West African States Cement Free Roaming Agreement

Member countries affiliated to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have brokered an agreement which effectively means that subscribers will no longer incur roaming charges from January 2020.

In preparation for this new policy, the communications ministry in Ghana is consulting with the finance ministry and plans to announce the removal of the current 6% surcharge on all incoming international calls for all ECOWAS traffic.

Ghana’s communications minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful confirmed the introduction of the ECOWAS Roaming Initiative and said: “All ECOWAS countries are working to put in place the necessary legal and administrative framework by December 31, 2019.”

She said the current roaming charges are responsible for low volumes of traffic resulting reduced tax revenue to government.

“Due to the high cost of roaming charges, many people currently practice ‘plastic’ roaming (by buying a local SIM) or use OTT (over-the-top) services on Wi-Fi networks.”

According to Owusu-Ekuful the ECOWAS Roaming Initiative will enhance revenue generation in the ECOWAS corridor and remove barriers to communication for subscribers.

Central Africa advances

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) is also focused on addressing the region’s high roaming tariffs.

The Assembly of Telecommunication Regulators of Central Africa (ARTAC), in collaboration with the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP), recently hosted a workshop in N’Djamena, Chad, to deliberate on affordable or free roaming in Central Africa.

ARCEP’s Deputy Director General, Youssouf Mahamat Saleh Annadif, argued that the roaming tariffs by operators in the ECCAS zone are high compared to those currently underway in the other sub-regions.

“This situation challenges us because it hinders the use of electronic communications services and we need to work closely with industry operators to address them.”