Liberia's telecoms frustration - a way forward?

Developing Telecoms recently published Francis Nyepon's account of the fate suffered by one of his country's key assets - the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation. Comments were welcomed by website and author alike. Telecoms consultant Denise Altey, who has worked in many developing countries, including Turkey and China , is a welcome contributor to the debate.

Francis Nyepon can never be accused of unwillingness to express opinions: his views of Liberia's previous politicians and what he says they did to his country's telecommunications systems make for blistering criticism by any standard. They reflect the anger and bitterness he obviously feels. Neither of the two latter emotions can have been assuaged by the recent news that ex-dictator Charles Taylor has just left his residence in Nigeria . How can such a thing have been allowed to happen, I wonder?

I can not comment on the actions of the politicians mentioned in Francis Nyepon's article. What makes my blood boil is a combination not just of the destruction of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) but also the role played in that destruction by other telecoms companies. They in turn needed the acquiescence - voluntary or otherwise - of my fellow telecoms professionals. 

Four companies, LoneStar Cell, Comium, LibraCell and CellCom, were introduced, it would seem, purely to satisfy the corrupt greed of government officials and politicians. If these companies are still in existence subscribers in Liberia may wish to decide whether they are the type of companies from which they really wish to obtain their telephone services.

In this respect, Mr Nyepon's idea that there should be at least one Liberian-owned telecoms company makes sense, particularly as he is keen to stress that Liberians operating such a company will be able to prove they are up to the job and financially trustworthy.

There is only one saving grace. LTC Chairman Francis Karpeh is described in the article as having honourable intentions, all too obviously a rare commodity in Liberian telecoms until recently. And yet, for all his intentions to create a modern network using resources taken for granted in the developed telecoms world, the efforts of one man were not enough to stop the rot.

And then there is the election of the Sirleaf administration. The author sets out the actions he wants his country's new president to take.

The lessons from LTC are apparent for all telecoms markets, whether developing or not. One wishes for something better for the people of Liberia . One also hopes the laws of libel in Liberia are relaxed, for Francis Nyepon's sake.

 

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