Malawi to chair telecom institute

The election, which will see Malawi heading the body in the 2007/08 financial year, was conducted during the 33rd AFRALTI Governing Council meeting held in Malawi’s lakeshore town of Mangochi recently.

AFRALTI is an institution for human resource development in the field of telecommunications catering for Eastern and Southern African states with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

The information minister, who presided over the opening AFRALTI meeting, lashed out at the country’s mobile and telephone networks for neglecting the rural masses.

Kaliati asked the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), which subscribes to AFRALTI on behalf of the Republic of Malawi, to probe the operations of the mobile and telephone service providers

She said she wanted Macra to look into the affairs of Malawi Telecommunications Limited, which the government privatised in 2005.

“These network providers need to change the way they are operating. They are not here to siphon off our money, but to assist in developing rural areas,” she said, “but they are not doing that.”

She said instead the service providers were still operating in old urban areas they had been in for years. She, thus, instructed them to beef up their capital and correct this negative situation.

The government has drawn up the Universal Access Policy, whose purpose is to give rural masses access to affordable communications facilities.

Kaliati, who is also government spokesperson, said her ministry would review the operations of the telecommunications network providers to check if they were up to required standards.

She said the government would issue licences to a second fixed telecommunications network and third mobile service provider to enhance competition and development in rural areas as well as improve the quality of services.

“With the economic liberalisation policies under implementation, the sector is now opened to both local and foreign private sector investors, thereby eliminating monopolistic market structure used to insulate our business from competition,” she said.

Responding to calls from the minister at the same function, MTL head of information and technology Ascot Maluwa said the company has started buying new equipment to replace the old and it was struggling with connection problems as they inherited a very corrupt company.

He told the minister that from five lines, the company was now connecting up to between 15 and 20 lines per day.

“In our business plans we have included programmes to reach out to rural areas before the end of four years as stipulated in our contract (with the government),” he said.

However, Macra acting director general Mike Kuntiya said the organisation would be meeting MTL to review its licence, mainly to ascertain if it had met required targets.

He said the company and the other two mobile network providers would be reviewed annually to establish compliance with their operational papers.

“Throughout our review, we cross-check if there has been improvement and if prescribed agreements on the licences are adhered to,” he said.

At the AFRALTI Governing Council meeting, member countries reviewed a report from the institute’s management on its performance for the period 2006/2007 and brainstormed on ways of improving programmes of the institute, as well as planning activities in the year that Malawi would be chairing the council.

AFRALTI agreed to develop ways of incorporating into its activities the concept of the Centre of Excellence (CoE), which used to enjoy funding from the International Telecommunications Union, but has since pulled out.

Apart from Malawi and Kenya, other AFRALTI members are Uganda, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

Angola, which attended the Malawi meeting, is in the process of finalising the ratification of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA), expected to be completed within the year.

Zambia is in the process of formalising AFRALTI membership while Seychelles and Lesotho are finalising their withdrawal from the organisation.

March 2007
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