Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers from SADC Member-States
Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Regulators present
The SADC Secretariat together with the subsidiary bodies (CRASA & SATA)
Representatives of Regional and International Organisations present
Representatives of Mobile Operators and GSMA
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my honour on behalf of the Host Country, Republic of South Africa and its people, to welcome and thank you all for attending this SADC Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Communications, ICT and Postal.
We meet here at Zimbali in the year that South Africa celebrates the Centenary of one of Africa’s finest sons, President Oliver Reginald Tambo, the longest serving President of the ANC. Next month President Tambo would have turned 100 in October and he carried our pain, anxieties, hopes and aspirations as he led us into liberation. Some developed long lasting relationship and bore children in the countries that hosted us. Families were established and some among us boast two homes.
Those of us who were in exile have family relations with many in the SADC region. These are people who have become family.
As we meet here we as South Africans celebrate Heritage Month and for us in the SADC region we have a shared heritage. We also have a common ancestral background.
We also meet in the month where South Africans celebrate their heritage, a heritage that spans the region. Many in our respective countries have relationships and families including businesses across our borders. Batswana in North West have family in Botswana, the Basotho in the Free State have family in Lesotho. Malawians in South Africa have family in South Africa and Zambia. Our heritage is the same, we are family and not just neighbours.
With this brief background given, our conversation this evening is all the more important, as we deliberate, let us think of all these interconnected relationships we have with one another across the SADC region. The cost to communicate across countries to families and friends as we interact is made so much more difficult by the near prohibitive costs on roaming.
As we meet here as business, government and the regulators, we need to seriously ponder on how we can make interconnectedness easier for the people of the SADC region. We owe it to them.
We meet tonight to discuss an issue most pertinent to infrastructure development, communication and opening possibilities: SADC Roaming
The Republic of South Africa as the Chair of SADC, wish to reiterate the importance of coming together to map a way forward for the ICT sector.
ICTs have and continue to be catalysts for development. Our sector contributes largely to GDPs of our national economies and has been pillar for infrastructure development in the region.
As we all know that in November 2014, in Mangochi - Malawi, the SADC Ministers directed National Regulatory Authorities (NRA’s) in the Region to intervene and regulate both the wholesale and retails roaming tariffs using the glide paths provided for the next three (3) years. The objective being to reduce the cost of roaming, so to increase investment in the region as well as ensure that citizens also have affordable communication as they travel and work within the region. To ensure this, we must facilitate “Roam Like at Home” (RLAH) principle.
Currently, SADC citizens avoid using roaming services while travelling across the SADC states, due to the excessive pricing of the service. This has resulted in financial burdens for many consumers and families of migrants.
So our meeting today is critical as we have social obligations. But further, reduced communication costs will also enable other critical developments in the ICT Sector for our region. These include universal broadband roll-out and universal broadcasting services. We will also during this year’s meeting, discuss strategies and programmes for the 4th Industrial Revolution in our region. All these require efficient, affordable, reliable and universal broadband access and services.
It has become clear that the ICT regulatory scene is not static but so fluid that our current legislations are no longer able to cope, thus new strategies are required to ensure stability.
As we advance with the work on the roaming initiative, and consider the different approaches to ensure integration of the different work programmes of SADC and other developmental projects, such as Industrialization Revolution, it has become clear that there are emerging technologies that we need to also consider that may have not been part of our work initially.
These technologies and applications thereof have become so topical thus requiring inclusion in debates at our forums. They have influenced fluctuations to traffic volumes of the communications operators. These have been both positive and negative depending on which revenue line is under consideration.
I am happy to announce that South Africa is fully compliant with the Roaming Glide Path. I hope that this commitment will be permanent so we can achieve the objectives of regional integration.
I am confident that during our discussion and over the next 3 days, we will collectively identify solutions as well as adopt programmes and strategies that will fast-track connectivity, integration, and development so we can achieve Digital SADC 2027.
I wish us all fruitful engagement and look forward to positive outcome.
I thank you and Welcome to South Africa.