Ghana: Gov’t Condemned Over Agreement With China’s StarTimes, Risks Broadcast Space To Chinese Control

The government of Ghana has come under intense criticisms following revelations that it has granted a tax waiver to Chinese company, StarTimes to the detriment of local competitors, and with the risk of surrendering its broadcast space to Chinese control.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George, also criticised the government for furthering Chinese interests for its decision to offer digital TV experience to some 300 Ghanaian villages in a tax waiver to StarTimes.

Mr. George, a Member of Parliament’s Communications committee, said on Citi TV that the “waiver is the most unfortunate thing which government can do.”

The government has said it is giving StarTimes the tax waivers because they promised to give some 300 deprived communities in Ghana the digital TV viewing experience. But Mr. George feels this is support that would have better served an indigenous company like K-NET Limited.

“So China Exim Bank and the Chinese government are supporting Chinese business by saying when we give you Chinese money, a Chinese company must do it. Now you are taking Ghanaian taxpayers’ money effectively; that is what a tax waiver is, because a tax waiver is revenue to the state. You are waiving that tax not for a Ghanaian company, but for a Chinese company to come and enjoy.”

Though Mr. George acknowledged that K-NET did not receive any monetary support when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was in power, he said the current government was “adding insult to injury” with the tax waiver for StarTimes.

“My government, that I was part of, did not give a Chinese company tax waivers to come in and do what K-NET, which is a Ghanaian company, can do,” Mr. George stated.

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The government first signed a $95 million deal with the StarTimes to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network platform for Ghana.

But the contract with Startimes was later abrogated over the failure of the company to secure the necessary funding from the China Exim Bank to execute the project.

The government then awarded the digital migration contract to K-Net, a Ghanaian-owned company.

But whiles K-Net worked on the project, StarTimes sued the government of Ghana claiming an unfair abrogation of their contract with the State.

The Mahama government set September 2017 as its target for the migration onto the DTT platform but the current Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has said Ghana is still not ready.

She then shifted the deadline for the migration from analog to digital broadcasting to 2018.

According to her, the project implementation process faced some challenges, hence the change in date.

There were claims by the Ghana Independent Broadcasters, GIBA, that government planned to allow StarTimes to take over the project.

But these fears have been refuted by the government.

GIBA in a statement said: “if StarTimes is allowed to control both Ghana’s only digital television infrastructure and the satellite space in the name of digital migration, Ghana would have virtually submitted its broadcast space to Chinese control and content.”

Report by Gideon Sarpong | WakeUPAfrica360