A Short Note on Telecommunications in the Kingdom of Swaziland
University of Witwatersrand, LINK Centre; University of Namur, CRIDS
January 8, 2012
Swaziland is the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa, though with parallels to Morocco. It faces immense challenges, with a weak economy, a fiscal crisis created by the King and his cronies, plus the highest level of HIV/AIDS infections in Africa.
The arrangements for the telecommunications are of considerable complexity. A state-owned fixed operator is largely moribund, sustained by the revenues from a joint venture and partial ownership of the sole mobile operator. That mobile operator is partially owned by some shadowy Swazi investors, by the King and by the Pan-Africa MTN Group. The state-owned fixed operator has attempted to regain some initiative but this has been thwarted by the combined efforts of the King, his ministers and the mobile operator, apparently for personal financial gain.
There have been acrimonious disputes, legal actions and arbitration concerning the provision of 3G services, fixed wireless services and allowing the mobile operator its own international gateway. A claim by the Prime Minister that the state-owned operator had been taken over by the Mafia led to a parliamentary inquiry which alleged an ungodly relationship between the various actors.
In October 2011, the King appointed a new minister with responsibility for telecommunications who immediately replaced the directors of the state-owned fixed incumbent operator. In turn they appointed new directors to the board of the some mobile operator. The only remaining dispute concerned legislation in the parliament, where the two operators were proposing opposing amendments to the government bill.
There is no system for the governance for telecommunication markets in Swaziland. To appease foreign agencies the government will, rather slowly, adopt examples of good practice and then fail to implement them (e.g., Public Enterprises Act and Prevention of Corruption Act). The two operators fight over the spoils or to disadvantage one another, but do not compete in any recognizable way.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Keywords: telecommunications, mobile, privatisation, legislation, regulation, corruption, bribery, monarchy, Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Swaziland
JEL Classification: L96, N47, R38, K20, K23, K40, L13, L50, L52, O19, O20, O55working papers series
Date posted: January 9, 2012
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