Malawi explores initiatives for rural mobile roll-out

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

The Government of Malawi is exploring ways and means to reach out to the far-flung areas with mobile phone service communication in line with the country’s revised Communications Act.

The Government which is to achieve this through the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) plans to set up a Universal Access Fund (UAF).

Macra communications officer Clara Mulonya said the fund is going to assist telecommunication operators in their provision of services to areas that are not only difficult to reach but also unfeasible economically.

“The fund is expected to facilitate the provision of services to those areas where operators are currently facing challenges to provide services,” she said.

Mulonya noted that there are challenges associated with the provision of services in some areas due to such factors as limited access, lack of energy sources and economic non-viability.

She said the fund is set up; there will be a specialised committee responsible for the evaluation of areas that are currently not served to determine the needs of such areas.

According to Macra, after identification and determination of the value of investment needed to provide services in such areas, incentives shall be provided to operators so that they provide services in the areas and serve the communities in such areas, removing the burden on operators having to provide services on their own cost since.

The announcement from government coincides with calls from one of the country’s mobile network operators that government should to set up a fund from the levies that are collected by MACRA which would be used for social purposes, including the development of coverage in rural areas.

TNM board Chairperson Matthews Chikaonda, speaking after the company’s 19th Annual General Meeting (AGM) bemoaned conditions in their renewed licence which obliges them to provide coverage within Malawi in both rural and urban areas without any discrimination.

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