In September 2012, Samuel Eto’o launched a mobile telecom company Set Mobile in his homeland Cameroon, with the ambition of providing job and business opportunities for locals and to encourage other footballers and wealthy Cameroonians abroad to come home and invest.
The $50 million investment was expected to gain up to 3% in the country’s mobile market share by 2014 and employ hundreds of direct workers and distributors, but nearly two years after that ambition is becoming a mirage.
Two French managers have been replaced at the helm of the company as the former Barcelona ace struggles to stand competition from the two telecom giants MTN and Orange controlling the country’s mobile market.
Most of the local subscribers, who opted for Set Mobile to encourage and show solidarity with their national team’s captain, have cancelled their contracts and returned to either MTN or Orange which offer cheaper services.
Eto’o himself has denounced unfair competition from the South African and French groups but the country’s telecommunications regulator said there was no wrongdoing.
Local specialists believe Eto’o jumped into a business he knows nothing about and does not have the huge funds required to acquire infrastructure to operate independently and provide cheaper services to clients.
Set Mobile rents Orange’s platform to carry out its operations and thus incurs higher bills than its rivals, with Orange claiming $600,000 is the sum total of the debt Eto’o’s group owes them.
Most of the 300,000 subscribers have left as well as hundreds of distributors and talks between Set Mobile and Orange under the guidance of the communication ministry have not yielded.
Eto’o has declined proposals from Orange to acquire his company, claiming Set Mobile remains his brain child which he will never allow to disappear, according to Jeune Afrique.
However, many specialists in the central African country believe the deadlock will eventually grind up the first public enterprise of the Indomitable Lions’ top scorer even while he exudes confidence for a miracle goal before the end of the final whistle.