The Liberian Connection - Africa (1996 - 2012) - An Internet Magazine that Connects Liberians at home and abroad
 

TLC Africa

Article
Advertise

Email

Photos

Christmas at Myrtle Beach, December 25, 2012 - View Photos

Employment

Looking for a job in Liberia?

Hotels

Travel

Getting to Liberia

Real Estate

Have property to lease, rent or sell? List in our Real Estate section

Contact TLC Africa Website:

Tel: 231-886-605-933
Email:
admin@tlcafrica.com

Looking for a job in Liberia?

TLC Africa Employment Section is a good place to start

What has Ben Wolo done at LIBTELCO?


Ben Wolo, Managing Director - LIBTELCO

By Ciata Victor - Webmaster TLC Africa Email: admin@tlcafrica.com February 14, 2012

Recently I was asked by a young man "What has Ben Wolo done at LIBTELCO?"

I wasn't surprised at the question. As a Technologist who has made advertising a business, I know that even if you have the best product in the entire world and no one knows about it, it means very little. Ben Wolo is one of those rare and good products that Liberia has but few people know of his potential or understand his value to LIBTELCO.

As an insider who has worked closely with Ben at LIBTELCO for over 5 years, and on the ACE Fiber Optic Project that is ongoing, I would like to answer this question, not only for the young man who asked it, but also for anyone else who is interested in knowing.

Taking Telecom from A Dormant State

In 2007, when Ben Wolo took over as Managing Director of Telecom (LTC), the company was in a dormant state, with over 900 employees, Pension and Benefits to settle. The staff was large and unproductive, with no knowledge in CDMA Technology and forgotten knowledge in the operations and running of a technology company. Telecom assets were in ruins and most of its former sites across the country laid to waste or had been taken over by other GSM companies that were now operating in Liberia.

Being a State Owned Entity, the corporation was restricted from securing a loan to finance its reopening, because the country was under HIPC guidelines. With funding provided by the National Legislature, most of which had to go to settling legacy employees issues, in April 2009, Ben Wolo with a skeleton staff, managed to open the doors of the once dormant Telecom as LIBTELCO, the first CDMA-EVDO Technology company to operate in Liberia. This accomplishment on it's own should be congratulated -reviving the once dormant Telecom in a competitive GSM market, introducing new technology, with limited funding was no small effort. This operation was led and managed by Ben Wolo. With little money to accomplish the technical and administrative goals, there was absolutely no resource left for a publicity campaign. Liberians heard of the opening of LIBTELCO in a press statement in some of the local newspapers and on TLC Africa website.

Building a Microwave Network

When Ben Wolo took over as Managing Director of LIBTELCO, the entire duct system was clogged with years of sand, silt, and garbage. The ducts had been damaged in several places and all the legacy land-lines copper cables that made up the network, had been looted and sold as scrap years before. Manhole covers were long gone and the duct entrances lie open for more water, slit and garbage to go in to. With limited funding, Microwave was a first step for providing services. Microwave towers were erected and equipped to strategically provide service in areas of high demand. Today LIBTELCO's coverage area extends from Brewerville to Firestone and to Fendall.

With the assistance of his Director of Security and Asset Management, Vernon Scott, the cleaning of the ducts started and today, due to the efforts of Ben Wolo and his still dedicated skeleton staff, the entire Duct system has been repaired, cleared, cleaned and entrances sealed with new lockable manhole covers.

Under Ben Wolo leadership, the duct system that runs from Freeport, Monrovia, through central Monrovia to Catholic Junction is now being equipped with Fiber Optic cable in anticipation of the ACE Fiber Optic cable that is schedule to go online in mid to late 2012.

Under the leadership of Ben Wolo, a new Fiber Optic Backbone is being planned for Liberia. If the 16 Million Dollars needed to fund the first phase can be secured, the full version will be deployed within 12 to 24 months after the Fiber Optic cable comes online. The conservative plan based on finding funding is to create a fiber optic network around Monrovia, from Freeport to Red Light via Somalia Drive and from Freeport to Red Light via central Monrovia, Sinkor, Congo Town and Paynesville that will support true Broadband connectivity within Liberia for the first time .

In addition to the Fiber Optic Cable Ring around Monrovia, the ambitious plan in Phase 1 is to extend Microwave Fiber Optic links along Liberia's 3 major Highways that lead outside the city including heavily populated areas like Kakata and Buchanan.

Bringing Fiber Optics to Liberia

Several Liberian institutions were involved in the process of bringing the first Fiber Optic Cable to Liberia, but none more involved than LIBTELCO. This initial vision and tenacity to see this mammoth task to fruition was that of Ben Wolo; notwithstanding, the story of bringing Fiber Optic to Liberia cannot be told without the mentioning of several names, including Ciata Victor and LIBTELCO Board of Directors; Angelique Weeks and the Board of Commissioners at the LTA; Anthony B. McCritty, Finance Ministry lead, and Daniel Brewer, ACE Fiber Optic Project Manager for the Construction phase.

Some assisted with securing funding from the World Bank, others with approval and permits, but the entire effort from identifying the ACE Fiber Optic Project, to getting Liberia into the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) Consortium, to identifying funding to buy into the project was led by Ben Wolo and assisted by:

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Ministry of State who asked the Ministry of Finance to approach the World Bank to secure funding for project; mitigated problems within the Cable Consortium of Liberia and supported LIBTELCO efforts in bringing the technology to Liberia.

The Ministry of Finance under the leadership of Minister Augustine Ngafuan, Deputy Minister Tarnue Mawolo, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs under the leadership of Amara Konneh, and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications under the leadership of then Minister Jeremiah Sulunteh and current Minister Dr. Frederick Nokeh, all worked closely with the world bank to secure funding for Liberia.

The Board of Commissioners of the LTA were tasked by the World Bank with the formation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to own the cable landing in partnership with LIBTELCO. It was from this venture that Lonestar, Cellcom and the Government of Liberia bought into the SPV, forming the Cable Consortium of Liberia (CCL) the group that now own the ACE Cable Landing in Liberia.

It was LIBTELCO Managing Director Ben Wolo who first identified that a new Fiber Optic Cable System was being built along the Coast of West Africa. It was Ben Wolo who said he wanted this for Liberia. It was Ben Wolo who approached ACE on determining the criteria for Membership and it was Ben Wolo who approached the LTA seeking $40,000.00 to secure a seat for Liberia at the ACE Table.

It was Ben Wolo who identified that although LIBTELCO was restricted from borrowing money under HIPC in 2009, he could still secure the $25 Million US Dollars needed to fund a full landing station in Liberia through a grant from the World Bank. It was Ben Wolo who initiated discussions with the World Bank to secure funding for LIBTELCO and when the bank refused, it was Ben Wolo and LIBTELCO Board of Directors that turned to President Sirleaf, bringing the project for the first time to her attention and seeking her assistance in finding funding for the project.

Ben Wolo did not only lead the initial efforts, he is also leading the efforts for the construction of the project in Liberia. Again with limited resources and many challenges to joggle, Ben Wolo focuses on obtaining the objectives and not on publicity. On November 3, 2011, the ACE Fiber Optic cable landed on Liberia's shores. If it happened in Liberia, it started with one man's determination, supported by his board to acquire this technology for LIBTELCO.

Ben Wolo continues to shy away from publicity and focus on his technical objectives, but with the arrival of the ACE Cable under his leadership and direction, Ben Wolo deserves not just publicity but congratulations as well. There is much for Ben and LIBTELCO to be proud of.

With limited resources, Ben has worked hard and accomplished a lot. With the vision of taking LIBTELCO into the digital age and making it a viable Telecommunications Company with advance up-to date technology, and with versatile / open system architecture, providing comprehensive services nationally, Ben Wolo feels sometimes it is too early for publicity. There is so much work to do and with intense focus on accomplishing goals he postpones publicity. On the verge of bringing the Fiber system online in Liberia, delivery is the objective, not publicity, Ben believes that certain things must be in place before publicity.

LIBTELCO under Ben Wolo's leadership continues to find it's nitch in Liberia highly competitive telecommunications market, and although the company doesn't do much publicity it is really making strides and Ben Wolo continues to quietly work at attaining LIBTELCO's goals of making the Corporation viable.

Conclusion

To the young man who asked the question "What has Ben Wolo done at LIBTELCO?" I'll tell you, "A LOT! He is acquiring State-of-the-art Technology for Liberia."

I know that if Ben was seeking fame, glory and wealth, he would not have accepted President Sirleaf's request to rebuild LIBTELCO. Government job in postwar Liberia is no place to get rich, however, postwar Liberia is an engineer's playground and rebuilding completely damaged and looted infrastructure and systems, after 25 years of neglect, 15 years of war, with limited resources in a highly competitive telecommunications market is no easy task but LIBTELCO is well on its way, and like Rome it can be built, and it will be built, but not in a day.

As a trained and accomplished engineer, Ben Wolo options are many, but he accepted the task in Liberia and is fulfilling the commitment. Due to his tenacity and the support of LIBTELCO's Board of Directors, and the government of Liberia, fiber optics is coming to Liberia at least 7 years earlier then most people predicated. Although Ben Wolo is extremely media shy and a very private person, all Liberians should be extremely proud of his accomplishments at LIBTELCO and in Liberia. "Congratulations Ben Wolo - Fiber Optics is today a reality, not only for LIBTELCO but for all Liberians."

Do you know these FACTS?

  • LIBTELCO leads the construction of the Fiber Optic System in Liberia.

  • The minimum amount paid to any LIBTELCO employee, including drivers and janitors is $150.00 (USD) a month. Other organizations pay in the range of $75 (USD) a month for similar qualifications.

  • LIBTELCO Managing Director drives his own car and receives no other benefits from the corporation than his salary. While other agencies have cars and other benefits provided by their organizations.

  • LIBTELCO Managing Director has not received a raise in 5 years.

  • LIBTELCO Managing Director Ben Wolo identified and got Liberia into the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) Consortium.

  • Ben Wolo LIBTELCO Managing Director is signatory to the ACE Construction & Maintenance Agreement (C&MA) signed in Paris on June 5, 2010. Ben signed on behalf of the Cable Consortium of Liberia (CCL) ensuring the Cable Landing in Liberia.