Millicom Ghana Limited was the first mobile telecommunications company to operate in Ghana under the brand name Mobitel before rebranding to become Tigo. However, Airtel in 2017 merged with Millicom's Tigo to become Ghana's second largest mobile operator, AirtelTigo, with the approval of The National Communications Authority (NCA), with AirtelTigo now serving a combined customer base of around 5.1 million subscribers and offers direct and indirect employment opportunities to almost 10,000 people.
Celtel International acquired 75% of Western Telesystems Ltd (Westel) from the Government of Ghana for $120 million in 2007 and Celtel was subsequently acquired by the Zain Group which also sold all its African Assets to Bharti Airtel in 2010, but the Government of Ghana remained a shareholder in Airtel Ghana with a 25% holding through the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, until the AirtelTigo merger, and retained an option to acquire additional shares after the merger.
Since 2007, Ghana has expressed interest in owning AirtelTigo, as the underlining merger details even offered options for, but it wasn't until late 2019, that this vision began to crystalize. With the Communications minister, Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful having served in various leadership positions, specifically as acting Managing Director of Western Telesystems (Westel) from September 2005 to May 2008 and from April 2008 to January 2009, as the Corporate and External Affairs Director, ZAIN Ghana, she may well have personally challenged the President and Cabinet to consider taking over the Telco and managing it as a country, to advance our developmental agenda.
So by October 27, last year, The Government of Ghana, Airtel and Tigo were in advanced stages of discussions for the transfer of AirtelTigo shares to the Government of Ghana along with all customers, assets and agreed liabilities, to enable the Government of Ghana through this transaction, to temporarily operate this national asset in the best interest of the nation, and ensure the protection of the interests of all employees, customers and stakeholders, and a continuation of the digital transformation in Ghana.
Given the multiplier impact the telecommunications sector has on the economy and various related industries, the Government of Ghana entered into this agreement to ensure that thousands of Ghanaian jobs are safely guarded, as according to the government, it is of critical importance that the telecommunications sector remains healthy, dynamic, vibrant, and most importantly, competitive. It must be however stated that, this is in direct contravention of the NPP's own ideology that, the government must provide the right atmosphere and private sector encouraged to own businesses, as they have the right machinery of some sort to manage them into profitability, but as we see this time around, its the government attempting to own and operate a business as critical as one in the telecommunications industry.
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