Safaricom suspends lower Rwanda roaming tariffs

By Tom Jackson, South Africa

Kenyan operator Safaricom has been forced to suspend proposed new international and roaming tariffs between Kenya and Rwanda just days after they were launched after the Rwandan government issued a directive introducing new levies on international calling and roaming tariffs between the two countries.

Safaricom had previously announced a drop in call costs and roaming rates between the two countries from October 1, with customers visiting Rwanda able to make calls to Rwandan networks for KSh10 per minute, a 43 per cent drop, while the same price would be applied to international calls from Kenya to Rwanda.

Ministers from the five states of the East African Community (EAC) had previously agreed to abolish roaming charges for mobile voice calls from this month, but the Rwandan government has scuppered the proposed lower rates with additional levies of its own.

“These new developments make it impossible for operators in Kenya and Rwanda to go ahead with the planned downward revision in tariffs. We will therefore revert to the previous tariffs even as we push on with efforts to ensure that we have affordable calling rates for the region”, said Safaricom chief executive officer (CEO) Bob Collymore.

“We remain committed to the effective implementation of One Network Area initiative by the East African Community Heads of State, which envisages the reduction of International and Roaming tariffs reduced to lower costs of doing business and deepen social integration in the entire region”.

Collymore said Safaricom had entered into discussions with Kenya’s Ministry of ICT and the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to see if the Rwandan government’s position could be revised.

Safaricom last October increased international calling rates to EAC countries, blaming the increase of taxes on international calls imposed by the Kenyan government. However, EAC discussions had looked set to result in roaming charges being waived, and Safaricom itself introduced new roaming bundles for customers travelling in the region.

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