The technological revolution has not fully taken hold in Africa; we have seen but a tip on the iceberg, in terms of potential benefits to our development.
Tigo is due to launch in Rwanda soon. It will become the third player in what has been, up to now, a cosy cartel between the two main players.
Tigo was founded by the privatisation of Comcel in Guatemala in 2004. Guatemala is a small country in Central America that was one of the “Banana” republics, so-called because the United Fruit Company controlled the government through corruption.
Yet starting in Guatemala they managed to roll out to neighbouring countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Bolivia through a number of mergers and acquisitions, as well as partnerships.
Their main focus was taking phone technology to the masses; they built up a base of 5 million subscribers in Guatemala and worked from there.
Looking at Rwanda, we are always searching for a new knight in shining armour to come and rescue our situation and yet Tigo was no better than Rwandatel 5 years ago.
The current situation is untenable; it is not acceptable for MTN to have 80% of the mobile phone market, we need anti-trust and monopoly legislation to break up their stranglehold on the market.
Burundi has a far more competitive market than Rwanda, in that they have 5 or 6 players and this keeps the prices reasonable.
In Rwanda you have no choice but to use MTN because Rwandatel doesn’t even have the basic distributive capacity to supply airtime cards.
So you are stuck with MTN; I spend $100 minimum a month on airtime, and yet MTN cannot come up with a simple price plan for me to get a standard number of hours of calls.
Their price plans are so convoluted that you need to be a mathematical genius to work them out.
MTN has just announced another year of bumper profits while service has improved a little; they hoodwinked us by giving us extra imaginary airtime while bumping up their prices.
Safaricom is the benchmark by which we measure an African telecom company; they have revolutionised our development.
They have created an economy within an economy, they have their own currency; a farmer can sell his crops and credits his phone with airtime and can cash in this airtime, anytime.
Therefore Safaricom is a bank, insurance company, marketplace, and every service that a customer needs, and they are they only company capable of reaching the masses in Rwanda.
I hope Tigo is the first among many new players to enter our market; we should instantly open up our market to all East African telecom companies, because maybe Rwandatel might do better in Tanzania and vice versa. We need true competition in our market, Rwandatel could be a Tigo, earning our nation billions of dollars a year but they need a dynamic world class leader like Michael Joseph.