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21.07.2002 Feature Article

Telenor and Ghana Telecom's Business Plan

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Telenor, the leading Telecommunications Company from Norway to prepare a 3-year Business Plan for Ghana Telecom? Regret It is with deep sorrow and regret that I have learned that Telenor, the leading Telecommunications Company from Norway is to prepare a 3-year Business Plan for Ghana Telecom. It is indeed sad that 40 years after Ghana's independence, Ghana Telecom Engineers have been adjudged completely incapable of drawing up a viable business plan for their own business.

Questions Immediately Spring Up. Who is going to finance that business plan? If indeed we are so poor that we cannot finance our own business plan should we be paying money to foreigners to draw up a business plan for us? If Ghana Telecom Engineers have been adjudged incapable of drawing up a business plan for their own company, can they be relied upon to successfully implement it? How much are these Telenor Engineers going to be paid? Surely, even if Ghana Telecom Engineers have been adjudged incapable, could not the Honourable Minister and his group of advisers have had the foresight to gather the Telecom Engineers inside and outside of Ghana to draw up a viable business plan? Surely these Telenor Experts are going to rely on the workers of Ghana Telecom for information. So in the end, is it not the same Ghana Telecom workers who in actual fact are going to draw up the business plan? What happened to all the talk about looking for investors to invest in Ghana Telecom in order to produce 400,000 broadband lines within 2 years? 6. Is it simply the case that no company has committed to achieve this figure, and that the Honourable Minister is in fact too ashamed to admit that there have been no investors coming forward? This could indeed be the case because several prominent individuals raised this possibility. ie the possibility that perhaps this 400,000 broadband lines were slightly unrealistic and that no investors would come forward. 7. If this was really the case, why didn't the honourable Minister consult with the Telecom Engineers in the country, to brainstorm about the way forward, instead to hatching up this insulting sulphur-laden catastrophe? 8. And perhaps most important of all, why this continued lack of faith in Ghanaians and their ability to perform, along with a blind faith in foreign know-how and solutions? Surely common sense should tell us that we have been practicing this 'west-is-best' philosophy for several decades and it has not helped us. It is significant that all of this continued 'west-is best' philosophy, along with its insult to the professional integrity of the Ghanaian Telecommunications Engineer, is in the wake of President Kuffour's continued insistence on maximizing the Ghanaian brain, talent, and potential. Ghanaian Telecommunications Professionals are doing well everywhere...everywhere in the world. Surely if a current Ghanaian leaders! hip is incompetent, other competent Ghanaians can be found? Or is the Honourable Minister engaged in some dubious underhand deals with the Norwegians from Telenor? 9. Who is actually managing Ghana Telecom as at now, and what are the plans for the management of Ghana Telecom for the future? This is indeed a tragedy for Ghana, and indeed the worst blunder of the Honourable Mninster's chequered political career. However, the Ghana Telecom Engineers have not complained. They have simply rolled over and taken this insult to the core of their professional integrity with not so much as a whimper. Also, it is indeed sad, that Ghanaians have carelessly and irresponsibly left the critical decisions that affect them, in the hands of so few ignorami. Ghana Telecom Troubles Certainly Ghana Telecom has, and continues to have its share of troubles. Quality of service that is completely abysmal and woefully below international standards. Archaic Management that continues to apply yesterday's outdated solutions to today's modern telecommunications demands. Far too much Governmental interference in their day-to-day operations, as well as a lack of consultation, and unclear direction. (Are the Malaysians still there?) Lack of competition to make Ghana Telecom sit up. A National Communications Authority that appears completely unable, infact totally disabled from ensuring good quality of service. etc, etc. The Way Forward But this cannot be the way forward. Asking foreigners to draw up a business plan for Ghana Telecom cannot be the way forward. What the Honourable Minster should have done was to look for competent Ghanaians and pay them to draw up a viable business plan, if that is what he wanted. (just as he did when he wanted a Telecommunication Policy drawn up). But should that really be the concern of the Minister of Communications and Technology? Is it really the duty of the Minister to select a group to draw up a business plan for a company? The Embarrassing Finale This is a real embarrassment to the people of Ghana, and the Telecommunications Engineers in particular. This has got to be the worst blunder in the political life of the Honourable Minister, and really should be his last. With this supreme move he has finally proven himself totally, completely and irrevocably incompetent as one to be entrusted with the nerve-centre of the nation. The Growing Importance of Telecommunications and ICT (Information & Communication Technology) to a Nation The telecommunications network, if properly managed could go a long way to bring Ghana out of her HIPC condition...(if properly managed...). This is because Telecommunications and ICT is not mono-sectorial as has been perceived in the past. Telecommunications and ICT is multi-sectorial. It affects every sector of the economy. Improving the telecoms and ICT sector improves the health sector. Improving the telecoms and ICT sector improves the business sector. Improving the telecoms and ICT sector improves the educational sector. Improving the telecoms and ICT sector improves the government sector...Telecommunications and ICT indeed forms the bedrock upon which every sector of the economy thrives, and has become a sensitive indicator of the health and the wealth of a nation. The Profile of a Successful Telecommunications Minister It is therefore critical that the Minister appointed to handle such a delicate all-encompassing sector must have certain key qualities. One key profile of a Telecommunications Minister is that he/she should not only have some background in Telecommunications and ICT (Information & Communication Technology) but should extensively consult with all relevant parties. This is because the technology and it's applications are changing so fast that to work in isolation is a sure sign of failure. Another key element of a successful Telecommunications Minister is that he/she should have an appreciation of what telecommunications and ICT is all about, and how it can move the nation forward. He/she should also be an intelligent person who keeps up to date with the changing trends. Finally, one important ingredient of a successful Telecommunications Minister is that the Relevant bodies such as the GIIT (Ghana Institute of information technology) and GhIE (Ghana Institute Of Engineers) etc, must have an input into the selection of such a Minister. Conclusion This is indeed a sad day for Mother Ghana. This is not intended to detract in any way from the expertise of the Norwegian Telecommunications Engineers from Telenor; but for the Honourable Minister to publicly announce to the entire world that his own Engineers are so incompetent that they cannot draw up their own business plan is completely unpardonable. Let me conclude by saying that Ghanaians are fully capable...fully capable, of managing their own telecommunication and ict affairs. The problem is that there are too many square pegs in round holes. The Ghanaian society is a 'personality' society and not a 'system' society. Let us get rid of the square pegs in round holes. Let us value the 'system' more than we value the 'personality'. Let us, as a people, insist on good quality of service.... This is the way forward, and not this insulting and half-baked solution born in the minds of ignorami with no interest, (except self-interest), nor comprehension of, what telecommunications and ICT is all about.

Kofi Khol
Kofi Khol, © 2002

The author has 3 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KofiKhol

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