Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, Secretary of State for Communication and Information Technology, has said that the provision of communication services in the rural areas is continuously being addressed. She said that in all areas, a fixed wireless solution such as an air span is being deployed to achieve those objectives.
SoS Macdouall-Gaye made this remark in the National Assembly in response to a question from Pa Jallow, Member for Jarra Central last Tuesday during a question and answer session in the ongoing third meeting of the National Assembly. SoS Macduaoll Gaye revealed that a survey has already been completed at the villages of Diganteh, Sare Modi Kulo, Sasita, and Sare Joma all in Jarra Central among others.
She added “In the meantime, some installation has been completed in the villages of Kanumeh, Badoumeh, and Buiba in Jarra Central and as soon as the procurement process is completed for the outstanding materials, Diganteh will be connected.”
Asked by the Minority leader and Member for Kiang West Momodou L.K Sanneh on whether the sale of shares in both Gamtel and Gamcel would not cost redundacy in the two institutions. But she said that the sale of shares is due to the fact that The Gambia has decided to find a strategic partner for Gamtel/Gamcel in order to inject the necessary capital to increase coverage and improve the quality of service.
“Gamtel over the years has deteriorated greatly in terms of service. It experienced stagnation in network expansion at a time when population increase, boom in business and transformation of the economy into a technology driven one required robustness, dynamism and strong competitiveness for any operation in the business of telephone,” SoS Maddouall said.
She added “telecommunication provision is a capital intensive that requires cutting edge technically, operationally, and managerially to provide these and achieve the government’s objectives of universal telecommunication access to everyone in this country. These concerns are in line with government’s liberalisation policies and programmes as enshrined in the NICI policy and the telecommunication sub-sector strategy. Government felt that there is need to inject capital, new technology and new business models, and strategic partnership with reputable companies, who have the required competence and financial muscles to extend quality, affordable telephones and related services to all citizens and residents in The Gambia,” she emphasized.
According to her, strategic partnership is a business model that many emerging markets are adopting, adding that our financial and capital markets are not sufficiently developed for us to raise the needed finance through these markets.
SoS Macduaoll Gaye highlighted that partnership with well meaning finance through allocation of shares is an economically efficient way of raising capital and engaging management teams to turn public enterprises like Gamtel around.
“Government has studied several proposals from different companies and the current partner Spectrum Group came up with the required business models and plans that can address the existing problems Gamtel faces,” she said.
She further noted that Government is oblivious of the fact that sometimes when a company changes hand, organisational structure, and management, human resource systems change too adding that these changes could lead to personnel being moved from one section to another or being redundant.
“However, the process will be managed well to minimise redundancy and where it cannot be avoided, there will be an acceptable redundancy package in line with the labour laws of this country.
Currently, the new team is doing their study and will report back to Government and once their assessment is completed, we will be in a position to know details of the costs involved. But let this assembly be rest assured that there will be no loser in this process,” she said.
SoS Macduaoll Gaye further maintained that Spectrum Company Group is an internationally acclaimed company operating in both Africa and the Middle East, and has a good reputation in business, so there is little risk if any in them being the strategic partner.
“Moreover, Detecon Group that has been given the assignment to manage the partnership is a reputable international telecommunication consulting company from Germany with a good track record in this domain,” she said.
She added that, the process has been through various proposals scrutinized before arriving at a final decision of selecting Spectrum Group.
Responding to a question from Kaba Touray, member for Lower Saloum, on when the telephone lines will be increased to address the demands at Ballanghar, Jahawur Mandinka, Gengie Wollof, Simbasa Hai and Jimbala Felengo. SoS Macduaoll Gaye replied that currently, a central station has been installed in Kaur to enable the extension of telephone services to all the surrounding villages.
According to her, access to facilities is given priority and gradually, services will be increased to meet demand adding that for those areas of Saloum the Honourable member asked, it is only in Jimbala Flengo that the job has not started and Jimbala Hai where subscriber line installation is pending due to a shortage of materials.
“All others have been connected with either 4 or 8 lines. Plans are on the pipeline to provide services to other villages once the materials are available wanton,” she concluded.