Eight African states to abolish telecoms roaming charges

Eight African states to abolish roaming charges by start of 2021

04 March 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Eight central African states are looking at abolishing mobile roaming charges from the beginning of 2021 – a move that could also see them collaborating on access to subsea cables.

The eight countries, all members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), are Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (blue on the map).

It’s a project that has been in the background for almost two decades. Celtel International abolished roaming charges across its African businesses, and the policy was continued when Zain bought the networks in 2005. Bharti Airtel bought them – apart from Zain Sudan – five years later, and Airtel took part in a preliminary meeting on the topic in Cameroon in mid-December 2019.

The CEMAC council of ministers decided that free roaming should be limited to 300 minutes a month of outgoing calls, priced at the highest tariff of the visited country, with incoming calls being free.

There should be no surcharges on incoming calls, said the ministers. Some companies charge around $8.50 a minute for incoming calls.

The ministers also decided that, as part of the move, they should encourage direct interconnections between the eight countries and direct access to subsea cables.

Telecoms ministers from the eight countries, meeting in Cameroon in the past few days, decided to set 1 January 2021 as the date for free roaming to begin under the new rules. However, countries will have to sign bilaterial agreements before then.