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Government operator takes over Uganda Telecom for $95m

Evelyn Anite Uganda.jpg

A new state-owned company, Uganda Telecommunications Corporation (UTCL), has taken over the assets of incumbent operator Uganda Telecom.

The state paid 356.8 million Ugandan shillings (US$95.5 million) for the company’s assets, including land, buildings and network infrastructure.

In a reference to Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, minister of state for investment and privatization Evelyn Anite (pictured) said, according to the Ecofin news agency: “We now have a company that is 100% Ugandan and the president has ordered it to be run as a national company without involving investors.”

She wrote on Twitter: “This isn’t mere change of guard. This is fundamental change … from 31% shareholding to 100% shareholding. Fellow citizens we finally have 100% Ugandan owned national telecom.”

The old Uganda Telecom was once 69% owned by Libyan investment company LAP Green Networks, set up in 2005 by then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. After Gaddafi’s fall from power and death in 2011, many of LAP Green’s interests faced a challenging future.

Uganda Telecom had debts estimated at 1,000 billion shillings ($250 million), with assets are valued at 250 billion shillings.

The Ugandan government removed LAP Green’s interests in the company in 2018, when it introduced a new investor, Teleology Holdings, to take over the Libyan 69%. A company of the same name also briefly held a stake in 9mobile in Nigeria, formerly Etisalat’s local operation.

According to Ecofin, UTCL signed an asset sale and purchase agreement worth 256.9 million Ugandan shillings ($68.7 million) with the administration of Uganda Telecom. This is due to be paid by June 2023, along with Uganda Telecom debts including a loan from the Trade and Development Bank (TDB), an investment from subsea cable operator WIOCC and administrative debts.

Grace Ssekakubo, chairman of UTCL’s board of directors, said the company will focus on investing in the latest technologies such as a 5G+ network, empowering employees and developing a digital ecosystem. The company also plans to provide mobile money services with its Ug-Sente platform.

Another Ugandan operator, Smart Telecom, closed operations at the end of August 2021. It had been owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), and was only seven years old, but said the effects of Covid forced the decision.