The debate around splitting services of Telecommunication services into different companies has for years been motivated by the giant presence of Safaricom in the country.
The conversation is that Safaricom has amassed too much dominance in their operations, which account for more than 65% (voice) of Kenya’s telecoms market.
In a new development, all Members of Parliament save for just two, have distanced themselves from a new Bill that seeks to introduce such a split to all telcos.
Sponsored by Elisha Odhiambo, MP for Gem, the document dubbed The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill wants all relevant players to separate telecommunications services from their money lending and transfer departments.
The Bill was presented to parliament in a session where the Member of Parliament sponsoring it was strangely missing in action.
Cabinet Secretary for ICT Joe Mucheru while being vetted into office back in 2015 opposed the splitting of telco providers like Safaricom- Speaking against a move that was backed by Airtel, the Communication Authority, and supported by the then incumbent ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
At the tail-end of 2020, Kenyan Senators were also calling for the categorization of Safaricom as a dominant player in the market, forcing them to split services and level the field for other players like Telkom and Airtel.
It is important to note that these two telcos owe Safaricom billions in debt.
The current Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill has however pulled no interest in parliament, with a total of 349 MPs not interested in debating its contents during its Second Reading.
Only two members had spoken to the Bill, MPs Elisha Odhiambo who moved debate, and Jared Okello who seconded.
It will be interesting to see if MP Odhiambo will manage to convince the members of the house to vote the bill into a Third Reading.
If approved, telecommunication firms with existing businesses will within six months of the law coming into force ensure that their business is compliant. Otherwise, the progress looks bleak and therefore a relief, especially to Safaricom.
Late former Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore while appearing before the Senate ICT committee defended the Telco’s dominant position, saying they have never abused that power and taming them would hurt the company’s global expansion plan.