Outspoken Evelyn Anite, the minister for state for Investment and Privatisation, is known for not mincing her words and when she got wind of the failed partnership between Uganda telecom and Chinese electronics firm ENGO Holdings Limited, she lay the blame on the former, writes AARON GAD ORENA.
Uganda telecom has fallen on hard times. Low revenues, a drop in subscriber numbers, a spike in debts, a future clouded in uncertainty, name it. Utl has all that, and much more.
Nevertheless, it came as a surprise to some people when Utl rejected the opportunity to partner ENGO Holdings Limited, the company behind the brand SIMI mobile, when the Chinese firm first declared its interest to build the first ICT assembly and manufacturing plant in Uganda.
These admissions were made by Anite during the opening of the company’s state-of-the-art factory at Namanve industrial park recently.
“The real partnership was supposed to be between Uganda Telecom and them (Simi Telecom). Uganda Telecom, for reasons known to them, declined. The arrangement was supposed to be a 50-50 partnership. When they declined, I had to look for other partners,” Anite said while speaking to The Observer.
“After a few deliberations, National Information Technology Authority (NITA) Uganda and Uganda Investments Authority came on board. NITA Uganda will offer technical support to SIMI mobile while UIA helped secure the land where this facility has been built,” Anite added.
It is no secret that Anite has been engaged in public spats with the Bemanya Twebaze, the administrator at Utl, mainly over the need to audit Utl’s assets and liabilities. Their fight has sucked in President Museveni, shedding a light into the company’s unending troubles.
Frank Tumwebaze, the minister of ICT, lauded the efforts that were made to quicken the process that led to the construction of the facility as it was going to help create jobs and allow for more people to access phone handsets cheaply.
The flagship brand of SIMI mobile phones, the SIMI S300, have already hit the local market and are going for as low as Shs 29,000 on the online retailer platform Jumia.
The mobile phone and laptop assembly plant, the first of its kind in Uganda, was recently commissioned by President Yoweri Museveni at the Namanve Industrial Park, Mukono district.