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What Works: Vodacom's Community Services Phone Shops

Providing telecommunications to poor communites in South Africa

Executive Summary

WRI's business case studies go deeper into some of the most promising projects represented in the Digital Dividend Clearinghouse, providing detailed description and analysis of each business model, the market segment in which it operates, its successes and challenges, potential replicability and scalability. If possible, the study also documents the social impact of the venture.

Digital Dividends contracts teams of MBA students, under supervision of business school faculty, to research and write our business case studies, as they are uniquely suited to provide unbiased, professional assessments of the business models at low cost. Using MBA students has the added advantage of helping to interest a generation of future business leaders in microenterprise and global development issues.

Vodacom Community Services began under a 1994 government mandate to provide telecommunications services in disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Vodacom's development of an innovative way to meet this mandate, via entrepreneur-owned and operated phone shops, has both provided affordable communication services to millions of South Africans and empowered thousands of previously disadvantaged individuals with income-generating opportunities and lasting business skills. The Community Services program now provides over 23,000 cellular lines at over 4,400 locations throughout South Africa.

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