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Comesa members agree to remove roaming charges

Comesa members agree to remove roaming charges

From Lusaka, member states affiliated to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) have agreed to remove roaming charges on cross-border mobile phone calls in a bid to make communication in the region more affordable.

Although the legal framework and relevant timeframe have yet to be decided, if and when implemented, it will mean citizens from within the Comesa region will pay domestic rates for cross-border calls and text messages.

Head of corporate communications at Comesas Mwangi Gakunga said officials from 15 of the 19 Comesa member states resolved to initiate the action towards abolishing roaming charges levied on mobile phone calls.

"The ministers resolved to abolish roaming charges, a move that seeks to bring down the high cost of communication that has remained high in Africa compared to other regions of the world due to roaming charges," Gakunga said.

The ministers noted that Africans pay on average 25% of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita on cellular calls compared to 11% in other developing nations.

They also referenced studies in the Comesa region (2015 ITU report and Research ICT Solutions' report) have shown that Malawians on average use more than US$12 on airtime a month, which they said was expensive as it was more than half of what an ordinary Malawian earns per month.

The situation in Malawi is similar to Zambia and has forced the Zambian government to introduce a fourth mobile operator in a bid to trigger competition and force a reduction in the cost of communication.

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