Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

The ongoing marketing competition between the GSM companies in Liberia is a clear indication that a market of competition reduces prices and produce quality services to customers. In this market, the consumers sit and witness the race between the competitors. Their role now becomes getting services for little or nothing and sometimes on silver platters. And the role of the service providers reduced from maximizing profits to customer’s search, at which time the customers receive much olive branches. This may not be the first of its kind in Liberia, but this is sufficient enough for everyone to understand the significance of competition in a market.

When the GSM services first came to Liberia with the Lone Star Communication Corporation (LCC) the only provider, we saw profiteering at its zenith. There was not a single day that customers were given ‘weekend credits’ or ‘toll free calls’. Customers were positioned at a complete disadvantage. No one knew that the mobile phone could be used to access the World Wide Web. It was even unimaginable to think that the price of a sim card could drop from 65.00 USD to 5.00 USD, in fact 3.00 USD, or to think that one could recharge a phone using only 65.00 LD. That was the market, and the Lone Star Communication Corporations was the only oasis in the communication desert in Liberia, therefore she speared nothing to profiteer for about three years without a single competitor. In 2004, the arrival of Cellcom, Comium, and Libercell set the stage for the competition. Now many averaged Liberians, or even below, living in urban communities can choose to use either of the four. Some people even move with two, three and some with all four for little costs. The fight has gone to winning residents of rural communities by importing mobile phones packaged with a sim card and other paraphernalia for amounts between 19 to 50 USD, something that in 2004 could not even buy the chip (sim card) least to speak of a mobile phone. All of these service providers have today exposed Liberians to lot of facilities in the Global Service Mobile community- GPRS (Internet), EDGE, multi-media, and so forth. Today, I enjoy a lot from my Blue Screen Motorola C113 mobile phone at the expense of the competitors, seeking to win more customers. The rules of the game are simple: ‘act poorly and remain poor’, ‘provide more and get more’.

There is a complete drama on stage now that has bedazzled the consuming public. A Senegalese born musical star, Alieu Thiam (Akon) has been invited to perform in Liberia on April 15, 2008 by Cellcom. This jamboree, though chargeable, is intended to create sufficient public relations for Cellcom and increase their market intake. This has been preceded by ample advertisements from both the marketing and public relations departments of Cellcom. With the competition in high flames, the Lonestar announced just two weeks to the AKON show, an admission free jamboree with local stars at the ATS another recreational sports ground. Considering the nature and effects of the competition between them, the economic preclusion here is that the consumers benefit the most.

Taking a bird’s eye view of the Liberian post-war economy, and juxtaposing the benefits consumers are accruing from the GSM market, one does not need to study Economics at doctorate level to understand that the more producers are competing, the more prices are stabilized, and the more consumers benefit. In our produce market, three commodities have always posed major problems to the stabilization of prices, simply because they are not in a full laissez faire- Rice, Cement, and Petroleum. The rice market was in the past dominated by two groups, the Bridgeway and the K&K Corporation both of whom left the market in disdain to paved way for an alleged pro-elite (government) Sinkor Trading that is today lingering with impotencies. Sinkor Trading has been perceived as a pro-government entity due to the way it enters and assumes monopoly of the rice market backed by the high power government delegation that went to welcome its first consignment at the Freeport of Monrovia.

If the market is allowed to operate freely, with more importers and distributors on the market, a competition similar to the GSM scenario will take the platform, and it will reach a point where importers will get involved in producing rice locally through mechanized farming. It may also reach a point where companies will offer pots or cook spoons for anyone who purchases a bag. Others may even get involved in offering after sale services of cooking for customers who may be too busy. Those in the petroleum business may offer bonuses to customers who buy certain quantities. And we should not be surprised if we have more producers or importers and distributors of cement, its price may be stable and affordable to the ordinary Liberia. Cement bonuses may come in the form of giving loads of sand or crushed rocks to buyers. This may sound funny, but the point here is that if the market is open and free, the forces shall determine the prices and the same forces shall determine the qualities.

No comments: