Botswana liberalisation special - Re-arranging the deckchairs or the real thing?

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Last week the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) mounted a large public consultation event to look at how the industry might be liberalised further. It was a large event with several hundred people, all of whom stayed for the full three days rather than drifting away after the first day as is the more usual pattern. It included national and local politicians, civil society organisations, consumer representatives and last but not least, the industry itself.

The meeting was mixture of town hall meeting, Congressional hearing and a specialist conference. Levels of knowledge and understanding varied enormously and at various points speakers broke off to give impromptu seminars in response to audience questions.

This week’s special report is not an account of this event but an attempt to provide “a state-of-play” for what’s happening in the country at this important moment. Russell Southwood looks at: the state of incumbent telco, BTC; the mobile sector; the position of ISPs; the proposals put forward by BTA’s consultants, Ovum; and the Government’s newly launched ICT strategy.

By way of background, Botswana has a population of 1.7 million people and a population density of less than 2.7 per sq km. It is a middle income country that is growing at about 5% per annum and its wealth is based on diamonds and cattle.