SADC Countries Unite: Mobile Roaming Charges Abolished, Paving the Way for a Single Digital Market

Review&Mail Writer

In a significant step towards economic integration, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has achieved notable progress in promoting free trade across the continent. As part of this effort, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana have recently agreed to eliminate mobile roaming charges, bringing the SADC closer to a single digital market.

Effective from August, mobile users traveling between Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana will no longer incur additional charges for calls, messages, or data while crossing borders. This initiative, known as the One Network Area (ONA), aims to create a seamless communication experience for individuals in the four SADC countries.

According to DW media, The decision to scrap mobile roaming charges reflects the SADC’s commitment to fostering regional cooperation and deepening economic integration. It aligns with the broader objective of creating a single digital market, which facilitates unrestricted trade and enhances connectivity across member states.

“The SADC’s move to eliminate mobile roaming charges mirrors similar initiatives in other regional blocs, such as the East African Community (EAC). Across Africa, cross-border travelers often face exorbitant internet and mobile roaming tariffs, hindering seamless communication and impeding trade.”

“By taking this step, the SADC countries are not only addressing a common challenge faced by their citizens but also signaling their dedication to free continental trade. The decision holds particular significance for Zimbabwe, demonstrating the country’s commitment to embracing the movement towards greater trade liberalization,” DW media said.

As the SADC continues its efforts to advance economic integration, initiatives like the elimination of mobile roaming charges contribute to the establishment of a more connected and economically vibrant region. By breaking down communication barriers, member states are paving the way for increased trade, investment, and collaboration, ultimately driving growth and prosperity for the entire SADC community.

A Businesswomen who travel between Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, Mercy Kachere said the removal of roaming charges will connect herself with her family wherever she is.

“This is good news to any citizen from these countries. As a business lady, I travel a lot to these countries to procure different goods for my stationery and textile retail shops in my home country Malawi,” said Kachere.

Traveling between SADC countries was very difficult as travelers were forced to buy a new SIMcard for network of the country they are visiting.

At times, travelers are forced to buy sim cards for networks of the country they are visiting, which turns out to be more expensive.

“Nearly 1.1 billion new unique users must be connected to achieve universal, affordable, and good quality broadband internet access by 2030,” according to a 2019 World Bank/UN Broadband Commission report.

This model of regional integration that SADC countries have managed to achieve shows that these countries are making their contribution to free continental trade.

Mark Setshwane, the director of business and development for Botswana’s communications regulatory authority, said a single digital market “is quite important for our region in many forms.”

Zimbabwe is also member of SADC, a 16-member country group that claims to seek greater economic/trade cooperation and eventual regional economic integration.

Zimbabwe has bilateral trade agreements with Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa.  Zimbabwe also signed the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) under the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) bloc with the European Commission in 2009.

The EPA offers duty-free and quota-free market access to all exports from ESA countries who are signatories to the EPA.

In addition, Zimbabwe officially joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in February 2020 which aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, eventually leading to the establishment of a Customs Union.

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