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Africa: AU Decries Africa's High Mobile Roaming Rates
Source: The Herald
Source Date: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Citizen Engagement
Created: Sep 11, 2013

Nairobi — AUC Information and Communication Technology Policy Officer Auguste Yankey told journalists in Nairobi that this could affect the growth of inter-Africa trade. "We are therefore working with national governments and the mobile network operators so as to develop guidelines that will provide consumers with affordable services," Yankey said during a workshop on mobile roaming in Africa.

The three-day event was jointly organised by African Telecommunications Union, African Union and Internet Society to help streamline the high mobile roaming costs in the continent.

The workshop is expected to come up with draft guidelines on reducing the costs for mobile roaming in Africa which will be circulated to national regulators and operators to assist them in determining the most appropriate way to apply them in their own markets.

The conference brought over 90 delegates from 22 African countries development partners, private sector operators and academia.

He said Africa has emerged as the new hub for the development of mobile technologies.

"Countries such as Kenya has developed innovations that have made positive socio-economic improvements to the lives of ordinary citizens," he said.

The AU official said African stakeholders have suggested the establishment of a revolving fund by telecommunication infrastructure owners and operators. "This can be used to subsidize the cost of roaming charges within the continent," he said.

In 2011, the AUC commissioned an expert to study the mobile roaming rates in Africa.

Information Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i said that the need for cross border trade makes reduction of Africa's roaming cost imperative.

"In our view the best way to find the reasonable cost for the roaming is to conduct a continent wide study," he said.

Matiang'i said that Kenya's biggest trading partners are its east African neighbors.

"So there is an urgent need to ensure that roaming within the trading bloc is not probative to consumers," he said.

The cabinet secretary urged African countries to explore the use of market incentives that will lead to a significant reduction in the price of international mobile roaming.

"However, we don't want to create an erratic and policy environment that will disadvantage investors in the telecom sector, " he said.

African Telecommunications Union Secretary General Abdoulkarim Soumaila said that there is also great international concern over the excessive international roaming charges.

He said regulators, policy makers and users have often expressed concern with regard to mobile roaming especially with regard to transparency and costs.

"African nations are therefore developing international regulatory guidelines for mobile roaming prices," he said.

Soumaila said this will help to address consumer concerns and uncertainties about international mobile roaming. He called on the continent to develop a collective front so as to fully engage in the emerging digital world.

Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM) Africa Director Francis Hook said that use of mobile phones in Africa has been on upward trajectory in the past decade.

"Africa now accounts for 10 percent of all global mobile subscriptions," he said. "However, the vibrant mobile sector is facing challenges from high cost of international roaming in Africa," he said.

The director said that mobile internet use Africa is above the global average. International Telecom Union ITU Regional Head Andrew Rugege said that the internet and telecom has transformed Africa.

He added that mobile telephony is a catalyst for growth in the continent. "It can also be used to help Africa to realize its dream of achieving full integration," he said. "We are therefore for sustainable roaming rates in the continent," Rugege said.

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