Why MTN is venturing into livestock tracking in Nigeria


Nigeria’s population of over 180 million people and high adoption rate of mobile phones make it an attractive environment for mobile network operators – and there are a number of players competing for market share.

One of these is South Africa’s MTN. While the telco has hit speed bumps in Nigeria (it was slapped with a record fine for unregistered phones in 2015), the country remains one if its key markets, and MTN is investing in value-added services in order to remain competitive and relevant. These include mobile electricity solutions for rural customers and discounts for subscribers who use Uber.

It is now also about to launch its MTN Animal Identification & Management Solution (AIMS) to help cattle owners and herdsmen monitor and track their livestock – a common challenge.

“The issue of livestock rustling has been a major pain in Nigeria for years and [this results] in the loss of lives, livestock and economic value,” highlighted Onyinye Ikenna-Emeka, MTN’s general manager of enterprise marketing in Nigeria.

With little or no designated grazing boundaries, Nigerian farmers and herdsmen often struggle to identify and recover lost livestock, which can result in disputes amongst owners. To address this, MTN has developed a platform and mobile app that allows farmers and law enforcement to monitor herds and easily identify who owns the livestock. In addition, herdsmen who are being attacked by thieves can use the service to quickly call for help.

The system works like other animal tracking solutions. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are injected into livestock, and these are coded with the owner’s details. If there is ever a dispute, a RFID scanner can easily reveal who owns a lost or stolen animal. All details are entered into MTN’s AIMS portal, which serves as an information repository.

“Livestock owners are also able to monitor their herdsmen and by extension their livestock by means of an AIMS app on the phones of their herders. In the event of an emergency, herders are able to send SOS messages to an emergency response monitoring centre,” says Ikenna-Emeka.

“The monitoring centre then in turn notifies the law enforcement authorities as well as the livestock owner.”

The portal features a detailed history of livestock ownership which has the added benefit of helping farmers meet international standards for exporting meat.

According to Ikenna-Emeka, MTN’s livestock tracking solution will be more affordable than those that already exist in the market, although she did not specify how much it will cost.

“Unlike any service currently on the market, AIMS offers an integrated platform that incorporates the needs of the various stakeholders in the livestock and animal ecosystem – from herders, livestock/pet owners, veterinarians, [and] law enforcement agencies, to abattoirs and the general public,” she continued.

“In addition, by using ISO 3166 naming convention for Nigeria, AIMS uniquely identifies livestock from Nigeria, thereby opening up export opportunity for the Nigerian livestock farmer for the very first time.”