changes its ways

Mr Samuel K. Chepkong'a

Interview with:

Mr Samuel Chepkong'a
Managing Director

Postal Address:
P.O.Box 14448, Nairobi, Kenya.
Visiting Address:
Longonot Place, 5th floor, Kijabe St. Nairobi.
Tel : +254 (2) 240165 / 240173
Direct Line MD: +254 (2) 247737
Tel. PRO: +254 (2) 240173
Fax : +254 (2) 252547 / 247734
E-mail :
What is the background of the person who will lead Kenya communications into the next millenium?

First and foremost I am a lawyer by profession. Prior to my appointment as Director General, in February,1999, I was the Corporation Secretary and Chief legal officer of the then Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) that has now been split into three entities namely; the Communications Commission of Kenya,Telkom Kenya Limited, and the Postal Corporation of Kenya.

Let me say that, at the time of joining the communications industry in 1995, the process of liberalizing the sector had just been commenced. As the chief legal officer of the organization (KPTC) and others we were, tasked to prepare legislation towards the liberalization of the sector i.e. Postal and Telecommunications that eventually led to the eventual split of KPTC on 1st July 1999. At this juncture, it is important to note that the process involved collation and analysis of various materials and information related to the Postal and Telecommunications legislation and we had collation material from various regulatory regimes that had been liberalized and with relevant experience. This was important given that we had just started the process and therefore there was need to learn from similar organization that had the opportunity to go through the same process of restructuring their communications industry. Some of the countries that I had an opportunity to visit included Finland, UK, Canada and U.S.A. and my other colleagues visited other regulatory authorities in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New-Zealand and Tanzania.

And prior to joining KPTC,I had also worked as a company secretary of the Kenya Planters Co-operative Union(KPCU) for over five after having worked as a legal assistant with the law firm Mereka Musyoka and Company Advocates.

Your immediate assignment is to grant licenses to the successors of KPTC and its offsprings Telkom Kenya Limited and Postal Corporation of Kenya as well as to the second operator of mobile phones. Where are you looking for these new investors? How do you personally anticipate its development?

As you are aware, the final split of KPTC took place on 1st July, 1999 when KPTC Act, Chapter 411 was repealed by the Minister for Transport and Communications to bring Section 103 of the Kenya Communication Act into operation. What this meant is that Telkom Kenya, Ltd Postal Corporation of Kenya and Safaricom were licensed to provide and operate telecommunications, postal and cellular services respectively

The process of licensing the second mobile operator commenced in May, 1999 when we advertised in both the local and international media to invite bids for the pre-qualification and will close on 24th July, 1999 . after which we shall embark on the process of evaluating the bids submitted. The entire process will culminate with the award of the licence to the successful bidder in March, 2000. We hope that the commencement of the cellular service will start by July, 2000

As regards the origins of the prospective bidders,perhaps it is prudent to say that we in CCK are open to any investor from any part of the world who is willing to invest and roll out the network to provide competition to the dominant service provider and satisfy customer demands. Our criteria of awarding the second cellular mobile licence will be purely based on the terms and conditions set out in our pre-qualification document and will be based on the expertise operating similar network in other parts of the world.

As concerns the third link of your question, it is expected that the cellular business will expand quite rapidly and the basic telecommunications and postal services will improve both in service quality and delivery. Further, the service is expected to be affordable and reliable to the Kenyan consumer.

Where do you foresee the furthermost growth of telecommunications in Kenya?

As you know, Africa and, in particular, Kenya seeks to improve its telecommunications penetration, quality of service and technological innovation. For this reason, I expect to see a lot of activity in the production of and manufacturing of telecoms equipment, technology and products. There is need therefore to create an industrial base to support this important sector through deliberate and active encouragement of the private sector participation in the development of telecommunications infrastructure. This particular approach will ensure that we are not only customers of technology transfer, but that we will be part of the wide global information infrastructure.

As part of our contribution, the Commission will be working very closely with both the policy makers in the Government and the private sector to develop the communications sector as a whole. CCK will continuously collaborate with relevant entities to ensure that legislation and licences issued in this sector do not become an impediment to the development of the sector in this country. This is in line with the plan of action by the council f Ministers of Africa during Africa Telecom'98 held in South Africa that sought to expand and increase telephone penetration in the continent for the next five years.
How has been the process of privatization: what has been the most difficult obstacles you have overcome?

The process of liberalizing the telecoms industry has been tedious and laborious. However, this process has progressed quite smoothly due to the high expectations of Kenyans in the advantages of liberalized market that will ope4n up opportunities for investment as well as provide customers with choice of service provision

It is worth mentioning that the difficulties that have been encountered have been learning points of experience that have assisted on the process of achieving a well-thought out liberalized market. And of particular interest was that of taking on board the raised input by the stakeholders in the sector in the creation of a regulatory regime without compromising on the significance Government attaches on the liberalization of the sector.

What role do you see Kenya playing in the COMESA region regarding the development of Telecommunications?

Kenya has been in the forefront of championing regional cooperation and integration in this continent. This is because we believe that any meaningful development can only be achieved if we pull our resources. Marshalling of these resources will also allow economies of scale to be achieved, coupled with a bigger market, a lot of industries can thrive and be built to supply the expanded market. In terms of telecommunications, Kenya together with neighboring countries have agreed to undertake a major telecom project under the EAC secretariat, namely, the East Africa Digital transmission project. The aim is to ensured improved connectivity between the three E.A. countries to facilitate a modern telecoms network. The project is under implementation and is being funded by EIB, PIA Bank ,among others.

In the COMESA region, Kenya being a member and the current chairman, has always been an active member in all areas. In telecommunications, we are participating in the COMTEL project, which aims at ensuring that all its members are interconnected. Also the project aims at harmonizing tariffs within the region by the year 2000 when COMESA becomes a free trade area. Kenya will continue to support any COMESA initiative within the telecoms areas to ensure that this region develops in terms of postal and telecoms services for the benefit of Kenyan consumers and member states. This initiative is of significance to us in Kenya as such development will not only increase connectivity but will stimulate trade and industry among the member states.

How are you going to communicate this privatization process?

As I said before, the process of liberalizing this sector has just began. There are a lot of activities we initiate before we can fully say that the Kenya market has stabilized and is fully competitive.

In order to ensure that we keep all the stakeholders informed in this country, CCK, will endeavor to disseminate relevant information to all through the media, issuance of policy papers and regulation. We shall also do this through placement of information on privatization in our website,, and also through our annual report that will be published annually. We also have a Consumer and Industry Affairs division that will be receiving and disseminating information related to the industry.

Once all the operators are set into place what will you do?

As you are aware, the mandate of most regulators is not only to license operators but to regulate the industry by ensuring compliance of the relevant legislation. We believe that the role of a regulator will continue to be required in this industry to protect the interest of consumers and other stakeholders . In this regard, CCK will continue to enforce standards, obligations and conditions under the various licences of the operators as the market continues to evolve. Kenya has begun the liberalization process and the commission will seek to expand telecommunications and postal services to our rural areas, and we will continue to play an active role in ensuring that licensed operators make good progress in terms of coverage and network roll-out in all areas as set out in their licences. Once this is achieved, the commission will progressively move away from close supervision of the sector to a more relaxed regulatory role where the markets competitive forces are allowed to determine the pace of expansion of the industry.

What is your final message to our readers?

We in CCK are committed to the process of liberalization of the communication sector and the commission in its role being the Gateway, the Link and the Watchdog will continue to play its leading role in encouraging the flow flow of private investment into this sector as we move into the next millenium and beyond. In this regard, the commission invites and welcomes external investors into this important sector to facilitate faster network rollout and improve tele-density. It is our hope that the climate of liberalization that has been created and stabilized by the Government will endear your readers to seek investment opportunities in this country.

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© World INvestment NEws, 1999.
This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Kenya published in Forbes Global Magazine.
November 29th 1999 Issue.
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