Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi&Zambia Remove Mobile Roaming Charges


Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and Zambia have announced that they will remove mobile roaming charges for their citizens starting this coming August.

The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) countries have taken this initiative and efforts to establish a One Network Area (ONA) to move closer to a single digital market.

Cellular Mobile roaming is a service that enables mobile phone users to stay connected while travelling outside the coverage area of their home network. Before the scrapping of the charges, the home network, Econet/NetOne/Telecel for instance, pays the visited network, MTN/Vodacom for instance, for the services used by the user, and the user is charged by their home network, usually at a higher rate, resulting in high mobile bills for travellers.

The East African Community is also implementing similar measures, which the SADC regional bloc is now emulating to pursue a single digital market in Africa.

Nevertheless, connecting Africa’s unconnected population remains a significant challenge. The 2019 World Bank/UN Broadband Commission report estimates that nearly 1.1 billion new users need to be connected to achieve universal, affordable, and good-quality broadband internet access by 2030, requiring an estimated additional $100 billion in funding over the next decade. Innovative and alternative solutions are needed to connect the nearly 100 million people living in remote areas outside of the range of traditional mobile networks.

On the other hand, a single digital market is also viewed as crucial for regional integration and could potentially reduce costs for consumers. However, the report also highlights the challenges of connecting the many unconnected people in Africa, particularly those living in remote areas where traditional mobile networks do not reach. According to a 2019 report by the World Bank/UN Broadband Commission, innovative and alternative solutions will be necessary to achieve universal, affordable, and good-quality broadband internet access by 2030.

Ross Moyo

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