Access for all
We invest in network infrastructure and coverage to deliver high-quality service for individuals and enterprises to connect anywhere, any time. We are finding ways to roll out our network to rural locations and support access through affordable connectivity, devices and platforms.
Enabling connectivity through increased coverage
Connecting everyone to digital services, particularly in Africa, is a significant challenge for many Africans in rural areas. Expanding rural networks can often be more challenging and offer a lower return on investment due to lower population densities. New approaches, partnerships and a blend of technologies will help us overcome some of these barriers and deliver universal coverage.
To drive digital inclusion to the hardest-to-connect communities, this year we made good progress increasing 4G population coverage to an additional 80 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (as part of the UN Partner2Connect digital coalition since March 2022). This targeted intervention includes four of the least developed countries: Mozambique, Tanzania, Lesotho and the DRC, and will help to close a particular gap in internet usage between urban communities and rural communities.
Selling affordable smart devices
Lowering the cost of devices is key to addressing the digital divide. We run programmes aimed at reducing the cost of smartphones. We reduced the cost of our 4G devices by:
- Applying subsidies, discounts and offers tailored to low-income communities; and
- Offering financing to customers to shift from 2G to 4G handsets.
Providing free access platforms
Free access to beneficial online platforms and resources drives digital access and inclusion.
ConnectU provides access to essential free services and resources to support less privileged communities with health and well-being, education, access to employment and information, among others. Customers can access discounted voice and data products such as Airtime Advance.
The Vodacom South Africa Foundation e-school provides free and unlimited internet access to content aligned to quality digital curriculum and assessment policy statements.
EYANO in the DRC provides free on-demand access to public service information via interactive voice response, SMS and USSD. It helps connect people, especially women living in rural areas. Information includes financial education, agriculture, health and well-being, gender equality, water and sanitation, family planning, weather, and human rights.
Vodacom Mozambique partnered with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to offer subscribers zero-rated access to the youth-focused educational and advice site, the Internet of Good Things, which was localised in Mozambique under the name Boa Internet. Youth-focused emergency, life-saving and general health and citizenship information is freely available.
Haya Karima (Decent Life) in Egypt seeks to improve the living conditions of Egyptian citizens, and to honour their dignity and rights. Haya Karima is endorsed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and supported by a multi-stakeholder coalition of business, civil society and state structures.
U-Report, known as SMS BIZ in Mozambique, is UNICEF’s longstanding SMS youth information sharing and engagement platform.
Vodacom assists the University of South Africa (UNISA) to enhance the distance-learning experience through two solutions:
- Reverse billed data provides students free access to UNISA’s website, online content, apps and data services, irrespective of their airtime or data balances.
- The Connected Digital Education platform, developed in partnership with Microsoft South Africa, provides UNISA students and employees free access to several Microsoft Office 365 virtual communication and collaboration tools.
Our initiatives to reduce the cost of data, make our pricing affordable, and increase bundle validity support users, including youth and low-income households. We use Big Data analytics to deliver affordable personalised bundles for low-spend prepaid customers. Our innovative pricing and products include cheaper short validity, smaller data amounts and URL bundles.
Just4You is available in South Africa, Tanzania, the DRC and Mozambique, and provides affordable price packages, with over 100 offers varying by day and customer.
Usage pattern analysis helps create deals based on data, SMS or calls.
Just4YourTown in South Africa uses census data to identify towns where the average annual income is below R14 196. We communicate offers specific to these areas and eligible customers are offered discounts depending on area, income level and available network capacity. The average discount realised by consumers via Just4You Town platforms is 60%.
Everyday-Ta bundles in South Africa are affordable contract plans whereby customer receive a daily data bundle. Our online knowledge platform, Datawyze, gives users access to information on effective data usage and management.
Vodacom South Africa has reduced 1GB data bundle costs by 43% since 2022.
Vodacom DRC has reduced data prices by 11.2% in the past year, mainly due to the introduction of the data-share wallet, which allows sharing by up to six customers, and more affordable monthly bundles (US$1 for 1GB for 24 hours and US$1 for 2GB for 48 hours) on Just4You.
Vodafone Egypt introduced the Plus Students bundle in FY2021, which provides secondary school students with free SIM cards and 1GB a month to use on Ministry of Education websites.
Tudo in Mozambique, provides subscribers with 20% additional benefits when transacting with M-Pesa, and bonuses based on voice minutes used the day before.
Propositions for equality
Vodacom provides relevant products and services to address specific societal challenges such as access to education, gender equality, financial inclusion and poverty.
Providing platforms for financial inclusion
Globally, 2 billion people remain unbanked1. Many people, especially women, still lack access to financial services. Digital services are key to helping people access safe, secure financial services. Without the ability to transfer money, people battle to save, access loans, start a business and get paid. Financial inclusion is necessary to reduce poverty. We work with various licensed banking and financial services providers to enable people in remote areas to access payments, loans and savings on their mobile devices without needing to travel.
M-Pesa in Tanzania, the DRC, Mozambique and Lesotho, is the biggest financial services provider in Africa based on transactions processed. It provides financial services to people with a mobile phone but limited access to a bank account. Services include payments, local and international remittances, savings, lending, overdraft and foreign exchange. The virtual Mastercard enables M-Pesa customers to purchase from international merchants and content providers. M-Pesa offers access to personal services such as healthcare, education, employment, transportation and social protection. M-Pesa is integrated with money transfer hubs in Africa and beyond, allowing customers to send and receive cross-border remittances from their M-Pesa wallets.
The VodaPay super-app in South Africa and M-Pesa super-app in Kenya combine payments, lending, insurance and e-Commerce, and provide exposure to new growth verticals such as savings and investments.
VF Cash is an e-wallet and financial services platform which caters to the needs of the two thirds unbanked Egyptian population.
Payment solutions include, among others:
- Remittances and foreign exchange solutions are available in DRC with Equity Bank.
- The M-Pesa Visa card in Tanzania is a virtual debit card that connects Tanzanians to e-Commerce opportunities globally with online payments.
- A seasonal M-Pesa discount in the DRC allows consumers to pay by M-Pesa and get an instant 10% discount on goods and service.
Savings solutions include, among others:
- M-Koba is a group savings solution in partnership with the Tanzania Postal Bank. It allows community members to mobilise savings, investments and microloans. M-Koba is interoperable, allowing subscribers from other mobile network operators to save through M-Koba. Customers in M-Koba groups can track fund movements, which builds trust and encourages participation. This improved inclusion, particularly women, in mobile money networks.
- Through collective saving (Mokhatlo in Lesotho and Xitique in Mozambique) community members can collectively save for a common goal through controlled access to a shared account that pays for goods and services.
Insurance solutions include, among others:
- Football club Orlando Pirates in South Africa and Vodacom Life Assurance Company launched an affordable funeral cover product.
- VodaBima in Tanzania provides immediate access to insurance services in partnership with 19 motor and health insurance providers.
Lending and advance solutions include, among others:
- VodaLend Cash Advance in South Africa gives underbanked consumers access to money when they need it most, from medical emergencies to topping up prepaid electricity.
- Airtime Advance in South Africa and Tanzania allows customers to get airtime or data which is paid for when the customer next recharges.
- Voucher Advance in South Africa is a lending solution that allows customers to purchase anything from a meal to a new appliance and pay for it later.
- VodaLend Compare in South Africa is a financial services marketplace that allows customers to compare personal loan quotes, enabling them to apply for the option that best suits their needs and budget.
- Songesha in Tanzania is an overdraft facility in partnership with Tanzania Postal Bank. The speed and frequency of loan access has been transformational in accelerating financial inclusion.
- Microloan and savings are products developed with microfinance FINCA Bank in the DRC. Customers can save and earn interest via M-Pesa and get microloans through VodaCash. Loans are repayable weekly or monthly based on customers’ credit scores.
- M-Pesa Rallonge in the DRC is an overdraft extended to M-Pesa customers with insufficient balances to complete their transactions, enabling them to apply for instant overdrafts in local currency. The product, developed with Access Bank, is key in maintaining information and financial inclusion for those in need.
- Txuna M-Pesa, is a nano-loan marketplace pilot with Moza Banco in Mozambique.
- Ntlatse overdraft in Lesotho is a collaboration with Redeem Financial Services offering an overdraft facility.
1. GSMA, 2021.
Enabling quality education and digital skills
Vodacom provides devices and connectivity to students. We are growing our educational platforms and contributing directly through our digital skills and education initiatives. There are more opportunities to innovate and transform traditional education approaches by using technology to deliver remote and hybrid education to close the divide.
- Our e-school solution in South Africa allows learners to access curriculum-aligned content and educators to access learning materials on their smartphone with no data charges.
- Instant Network Schools (INS) INS was set up in 2013 by Vodafone Foundation and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, to give young refugees, host communities and their teachers access to digital learning content and the internet, improving the quality of education in some of the most marginalised communities in Africa.
- The INS is known as e-Fahamu in Tanzania.
- In 2021 Vodafone Foundation and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expanded the INS programme to Mozambique to give young refugees and their teachers access to education.
- INS was launched in Egypt in October 2021, with 18 schools leveraging mobile technology to provide students and teachers with advanced equipment, digital educational content, training and access to the internet.
- Code Like a Girl is a social enterprise providing girls and women with the confidence, tools, knowledge and support to enter and flourish in the world of coding. Code Like a Girl inspires more girls to explore careers that require coding skills to help them enter the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and industries. Vodacom has an active partnership with Code Like a Girl in South Africa, DRC, Tanzania, Mozambique, Egypt and Lesotho.
- Vodacom’s school management solution in South Africa is used by oversight groups to improve education and in quality education input and supplier management.
- Vodacom Instant School (Mozambique) provides free access to online learning material, particularly for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- VodaEduc in the DRC offers free digital educational content to learners and teachers, with maths, sciences, IT, economics and finance e-curriculum resources (including 2 105 videos, 1 873 subtitled videos, 428 interactive exercises and nine digital classes).
- Ta3limy in Egypt is a free educational platform for Egyptian K-12 students, parents and teachers.
Providing devices and connectivity to learners, schools and teachers.
- Student bundles in South Africa are longer-validity URL and usage restricted data bundles provided at discounted rates.
- Uni Offers in Tanzania provides discounted social, data and text bundles to university students via the MyVodacom app. Payments can be made using M-Pesa.
- In Mozambique, the Faz Crescer initiative, implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Human Development, aims to strengthen the quality of education and increase youth employment through digital inclusion, improved digital literacy, and supply of technologies in public secondary schools.
Supporting jobseekers and disadvantaged groups
We support those seeking employment and opportunity through affordable connectivity, job platforms and work experience activities:
- NXT LVL in South Africa is a solution for youth younger than 25, offering affordable connectivity and preferential rates on value bundles and devices, digital skills, and lifestyle and entertainment services. Vodacom zero-rated the National Mentorship Movement and Youth Employment Service – a joint initiative between government and enterprises to employ one million youth.
- Kadea Learn is an online learning platform in the DRC that offers career-focused courses in coding and digital industries. We partnered with Kadea to offer their courses and curricula free to our subscribers, without the need for data.
- Data scientists are increasingly in demand by companies and organisations exploring machine learning, AI and similar fields of research. We launched a six-month programme through our newly formed Big Data Academy in Egypt that aims to provide hands-on data science experience for graduates by providing real use cases with clear deliverables. The academy aims to develop in-demand digital skills in Egypt and create a pipeline of talent for the data science stream inside Vodafone Egypt.
- Get-A-Gig in South Africa is a zero-rated jobs portal initiative available through our zero-rated ConnectU platform with the goal of connecting 1 million young people to a job by 2024.
- The ConnectU job portal enables people to access different job search websites – one third of its users are in the low-income group. Vodacom provides support packages for job seekers through ConnectU by combining discounted voice and data offers, continued access to learning and skills with Udemy, and access to 13 zero-rated job sites.
- Vodacom South Africa continues to offer top-achieving students from previously disadvantaged and low-income communities bursaries to study in the field of ICT.
- Our youth development volunteer programme in South Africa enables Youth Academy graduates to gain work experience in Vodacom-sponsored non-profit organisations, schools of excellence or teacher centres.
Bringing mobile to more women
Mobile technology enables access to essential services such as maternal healthcare, financial services and education. However, the gender gap for internet usage is substantial, with over 300 million fewer women than men accessing the internet on a mobile phone . We use mobile technologies to enhance women’s quality of life through programmes that enable financial inclusion, improve health and well-being, and build education, skills and entrepreneurship.
Key barriers preventing women in emerging markets from using the internet include relevance of services, cost and adequate digital skills. We focus on relevance of services as a strategy to increase women’s access. In many African countries, gaining access to quality health information and antenatal care can be challenging. We identified lack of information as one of the leading causes of infant and mother mortality and we hope that mobile technology will bridge this gap.
- The Mum & Baby (South Africa, DRC, Mozambique and Lesotho), in partnership with the Vodafone Foundation, a zero-rated mobile health service, provides information on maternal, neonatal and child health and well-being. In South Africa customers have the option to register for the Mum & Baby premium service to get richer content such as educational videos as well as discounted coupons for essential needs that are redeemable at any Shoprite, Checkers, Dis-Chem and Baby City stores country-wide.
- M-mama in Tanzania and Lesotho, in partnership with the Vodafone Foundation, uses mobile technology and M-Pesa to connect pregnant women and new mothers to emergency transport, and empowers a network of local taxi drivers to act as “taxi ambulances” in places where few ambulances are available.
- Nokaneng app informs users in Lesotho about the different forms of GBV, their rights and the available support services, and protection tools such as a sound alarm and emergency SMS.
- Vodafone Egypt acted as the catalyst for the formation of the Egyptian Gender Alliance (EGA), the first national alliance in Egypt to combine public and private efforts to improve female inclusion and empowerment.
Supporting customers with special needs
We enable people with disabilities to stay connected, live a better life today and build a better tomorrow. A dedicated team, led by people with disabilities and organisations for disabled persons, focuses on meeting the needs of disabled persons, senior citizens, and persons who experience communication barriers such as hearing, visual or speech impairments.
Our accessibility products and services include:
- Text-based emergency services for deaf customers using emergency SMSs and Vodacom’s 112 emergency app .
- An IVR voicemail option allows callers to send a detailed SMS to a hearing impaired customer instead of leaving a voice message .
- A dedicated call centre for disabled people reachable via SMS, email, a free phone call using a Vodacom SIM, the Vodacom app and website where users can log queries, and social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram using #specificneeds) .
- The 4G feature phone is pre-loaded with WhatsApp and Facebook and has a dedicated emergency button.
- Smart digital training centres ensure that people with disabilities receive training in use of devices.
We introduced a real-time Specific Needs and National Relay Service in South Africa, which expands our offerings for deaf, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired customers.
We continue our partnerships with various organisations for disabled persons, such as the Hein Wagner Academy for the Blind in South Africa, to which we provided smartphones for visually impaired persons and training on the use of the devices.
In 2022 a regulation was introduced requiring all telecoms operating in Egypt to offer 50% discounts/double the quota on products, including minutes and mobile internet bundles, for people with disabilities.
Vodacom Tanzania employs shop agents who can communicate using sign language and has created a call centre that offers sign language via video calls.
To support digital inclusion for the blind and visually impaired, Vodacom Lesotho launched the Insight Centre in 2021, situated at the State Library It is supported by 4G technology, and provides visually impaired persons with equal access to information, enabling them to lead independent, autonomous lives.
Vodacom is committed to developing a diverse and inclusive global workforce that reflects the customers and societies we serve.
We are developing a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the customers and societies we operate. Where relevant, we consider local regulatory requirements.
Driving diversity and inclusion
Vodacom strives for an inclusive, diverse and gender-balanced culture that celebrates differences, institutionalises support for LGBTQIA+ people, maintains an ethnically diverse environment and ensures accessibility for employees with disabilities. Vodacom has a zero-tolerance approach to harassment, discrimination and any abuse. Enabling diversity is critical to achieving these goals sustainably. Doing What’s Right training is mandatory for all employees, including executives and senior managers, and covers diversity and inclusion, harassment, and bullying.
Women in management
We work to ensure gender diversity when resourcing for senior leadership roles. Our leadership team is accountable for maintaining diversity and inclusion in their teams. We embed women in management targets in our long-term incentive plans.