Gambia: The Barrow government should free Gamtel/Gamcel to compete effectively.


Mr. President,

I will not do justice to Gamtel if I remain quiet about their present plight. I was the very first Gambian who advocated for the opening of the telecommunication industry to the private sector back in 1996 well before Africel, Comium and Qcell came into existence.

It is therefore important for me to highlight some of the major predicaments befalling Gamtel/Gamcel during ex president Yaya Jammeh’s regime.

Firstly Jammeh himself snatch away the international gateway services from Gamtel’s control. This is totally wrong and illegal as Gamtel has the monopoly of the international services by Law. The Gambia telecoms law gave Gamtel the monopoly status on the international gateway services. This law is still alive and should be respected by the Barrow government.

Secondly Gamtel/ Gamcel procurement activities fall under the purview and control of the GPPA (Gambia Public Procurement Agency). The GPPA was established by the Jammeh regime under recommendation of the World Bank that funded its operations in its initial stage. This policy was largely geared towards curtailing and controlling the expenditures of public corporations such as Gamtel, GPA, GIA, GCCA, SSHFC and other public organizations involve in revenue generation. It was widely rumored that this GPPA institution came into being as a result of jealousy existing between the central government employees and the public corporation employees. The public corporation employees were better paid than the central government employees and the later supposedly instigated the Executive in connivance with the World Bank and IMF to create the GPPA to control the procurement of the public corporations.

One must not loose sight that these revenue generating corporations on behalf of government should be encourage by all means and should therefor have more incentives to help them perform better specially those competing with the private sector.

Today the GPPA is deterrence to Gamtel’s development. Whiles Africell, Comuim and Qcell can make economic, financial and marketing decisions on the minute by the minute freely to compete Gamcel in the GSM telecom market, Gamcel has to always wait for the goodwill of the executive of the GPPA to agree or disagree on Gamcel needs. This tying up of Gamcel hands and asking them to compete with free private companies is simply unfair and impossible to Gamcel. How can Gamcel compete effectively against these private companies under the circumstances?

No wonder Africel has over 1 million subscribers leaving Gamcel trailing far aback with about 200 thousand subscribers. Africell can make on the spot marketing and financial decisions whiles Gamcel has to wait for GPPA whims and caprices.

Is this fair to Gamcel? It is a shame that a foreign company can come to Gamcel’s home territory and beat them five time over within 8 years of their entry into the GSM market. This can only be possible because Gamcel hands are tied by the GPPA controls and ask to compete private GSM companies. How is this possible Gambia?

I therefore humbly plead with the Barrow government to remove Gamcel from the GPPA control. I strongly encourage the Minister of Communication to plead with President Barrow to remove this bottleneck from Gamcel’s operations and avail them the fair opportunity to compete effectively on a level playing field in the GSM telecom market.

Finally and more importantly Gamtel should be given back their International service forthwith. The contract signed with the foreign company should be terminated sooner than later. This revenue lost to Gamtel hinders their investments and expansion programs negatively.

We should always bear in mind that if Gamtel/Gamcel make a profit it goes to the national treasury whiles the profits generated by the foreign companies are shipped back to foreign lands. Gamcel is our own and should be helped to grow and compete on a level playing field.

Mr. President, under the new Gambia we should also help our national and local companies grow and desist from helping the former Jammeh business associates and enablers at the detriment of ours.

Once again I urge Honorable DA Jawo to urgently take up Gamtel/Gamcel plight and remedy the situation before they die a natural death caused by ex president Jammeh the criminal businessman who butchered Gamtel/Gamcel beyond recognition.

Up till now Gamcel do not have a headquarter building of their own, they are still renting the offices of their HQ.

I know president Barrow is waiting for the report from Mr. Bakary Njie and team of investigators, my take on the forward is to remove Gamtel/Gamcel out of the clutches and control of the GPPA and give them back the International gateway infrastructure immediately.

I rest my case and will come back over and over until the above two requests are met by the Barrow government.

Thank you.

Written by Pa Njie Girigara.

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