There is a problem on the line: While the mobile phone is king in Africa, actually using it is often a miserable experience thanks to atrocious service by providers.

Author:Ankomah, Balfour
Position:BAFFOUR'S BEEFS - Column

'Sometimes the best way to express your love for someone is to be critical of their actions'

--Anonymous, Ghana

On 22 November, my Zimbabwean friend who wanted to have a laugh at my expense, sent me the following BBC news item: "All four of Ghana's mobile network operators have been fined a total of $7m (5.4m [pounds sterling]) for failing to meet benchmark service requirements. Frequent call drops, calls taking a long time to go through, and poor sound quality were among the reasons Ghana's National Communications Authority punished Vodafone, MTN, Glo and Airtel/Tigo. The biggest fine of $2.4m was handed to Airtel/ Tigo."

The story went on: "Consumers have told the BBC they have faith that the sanctions will result in improved services. Worst affected are residents of rural Ghana, who even have to climb trees or walk several kilometres to find sufficient network reception to make and receive calls."

The bit that tickled my friend is where "residents of rural Ghana" have "to climb trees or walk several kilometres to find sufficient network reception to make and receive calls".

Of course that was an exaggeration that the BBC correspondent in Ghana, Thomas Naadi, spiced his story with to impress his editors back in London to run the piece. In fact there is no such thing as the "residents of rural Ghana" (meaning, literally all residents of rural Ghana) climbing into trees to find sufficient network reception to make and receive calls.

If there were any such thing, Naadi himself, who is based in Accra on the southern coast, would not have travelled deep into the north of the country to find a tiny village of 50 people, two hours' drive away from Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region.

Here, according to an earlier report by Naadi, broadcast by the BBC in mid-November, some of the residents sometimes have to climb into a tree in the centre of the village to find sufficient network reception to receive or make calls because they are too far away from the nearest mobile base station.

Please don't get me wrong: I am not denying that such things do happen in Ghana, but they are occasional incidents, not the norm for all the 'residents of rural Ghana', a generalisation that suggests that all 14m or so of them have to climb into trees to receive or make calls.

Fifteen years ago, when mobile network connectivity was in its infancy in Ghana, my village had one such tree in the centre of the village where, by some magic, network connectivity was...

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