The volume of telephone calls between Uganda and Rwanda has gone up by 800% since Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda harmonised tariffs in January 2015 according to Rwanda’s minister of youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana.
Speaking at the Transform Africa 2015 summit at the Serena Hotel in Rwanda, Nsengimana noted that despite initial skepticism, the East African Community (EAC) One Area Network is paying dividends. Telephone tariffs where harmonized after a high level EAC presidential summit on infrastructure in Nairobi in December 2014. The Summit further directed the ministers to operationalize the One Network Area for SMS, Data and Mobile Financial Services.
Hitherto making the directive, the price of making calls to countries in the region was more expensive than placing a call to Europe, America and Asia. On average the calling rates have dropped from $0.28 per minute to $0.1 per minute for individuals and $0.07 per minute for companies. This has benefitted businesses across the region and strengthened diplomatic ties between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Nsengimana noted that countries in the EAC need to take a further step in promoting the use of ICT by lowering or scrapping taxes in the sector altogether.
“A 10% growth in broad band connections leads to between 1% – 2% growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth. This is a faster way of making money than charging taxes on the ICT sector,” he said.
Nsengimana noted that collectively Smart Africa member governments, namely; Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Senegal, Kenya, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast and the private sector have invested over $100b in ICT in the last 5 years beating targets of $50b according African Development Bank (AfDB) reports.
The Smart Africa summit, chaired Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, aims at devising new ways to deliver on the Smart Africa promise of raising $300b in ICT investments in Africa by 2020. However, Nsengimana suggested that the target should be revised at $1 trillion.
Francis Gatare, the CEO Rwanda Development Board (RDB) noted that EAC countries should consider locally manufacturing smart devices to increase digital access. He noted that Rwanda has signed a deal with Brazilian device manufacturer, Postivo, to locally manufacture affordable laptops and smart devices of varying levels of sophistication for pupils, teachers and other professionals.
Rwanda aims at being a middle income country by 2020 and ICT has been identified as a key component of their vision. The country has installed 4,500km of internet fibre optic cable and is installing 4th generation connections around the country.
Houlin Zhao, the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) pointed out that public-private partnerships are ushering in unprecedented growth in the ICT sector across the continent.