One of the leading GSM operators in Sierra Leone – Africell at the Wilberforce village on Saturday officially opened its complex comprising of an office structure and a canteen.
This mighty edifice which stands on the hill top of Wilberforce over looking the Freetown plains is not only a significant landmark, but also will provide job opportunities for youths of Wilberforce and Sierra Leone by extension.
In his statement, chairman of the occasion, Frank Jarrett said he is gratified to be part of the epoch making event.
He gave a short history about Sierra Leone telecommunication system from querying days at Sierra Leone External Telecommunication (SLET) to the upshoot of four GSM operating systems now in operation.
The chairman said, “Africell is committed to stay through increase in investment and expansion.” He noted that the company is honoring its social responsibility by supporting sports and other activities such the beautification of Freetown by renovating the Cotton Tree roundabout; also disclosing that Africell has plans to build 60 sites by the end of this year.
Africell Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robert Khoury said it was in February 2005 that the company was launched. He said this company which started with a “humble beginning entered the market at the height of competition, but nevertheless we were determined,” he said.
The CEO explained that their determination was reflective in their growth of subscribers from 450,000 in 2007 to 700,000 as to date.
He explained that to upgrade their telecommunications backbone they have signed three agreements sum totaling $20million. The CEO said the complex “is the first phase of the project,” noting that they are presently constructing a guest house and a warehouse.
He explained that they signed a long term lease with the St Paul’s Church to demonstrate their determination to stay. He expressed his thanks and profound gratitude to the Wilberforce community, the negotiating parties and members of the St Paul’s church.
The representative of the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Freetown, the Right Reverend JOP Lynch, Reverend Zichry Smith said no matter how powerful a church it still needs material assistance. He noted that leasing of the land was not the intention of the forefathers, but the church needs material support for spiritual development.
He disclosed that for the 30 years Africell have leased the land, they will be providing electricity for the parish; provide employment for deserving youth and regular maintenance of the church.
Information Minister, Ibrahim Ben-Kargbo said, “Africell is here to stay…” disclosing that the political will for the development of ICT is certain. “We are committed for Sierra Leone to join the world and compete for ICT development,” he stressed.
Minister of Presidential Affairs Joseph Koroma in his keynote address said this is a leading step to the President’s promise to scale up ICT in the country. He noted that the coming of GSM operators has boosted the country’s socio-economy.