In 2015, we told you that telco Airtel Kenya was yet to renew its license with the Communications Authority of Kenya. Instead, Airtel was using the Essar Telekom YU’s, whose operating license and subscribers it acquired, in a buyout deal of Essar’s operations with rival Safaricom. Airtel Kenya was first issued with the license in 2000 for 15years, when it launched operations locally as Kencell. The company has over the years changed ownership and subsequently re-branded as Celtel, then Zain and now Airtel Kenya. Communication Authority charges included renewal license fee of Kshs 2.3 Billion, Kshs. 30.2 million for initial annual operating fees, outstanding frequency fees of Kshs 24.9 million and a penalty payment of Kshs 1.5 million from Airtel.
CA’s board eventually agreed to have Airtel pay the license fees for which the telco lodged an appeal with the Ministry of ICT, seeking to be exempted from paying the fees. Airtel cited an agreement made with the Communications Authority of Kenya when acquiring Essar which exempted it from license renewal. New information has now come to light that some members of CA’s board sought bribes from Airtel in exchange for facilitating a review of licence fees payable to the Authority. CA says it has evidence showing some of the board members solicited bribes. The board members, who lost their positions following the disbanding of CA’s board further allege they lost these posts for their insistence that Airtel Kenya pays the license fees.