Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd., a Pan-African telecommunications group with operations in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has made significant changes in the leadership of the Group’s board and management.
Following its board meeting held on January 15th, 2021, the Group announced the retirement of Ms. Irene Charnley and Mr. Mohammed Wajih Sharbatly from the Group’s Board and all boards of the operating companies, effective January 1st 2021.
Ms. Irene Charnley, the founder of Smile, has retired as Deputy Chairman from the Smile Telecoms Limited Board. Mr. Mohammad Wajih Sharbatly is a Co- Founder of Smile and has acted as Co-Chairman of the Group through December 2020.
Commenting on the announcement, Mr. Ibrahim H. Sharbatly, Chairman of the Group said “Today we say farewell to our Founder and Deputy Chairman, Ms. Irene Charnley. We wish her all success in her new endeavors.”
“We also want to say farewell to our Co-Founder and Co-Chairman Mr. Mohammad Wajih H. Sharbatly. May God bless them both,” he added.
Smile Telecom Holdings, in its Board meeting on January 15th, 2021, also announced the following Nominations:
- Mr. Osman Sultan has been appointed as Vice Chairman of the Group. Mr. Sultan, the founding CEO of EITC (du) in the UAE, was at its helm from 2006 until the end of 2019. Before that, he was the founding CEO of Mobinil in Egypt (now Orange Egypt) from 1998 until the end of 2005. Mr. Sultan sits on several ICT Companies and Academic Boards. He has been actively involved with Smile as the Chairman of the Restructuring and Transformation Committee of the Group since July 2020.
- Mr. Albert Momdjian has been appointed as Board Member of the Group and Chairman of the Group’s Audit Committee. Mr. Momdjian is a former corporate and investment banker with 27 years of corporate Investment banking and restructuring experience primarily in Media and Telecoms across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, having been involved in over USD 100 bn worth of M&A, capital markets and restructuring transactions.
- Mrs. Caroline Chang, recently appointed as a Board Member of the Group in November 2020, has been appointed as a member of the Group’s Audit Committee. Mrs. Chang is an experienced board member and former EMEA General Counsel of Farallon, the leading US hedge fund that has been active in Africa and Emerging Markets.
- These nominations come in addition to the appointment of Mr. Raihan Shaikh-Khaleel as Board Member of the Group in September 2020. Mr Khaleel is a Partner at Swinton Capital and an experienced restructuring advisor across EMEA, sitting on various Boards of companies involved in restructurings. He has 20 years of EMEA and other cross border experience, spending the last 10 years restructuring companies for a leading US hedge fund.
“While we understand the desire of our Founders to retire after a challenging journey, we have been preparing over the past months for the future. We want to ensure that we bring the best competencies on board to enable the Group to face the various challenges and transformations that the Telecoms sector faces and take advantage of the opportunities ahead. Africa is the fastest-growing continent globally, and data is the new future in the world we live in,” concluded Mr. Ibrahim Sharbatly.
Commenting on the changes Ahmad Farroukh, Group CEO, added, “I am looking forward to working with the new Board Members and counting on their diverse experience to prepare for the company’s future in the challenging times the industry is going through.”
Finally, Smile announced that the Group Board approved the Head Office and Centre of Main Interest (COMI) of Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd to shift from Mauritius to England and Wales.
Galaxy Backbone Needs N35bn To Provide 2Mbps For MDA’s – Abubakar
Galaxy Backbone Limited (GBB), has said it needs N35 billion funding to provide connectivity services at a minimum broadband speed of 2 megabits per second (2Mbps) to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The managing-director/CEO of GBB, Prof Muhammad Bello Abubakar, disclosed this while receiving the National Assembly’s joint committees on ICT and Cybersecurity on oversight visit to ‘GBB National Shared Services Centre’ yesterday in Abuja.
Abubakar said that he needs the assistance of the National Assembly so that the agency can operate without bureaucracy, adding that he wants the National Assembly to make laws that will enable the agency to compete with other business outfits that provide similar services.
According to him, “To provide connectivity services at a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps to all MDAs nationwide as mandated, funding in excess of N35 billion will be required, while more than N200 billion will be required for broadband connectivity at National Broadband Plan (NBP) recommended speed.”
“Despite the state-of-the-art infrastructure, Galaxy is finding it increasingly difficult to compete with private sector because of bureaucracy.”
“Despite 40 per cent increase in Annual Service Contract, the provision fails to match steep rise in demand for Galaxy’s services. Additional increase will be required to keep up with MDAs’ demands and needs.
FG, UK, Greenfields Law To Host Confab On Digital Inclusion in Nigeria
The UK Government’s Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme and Greenfields Law is collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to host a: ‘Technical Conference on Bridging the Digital divide for Underserved or Unserved Communities and Persons Living with Disabilities in a COVID-19 Context in Nigeria.
The virtual conference which is scheduled to hold on 11 March 2021 will feature a presentation to the stakeholders of findings and recommendations from the diagnostic study on the impact of the Digital Divide on underserved or unserved communities and persons living with disabilities during the persisting Covid-19 pandemic, which was commissioned under the UK Government Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme and undertaken by Greenfields Law.
The Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, The British Deputy High Commissioner, state governors, local government officials and chief executive officers of telecommunications companies, civil society organizations and consumers are among the stakeholders expected to participate at the technical conference.
According to Osondu C. Nwokoro, the managing counsel of Greenfields Law and a leading telecommunications policy, law and regulation practitioner, “the study was guided by extant national and international constitutional, legal, policy and regulatory provisions.
Valuable information was garnered from women and girls, unemployed youth, persons living with disabilities in urban, peri-urban and rural areas from all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, civil society organizations, telecommunications service providers, the regulators and policy making agencies of government at various levels.”
From this process, Nwokoro said, the information gathered was utilized to develop pragmatic Nigeria-specific solutions towards bridging the digital gap between the underserved/unserved communities and PLWDs and other vulnerable segments of the society and to facilitate their digital inclusion during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic which has significantly irreversibly altered the usual mode of socio-economic engagements.
The overarching essence of the study, he also said, was to aid the attainment of the aspirations of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, 2019 and the National Broadband Plan, 2020-2025. Nwokoro also thanked the UK Government for continuing to play a key role in supporting Nigeria’s digital sector and inclusive economic growth and sustainability.
ITU Bemoans High Internet Costs In Developing Countries
A new policy brief from ITU and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), finds that high costs for Internet access relative to income remain one of the main barriers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) services worldwide.
Taking income differences into account, a mobile broadband subscription with at least 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of data costs around four times more in developing countries than in developed ones.
“The affordability of ICT services 2020″ analyses five categories, namely mobile broadband, fixed broadband, mobile data and voice low-usage, mobile data and voice high-usage, and mobile cellular low usage. Service prices in all five categories continued a slow but steady decline over the past year.
Developing countries were the main drivers of this global price decline. However, a pronounced affordability gap remains between developed and developing countries. While 4G networks cover areas with about 85 per cent of the world’s population, nearly half of those people were still offline in 2020.
“The declining price trend for mobile and fixed broadband is encouraging, but we need to strengthen our efforts to lower the prices in developing countries,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred the digital transformation, we need to connect all people to schooling, work, health, business and government services. We build up the infrastructure for a better future, not only for challenging times.”
According to the UN Broadband Commission on Sustainable Development‘s Target 2 for 2025, entry-level broadband service in developing countries should not cost more than 2 per cent of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. The global median price for entry-level mobile-broadband services in 2020 fell within that target, at 1.7 per cent. However, the median price for entry-level fixed-broadband (i.e. at least 5 GB) services was considerably above the target, at 2.9 per cent of GNI per capita.
Broadband in developing countries had a median price of 2.5 per cent of GNI per capita, compared with only 0.6 per cent in developed countries, the brief shows. Over the past year, the number of economies that met the 2 per cent affordability target increased by six: out of the 190 economies covered in the report, 106 have achieved the target, while 84 economies have prices above the target.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, said: “ICT services in the majority of least developed countries (LDCs) remain prohibitively expensive, even for entry-level users.”
Despite the median price decline in the past year, the mobile broadband data-only basket was unaffordable in 39 out of 43 LDCs, while the fixed-broadband basket was unaffordable in 32 out of the 33 LDCs for which data are available.
For a fixed-broadband service, the median price in developed countries stood at 1.2 per cent of monthly GNI per capita, while in developing countries the median price was much higher, at 4.7 per cent. Out of the 178 economies for which these data were collected, the price was below 2 per cent in 67 economies and above this threshold in the other 111.
“This data makes clear that we need to rapidly accelerate progress to remove cost barriers to Internet services,” said Sonia Jorge, Executive Director at A4AI. “The pandemic not only underlines the critical importance of Internet access in today’s world but has laid bare the scale of digital inequality that remains. We need ambitious, coordinated action to make affordable, meaningful connectivity available to everyone, with efforts targeted at those least likely to be online, including poor and rural populations, women, and people living in the least developed countries. As the world becomes increasingly digital, the need to expand connectivity to everyone becomes ever more urgent.”
Fixed-broadband services, the most expensive category studied, saw the least change in the past year. This apparent price stability, however, does not reflect recent, and varying, quality improvements. In developed economies, the median speed of entry-level connections increased from 30 to 40 megabits per second (Mbit/s) last year. In developing countries, it only increased from 3 to 5 Mbit/s.
Africa witnessed the biggest price decreases in all five categories in relative terms, although its median prices remain well above world prices. In general, regional disparities are less pronounced than the gap between economies with different income levels.
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