You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2009 05 03Article 161460

Opinions of Sunday, 3 May 2009

Columnist: Asem, Anita

Congrat, Haruna Iddrisu! But first, clear your own backyard!

I am very glad that you have been nominated as the Secretary –General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with effect from November I guess. I will however like to make you aware that I was not surprised because I believed in you and knew right from the day you were endorsed as Ghana’s Communication Minister that you will soar to the greatest height leaving an indelible imprint in that sector.

For me, your nomination for the post at ITU is the greatest at this moment taking into consideration issues transpiring at your own backyard, Ghana I mean. These developments I think should come to your notice as early as practicable before your reputation at ITU is dented. If your own house is not clean, how do you go telling others to maintain declared standards? Per ITU’s intension, whether through developing the standards used to create infrastructure to deliver telecommunications services on a worldwide basis, through equitable management of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits to help bring wireless services to every corner of the world, or through providing support to countries as they pursue telecommunication development strategies, all the elements of ITU’s work are centred around the goal of putting every human being within easy and affordable reach of information and communication and to contribute significantly towards economic and social development of all people.

Though signatory to ITU as a country and some of the operators within the sector, issues on the ground reveal that measures are rather being put in place to make communication uneasy and unaffordable to us the consumers in this country. In an effort to maintain a semblance of price stability, perhaps for the benefit of their stockholders overseas, telecom operators are bent on making communication expensive for us.

Hon Minister, these operators are making fun of our deregulated market as they strictly regulate prices to the extent of sanctioning their dealers who sell below given prices. We the consumers are therefore being denied of the full benefits of deregulation whiles the operators manipulate the market for their parochial interests.

I believe it is the deregulation process that has brought about the massive growth we are witnessing in the telecom industry and these operators are beneficiaries. However, they, being wiser, are now devising measures to stifle further competition and prevent dealers from reaching to us the consumers at a more affordable price even though lower prices to the consumer does not directly affect their gross revenues. Their behavior suggests that they think they are smarter than our government. While our government is giving them free reign over their operations, they are killing competition by punishing dealers willing to beat down prices to stir up competition.

Hon Minister, the other issue I wish to bring to your attention is that, these telecom operators have adopted a marketing system that brings back monopolistic tendencies through territorial designations. They have assigned exclusive territories to their dealers making them sole dealers within their respective localities. I hope you can see where this will lead us to in the future if not now? These telecom operators are virtually forming cartels within the sector and I pray that this does not happen during your term otherwise posterity will not forgive you for your inactions.

Cartel members as I know may agree on such matters as price fixing, total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories, establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these. The aim of such collusion is to increase individual members' profits by reducing competition. Hon Minister, for now, that is where Ghana’s “deregulated” telecommunication industry is heading to, if not already there, because as at now, price fixing is ongoing and allocation of territories has already commenced. What else are we waiting for to call this a cartel when dealers are punished for dealing below a fixed price level with no due regards to us the final consumers?

Your main agenda at ITU, as I heard from you on Joy fm, is to see how best the digital divide could be bridged. The digital divide as I understand is the disparity between the `technology-rich' and `technology-poor', or `have-not's' or better still, bridging the gigantic gulf that already exists between the industrialised and developing countries in terms of access to ICTs (this includes radio, computers, TV and mobile phones). For me, this really does not mean much if you cannot sanitize your own telecom sector helping Ghanaians to fully enjoy the benefits of deregulation. I wish you all the best.

Writer: Anita Asem