From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

All Roads led to Country Lodge Saturday evening as… AFRICELL celebrates 1 year & launches expanded network in Sierra Leone
By Sayoh Kamara
May 8, 2006, 14:25

The prestigious Country Lodge resort at Hill Station in the West End of Freetown was a place to be past Saturday evening, 6th of May 2006, as Africell, one of Sierra Leone’s leading mobile phone service providers celebrated its first year anniversary and launched its expanded network in the country. The launching was performed by Minister of Transport and Communication, Dr. Prince Alex Harding, who stood in for His Excellency the President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Hon. Alhaji M.B. Daramy was chairman of the auspicious occasion

The occasion which was full of pomp and fanfare, was attended by a galaxy of distinguished personalities from around the country including, Cabinet Ministers, Business Executives, a host of prominent business entrepreneurs and senior members of the press. It was indeed a celebration of a business operation with huge capital investment that has been characterized by marked success.

Africell, started as a modest mobile telecommunication service provider in the country just a year ago, and gradually penetrated the telecommunications market with a determined veracity of service delivery based on reliability and an affordable price system and ensuring "value for money." It is by virtue of this that Africell was able to easily balance the price equation on mobile communication to an extent that it helped break the myth over this phenomenon which had long mesmerised the ordinary Sierra Leonean, thus catapulting Africell to now become the darling of mobile communicators in almost the whole of Sierra Leone. That has been ensured to such an extent that people have for the past couple of months scrambled for Africell Sim Cards just for them to communicate more reliably.

Dr. Prince Harding performed the launching ceremony on behalf of His Excellency the President

Within this one year period, Africell has introduced several products aimed at making communication easier and cheaper for Sierra Leoneans.

In order for Africell to identify itself with the Sierra Leonean culture, some of its products, such as the credit cards were named after some fish spices found in the Sierra Leonean waters. These include: Mina for the Le 6,000 credit card, the Pompana for the Le 12,000, the Bonita for Le36, 000, the Snapper for Le 54,000, the Grouper for Le 108,000 and the Baracuda credit card which is going for Le 330,000. Africell also offers prepaid and post-paid services. It further provides various services which also include: Caller Line Identification Presentation (CLIP), Short Message Service (SMS), Voice Mail Service (VMS), Call waiting/ Call hold, Call divert, Call conferencing, Fax and Data, International calls and SMS, Itemized billing etc.

Dr.Prince Harding cutting the Africell birthday cake

During Saturday evening’s festivities, the Chairman of the occasion, the Minister of Development and Economic Planning, Alhaji Mohamed B. Daramy noted that Africell has indeed made tremendous strides in the telecommunications business in Sierra Leone to an extent that "it is now a house-hold name." Honourable Daramy noted that since 14th March, 2005 when the company was officially launched, it has broken from its confinement to Freetown and its immediate environs to now cover most parts of the country. "This is why as a government we are providing the enabling environment to encourage private sector participation in the development of our economy," Hon. Daramy noted, pointing out that, the example of Africell in that regard "is an impressive encouragement." He therefore assured his audience that in the next few weeks, some of the major towns in the provinces will soon be connected to the Africell network. He congratulated Africell for what he called "your remarkable achievements within such a very short period of your coming into Sierra Leone."

The Dynamic and business-minded Managing Director, Mr. Mohamed Ghaddar described the night as "a momentous occasion for Africell in particular and for the people of Sierra Leone in general for the giant strides Africell has made so far." Mr. Ghaddar noted that the company faced enormous challenges at its early stages, and thanked his "dedicated staff" and the "tremendous support of the government" in surmounting those challenges.

The proud and confident Managing Director of Africell making his statement at the occasion

According to the MD, today, "Africell has transcended that narrow confines of Freetown to now cover 85% of the country… making it the most widespread networks in the country." Its products and tariffs he said have been tailored in line with the company’s corporate objective which is to provide quality communication services to the people of Sierra Leone at the "most affordable prices," noting with humility that these qualities have earned the company the nicknames "PRSP" and "Wan Tem Kratch" for the network’s connection speed and vice quality.

MD Ghaddar went on to explain that Africell has "a personal commitment to promote those activities that touch the hearts of Sierra Leoneans." He mentioned as part of their corporate social responsibility areas of the company’s intervention which included: organizing an inter-secondary school quiz competition, provide funding support to SLAJ in their 2005 conference, provide funding support to the Under 17 National Football Team among others and most recently organized a friendly international match between the National Football Teams of Sierra Leone and Guinea as part of the 45th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

Managing Director of Africell Mr.Mohamed Ghaddar cutting the birthday cake

Mr. Ghaddar assured that in the next few weeks, Kabala, Tongo Fields, Pemdembu, Masiaka and Tombo will start talking through Africell. He went on to disclose to his huge audience that come June this year, Africell will start its phase 3 expansion programme which he said is aimed at covering all the remaining major towns and cities in all districts of the country.

He thanked Sierra Leoneans for their "wonderful support and vote of confidence in Africell."

The keynote Speaker, the Minister of Transport and Communications, Dr. Prince Alex Harding who deputized the President described Africell as "a success story" based upon the economic reform policies of government. Minister Harding noted that this policy is conducted without fear or favour and it is aimed at ensuring greater leverage to the private sector, a segment, he said on which government is largely relying to improve the national economy. Africell, he said has taken advantage of that.

Invited guests had plenty of food and drinks at the occasion

Dr. Harding therefore asserted that the Africell’s one year anniversary celebration is for a variety of successes, a culmination of which has put the mobile company in the lead. He also noted that as a Minister he was aware that these successes did not come easily, and stated that in the beginning, the company faced a lull in its operations but that it quickly picked up when the managers went back to the drawing table and that "they are now back with a big bang".

According to Dr. Harding this was because, Africell dared to venture having at the back of its mind the risks involved. "Like the Military will say in a war situation, he who dares wins, and because Africell dared within one year, they have done what others cannot do," he stated.

He recalled the several interventions by Africell in the areas of social development in the country, which he said have endeared the company in the hearts and minds of Sierra Leoneans, and assured all present that very soon, "Africell will be the No.1 household name in the country".

The cutting of the birthday cake by Dr. Prince Harding formed the high point of the occasion.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.