Charges for telephone calls across East Africa are set to reduce in July, when countries abolish roaming fees following a directive by the heads of state.
The East African Community Heads of State Summit in Nairobi resolved that, following the implementation of the One Network Area by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, all the EAC countries should harmonise their calling rates on all networks by July.
Calls within the network have already reduced by 12 US cents per minute while there are no charges for incoming calls since the One Network Area was implemented last year.
“We acknowledge that the high cost of roaming calls within the East African partner countries is unnecessary and an impediment to trade and communication in our Community. It is unacceptable that calling outside our continent is much cheaper than communicating within the region. In the spirit of East African integration, innovative interventions leading to substantial reduction of calling charges are overdue,” said Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
There have been ongoing negotiations to remove the interconnectivity fees charged by operators for international voice and data traffic, with roaming charges within the EAC to be cut by 60 per cent.
To meet the deadline set by the EAC presidents, the Council of Ministers has already adopted the principles and methodology for determining reduced, harmonised EAC roaming rates and a plan of activities that will ensure the reduced rates are in place by the set date.
“The implementation of One Network Area by Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda is an excellent beginning and this will be rolled out in the entire region,” said Uhuru. His announcement implies Burundi and Tanzania would by July be part of the network.
The One Network Area agreement between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda has reduced the charges for making or receiving calls between other countries in East Africa by 60 per cent through reduced tariffs for calling different networks.
The Summit, which was attended by the presidents of all the EAC member states, did not address any of the issues on the agenda, including agreeing on a funding mechanism for the Community.
The presidents directed the ministers to consult with partners on a sustainable financing mechanism for the Community and submit the final report in the next summit for consideration and approval in April 2015.
It was noted that the Council had revised the roadmap towards the finalisation of the institutional review. The final report will be submitted to the Council in April, 2015.
The initiation of a Constitution-making process and a roadmap for the EAC Political Federation were also pushed to the next summit, pending consultations among the partner states.
To avoid more delays in implementation of integration matters, the EAC Heads directed the Secretariat to provide the partner states with a list of all protocols that have not yet been ratified for expedition on ratifying them.
Key among them are the Defence Cooperation Protocol and the EAC Peace and Security Protocol. Kenya and Tanzania are lagging behind on ratifying the two protocols. The other three states have ratified them and posted personnel to the Regional Counter Terrorism Centre.
“The delay by the other partner states to ratify the Protocol is hindering implementation of Peace and Security interventions that draw their mandate from the Protocol and has equally stood in the way of operationalization of an appropriate institutional framework to oversee cooperation in the sector,” said the EAC ministers in their annual report.
Although all the EAC partners were commended for ratifying the East Africa Monetary Union Protocol, the ratification process was delayed by Kenya and Uganda. Kenya ratified the protocol towards the end of last year while the Uganda was last to ratify last month.
Rwanda and Tanzania are yet to assent to the Vehicle Load Control Bill (2012) that was enacted by East African Legislative Assembly in May 2013. The Bill is currently with Tanzania for assent before being forwarded to Rwanda for the final signature.
At the Summit, the EAC Heads of State approved the key priority interventions to be implemented over the 2015/16 as drawn by up the ministers.
Key among them are the establishment of the East African Monetary Institute and the East African Statistics Bureau to support the transition to a single currency; consolidating of the Single Customs Territory in the roadmap for implementation of the single customs territory; enhanced implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol; implementation of the roadmap on the constitution making process for the EAC Political Federation; development of cross-border infrastructure.
Others are implementation of the Vehicle Load Control; implementation of the Heads of State directive on prioritised projects in railways, ports, inland waterways and energy; preparation of the implementation framework of a liberalised EAC air space; preparation of a policy and regulatory framework for international mobile communications roaming services; implementation of the EAC Food Security Action Plan and Climate Change Strategy; harmonisation of higher education systems; conclusion of negotiations of the Tripartite Free Trade Area encompassing EAC-Comesa-SADC; and implementation of EAC Peace and Security initiatives.