It was most gratifying reading this Daily Mail piece with the news that ZAMTEL will be partially privatised - we hinted that this was being considered a while back. Not only has GRZ accepted what we have been saying ever since this blog started (see for example the memorable discussions on Mulongotism and Zamtel's monopoly....why I oppose it ), but it appears they also concede that inaction has been a recipe for disaster. But more importantly, they admit the failure to act was largely down to the parastatal madness mentality. Excerpt :
But I refuse to get too excited just yet. We shall keep asking the tough questions : What is the nature of this new arrangement? Why "partial privatisation" when previously we heard all options were on the table ? Is the ZANACO model really ideal for ZAMTEL, given its inherent monopolistic position? What about conflict of interest? Government taking part in an industry it regulates, that does not sound right? What is to be done about Cell-Z? What about the international gateway? Will it be made independent? How will it be funded? What about the international gateway fees, shouldn't they be reduced? How do we get towards efficient access, is the sequential model proposed on this blog viable? What about the regulatory regime? Surely the problem is not just ZAMTEL, but also Communication Authority (CAZ)'s weak powers? So with that in mind, where does the Draft ICT Bill 2007 which has never been implemented, fit into all of this? And I have questions for the Competition Commission too! The questions are plenty, and we have touched on many of them on this blog. I suppose if I can summarise my thoughts : as much as I appreciate the latest move very much, my hope is that it is undertaken within a new policyand operational framework for the communication industry. We need a communication strategy not a ZAMTEL strategy.
Government is seeking an equity partner to partially privatise Zamtel with the transaction process expected to be completed by March 2009. Minister of Communications and Transport Dora Siliya said Government had already identified a firm to do the company asset evaluation, which would be completed this month end.
She said next January, government would begin to look for a strategic partner. Ms Siliya, who was addressing workers at the Zamtel College in Ndola yesterday, said only after the asset evaluation process would Government open the tender for interested parties to bid for the shares.
She said she would this Saturday sign a memorandum of understanding with the company engaged to do the asset evaluation. Ms Siliya said the decision should have been made earlier because the value that government would get out of Zamtel currently would be lower than what it would have got earlier due to the global financial crisis.
She said Zamtel needed to change its business strategy, which includes the business fundamentals, structures and work culture. “Unless we move fast and find an equity partner, Zamtel will continue sinking. In fact, it has only survived this long because it is a parastatal company,” she said.
Update - 5/12/2008 :
The Post is reporting that "sources within Ministry of Transport have indicated that the government has already identified a telecommunication company from the Middle East to partner with Zamtel". The article also carries comments from National Union of Communication Workers (NUCW) general secretary Emmanuel Kasonde, who appears to have welcomed the latest government moves : "We have seen the downfall in the business performance of Zamtel. The privatisation of the company is in the interest of all people and stakeholders. The development will change the business fundamentals of information technology sector in the nation....The government has lamentably failed to run Zamtel because the company has enough facilities that could make Zamtel a leading telecommunication service provider on the continent".