By Denis Turyahebwa
The Cabinet has handed Uganda Telecoms Ltd (UTL) to a Nigerian firm, Taleology Holdings GIB Ltd, ending a year of controversy and rancorous competition by seven bidders to snap up the state-owned enterprise.
As with the bid rivalry, the decision for Taleology to take over and revamp the struggling telecom polarised ministers, four of them who attended the decisive October 1, 2018 meeting separately told this reporter on condition of anonymity because Cabinet decisions are confidential.
The decision followed a September 24, 2018 presentation to Cabinet of a financial capability report by an ad hoc committee after State Investment minister Evelyn Anite, the overseer of the UTL sale, claimed that Taleology had no technical expertise or financial muscle to run telecom business.
Her choice, the State-founded Mauritius Telecom, was ranked second best in a pack of competitors some of which, such as Safaricom Kenya’s subsidiary Afrinet and adversely named Hamilton, dropped out prematurely.
Mauritius Telecom has 1.3 million subscribers, according to information on its website, and 40 per cent of its shares are owned by Orange that sold its Uganda majority stake to Africell Holding in 2014 after doing business here for only five years.
Highly-placed sources said Taleology staked $71m (Shs268b) against Mauritius Telecom’s $45m (Shs167b).
Gen Moses Ali, the First Deputy Prime Minister, reportedly told ministers during the October 1 meeting that a Cabinet sub-committee he chaired endorsed the Nigerian firm for the deal because dropping without justification, while the highest bidder, would predispose Uganda to probable costly litigation.
Ms Anite reportedly disagreed, digging in for Mauritius. The disagreement, one minister said, prompted President Museveni to side with the offer going to Taleology.
Our investigations show that one of the notable lobbyists for the Nigerian firm was Elizabeth Macheka, the widow of former Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who flew into the country and made a case that convinced the Cabinet sub-committee that Taleology outstripped its competitors.