Monday, August 8, 2016

Airtel boss assures new owners will honour media awards

By Kemo Cham
Despite the imminent change in ownership of the telco Airtel, all its current agreements will be honored by the new owners, Managing Director of Airtel Sierra Leone, Oladapo Olusope, has said.
He was speaking at the presentation of cheques to journalists who won awards as part of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ) Media Awards competition.
Eight journalists in all won in various categories in the 2015/2016 SLAJ/Airtel Annual Media Awards. They were presented their cheques at a ceremony held at the Association’s Headquarters in Freetown recently. The awardees had been revealed at the awards dinner held in Bo early this month. It’s sponsored by Airtel Sierra Leone, which is one of three subsidiaries of the India-based conglomerate Bharti Airtel sold earlier this year to the French telecom giant Orange.

Dapo, as the Airtel MD is called, said they were currently in transition, meaning that the process of change in ownership was being done.
In a situation like this, there are fears of loss of jobs and even business deals.
SLAJ had struck this awards deal with Airtel under its former MD Sudipto Chowdhury. Mr Chowdhury left the country under unceremonious circumstances.
Dapo was redeployed to head the Freetown office while a substantive MD was been sought. This was before the Orange deal was finalized.
Three people, all of them lecturers at the Fourah Bay College’s Mass Communication Department, were also each given Le31m, the equivalent of US$5000, as scholarship to pursue studies at PhD level.
That category had five openings, but only the three people – Tonya Musa, head of the Mass communication Department, Francis Sow, a lecturer and Mrs Williette James, also a lecturer – sent in applications.
Another category of the awards, a Le25m scholarship package for children of journalists, saw no application sent. This category is open for ten children of journalists who are in secondary school and five children in University  The package is open until the end of July 2016. SLAJ is encouraging eligible journalists to take advantage of the opportunity and apply.
This troubled SLAJ president Kevin Lewis.
“All of you know Airtel is going and I don’t want them to go with that money,” he said.
And in response, the Airtel boss assured that the agreement will remain in place.
The 2016 SLAJ/Airtel awards is the second edition. The first was held last year but it focused on the Ebola epidemic.
Lewis said the awards commenced initially with 10 categories, and that the plan was to progressively increase them.
“This is a practical demonstration of our commitment to improving the profession by rewarding excellent work and helping to train the trainers who will in turn train the practitioners. We thank Airtel for sharing our dream for excellent and better educated journalists,” said SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis. He thanked Airtel for their consistent support of the annual awards and scholarship schemes and hoped that the relationship between the two organizations continued to grow from strength to strength.
The Airtel boss said his company was “very proud” to associate with a program that promoted excellence in reporting and the education of journalists. 
“This is because, as a leading mobile telecoms company, we value professionalism and education. We thank the leadership of SLAJ for giving us this unique opportunity,” he said.
“Education is the most profitable investment for the future and an ignited mind is the most powerful tool on earth,” said Williette James, in a vote of thanks delievere on behalf of the awardees.
She added: “An institution that chooses to invest in educating future leaders is one that has foresight and bound to excel. Airtel have proven that their interest is not only limited to providing effective telecommunications, but that they are passionate in raising a crop of quality leaders. That is why they will always remain the best.”
(C) Politico 28/06/16

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