The delay by Burundi and Tanzania to implement the East African Community (EAC) Roaming Framework is denying East Africans affordable communication services.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have already implemented harmonised voice and Short Message Service (SMS) charges under the Northern Corridor Integration projects.
Calls to Uganda and Rwanda networks currently cost a flat rate of Shs350 per minute while calling Burundi and Tanzania is Shs1,050 and Shs875, respectively.
Similarly, it costs a flat rate of Shs245 per SMS sent to Rwanda or Uganda compared to Shs350 and Shs420, respectively to Burundi and Tanzania.
Implementation of the framework for the EAC’s harmonised roaming charges was one of the priority items discussed during the just-concluded 14th meeting of the sectoral Council on Transport, Communications and Meteorology (TCM) held in Mombasa, Kenya.
Sector players said application of uniform roaming charges across the 146 million people would ease communication and foster economic integration in the region.
Addressing the meeting, Uganda’s minister of state for Transport and chairperson of the Sectoral Council on Transport, Communications and Meteorology (TCM) Mr Aggrey Henry Bagiire, pointed out the critical role infrastructure plays in developing partner states.
“We urge partner states to put more efforts in the harmonisation of policies, laws and regulation in supporting the coordination work of the Secretariat to sustain the pace of infrastructure development in the region,” he said.
He recognised the various infrastructure development initiatives that are being implemented across the region, including the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) development projects and acknowledged the commitment of Heads of State in infrastructure development.
Also in the agenda was the consideration of preparations for the 4th Retreat of the EAC Heads of State on infrastructure development, implementation progress of studies, engineering designs and construction of multinational roads linking partner states, status of One-Stop Border Posts (OSBP), development of standard gauge railway (SGR) and improvement of the projects at the ports of Dar-es-Salaam, Mombasa and new port of Lamu.
In the civil aviation sector, the meeting considered the progress towards liberalising air transport within the EAC and approved a framework for seamless upper air traffic control in the Community.
The Sectoral Council directed partner states to complete the ratification of the EAC Protocol on Cooperation in Meteorology Services and migrate from mercury-based weather observation systems, in line with the Minamata Convention.