With the eminent departure of the Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), Vincent Seretse, it is now certain that the board has the last laugh.
“Be.Mobile is going to have a separate Chief Executive from the BTC fixed line,” confirmed the Chairman of BTC, Leonard Makwinja, on Friday.
The structure of BTC’s fixed and mobile lines has been the subject of protracted debate and speculation lately. The internal feud over the structure allegedly polarized relations between management and the board, with management led by Seretse favouring consolidation of the mobile into the existing structure and having a single CEO while the board wanted dichotomous entities.
Makwinja, however, said under the proposed arrangement, Be.Mobile would be a subsidiary. The two entities would share the infrastructure.
On the contentious issue of pricing, Makwinja warned that in as much as the public anticipates lower tariffs, people should be cautious that the new entity has to be profitable as well.
“We’re not just going to lose money. We also have to remain competitive in order for us to cover underlying operational costs. We should also be mindful that there are other operators in the market ÔÇô it is not in our interest to enter the market and kill everybody else. The most important thing is whether we are competitive or not,” he explained.
During the official launch of the mobile phone this past week, the outgoing CEO of BTC, Seretse, said in the past year alone, they spent P20 million in the development of the project. Seretse is optimistic that the new baby has the capability to provide world class telephony service.
He does not doubt the market for another mobile phone, saying the trend world wide is that of migration from fixed to mobile. The consumers’ demands are increasingly becoming sophisticated hence the demand for mobile. Foreign Affairs Minister, Phandu Skelemani, who gave a key note address, urged the new mobile operator to be more innovative and ensure that the services are not only the preserve of the few.
He said the amazing thing in Africa is that tariffs are still high, even with the advent liberalization. However, he said, comparatively, the costs in Botswana are lower but the public does not feel like the costs are low. He further urged the third entrant in the market to focus on critical mass as opposed to margins only.
“Winners do not do things differently, but they do things different,” he said.
It is expected that the launch of the mobile phone, the first of which was yesterday in Gaborone and Francistown, would be rolled out to the general public in due course.