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Mobile network, Airtel has signed a group-wide contract with virtual SIM provider Movirtu, to provide services to Africans who cannot afford handsets: the ‘unphoned’ users.

Using these virtual SIM cards, these users can momentarily activate Airtel services on a “friend’s handset or shared village phone” to make voice calls, send text messages or access value-added services such as mobile banking.

The first distributions of the virtual SIMs are planned for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after Airtel’s “successful launch of the Movirtu Share service in Madagascar.”

Airtel has a total of 17 subsidiaries and 81.5m subscribers across Africa. Africa, in turn with a population of 1 billion, is forecast by the GSMA to have 346 million unique subscribers by the year 2017: a figure that highlights the size of Africa’s ‘unphoned’ market.

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