Monday, March 30, 2009

Ghana Telecom - job cuts

Vodafone swings the axe at Ghana Telecom

The mobile market in parts of Africa is experiencing an unprecedented boom. From Egypt to South Africa and Nigeria to Kenya, growth is remarkable - despite the global economic downturn. However, some telcos are still overstaffed.

Overmanning is one of the last remaining legacies of the old, discredited, bureaucratic and inefficient state-owned model of telecoms provision that pertained in parts of Africa well into the mobile era.

Last summer, Vodafone spent US$900 million to acquire a 70 per cent stake in the west African state-controlled fixed line and mobile operator Ghana Telecom. The purchase caused a furore within the country. The government quickly approved the take-over but the political opposition were highly critical and claimed the deal had been rushed though with insufficient parliamentary oversight whilst the shares themselves were undervalued.

Now more than 20 per cent of the workforce at the carrier is to be cut with 850 out of 4,000 people being made redundant in what is, initially at least, a voluntary programme, in an effort to slim down the bloated staffing numbers to a level commensurate with a modern telco.

In a florid and adjective-laden posting on its Ghana Telecom's website, Vodafone sugars what must be a bitter pill for what it coyly calls "disengaged staff" by self-referencing its "generous offer of voluntary disengagement" and access to a "customised Transition Support Programme" to help those made redundant "manage the change effectively as they seek different endeavours."

The rate of unemployment in Ghana is believed to run in the mid 20 per cent range so such "different endeavours" might be hard to find.

Probably just as well then that "in accordance with Vodafone's cherished values and best practice People Management Principles" (their capitals, not mine) those staff "disengaging" from the company "will be equipped with basic skills to plan and manage their personal finances better" whilst those "desirous of setting up their own businesses will be taken through basic entrepreneurial training."

Ghana has a liberalised telecoms market and Ghana Telecom was privatised back in 1996 and it was run under a duopoly with Westel until early 2002. In addition to the national incumbent telco Ghana has four competing mobile networks iand mobile lines exceed fixed line availability by a ratio of 10:1.

Ghana has much untapped telecoms potential. Combined the fixed and mobile teledensity is at just over 15 per cent and, out of a population of twenty three and a half million just over 800,000 people have access to the Internet.

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