Tuesday, September 29, 2020

BTC gears itself for privatization

The Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Paul Taylor, has said the state-owned telecommunications provider, which is on the verge of a privatization exercise, is working round the clock to become much more market led.

In an interview with the Sunday Standard, Taylor said BTC, which has been traditionally products-led, has had to undergo changes as a result of new challenges posed by the evolving market needs, but also as part of preparations for the impending privatization.

Botswana Government, which is the 100 percent shareholder, has already made a decision to offload some components of the BTC to the market.

The corporation is by far the largest in Botswana in terms of network penetration and infrastructure.

“We have challenged ourselves to become a world-class organization, doing things predictably well all the time,” said Paul Taylor.

He said as part of the worldwide trend, BTC is also moving towards lifestyle segmentation, which will allow customers to do their business from their homes as much as from their offices.

The challenge, he said, is to succeed in such transformation while continuing to be a viable and profitable business.

He said efforts are ongoing to make BTC into a one-network system with one billing system from the current disparate arrangements.

Taylor said the ongoing innovations mean that some old technologies will invariably be retired.
He, however, emphasized that their business model will continue to emphasise the importance of BTC retaining residential phones as part of an important contributor to the overall income stream.

On what BTC is doing to address public complaints on broadband and internet speed, Taylor said investments by government over the last few years to improve capacity are already flowing into the business.

He said it is expected that internet costs will in the near future go down.

Taylor has also talked excitedly about opportunities and prospects of Be Mobile, the BTC’s mobile network arm.

He said the mobile wing remains the company’s biggest growth area. At the moment Be Mobile contributes 20 percent to the Group’s bottom line.

“Our challenge is to improve on the quality of service we give. It is important that our service is kept apace with the customer demands as well as the levels of investments,” said Taylor.
But just how prepared is BTC for the privatization process that is gaining momentum?
“We are wholly prepared,” is the short and definitive answer given by Taylor.

He said together with the privatization agency PEEPA, BTC is working on a detailed conceptual separation that will determine how the corporation is separated and privatized.

He said his role as Chief Executive has been to be upfront and honest with his staff by telling them and briefing them on progress made on privatisation.

“In all our meetings, I tell them that Government has decided and that as employees we have to accept that. I also tell them that from my experience in working in over twenty telecommunication companies, those in the private hands are more efficient than their government-owned counterparts.”
At the moment, BTC is compiling an audit of its human resource needs into privatization vis-à-vis that which they currently have.

Taylor said compiling the competencies needs is crucial ahead of privatization.
“But, of course, every change creates uncertainty and anxiety. And that is what we have. But we have to face the reality which is that our topography at BTC is not very kind to efficiency.”
He said BTC has a long way to go before achieving its optimal levels of efficiencies.
“We are currently documenting processes we do not need. Monopolies are often very effective, but not very efficient.”

And BTC has been a monopoly for a greater part of its existence.

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.