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UTL needs Shs 170.8bn in new turnaround strategy

Faisel Gergab

Faisel Gergab, is chairman of the Libyan Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Holding Company (LPTIC) that owns 69% stake in UTL. He spoke to The Independent’s Isaac Khisa on the issues surrounding the company’s poor performance and its future outlook, just before government took over its management.

How do you manage leading a team to ensure it achieves the organization’s goal?

The first step is to have a realistic, achievable plan which builds on the company’s strengths and addresses the weaknesses. Second, you need the right team (stakeholders, management, and shareholders) to execute the plan. Lastly, you need to monitor progress against the plan and continually adjust and manage implementation to meet your goals. Without a credible plan and shareholder support the plan will not work.

What is your assessment of Uganda’s telecom industry?

Unfortunately the Ugandan telecom industry is not adapting to the changing realities in the industry. Technology is allowing new services and new forms of competition, especially in data services, and the Ugandan regulatory structure is not driving change. The fact is that Uganda has a duopoly on telecoms providers who control 92%+ of the market. There is no incentive or support for new innovative services or real competition.

Where at the moment is the strength of UTL in Uganda’s telecom industry?

UTL is very well positioned in the fixed broadband, enterprise market. IT has significant fiber infrastructure and wireless broadband local access and provides high quality services to larger business customers. UTL also has a strong brand and national identity.

UTL has been struggling for many years now. What are the origins of the current troubles?

Unfortunately UTL has suffered from a lack of direction and investment for many years, and also due to the lack of support from the minority shareholder Ugandan government. Now there is a very credible turnaround plan which would transform UTL into a modern, data-centric enterprise, but still there is a lack of commitment from the minority shareholder.

What is your comment on the concern that UTL managers have contributed to the current challenges facing the telecom firm in terms of huge salaries and allowances?

The benchmarking of salaries and benefits for senior managers shows that they are not excessive. It is very difficult to get senior managers with the experience and desire to manage a difficult company like UTL. The team in place have done a good job of reducing costs and managing UTL in very difficult times.

Recently, your competitors in Uganda’s telecom industry threatened to block your customers from accessing their networks over inter-connection fees. What progress have you made so far in ensuring that the issue is resolved?

There was never a real issue as this is business as usual. Relationships with both Airtel and MTN were being managed and agreements were in place for payment of their arrears. Unfortunately, there were some delays in payment which led to the threats, but these have now been resolved.

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