures, and a lot of it was due to people who didn’t speak English, or not understand to the extent to optimise the use of the product or service,” she said.

“Thankfully, the government has also seen that challenge, not just in telco, but in other areas, so they have introduced a service where they translate into seven main languages, and we’ve ridden on the back of that and made sure we’ve adopted four of the main languages, not just for products and services, but broadcasts that come from the government and other vendors,” Mulenga continued.

Call centre staff are now multilingual, and MTN Zambia’s IVR platform and online activities are available in multiple language.

“What we’ve seen in the past year or two years is that it’s a huge success, but it comes at a huge cost. What would have been quite beneficial would have been some sort of incentives or relief in terms of the cost of translating,” she said.