What was the driver behind the merger that brought together Airtel and Tigo?
The current telecoms market is among the 10% highest fragmented markets in Africa, and its structure has become a barrier to further development, undermining the economic sustainability of most players. Over the years, there have been calls by many stakeholders, including the government, for operators to consolidate in the market. The merger between Airtel and Tigo will help us provide business sustainability and utilize assets, thereby securing future investments in Ghana. The consolidation brings many benefits to all stakeholders: consumers, industry, and government. Certainly, the Ghanaian economy will gain from the more efficient use of scarce resources such as spectrum, and from higher levels of profitability among market players. Additionally, the industry dynamics will change, and the combined business will avoid the duplication of investment and will also be able to diversify investments into more innovative and advanced technology. Ultimately, Ghanaian consumers will enjoy superior coverage, quality of service, and mobile financial services, which is the core of our strategy. We seek to pursue growth through network coverage, quality of service, business solutions, and mobile financial services, among others. Through an efficient delivery of superior customer experience, high-speed data, innovative product mix, and wider geographic focus, the new combined business will be able to effectively compete in the market, thereby improving the competitive dynamics of the telecoms sector and, in the long term, strengthen the financial ecosystem.
What is your assessment of the ICT market in Ghana and where do you see the major opportunities and challenges?
Backed by extensive infrastructure investment, with an expansion of fiber providing a solid backbone to extend reach to communities, there has been strong growth in the ICT sector over the years, which ensured that Ghana develops and matures economically. Looking at the current climate, one of the major opportunities is powering, through the ICT sector, SME growth in the country. Within the digital economy, there is ample opportunity to transform and modernize many industries simply by improving productivity, sustainability, and competitiveness. Secondly, education has the potential to harness technology. To some extent, I have seen some initiatives in this area; however, they are in schools in major cities. There should be a collaborative effort between technology service providers and the government to enhance education in rural communities. The children in rural communities need to experience online learning—that is where the real magic happens for our future generations to become competitive. Third, there are millions of young people in Ghana who are digital users. Technology can offer new possibilities for them to become amazing influencers to promote the country and develop solutions to meet community's needs. Finally, there must be a more strategic partnership between the private and public sector to use ICT and tap into the enormous opportunities in the areas of agriculture, healthcare, tourism, and beyond. ICT presents massive opportunities for Ghana, but we must work together to take advantage of the opportunities. Despite the opportunities, there are challenges. There is a need to revise some of the sector's regulation to make it easier for mobile operators to grow the ICT sector. For example, we need technology neutrality in all spectrum bands to enable operators to provide high-quality internet. There is a lack of effective education to equip citizens with the basic knowledge to use and benefit from IT tools.
What are your expectations for 2018?
Our primary focus now is understanding our combined customers; their needs and expectations, ensuring a simple and hassle-free process. We have started a deep dive into this to create a strong emotional bond with customers. High-speed data consumption is increasingly on the rise. Mobile financial services will also become a key complement to traditional banking in expanding access to financial services in the country. We will actively pursue collaboration with the government and international development organizations to develop a range of mobile-based solutions to address a variety of social challenges facing Ghana. Policymakers play a pivotal role in defining the affordability of mobile services; in this regard, we want to see a flexible and fair regulatory environment, where customers will enjoy many more benefits from mobile operators. Regulatory frameworks also need to be designed to encourage, rather than curtail, investment. If mobile operators are unable to make a return on their investments, they will not be able to reinvest to build the infrastructure Ghana needs to create a vibrant digital economy. This is where tech neutrality is critical; we see that across the world and Ghana is unfortunately late to the table.