Recently, the GSM Association (GSMA) revealed that telecommunication will not significantly improve in Africa if governments do not reduce handset taxes, roaming rates, decongest the spectrum in addition to strong infrastructure. But how strong are these issues impacting telecommunications in Africa?

Speaking on behalf of the GSMA, the association’s head of mobile for development, Ms Yasmina McCarty. She noted that high excise duty on handset was making the products unaffordable to the majority of people.

She observed that consumers are subject to taxes on devices, subscription and usage, leading to the increase in total cost of mobile ownership and create barriers to affordability. In that regard, mobile tax reforms, according to her, would make devices affordable and have impact on number of internet connection, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and tax revenue.

Excise duty

Several African governments slam numerous taxes on OEM companies, telecoms operators and importers of mobile devices – especially those that are not locally manufactured. The taxes are seen as ways of compelling the OEM companies and others to focus on local production thus creating more jobs. But the GSMA observed that by imposing high taxes on importation of smartphones, prices of the devices are increased to adjust for the incurred expenses thus making it difficult for many Africans to be able to afford the devices.

Roaming rates

Concerning roaming rates, African travellers often complain of the astronomically high cost incurred when they use their mobile devices when abroad but with very reduced roaming rates, more Africans will be able to use telecoms services both home and abroad.

Congested spectrum

The inability of many African countries to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting has made it difficult for the de-congestion of the continent’s spectrum to be realised. But as African countries including Nigeria strive to achieve new set deadlines for migration, it is believed that more spectrum will become available for the provision of broadband and other telecommunications services.