Liberalization Spurs Ghana Telecom Growh

GABORONE, BOTSWANA (07/21/2000) - Telecommunications in Ghana is growing rapidly, spurred by liberalization and the injection of new capital that have created a new, competitive atmosphere, according to Ricky Kasise, a Ghanian communications consultant.

Ghana Telecomm Ltd. and Westel Ltd., competing licensed providers of national and international services, are pumping money into the west African country's telecommunications infrastructure and that is fueling growth, he said.

The springboard of the competition came in 1996, when Ghana Telecomm sold a 30 percent stake to Telekom Malaysia. The deal was worth US$38 million and included full management control. Since then, what used to be a monopolistic government-controlled body took on a new life.

Although the level of telecommunications development is still considered low by worldwide standards, Ghana has made tremendous progress over the past few years. There currently are 112,000 lines available, but demand is for 300,000 and that figure increases daily, Kasise said.

Ghana Telecom currently runs both analog and digital systems. In recent years, the company spent more than $25 million to replace switches in the port city of Tema and in Accra, the capital.

Ghana Telecom has now moved to even more ambitious projects designed to bring greater digitaltransformation reports from West Africa, according to those who are closely watching the market. It hasalso recently signed a deal with other operators to establish a submarine fiber-optic cable linking west Africa nations to southern African countries.

The project is code named SAT3/WAC and is now under way. The aim is to provide 73 percent of sub-Saharan Africa with cost-effective telecommunication services.

SAT3/WAC will be linked to two other giant submarine fiber-optic projects: SAFE and Atlantis. Those will provide global connectivity with southeastern Africa, western Europe and the U.S.

Work also is occurring on a nationwide fiber-optic. That project is expected to be complete by 2002, when it will connect with SAT3/WAC.

In the wake of a rapid lead by Ghana Telecom, the newcomer Westel Ltd has also been catching up fast, according to Kasise. Westel is a joint venture between Western Wireless, National Petroleum Co. and ECG Telesystems. Through Westel, the companies are investing $40 million to $70 million in Ghana over the next five years.

One of Westel's major successes is that it won a protracted interconnection agreement battle against Ghana Telecomm. Westel has further built a network spanning Accra and Tema, and offers its customers voice, fax and data services with cellular and other services set to come.

For Ghana, particularly those in rural areas, the dream of telecommunications services is finally being realized, Kasise noted.

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