Transport and Communications Minister Mutotwe Kafwaya says the six months extension given to UZI Mobile, Zambia’s fourth mobile operator to set up will not be extended again.
Mr Kafwaya says UZI has been given up to May 2020 to actualize their investment after they asked for another extension to set up in Zambia.
He said the government will have no choice but to find another investor should UZI fail to set up their investment in Zambia by May.
“We have given them the extension but it’s not us to give them the money to set up. All we are doing is provide a conducive environment for them to operate”, said Mr Kafwaya.
Mr Kafwaya said the six months extension is final and no other extension will be given.
Brian Mushimba, the then Transport and Communications Minister in March 2018 announced UZZI Mobile had finally been given a license after meeting the requirements from ZICTA.
UZZI committed about US$400 million investment to set up a new network across the country which would also come with 400 direct jobs at various levels.
Mr Mushimba said government was excited that a new mobile service provider would join the already existing three in the country namely Samuel, Airtel and MTN.
The fourth mobile service provider in Zambia comes as a response to outcries by local service end-users over the inept services received from the existing companies, Airtel, MTN and state-owned Zamtel.
In 2017, UZI Zambia won the licence to enter the local market after the telecommunications regulator, the Zambia Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ZICTA) floated a public tender.
According to economic experts, the UZI Zambia investment would contribute to the growth and development of the telecommunications sector in the country through the implementation of the latest LTE technology to provide reliable and high-quality products and services through a national 4G network, and investment in 5G network in the near future.
“UZI Zambia Mobile will create new jobs and opportunities in Zambia and will focus on the training and development of all its employees as well as building its relationships with the local communities through its social responsibility programmes,” John Kasanga, an independent trade and economic consultant said.
According to reports, former Angolan president Eduardo dos Santos’ daughter, Isabel, Africa’s richest woman, is believed to own a stake in UZI Zambia. According to commentators, Unitel International Holdings BV, in which Dos Santos owns a 25% stake, had initially pledged to invest more than US$500 million through a local unit to be called UZI Zambia Mobile Limited instead of the proposed US$400 million.
The investment would, however, be increased based on the expansion of the business in the country, given the increasing interest in mobile communication services including money transfer services being maximised by the three service providers.
Last year, an Angolan court placed a freezing order on the Angolan assets of Isabel Dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo, and one of her executives, Mario da Silva, accusing the three of engaging in transactions with state-owned companies that led to the government incurring losses of $1.14 billion.
“Freezing my accounts prevents me from being able to manage and recapitalize my companies,” Dos Santos, who has been living outside Angola since 2018, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “As such, they have all but been sentenced to death.”
Ms SAntos amassed a fortune during her father’s almost four-decade rule and has an estimated net worth of about $2 billion, Bloomberg data shows. In Angola, her business empire includes stakes in Angola’s biggest mobile telecommunications company Unitel, two of the country’s biggest private lenders, Banco de Fomento Angola and Banco BIC, a supermarket chain, a beer factory and a cable company.
This year the BBC run a documentary that showed leaked documents revealing how Isabel dos Santos made her fortune through what was described as exploiting her own country, and corruption by getting access to lucrative deals involving land, oil, diamonds and telecoms when her father was president of Angola, a country rich in natural resources. The documents showed how she and her husband were allowed to buy valuable state assets in a series of suspicious deals.
However, Ms. Dos Santos said that the allegations against her are entirely false and that there is a politically motivated witch-hunt by the Angolan government.
It is not clear whether the delay in launching UZI in Zambia is a result of the troubles that Isabel dos Santos is going through.