A man enters a customer's mobile cellphone sim card details on an MTN Group Ltd. registration machine at a roadside kiosk in Lagos. File photo: BLOOMBERG/GEORGE OSODI
A man enters a customer's mobile cellphone sim card details on an MTN Group Ltd. registration machine at a roadside kiosk in Lagos. File photo: BLOOMBERG/GEORGE OSODI

Kampala — Uganda will introduce a requirement for all telecoms firms to list shares on the local bourse as a condition for obtaining a licence to operate in the country, a government statement said on Tuesday.

The statement on resolutions agreed at a cabinet meeting said the move would "help mitigate capital flight, among other benefits". Outlining a series of changes for the telecoms industry, the statement also said the cabinet agreed at a meeting on Monday to renew the operating licence of the local unit of South African telecom company MTN Group.

However, it was not immediately clear whether that was conditional on the new requirements for operators.

The new policy will also bar operators from selling their allocated spectrum in any merger or acquisition deal.

"No operator whenever selling its stake through ‘mergers and acquisitions’ should ever have a claim on spectrum," the statement said, adding the measure was to preclude the hoarding of spectrum by some operators.

Under the new plans, customers will also be allowed to switch providers without changing their numbers. Currently, this is not possible in the country, and customers have long complained this effectively tied them to a provider.

MTN Uganda is the east African country’s biggest telecoms firm with more than 10-million subscribers and competes with a local unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, as well as smaller companies.

MTN launched in Uganda in 1998 after acquiring a 20-year operating licence, which was due to expire in 2018.

The sector regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), has been reviewing its application for a 10-year extension since 2017.

In August, the commission told Reuters it was asking MTN to agree to list its shares on the local stock exchange as a condition for the renewal.

MTN was not immediately available to comment.

MTN Uganda has faced criticism on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook from some subscribers about data bundles getting used up quickly and the firm not responding to complaints.

Uganda’s telecoms sector has expanded rapidly over the past decade, but analysts say a new tax on social media use could reverse some of those gains by hitting investment.

Reuters

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