Thursday, 5 November 2020

Ghanaians debate AirtelTigo shares transfer to gov’t

Adnan Adams Mohammed

 

The Government of Ghana has disclosed that it has reached final stages of discussions concerning the transfer of AirtelTigo shares to the government along with all its customers, assets and agreed liabilities.

 According to the government, the move would also ensure protection of interests of all employees, customers and stakeholders, while continuing on with the digital transformation in Ghana.

Given the multiplier impact the telecommunications sector has on the economy and its various related industries, the government of Ghana entered into this agreement with the purpose of protecting the jobs of thousands of Ghanaians. It is, therefore, of critical importance that the telecommunications sector remained healthy, dynamic, vibrant, and most importantly, competitive.

 

“The Government of Ghana through this transaction, will temporarily operate this national asset in the best interest of the nation, and ensure the protection of the interests of all employees, customers and stakeholders, and a continuation of the digital transformation in Ghana”, a statement from the government said.

 

Already, there is a growing debate about the government’s move with some citizens raising interesting arguments.

 

A private citizen, Kwesi Atuahene is not much enthused as some Ghanaians are and wondering as he ask, “Will destiny of AirtelTigo be different from Ghana Telecom?”

 

He justified his worry with this comment; “As we prepare for the post-2020 general elections economy, coupled with a government specialized in excessive borrowing and misuses of state funds, will AirtelTigo be resold after the deal closes?”

 

A Member of Parliament’s Communications Committee, Ras Mubarak is demanding full disclosure from the government with regard to the 100% shares acquisition in AirtelTigo as the Kumbungu MP described the deal as ‘flawed’.

 

“I find it unacceptable that my own government will enter into such an agreement – to use the taxpayers money to acquire 100% shares in AirtelTigo. They have not had the courtesy to inform the good people of Ghana what this is all about. I expect nothing but full disclosure of the details of this transaction. If you look at the liabilities of AirtelTigo at the moment it is almost a billion.”

 

“Why would the government want to use a billion [for such purpose]? If the government has that amount of money to offset the liabilities of AirtelTigo, would it not have been more prudent to use a portion of that to honour its obligations? To have entered into an agreement of this magnitude clearly smacks of something fishy.”

 

Currently, AirtelTigo serves around 5.1 million subscribers and offers direct and indirect employment opportunities to almost 10,000 people.

 

History tells us that; Bharti Airtel in 2017, merged with Millicom’s Tigo in Ghana to become the country’s second largest mobile operator, AirtelTigo, with the approval of The National Communications Authority.

 

Celtel International acquired 75 per cent of Western Telesystems Ltd (Westel) from the Government of Ghana for $120 million in 2007.

 

Celtel was subsequently acquired by the Zain Group, which also sold all its African Assets to Bharti Airtel, in 2010.

 

The government of Ghana remained a shareholder in Airtel Ghana with a 25 per cent holding through the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, until the AirtelTigo merger, and retained an option to acquire additional shares after the merger.

 

Westel was at the time of the takeover by Celtel, the second national operator in Ghana and was licensed to provide fixed and mobile (GSM) telecommunications services.

 

Millicom Ghana Limited was the first mobile telecommunications company to operate in the country under the brand name Mobitel before rebranding to become Tigo.

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