Monday, January 16, 2006

World Cup trophy tour...and then some

another overdue post from ghana..
the picture is a bit hard to see, but it is of prez. kufour raising the trpphy aboce his head in accra during the trophy tour. i'm not complaining about the ceremony per se, because i was there, and certainly wanted to see the cup, but it raised a few questions for me.
the event was advertised as an opportunity to see the world cup and have your picture taken with it, so one would have thought it would be a one to two hour ceremony at MOST. i was very wrong, firstly it started 2 hours ( yes, 2 hours! ) late, for reasons i will leave you to guess. after that we were taken through a series of performances by the Black Stars supporters group and the Winneba Youth choir, a film on Ghana's football history, a special 3D film on the world cup and the trophy tour...and speeches by coca cola executives, the president, the list goes on...
by the time we finally got round to seeing the cup, we had been there 3.5 hours and counting.

i don't take issue with the ceremony, and how it was organized. not even really with the fact that it started late. did i mention the fact that apart from the president, practically every minister of state and deputy minister was there as well??? basically for at least 4 hours that morning, none of them did any of the work they're in office to do for the country. i mean seeing the trophy was nice, but was it worth that much? if it had been some sort of investors conference, or strategizing session...maybe an update on each person's vision for ghana in 2006, just something which might bring some benefit to the country somewhere along the line it wouldn't have been as bad. but a loss of that many hours of productivity ( multiply all the ministers, deputy ministers there by the number of hours) all to see the world cup trophy? that is a hard sell. granted i did see one minister leave before the ceremony was over, but that was it. and this on top of a holiday season in which for the previous 2.5 weeks every other day was a holiday ( or so it seemed) sure there is christmas, but then there is boxing day, and then another day because christmas fell on the weekend, and there's new year's, and another day because new year's fell on the weekend. and then who workd on the 24th anyway? and oh what's one more day at the end of the year?

i'm thinking we need to take another look at productivity, and the reasons for which we lose productivity. at a GDP per capita of under $400, maybe only the Minister of Education and Sports should have been there?

The Beauty of Competition :-)

a much overdue post on some observations i made in Accra

by the very first day i was inundated with adverts on the radio from all the cellular service providers
Scancom Ghana: areeba ( spacefon, then spacefon-areeba and now areebaa) : buy a sim card and get one free, plus the chance to be entered into a draw to win a mercedes, plus 2 free areeba t-shirts
Millicom Ghana :buzz : get buzz, because we're the only ones with buzz crbt ( caller ring back tone) and your friends can hear all these wonderful songs when they call you etc.
Ghana Telecom: one-touch: get one-touch ecause we have one-touch family and friends, where you can call your 4 (?) favourite people for 40% less.
Kasapa Telecom: kasapa: get kasapa because calls are free after 11pm and on weekends

some of the networks were advertising features that other networks already have or were also introducing, but each was trying to push theirs out as unique, and the best buy. i was amazed everytime i heard the ads. was i really in accra? 13 years ago, Millicom Ghana Ltd. pioneered Mobitel as the first cellular service provider, and that was followed by kasapa ( then celltel). 9 short years ago Scancom introduced areeba ( then spacefon) and quickly picked up a lot of customers since they had GSM whereas mobitel had pioneered an analog service. spacefon soon became the dominant service provider, and their sim cards and pre-paid units were extremely highly priced, but seeing as they had very little competition, they could afford to do that.

today the landscape is completely different. although areeba has the broadest coverage nationwide, and by far the largest subscriber base, one-touch and buzz now offer services to rival it, and are picking up quite a few cutomers with their more reasonably priced pre-paid units. also quite frankly, areeba used to be the network of choice also because it was considered 'cool'. not so and one-touch have upped their 'coolness factor' and are competing hard.

kasapa is a different story. they are pioneering CDMA technology in ghana, and have managed to offer a fully connected handset for about 100,000 cedis ( a little over 10 dollars). in accra in december, there were quese daily outside the kasapa offices to get phones. there were police officers at the offices to control the crowds - it was that bad.

it has been really exciting to see how the competition has forced the different service providers to improve their performance, and find a basis to compete. they all sold sim cards for unreasonable prices in the beginning, but now all the rates have been slashed incredibly. who would have ever thought that you could get a 'starter pack' (sim card and a few units, with instructions etc.) for 20,000 cedis (a little over $2, buzz promotional rate in december)

granted, there is still some work to be done on the quality of service itself, particularly in relation to calls between areeba and one-touch. when i first to accra i thought my phone wasn't working, due to the number of times i got the message 'call not allowed!' but i realized later that was the usual process for making a call from an areeba user to a one-touch user. both companies claim they are not doing anything intentional, but the interconnection is terrible. this is while there is an ongoing feud between the two on interconnection rates (money paid by ghana telecom to scancom for calls originating on the one touch network and terminating on the areeba network and vice versa). one wonders whether it is really no fault of the providers. hopefully 2006 sees the National Communications authority mandating that something be done about this.

Tags: ghana, areeba, one-touch, kasapa