SADC ministers and other high-ranking information communication technology (ICT) officials in the region aggressively advocated for the finalisation of unified charges for home and away roaming charges in SADC mobilephone users visiting countries within the inter-governmental organisation.
This was one of the main issues discussed during the three-day meeting of SADC ministers responsible for communications, ICT and postal services in SADC that ended on Friday at Walvis Bay.
The gathering was attended by government ministers, regulatory authorities, broadcasting and telecommunications agencies, postal and ICT sector in the SADC member states as well as the representatives from SADC Regional ICT implementing agencies from countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Namibia.
While highlighting the challenges and high roaming tariffs that are mainly associated with cross-border trading, Namibia’s Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (MICT), Tjekero Tweya, said there is a need to ensure access to affordable communication services through SADC home and away roaming initiatives as soon as possible.
“Our region promotes cross-border trading and therefore we need to come up with unified tariff that will ensure our people benefit from it. When we say access to affordable rates or roaming we are speaking on behalf of the millions in our region, who have given us the mandate to put policies in place to improve their livelihoods,” said the information minister last Friday.
The strategic role of regional mobile telephony roaming has been recognised by SADC ministers responsible for postal, telecommunications and ICT. Acknowledgement has been made regarding the fact that roaming facilitates regional trade and travel has the enabling character to accelerate regional integration.
Currently, the challenge being faced by SADC is unaffordable International Mobile Roaming (IMR) tariff. With recognition that it is a challenge for an originating country to regulate the roaming tariff of a visited country, SADC decided to intervene at the regional level and seeks to regulate roaming services.
This would allow for better consumer welfare as well accelerate regional integration thereby facilitating the social and economic development of the region.
Also echoing similar sentiment, the Zimbabwean Director of Infrastructure and Services Directorate Remigious Makumbe said he is satisfied with the good progress that has been made so far with regards to the preparatory progress for the implementation of the SADC home and away roaming project following the decision that was taken in 2014 to reduce roaming charges.
“We have been informed of the glide patch, which mobile operators have already started to implement,” stated Makumbe.
The SADC Home and Away Roaming Project is being implemented in three phases.
The project so far managed to compile two impact assessment reports, under the development of SADC Transparency in Roaming Tariff Guidelines.
The reports are on the Implementation Status of the SADC Transparency Guidelines 2014 as well as the Report on Impact of Roam Like a Local (RLAL) and Recommendations to SADC.