Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Cheaper calls ring in South Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya

Telco regulators in three countries are reviewing cross-network rates, igniting new price wars and potentially cheaper calls.

Mobile phone users in Ethiopia and South Africa will enjoy lower calling rates between operators from May while Kenyans are already seeing savings, as African communication regulators move to adopt pricing models that benefit customers.

The Ethiopia Communications Authority (ECA) has adopted a top-down pricing model that will ensure uniformity for all players, while the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is looking at a wholesale model, with rates charged depending on a telco’s size.

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While these models differ, the regulators have a common goal: to bolster competition among operators and offer consumers more choice and competitive prices on off-net calls.

According to a statement by the ECA, all mobile operators in Ethiopia will be required to amend their interconnection agreements to reflect a 25 percent drop in mobile termination rates from $0.0054 to $0.0044 (Sh0.73 to Sh0.59) per minute before May 1, 2024.

“The intention is to promote competition among operators, prevent anti-competitive behaviour and encourage a market structure that benefits consumers by offering them a variety of choices and competitive prices,” ECA director general Balcha Reba said.

Over the next five years, Ethiopians are expected to enjoy cheaper and cheaper calls thanks to annual price drops that will ultimately see termination rates stand at 0.19 birr (Sh0.45) per minute by 2029.

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“The use of cost-based rates is seen as a pro-competitive measure to foster a more balanced and competitive telecommunications market,”Balchasaid.

The biggest beneficiary will be Kenya’s Safaricom, which owns 51.67 percent of Safaricom Telecommunication Ethiopia PLC. The recently formed telco had onboarded more than nine million subscribers as of December 2023, against ethio-telecom’s 74.6 million subscribers.

In Kenya, subscribers have already begun experiencing cheaper calls after the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) further reduced Mobile Termination Rates (MTR) from $0.0043 (Sh0.58 per minute) to US$ 0.0031 (Sh0.41 per minute), effective March 1, 2024.

In South Africa, the Icasa is working to phase out asymmetry between what large and small operators can charge, while allowing new entrants to charge on asymmetry for a limited period of three years and then qualify for uniform charges.

Through a Draft Call Termination Amendment Regulations 2024 that was published for public comment in March, large operators like Vodacom and MTN, with more than 20 percent of total minutes terminated to the mobile location by December 2023, are to drop their mobile termination rates from $0.0047 to $0.0037 (Sh0.63 to Sh0.50) per minute by July 1, 2024.

Small operators with less than 20 percent of total minutes terminated to a mobile location are to cut down their termination rates from $0.0068 to $0.0047 (Sh0.91 to Sh0.63) per minute, while new entrants will charge $0.0037 (Sh0.50) per minute in off-net calls.

In a statement, Icasa council committee chairperson NompucukoNontombana said the authority is taking a significant stride in creating a more competitive and consumer-friendly telecommunications landscape with the publication of draft amendments to the Call Termination Regulations.

The authority believes the wholesale voice call termination rates set out in the draft regulations will aid in transitioning the market towards a more competitive landscape.


Ministry partners Ethio-engineering, APIMOSO for Water Filtration Technology

The Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Energy signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ethio Engineering Group and APIMOSO, a Czech Republic-based company. The agreement focuses on the import, assembly, and local manufacturing of water filtration machines.

The MOU signing ceremony was attended byHabtamuItefa, Minister of Water and Energy, Ambassador Suleiman Dedefo, CEO of Ethio Engineering Group, and a representative from APIMOSO, Milan.

The Minister highlighted ongoing collaboration with the Czech Republic government, particularly in water resource development with a focus on groundwater studies. The MOU with Ethio Engineering Group and APIMOSO represents a significant step forward in this area.

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Under the terms of the agreement, Ethio Engineering Group will be responsible for procuring water filtration machines from APIMOSO, ensuring they comply with Ethiopian water purification standards and regulations.

The Group will also manage the distribution, installation, and potentially the local manufacturing of these machines.


Government to digitize certification process for trade in Agri commodities

Ethiopia has embarked on a transformation of its agricultural sector by launching the development of Integrated Export and Import Certification System (IEICS), also known as the e-Phyto system.

This digital initiative, a collaboration between the Ethiopian Agricultural Authority (EAA), and TradeMark Africa (TMA), aims to streamline the trade process for agricultural exports and imports.

The European Union, through the AgenceFrançaise de Développement (AFD), has funded the project with 9.1 million birr (EUR 149,000). This digital shift will replace traditional paper-based certification processes, significantly reducing transaction costs and ultimately carbon emissions.

The e-Phyto system, poised to replace archaic manual and paper-based certification processes, represents a significant leap forward for Ethiopia’s agricultural sector. By embracing digital solutions, Ethiopia seeks to streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and foster transparency across the entire agricultural value chain.

Through seamless integration with international phytosanitary certificate systems, the e-Phyto system will provide end-to-end paperless services for both import and export certification, from application submission to certificate issuance.

Ethiopian Agricultural Authority (EAA) Deputy Director and Head of Ethiopian NPPO,WondaleHabtamu, said that the Ethiopian agricultural sector’s transition to an e-Phyto system aligns with global trends towards more sustainable and inclusive economic practices.

“By digitising the certification process, we are setting the stage for enhanced efficiency, transparency, and global competitiveness in our exports. We are committed to empowering Ethiopian farmers and exporters with the tools they need to thrive in the global market,” said Wondale.

The e-Phyto system is also designed to connect with the e-Phyto hub, facilitating the sharing of issued certificates with international counterparts, thereby streamlining the export process. Three implementation options are currently under consideration: adopting the GENS platform, customizing solutions used in Kenya, or developing a bespoke system tailored to Ethiopia’s specific needs. Consultations with agricultural ministries in Kenya and Uganda are ongoing to refine these options.

“We are proud to support this initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ethiopian Agricultural Authority that not only enhances Ethiopia’s trade competitiveness but also establishes a foundation for enduring economic empowerment and environmental stewardship,” the EU delegation represented through AbiyTesfaye said.

TMA Ethiopia Country Director EwnetuTaye said that by adopting advanced technologies, “we are setting a new standard for agricultural trade across Africa and to make the continent to gain a global competitive advantage.’’


Ethiopian Airlines sees 30% surge in passengers this year, CEO says

Ethiopian Airlines expects to carry 30 percent more passengers in the year ended June from the year before, its chief executive said, buoyed by new routes and a rebound in global travel.

Africa’s biggest airline, however, faces risks from delayed aircraft deliveries and the grounding of some planes due to engine shortages caused by supply chain disruptions, MesfinTasew Bekele said in an interview.

“We have a lot of challenges. For example, today we have aircraft shortage since the manufacturers, particularly Boeing, are delaying aircraft deliveries,” he said.

The delivery problems mainly affect narrow-body passenger jets from Boeing, he said, while the grounding is affecting wide-body aircraft used for long-haul travel.

Ethiopian, which carried 13.9 million passengers in the year ended June 2023, does not operate the variant of Boeing’s MAX jets that suffered a panel blow-out earlier this year, Mesfin said, and it is confident Boeing can deal with safety concerns.

“We believe that Boeing is in a good position to fix all these,” he said.

Ethiopian is operating a fleet of 146 Boeing, Airbus and De Havilland planes, below the ideal level of 150, Mesfin said, due to the delivery delays.

It has firm orders for 70 Boeing and Airbus planes and options to buy 54 more, part of a plan to double its fleet and route network by 2035.

The growth plan is expected to boost annual revenue and passenger numbers by 400 percent and 440 percent respectively by the target year.

Ethiopian’s passenger numbers in the first nine months of its current financial year show it is on course to hit its growth target for this year, including a 20 percent increase in revenue to USD 7.3 billion, Mesfin said.

“We are expanding our network and we’re increasing the frequencies on the existing network,” he said, citing new destinations like London Gatwick, Madrid and Bangui.

The airline is also investing in its cargo business, including launching a USD 55 million e-commerce shipments handling facility at its Addis Ababa base in February this year, targeting firms like China’s Alibaba and others, Mesfin said.

“E-commerce business is growing now, faster than ever,” he said, referring to demand on the African continent. 


RFSD calls for aligning pact for the future with Africa’s priorities

The 2024 Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (RFSD) adopted the ‘Addis Ababa declaration on the effective delivery of sustainable, resilient and innovative solutions to reinforce the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 and to eradicate poverty in times of multiple crises.’ The declaration reflects Africa’s priorities for the Summit of the Future in September.

Along with key messages, the Addis Ababa Declaration will be presented at the July session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the Summit of the Future in September, and the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 29) in November.

During the tenth session of the Africa RFSD,participants focused on five SDGs under HLPF review this year – SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals) – and the corresponding goals of Agenda 2063. Delegates shared experiences, good practices, and lessons learned from implementing the two agendas.

In her opening remarks, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, highlighted means of implementation as a key barrier to progress and said USD four trillion in additional annual investments is needed to 2030 “to have a chance of achieving the SDGs.” She urgedmore focus on inclusive and sustainable energy, sustainable food systems, digital connectivity, and education.

During closing, Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) HananMorsy, stressed that while Africa has an opportunity to reverse trends and accelerate action towards realizing the SDGs and the Africa We Want, it cannot do that without finances.

Investments north of USD three trillion in mitigation and adaptation alone are needed to implement Africa’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs), Morsy stressed.

Governments attending the Forum adopted the Declaration, which outlines regional priorities for the Summit of the Future.

On financing for development (FfD), the declaration prioritizes, inter alia: The timely reform of the global financial institutions and architecture to enable them to better serve the interests of Africa and developing countries elsewhere; Global financing mechanisms that give African and other developing countries access to adequate and equitable concessional financing and to affordable market-based resources to accelerate sustainable development; and the use of metrics beyond gross domestic product (GDP).

To transform global governance, the declaration stresses the need to reinvigorate the multilateral system and ensure that Africa and the global South participate more actively and effectively in international economic decision making, standard setting, and global economic governance.

It calls for a recognition of peace as a prerequisite for security, good governance, and development, and outlines the need to “capitalize on and reap a demographic dividend from the youth bulge in Africa” and “strengthen mechanisms for intergenerational interaction.”

The Forum is an annual multi-stakeholder platform organized by UNECA.


Ethiopia ‘dismayed’ by EU’s restriction of visa provisions to Ethiopians


The Ethiopian government said it was “dismayed by the decision of the Council of the European Union to temporarily suspend certain elements of the EU law that regulates issuing of visas to Ethiopian nationals.”

In a statement issued by Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels, the government also said the decision was “made at a time when both sides are closely working for the return of Ethiopians who have been denied legal permit to stay in the European Union member states in a dignified, orderly, and safe manner.”

On Monday this week, the EU Council decided to “to temporarily suspend certain elements of the EU law that regulates the issuing of visas to Ethiopian nationals.”

According to the decision it is no longer be possible for EU member states “to waive requirements with regard to the evidence to be submitted by Ethiopian visa applicants; to issue multiple entry visas; and to waive the visa fee for holders of diplomatic and service passports.” The standard visa-processing period is also extended from 15 to 45 calendar days.

The EU cited “lack of response from the Ethiopian authorities“ on readmission of nationals who are “illegally staying in the EU.” The suspension, which the EU said was made following “an assessment by the Commission.” is temporary but there no specific as to when it will be listed.

But, Ethiopia contested the decision and said it “failed to take into consideration the painstaking process that takes place to establish the identities of nationalities.” It also “obstructs the ongoing practical steps in the implementation of the Agreement on Admission Procedures for the Return of Ethiopians from European Union Member States.”

Ethiopia said its strong cooperation with the EU has “helped in returning and reintegrating Ethiopian nationals,” and requested the EU to “reconsider its position”, while its Embassy in Brussels “will advise on measures that commensurate with the decision on admission procedures for the return of Ethiopians from European Union member states.” A 4w3wewsweezxS

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