The budding information and comm-unication sector is breathlessly awaiting the decision by the Namibia Competition Commission regarding Telecom Namibia’s proposed take-over of Leo. The deal would effectively see Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) gain ownership of all cellphone service providers in the country. NPTH already owns a majority stake in MTC and all of Telecom Namibia which provides Switch the only other service provider other than Leo operational in Namibia.
Mihe Gaomab II, the Secretary and CEO of the Namibia Competition Commission, told Informanté recently that the issue is more wide-ranging than the proposed merger. “It is wider than that. The ICT sector has many players. Regarding the Telecom and Leo take-over the Commission looked at things like market structure and investigated the competition implications and issues, such as how the market structure will change,” he said.
“We looked at the issue of possible coordinated relations happening between Leo/Telecom and MTC,” Gaomab explained. “This coordinated effect is a matter of concern to us in terms of the Competition Act,” he said. “Such situations are to be avoided from a competition point of view. We have finalized our investigations now and they have been forwarded to the board for consideration and decision making as to what is in the best interest of promoting competition.”
The Competition Commission Board is lead by its chairman, Lucius Murorua, supported by commissioners Festus Hangual, Nelago Kasuto, Dr Omu Matundu and Daniel Nghidinua. The board is expected to make a decision before the end of this month. “When the board sits they deliberate and make their own decisions. Do you approve the merger, or approve it with conditions that speak to addressing concerns, or do you prohibit the merger? Then we issue the merger determination notice from the board chairman, which may set out conditions such as time-frames, processes and safe-guards on implementing the merger. If they accept, they engage us and we inform them how to proceed. If it is prohibited, or if they are not happy with the conditions, they have recourse to the Minister of Trade and Industry who can review the decision within four months. The Minister can uphold, amend or overturn the decision. If they are still not happy there are the High Court and the Supreme Court,” he explained.
“Our mandate is to promote and safeguard competition that is free and protect a spirited marketplace. Openness is guaranteed at the moment. The ICT sector is evolving and dynamic and pro-competition. It is an open sector. Remember other people also got service-neutral licenses which shows that there is that openness and appetite. We will ensure that those joining are not disadvantaged and that each will have their own place in the sun,” he said.
“Look at infrastructure: in the sector there is always this need for investing heavily and it doesn’t come cheap. Players need to create that technological infrastructure so that Namibia is technologically ready to position itself as a hub for southern Africa. We want all the players to participate on a level playing-field, investing into that tech infrastructure to provide customers with services. Already our prices are often cheaper than South Africa and the choices and variety of products in the sector benefit customers where the infrastructure is stable. Ideally we want the ICT backbone to be shared among all the operators in that sector. Restrictive business practices and refusal of access are things we have regard for, and we have the power to ensure that there is no collusion and no coordinated effect that we don’t want,” Gaomab II concluded.