KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said telecom firm MTN Uganda needs to sell shares on the local stock exchange to facilitate domestic ownership of the company and ensure more of the money it earns stays in the country.
A unit of South Africa’s MTN Group, the company is the East African country’s largest telecommunications firm, controlling a subscriber base of more than 10 million.
However, relations between MTN Uganda and authorities have become strained after the country this week deported two of its executives after accusations they were compromising national security.
Museveni made the comments while meeting MTN Group’s President and CEO Rob Shuter on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“It is important that you float shares on the local stock exchange to allow for local ownership,” Museveni was quoted as telling Shuter, according to a statement from his office on Thursday.
Museveni accused some unnamed telecoms companies of dodging taxes by under-declaring the volume of calls and that his government had bought machines that helped detect such activity.
Museveni also said telecommunication firms in Africa, which are often foreign owned, repatriate profits back home to the detriment of local economies.
“You should foresee these trade deficits. More locally owned companies should be allowed to earn money so that most of it remains here,” he said.
MTN Uganda did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The statement from the president’s office quoted Shuter as saying the firm was in negotiations with a Ugandan state-controlled National Social Security Fund (NSSF) for a possible sale of shares to the fund.
There was no confirmation from MTN.
MTN is in negotiations with Ugandan authorities for a ten-year extension of its operating license after it expired in October last year but there has been disagreements over the amount of licence fees to be paid.
Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Omar Mohammed/Keith Weir