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MTN NOW USING WORLD BANK TO GET GOVT DEALS

Iryn Nandawula

In January this year, President Museveni wrote a letter directing all government MDAs to exclusively have their data and telecom needs supplied by Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL). The directive boosted the UTL sales but spelt doom for its competitors including the very influential MTN Uganda that many have always considered too big to fail. This was so because government is the biggest consumer of and spender on data and telecom services. Whereas everybody became silent and UTL seemed to be having their way, some development partners had quietly never moved on and have been plotting to fight back. One of these is World Bank that does business (via development assistance and cooperation) with many of the government MDAs. The latest information reaching our desk indicates that WB has written a strongly-worded letter to the President, through the finance minister Matia Kasaija, threatening to suspend some of the components of its funding cooperation with the government of Uganda on grounds that the President’s directive promoted discriminatory business practices against other telecom players. They are specifically concerned with UTL being permitted exclusive access and usage of the NBI infrastructure which is like the government road on which internet is transported from one place to another. The WB wants a reversal on that so that other telecom competitors are not disadvantaged in ways they are terming discriminatory. And industry watchers consider that this latest effort by WB must be specifically aimed at advantaging MTN whose top executives are renowned for being very shrewd and pushy when it comes to fighting to grow their market share. State House sources say the President is planning to convene consultative meetings to chat a proper way forward on the matter. More updates later on this story.

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