The Zimbabwean government has decried the lackadaisical approach in implementing the cancellation of roaming charges in the Sadc region.
Addressing the extraordinary meeting of SADC officials responsible for communications and ICTs, Minister Supa Mandiwanzira bemoaned the slow progress made by the region in ensuring removal of roaming prices in SADC, or atleast a reduction.
“I just want to express my personal frustration with the delays in terms of implementation of agreements or positions we would have taken as SADC ministers at whatever level we would have taken. I think the responsibility is on most of you who are here to make sure that those decisions are immediately implemented,” he said.
The Sadc member states initiated discussions on this issue ten years ago but nothing has materialised.
“Please allow me to lament the slow progress that we have made on this regional initiative. It is difficult for me to accept that we have been trying to reduce roaming tariffs since 2007 (ten years ago) and that we have not registered good enough progress except for a few countries that have implemented the Roam Like at Home glide path for reducing roaming tariffs.
The exorbitant roaming charges in the region have dampened the region’s ease of doing business not only to consumers but tourists as well.
“I am aware that the current high charges for regional roaming are not only discouraging us as consumers, but are also a concern for tourists visiting the SADC region and businesses within the region,” said Mandiwanzira.
This, according to the minister, paints the region as the most expensive in terms of roaming services.
“This means that our competitiveness as a region can be compromised if we are deemed an expensive part of the world. Roaming charges are an important cost factor for businesses; it is therefore crucial and important for roaming charges to be reduced to enhance the competitiveness of the SADC region.
“We firmly believe that the path to greater prosperity for SADC lies in greater integration, within the region and with the rest of the world. Nowadays such integration is propelled by use of digital services, which must be accessible and affordable,” he added.
With other continental blocs having reduced their roaming tariffs, the minister said while Sadc initated the tals, there is need to expedite efforts in reducing Sadc’s charges.
“The East African Community has come up with the One Network Community, with the view of completely abolishing roaming charges. I am sure, we started this discussion and they followed us.
“The European Union has followed the same route and as of 17 June 2017 there will be no extra charges for roaming services within the Union. People will be charged the same rates as if they are at home while away from home.
“Ladies and gentleman this trend clearly shows that as SADC, we need to move with speed if the desire to increase ‘the ease of doing business’ in the region, through reduced roaming rates, is going to be a reality,” said the minister.
The extraordinary meeting of SADC officials responsible for communications and ICTs was graced by senior government officials and permanent secretaries from South Africa, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and other countries. Executive members from Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa(CRASA), Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) were also present.