Vodafone Mobile Operations Halted in Cameroon Over License Issue

YAOUNDE (Capital Markets in Africa) – Vodafone Group Plc’s operations in Cameroon have been halted after the country’s telecommunications regulator ruled that a license had been incorrectly awarded to the local partner of the U.K. wireless carrier.

The west African nation’s Telecommunications Regulatory Board allowed Vodafone Cameroon to provide internet and mobile services in the country without government approval, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Minette Libom Li Likeng said in interview in the capital, Yaounde, on Monday. The unit is run by Vodafone’s local partner Afrimax Group.

Only the ministry “has the prerogative to issue electronic communications exploitation licenses,” Likeng said.

International wireless carriers have been coming up against tougher government and regulatory scrutiny in sub-Saharan Africa as weaker economic growth have encouraged lawmakers to turn their attention toward companies for revenue opportunities. In Tanzania and Ghana, mobile-phone carriers have been told to list local units on the countries’ stock exchanges, while in Nigeria, market leader MTN Group Ltd. was fined $1 billion for failing to comply with a regulator order.

“We are in talks with the relevant authorities and we think that before very long, the matter shall be resolved,” Vodafone Cameroon Chief Executive Officer Antoine Pamboro said Monday, adding that the company began to disconnect customers on Sept. 14. “We are working to reestablish connections soon.”

Vodafone’s African business is mostly run through Johannesburg-basedVodacom Group Ltd., in which the Newbury, England-based company owns a 64.5 percent stake. It still has standalone operations in Ghana, while in other countries such as Cameroon, Afrimax is the main operator under the Vodafone brand.

“Vodafone Cameroon is operated by Afrimax under a partner market agreement with Vodafone Group,” a spokesman for the U.K. company said in an emailed response to questions. “Vodafone has no equity interest in Vodafone Cameroon. Vodafone Group is aware that Vodafone Cameroon has been ordered to suspend services to its customers and is in active discussion with Afrimax about resolving the issue.”

Vodafone has paid 3 billion Central African CFA Francs ($5.4 million) in taxes and regulatory duties in the past year and created 116 direct jobs, Pamboro said.

Source: Bloomberg Business News


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