Exclusive: ECOWAS member states to abolish mobile roaming charges by March 2020

By Adesina Idris

London, Jan. 27, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Bearing any unforeseen circumstances, ECOWAS citizens travelling within the region will no longer pay roaming charges on their mobile line from March this year, Alternativeafrica.com can exclusively report

ECOWAS member states to abolish mobile roaming charges by March 2020
Image by Business Live)The term ‘roaming’ refers to using your phone while you’re overseas. You’re deemed to be roaming the moment your phone is detected on an overseas network. Currently, African Consumers are being charged a significantly rate for using the internet, making calls and sending texts while travelling within the continent, but that is about to stop.

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Roaming charges ended in the European Union on 15 June 2017. Europeans travelling within EU countries now ‘Roam Like at Home’ and pay domestic prices for roaming calls, SMS and data. The European Commission has been working since 2007 to gradually phase out roaming charges for travel within the EU

ECOWAS leaders at a recent summitThe decision to abolish the roaming charges was taken at a meeting of the communications ministers of the sixteen ECOWAS members states in October 2019 in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso

Therein, it was decided that by doing away with roaming charges and facilitate communication at affordable rate, the region would not only help “facilitate more interaction between our people, but more trade, more personal relationship as well as move us closer to economic integration to enhance the full take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area “(AFTFCA) a source said

To facilitate the effective take-off of the new platform in two months time, some member states like Ghana have already amended or in the process of amending their laws . “We in Ghana had specific legislation that puts a surcharge on incoming international calls, not everybody did. So we had to remove that law so that this framework would be implemented” Ghana’s communications minister, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful told Alternativeafrica.com in an exclusive interview in London

Ghana’s communications minister, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful spoke exclusively with Alternativeafrica.com in London (Image copyright: AltAfrica)While confirming the development, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said “We met in Ouagadougou, in October and decided that by January this year we should start putting in place the structures to enable travellers within the ECOWAS region to roam like home, you won’t pay more than the local charges wherever you are. So the roaming charges will be removed across board

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“Our companies are currently talking to develop the tariffs so that it would be uniform across the region. It doesn’t matter if you are in Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin Republic or Liberia, wherever you are from, you shouldn’t pay more than the highest tariffs the people in the country that you are pay

Full interview with Ghana Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful on abolishing roaming charges across West Africa

AltAfrica-What about roaming charges

Minister-Ghana is part of west African region and our ministers have met in quadadogue in october and decided that by January this year we should start putting in place the structures to enable travellers within the ECOWAS region to roam like home, you won’t pay more than the local charges wherever you are. So the roaming charges will be removed across board

our companies are currently talking to develop the tariffs so that it would be uniform across the region. It doesn’t matter if you are in Ghana, Nigeria, coidevoire , Benin Republic or Liberia, whatever you are from, you shouldn’t pay more than the highest tariffs the people in the country that you are are pay

But it is for the travellers within the region, we don’t want them to abuse these roaming charges because companies too have to make some money as well. we believe that by lowering the barriers to communications, economy of scales would kick-in, even more people will be able to use their devices more than they do currently because of the roaming charges and so it would even out and the evidence shows that there would even be net gain

We also believe that by facilitating communication at affordable rate amongst us will also help facilitate more interaction between our people, more trade, more personal relationship.

So we are looking at it from the point of regional integration, to foster people-to-people communication and to help build the links that would enable free trade area to also thrive

AltAfrica-During your presentation, you spoke about Ghana already moving to amend your laws to allow for this free roaming  charges, how far have you gone with others to persuade them to be able to do same

Minister-We in Ghana had specific legislation that put a surcharge on incoming international calls, not everybody did. So we had to remove that law so that this framework would be implemented

AtlAfrica-For you to do that (amend your laws) that means we are very close to getting this done—

Minister-Cuts in—Actually, we are. All the countries have agreed that from January this year, we are all working, all the regulators are working now, as we speak so by March this framework should be operational across all the 16 ECOWAS countries and not just Ghana

AltAfrica-For clarity, are we going to have the roaming charges free or at a reduced rate

Minister-You will not pay roaming charges but you will pay the charges as if you were speaking on a local network. so it is the roaming surcharge that has been removed. that was added to the local or international call rate but once that is removed it automatically reduces communication cost for travellers within the region

AltAfrica-How much integration are we looking at concerning the high risks of cybercrimes

Minister-There is a lot. We meet our Nigerian counterparts around the table at the council of Europe. We are all members of the Cybercrime Convention  Committee where we have to push for cyber security because we believe that is the other side of the coin of digitisation. You can’t digitise without protecting digital Eco system. We have come to it late but it is about time we focused on it But it is important as we increasingly link our systems to build improbable systems across the region. we are working not just with ECOWAS but with the Smart Africa, Alliance countries as well to share our experiences and even the entire African continent to share our experiences

We haven’t done too much but the little we have done has helped us a little bit and we think that if we all move at a similar pace we would be protecting our digital eco system as we increasingly digitise otherwise we are sitting dust

We may not be the focus of attention of cyber criminals today, but it is a matter of time, and before that happens  we should be ready
The post Exclusive: ECOWAS member states to abolish mobile roaming charges by March 2020 appeared first on Alternative Africa.

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Author: AlternativeAfrica.com

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