By Omar Bah
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ousman Bah has suggested privatising the government-owned GSM company, Gamcel. The state-owned company has struggled to compete with telecom giants like Africell and Qcell who have dominated the little available Gambian market.
Speaking to Star FM Radio to be aired this morning, Minister Bah said to address this the government has to privatise the company to allow it to compete with other GSM operators.
“Gamcel is in a critical situation that needs urgent attention. I think from what I see when I meet with the management – definitely Gamcel needs immediate action,” Minister Bah said.
The IT expert said Gamcel has not generated revenue for the government over the past years.
He said Gamcel, who are still operating a 3G network, has struggled to penetrate the market despite the company’s high operating cost.
“They don’t have the cash flow to re-invest in the company to grow to 4G network. So, that being said, I think it is important we diversify Gamcel by privatising it. That is a necessity in my opinion from what I see. I want to make sure that first Gambians are given the opportunity to take over Gamcel, if the opportunity presents itself instead of giving it to a foreigner,” he said.
Minister Bah said if a Gambian took over the company, Gambian employees will be retained.
The Minister said the government is working on establishing a gateway for revenue collection.
“In this country, we don’t have a problem of spending. Our problem is generating revenue. The only way we can generate revenue without relying on GRA only is to create a payment gateway. A payment gateway is a must. If I get my wish by the first quarter of 2022, everybody can use their plastic card in this country.
“Now let me give you a scenario, we have estimated about 500,000 Gambians that are doing business – if these businesses are at a taxable 15% rate, you are looking at around 3,996 million USD coming into this country yearly. That is just on merchants’ businesses, enterprises, small and medium businesses not to mention rental income tax, property tax but you cannot have this without having a way to connect all the banks under one umbrella,” he said.
He said if all the banks in the country are connected, every transaction that is run by businesses the government would know the revenue they made in every month.
“This will enable the government to tax them fairly,” he said.
Minister Bah said the government is working on deploying a second Submarine Landing Station which is going to improve internet accessibility and speed throughout the country.
“In terms of my citizenship, let me make this clear to every Gambian that is listening, I have renounced my US citizenship that was what was asked of me by the government before I could take this position. If you see that it took longer for me to come onboard that was the main reason,” he said.