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ALGIERS, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Algerian mobile telecoms operator Djezzy has added 1 million customers this year and plans to further invest to offer more online payment services, its CEO said.
Djezzy, or Optimum Telecom Algérie, will have 16 million subscribers by the end of 2018, up from 15 million a year ago and including seven million smart phones users, Matthieu Galvani told Reuters in an interview conducted on Wednesday.
Djezzy is Algeria's No. 2 mobile operator, behind state-owned Mobilis, and also competes with Qatar's Ooredoo .
It is owned by Egypt's Global Telecom Holding (GTH) , in which Dutch-based Veon, formerly know as VimpelCom, has a 57.7 percent stake.
Galvani declined to give a forecast for next year, saying only the potential was huge as the government was planning to make more online payment services available.
Some government bodies and even banks in Algeria still use the fax to communicate with the world. Online payments are very limited and such services require special central bank approval.
However, authorities plan to expand the network as part of efforts to boost private investment and lower the country's dependency on oil and gas revenues.
To tap into this nascent market Djezzy will invest more after spending 30 billion dinars ($253 million) in the past two years to become an online business platform, Galvani said, declining to give a figure.
"The potential of (Algeria's population of around) 40 million people once it goes digital is huge, so we need to be ready, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created," he said.
Other shareholders in Djezzy are a state-owned fund called FNI with 51 percent and CEVITAL, a local private company, which owns 3.3 percent.
The rate of penetration of smartphones in Algeria is around 40 percent now, according to official figures, much lower than in other Arab countries.
The rate for mobile phones is 111 percent.
Algeria has the slowest fixed internet speed connection in the world at 3.5 megabits per second (mbps), compared to world leader Singapore with 161.2 mbps, according to 2018 Digital yearbook.
Mobile connections are faster at 7.4 mpbs but even then only seven other countries offer slower services, according to Digital yearbook.
($1 = 118.3400 Algerian dinars) (Editing by Ulf Laessing and Susan Fenton)