Zambia cancels Uzi’s licence
The government of Zambia has officially cancelled Uzi Zambia’s licence and invited new bids from interested regional and international telecom companies to set up the country’s fourth mobile phone network.
Transport and Communications Minister Mutotwe Kafwaya said despite the setback, the government remains committed to the promotion of competition in the telecom sector.
Kafwaya affirmed the view held by authorities that a fourth operator will encourage competition and reduce the high cost of communication.
Uzi Zambia, whose major shareholder is Unitel International Holdings B.V registered in the Netherlands, secured a network licence in March 2018, valid for 15 years, to compete against MTN Zambia, Airtel Zambia and Zamtel.
However, the operator failed to launch by December 2018 and this was followed by a series of extensions by the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA).
The government later said Uzi faced financial challenges and that the operator was mobilising funds to prepare to start operations, but warned it would cancel the licence should the operator fail to launch operations by 31 May 2020.
Last month, Uzi requested a further three-month extension, but this was rejected by ZICTA.
According to the Minister, Uzi responded by informing the regulator that it would no longer enter the Zambia market.
Kafwaya added: “I want to mention that on two occasions, Uzi was given extensions but failed to start operations in line with the licence it was given. Uzi is not coming back because it failed to start operating during the time it was given. It is for this reason that the government is encouraging players in the telecom sector with capacity to start operating to take advantage and bid for a licence.”
In January 2020 the Zambia Watchdog publication reported Uzi had failed to adhere to licence requirements stipulated by the regulator.
The company had promised to make an initial investment of US$350-million.
Uzi did not respond to requests for comment.