East African countries to expand One-Network-Area to data, mobile money

By Tom Jackson

Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda will in the next year extend the One-Network-Area concept to data and mobile money.

Fred Matiangi, cabinet secretary at the Kenyan Ministry of ICT, made the plans public while speaking at the Connected East Africa event in Diani, Kenya.

The One-Network-Area was implemented following a directive of the fifth East African Heads of State Summit held in Kenya in May last year, with the four countries agreeing to cut roaming charges on voice calls and SMSs by 60 per cent.

Regional calls were exempted from surcharges applied by member states on international incoming calls, while additional charges to subscribers on account of roaming within the region were removed.

Matiangi said the countries were determined to “move the one network conversation to data and mobile money”, a process he believes will be complete by this time next year.

“We will soon have a proposal for central banks and national treasuries on how mobile money will work,” he said, adding that Tanzania will also at some point in the future join the initiative.

“The future is in the networks. It is all about interacting and bringing down the boundaries and making East Africa an interconnected region,” he said.

Matiangi also moved to defend the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s record on ICT since it was elected in 2013.

“We have a much a stronger, much more independent Communications Authority, and we hope that moving forward it will be more empowered,” he said.

The cabinet secretary said he expects draft legislation on critical infrastructure protection to be completed by the end of the year, while there will also be a draft local content policy. The government will also connect the remaining 19 counties “soon enough”.

“We continue to aggressively lay fibre-optic cable across the country,” he said.

Matiangi also urged companies in the ICT sector not to turn too quickly to litigation when issues arose, as has occurred over the controversial communications bill and the digital migration process.

“I would like to ask the sector to embrace conversation as a means of moving forward,” he said.

 

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