Friday, August 31, 2007

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra…Thoughts on Liberia Dressing; MTN Benin Bites the Dust…by Getting Bitten?


I woke up Monday morning to the news that Liberia was cracking down on “immoral” dressing in the country. None of us could do anything but give a mental thumbs-up to the female president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. For a second, I wished that our President John Agyekum Kufuor was a member of the opposite sex, because she would then pay some greater attention to the increasingly scantily-clad manner in which university girls in particular dress. I’m not of the creed of people who believe that women who dress in such a manner ought to have something bad happen to them, because I think we all have free will and choices, and we should be able to decide to look—and look away.

All that said, I think Liberia has done well, and should be a lesson for a country like Ghana that claims to be the putative, or so-called, gateway to West Africa.

Still in West Africa, I’ve been rolling around myself with glee over what has been transpiring in the ECOWAS country of Benin and MTN. You may recall that a few weeks ago, I reported that I was bored by the Y’ellowness associated MTN, and I am not really that impressed. So it’s great news to see that the Beninois phone regulator—Telecommunications Regulation Authority—is giving MTN a biting hard time.

The crux of the story resides in the fact that when MTN changed its name in Benin, it failed to inform the regulator—or so the regulators claim—and has, consequently led the two entities of MTN and the regulator in a stand-off that has endured since 9 July when the regulators indefinitely switched off MTN in Benin!

This means that as I write, it’s been SIX good weeks since MTN has not been given the nod. Okay, with one exception—it pay a sum of -- what was originally $10million, but has been increased to – a vertiginous $620million! This is in effect 620% increase, and let’s face it: it’s not something that the MTN corporation cannot afford, what with its networks all over the Middle East and much of Africa.



Observers are crying foul, blue murder and all that, because they are saying it’s about the principles inherent in international law, and the breach thereof that is problematic. Beyond that, it’s also about the signal that MTN feels other ECOWAS neighbours might get, though MTN group CEO Phuthuma Nhleko, in an article by ITWEB.CO.ZA maintains (in my view, rather complacently) that it’s not going to happen.

Of course it won’t, especially when MTN ensures it has greased the palms of regulators. I’ve no proof, but speculation has been rife in Ghana—for ages—that this is why National Communications Authority (NCA), despite the fine it imposed on what was then AREEBA last year, never managed to break the defiance of AREEBA in paying the sum!

To top it all off, with the South Africa-based MTN’s network switched off, it’s none other than the (much-maligned) country of an ECOWAS giant Nigeria, and its GLOBACOM that has been granted a ten-year licence to operate in the small ECOWAS country of Benin.

What, for me, is significant about this development is that despite the regionalization of power politics world-wide--as exemplified by multinational-extraordinaire Chevron’s involvement with the West African Gas Pipeline--serious tectonic shifts might just be in the offing in the ECOWAS sub-region as a result of this David-versus-Goliath fight.

The CITI Just Gets Better…
I think CITI 97.3FM has gotten smart by capitalizing on the rather heavy traffic times of 5-7.30pm by introducing a few new programmes on the 7pm slot.



On Mondays, you get a new programme, hosted by veteran Observer columnist Francis Ankrah, which is used for a one-hour interview of statesmen, diplomats, public officials on issues of national development. I had the opportunity of listening to the very first edition some three weeks ago. It was rivetting stuff about the drugs trade. The interviewee was one Gary Nicholls, the Public Relations person at the British High Commission.

On Tuesdays, we get a repeat of a “A Question of Law’, which broadcasts originally on Saturdays for two hours. Thursday, we get a programme called “Sister, Sister: What’s on a Woman’s Mind”, which is a rather thought-provoking one-hour discussion programme seeking to dish out, re-heat and revisit age-old discussions of relationships, and the central role that women play in them.

So, latest news in town is that The Black Starlets beat Brazil 1-0! Despite a good SIX minutes added on as extra time by the Polish referee, the youthful Ghanaian team got one over them, possibly signaling a comeback after many years in the wilderness of bad football…

Have a good weekend!
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