Libyan group plans Africa’s largest telco project

December 11, 2008 • Top Stories

INTERNATIONAL. LapGreen Networks, a subsidiary of Libyan African Investment Portfolio, plans to build ‘the biggest’ telecommunications company with a single network in Africa.

“LapGreen plans to build a big telecoms company in Africa and this company will be built by African skills,” the Managing Director of LapGreen Networks and Uganda Telecom, Abdulbaset Elazzabi last week told East Africa Business Week in an exclusive interview in Kigali.

He said this will be realised by expanding the company’s network from one country to another.

“As you see, to build a network, we are expanding our network daily from country to country. By 2010-2011, we will be one network from East to West Africa and this network will be built by Africans, bringing African countries together as one country,” he said.

Elazzabi, who also serves as Chairman of Rwandatel, a telecoms company in which LapGreen owns 80% stake valued at US$100million, was in Rwanda to mark the company’s launching of GSM and 3G networks.

LapGreen Networks, valued at US$500million, is owned 100% by the US$5billion Libyan African Investment, an investment arm of the Libyan government.

It is managed by Abdulbaset Elazzabi, while Bashir Saleh Bashir serves as Chairman and Dr Ali Shamakh, Chairman of Tamoil Africa is a board member.

LapGreen which specialises in telecommunications has operations in Uganda, Togo, Niger, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Gabon. It deals in mobile, fixed line telephony and Internet connections.

LapGreen is the majority shareholder in Uganda Telecom (UTL) and currently commands more than 2 million mobile phone subscribers and 50,000 fixed line subscribers. The company, according to Elazzabi, is the largest provider of Internet connection in Uganda.

In Rwanda, LapGreen is the majority shareholder in Rwandatel, a formerly government owned telecom company, which LapGreen acquired in October 2007, after paying US$100million, and pledging to invest US$87million.

Rwandatel, before launching GSM and 3G networks last week, had 55,000 subscribers, the majority of them accommodated on fixed line.

In just a period of three months, the company targets to mobilise 350,000 subscribers on its GSM and 3G networks in its quest to eliminate CDMA technology on mobile phones.

With a call center operating 24/7 hours in three shifts with 24 staff per shift, Rwandatel has the infrastructure capable of accommodating 2 million subscribers on hardware and 1 million on software. By the end of 2009, Rwandatel targets to win 1 million subscribers on its GSM network.

The equivalent of UTL in Uganda, Rwandatel is the largest provider of Internet connection in Rwanda, with the biggest chunk going to the government, though the private sector is also slowly increasing in terms of internet connection consumption.

Elazzabi further said the company has a project to provide Wimax Internet connection in Rwanda as it also expands the country’s copper and fibre optic cable networks.

With GSM network coverage allover the country, Rwandatel has launched services with cheaper tariffs compared to its major competitor, MTN Rwanda.

“Our target is to make Rwanda an ICT hub and a knowledge based country,” Elazzabi disclosed.


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