In 2020, MTN announced its exit plan from the Middle East to focus on its African operations as part of efforts to simplify its structure and reduce exposure in riskier markets. 

At the time, the MTN Group attributed the exit to the increasing complexity of operating in the region, following the US sanctions on Iran and the growing troubles in Afghanistan. Shortly after, the company sold its business in Yemen, and halted operations in Syria and Afghanistan. 

Earlier this year, in August 2022, the telco received a $35 million binding offer from an undisclosed buyer for its Afghanistan business. On Friday, the telco finally announced that it had sold the business to Beirut-based investment company M1 New Ventures.

MTN Group CEO Ralph Mupita stated that the gross sum of $35 million would be paid over a period of time and that proceeds would be $31 million. 

Before its exit, MTN led the telco market in Afghanistan with 40% of the market share. Its exit is exacerbated by the Taliban’s overthrow of the Afghan government in 2021 which has made it difficult for foreign and local businesses to operate.

Zoom out: With this, Iran—or Irancell—remains the only MTN arm in the Middle East. Irancell has the second-largest market share in Iran and the service has 50 million subscribers across the country.