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.
ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and ICT have approved the free regional roaming regulation for ECOWAS Member countries.
The endorsement of the regional roaming regulation came during the 15th Meeting of the concerned Ministers which held on the 6th of October, in Praia Cabo Verde.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecoms and ICT, Dr Isaias Barreto da Rosa described the decision as 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”.
The approved free regional roaming regulation includes a clear implementation roadmap which will start at the beginning of 2018.
Also during the ministerial meeting, a number of other important decisions were also made to foster the development of the ICT sector in West Africa. This includes a revised supplementary act on Universal Access and Service and its funding for digital access.
In addition to these is a list of laboratories selected for the accreditation of DTT decoders in the region to ensure compliance with the ECOWAS adopted standards; Regional Spectrum Coordination Committee, etc.
Another important subject discussed during this meeting was the promotion of cyber security in West Africa and the ECOWAS cyber security agenda. This initiative aims at assisting ECOWAS Member States to develop their national cyber security strategies, to establish national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) as well as to improve cyber legislation and train judges prosecutors, law enforcement agents, etc.
Experts from ECOWAS member states had met in Praia from 2nd to 5th October 2017 preparatory to the ministerial meeting.