Senegalese regulator ART last week took part in a media dialogue (organised by CATIA and the Panos Institute) designed to look at the consequences of the arrival of its shortly to be tendered SNO and gave some idea what was in store. The SNO licence will be for both fixed and mobile and will give the operator an international gateway. According to Issa Isaac Sissoko, conseiller juridique of ART:”It’s an abuse of the language when people talk about a third operator for what is planned in reality is a second global operator capable of competing with the incumbent Sonatel in fixed line, mobile and Internet. It will be (this competition) that will lower tariffs.” Three professional advisers have been appointed: bankers Goldman Sachs, lawyers Clifford Chance and consultants McKinsey.

According to Sissoko:” Actually, we have largely completed the preparation of the tender documents. There are certain things that need to be validated at the level of the Presidency before the international call for tenders can be issued.”It has thus far taken two years from the point of announcement of a new operator to getting this document issued. Sissoko predicted that Senegal’s mobile and fixed phone markets will be worth $700 million (378 billion CFA francs) in 2009, with the granting of the license to a second vertical operator.

According to Hyacinthe Sarr, responsible for regulatory affairs at the incumbent Sonatel:”We are ready to face the arrival of a second global operator in the market. Sonatel has both the finance and technical expertise to hold on to its market share.”

Accused by a number of speakers of being too close to the incumbent, ART’s Sissoko said:”It’s a bit much to speak of complicity between Sonatel and ART.” And perhaps it is for the complicity (if it exists) is actually a structural one between the incumbent and the Presidency: a Presidential adviser who has said that he will be closely involved in the SNO process also sits on the board of Sonatel.

Wal Fadjri