The government announced on Tuesday that it was in advanced stages of discussions for the transfer of AirtelTigo shares to the state, along with all customers, assets and agreed liabilities. AirtelTigo is one of the three dominant mobile network operators in the country, with a customer base of 5.1m.
A statement from the Ministry of Communications said “the Government of Ghana, through this transaction, will 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.”
Mr. Mubarak, however, told Business24 in an interview that he was disappointed by the fact that the transaction was first disclosed by India-based Bharti Airtel, one of the two major shareholders of AirtelTigo.
“I find it unacceptable that my own government will enter into such an agreement to use the taxpayer’s money to acquire 100 percent shares in AirtelTigo, and they have not had the courtesy to inform the good people of Ghana what this is all about, why it is happening and how much is involved. I expect nothing but full disclosure of the details of the transaction,” the opposition Member of Parliament for Kumbugu said.
He added that he found it worrying that the government was attempting to become a player in the telecommunications industry, despite its also being a regulator through the National Communications Authority.
“If you recall, when [the government] sold then Ghana Telecom to Vodafone, the argument was that government should not be in the business of running telecommunications; the private sector was best placed to be the one to be used as the engine of growth.”
However, in its statement, the Ministry of Communications said “given the multiplier impact the telecommunications sector has on the economy and various related industries, the Government of Ghana has entered into this agreement to ensure that thousands of Ghanaian jobs are safeguarded.”
Bharti Airtel in 2017 merged with Millicom’s Tigo in Ghana to form AirtelTigo. Prior to the merger, the Government of Ghana was a shareholder in Airtel Ghana with a 25 percent holding through the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, and retained an option to acquire additional shares after the merger.