Despite the current economic headwinds, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (GCT), Mr Kwaku Sakyi-Addo is confident that the prospects of the telecom sector are bright.
According to him, players in the industry are hopeful about the prospects for the next five years and beyond. Opportunities exist for growth, for example in mobile financial services and electronic payments, Mr Sakyi-Addo told members of the chamber, policy-makers, developers, among others at breakfast and networking forum organized by the chamber as part of its fifth anniversary in Accra.
He noted: “There are opportunities for government to make strategic policy decisions that will enable mobile money to be utilized across sectors for citizens to make payments to government and vice-versa. The possibilities for the future of telecommunications are immense”.
However Mr Sakyi-Addo warned that; ” it is not automatic that those possibilities will be realized for the maximum benefit of all. Policy and regulatory clarity, transparency and predictability are fundamental to teasing out the creative juices of innovators, and the appetite of investors”.
“As a Chamber, we are keen, willing, available and eager to think through policies with government and its subsidiary institutions, to share knowledge and experiences from across markets in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas where our members operate; so that all of us can do even better in the next five years than we have in the past five; so that Ghana can do even better than others have”.
“There’s talent. There’s capacity. There’s desire. There’s goodwill. With the right environment, we can, we will – together – make the telecoms industry and Ghana Great!”, Mr Sakyi-Addo stated.
Taking the participants through the performance of the industry, the Chamber CEO noted that within the five years, the number of SIM cards has grown nearly 70% to a penetration rate of 134%, and data connections have more than doubled.
Mr Sakyi-Addo added: “Five years ago, Mobile Money was just getting started. The value of Ghana’s annual transaction was around GHC400 per annum. In 2015 that figure had grown to GHC35 billion, and for the first half of 2016, it had reached GHC30 billion”.
The mobile money business alone has created employment opportunities for more than 100,000 people who now make a living as agents, according to him.
These impressive numbers notwithstanding, Mr Sakyi-Addo stressed that only one out of four adults has signed up for mobile money. While over the past five years, mobile operators namely MTN, Tigo, Airtel, and lately Vodafone have invested over $3.8 billion in capital expenditure and paid nearly GHC4.92 billion in taxes and various other fees to the government, the CEO added.
On employment, he indicated that currently some 6,200 people were employed directly by members of the Chamber, while 1.6 million were able to take care of themselves and their families because they depend on the telecoms industry for their livelihood.
Besides, Mr Sakyi-Addo observed: “Citizens are more productive today, working more efficiently – doing more with less and impacting the gross domestic product. But make no mistake, the path of the telecoms industry has not been cushioned with roses.
We have been buffeted by a less-than-ideal macro-economic environment just like our customers and everyone else. We are taking a big hit from high energy tariffs which are taking up around 60% of operating costs. But we cannot ration our services. Tower companies cannot operate part time.”
Operators have invested in 3G technology throughout district capitals, but in many of these places, the monthly revenue is a tiny fraction of the running cost, never mind the capital investment, Mr Sakyi-Addo noted.
“Our revenues are in cedis but our investments involve foreign exchange; so no doubt the depreciation of the cedi over the past years has hurt the industry. Throughout the five years, inflation in Communication services has been the lowest in the non-food category”.
Whereas the cost of our inputs rose, the structure of the market and the nature of competition held us back from sharing those costs. That is great for our customers in the short-term but such a situation raises serious risk for business sustainability in the long-term and for the industry as a whole ultimately — it doesn’t matter whether you are wholly or partly foreign or locally-owned”.
Key panelists who spoke at the event on Impact of Technology on other sectors are:
Law - Lawyer Ace Ankomah (BELA)
Agric - Kow Sam (Prep Eez Tech Ltd)
Value Added Services - Kofi Dadzie (Rancard Solutions)
Mobile Financal Services - Andrew Takyi-Appiah (Zeepay Ltd)