Angola’s president has cancelled a start-up’s mobile phone licence

Local company Telstar was last week awarded a license to operate the country’s fourth mobile network

Angola’s President Joao Lourenco has cancelled a mobile phone licence awarded to a little-known startup company due to “non-compliance”, his office said Thursday.

Local company Telstar was last week awarded a license to operate the country’s fourth mobile network, valued at $120-million-dollars (106 million euros), beating 26 other local and international firms.

The tender will be reopened, said a statement from the presidency.

Telstar was established only in January 2018. Listed among its shareholders are army general Manuel Joao Carneiro and entrepreneur Antonio Cardoso Mateus.

According to Angolan weekly Expansao, the company has links to Mundo Telecomunicaçoes, an operator owned by several former ministers or advisers to ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

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The profitable mobile telecommunications sector is currently shared between two private firms, Movicel and Unitel, the country’s leading operator.

Isabel dos Santos, the former president’s oldest daughter — believed to be the richest woman in Africa — holds a controlling stake in Unitel while her half-sister, Welwitschia dos Santos, holds a stake in Movicel.

A third operator, the state-owned company Angola Telecom, which is partially privatised, has recently tried to make inroads into the sector.

Lourenco swept to power in 2018 after pledging to clean up Angola’s endemic graft, tackle nepotism, and revive its listless economy.

He is opening up the telecommunications sector as part of plans to boost the economy of sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil producer, struggling to recover from the impact of a sharp drop in crude prices in 2014.

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