New wave of deals as Africa continues to open up telecoms

New operators are being launched, new projects started, and new contracts signed as Africa continues to open up its telecom industry.

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By  Alex Marklew Published  June 29, 2001

A host of major contracts, licenses, and share options are up for grabs across Africa as countries across the continent take steps towards liberalisation and privatisation in the telecom sector.

The wave started with the South African government's decsion to sell its stake in mobile operator M-Cell earlier this month, a move which was the first of many significant events in Africa throughout June.

Zimbabwe's Tele Access Global Corp has won a 30 percent equity stake in a regional African telecoms project known as Comtel.
Comtel will set up a new telecom network linking PTTs in southern Africa to reduce international calling costs.

Tele Access will pay $64 million of the project's total budget of $300 million, with the rest coming from the private sector.
"We have appointed an interim board which will start negotiations with Tele Access as soon as possible to ensure they pay within the stated period," said Sindiso Ngwenyam secretary general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (CMESA).

Opening up

Further north, the Ghanaian government is reported to be making plans to open up the telecom market to competition in February of next year. At the moment, only two companies - Ghana Telecom and Western Telesystems - are permitted to operate in the country.

Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Ghana's trade and industry minister, was quoted as saying that the government is opening up the market in an effort to "promote competition and improve efficiency," and that he had received many complaints from consumers about the current duopoly.

GSM auction

Finally, Algeria has shortlisted the four companies who will bid for the nation's first private GSM license. The auction is due to take place this month, with the country's telecom watchdog ARPT hoping to have it awarded by the 23rd.

The bidders are Orange, owned by France Telecom, Spain's Telefonica, Portugal Telecom and Egypt's Orascom, four large companies with a lot of bidding power behind them.

At present only 100,000 of the war-torn country's 30 million inhabitants own a mobile, a penetration of just 0.3 percent. The Algerian PTT is the only operator.

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