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28.02.2004 Feature Article

Ghana Phone Card - The Brains Behind It

Ghana Phone Card - The Brains Behind It
LISTEN FEB 28, 2004

Theo Botchway and Oscar Yankey in 1998 met for the first time in the US whilst working on a project called “GhanaNet”. Their job description then was to help build a nationwide data broadband infrastructure in Ghana using the VRA Voltacom fibre which was already in place but not for commercial purposes. This was to allow the transfer of voice, data and video between major commercial cities like Accra and Kumasi and many others, by large telecommunication companies.

Theo Botchway and Oscar Yankey have over 40 years experience in telecommunications and are college educated in Computer Science and Business Administration. On their return to the US, they put their efforts together and decided to go into voice telecommunication, a collaborative effort which has now berthed the Ghana Phone Card which will be launched in December at the Ghana Embassy in Washington DC.

The Ghana Phone Card which would come in $5 and $10 cards will be run differently from most of the cards on the market.

When Theo and Oscar decided to go into calling cards they decided to be more than just re-sellers like most people do. They decided to own the switches and route which would be used to enable them have control of their product and also to allow them the opportunity to offer other services. To secure a Voice Termination Agreement is one of the toughest challenges in this business but according to Theo, “The Lord made it possible for them to secure it”. With a bilateral agreement with WESTEL in Ghana they are allowed to aggregate calls here in the US and send the voice traffic to Ghana where WESTEL will be responsible for its distribution.

Their network is built with high quality components with resultant high quality service. This is an edge over most of their current competitors on the market. Most of the calling cards on the market are serviced via the internet. This will not be the case with Ghana Phone Card. Although they will be using segments of the net, it will not be segments used by the public because they will be leasing these segments from major carriers like AT&T and other major carriers.

According to Theo and Oscar, “the prepaid phone card service is a cut throat business because the profit margins are very small and to be competitive you need to charge very low rates. To control your destiny you will have to control your route and that's what we are doing”.

The fact that they own their route does not mean they can determine prices single handed. The national carrier that terminates the calls in control the pricing. The advantage to owning your own route is the control you have on quality, pricing and the ability to provide other services. What most of the prepaid card service providers do is to use the internet without paying toll to transact their business. This is illegal and it explains why a card would be around for a couple of months with unsurpassed airtime then suddenly the card does not work again. When the long arm of the law catches up with them they are put out of business.

Another factor is, because most of these prepaid cards do not have their own routes they are priced out of business by their service providers. All these give the card business a bad reputation.

Anytime you buy the Ghana Phone Card be rest assured that in the next five years the card will still be good to use because the service provider will still be around to provide service and support for its customers. Legitimacy, efficiency and integrity in business are very important attributes that Theo and Oscar believe would keep them a pace ahead of their competitors.

Though their prepaid card is called Ghana Phone Card is not just tailored for Ghana. Their rates are also very competitive to the rest of Africa and the world at large. Even for calls within the United States, the Ghana Phone Card would be one of the best cards you will find on the market. With what is called the “Tier One Network” network, the quality and service of the Ghana Phone Card competes head to head with the likes of AT&T and other major carriers.

Theo and Oscar's major goal “...is to sell our services to commercial businesses, the government, the diplomat corp., etc. not just residential customers.

The New Ghanaian wishes them the best in this new venture. Addendum to Ghana Phone Card Ghana Phone Card is produce and service by Botech Systems International, ("BSI") a global information technology and integrated telecommunications service enterprise located in Maryland U.S.A. Botech Systems uses a novel, yet, among African cultures quite common marketing strategy, the "community-approach", in order to assure that BSI's reach to the customers is sufficient, interactive, and solid. Through BSI's services the West-African Diaspora (or US users who call Africa) will not only benefit from a wonderful value added service through a high-quality, low-cost, and honest (no hidden-fee) calling approach, but indirectly, the customers will also support community development. A percentage of revenues realized through association channel sales will be pledged to build both the US-African communities and the African home communities through computer donations, education, and other services. Theo Botchway President & CEO Botech Systems International

Sonny Vanderpuye
Sonny Vanderpuye, © 2004

The author has 1 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: SonnyVanderpuye

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