Six African CEOs of the continent’s largest telcos have urged governments to establish new policies to expedite the positive and inclusive impacts of mobile technology, in order to address investment and usage gaps.
The CEOs made the announcement this week in Rwanda.
The group included Segun Ogunsanya, Airtel Africa Group; Hassanein Hiridjee, Axian Group; Frehiwot Tamru, Ethio Telecommunications; Ralph Mupita, MTN Group; Jerome Henique, Orange Middle East and Africa; and Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group.
The CEOs met in Kigali, Rwanda, at the ongoing Mobile World Congress (MWC) Kigali 2023, to discuss the prospects and obstacles for stronger partnerships with African governments, to achieve digital inclusion and mobile infrastructure development across the continent.
The CEOs’ announcement comes as calls are growing to urgently get African economies fit for the digital age through supportive legislation for the telecoms sector.
Mupita – who leads Africa’s largest telecom provider – recently called for balanced laws that increase investor confidence, promote innovation and drive growth in the industry.
At the time, he said: “Regulation is a potential massive driver of the growth and transformation of the industry. The regulatory frameworks that we have had over the last 20 years have served us very well. They were designed in the transition era from voice to data, basically from 2G to 3G technology.
“But these regulatory frameworks are not fit for the future, and without change, will keep Africa behind as the rest of the world advances. They are based on a belief that you need four to five, or even six player markets when we see consolidation globally in many markets.”
Fast forward to this week, the CEOs met with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, MWC host and chairman of the Smart Africa board, who was accompanied by Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s minister of information, communications and innovation.
The CEO group said in a statement: “Success is a team game. And further political support, across the continent, is essential to register meaningful progress.
“This includes facilitating the right market structures and conditions to avoid unnecessary fragmentation, and policies that support the investment environment needed for success.”
The CEOs went on to call upon African leaders and policymakers to partner them on digital development with the mobile industry by reimagining existing structures.
The group said there must be tax rationalisation for the mobile industry through the development of targeted fiscal policy reforms that support economic growth and digital development, deepening digital and financial inclusion, and aligned with national targets; for example, removal of tax on low-cost smartphones and sector-specific tax.
Secondly, they are seeking regulatory support to implement the recommendations of the UN Broadband Commission’s ‘21st Century Financing Models for Bridging Broadband Connectivity Gaps’.
The third plea from the CEOs was on climate action policies, which they said must improve access to renewable electricity for corporate buyers, as this is essential for the mobile industry to achieve its climate targets.
“Together, we believe passionately in the power of mobile to act as a catalyst for economic and social inclusion across Africa. We extend an open invitation to other African heads of state to engage with us in driving solutions that focus on deepening digital and financial inclusion in the continent for the benefit of all African citizens,” the group said.