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Govt has injected $5 million into Telecel, says Supa Mandiwanzira - Fulltext

by Staff Reporter
17 May 2017 at 20:09hrs | Views
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Good evening to you.

Let me first say how pleased I am to be here tonight as your guest of honour, in my capacity as the Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services and also as a representative of the Government of Zimbabwe - the new major shareholder in Telecel Zimbabwe. Tonight is the beginning of a new era for Telecel, its subscribers, the Telecommunications industry and the nation at large.  We are gathered here not to celebrate Telecel's journey thus far, but rather to mark the beginning of a new journey alive with possibilities and potential.

We are all aware that in the past three or so years, Telecel's existence was clouded with uncertainty due to issues to do with licensing, shareholding and non-compliance with the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act.  This state of affairs led some into questioning and doubting the Company's future.  As a result some of Telecel customers jumped ship during this period of turbulence.  It is with great pleasure that I stand before you this evening, to announce that Telecel has turned a corner and those issues are well behind the vibrant red brand and to assure you that the Company's  future is bright orange.  I am here to proudly declare that the Government, which is the new majority shareholder in Telecel is very keen to support any initiatives that will position the Company as a vibrant, successful and profitable entity.

I wish to assure you, our distinguished guests who are here tonight and all other stakeholders elsewhere, that Telecel's continuity is assured.  As soon as the Government finalized the purchase of the 60% stake in Telecel, in January 2017, it made an immediate capital injection of USD 5 million into the operation.  Government has plans to ultimately buy 100% of the Telecel business.  Efforts to sanitize the ‘shareholder wars' and eventually make the business private through listing or selling, et cetera continue.  Advisors will advise us which route to take.  In the mean-time and behind closed doors, the Shareholders and the Telecel team are working diligently to secure additional funding in order to recapitalize the organization and ensure that Telecel competes effectively in the telecommunication industry.  At this stage, negotiations and discussions are ongoing with financiers for an investment of over USD 200 million to kick-start the Telecel project.  More details of this funding will be communicated in due course.  This funding will go a long way in ensuring that the Company rolls out new technologies to meet subscriber needs.  I am aware that the company has already commenced the network upgrades necessary to close the identified and well-known gaps in its service provision and will also be rolling out its 4.5G LTE infrastructure by the third quarter of 2017.

As Government, we are aware that the huge capital investment required for telecommunication infrastructure rollout is always an inhibiting factor in the quest for universal access to broadband and ICTs in general.  In this regard, the Government, through the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services addressed this challenge through promulgation, in November 2016, of the Statutory Instrument on Infrastructure Sharing, which was gazetted as Statutory Instrument Number 137 of 2016 (S.I. 137.2016).  This Infrastructure Sharing Policy will limit duplication and gear investment toward product innovation and better customer service in the country and in particular, in underserved and remote areas.  I am confident that Telecel supports this Government position and will be able to take advantage of the new Infrastructure Sharing Policy by entering into sharing agreements with other industry players and thereby facilitate the expansion of coverage to previously under-served areas via national roaming and thereby reduce operating costs by sharing sites, masts or the radio access network. With such massive infrastructure rollout anchored on sharing, Telecel will be able to prevent further churn and even grow its customer base in leaps and bounds.

The impressive attendance at this event reflects the ever-increasing pivotal role that the telecommunication industry plays in the world today. A robust telecommunication industry is essential for the economic, social and cultural development of any society and that requirement has become even more evident in this Information Age.  In recognition that the country needs to have effective ICT systems in order to be globally competitive, the Government will render maximum support to Telecel as it focuses on closing the gap on network coverage, integrating technical and funding resources to restructure operations in order to maximize profitability.

Government is committed to increasing uptake and usage of telecommunication services in the country through provision of lower and affordable products by the telecommunications operators.  We encourage competition for service which eventually benefits consumers of those services.

We are heartened to see that Telecel has continued with its deliberate focus on innovation and offering affordable services in line with Government aspirations. I congratulate Telecel on the recent launch of MegaBoost, Wi-Fi offload and the re-launching of the popular MegaBonus promotion which I believe are the first steps in reclaiming your rightful place as a vibrant and influential telecommunication player.  The launch of MegaBonus, which gives 100% talk time bonus across networks, is an example of the innovative price leadership we have come to know Telecel for.  From your Strategic Plan, I am aware that Telecel has plans to continue launching innovative and exciting offerings in order to retain and attract customers in this fiercely competitive market space.

Allow me at this juncture, ladies and gentlemen to bring to your awareness (at least some of you who may not have known) that a virulent new strain of ransomware known as WannaCrypt or, in short, WannaCry (Ransom.Wannacry) has hit 150 countries and infected more than 300 000 computers since its emergence on Friday 12 May 2017.  Although the infection rates slowed down over the weekend, experts warn of more cyberattacks in the wake of ‘WannaCrypt', which is far more dangerous than other common ransomware types because of its ability to spread itself across an organization's network by exploiting a critical vulnerability in Windows computers, which was patched by Microsoft in March 2017 (MS17-010.  It has been reported that the ransomware has disrupted telephone companies, hospitals and other organizations resulting in infection, encryption and locking to render computers as well as telephone services inaccessible.

Although the Heat Map shows that Zimbabwe was not affected, I urge all organizations to be vigilant in updating your operating systems and other software. Let me also say that the ransomware has technological, geopolitical, legal and economic perspectives.  Government will not sit back and watch this crisis as it unfolds.  There is need to bring all capabilities to bear on this issue and work side-by-side with partners in the Private Sector, including International Partners.  We will also continue raising more awareness among users.  In the mean-time, the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, in a legal response to this crisis, will speed up the approval and gazetting of the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill, whose window of public consultations will soon be closed to make way for the final approval processes.

I wish, in closing, to state here and now that the finalization of the purchase of the 60% stake in Telecel from VimpelCom in November 2016 was not only the closure of a long-drawn saga but also the beginning of a new chapter, a chapter that will be written by Telecel, a chapter that will prominently feature Telecel and a chapter that will see Telecel grow from strength to strength with the support and enabling environment that my Ministry will provide.

To Angeline Vere, Telecel's CEO, I want to take this opportunity to personally offer my support and encouragement to you and your team so that you continue to run Telecel and set the shining example.  We want you to achieve more.  

Lastly, I wish to extend my appreciation to the telecommunication vendors here present and all the other stakeholders for standing by Telecel during the turbulent period.  Let me end by saying the future of Telecel is bright.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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