The government of Mali plans to award a third mobile phone licence and will accelerate plans to privatise Sotelma, the state-owned fixed line incumbent. The new concession will be awarded as part of the country’s ‘structural reform’ program, the government said in a report released yesterday in the capital, Bamako, without providing further details. The announcement was made at a conference where Mali’s government is meeting foreign donors to discuss the country’s four-year accelerated growth strategy.
As it stands, Mali is home to two wireless network operators: Malitel, the wireless arm of Sotelma, and Ikatel, a division of France Telecom Orange. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Ikatel is by far the largest of the two players, with 2.22 million customers at the end of March 2008 compared to Malitel’s estimated 315,000. The privatisation of Sotelma, meanwhile, has dragged on since the turn of the century. In 2007 the government appeared determined to sell a 51% stake to private investors by the end of the year, but the target date was subsequently moved to the end of 2008.