Special Commentary : NATCOM and Sierra Leone’s Agenda for Change


 By Abdulai Bayraytay :

 It was in the morning of March 30 this year going through my daily routine of shuffling through daily newspaper publications when I stumbled upon the eye-catching headline ‘poor quality service”. After going through the 20 or so newspapers, my mind was still glued on that headline. Then the trouble started all over again as I had to reshuffle all the dailies once more to get the meat therein.


My patience of going through the papers paid off:  “…the National Telecommunications Company (NATCOM) views the deteriorating quality of service (QoS) provided by mobile operators particularly on the Airtel network…”, part of the press release issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) and published in the March 30, 2012 edition of one of Sierra Leone’s leading newspapers, “The “Exclusive”newspaper, stated. I literally jumped like someone receiving manna from Heaven not so much because one of the networks operating in Sierra Leone in filling the void left following the country’s civil war and the attendant infrastructural destruction, but for the fact that in a long time a regulatory body like NATCOM could stand tall and say it as it to a multimillion company like Airtel that if it reneges on its mandate to serve customers with professionalism or risk penalties.

To say that poor service delivery in our country, especially by the multitude of multinational corporations doing business in our country would be an understatement. Without sounding as an incessant complainer, I had on several occasions mustered the courage and politely requested many a waitress at a beach bar to serve me some water after a thirty-minute wait, for a customer service representative of one of the many spiraling mobile networks to please reduce the deafening volume of some Nigerian movie playing on the background, or some gum-cracking chewer juxtaposing Krio and English thereby further adding to the frustration of not getting the service one deserves. Yes, this is Africa, Sierra Leone for that matter wherein, going for the least service delivery seems to be the norm rather than the exception.

And this is where the NATCOM deserves some acclamation not so much because it reminded GSM network providers in Sierra Leone, singling out Airtel, for some schooling on the Telecommunications Act of 2006 as amended in 2009 about their responsibility to customers through the provision of quality service, but by unmistakably reminding them to “…redouble their efforts in restoring an efficient service desired and deserved by consumers within 21 days failure which a penalty would be levied…”

This bold move by NATCOM clearly resonates with the country’s agenda for change; a change that rekindles hope in Sierra Leoneans that with the right leadership so far provided by President Koroma our country could be the pride and envy of not only the sub-region, but the world at large as already evidenced with the rapid and tangible infrastructural development and institutional reforms the government is presently undertaking.

The President, cognizance of the fact that for the agenda for change to germinate into the agenda for prosperity is more than determined to identify square pegs for square holes like he has done in the case of Siray Timbo, Chairman of NATCOM, whose singular decision to stand by consumers against the poor service delivery Airtel provides of late would send the clear message to other service providers that the days of compromise are over. This is where the expectation is that other heads of regulatory bodies would pick a leaf from Mr. Siray Timbo at NATCOM in taking to task those service providers that have taken their customers for granted amidst poor service delivery.

This, to say the least, is what every other potential investor would want to hear, just as how many a pollster have forecast a decisive re-election victory for President Koroma in the forthcoming November 17 presidential elections because of the rapid transformation in the provision of electricity and energy, free health care, restructuring of the educational system, food security and, of course, the gigantic infrastructural development across the country. That “the pa dae wok” (meaning “the President is working”) has therefore undoubtedly become the mantra on the streets of the country.

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