Uganda Seeks Investment for UTel, Aiming to Challenge MTN, Airtel Dominance

Uganda Seeks Investment for UTel, Aiming to Challenge MTN, Airtel Dominance

Uganda Seeks Investment for UTel, Aiming to Challenge MTN, Airtel Dominance

The government is negotiating with investors to secure investment capital for the recently revamped Uganda Telecommunications Corporation Limited (UTCL).

Reviving a Telecom Giant

UTL, in August last year rebranded to UTel after Investment and Privatisation State Minister Evelyn Anite, said government had saved it from liquidation. The telecom had been the subject of a nearly five-year administration process, in which government, under different administrators, sought to revive it after it had been threatened by mounting debt north of Shs500b.

UTL was eventually handed back to government by Ms Ruth Sebatindira in November 2022, who had overseen the administration process after succeeding Bemanya Twebaze in a stormy show of power between Ms Anite and the former Uganda Registration Services Bureau registrar general.

Stakeholder Negotiations Underway

Multiple government officials that spoke to Monitor yesterday indicated negotiations were ongoing. However, they declined to give details of what is being discussed or when it will be completed. Mr Moses Kaggwa, the Ministry of Finance director economic affairs, confirmed the ongoing negotiations but declined to discuss more details, before referring Monitor to the Ministry of ICT, which supervises UTel.

Monitor could not readily get a comment from ICT permanent secretary Aminah Zawedde. Calls to her known telephone numbers remained unanswered by press times. However, UTel chairman Grace Ssekakubo, indicated yesterday that government was discussing with Rowad Capital for a prospective investment opportunity, but he could not readily disclose under which conditions the discussions are being held.

Future Prospects and Market Impact

UTel, which trades as Uganda Telecommunications Corporation Limited, is wholly owned by government. The Ministry of Finance holds a 60 percent stake, while ICT Ministry holds 40 percent. It is a successor company operating on the infrastructure formerly owned by Uganda Telecom Limited, which was abandoned in 2022.

While launching a rebranded UTel in Kampala last year, government indicated it had committed Shs300b to kick-start operations of the telecom. Ms Evelyn Anite, the Investment state minister, said then the rebrand presented a return of government into the telecom business that had been threatened by a large debt burden due to Uganda Telecom Limited. UTel has had little impact to shake up the MTN and Airtel duopoly, which controls more than 95 percent of the market share.

The ICT Ministry last year indicated that the Shs300b was an initial investment with plans to attract other investors and partners. ICT Minister Chris Baryomunsi said that whereas UTL had suffered growth retardation, there were plans to provide the company with extra spectrum to move faster to 4G to compete favourably with the current telecom companies, which have already put in place infrastructure for 5G technology.

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