DRC call rates increase – operators call for calm

By Issa Sikiti da Silva

Cellphone users in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are unhappy after being told last week by SMS that they would have to pay more for making calls from 28 February 2015.

“Dear subscribers, the cost of calls will evolve following the regulator’s decision,” an Orange SMS, sent to each user, said last week.

Tigo's SMS was more explanatory, saying that from March 1 the activation of 50 units will give the user five minutes towards other networks, and 10 Mb of data. Previously, the same amount of Tigo activation delivered 10 minutes.

Many people in the capital Kinshasa have this week voiced their concern to Biztechafrica about the increase.

“Why should we pay more for making calls? Don’t these operators know that the majority of our people are poor?” college student Celestine Mundele complained.

While some critics say the increase could massively boost operators’ revenue at the user’s expense, mobile companies have called for calm, saying that the increase is only minimal and therefore will unlikely have a negative impact on consumers’ pockets.

Orange DRC commercial director Johnny Kaniki told the press in Kinshasa that his company has put in place a special offer for voice, which is 5.1 units per minute for Orange to Orange, and 8.5 for Orange to other networks.

Nevertheless, in a country plagued by extreme poverty and an unemployment rate of 90%, the untimely increase has generated a heated debate in street corners, pubs, stadiums and churches.

Some sections of the media have slammed Thomas Luhaka, the vice-prime minister in charge of posts, telecoms and new technologies, accusing him of creating a climate of unhappiness which, they say, could lead to uprising.

However, Luhaka said he was only applying a decision issued from a December meeting with operators, during which it was reportedly agreed to come up with a unique cost to end the price war.

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