Members of Telephone Bureaus Association of Blantyre have said they are happy following the establishment of the Association of Telephone Operators Limited (Atol) because they believe they will now engage Atol on issues of concern.
The bureau associationâ€™s president, Hendrix Phwitiko, said this in an interview on Friday, arguing that there were so many issues that, as an association, they lodged with individual telephone operators but have still not been assisted on.
An umbrella grouping comprising all four licenced and operational telecommunications operators in the country namely Access Communications Limited (ACL), Airtel, Malawi Telecommunications Limited and TNM was formed on July 31 this year.
The idea was for the telephone operators to work jointly and speak with one voice on matters of common interest.
“We are pleased that the four telephone operators came up with this association because in the past, it was hard for us to work closely with them. We are happy because our concerns were not being addressed properly, but we believe that with the coming of the Atol, we will go to them and they will be able to address our issues.
“In the past, we have complained over the little profits we gain from our business of selling airtime for the four operators. For example, if I have K20 000 (about $80) and I sell units, the profit I gain out of that is K1 000 ($4). But sometimes the units are not sold the same day; they might take three days or more.
“But even with that, we still have to have transport money to come to town and sell the units. We are also supposed to eat and feed our families from the same money. So, it is really difficult considering the way commodities have gone up, but we do the business simply because we cannot do otherwise,” Phwitiko said.
When asked whether the association is aware of the concerns, Atol president Saulos Chilima said since the organisation is about two weeks old, they have not discussed any issue, but indicated that in the next two weeks or so, they should have that meeting.
He suggested that for now, the bureau operators should sit and talk to individual operators on these issues.
“They need to go to the individual operators and lodge their concerns because the bureau operators signed different agreements with different telephone operators and each of the operators can then see how best to assist them,” said Chilima.
Phwitiko, however, acknowledged that through these businesses, a lot of them are self-employed.
“The good thing with this business is that even with a small capital, one can still start and support themselves in whatever little way,” he said.