East African citizens will soon be able to make and receive calls across several African countries at reduced rates following a decision by several African states to implement the One Africa Network.
The decision, that is binding to 11 countries across Africa, was reached Monday at a high-level meeting of ICT Ministers and Regulators convened under the Smart Africa Initiative.
The implementing countries include; Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Uganda, Senegal, South Sudan, Chad, Rwanda and Burkina Faso.
Among other developments, the implementation of the One Africa Network will see harmonisation of tariffs on mobile voice calls, SMS and data transmission within the 11 countries.
International traffic among Smart Africa member countries will also be tax exempt, consequently bringing down the calling costs.
The ministers’ meeting also agreed on scraping charges incurred when receiving calls while roaming, meaning that someone will be only be required to pay the domestic rates for making calls.
Implementation is set to start in May with a report on the initiative to be presented during the African Union summit slated for July in Kigali.
Dr Hamadoun Touré, the executive director of Smart Africa Secretariat, said that this initiative will bring the continent towards the goal of integration as desired by the founding of the African Union.
“This initiative is certainly a step up towards greater integration of the African continent. I appeal to all other countries of the African Union to join this initiative as soon as possible,” he said.
“Ultimately, regional integration is about bringing people together and creating environments conducive for tangible gains and inclusive growth.”
The development follows the One Network Area implemented by Northern Corridor of East Africa constituting Kenya, Uganda South Sudan and Rwanda.
The East African Community One Network Area, which began in October 2014 has resulted into significant increase in traffic and more revenues for telecom operators.
According to the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the impact has so far reduced the cost of doing business across the region and brought citizens closer.
“The impact has been very huge; for instance the traffic has grown by 800 per cent, that’s for the case between Rwanda and Uganda; between Rwanda and Kenya it has grown by 400 per cent, and finally between Rwanda and South Sudan it has grown by over 1m000 per cent which used to be non-existent,” Nsengimana said.
“Here we are also talking about the permanent increase,” the minister added.
Previously, making calls across the EAC was in some instances as expensive as calling Europe, America or Asia.