Four Southern African governments – Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana – have announced plans for an end to mobile roaming charges for their citizens starting in August.
This initiative is part of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) efforts to establish a so-called One Network Area (ONA) and to move closer to a single digital market. Specific timings and technical details do not yet appear to have been published.
The elimination of roaming charges is expected to benefit businesspeople who often travel across the four countries for work. Some find it necessary to buy SIM cards for networks of the country they are visiting.
And of course businesspeople don’t just travel in SADC countries. One businesswoman, welcoming the change, was quote in regional press reports as saying: “My only request is that it spreads across Africa if communication on the continent is to improve, as it affects many business operators.”
The SADC is not the only regional bloc in Africa to pursue a single digital market. According to the Ecofin news agency, since 2014, East African Community (EAC) member countries have been implementing measures to harmonize roaming rates. Four countries have so far implemented the measures: Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan.
In February the EAC Sectoral Council on Transport, Communications, and Meteorology ordered Tanzania and Burundi to harmonize their roaming rates with community standards by 30 August.