The Botswana government has taken a decision to transfer ownership of fibre cables that were initially under the custody of Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) to the Botswana Fibre Networks (BOFINET). BoFinet is a wholesale provider of national and international telecommunication infrastructure owned by the state while BPC, also owned by the government has a core mandate to provide electricity to the entire nation.
The latest development has been confirmed by Oteng Mokowe, Public Relations Officer at the ministry of Transport and Communications.
“The reason was to rationalize nationally available infrastructure and costs associated with maintaining it, or realizing a better return on investment. Time and again the ICT service providers require huge investments in building infrastructure, for this reason the transfer is to facilitate growth of service provision by ICT Service providers and also to be promoted”, Mokowe said.
BPC has optical fibre and related equipment installed on the whole of its transmission network. In October 2016, the power utility agreed to lease excess optical fibres from its network to Liquid Telecom ÔÇô a joint venture between the power utility company and Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Limited (LTHL).
An agreement to form the partnership was signed by Jacob Raleru, the former BPC CEO, and Nic Rudnick, Liquid Telecom Group CEO, in Gaborone where they announced that the joint venture will operate under the name Liquid Telecom Botswana, with BPC taking 42.5 percent stake in the newly created venture. At the time, the two partners said the structure of the deal will enable BPC to make more effective use of its existing assets, while allowing Liquid Telecom to better serve the network needs of its wholesale and enterprise customers in and outside the region.
Meanwhile the future of Liquid Telecom is said to be in limbo following a drastic turn by BPC after the government set up a ministerial committee that decided to transfer BPC’s fibre cables to BOFINET.
This decision is said to have been approved by cabinet last month. Furthermore, the government has insinuated that BPC played fast and loose with the procurement and asset disposal guidelines.
“The decision was to help speed up and actualize universal access to optic fibre in the country and BPC infrastructure lent itself to the achievement of this strategy,” said Eric Molale, minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security.
Molale further said, “We could not have said we want to raise money by venturing into Liquid Telecom without actually following the procedures that were necessary and that is why we have encouraged the company to now apply directly for any fibre optic under the ministry of Transport and Communications, and not to be issued by BPC because BPC is not in that business”.