The Abidjan protocol on free roaming is now active across Benin after the country became the eighth nation in West Africa to enforce the regional agreement which facilitates a reduction in the cost of communication for consumers.
Flavien Bacahbi, President of Beninese Communication regulator Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et de la poste (Arcep) confirmed the development and said it delivered on the plan first announced almost two months ago. An excerpt from official documents reads: “Since Wednesday the 1st of March 2018, the project “Free Roaming” of West Africa is back in its active phase in Benin.
Following the signing on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 in Dakar, Senegal, of the Act of Accession to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Basic Principles for the Implementation of Free Roaming in West Africa the regulatory authority made implementation of this agreement effective by taking decision No. 2018-11 setting the tariffs for users of electronic communications services while roaming in Benin under the memorandum of understanding on free roaming.”
Bachabi says the new fixed rates for roaming in Benin will cost 130 FCFA TTC for voice calls per minute and 50 FCFA TTC for each SMS on local roaming (inside Benin), while a charge of 300 FCFA TTC will apply for international voice calls per minute and 90 FCFA TTC for every international SMS to other countries that are signatories to the Abidjan protocol.
Other countries that have already implemented the free roaming agreement in West Africa include Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinée Conakry, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Operators in Benin were given thirty days to conduct connectivity tests and implement measures for the roll out of the new tariffs, according to Arcep. The regulator further instructed operators to establish roaming agreements with at least one other operator in each of the countries covered by the Abidjan protocol.
Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and ICT across the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) approved the free regional roaming regulation for member countries in October last year.
Dr Isaias Barreto da Rosa, ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecoms and ICT emphasised that free roaming would impact the lives on people living in member countries positively when the decision was first communicated.
“This decision is historic and something expected to touch the lives of ordinary ECOWAS citizens and bring tremendous contributions to our regional integration process as we strive to establish a single digital market in the sub-region and as we move from and ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.”
Other African regional blocs taking steps to abolish call roaming charges include COMESA following an agreement in principle four months ago and SADC through its ‘roam like at home’ initiative which is yet to be finalised.
South African rand edged lower early on Wednesday as investors dumped risky assets for safer investments after a key advocate for free trade in the White House resigned, fanning fears U.S. President Donald Trump would go ahead with tariffs and risk a trade war.
At 0645 GMT, the rand traded at 11.7950 per dollar, 0.11 percent weaker than its overnight close of 11.7825. The currency earlier hit a session low of 11.8575.
Dealers feared the departure of White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, a former Wall Street banker, would embolden protectionist forces in the U.S. administration as Trump tries to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium.
“Currency markets don’t seem to like” the possibility of a global trade war, Nedbank analysts wrote in a note.
Stocks were set to open lower at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange’s Top-40 futures index down 0.81 percent.
In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark government bond due in 2026 was down one basis points to 8.1 percent.
Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri (Reuters)
South Africa’s insurer MMI Holdings reported a 2.6 percent fall in half-year earnings on Wednesday and said it would start buying back some of its shares instead of paying dividends.
MMI, which sells life and short term insurance, said diluted core headline earnings per share (HEPS) for the six months to end-December came in at 97 cents from 99.6 cents in 2016.
HEPS is the main profit gauge in South Africa, which strips out certain one-off items.
“This was largely due to weaker persistency in Metropolitan Retail, weaker profitability in both new generation and legacy life products at Momentum Retail, and an increase in MMI’s share of losses, in line with business plans on new initiatives such as the India joint venture,” the firm said in a statement.
Persistency refers to the volume of business that a life insurance company is able to retain.
Operating profit after new initiatives rose 4 percent to 1.31 billion rand ($110.79 million) from 1.26 billion rand.
MMI, which recently underwent a management shake-up, said it will set aside 2 billion rand for a share buy-back in the next 12 months.
“Given the current discount to embedded value, we are of the opinion that a share buy-back is the most efficient use of capital and will enhance value to shareholders,” said MMI’s Financial Director, Risto Ketola.
The group also updated its dividend policy to target a dividend cover centred at 2.5x core headline earnings from a cover range of 1.5x to 1.7x previously.
($1 = 11.8237 rand)
Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Joe Brock (Reuters)