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Embattled Uganda Telecom announces new chairman

Embattled Uganda Telecom announces new chairman.

Fixed line, mobile and internet provider Uganda Telecom (UTL) has appointed a new chairman and three board members following years of uncertainty at the telecoms company.

Former central banking executive Stephen Kaboyo replaces Dr. Ben Mbonye, who has resigned after four years service as chairman at UTL.

The UTL seven-person board also has three new members from Libyan telecom firm LAP GreenN: Stewart Simpson, Joanna Roche, and Kalid Tarapolisi.

The announcement has been made by Uganda’s government and Libya’s LAP GreenN, which respectively have a 31% and 69% share each in UTL.

“Dr. Mbonye has done a great job in the challenging role of UTL Chairman for the few years and we wish him success in his future, we are also confident that the experience and expertise from Mr. Kaboyo and the new board members will be very valuable for our organization and we are confident that they will continue bringing the necessary changes to take UTL to the highest standards of quality,” said Wafik Shater, LAP GreenN chief executive officer in a press statement.

Shater’s statement on the “challenging” role of the chairman position could be viewed in light of great flux within UTL over the last three years, largely owing to political developments.

Libya’s violent revolution and civil war in 2011 resulted in LAP GreenN’s assets being frozen by the United Nations (UN): a move that impacted the Libyan company’s operations in markets such as Zambia and Uganda.

During this period, LAP GreenN also briefly lost control of UTL. But LAP GreenN regained majority ownership of UTL in 2012 again, after sanctions against the Libyan firm had been lifted.

Turnaround operations for UTL were then launched as reports emerged last year that the Ugandan telecoms firm planned to retrench 100 employees to cut costs. Reports last year also suggested that UTL had $70 million in unpaid debts.

Another key stumbling block for UTL; though, is Uganda’s sluggish adoption of fixed line services and intense mobile network competition.

According to BuddeComm research, fixed line connections amount to just 1% of Uganda’s 36.5 million population. Meanwhile, the number of mobile connections amount to over 50% of Uganda’s population, but competition is tight with eight networks and the likes of MTN notching up over eight million subscribers in the country.

However, LAP GreenN is “very optimistic with regards to its operation in Uganda”, according to a press statement.

And Stephen Kaboyo is also upbeat about UTL’s prospects, especially in a country where economic growth is forecast to hit 7% in 2015 and where internet adoption is growing at 200% per year.

“UTL has great potential for growth throughout Uganda,” said Kaboyo in a statement.

“We will need to evaluate our growth areas and continue the massive push for all around improvement in performance for our customers as we continue to reposition the company.”

Kaboyo’s experience includes operating a private practice, Alpha Capital Partners, which a Ugandan firm with interests in sovereign asset management, foreign exchange trading strategies and financial sector advisory.

Kaboyo is also a graduate of McPherson College in the US.

Ali Amir, chief executive officer of UTL, said of Kaboyo’s appointment: “I look forward to working very closely with him and the rest of the board in order to continue the revival of UTL’s services for our extremely loyal customers throughout Uganda.”

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