The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will from January 2020 scrap international roaming charges for its citizens travelling within the sub-region, as part of efforts to promote regional integration and economic development.
This implies that all ECOWAS citizens travelling within the sub-region from January 1, 2020 will not experience any international roaming tariffs, but roam at local rates.
Ghana’s Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful, announced this when she took her turn at the Meet-the-Press in Accra on Monday (October 14, 2019).
She said governments’ of all ECOWAS countries were working to put in place the necessary legal and administrative framework by December 31, this year.
She said due to the high cost of roaming charges, many people currently practice ‘plastic’ roaming by buying a local SIM or use the Over-the-Top ((OTT) services on Wi-Fi networks.
She said the current dispensation records minimal volumes of traffic and this brings in minimum tax revenue to government.
In view of that, she said, the ECOWAS Free Roaming initiative was proposed in 2016 and adopted in 2017, which would create much more convenience for ECOWAS citizens and create investment avenues.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the introduction of the policy would revolutionize the communication pattern for citizens in the sub-region.
She explained that the experiences from other regions, which have implemented free roaming in their various jurisdictions demonstrated exponential growth in traffic volumes, with corresponding revenue increase.
According to the Minister, it had given Mobile Network Operators more revenues and increased government’s tax revenues.
“Implementation of the ECOWAS Roaming Initiative will enhance our revenue generation in the ECOWAS corridor similar to that experienced in other free roaming zones and remove barriers to communication for subscribers,” Mrs Owusu Ekuful said.
In Ghana, she said, the six-cent surcharge on all incoming international calls will be removed for all ECOWAS traffic.
“We are in consultation with the Ministry of Finance for this to be done during the 2020 budget hearings,” the Minister stated.
She announced that a Committee comprising the National Communications Authority, all network operators, the Ministry of Finance, Ghana Revenue Authority, law enforcement and national security would be inaugurated to oversee the implementation of the policy.