Telecom stakeholders attending the Telecom World Africa 2009 conference in Cape Town, South Africa, have hailed the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) as a laudable model for universal access to infrastructure provision in Africa.
This was after Mr. Abraham Kofi Asante, former Administrator of Ghana Investment Fund for Telecommunications (GIFTEEL), now GIFEC, had made a presentation on how the Fund was generated and what it was used for.
Mr. Asante, a resource person at the TWA 09 conference currently underway in Cape Town, South Africa, told participants, including operators, regulators and investors, that each telecom operator in Ghana contributed one per cent of their annual profits into the GIFEC and the Fund was used to provide telecom masts, internet connectivity, and power sources to un-served and under-served communities.
GIFEC was established in 2005 with the mandate to facilitate mobile telephony and internet access to rural and remote communities in Ghana.
Between 2007 and now, the Fund has provided 40 masts across the country for the purposes of co-location and has also provided a number of communities with ICT centres, where 10 computers connected to the internet, plus a printer, scanner and photocopier are made available for each beneficiary of grid community.
“We have also facilitated the mounting of over 200 community phones within under-served communities to enable them to make and receive calls at affordable rates.
“We, for instance, funded the MTN Mobile Money System with an amount of $150,000 to make it possible for the rural folk to send and receive money via their handsets,” Mr. Asante said.
GIFEC is also working with USAID on a project that focuses on providing telephony services and internet connectivity to pineapple farmers and exporters at Nsawam in the Eastern Region of Ghana and another community near Kasoa in the Central region.
Mr. Asante said what GIFEC did was to give the operators a free hand to concentrate on their major catchment areas, while GIFEC took the trouble of finding suitable locations to providing infrastructure in the less populated areas.
“In order to ensure that the masts are used, we commission an operator to mount the mast and then invite other operators to share. For each mast we have funded, there are at least two operators sharing it.
“The operators then decide between themselves how to manage and maintain the facility,” he said.
Mr. Paul Edwards, Chairman and moderator of the conference, said GIFEC was a laudable model for other African countries to follow, particularly in the face of the global economic downturn.
“I think we all need to tap into the GIFEC experience and see how we can get a third party to provide infrastructure in our respective countries for less so we can save on infrastructure,” he said.
Vice President John Dramani Mahama made a similar suggestion recently when he urged operators in Ghana to co-locate and cut down on capital investment.
Mr. Nnamdi Nwokike, Executive Secretary of the West African Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly (WATRA), said every initiative that provided universal access to telecom infrastructure was laudable and the GIFEC example was a unique one.
He said the success of the GIFEC story in having specific targets for the funds on regular basis was unprecedented, adding that in some jurisdictions, such funds remained redundant for a long time without specific projects, “but GIFEC has shown the way to make good use of such funds”.
Mr. Ties Hartman, a Consultant from Detecon, a German Telecom Group, said the GIFEC example was something that needed to be considered across Africa.
The conference, organised by Terrapinn Limited, is under the theme “Opportunity, Innovation and Strategy for Fixed and Mobile Operators and Investors.”