JUBA, July 19 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan has launched a state-owned telecommunication company in partnership with Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed.
Government spokesman Michael Makuei told journalists in Juba on Wednesday that the South Sudanese government will have a 25 percent stake in the company called Niletel and the rest of the shares owned by the Sudan-based business empire, the Ashraf group.
Makuei said the new partnership would help improve service delivery in the country since the government will have greater control of the corporation.
"We are launching Niletel at a time when other companies are at the verge of collapsing but we will continue to render services to the people of South Sudan because all the other companies are privately owned and we don't have a say in those companies," Makuei said.
"But with Niletel, we are partners and will have a say to render better services to the people," he added.
The launch came at a time when the war-torn East African nation is battling a biting economic crisis amid an ongoing civil war which has forced many businesses to shut down.
The telecommunication industry has been hard-hit by the crisis with the country's three mobile operators being forced to hike tariffs and shut down operation in rural areas due to high cost of doing business and insecurity.
Wafi Adan Hamdan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Niletel said the company is aware of the economic challenges facing South Sudan, but they want to deepen its roots in the country and intend to become the leading telecom operator in the next five years.
He said the company will start operations in major towns across South Sudan within eight months because they are still establishing necessary infrastructure.
"We have belief that the South Sudan economy will grow very soon because we have lot of communication going on. We know that if we don't come at this difficult time, we will not have a place when it becomes comfortable," Hamdan said.
"We are starting with phase one to cover the big towns. Phase two will be covering the rural areas and the third phase will cover the whole country within a timeline of 4-5 years," he added.