19 February 2018

Senegal - Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Economy Says New ISPs Will "Improve Competition", Mvno Legislation On Its Way and Tigo Sale? Nothing Soon.

London — The newly appointed Minister of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy Abdoulaye Bibi Baldé (formerly Minister of the Environment) opened the third edition of industry event SIPEN in Dakar. It was an opportunity for him to update the industry about what was happening in terms of the changes that have been proposed.

Sad to say nothing moves very quickly in Senegal despite plentiful good intentions. The Minister said that the Government's Digital Strategy (launched in 2016) "should soon enter its active phase," with the interministerial decree for implementation being in the process of preparation.

"We are in the process of updating the legal framework, which has come a long way and which has made it possible to settle a number of things, notably the decrees on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for a better opening in the sector with new players, "said Abdoulaye Bidi Balde. He said that the integration of ISPs "diversifies the offer, improves competition and also lowers tariffs". In addition, he announced that the decrees concerning MVNOs will be signed soon.

He gave Sonatel, the operator with significant market power in which the Government is a shareholder, a pat on the back for reducing internet rates:" It's a good dynamic. There will be a ripple effect because we are in a competitive world; it's a good thing that one of the leaders in the field can lower its prices. " Cynics might comment that this reduction has only come about with the threat of a higher level of competition.

Moreover, the Minister felt, there is no question, trying to satisfy the customer at any cost and sacrificing operators "because also it is private sector who have made investments and who must make them profitable. This means that the state will not interfere too much, but rather regulate the sector for the benefit of the people and users."

The soon to be set-up National Digital Council was also discussed and Baldé said drafts for the implementing decrees have already been drafted and that the sector should be smiling in a few weeks.

The case of Tigo also came up in discussion. You will remember that originally Millicom was going to sell to local money transfer company Wari for US$129 million but pulled out in July 2017 when it said it had another buyer. Wari sought arbitration at Chamber of International Commerce in Paris and the Government intervened to stop the sale. Antoine Ngom, head of trade association OPTIC said that we must "wait for what the government will propose as a solution." In an interview with RFM he also said: "It's never good to be in situations of status quo where there is no clear way out."

One of the more energetic parts of Senegal's digital strategy has been the roll-out of TeleDAc, a series of online access points for Government services. The agency recently conducted a series of visits to ensure things were working properly for users of these access points.

The service was originally launched with online applications for driver's licences but has now been extended to include getting a planning certificate and the certificate of conformity for a building permit. There are 24 access points including the town hall of Parcelles, Patte d'Oie, Cambérène, central Dakar and the sub-prefecture of Almadies. All of these sites are in the capital of Senegal, Dakar.

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