Unitel, or UZI Zambia Mobile as it is called on paper in Zambia has given up plans to launch the fourth Mobile operator in Zambia, The Watchdog has been informed.
Minister of Transport and Communication Mutotwe Kafwaya ( another incompetent failure) is fully aware of the failure by Unitel to start operating but due to his incompetence, he is doing nothing about it.
In March 2018, the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority awarded two 15-year licences (national and international) to Unitel to enable it to become the country’s fourth mobile operator and provide additional competition for the three existing operators — MTN, Airtel and state-owned Zamtel.
Unitel, which is owned by Elizabeth Do Santos of Angola, also pledged that its new operation, Uzi Zambia, would be up and running by the end of 2018.
That didn’t happen and a series of questionable extensions followed.
By March 2019, it emerged that UZI had been granted a further extension to its launch timeframe by the Zambian authorities. The operator claimed that “behind the scenes technical deployment” would be completed by November 2019, and still maintained that it would launch by the end of the year.
In January 2020, Unitel asked for more time but this time it admitted that it had no money but was trying to fundraise.
This shows the level of stupidity by the Zambian government. How can you offer such an important licence to any entity whose financial standing you do not know?
Misheck Lungu, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Communication (MoTC), stated that the operator was “in the process of mobilising funds” to support a commercial launch, adding that UZI had requested an extension in order to address “some hitches”. However, neither Lungu nor the operator mooted a possible new launch date.
But the Watchdog now understands that Unitel is no longer interested in the project mainly because of the corruption charges it’s owner is facing in Angola.
There are rumours that local tender thieves are scheming with Kafwaya to buy off shares in Uzi and run the Uzi.
Unitel had pledged to invest $350m in a the network and create 450 new jobs.
We challenge minister Mutotwe Kafwaya to stop chasing skirts and instead update the county on this matter.