NEW UTL BOSS UNVEILED AS M7 PLANS TO TURN TABLES ON PRIVATE TELECOM COMPANIES (MTN, AIRTEL ETC)
By Mulengera Reporters
This Saturday morning, roughly 150 senior technicians working with Uganda Telecom Ltd converged at the ICT Ministry‘s Innovations Hub complex in Nakawa where some good news was delivered to them. They were told that their struggling employer UTL, which has been under Administration arrangement for the last 7 years, had come to an end and a new (more viable entity) created in its place.
The new creature, established at the instigation of Gen YK Museveni and his Cabinet, will be called Uganda Telecommunications Corporation Ltd and trading as UTCL. There had initially been anxiety, much of it sponsored by the paranoid and frightened private Telecom companies which have been milking Ugandans for an eternity, that all staff would be fired and new ones (mostly relatives of the mighty in government) brought in.
All this was dispelled during the Saturday morning meeting at the Nakawa-based Innovations Hub which falls under the ICT Ministry which will be the majority shareholder in the newly created UTCL. Finance Ministry will be the other shareholder with PSST Ramathan Goobi joining his ICT counterpart Dr. Aminah Zawedde sitting on the board. To his credit, Gen Museveni has been deliberate on having a private sector-inclined Board as opposed to stuffing the same with the struggling defeated politicians just seeking economic survival. Indeed, Goobi and Dr. Zawedde are the only government people on the Board.
The others on the 7 member Board include Tom Sekatwe, Agnes Odhiambo, businessman Jimmy Adigah, Ms Max Byenkya and Grace Ssekakubo (the Chairman). And to his credit, Ssekakubo ably used the Saturday meeting to array staff fears and explain away a number of anxieties that were continuing to grip employees of UTL.
He explained that staff had been called here to undergo a very transparent and re-assuring validation exercise to determine who is in and who is out-and doing exactly what. He explained that there would be an opportunity for those not comfortable with the roles they are currently deployed in to ask for redeployment to enhance overall efficiency for the organization.
He also informed staff that their employment status in the new company was (upon successful validation) going to be streamlined so that each one of them gets a proper contract with a generous benefits package. He also made it clear that a platform was going to be given for staff to demonstrate their worth which would determine who gets retained in their current role, re-deployed or replaced for those who feel are tired and want to try their luck elsewhere.
He assured staff that President Museveni‘s government was determined to have a vibrant Telecom company or services provider that is 100% owned by government because the sector had proved too sensitive to be totally left to the private sector. “The other reason your government is coming in, in a big way is because Telecom services provision is a service and not just a business yet there are things the private sector can’t go into because of business viability concerns.”
He made it clear that in all subsequent staff hiring decisions, priority would go to current staff who government doesn’t want to lose because of their unique experiences, expertise and skills mix. It’s only those who fail to demonstrate their relevance or refuse to adapt to new changes, of hard work in a corporate environment, that will be let go so that those willing to work more efficiently are given chance to come in, the Board Chairman explained while calling on staff to look forward to the formal handover ceremony of next week when the Administrator will be officially handing over everything that remains of the old UTL.
The Board Chairman also explained that the new (UTCL) Company isn’t obliged to inherit the old UTL staff but each one of them will be given a chance because their government is determined to treat them humanely. He required those opting to stay to prepare to earn their place while working very hard because most of the leaders of the new team are workaholics from private sector who tolerate nothing but hard work and qualitative verifiable output from employees.
The Board Chairman then proceeded to unveil the new management team to visibly pensive employees of the company. The new team is headed by Maggie Mukiibi Lutwama who will be serving as Chief Operating Officer which is the highest apex position in the new company structure. She has previously worked as Head Business Development under leading IT infrastructure construction company Soliton Telmec. She has been in corporate leadership positions for 20 years: 18 of which in the relevant Telecom field.
Under Mukiibi Lutwama will Hajjat Ramulat Andiru who will be serving as head Finance & Administration and the flamboyant Marvin Kagoro who will be serving as Head Branding & Corporate Communications at the new state-owned Telecom Company. The trio promised team work and total dedication to the company. Mukiibi Lutwama assured staff she was looking forward to “working and playing” with each one of them as opposed to witch-hunting or being enemies with anyone.
To the excitement of the assembled staff, the validation exercise was done in the open inside the meeting hall as everyone looked on from the comfort of their respective seats. One by one, staff were required to walk up to the raised platform and have their status at the new Company ascertained and authenticated as others waited for their turn. The HR of UTL under administration had furnished the new team with respective staff files and this exercise was meant to avoid cases of ghost employees having room to exist in the new company.
The larger picture of things here is that President Museveni has always wanted to constrain the dominance and profit repatriation by leading telecom companies like MTN and Airtel all of which are externally owned and have always been faulted for serving foreign interests. The newly established telecom company (UTCL), which is 100% GoU-owned, now gives him an opportunity to mitigate things in that direction and accelerate the achievement of desired outcomes.
Indeed, the quiet murmurs among his advisors and key strategists are that through UTCL, Gen Museveni will be able to increase government’s involvement in the facilitation of access to affordable telecommunications services and mobile money transfers and transactions which currently are in trillions. The President is also convinced that government being able to play a leading role in the same sector, will also diminish exploitation of ordinary Ugandans who have since become addicted to using Telecom services.
Already some State House insiders say that the veteran leader from Rwakitura anticipates the new Company growing to the level of chewing up to 60% market share in the first five years of its existence. “With adequate capitalization, so that the state-owned Company begins offering 5G services, combined with the appropriate equipment and technology being in place, the private telecoms will soon find themselves in the minority position as UTCL will be battling towards market leadership position and that is achievable given the political support that is in place for the new Company,” says a source close to the President and is privy to all the UTCL-related decision-making.
In justifying their optimism, such optimists leverage on some of the very successful state-owned enterprises like UMI, Vision Group, National Water, Post Bank and others to conclude that the same government can equally make it in the Telecom sector. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us email@example.com).