13 February 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
The Smart Africa Alliance – backed by all 53 African countries – has taken a major step to set up a roaming platform across the continent, with the aim to reduce mobile costs.
The alliance has signed a memorandum of understanding with
Seychelles-based revenue assurance company Global Voice Group
(GVG) to set up an African Regional Traffic Exchange and
Financial Settlement (ARTEF) platform.
Patrice Baker, president and CEO of GVG, said: "The ARTEF is a revolution in
not only traffic exchange within the One Africa Network
– lowering costs and improving quality – but
a significant milestone in Smart Africa’s bold
vision to stimulate economic growth by breaking down the
barriers to communications on our continent." The decision to
back ARTEF was taken at a meeting of the African Union in Addis
Hamadoun Touré, the former secretary
general of the International Telecommunication Union who is
now executive director of Smart Africa, said: "By keeping
Africa’s traffic in Africa, the ARTEF platform
will enhance the affordability and security of communications
across the continent while cutting the costs that operators
incur to interconnect and carry voice, SMS and later on data
and financial services traffic among African countries."
Baker added: "Lower call costs encourage business
communications, stimulate innovation, and drive collaborations
that can now take place across borders, bringing
Africa’s brightest minds and ideas from the
furthest corners, to the digital table."
Smart Africa – which is chaired by Paul Kagame,
president of Rwanda – said that the One Africa Network
is a free roaming zone agreement that aims at establishing a
harmonized African telecommunications framework to give African
countries the potential to make significant leaps in
development through lower intra-region communication
As traffic will be exchanged via regional nodes within the
region, instead of being routed via carriers that take it all
the way to Europe and back down to Africa, the ARTEF is also
expected to have a positive impact on the quality of service,
said backers of the project.
Mobile operators will directly benefit from easy online traffic
declaration and exchange and improved reconciliation and
billing processes, they added. "The ARTEF will enable them to
make significant savings in discount and transfer fees as well
as in collection costs."
Baker said: "The One Africa Network is a major initiative for
the socio-economic development of Africa. The idea of a free
roaming zone and the necessity of establishing a harmonised
African telecommunications framework has been discussed for
many years across the continent."
Supporters say that ARTEF will promote African continental
integration efforts, especially the free movement of people,
goods and services across the continent, and protect African
borders from telecoms fraud and grey traffic while tackling the
associated economic and security threats that such traffic
One Africa Network,