The Founder and CEO of XOOM Wireless, Kalifa M. Faal has defended the multi-million dollar acquisition of his company by Senegal’s telecoms giant, Sonatel.
The deal between Senegal’s principal telecommunications provider and XOOM Wireless which holds an Internet Service Provider (ISP) license in the Gambia was signed early April. Under the deal, Sonatel acquired 91.6% of the share capital of XOOM Wireless.
Since the announcement of the acquisition of XOOM Wireless, some Gambians have taken to the social media to question the sincerity of the deal. A popular social media platform suggested that the deal was initiated by the government to get Senegal into the Gambian market. Commentators questioned why and how XOOM Wireless, a company that has not taken off the ground could attract a multi-million dollar acquisition.
But in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, Faal denied any suggestion that he was used to get Sonatel to the Gambian market. “If you look at the global market and around the world, the trend is that you partner with people to get projects done. For us, our goal was to implement our project and to connect our people. I was never used.”
Faal said as a young entrepreneur, other Gambians should use him as an example to work with foreign partners. He argued that “for a long time people before us in the business community were partnering with foreign investors the way this deal has happened.”
“It shows the youth that you don’t have to sit there and say ‘I don’t have the money’. When you build a business and build it right, people will come,” he said.
According to Faal, what matters is how Gambians benefit from projects and not the nationality of the foreign partners. He also dismissed the questioning of the small size of XOOM Wireless before the acquisition, arguing that companies such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram “were nothing when they were being bought billions of dollars.”
“What really matters is that the license is valuable. You just don’t go to a store and buy it. You have to go through a process and we went through that process.”
“The problem is; most businesses do not build themselves to be sold, from what I’ve seen in The Gambia. So it makes it very difficult for a company to come and try to buy into another business.”
Faal added that Xoom Wireless was built in a shell and was made to look good for any investor to buy. “I knew that I couldn’t finance it myself. So I was going to bring in people to put together and believing that I could implement this project.”
Faal said the acquisition process was transparent and XOOM went through rigorous due diligence, adding that Sonatel knew what they were doing.
According to him, Sonatel would bring in the network, infrastructure, expertise, technology and the management know-how to be able to deliver to the Gambian customers.
In a press release Monday, Sonatel said “the planned investments in the coming years in The Gambia will allow the people to benefit from the expertise and dynamism of the Sonatel and Orange Groups in terms of innovation and development of the digital ecosystem.”
Sonatel is active in fixed line telephony, mobile telephony, internet service, television and corporate telecommunications. It’s also involved in the construction of fiber optics networks in Africa and has market shares Mali, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone.