Members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have agreed to abolish telephone roaming charges in the bloc. The bloc said in a final report that although pricing of voice services in many African countries was becoming competitive and comparable with the rest of the world, the cost of broadband continued to be out of reach of most people. It said that users in Africa paid on average 25 percent of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita on mobile calls compared with 11 percent in other developing nations.
However, many users may still be hit by unexpected bills, with operators providing different levels of geographic coverage and “fair use” policies meaning those using high amounts of data may be charged extra.
As part of the agreement, the ministers agreed to draft regulations to support investment in Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) as a way of enhancing competition. In Africa, MVNO permits have been issued in Morocco, Kenya, and South Africa. POTRAZ has been mulling to implement MVNO.
COMESA countries represent over 37 percent of internet users in Africa and the continent represents 7 percent of Internet users across the world, but the bloc only constitutes 2.5 percent of the world’s population of internet users.
Mobile phone calls and text messages can now be sent as they would back home, with no extra charges. If texts and calls are included in your pay monthly or pay as you go plan, it’s the same charge for doing abroad as doing it back home.
The East Africa Community (EAC) has already implemented the concept of uniform telephone charges. Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda have already implemented harmonized voice and SMS charges under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects.
The EU in February also cleared a final hurdle to cap the wholesale charges mobile service operators pay each other to enable their customers to use their phones in other European countries, paving the way for the abolition of roaming fees in June.