The State has ordered Airtel Kenya to pay $20.025 million (KES 2.15 billion) for its expired licence. This is if the firm wishes to be exempted from the rule that requires telcos to sell at least 30% of their stake to Kenyan investors by 2024.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru confirmed this order saying that Airtel must first renew its licence that expired in February 2015. This is before starting negotiations with the government for a waiver of the local ownership law.
Currently, Airtel Kenya’s is stuck in a court case with the Communications Authority over the renewal of its operating licence. The industry’s regulator insists that the telco must pay the permit fee of KES 2.1 billion to stay in business.
As it stands, Airtel is operating on a licence that was acquired alongside Essar’s (yuMobile) assets in a deal concluded in 2014.
“If they are operating without a licence, how do we even grant them an exemption? We are still in court with them. I cannot give permission if they have not paid the licence fee,” Mr Mucheru said in an interview with Business Daily.
“They (Airtel) have to go to the regulator to get a licence. The regulator will have to show that they have met all rules except that they are not able to find local investors if that is the case. Then the Communications Authority of Kenya can write to me for exemption.”
According to Airtel, the CA had agreed to merge its operating licences with the ones it purchased from Yu Mobile in 2014 for the KES 752 million it paid to acquire the rival firm.
So there is definitely a fight to be had between the two parties in licensing row that has dragged in court for the past six years.