Telecoms Chamber@10: celebrating a decade of shaping telecoms policy through advocacy

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Kwaku Sakyi-Addo was driving on the Accra-Tema Motor Way in March 2011 when he received a phone call from someone he did not know about a job vacancy – the Chief Executive of Officer (CEO) of Chamber of Telecommunications that was being established.

He was at the end or approaching the end of his tenure as General Manager of Aqua Vitens Rand Limited which had a management contract for the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), and was wondering what he would do next – whether to join Ghana Water Company or leave along with the management firm, Aqua Vitens Rand.

After a brief chat with the anonymous caller from a recruitment firm, who reminded him that they attended the same church, Mr. Sakyi-Addo considered applying for the job. “It was a Friday and I thought, ‘how providential’,” he stated last week at the launch of a series of activities to mark the 10th anniversary of the Ghana Telecoms Chamber.

After allaying the fear that “maybe somebody just wants to use me as a prop to meet a quota…minimum number of candidates”, Mr. Sakyi-Addo applied for the job and went for the interview along with two or three other candidates – and the rest is the history being marked.

In his address at the launch of the Chamber’s 10th anniversary, Mr. Sakyi-Addo – who was the first CEO – walked participants at the launch through the very humble beginnings of the Chamber: an enviable institution on the continent as far as the telecommunications sector is concerned.

His first employee at the newly-created Chamber was Alaina Dedry-Amuzu, who is still with the Chamber 10 years on.

“That was employee number-one and the chamber actually began working from my house; my little study was where we began as we set about putting things in place…all the way from paper clips to furniture and the full structure together.

“So, it was sort of a very modest beginning; but the chamber had already been registered by the pioneers, the originators of the idea. Although, it had been registered it had not been operationalised. The operationalisation took place after my recruitment in May 2011,” he recalled.

He added: “There’s something unique about the Chamber of Telecommunications in Ghana. As far as I know…there’s nothing like this anywhere in Africa. Many countries have tried to have a Chamber such as this; a chamber of competitors who collaborate within the framework of legality and ethics. Some have tried in a few other countries but it hasn’t worked; and when I travel, people have asked me: ‘how have you done it?”

Despite being its first CEO, Mr. Sakyi-Addo acknowledged the Chamber’s success in revolutionising Ghana’s telecommunication sector 10 years on would not have been possible without the collaborative work put in by its members. “It is actually the players,” he said, “the owners of the chamber, they have made it possible. The secretariat has merely been a facilitator for what its members in their goodwill want to do in order to grow the industry.”

A seed that brought great achievements to Ghana’s telecoms industry

Dr. Ing. Kenneth Ashibgey, the current CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunication, in his opening remarks and welcome address at the launch of the 10th anniversary under the theme ‘10th Anniversary: Leveraging the gains of the past decade to accelerate Ghana’s digital transformation’, at the Marriot Hotel in Accra, said the brains behind the Chamber’s birthing on November 28, 2011, sowed a seed that has resulted in great achievements for the telecommunications industry – and now the digital financial sector, too.

For him, “Today is all about introspection of what we have done in the past decade; and with the fast pace of change, how the Chamber can contribute to Ghana bridging the developmental gap on the back of the 4th industrial revolution,” hence the theme. “Today is about saying big ‘Thank-Yous’. Akpa loooo to all our stakeholders who have made this possible,” he added.

According to him, working together over the past decade ensured that data coverage in the country moved from 8 million at inception [when the Chamber started operating] to 23 million in August 2022, a growth of over 187 per cent. Voice penetration also currently stands at over 132 per cent. Again, total mobile money accounts stand at 47.3 million and the balance on float stands at GH¢8.4billion.

“There has been remarkable growth in financial inclusion during the last 10 years due to the mobile financial sector. We have seen far more than traditional brick and mortar banks have been able to do in over a century. This has been due to working together among ourselves and the Bank of Ghana, the regulator,” he stated.

The journey had obviously not been all rosy; it has been turbulent but rewarding because “we have worked together with our stakeholders and our partners”, Dr. Ing. Ashigbey said.

As the Chamber grew, it became imperative to strengthen it as an advocacy organisation by including other key players – especially as the telecommunications industry became more ubiquitous. In 2014, the Chamber added to its portfolio the tower companies: namely ATC, Helios and Eaton. And in 2019 it added Huawei, Comsys and CSquared. So, currently, the Chamber boasts eight members – namely AirtelTigo, MTN, Vodafone, ATC, Helios, Comsys, CSquared and Huawei.

The need for collaboration amid growing success

Apart from the official theme for the 10th-anniversary celebrations, throughout the various addresses during the launch the word ‘collaboration’ was mentioned quite frequently. This is because without extensive partnerships among members, policymakers and the regulator, the Chamber will suffer indescribable setbacks which hamper its ability to leverage on successes of the past decade.

And Mr. Sakyi-Addo succinctly summarised the enormous benefits of extensive collaboration within the framework of legality and responsibility in these few words: “Magic happens when people of goodwill think together and work as one”.

Leveraging past achievement for a brighter future

The present CEO, Dr. Ing. Ashigbey, said the Chamber and its members will, going into the future, leverage the achievement of the past decade to drive Ghana’s digitalisation agenda. He said the new technologies of 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Everything, ubiquitous innovations in the digital financial space will be accelerated.

He further noted that the chamber will want to deepen the engagement with policymakers, regulators and other industries, as digital will continue to be the rails upon which all other industries ride. The Chamber also wants to engage more closely with academia and start-ups, and grow more home-based innovative solutions that become global brands.

Another thing the Chamber wants to do in the next decade is build on self-regulation schemes, working with regulatory bodies to spur fast-paced innovation that is guided but not restricted; noting that regulation for the future will have to change to be a lot more agile and forward-looking.

These are but a few things the Chamber aims to achieve in the next decade, and “it will all be because we continue working together – among members of the Chamber and with you, our key stakeholder”, Dr. Ing. Ashigbey said.

The official logo of the 10th-anniversary celebrations was unveiled by Chairperson of the Chamber, Patricia Obo Nai.

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