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Business News of Monday, 22 June 2020

Source: Laud Business

Telecom policies favouring foreign companies against locals – Ato Sarpong


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A former Deputy Minister of Communications, Mr Ato Sarpong, has noted that policies and regulatory practices in the telecommunication sector of the Ghanaian economy have consistently, over the years, favoured foreign multinationals against locals.

In an article, he explained that the then Ghana Telecom which was sold to Vodafone by the Kufuor administration, with incumbent authorisation for mobile services, launched its mobile service branded Onetouch in late 2000.

Glo, was the last GSM service to be launched in Ghana, he said.

“Today, Ghana boasts of a thriving mobile industry with over 41 million mobile telephony subscriptions and penetration in excess of 138%. Fixed telephony subscriptions have been at almost same level for over a decade at less than 300,000 lines.

“Mobile data continues to dominate in the data space with over 28 million subscriptions to mobile data service on the second and third generation platforms and a further 1.4 million on the fourth generation platform.

“ Sadly, the fourth generation broadband wireless space, originally awarded to indigenous operators like Surfline and Blu Telecom, is now dominated by global multinationals bringing to the fore policies and regulatory practices that have consistently, over the years, favoured foreign multinationals,” he noted.

Mr Ato Sarpong further stated that former President John Dramani Mahama introduced several reforms in the telecommunication sector of the Ghanaian economy when he was the Minister of Communications under the Rawlings administration.

These reforms, he said, propelled Ghana’s telecom industry to glory days which Ghanaians are enjoying currently.

Mr Saprong said : “A little over two decades ago, making an international call in the comfort of one’s room was just a dream. To speak to someone overseas, you had to go and book the call at Ghana Telecom, Accra Central, and be given a date to come make the call. On that day, you would join a queue and when it came to your turn, you would enter one of the booths where everyone within the hall would be privy to your conversation. Telecommunications in Ghana was in the hands of only one entity – the Ghana Post and Telecommunications Company – a giant, very deeply asleep, under utilising its resource base and feeding off the little revenue generated by the state.

“Under His Excellency President John Mahama, former President of the Republic of Ghana, but then as Deputy Communication Minister and later as Minister for Communications, major reforms were carried out in the telecommunications sector leading to the decoupling of post and courier services from telecommunications services and resulting in the Incorporation of Ghana Telecom and the promulgation of Act 505 to create the Ghana Postal Services Corporation in 1995.

“Around the same time, Ghana had fallen in love with the Malaysians and saw two major Malaysian investments in telecommunications and media coming into Ghana. One was Telecom Malaysia taking up a 30% stake in Ghana Telecom including management of the entity. The other was the use of the huge assets and resources of the Ghana Film Industry Corporation to enter into an arrangement with Media Prima of Malaysia to create TV3 with the Malaysians taking up a 90% stake in the newly created entity.

“To get the sleeping giant – Ghana Telecom – to wake up, an attempt was made to deregulate the fixed telephony sector with the award of a second national license to another sleeping giant, Western Telesystems Ghana Limited (Westel) creating a duopoly and offering other service providers some options to opt for services from two competing sleeping giants. Westel metamorphosed into Zain when it was acquired by Celltel International which later sold it to Bharti Airtel and rebranded Airtel until its recent merger with Millicom leading to the creation of Airtel-Tigo.”

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