Orange telecoms facility fire in Ivory Coast appears to be criminal act -minister

Orange logo is seen during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – A fire last month that gutted a facility of French telecoms group Orange in Ivory Coast, disrupting service for weeks, appears to have been the result of a criminal act, the communications minister said on Tuesday.

The fire broke out early on April 30 at a technical centre in the commercial capital Abidjan’s central Plateau district.

“The investigation is moving forward with the police,” said Bruno Kone. “This is what the initial elements (of the investigation) seem to indicate.”

Mobile phone networks, internet access and landlines were knocked out across much of Ivory Coast, which is French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy and a regional banking and business hub.

Orange launched emergency repair work immediately after the incident occurred, but more than two weeks later some network disruptions persist.

The French company is Ivory Coast’s mobile telecommunications leader with more than 13 million subscribers. It also holds a majority stake in the country’s national telephone company.

Its competitors in the wireless sector include South Africa’s MTN and Maroc Telecom-owned Moov.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; editing by Jason Neely)