Sierra Leone has joined Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Togo and Benin, in the West Africa Free Regional Roaming Services corridor. This was announced on Monday 16th December 2019. The launching is part of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 “Africa We Want” and the ECOWAS “Free Regional Roaming Services 2019.” The ECOWAS heads of state had committed to the regional roaming service by 31st December 2019. The Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara, said in 2017, Sierra Leone signed the block regulation on free roaming in West Africa, which was apparently approved by Council of Ministers in December 2017, in Abuja, Nigeria. She said the regulation aims at ensuring consumers enjoy free mobile movement when traveling within the 15 ECOWAS member states. The Deputy Minister said the ECOWAS free roaming initiative eliminates roaming charges in the sub-region and creates an ICT market within and among member states. She noted that the effective implementation of the regulation would enhance regional integration efforts, free movement of persons and goods and services of all citizens irrespective of their economic status. Ms Gobeh-Kamara said telecoms will provide services based on transparent and non-discriminatory conditions, as well as providing access to all network elements and associated facilities, relevant services, software and information system necessary to providing roaming services to customers.
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The Director General of ARPT, Guinea, Antigou Cherif, revealed that at the 3rd Board meeting of ‘Smart Africa’ in Addis Ababa in 2016, the issue of ICT and a united African Network was agreed to be implemented. This started in the Northern corridors, and expanded to West African member states. Cherif said in November 2016, six regulators from six countries converged to discuss the West African corridor. He revealed that 16th December 2019 is the new dawn in ICT for Sierra Leone as the country has officially joined the existing member states in the free roaming services making it the eighth member country. The Guinean Director General stated that all consumers traveling from Sierra Leone to Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Togo. Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast will benefit from 300 minutes or five hours of calls and people can roam like home with no extra charges, except for their normal rate for calls. The Director General of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), Maxwell Massaquoi, said the journey leading to the launch of the free roaming services was hard but mandatory. The NATCOM Director General said mobile SIMs from service providers can be used and no new SIM cards are necessary. Massaquoi said the services are aimed at reducing costs of roaming and international communication. He said all calls placed after a caller uses the initial 300 minutes, across member States will be charged at same rate as per the ECOWAS tariff, as well as the ECOWAS Telecom Act 2007.
By Mohamed Kabba
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