New regime of digital inclusion and freedom across West African economies is set to begin from January 1, 2020 as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will scrap international roaming charges for its citizens travelling within the sub-region.
The move is part of efforts to promote regional integration and economic development.
Speaking Business Hilights Ghana Bureau chief in Accra, the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful explained that “In line with the policy, all ECOWAS citizens travelling within the sub-region from January 1, 2020 will not experience any international roaming tariffs, but roam at local rates.”
According to her, member state governments’ of ECOWAS countries were working to put in place the necessary legal and administrative framework by December 31, this year for effective takeoff of the free roaming policy.
She said due to the high cost of roaming charges, many people currently practice ‘plastic’ roaming by buying a local SIM or use the Over-the-Top ((OTT) services on Wi-Fi networks.
While stressing that the current dispensation records minimal volumes of traffic and this brings in minimum tax revenue to government, Ekuful added that “The ECOWAS Free Roaming initiative was proposed in 2016 and adopted in 2017, which would create much more convenience for ECOWAS citizens and create investment avenues.”
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful revealed that the introduction of the policy would revolutionize the communication pattern for citizens in the sub-region as testimonies from other African regions, where free regional roaming is in place show exponential growth in traffic volumes, with corresponding revenue increase and business transactions.
She said free regional roaming had given Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) more revenues and increased government’s tax revenues and “Implementation of the ECOWAS Roaming Initiative will enhance our revenue generation in the ECOWAS corridor just as it did in other free roaming zones. It will further remove barriers to communication for subscribers and grow intra-regional businesses.”
The Minister added that effective January 1, 2020, “The six cent surcharge on all incoming international calls will be removed for all ECOWAS traffic.
“We are in consultation with the Ministry of Finance for this to be done during the 2020 budget hearings.
“Accordingly, a Committee comprising the National Communications Authority, all network operators, the Ministry of Finance, Ghana Revenue Authority, law enforcement and national security would be inaugurated to oversee the implementation of the policy,” the Minister disclosed.