By JOHN CHOLA
Airtel Zambia has called for the lowering or removal of telecommunication equipment taxes as a direct means of reducing the current high cost of doing business in Zambia.
While the telecommunication and mobile phone company has opened 16 retail outlets, it has bemoaned the high cost of doing business which continues to directly impact on its operational and financing costs.
Most Airtel Zambia investments are USD denominated, a significant factor in light of the depreciation of Kwacha.
Company Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Hussam Baday says one of the main challenges his company has faced is the general business disruption caused by the outbreak of Covid-19 starting early 2020, alongside the high cost of doing business.
Baday believes the lowering or removal of telecommunication equipment taxes would catalyze Airtel Zambia’s push towards investing in network and stores to give more customers more wireless choices. The company hopes this would make the process of shopping for wireless solutions simpler and straight-forward.
“This move will help expand telecommunication covering for the uncovered Zambians and to align income tax to other industries from the current 40 per cent. Telecom services are also subjected to 17.5 per cent excise duty and 16 per cent VAT. Reduction of taxes will enable reduction of prices for customers and more investment for the sector,” says Baday.
The move to roll out a string of more new stores across Zambia will however see the global telecommunication and mobile money company create hundreds of new jobs in the next 12 months and beyond.
Baday said the opening of new stores across Zambia has been prioritized as many customers have shown a strong desire to visit Airtel Zambia outlets when they need to sign up for service, upgrade their phones, or just get some tech advice.
In the last few weeks, Airtel Zambia opened six new shops in Chama of Eastern Province, Serenje in Central Province and at the Cosmopolitan Mall in Lusaka Province.
Mobile phoness are flying off shelves so fast that Airtel Zambia has also added new stores to Siavonga, Kaputa and Mporokoso which brings the total of Airtel Company owned and operated shops to 46.
Airtel Zambia’s record-setting retail growth parallels its 4G LTE network expansion, which reaches millions of Zambians.
“Whilst this has been a multi-million Kwacha investment, Airtel considers this investment significantly worthwhile in that not only does it avail more of our esteemed customers decentralized customer service, but it also avails our customers access to the numerous services offered in our Shops including Airtel Money,” Baday explains.
He adds that despite now having more than 45 service centres countrywide, Airtel is actively continuing on its growth trajectory with a couple of more shops targeted to open before June 2022.
Baday states that Airtel’s journey of retail shop expansion, which also stimulates significant growth in financial inclusion through Airtel Money, will continue to demand further investment.
During the just-ended financial year, Airtel Zambia recorded tremendous growth in both subscriber base by over 18 per cent and revenue by over 37 per cent after expansion of the network infrastructure and rolling out 4G for all the sites during late 2019.
This growth is an indication that the appetite for Zambia’s leading telecommunication and mobile money company’s range of branded services remains high.