The strategic intent pursued by Botswana Telecommunications is to create shareholder value and gain competitive advantage through the delivery of innovative solutions, increasing mobile and broadband market share, and to fix the basics in order to deliver a superior customer experience.
BTC has identified five broad thematic areas central to execute this intent. These key result areas are innovation, customer experience, efficiency, growth and a high-performance culture. BTC growth will be driven by an improved mobile and broadband customer experience, new products, and new market growth both locally and regionally. Innovation is anticipated to develop new products and lines of business that gives the company a competitive advantage, while at the same time BTC seeks to transform itself into a high performing company that is characterised by superior leadership ability and talented people who are results oriented.
The group’s three-year strategic focus to 2020 remains one of growth and transformation, themed around technology, commercial and culture. As for the technological transformation, BTC is transforming and modernising its network at the same time improving the quality of user experience. The company says it continuously invest in its networks in order to give its customers the widest coverage, fastest speeds and the best network quality, while making its services more affordable. Investing in the latest generation network technology allows the company to lower operating costs while improving their capacity to handle increased traffic volumes.
Further, BTC indicated that its approach to the market is segment based, as it wants to engage with customers and gather essential insights to improve its value proposition and provide a seamless customer experience. BTC has developed an integrated commercial strategy with the intent of growing revenue and gaining its market share and it seeks to transform into a high performing company that is characterised by superior leadership ability as well as results oriented people with the requisite skills.
According to BTC Annual report 2019 released this week, the company has identified strategic programmes to anchor the three transformation pillars. Converged billing being the first strategic programme has seen phase 1 of the platform being implemented in March 2018. Mobile prepaid, mobile post-paid and fixed prepaid platforms were migrated. Migration of fixed post-paid customers was implemented in June 2019.
As part of the BTC digitisation program, Data Centre and IT infrastructure Consolidation project was commercially launched in March 2019, and there has since been an increase in uptake of customers hosted in the Data Centre. Investment in the Mobile Broadband network is achieving the desired results of improved quality of customer experience, and BTC has rolled out 281 sites to date. The deployment of MBB has resulted in BTC 4G being the best in the country, both in terms of coverage footprint and download speed.
This has led to an upsurge in mobile data usage and an increase in 4G subscriptions. The quality of voice service on the mobile network has also improved and exceeded set targets with reductions in network congestion rates and drop call rates. In the Fixed Broadband space, BTC says it has deployed and commissioned a total of 81 Fibre to the Cabinet FTTC nodes in Gaborone, Francistown, Kasane and Maun, and has extended Fibre to the Home FTTH in Phakalane Golf Estate and Gaborone North, providing fibre-based connectivity to hundreds of households.
The FTTx service was launched in major centres and customers are now able to experience high-speed internet connectivity. The company further indicated that it upgraded its VSAT system to a state-of-the-art platform which is capable of delivering high speed and affordable internet connectivity up to 50Mbps. As a result, of improved service quality, BTC noted that it has seen an increase in customer retention. VSAT service, the group claims, has seen increased uptake particularly from farming communities, as well as tourism and hospitality facilities countrywide.
The roll-out of the 4G sites, according to the report, enabled BTC to introduce new mobile data products targeted to different segments of the market. ‘’we launched new propositions such as Live Social bundles, revamped turn up bundles and video bundles. For post-paid we were able to offer customers Pro connect bundles which offers them a range of bundles, voice and an option of 4G high-end device’’ reads the report
Moreover, BTC has launched its money financial service called SMEGA. ‘’this allows customers to deposit or withdraw money, pay bills, buy electricity and airtime from their wallet. The service has a bank to wallet feature and a new innovation called Motshelo group as well as bulk payments. We have also introduced mobile app that gives customer’s convenience to access our services through their phones and online application for services’’. Efforts to improve customer experience for the company are beginning to bear fruit, a s following an introduction of a day service, customer satisfaction index improved from 66% to 68%. The service is aimed at improving customer service turnaround times.
BTC continued to enhance the ability of the transmission network to support the radio access network by connecting more base radio stations with fibre and high-speed IP microwave transmission, thus improving the quality of service and extending access. This is according to the company’s Annual Report 2019 released this week.
The continual enhancement of the telecommunications environment is a basis for competitiveness in the sector and is an important element of improving customer experience and ensuring customer satisfaction. As a customer-centric and proactive mobile network operator, BTC says it has implemented an integrated Fault Management and Performance Management Solution as a strategic initiative of the integrated network management platform. This was done to improve the quality of and ensure overall visibility of the network performance. Continual monitoring of these has helped in guiding the installation of additional capacity to where it is most needed, thereby resolving capacity constraints.
BTC network coverage continues to be the widest in the country and covers over 96% of the population. BTC has significantly increased its LTE coverage footprint, covering urban and semi urban locations and village across the country, with over 365 sites commissioned as at end of the year under review. Additional sites will be deployed during the 2019/2020 financial year to address coverage gaps and for densification in the two cities, Gaborone and Francistown. BTC has also improved its fixed broadband services with fibre to the ‘’X’’ deployed in urban areas. The company stressed that it commissioned its VSAT service that uses a High Throughput Satellite delivery high speed broadband connectivity across the country.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.