BUJUMBURA October 5th (ABP) – During the Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday September 29, 2021, the Minister of Communication, Information Technologies and Media, Ms. Marie Chantal Nijimbere, presented a note on the situation of the National Telecommunications Office (ONATEL) and proposals for remedial measures.
She first recalled that ONATEL was created in 1979 and that the State of Burundi is the sole shareholder. ONATEL operates three production lines, namely the fixed telephone network since 1979, the mobile network since 2005 as well as the Internet network and data transmission since 2003. Initially, ONATEL enjoyed a monopoly and this no It is only in 1997 that the sector was liberalized.
Since then, it has faced competition from other operators in the field of telecommunications. She reported that ONATEL holds securities and shares in local and international companies and financial institutions valued at more than BIF 47 billion.
But currently, ONATEL is facing challenges related to its legal framework, its management, technical challenges, challenges related to funding as well as those related to project management (ONAMOB, Metropolitan Fiber Optic Network). This note makes proposals to improve the situation of ONATEL.
As a public company, ONATEL must lead its development over the next five years along the lines it has proposed.
First, they need to revalue fixed telephony through in particular the introduction of triple play where, in the same line, are the telephone, the Internet and the television channels, and also introduce modern telephone devices allowing to stay reachable within a radius of at least 200 meters from the place where the telephone is installed.
Second, it is the deployment of a metropolitan loop network through the extension of optical fiber in the towns of Gitega and Ngozi.
Third, it concerns the optimization of the ONAMOB network by national coverage in the mobile telephone network.
It is also a question of making the administrative and financial recovery by in particular the installation of modern and computerized tools of management and control as well as the progressive renewal of the personnel according to the needs in required skills while controlling the wage bill, on a three-year recruitment plan based on departures.
It will also require the revision of the credit agreement for the financing of the ONAMOB project between the State of Burundi and the company HUAWEI.
During the discussions on the proposals of the note, the Council of Ministers in turn made observations. He found it necessary to redress the leadership of ONATEL so that it is capable of piloting the reforms to be considered, it is necessary to authorize ONATEL to recruit technically competent human resources but within the limits of the available budget and to retrain those who can. to be, to identify, among ONATEL securities and shares in financial institutions, those that are less profitable and sell them to purge part of its debts. ONATEL must also assess its debts and proceed with their recovery, seek an external audit firm to make the general diagnosis of ONATEL and propose remedial measures. The same audit will show how the credit contracted by the State of Burundi was used by the HUAWEI company. We must check whether the credit that the State has contracted with China for the revitalization of ONAMOB is not assured. He also found it necessary to look for means to modernize fixed telephony, in particular through the introduction of triple play where the telephone, the Internet and television channels are all in the same line. For products of the same quality from ONATEL and private operators, public institutions should favor ONATEL products.
ONATEL’s heritage must be identified, valued and made profitable. The companies ONATEL and BBS (Burundi Back Bone) must not compete with each other. Each must be brought back to operate within the framework of its missions.
The supervisory ministry in collaboration with the prime ministerial services will develop a roadmap for the implementation of those recommendations.