Is Kenya aiming to encourage an end to roaming charges in Africa? If reports from the local press are true, the country’s ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru may be hoping to pursue this course.
As Kenya’s Business Daily points out, most Kenyans, like most Africans, prefer buying a local prepaid SIM card to stay connected when travelling abroad because it is much cheaper than opting for international roaming charges.
It quoted Mr Mucheru as saying: “We want a situation where data charges are the same through [an] Africa continental free trade area creating a market of 1.4 billion people to compete globally.”
There is of course already an African Union-backed initiative to remove international roaming rates in voice and data communications via Smart Africa. Smart Africa is an alliance of over 37 heads of state and government. Its aims include affordable access to broadband and using ICT in Africa to establish a knowledge economy.
The goal of the alliance is also to develop a digital single market on the African continent by 2030. It is seeking to abolish mobile roaming charges across the continent within eight years and to require operators to treat all internet traffic equally.
There’s no doubt that consumers and businesses like the idea of cheap roaming, especially at a time when the costs of calls to a number of African countries are going up, as are the costs of basic commodities like food, electricity and fuel.
So far, however, Mr Mucheru has not provide details of any concrete moves towards pan-African scrapping of roaming charges.