Niger signs off on Libyan deal for state telecom firm

Niger government has confirmed a deal with Libya’s LAP Green Network for a ten-year majority share in state telecommunications firm Sonitel and its mobile arm, Sahel Com.

As per the deal, Green Network – part of the Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAP) – will pay $65.86 million for a 51% share in a ten year license for the communications firms, which will be fused into one. The investment comes in spite of Green Network being hit by United Nations sanctions targeting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, with Zambia in March saying it was freezing Green’s assets there.

Sonitel was previously controlled by a Chinese-Libyan consortium, Dataport, but the deal was scrapped by Niger’s government in 2009, partly due to the lack of investment.

A union spokesman complained that the new deal would be no better and called for an international tender for the contract.

The new deal was first agreed by the country’s military government in January. The uranium-exporting West African nation is now headed by Mahamadou Issoufou, who came to power after winning an election in March.

A spokesman for the main telecommunications union immediately rejected the deal, stating that Green’s investment would be no better than the previous one, which brought together China’s ZTE and the Libyan Arab African Investment Company.

According to Adam Amoumoum, spokesman for a collection of unions covering the telecommunications sector, whether it is LAAICO or the Green Network, it is the same thing – it is Libya. As before, they will not respect their promises and Sonitel will not be made profitable. We call for an international tender (for the contract)..

LAP is Libya’s flagship Africa investment vehicle, which was launched in 2006, and the Green Network operates in a number of African countries.

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