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The liberalisation of Uganda’s telecoms sector came with a string of policy, regulatory and political failures, particularly related to the privatisation of the incumbent Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (UPTC), which led to the formation of Uganda Telecom (UTL). Delays in privatising UPTC (from now on referred to in most instances as UTL), the failure to attract the desired numbers and profile of bidders for the operator at divestiture, and the institution of a duopoly on national telecoms provisioning all subtracted from the success of the liberalisation programme. In spite of these failures, with strong demand for services, and well-managed new telecoms operators, from around 2002 the fate of ICT developments in the country began to improve markedly by some measures.

This report analyses the challenges faced by the Uganda telecommunications sector in creating a healthy market structure, encouraging efficient and affordable services, and delivering services to the poor. It is divided into three parts. Part 1 offers a historical review of the UTL privatisation process. It suggests that the process faced several challenges that can serve as learning experiences, including false starts in the process, frequent changes in shareholding at the operator, and its poor management, all of which fed into a drain on the operator’s profitability.

Part 2 of the report considers current telecommunications problems and threats to profitability and affordability, while Part 3 offers recommendations for stimulating quality affordable access in Uganda, based on the reflections in the first two sections.

Read the related article Milking a cow you don’t feed: Is Uganda starving telecoms growth through high taxes? or read other CICEWA reports.