March 29, 2016 / 3:54 PM / 4 years ago

MTN South Sudan lays off staff as economic crisis bites

A worker sweeps past an outlet of South Africa's MTN Group in Johannesburg, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JUBA (Reuters) - MTN South Sudan, one of the country’s biggest telecoms operators, is cutting dozens of jobs and cancelling expansion projects such as the construction of new cellular sites due to an economic crisis, it said on Tuesday.

The world’s newest nation plunged into civil war in late 2013 when a political crisis provoked fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy, Riek Machar.

The firm, a unit of South Africa’s MTN, is the latest among foreign firms to reduce operations after a currency devaluation, spiralling inflation and lower revenue from oil on a drop in production and weak global crude prices.

Corporate services head Khumbulani Dhlomo said the company had reduced foreign staff numbers by 75 percent and would cut 55 percent of local staff, without giving exact figures.

Dhlomo said subscriber numbers had dropped by 10 percent since October last year, and the company was expecting more losses this year.

MTN South Sudan had scrapped plans to put up 40 new cellular transmission towers and 100 third generation (3G) transmission sites, he said.

“If the economy continues it’s downward trend, MTN may be forced to close,” Dhlomo said.

Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; editing by Susan Thomas

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