Tanzania: Tigo Ownership Under Probe

Telecoms

Tanzanian government will soon investigate and report back to the national assembly about the stands of ownership of the local mobile phone operator MIC Tanzania Ltd, Tigo.

This comes following the pressure from some members of Parliament who wanted to know why Tigo Tanzania Ltd is wholly owned by foreigners which is contrary to the laws of the country specifically EPOCA Act of 2010.

During the question and answer parliamentary session in Dodoma last week, the Kigoma North Member of Parliament for Chadema, Mr. Zitto Kabwe had wanted to know why the local telecommunication company Tigo Tanzania Ltd was wholly owned by foreigners contrary to the laws of the land.

Mr. Zitto said that he was surprised to note that while other telecommunication companies were having the local share ownership Tigo Tanzania Ltd was enjoying a 100 percent foreign ownership a thing that contradicts with the requirement of the laws in the country.

Zitto, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Parastatal Organizations Accounts Committee (POAC) said that he was also surprised to see that the said telecommunication company was not even listed at the Dar es salaam stock exchange market (DSE).

The outspoken MP, who is also the deputy leader of the opposition camp in the National Assembly noted that until 2005 the government had shares in Tigo and that the government decided to cancel its call option on the business contentiously.

In February 2006, after buying out its minority shareholders, the Luxembourg-based pan-African mobile operator Millicom International Cellular announced to take a full control of three of its African-based Mobile operators including MIC Tanzania limited.

In Tanzania a US$1.332 million deal enables Millicom to acquire the remaining 16% stake it did not already own after the cellco's minority shareholders agreed to cancel their call option on the business. Since then Millicom is the full controller of the company.

He noted, "allowing the company to operate while being fully owned by a foreign company or companies is against the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010."

Following this pressure, the government has promised to scrutinize and report back to the coming law maker's assembly which will be held in Dodoma in August for further step.

I would like to take this opportunity and assure all the members of the parliament that the government will investigate and report back to this assembly on the ownership status of the mobile phone company, Tigo Tanzania Ltd," said the acting head of government business in the house, Samuel Sitta.

Sitta, who is also Minister for East African Cooperation and Member of Parliament for Urambo Constituency in Tabora via CCM, told the National Assembly last week that they will need time to look into the matter and get back to the August house on the same.

"We will take time to study the matter critically and come back with actual findings in August; he said Minister Sitta and adding "It seems that the legislator has a point on this."

He told the parliament that the government needs to work for it extensively because it seemed that the whole issue shrouded in controversies.

Earlier, the Deputy Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Mr Charles Kitwanga, noted that the EPOCA does not make it mandatory for all mobile phone companies to list at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.

"It is not every telecommunication company that can be listed at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, authorities have to discuss and approve which should be listed and which should not," said Mr Kitwanga.

On the other hand, Mr Said Amour Arfi (Mpanda Urban-Chadema) wondered why the process of selling Zain Tanzania company shares to become Airtel Tanzania Ltd was not channeled through the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, saying that it was against EPOCA.

Responding to the question, Mr Kitwanga said that the government still maintains a 40 per cent stake in Airtel Tanzania Limited that was carried forward from Zain Tanzania.

"The government's 40 per cent shares have remained intact despite the change in the company's name, so when the appropriate time for the government to sale its shares comes, we will do so in accordance with the country's laws," he added.

Quoted by local media recently, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mr. Mustafa Mkulo said that the government cannot sale its shares from the second largest mobile operator in the country, Airtel because there is no need to do so.

"I would like to take this opportunity to let you knows that our 40 percent shares which the government own to Airtel, will not be sold," said the finance minister without further elaboration.

Other mobile phone operators which have local ownership in the country include Vodacom and Zantel Tanzania.