Saturday, December 13, 2008

Concerns over Zamtel privatisation are too early, says Chipwende

Concerns over Zamtel privatisation are too early, says Chipwende
Written by Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Saturday, December 13, 2008 9:02:36 AM

CONCERNS being raised over the announced partial privatisation of Zamtel are too early as the government has only announced an evaluation plan, Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) chief executive officer Andrew Chipwende has said.

Reacting to opposition by some stakeholders on the intended privatisation of Zamtel Limited, Chipwende defended the government’s intention saying it was aimed at strengthening Zamtel. Chipwende said strengthening of Zamtel’s position would include operations, financial, human resources and other technical perspective.

Asked to comment on concerns that telecommunications was too strategic for the country to be left in the hands of private companies and that Zamtel Limited exclusively controlled the International Gate Way (IGW) which the government had resisted to allow Zain Zambia Plc and MTN Zambia to access citing security reasons, Chipwende said all those concerns would be addressed in the review and evaluation process the government had currently embarked on.

He also denied that Zamtel Limited was a monopoly in the telecommunications sector in the country.

“I am very reluctant to talk about this issue and I would rather wait for the outcome of the evaluation. The evaluation would be very comprehensive and all those issues would be addressed,” Chipwende said. “I don’t agree to say Zamtel is a monopoly because anyone can have access to the IGW. Zamtel does not control the IGW, it is controlled by the Communications Authority (CA) and the only reason these other companies (Zain Zambia Plc and MTN Zambia) are not accessing is because of the cost (the government has pegged the cost of IGW licence fee at US $12 million). As for the security concerns, like I have said, the government has only announced the roadmap but of course all those concerns that border on legal and regulatory framework would be addressed.”

And Chipwende said it was very difficult to give a time frame as to when the transaction to dispose of Zamtel would be completed.

Communications minister Dora Siliya indicated that the government was going to conclude the transaction and come up with an equity partner for Zamtel by end of first quarter of next year.

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