Today, A4AI hosted our first in-country meeting in Maputo. In many ways, this meeting was a first for our growing Alliance – our first meeting in a Portuguese-speaking country and our first time working in a SADC nation. We were delighted to have about 70 key local players in the room, with representatives from The National Communications Institute of Mozambique (INCM), Vodacom, mCel, Internet Solutions, The Science Innovation and Information and Communication Technology Research Institution (SIITRI), The Informatics Centre at Eduardo Mondlane University (CIUEM), The Association of Women in the Media (AMCS) and many more helping to spark the discussions.
Our overall impression was this: despite regional variations, the broad frustrations expressed and challenges identified mirrored those we hear in Ghana, Nigeria and indeed around the world. Spectrum allocation and costs came under the spotlight. Taxation of the ICT sector – particularly taxes on devices – was another hot topic, with a number of attendees suggesting that the Kenyan model of zero-import tax could help to drive costs down and increase penetration. The need for additional infrastructure, developed on an open access basis, also cropped up time and again. In Mozambique, the need for progress is stark – today less than 5% of Mozambicans use the Internet – in Kenya and Uganda those numbers are 32% and 17% respectively.
After intense discussion, attendees agreed that A4AI should prioritise three key areas in our work with Mozambique: enhancing data collection and reporting, advising on policies to accelerate infrastructure investment and sharing, and working to identify ways to reduce the tax burden on the ICT sector. In addition, participants made useful suggestions to address current challenges around the Universal Service Fund effectiveness, spectrum policy and competitive dynamics in the market. All agreed that policy and regulatory reform – tailored to accurately reflect local realities – was key to unlocking rapid progress and driving down prices for Mozambican citizens.
Although overcoming the challenges identified will require hard work and collaboration, there was a real air of optimism in the room at the end of the day. A national coalition is to be formed, and working groups will spend the next quarter working on concrete solutions to the issues identified, before reporting back at our next gathering.
Most pleasingly though, there is a clear will to work together and get things done. Perhaps Hermann Woithe, CEO of Internet Solutions Mozambique summed it up best when he said: “Today could be the start of a new wave of thinking on this issue. We all have our own agendas, but if we can all come together and work hand in hand, we can make progress here. However, that’s going to require that we go out of our comfort zones. We need to be open and collaborative in addressing these challenges – but if we succeed, we can make an impact that lasts well beyond our lifetimes.”
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