Zambian operators set up lobby group 

Three Zambian mobile operators, MTN Zambia, Airtel Networks Zambia and Zamtel, have reportedly set up an industry lobby group called The Global System for Mobile Association of Zambia (GSMAZ).

its aim is to influence the efficient development and sustained growth of a strong and vibrant mobile telecommunications sector in Zambia. Digital inclusion, it points out, will promote infrastructure and economic growth, boost employment and productivity across the country, and enhance access to essential services like healthcare and education.

MTN Zambia chief executive officer and current GSMAZ chairperson Bart Hofker said at the launch that the formation of the GSMAZ will promote effective cooperation and partnership among operators and various stakeholders.

Meanwhile Airtel Zambia managing director Apoorva Mehrotra pointed out that a siloed, ‘competitive’ approach among operators is giving way to a more collaborative approach to advance industry concerns and to elevate the profile of mobile telecommunications in Zambia.

The GSMAZ says it will collaborate with regulator ZICTA, local government and other organizations to promote policies that encourage the growth of the digital economy.

But for how much longer will Zamtel be in a healthy enough state to be part of this group? Recent reports indicate that the country’s president, Hakainde Hichilema, has appointed a working group to determine the future of the state-run, financially troubled operator.

This working group will, according to ITWeb Africa, investigate the viability of the company and suggest appropriate action to save it. While there is little other detail, this is encouraging news for an operator that reportedly needs a recapitalisation of some US$265 million in order to survive, and has no funds with which to modernise or even maintain its current infrastructure.

For the moment then, it seems that a sale is not likely. Given its debts, however, a convincing rescue plan for Zamtel still seems a long way off.