Orange, the France-based global telecommunications operator that purchased a 100% ownership of Cellcom, has appealed to the Government of Liberia for a transparent and stable tax regime in order to develop its investment in the country.
Bruno Mettling, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Orange Group and Chairman and CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, said if the country has a transparency and a stable tax framework, it will encourage them to invest more, which will in turn help boast its economy, generating more revenue for government. He said predictability of the tax regime is key to increasing Orange's investment in Liberia.
Mettling was making specific reference to the US$0.01 tax levied on all voice calls, as proposed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a year ago to the Legislature, who endorsed said proposal, in spite of a polarized debate over the measure. The aim of the new tax was to help raise revenue (a projected US$30.1 million) to support the 2016-2017 national budget. However, just this week, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to repeal the law creating the tax, "after several consultations with stakeholders in the sector," they said.
According to Mettling, "We need to appeal because in some African countries there is transparency and stable tax framework that allow investors to invest and provide revenue and job for the Liberians, but if each quarter, a new tax [is required] - new rules are being raised - we will not be able to develop our investment."
And at the end of the day, "I promise for the state and citizens that the level of tax and revenues that Orange pay is more important that will help government gets more revenue.
Mettling promised that if the government can ensure the needed transparency and stability, "Orange will re-invest US$20 million of its revenue in Liberia every year." He also promised that Orange will open up a training program for Liberians in the telecom sector, at the Orange premises on the corner of Tubman Blvd. and 13th Street.
Speaking to journalists yesterday at the official launch of its brand, Mettling assured customers that the company will meet their needs and expectations and to support government efforts to boost social and economic development.
"I am very happy to be here with you today for the official launch of the Orange brand in Liberia. This important moment comes after the acquisition of Cellcom by our subsidiary Orange Côte d'Ivoire a little more than one year ago," he said.
Although new to Liberia, Mettling said Orange has a strong presence in Africa, with a major presence in all of the Mano River Union countries.
"It may interest you to know that one out of 10 Africans is an orange customer. We are operating in 19 countries in Africa and we are proud to be in all the countries of the Mano River Union. In Liberia, we have added more than 1.6 million customers to our existing base of 120 Million customers across Africa.
"We are strongly convinced that Africa is a land of growth, and it is clear that the digital revolution is underway across the continent," Mettling added.
"Already, the symbolic milestone of one billion phones has been reached, and we believe that by 2021 there be one billion smartphones.
"Why now in Liberia?" He asked rhetorically saying that, Orange looked at the market potential and the opportunity to do business in the country.
"We were very impressed. This is one of the key reasons why we choose to come and invest here. In fact, we are very proud to have been one of the first international companies to invest in Liberia after the Ebola crisis.
"Our decision to invest in Liberia is tied to our confidence in the economy as well as the great potential and opportunities that we see here," he said.
"Right now," the group chairman said, "there is only a 70 percent mobile penetration and "we see this as a chance to ensure that ALL Liberians have access to quality and affordable telecommunications.
"In addition the culture and innovation of Cellcom was another key factor in bringing Orange to Liberia. In many ways, the Cellcom culture is similar to ours. Specifically, aagility--the Company has a culture of quick decision-making and pragmatism driven by customer interests.
He also mentioned innovation, which the company will use to create the first unlimited offer, noting that Cellcom has created a service tailored to the Liberian market, meeting their needs in terms of usage and simplicity; this offer has become the standard benchmark in the market.
According to him, pioneering spirit-Cellcom was the first to launch 4G because it understood the need for world class internet quality in the country.
"While we will maintain the core of these values, we will also tap on the expertise of the Orange group to accelerate performance in the follow key areas.
"First, we invested heavily in expanding our network. In particular, since we arrived in June 2016 we build more new sites in six months than Cellcom had done in the previous four years.
"We will continue Investment that will maximize connectivity for Liberians, especially access to data. For example, we will be the first to launch 4G LTE in ten cities outside of Monrovia," said Mettling.
He further said customers have already started to experience faster internet speeds, since the acquisition of Cellcom by Orange, "we have increased our bandwidth from 2.5GB to 5GB. We also doubled the speed of our Internet allowing our subscribers to enjoy a better internet experience.