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Zambian telcos mobilise behind lobby group

MTN Zambia, Airtel Networks Zambia Plc and Zamtel have jointly established The Global System for Mobile Association of Zambia (GSMAZ), a lobby group to champion the interests of GSM telecommunication operators.

A statement released by the companies explained that GSMAZ will be used as a platform for influencing and ensuring the emergence and sustained development “of pro-competitive, harmonised telecommunications policies and legal and regulatory frameworks in Zambia.”

The GSMAZ will collaborate with ZICTA, the local government, and other organisations to promote policies that encourage growth of the digital economy.

According to the companies, this is in line with government’s objective to increase access to- and utilisation of a broad range of high-quality and reasonably priced financial services.

MTN Zambia CEO and current GSMAZ Chairperson Bart Hofker stated that, "The launch of GSMAZ comes at an opportune time with the national development focus and intends to influence the efficient development and sustained growth of a strong and vibrant mobile telecommunications sector in Zambia based on the recognition that mobile technology plays a crucial role in tackling numerous socio-economic development concerns across the country, particularly digital and financial inclusion. This digital inclusion will promote infrastructure and economic growth, boost employment and productivity across the country, and enhance access to essential services like healthcare and education.”

He added that the formation of the GSMAZ will promote effective cooperation and partnership amongst MNO members and “various other stakeholders”.

Organisers added that the GSMAZ will focus on financial and digital inclusion as one of its key strategic areas.

With the help of ZICTA, the Ministry of Technology and Science, the Government of the Republic of Zambia and Zambian citizens will have access to essential financial services to participate in the digital economy.

Airtel Zambia Managing Director, Apoorva Mehrotra said: “As Airtel Zambia, we are excited to witness the launch of the GSMAZ which is an association that stands to advance the interest of MNOs in Zambia as well as enhance the welfare of the entire industry. Since the inception of the telecommunications industry, MNOs have typically operated in silos with a more ‘competitive’ approach. However, in recent years, with the increased demands of the industry and its key stakeholders, MNOs have had to adopt a more collaborative approach to advance cross-cutting industry concerns and continue to elevate the profile of mobile telecommunications in the Country."

"Topical issues such as digital transformation, digital financial inclusion and digital literacy have brought to the fore the need for key industry players to ‘hold hands’ and ‘speak with one voice’ if we are to achieve the Government's broad objectives in respect of the digital transformation agenda. It is our earnest belief that the GSMAZ through its members and dedicated staff will provide a vibrant platform through which MNOs will be able to achieve the foregoing agenda and reshape not only the telecommunications industry, but the entire digital ecosystem in Zambia.”

Zamtel, Acting CEO Joshua Malupenga stated: “As Zamtel we delighted to be part of this significant milestone for the GSMAZ as all the MNOs have continued to provide innovative digital services that are responsive to the ever-changing needs of our customers. It is our belief that the GSMAZ through its members will support Government’s efforts in enhancing digital capacity and reducing the cost of doing business. The launch of the GSMAZ further represents the commitment that all the MNOs have continued to show in supporting Government’s digital transformation agenda, which emphasises the provision of the quality digital services to everyone, anywhere, at any time.”

Debt crisis

In early August this year ITWeb Africa reported that Zambia’s government announced an immediate halt to pending digital projects – including the phased implementation of Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Systems – to avert a debt crisis.

The Ministry of Finance has announced that the Smart Zambia project phase II under Cabinet office has also been stopped.

Secretary to the Treasury Felix Nkulukusa said the country had notified the Chinese lenders and contractors about plans to cancel the non-disbursed loan balances for the projects.

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