Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zambia Reduces International Gateway Fees

A very interesting development as reported by Zambia's Lusaka Times. This is a further testimony to the commitment many African countries have towards reducing the cost of communications services as one way of stimulating investment, economic growth and development. The full article follows:
The Zambian government has finally reduced its international gateway license fee from US$12 million to $350,000 in a bid to attract international investment in the country’s telecom sector and reduce the high cost of communications.

The new gateway license fee puts Zambia at the same level as other countries in the region including Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, which are experiencing massive investment in the telecom sector. International gateway fees are $214, 000 in Kenya and $50,000 in Uganda.

Private mobile operators in Zambia and other telecom sector stakeholders — including Zain, the World Bank, and the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). — had been expressing concern at the high cost of doing business in Zambia.

The decision to lower gateway fees comes in the wake of the government sale of Zamtel, which controlled the gateway and charged private operators high fees for its satellite system. Zamtel has been sold to Libya’s LAP Green Networks in a bid by the Zambian government to level the playing ground in international call services.

“The move by the Zambian government would enhance the performance of the telecom sector because high tariffs put pressure on customers’ pockets,” said Walter Tapfumanei, communications officer for Africa Agency for ICT Development.

Despite the reduction in international connection fees, the high user tariffs are not expected to decrease anytime soon, since the Zambian government has not come up with a law to govern the use of the gateways. Service providers are still using the old tariffs for international calls as they wait for the enactment of the new law that the Zambian government has drafted to guide service providers on the use of the gateways. The new law is yet to be presented to Parliament for approval, which might take months.

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