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Tollgate levies used as a political tool

TELECEL Zimbabwe has appointed a new managing director following the resignation of Rex Chibesa. The telecommunications company, currently second in terms of its subscriber base, is targeting a million subscribers by year end.

Business reporter, Bernard Mpofu, spoke to new Telecel managing director Aimable Mpore on what he brings to the company.

The new boss, however, declined to comment on the status of Telecel’s operating licence after Potraz revoked it a few years ago. The company lodged an appeal with the High Court. Mpore referred questions on the matter to Telecel shareholders. Below are the excerpts of the interview.

 

Mpofu: Who is Aimable Mpore?

Mpore: I am a Canadian by citizenship, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. My parents are from Rwanda. Before I came here, I was CEO of MTN Cote d’Ivoire and prior to that I was CEO of Uganda Telecom — a mobile and fixed data network. At the time of inception of Telecel International, I was in DRC as commercial director then acting-managing director in 1998. I eventually left DRC when the war broke out. I have a bachelor of commerce degree and an MBA from Sherbrooke University in Canada.

Mpofu: Why did you leave MTN?

Mpore: I left Cote d’Ivoire because the company had some issues with the authorities.

Mpofu: Why did you keep a low profile since your appointment as Telecel Zimbabwe managing director?
Mpore: When I came here three months ago, I was chief operating officer. I was then appointed MD a month ago. So there was no noise about that.

Mpofu: Telecel is now the second largest network in terms of subscriber base. Do you feel that this should be credited to you?

Mpore: I’m not here to get credit for that growth. I came here whilst the strategic drive to grow the network was already in motion.

Mpofu: What has been the key to this growth?

Mpore: We are doing things on many angles. Firstly we have put in place measures to increase the availability of network. Secondly we have contingency plans to mitigate frequent power outages. We also have value-added services such as our 3G service which will start testing this month. We have also finished putting our GPRS Edge, which is slightly slower than 3G.We are taking steps to connect Zimbabwe to the submarine cable in order to have true broadband services.

Mpofu: Last week you told legislators that you were targeting 98% of subscribers to be on the prepaid platforms. Why are you targeting prepaid customers?

Mpore: This is not common in Zimbabwe alone. I see this trend in many African countries. Prepaid is easy to manage and we do not have many people with a proven credit record, so we don’t encourage it (credit).

Mpofu: We understand that Telecel has plans to list on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. Can you confirm?
Mpore: That is an issue for shareholders. At this stage I don’t know what they have decided but this is one of the options that is to be considered.

Mpofu: As MD, what recommendations would you give a board that intends to raise capital?

Mpore: A combination of both fresh funds through financial institutions or a vendor financing approach with the suppliers and going public are options that I would consider.

Mpofu: What is your view of infrastructure sharing among operators?

Mpore: We need a sustainable policy by the regulator (Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) that forces those that are reluctant to share their infrastructure to do so. Such a policy would prevent duplication of investment. Currently we are doing site sharing but it is becoming more and more difficult to achieve.

Mpofu: But those with the infrastructure would argue that they have invested so much into the hardware?

Mpore: It happens everywhere else. Networks agree on where to expand and there won’t be any reason to put three towers on one hill. On this we agree with our competitors in principle. All the operators should obviously invest and then agree to share to avoid duplication.

Mpofu: Is Telecel in a position to match competition if one of your competitors partners with a South African mobile company?

Mpore: I came from a market with six operators and we were still doing business. I’m used to such an environment; it forces operators to do what is best for the market. During my stay in Cote d’ Ivoire we managed to grow to four million subscribers from a million in less than three years.

Mpofu: What is your greatest fear in this market?

Mpore: Like you I have fears that if the politics of the day do not go well business will be affected. But my understanding is everything is on course at the moment.

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