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BTC’s 40 Year Milestone in Business

Since being established in 1980, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) has grown exponentially while anchoring the economy as it has been providing Botswana with telecommunications as well as internet services and related communication products. Recently, the company reached a historic milestone when it became the first parastatal to be privatised, with 51% government shareholding and in 2020, celebrated 40 years of progress as the leading technology company anchoring the national economy. BTC’s success over these last 40 years can be directly attributed to the unyielding support from clients and the unwavering dedication of its employees. Noble Magazine team had an interview with BTC Leader and Managing Director (MD) Anthony Masunga to get insights on how the company has managed to stay a market leader for 40 years and still going strong.

“ Being in business for several decades is an accomplishment that calls for a celebration and we are immensely proud. BTC has demonstrated a sustained record of success and our 40-year milestone provides us with the opportunity to thank our employees and customers, publicise our success and share our story with potential clients.”

Masunga, who has been at the helm for four years as MD, was appointed at a time when the company was going through a rigorous transformation process. Masunga explained that upon assuming duty, he had two things to deal with, first being repositioning of the business post- structural separation of key assets to BOFINET and secondly; business transformation of a company that was previously a parastatal and now a public company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange.

“The first level of transformation was premised on stabilization of the commercial relationship between BTC and BOFINET which came about as a result of the asset separation activities. The structural separation included the transfer of the rights and/or ownership to some key assets such as international capacity on West Africa Cable System (WACS) and the East Africa Sea System (EASSy) and local backbone fibre network, and also the migration of BTC’s wholesale business to BOFINET.

The second level involved the transformation from a parastatal to a listed company which introduced new shareholders as well as changing the composition of board of directors in line with good corporate governance. Our business transformation efforts in this regard had to touch on areas of cultural (people) transformation, network transformation and commercial transformation,” said Masunga

. He continued to reveal that what BTC has learned from the last 40 years is the importance of staying true to its values and purpose. The purpose is what defines BTC and has provided it with the focus that led to the success the company is enjoying now.

“We built this business based on doing the job better than anyone else, listening to our customers, key stakeholders and listening to our employees. If we continue to build on the things that make us BTC, like our strong values, our quality of service, our culture of safety, and our customer focus, then there’s nothing but blue skies ahead,” noted Masunga.

Thus far, BTC has become an established player in the market and no doubt, one of the oldest in the telecommunications industry. According to Masunga, the company has a proven track record which projects continuous success as the country is experiencing digital transformation, which has been fast tracked by the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to the technical infrastructure, he added that BTC has done well in investing in the area of technology. Further to that, he explained that BTC has good governance and is focused on delivering good service and products especially on the digital platforms which is essential during the pandemic. Over the past 40 years, BTC has acquired the experience and in-depth know-how to ensure that clients get reliable and efficient solutions to cater to their needs, be it at home, school, work or on their mobile devices.

Nevertheless, it has been quite a journey for BTC and for Masunga, the employees have played a critical role hence the reason, the company is prioritizing their health, safety and emotional wellbeing during this pandemic. As the leader, at the helm of BTC, Masunga has made it his task to provide his team members (who he refers to as his family) with emotional support structures such as counselling services to deal with emotional distress and giving them safe and flexible working environment by offering shifts such as working at home. This speaks to why the organization has managed to build strong teams that deliver the highest standards of services across the country even in rural areas.

“It is due to our great flexibility, ingenuity and strong innovation skills that our company managed to produce positive financial results last year amid pandemic challenges. We remain resilient and keep our longstanding business practices which continue to yield innovative services that assist our clients during this pandemic such as doing online payments, online shopping on the likes of Amazon, offering online entertainment such as Netflix and Showmax, support for small businesses, enhanced mobile money services via SMEGA that enables clients to do international money transfers, pay bills, to mention a few. All these services are done at the touch of the hand and at the comfort of our clients, whether it is at home or at work.

Through the BTC digital platforms, clients are able to access online services and integrate the services from home. This has made it possible for the company to also close gaps that were available in the supply chain. “Although we have some positive new income streams such as the high demand for broadband at home, there are negative effects of the pandemic as the two -month national lockdown in 2020 affected some of the income streams such as airtime street Reseller income and corporate voice. However, BTC’s primary focus is to ensure that it behaves and acts like a strong private company by being very intentional with success and emerge stronger as the world is getting back to some sort of normalcy,” added Masunga

When it comes to future plans, he revealed that BTC wants to continue building its network, providing 4G internet services nationwide, offer competitive rates, host companies on the cloud via the BTC data centre, improve customer experience especially digitally and drive the digital economy of Botswana as fast tracked by the new post-COVID-19 normal.

As BTC has a footprint across the country, some of the learnings that the organisation has gathered is through reflection: leveraging on achievements such as providing the country’s most affordable and competitive digital services. The company has embraced the new way of doing business, looking at how it has been able to succeed during this pandemic. As a way of celebrating the 40-year anniversary, four cars were given to some lucky customers as a way of giving back to the community. The feedback from customers has also been positive, in terms of compliance of the company to COVID-19 protocols and regulations. There is less traffic in the branches and BTC continues to educate the public to remain safe.

For Masunga, going forward, BTC will have re-position and re-think its strategies so as to improve building digital services with urgent speed, such as e-government and engage in discussions with the private sector so that there are more investments made to grow the sector and the country’s digital networks. Government will still play a part with subsidies in areas where the private sector is unable to reach.

He also highlighted the need for e-education as children are now into technology through their laptops and mobile phones. BTC has partnered with ClassMate to drive this initiative so that there is a shift from children being captivated by entertainment programmes online to enjoying educational ones. Digital services also change the way of life for those in rural areas as farmers can use mobile money to pay workers or those working in urban areas can send money to relatives back in the rural areas.

Corporate social responsibility is key to BTC as the Company, always gives back to the community as part of its sustainable business practice. Masunga revealed that the company has been a true corporate citizen by empowering communities with donations to libraries, computerization of schools especially those in rural areas, contributing to health and wellness initiatives, as well as sport sponsorships.

The company has been making sure that everyone is connected to the 4G network countrywide. Through dividends payments to Government, the company contributes significantly to the national coffers. BTC is leading with the facilitation of the digital economy through projects aimed at improving lives of citizens of Botswana.

In conclusion, Masunga said, “Looking back on our journey, celebrating this 40-year milestone brings a good feeling. However, we are worried by the increasing theft and vandalism of our equipment especially copper cables in areas such as Tsolamosese, Mogoditshane and Lobatse. We are working with law enforcement to tackle this worrisome issue. After all is said and done, as BTC, we will continue to raise the flag as a successful local brand, educate our customers on cloud, digital services, bring them closer to us and break language barriers so as to have fruitful relationships with them for years to come.”

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