By Roger Field
Government aims to modernise the country's incumbent operator by attracting a private equity partner
The government of Botswana is planning to find a private equity partner to invest in and run the country's sole fixed-line telecom operator, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, in a bid to liberalise the sector, cut prices and extend coverage.
Botswana's government has already appointed IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, to advise on the privatisation of the incumbent operator. IFC will work with government agencies to secure a private equity partner and look at ways to increase competition.
"Increased private sector participation in the economy is important for Botswana's continued economic growth," said Joshua Galeforolwe, CEO of Botswana's Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency.
"IFC brings a combination of global experience in corporate finance and privatisation as well as working with governments to implement economic reforms, especially in the telecommunications sector," he added.
BTC, which was established in 1980 as the country's sole telecom operator, has already experienced some competition, with Botswana Telecommunications Authority having liberalised the mobile sector a few years ago. Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana both operate mobile networks in the country. The government further liberalised the market by issuing service-neutral licenses and also opened the international gateways to other service providers.
BTC offers fixed-line services and is yet to offer mobile services. Botswana's mobile telecommunications market already has a penetration rate of approximately 70%, one of the highest in Africa, but many rural areas and poor segments of the population still lack service.