By Sorie Fofana………………………..
The Government of Sierra Leone in consultation with the World Bank has set 1st April, 2016 as the target date for telecommunications operators to switch on their separate Gateways.
The International Gateway System was liberalised by the Government of Sierra Leone in March 2015 following an amendment to the Telecommunications Act, 2006.
The Government of Sierra Leone acted in good faith by amending the Telecommunications Act in order to pave the way for the International Gateway System to be liberalised.
When the usually urbane Momoh Konte took over as Chairman of NATCOM in February 2015, he played a pivotal role in ensuring that the International Gateway System was liberalised. It was an uphill task for the then new NATCOM Chairman.
Since we now have a liberalised International Gateway System, what is NATCOM doing to ensure that an effective and efficient monitoring mechanism is put in place before the 1st April target date arrives?
Last week, one of the major GSM operators in the country, Africell Sierra Leone endorsed the decision by the Government of Sierra Leone to liberalise the International Gateway System.
The company’s spokesman warned that, in order to ensure revenue and security assurance, NATCOM should put in place “an effective and efficient monitoring mechanism” before the Multiple Gateways are switched on.
He noted that, ‘In this age of global terrorism, it is but prudent for the Government to have an effective and efficient Gateway Monitor in place before the Multiple Gateways are switched on… It will even help to boost Government revenue by stopping leakages”.
Suffice it to say that, Africell Sierra Leone is the biggest player in the telecommunications industry in Sierra Leone. Their views cannot easily be ignored or glossed over.
The fact of the matter is that, the operators have expressed serious concern over the new tariffs agreed by both the Government of Sierra Leone and the World Bank.
Since this is a very serious issue, we expect the untiring Chairman of NATCOM, Momoh Konte to invite the operators to a meeting and agree on a way forward on all of these issues.
Afterall, the operators should be given the opportunity to express their views on the issues of tariffs and the implementation of Multiple Gateways.
The GSM operators are big companies that employ thousands of Sierra Leoneans. Their views on such issues must matter to all the parties concerned – NATCOM, Government of Sierra Leone and the World Bank.
As far as we are concerned, the 1st April target date for the introduction of new tariffs for incoming and outgoing calls and the implementation of the Multiple Gateways is not feasible.
Let us give more time to NATCOM to sort out the issue of recruiting a suitable monitor for the Multiple Gateways and find a mutually agreeable solution to the issue of new tariffs that are about to be introduced on 1st April, 2016.
We believe that, Momoh Konte has the administrative and leadership acumen to handle such issues without any further rancor.
We still insist that, the Sierra Leone Government and World Bank’s target date of 1st April, 2016 for the implementation of Multiple Gateways in Sierra Leone is unrealistic and unachievable.
NATCOM deserves more time to tidy up these issues in order to pave the way for a seamless transition from a Monopolized Gateway System to Multiple Gateways Systems.
May common sense prevail!