What happens when a team of telecoms firewall experts abandon Zoom, ditch air travel, and choose instead to forge connections with their customers from one end of Africa to the other on an epic journey in Land Cruisers?

The journey of 18 000km began in Barcelona on 1 October 2023 and after five months reaches its final destination later this week on the top of Signal Hill in Cape Town.

The purpose of the journey is multifaceted. Not only did the team at Cellusys want to change the way they interacted with their customers – they also wanted to find out what it was like to use the mobile networks as they roamed driving from country to country.

In doing so they’ve created much awareness of the incredible advancements being made in mobile connectivity, especially in rural Africa. In Ghana they launched a Coding Bootcamp with 75 youth who are currently being trained. And they have raised funds for Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) and Moroccan women’s micro enterprises.

The road trip originally began in 2019 as a journey from the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to the MTN (now Bayobab) WAS#12 conference in Cape Town some months later. But due to Covid this plan was put on hold.

Resuming the road trip last year saw well-known adventurer and journalist Nick Redmayne join the expedition and sharing tales of their travels with his audience on social media. Cellusys team members joined and left at various check points but, overall, every member of the company got to experience parts of the journey.

“Understanding the very different and challenging environments that each of our customers face in the countries that they operate in is essential to understanding what our customers need,” says Dawood Ghalaieny, chairman of Cellusys.

“The different key success factors and drivers of success within a country is unique, even to bordering countries. The different product drivers, consumption habits, economic challenges, competitive and regulatory environment gives us an opportunity to see what kind of role we can play to help with our customers challenges and opportunities.”

One of the biggest takeouts from the road trip has been the use of mobile money in remote and rural parts of Africa. Extended connectivity brought to Africa by Africa Mobile Networks – who build cell phone towers in rural areas – means there is finally connectivity there. And with mobile money being more secure, people are finding it easier and safer to transact in this way.

“In 2023 MTN, who is a Cellusys customer, announced a new international remittances platform for cross-border money transfers which would allow both foreign nationals in South Africa and residents to send money to MoMo users across 12 African countries,” says Ghalaieny. “These included Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Congo Brazzaville, Benin, Guinea Conakry, and Guinea Bissau.

“Having just visited some of these countries we’ve been able to vouch for the speed and safe connectivity of these mobile networks, especially in the rural communities,” he adds. “Without it, platforms like MoMo would struggle to make financial inclusion a reality.”