It is no longer news that communication is very essential today and is classified in the same class as nuclear power, space science, air travel and that revolutionary experience in modern technology.
In third world countries, communication is an expensive enterprise that the rich take advantage of to further suppress the poor or disadvantaged. To own a communication device in these countries is to add to a man’s pool of resources and this is considered an asset listed in a person’s will when he passes into the afterlife.
For example, the owner of a blackberry phone, I-pod, Laptop or as it was in the 1980s, the possession of a satellite dish in a person’s house was considered a luxury and therefore attracted envy.
It’s understandable that people feel this way, especially since most households feed themselves on less than two dollars a day, and if it translates to meals, it boils down to 0-1-1 or 0-1-0, which in effect means that a family survives daily on toss and dinner or lunch alone, respectively.
Along the same lines, mobile telephony is a relatively new means of communication that allows phone users to be reached wherever there is a network connection.
Mobile telephony is surely changing the face of communication and is useful for uniting loved ones, conducting business transactions, helps thwart crime and is necessary for emergency situations.
Well, for those who have cell phones or Global System Mobile (GSM) as they are commonly called, lucky you! the problem of maintaining them and the nightmare associated with paying daily fees to their network providers remain the biggest challenge they face on a daily basis.
In other words, it is one thing to buy communication equipment in developing countries and another to keep it up and running for the long term so that service providers get the most out of your continued patronage.
There was a time when mobile telephony reached most of the countries of the African Continent and any subscriber to the network who does not use their phone to make calls for a maximum duration of three months is punctually penalized with the blocking of their SIM card, which means that they will not be able to make or receive calls again.
How painful it can be for those who bought their SIM cards at exorbitant prices when GSM first debuted in African markets around the late 70s for some countries and early 80s for others.
These days, despite the poor network services customers experience, especially during holidays, holidays, and inclement weather, their rates are exploitative to say the least.
The sad thing is that the people responsible for your success story don’t feel the ripple effect of the extravagance of the sale; I am referring to the small merchants who perhaps took out microcredits to set up recharge card stores to sell the products of communication companies.
So, to survive in the business of retailing recharge cards, one must be prepared to sell phone accessories like chargers, batteries, cases or even engage in recharging people’s phones using generators because electric light in most third world countries is epileptic and exclusive to the rich, which by the way describes the political class.
The exploitative attitude of these network providers has slowly assumed a dangerous dimension, forcing the innocent public to constantly appeal to the government of their countries to save them from their authoritarian rule.
It is common to see media companies displaying different products, from the mundane to the sophisticated, in an attempt to entice subscribers to part with their hard-earned money. Of course, they always win due to the gullible disposition of the users. Now they sell songs to be used as ringtones, prayers from men of God, the results of soccer matches of the best clubs in the world are transferred to subscriber sets for a fee. Even Bible and Quranic verses for mediations, as they claim, are also for sale on request.
However, one wonders if these downloaded materials are covered by the piracy laws of the host nations and if they pay royalties to the artists and authors of the resources they are copying.
Again, one continues to ask the question, how much are the items or rewards they give their customers worth, particularly at the end of the year when they take stock of the companies year-end sales?
More concerning is the latest sales gimmick adopted by most of these service providers in the name of “Promo”. They simply send questions to those who show an interest in earning extra money by promising delicious prizes ranging from cash to valuable gifts like cars and household items. Once they lure their victims into playing, they drag them into a long, endless game that loses subscribers the equivalent of a dollar for every reply sent via Short Messaging Services (SMS).
Realizing that this is a calculated fraud, many have walked away without a penny to reward their efforts. Most of the major players in the communication industry in third world countries are foreign companies whose main objective is to make a profit, so they don’t really have the genuine interest of their customers as a priority nor are they in the market to improve the economy of their host nations.
He agreed that the companies in the network pay a lot to be licensed to operate in such countries, but nevertheless owe it to the communities that sponsor them to provide jobs for their people and empower their youth through the distribution of their goods and services, as well as by participating in the sponsorship of important events or donations to charity and sports. That way, its impact can be felt even at the base.
Once again, a situation where only a few people benefit from the presence of grid providers in their location by leasing or selling their personal property to locate their mast or when these companies hire the services of cheap labor in the areas where they are located for the installation of their plant, is not only unbalanced, but this gesture only empowers select members of society at the expense of the majority.
In one particular African country, one of the seven communication companies has changed its name four times in six years of operation because ownership of the company constantly changes hands. Good enough that it is not a liability company, otherwise shareholders would have lost confidence in its management ability to deliver dividends to them due to instability.
Unfortunately some of these network providers exist in name only as their services are awful and therefore not trusted by the public.
Even the establishment of regulatory bodies by the government to ensure a level playing field between providers and network providers and to offer cheap and affordable rates to their customers has not changed their exploitative attitude. The companies assure that they are forced to act in this way since they have to recover the fortunes they paid to obtain their operating license.
The only good advice for them is: “If they can’t take the heat of the kitchen, they should leave it”, period.