If Commsrisk was to republish every recent story about telco fraud and revenue auditing in Ghana, there would be no space for anything else. The country appears to be embroiled in public arguments about price controls, simbox fraud, interconnection, and taxation, all of which are entangled within a bigger argument about free markets and government revenues. Earlier this week, we published Tigo Ghana’s rebuttal of claims they had obstructed the audit of their revenues. Here is a brief sample of other announcements made since the last Commsrisk article about the ongoing rows in Ghana:
- Kenneth Gomado, Finance Director of Vodafone Ghana, criticized proposals to implement price controls over on-net traffic, without first conducting a proper study of the existing state of competition and the likely consequences of price controls. Gomado argued that the regulator’s suggestion of a national minimum rate for on-net calls would lead to increased prices for customers, whilst telcos and government would receive less revenue in total. He was responding to claims that price controls are needed for domestic traffic, as well as international traffic, to prevent ‘predatory pricing’.
- Obafemi Banigbe, CTO of Tigo Ghana, gave an interview where he expressed concerns about the risks taken when updating his network’s A-number block list every 15 minutes, as part of the company’s strategy for countering simbox fraud.
- A freelance ‘expert’ called Osman Issah asserted that government plans to force Ghanaian telcos to use a national interconnect clearing house would lower costs for telcos – even though the telcos say the opposite. However, the expert’s credibility was damaged by asserting it is ‘global best practice’ to implement a national interconnect clearing house, despite the fact that most countries do not have national interconnect clearing houses. The same expert also penned a separate article stating that an independent interconnect clearing house would detect simbox fraud, even though this is nonsense.
- Serame Taukobong, CEO of MTN Ghana, told journalists that MTN had reduced simbox losses from USD800,000 per month to just USD100,000 per month. However, he also stated that simbox fraud would never be stopped in Ghana without lowering the mandatory international call termination rates.
As an outsider to Ghana, this volume of news stories gives me one overriding impression: Ghana’s government, and regulator, is engaged in a systematic conflict with its telcos on every revenue-bearing front. The politicians and bureaucrats seem to think they know the secrets of how to lower costs, improve services, raise revenues, and taxes, without ultimately taking more out of the pockets of ordinary Ghanaians. So far, their arguments only seem to be backed by one self-proclaimed ‘expert’ who has made a series of extravagant claims including some obvious absurdities. The telcos disagree with the politicians and their supporters, and believe there are no secrets they can learn from government.
Ghana’s telcos behave like most telcos worldwide. That is hardly a surprise, considering they can draw on the experience of international telecoms groups. In contrast, Ghana’s government does not behave like most national governments. It is not normal to tell telcos that a national interconnect clearing house must be superior to their existing interconnect arrangements, or to suggest that price controls are needed to increase the bills of ordinary people. My advice for Ghanaians is to look beyond the stories in your national press, and see what happens outside of your country, before judging who has the best ideas for improving your communications services. And my advice for everyone else is to look at what is happening in Ghana, and observe how bad government can be.