Friday, February 09, 2007

President Kabbah Launches Celtel ‘Build our Nation’ Programme

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on Tuesday 7th Febraury launched Celtel ‘Build our Nation’ programme, which is geared towards supporting underprivileged schools in the country. The programme, which took place at the Miatta Conference in Freetown, brought together students from thirty five junior secondary schools and dignitaries from around the country.

Launching the programme, President Kabbah noted that corporate social responsibility should be adhered to by all private entities doing business, and according to him this is what Celtel has injected into their business plan, giving a helping hand to the educational sector. He used the opportunity to appeal to Celtel to continue giving a helping hand to the field of journalism, more so when the need to train Sierra Leone journalists is ever becoming a demand.

“Journalists need training to make them better”, President Kabbah noted. He said his government has been able to create the enabling environment for telecommunication to operate. He also appealed to mobile phones companies to reduce their tariffs, which will inevitably yield them more subscribers.

The President informed the audience about the setting up of a telecommunication commission to regulate telecommunications in the country, a move which marks a great departure from past regimes which did little or nothing to put mechanisms that would ensure telecommunication in the country was regulated. So with this commission it is mandatory for all communication gates to go through Sierratel.

The Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Julius Spencer, who also doubles as the Executive Director of Premier Media, considered the day as a very special one in the history of mobile communication in the country. Dr. Spencer said Celtel has continued to provide leadership in the area of communication since it started operations in the country.

The Managing Director of Celtel, Ted Sauti-Phiri revealed that Celtel will commit four hundred million Leones every year to the educational sector of this country, which support will go to junior secondary schools, mostly under privileged schools through out the country. He said a draw will be organized quarterly to select four schools, one from each region which will be supported with ten million Leones worth of school text books and other school materials.

He said Celtel as true partners believe the donation of books is the best way to support schools and to improve the educational sector of the country, and as a result the company will do all in its power to help the people of this country.

He revealed that Celtel has entered into a partnership with the London School of Business Studies and South Africa Business School.

Twelve of the twenty six managers of Celtel have been sent to South Africa to do some management courses in business administration.

Celtel continues to take the lead in telecommunication and making life better within the communities they operate. In addition to the above, Celtel has also completed the construction of a school in Kpotema, including dugout wells.

The Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mrs. Shirley Gbujama told the gathering that the coming of Celtel to Sierra Leone has done a lot for the people of this country. This is because people can now communicate to any part of the country and the world at large. She welcomed the gesture of Celtel and described it as a laudable venture.

Mrs. Gbujama further asked that, if only Celtel could engage or encourage other mobile users to join them in this wonderful initiative the children of this country will be very grateful. She said government cannot do everything. As a result the private sector must complement it in the area of development. She thanked Celtel for such a wonderful initiative and appealed to them to continue the good work.

The Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Alpha T. Wurie gave a historical background of western education which started far back in Sierra Leone in the 18th century. He thanked the Christian missionaries for introducing western type education to this country. He noted that Government only came to support education in the 20th century when the Bo Government Secondary School was built for the sons of chiefs and their nominees. “In the fifties if somebody wanted to access secondary school education he was obliged to come down to Freetown, he told an attentive listening audience.

However when this government came into power in 1996, education was its main priority. In that year the government saw to it that school going children received the required education that would make them contribute to the improvement of education. Hence the birth of the Sababa education, Dr Wurie concluded.

With regards the partnership with Celtel, Dr Wuire said it will go a long way, especially with the sum of ten million Leones the former has given for the support of four schools. According to the MEST minister, Celtel is fulfilling its corporate responsibility in helping the school-going children of Sierra Leone.

The vice president of Celtel, Steve Torode extended Celtel’s greetings to all its subscribers, and noted that Celtel will be an adequate and valuable partner that is committed to making life better within all communities they operate.

He unveiled that Africa alone has over 17 million customers connected to the network in all the fourteen countries it is operating. He mentioned that Celtel has invested thirty seven million dollars in Sierra Leone alone, and promised the company hopes to contribute more, because it is cognizant of the role the private sector must play in the development of any country.

Excerpts of the statement by the Managing Director follows:-

Your excellence, distinguished guest ladies and gentlemen, from a list of under privilege school, the one school from each region will randomly selected every quarter to receive a set of books as recommended by the government through the ministry of education. A draw ill therefore be held every four months to choose ONE school from each region of the country receive books.

This morning, whilst reflecting o the world of B.F. Skinner a 20th century Scientist, I did realize that though he made his statement in 1994, it stands out to be still contemporary.

He said.

“The strength of great nations today is not the gold and Diamond they posses or the weapons of mass destruction that they have, but the sum total of the education and the character of their people”.

Your Excellency “Education is the key focus for Celtel’s community initiatives and a we believe the donation of books for education is the most effective way of making a meaningful contribution to the development of our country and making life better for schoolchildren across Sierra Leone.

The future of Africa depends on the children of today and Celtel believes that giving access to educational tools is the best investment for the future. We know that the government through your leadership shares this new. Celtel is therefore proud to be associated and be a true partners and citizen of Sierra Leone.

In this regard, I would like to thank our colleague from the ministry of education for their tireless effort and guidance on the project. The minister of education deserves special recognition for this passion and personal commitment to see this project through. Let me also thank my colleagues from Celtel for working hard to make this program come true.

Added to this, internally for our staff Celtel has entered into agreements with London Business School and Witwatersrand University of South Africa to undergo advanced general management programs. London Business is amongst the top 2 business schools in Europe and Witwatersrand University is a top university in South Africa 12 of our 26 managers have already been to Witwatersrand University and hoping the rest will have completed by end of the year. Consequent to this we are beginning to see our home grown staff takes position outside. We have one planning engineers in Uganda and another one in Nigeria.

Your Excellency Celtel this year has gone a step further in its partnership with the university here by launching a graduate trainee scholarship program for well performing university graduates, where thirty successful candidates will have their university education paid for by the firm to pursue post graduate studies in Telecommunicating at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM).

Your Excellency while committing that Celtel will lead the way in the telecoms sectors and give the best customer experience, we would like at the same time and with same passion promise to deliver everyday benefits to the communities in which we operate in line with our corporate strap line “Making Life Better”.

To recap a few activities that we have contributed to recently:

· Building a school in Kpetema Bo district

· Construction of water wells next to our sites in the provinces, thereby providing access to clean and safe drinking water to thousands of Sierra Leoneans

Celtel has created employment to tends of thousands of people through its distribution channel