At Helios Towers, we play a key role in enabling connectivity. Mobile connectivity helps to connect people, improve healthcare and education, reduce poverty and drive economic growth1. With the population of Africa predicted to triple by 2100, mobile will play a leading role in supporting social and economic development.2
Our business model promotes tower sharing by having multiple tenants on our sites, delivering cost benefits as well as reduced environmental impact.
We believe our sustainable business strategy helps us to maximise the positive impact we have on our stakeholders, build on our values and deliver on our purpose of driving the growth of communications in Africa.
Business excellence and efficiency
To ensure our sites are ready for future growth and to drive efficiencies, we have focused on embedding business excellence across our Group since 2015. Our expertise in power management enables us to maximise service uptime and quality. This, in turn, allows our customers to deliver network uptime and connectivity to consumers.
Climate action and energy efficiency
Our colocation business model, through which multiple operators share each of our towers, delivers reduced environmental impact compared to the traditional operator-owned model –it requires one generator or power supply and this minimises maintenance visits, saving thousands of kilometres driven a month.
We operate in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the lowest energy access rates in the world and only half of the population having access to electricity. As such, we are currently reliant on diesel generators to guarantee power for our customers’ equipment. We are committed to reducing this dependence and always look to use mains grid power wherever reliable and possible. Site power, design and performance are complex calculations and we also use solar and hybrid solutions when possible.
At the heart of our service is the ability to deliver dependable power both cost-efficiently and with due regard to the environment. For both of these reasons, we see reducing fuel consumption as one of the most critical of all measures.
In Tanzania, for example, we have therefore maximised the opportunities to connect directly to the country’s expanding grid availability which has had 1,000km oflines added recently. We have also upgraded the number of sites benefitting from hybrid solar applications by 11, and have optimised both the way our assets are configured on-site and the fuel management and control process. Between March and October 2019, these enhancements reduced fuel consumption on these sites by 26%. More tangibly, that means 364,000 fewer litres of fuel being transported and consumed - every month.
The performance of our maintenance partners is fundamental to this improvement, and fuel efficiency targets will be a central feature of contracts as they come up for renewal.
Network access and sustainable development
Delivering mobile connectivity and development
People are increasingly using mobile to access an array of life-enhancing services that contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The combination of Africa’s fast-growing population and its lack of fixed line infrastructure means that mobile infrastructure will be increasingly critical to its societies and economies, with demand expected to continue to grow. By 2023, mobile is forecast to contribute 9.1% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa – compared to 4.9% of GDP globally3.
Our ambition is to expand our infrastructure across more markets in Africa. Providing more people with access to network coverage will, in turn, support greater social and economic development.
Supporting our communities
Our aim is to maximise the benefits of our towers and network access for the communities where we live and work. We are committed to creating local employment, both directly through the construction, maintenance and security of towers and indirectly through providing network access.
When planning sites, we carefully consider the impacts on our communities. We consult our host regions about the location and the appearance of our proposed towers, addressing any concerns and seeking approval from the community as well as relevant authorities.
We have developed partnerships with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry partners in our markets aimed at improving digital inclusion and providing power to our communities. For example, through our ‘Power to the people’ initiative, we deliver solar-powered street lighting and access to USB ports to communities in Tanzania and DRC.
Mobile towers and health
We are committed to ensuring that our activities do not pose any health and safety risks to the communities in which we operate. We work with government regulating agencies as well as designated international bodies to ensure set standards are met. However, unlike mobile network operators, Helios Towers does not own or operate any spectrum or radio equipment.
However, we have a responsibility to ensure our towers do not create any negative health effects as a result of proximity to the communities where we operate. We adhere to the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an independent advisory body working in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).
There is no evidence to convince experts that mobiles or base stations carry any risk to human health when operating within these international safety guideline limits. The ICNIRP has also confirmed that there are no adverse effects on human health from radiofrequencies used by mobile technologies, including 5G, if exposure is below these guidelines.
For more information, see:
- GSMA: Industry association guidance on EMF and Health, Mobile Communications and Health, FAQs on EMF Science
- World Health Organization: Electromagnetic fields and public health
- ICNIRP: Base stations Radiofrequency
As our infrastructure is used to improve and extend mobile networks, the ripple effects of social and economic benefits are tangible.
Tumba Malumba Charlotte is a rice farmer in Kingabwa, DRC. Her property is too large to be able to monitor her labourers personally, but linking everyone by mobile means that when they complete one task, they phone in for another. She can now operate much more productively.
Her smartphone also allows her to drum up rice sales by calling potential customers. And when they buy from her, they simply transfer funds by M-PESA (Swahili for ‘mobile money’) to her online account.
If a single word can reflect the effect of mobile in Africa, it is ‘opportunity’, as connectivity creates better businesses and better lives.
Empowered people and partnerships
Health and safety
Our fundamental responsibility is to keep the people who work for us safe – both our own employees and our contractors. Our key health and safety risks include vehicle and road safety, working at height, electrical safety and lifting operations. Road accidents are our top safety risk as our employees and contractors drive over 15 million kilometres a year to maintain and refuel tower sites. Our Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) oversight of internal and external parties includes compliance-based systems audits, site visits and quantitative scored audits.
A local, diverse workforce
We believe companies thrive by having a workforce that mirrors the society they serve. We promote diversity and inclusion, offering everyone equal opportunities and are proud that 97% of employees in our operating companies are local hires. However, we acknowledge that building a gender diverse workforce is a challenge, not only in the markets we operate in but also from a safety perspective in operational and field roles. We have joined the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles to advance gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and our communities.
Safe and responsible supply chain
We collaborate with our contractors and partners with a ‘One Team, One Business’ ethos. We share offices with our maintenance partners and encourage contractors to embed business excellence and Lean Six Sigma principles in their own workplaces and supply chains to drive efficiency.
When onboarding partners and suppliers, we run assessments on health and safety, information security, ethics and reputational indicators, among others. In addition to periodic performance reviews and health and safety assessments, our compliance monitoring programme includes facility visits, meetings with key staff members and discussions with third-party contractors, such as security staff, who are working on site.
In building and maintaining communications infrastructure in Africa, we enable connectivity which can positively promote a number of fundamental human rights and freedoms. These include empowering women and facilitating access to life-enhancing services and information in areas such as education and healthcare.
We strive to conduct our business in a way that protects and respects of the rights of all our stakeholders. We do not tolerate any form of discrimination and pay particular attention to concerns related to age, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background and belief.
Our key human rights focus areas include:
- Health and safety
- Labour rights
- Our Codes of Conduct prohibit any form of modern slavery or child labour. We apply the same requirements to our contractors, suppliers and partners and require that our standards of ethical conduct apply across all our supply chains. We reserve the right to check and inspect our partners’ records and processes, and we actively do so. Compliance training is provided periodically and any concerns raised regarding potential violations of our Codes are promptly and fully investigated.
- Community impacts in the management of our infrastructure
- We are committed to active, open and transparent engagement with landowners, community leaders and relevant authorities. All our operating companies undertake community consultation prior to the construction of any new site. We follow our public consultation and community engagement practices, including responding to all public concerns and offering an opportunity to meet and discuss these.
We appreciate the needs of all our people to receive appropriate help, advice and support throughout their careers with the Group.
By the end of 2019, 45% of our staff had been trained in Lean Six Sigma, which provides essential skills and techniques to eliminate waste and drive efficiencies. Once trained, we encourage our people to manage a new project across HT, reinforcing the Lean mindset while also improving business performance.
We also understand the need to equip our leaders, both new and experienced, with the skills and capabilities to be the best they can be. And this year, with our partners MindGym, we delivered 5 days’ training for our leadership group of around 60.
We held courses in London, and at our operating companies in Ghana, Tanzania, and DRC (who were joined by colleagues from Congo Brazzaville).
The courses addressed topics such as how to manage colleagues who were formerly of equal seniority; and how experienced leaders can continue to energise and inspire their teams.
Meanwhile, for the benefit of all our employees we also invested in developing Success Factors; software that enables us to monitor regular performance reviews in real-time and gives us centralised oversight. This means that we can pick up on issues straight away and offer constructive help and input as soon as it is needed.
Helios Towers is committed to upholding the highest standards of corporate governance and risk management. The Board has ultimate accountability for the sustainable business strategy.
Anti-bribery and corruption
We operate in countries where there is an elevated risk of bribery and corruption. By the nature of our business, we work with a range of third parties and interact with government officials to obtain construction and operation permits. With this in mind, we have developed robust policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations. Compliance programme monitoring activities are conducted in each of our operating companies at least twice a year.
We expect each of our employees to uphold our standards and we provide compliance training to all new starters, including an online anti-bribery training module. Periodic refresher courses are given to those in higher risk functions, including commercial, finance and supply chain. We operate a confidential reporting hotline, EthicsPoint, where anyone can raise concerns about actual or potential non-compliance.
Unlike MNOs, we do not have direct access to end consumers or their data. Our business is focused on building and maintaining communications network infrastructure and enabling connectivity.
In the course of our normal business operations, we need to store and use some personal data. This will include sensitive material such as medical histories, appraisals, salary details and other confidential information. Helios Towers and all of our operating companies comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and any equivalent legislation in other jurisdictions. This governs the type of material we store, how we use it, how long we keep it and the steps that we take to ensure its security.
Like any management policy, the effectiveness of anti-bribery measures needs to be continually assessed. During 2018 we therefore launched a programme to enhance our existing compliance programme. In 2019 we moved to formalise our anti-bribery measures through ISO 37001 certification.
Our systems and processes were duly assessed by BSI to ISO standards, and all required activities – including our Code of Conduct, training, employee communication – were shown to be operational and effective.
Every direct employee receives formal classroom training on what constitutes unacceptable behaviour shortly after commencing employment. Importantly, we have also given training to many of our partners; indeed, we have offered to help them gain their own certification.
We believe ISO 37001 sends an unambiguous signal to employees, suppliers, customers and investors alike about our zero-tolerance policy on bribery.