By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka -UZI Zambia Mobile Ltd, a subsidiary of the Dutch-headquartered and global Unitel International Holdings BV, is set to begin operations in Zambia early next year as the country’s fourth mobile service provider.
The commencement of business by the company, initially operated in Angola, has been delayed from November this year to allow the company to secure frequencies, facilitate the recrutment of over 40 staff and formalise operating licences, Misheck Lungu, Zambia’s permanent secretary for communications told The Southern Times on Tuesday.
“UZI has indicated to us that they will start full operations in Zambia by the first quarter next year. They initially wanted to open up business in November but they instead shelved to January or February to finalise a number of formalities, including frequencies,” Lungu said.
The fourth mobile service provider in Zambia comes as a response to outcries by local service end-users over the inept services received from the existing companies, Airtel, MTN and state-owned Zamtel.
Last year, UZI Zambia won the licence to enter the local market after the telecommunications regulator, the Zambia Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ZICTA) floated a public tender.
According to economic experts, the UZI Zambia investment would contribute to the growth and development of the telecommunications sector in the country through the implementation of the latest LTE technology to provide reliable and high-quality products and services through a national 4G network, and investment in 5G network in the near future.
“UZI Zambia Mobile will create new jobs and opportunities in Zambia and will focus on the training and development of all its employees as well as building its relationships with the local communities through its social responsibility programmes,” John Kasanga, an independent trade and economic consultant said.
Earlier, a statement by UZI Zambia stated that with the addition of this operation to those existing in Cape Verde and São Tomé and participation in NOS in Portugal, UIH takes another decisive step in its expansion strategy in Africa, bringing highly innovative and award-winning products and services to the continent.
Two companies including, Unitel, expressed an interest in the licences, the Zambia Information & Communications Technology Authority said in a statement.
During the first half of 2017, active mobile-phone subscriptions in Zambia increased by 3.4% to 12.4 million, according to the finance ministry, compared to a population of about 16.5 million.
Former Angolan president Eduardo dos Santos’ daughter, Isabel ‑ Africa’s richest woman – is believed to own a stake in UZI Zambia. According to commentators, Unitel International Holdings BV, in which Dos Santos owns a 25% stake, had initially pledged to invest more than US$500 million through a local unit to be called UZI Zambia Mobile Limited instead of the proposed US$400 million.
The investment would, however, be increased based on the expansion of the business in the country, given the increasing interest in mobile communication services including money transfer services being maximised by the three service providers.