Four East African countries early this week took regional integration a notch higher when they resolved to improve communication links between them by adopting the “One-Network-Area” by the end of the year.
Experts are of the view that scrapping surcharges on calls originating and terminating in Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda, as well as doing away with roaming charges within the four countries, will cut down calling charges by at least 60 per cent.
The new arrangement will not only boost cross-border trade on the Northern Corridor, it will also spur regional integration efforts championed by the Eastern African Community (EAC) partner states.
The latest addition to integration projects comes close on the heels of other regional milestones; the EAC Single Tourism Visa, the Single Customs Territory, use of national IDs to cross borders, and the launch of the East African Exchange, a commodity clearing house that is set to increase small-scale farmers’ access to the world market.
While a seamless communication hub is a godsend to ordinary people, the four governments must also fully engage regional mobile service providers so that East Africa’s quest to ease doing business sails smoothly.
Prohibitive telecommunication tariffs have in the past been the Achilles heel of regional trade because of uncoordinated interconnection charges between service providers.
Indeed a reduction in tariffs should not worry service providers as the reduction will encourage people to make more cross-border calls which will in turn improve business and purchasing power.