ECOWAS countries will from January 2020 scrap international roaming charges for its citizens travelling within the region as part of efforts to promote regional integration and economic development.
This means all ECOWAS citizens traveling within the region will from January 1 next year experience no international roaming tariffs but roam at local rates.
Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu-Ekuful who announced this Monday at the government’s Meet-The-Press series said all ECOWAS countries were working to put in place the necessary legal and administrative framework by December 31, 2019.
“Due to the high cost of roaming charges, many people currently practice ‘plastic’ roaming (by buying a local SIM) or use OTT (over-the-top) services on Wi-Fi networks,” she observed.
She said the current dispensation records minimal volumes of traffic and this brings in minimum tax revenue to government.
On the back of that, she said the ECOWAS Free Roamining initiative was proposed in 2016 and adopted in 2017.
Describing the initiative as “people-centred policy,” Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said it will revolutionize the communication pattern of citizens in the ECOWAS region.
She explained the experiences from other regions which have implemented free roaming in their jurisdictions demonstrate exponential growth in traffic volumes with corresponding revenue increase.
This, she said, has given mobile network operators more revenue and increased tax revenue for government.
“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,” the minister indicated.
In Ghana, she said the 6 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,” she stated.
She said a committee made up of the National Communications Authority, all network operators, Ministry of Finance, Ghana Revenue Authority, law enforcement and national security will be established immediately to facilitate the implementation of this initiative by the end of the year.