The Parliamentary Committee on Communications last week made on the spot visits to the National Telecommunications Company (NATCOM), Sierra Leone Postal Services (SALPOST), Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC), Government Printing Department(GDP), Africell, QCELL, SALCAB, AFCOM and Onlime, to get a firsthand knowledge about their activities and operations.
Chairman of the committee,Hon.Mathew Nyuma said the companies are in the country to improve on the affordability and accessibility of internet and communication facilities, and that the visit was meant to have a first-hand information from operators.
He said they also wanted to know if there were challenges with the laws of the state that guide the operations of the companies, adding that the committee wanted to ensure that their comfortability was guaranteed.
He said members were looking forward to helping them handle their complaints and that they would continue to support them.
He said though there were numerous challenges, yet they were successful and do hope that they will continue the good work, urging them to interact with other Members of Parliament in their different constituencies.
Chief Executive Officer of Africell, Shadi Al-Gerjaei stated that since they started operations in 2004, they have been handling things single -handedly, though it has been difficult in the past years due to lack of marketing, but noted that they have made it with the help of lot of statistics done across the country.
"We always know that we will be here for a long time that was why we made a long term plan. We have the largest employment rate apart from the mining companies. We have staff in the provinces in order to attend to customers there and also we are on the verge of extending our expansion process. In all things, we like being the first and we are the first to introduce the 4G broad band network and we hope to introduce the 5G later," he said.
He said they introduce the 4G but as at now the broad band network system was yet to reach the standard they were expecting.
He also stated that they are on the verge of launching the 4G hand set, which will soon hit the market, adding that over the years, quality of service has been their number one priority and that they were working towards that.
He said in 2014, the internet system was good, but that things have changed over time, stating that people want things at their fingertips within the shortest possible time.
He said they were working hard to reach all chiefdoms and sectors across the country, adding that they always get affected in everything- be it good or bad- because they are connected in all areas of the country.
He stated that they have been working hard to make government succeed in whatever development activity they wanted to undertake.
Host Member of Parliament of Africell Company at Wilberforce, Hon. Abubakarr Sillah commended the company, stating that residents of Wilberforce were feeling good because the company has changed the face value of the community.
"The security of the community was mounted due to their presence in the area and also lot of community people were employed even at middle and high level management. They are a blessing to us here and other areas. They are also supporting all activities undertaken in the community and they have been cooperative whenever we called upon them. They have also provided employment to many community people and we appreciate them," he said.
Director General of Sierra Leone Telecommunications (SIERRATEL), Senesie Kallon, said they have been working hard to get the satisfaction of customers and they have many agendas in mind in order to improve on the services rendered to customers across the country.
He said they wanted to rebrand the face of SIERRATEL, but the revenue generated was too small for them undertake activities.
Onlime Sales Director, Hawa Sesay, appreciated the Committee for their visit as it manifested the concern they had for the institution.
She said they started operations in 2005 as internet and digital service providers, adding that they launched WiFi in 2016 free of charge alongside the beaches and universities.
She said one of the key challenges was network coverage, though SALCAB came in to help provide it but that there were some isolated areas that SALCAB was not covering.
She they would appreciate if government could expand the network system, citing electricity as another challenge.
She also noted that the market is very small for them as compared to Nigeria and other places, thus urging government to look into it to.
She said in the past, they build a network at Lunsar, Makeni,Pepel and that they were hoping to cover other regions including Kenema and Bo.
She said a survey team will be sent to Bo next month in order to get firsthand information.
However, committee members assured the companies that things will change as time progresses, and commended the internet providers and mobile operators.