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Citizens from four countries in eastern Africa will now make cross-border calls at the same rates they
pay locally.

The move follows a resolution by the heads of State of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan during
the fifth Infrastructure Summit held in Nairobi on Friday to abolish roaming charges.

During the meeting, Kenyan President Uhuru
Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Salva Kiir of South Sudan said the
high cost of calling across countries in the region was a hindrance to economic integration.

The decision is in line with the ongoing efforts to promote integration among the four countries
under the Northern Corridor infrastructure summit referred informally as the Coalition of the Willing.

Information Communication and Technology ministers from the four countries made the
recommendation following an order from the previous summit to come up with ways of addressing the high calling rates in the region.

Calling rates in East Africa have been a bone of contention for businesses as taxes and fees mean it is cheaper, for instance, for a Kenyan to make a call to the UK, the US, India, Canada or China than to
East African countries.

Technology was made part of the summit’s agenda in October 2013.

Technocrats have been working since then to develop a policy document that could potentially see the countries reduce taxes on regional calls.

In an earlier interview with the Saturday Nation,Kenyan ICT minister Fred Matiang’i said member
countries had agreed to restructure their tax regimes.

“We are committed to bring down the cost of doing business across the region. We agreed to transform
the region into a ‘single network area’ which means we abolish roaming charges. Calling to Uganda or Rwanda will cost the same as calling from Machakos to Nyeri,” said Dr Matiang’i.

The ICT ministers from the four countries were given six months to put together a regulatory
framework that will enable implementation of the
‘single network area’ project.

The decision will be discussed by regulators and operators during an upcoming conference in Kigali.

As chairperson of the East African Community committee on ICT, Dr Matiangi was instructed to
hold meetings with his counterparts in Tanzanian and Burundi with a view to bring the two countries
on board.

The ministerial technical teams have been meeting since November and have identified various measures that would lead to lower calling rates.

“We hope to reduce taxes or eliminate them,” said Dr Matiang’i.

His Rwandan counterpart Jean Philbert Nsengimana said his country was committed to any efforts geared towards lowering the cost of
doing business.

“High calling rates have been a big problem and a major hindrance for business growth and integration.

“Lowering the rates will greatly improve our economic prospects,” said Mr Nsengimana last
month.

Under the umbrella of the East African Community,
telecommunication regulators in the region last month commissioned a study to provide a framework to cut roaming charges and spur growth.

The East African Communication Organisation (Eaco), the agency mandated to carry out the
study, said the findings would be released in September after which groundwork on reduction of
roaming charges would be implemented.

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