An Orange SA West African subsidiary is issuing debt on the regional market for the first time to take advantage of higher demand for digital services amid the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns has made a plan by Dakar-based Sonatel’s to raise $171 million particularly timely, Chief Executive Officer Sekou Drame said in an interview. The bond sale is the largest in the history of the regional bourse, Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres SA, or BRVM. Orange owns 42% of Sonatel, the largest security on the BRVM, with a market value of 1.28 trillion CFA. The carrier operates in Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Sierra Leone, while a sister company Orange Ivory Coast covers three other countries in the sub-region. Paris-based Orange is considering acquisitions in Nigeria and South Africa and an expansion into Ethiopia to grow further in Africa in the wake of the pandemic, Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard told French newspaper Les Echos in an interview published Monday. The company will now use the proceeds of the debt sale to expand its 4G and 4G+ networks and develop its energy, banking and Orange Money businesses. “This is where we see our future growth,” Drame said. Orange’s Ivory Coast unit is launching Orange Bank later this year and the group plans to extend the banking operations to Sonatel countries, such as Senegal and Mali.