Cross-section of participants at the event
By Joseph S. Margai, Strategic Communications Coordinator (Office of the President)
In an effort to have a fair tariff for the benefit of both consumers and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and media practitioners, on Wednesday, 16 October 2019, held a workshop on interconnection rate review.
The workshop, which took place at the Occasions Hotel in Lakka, in the Western Area Rural District, was aimed at brainstorming with CSOs and the media, who represent consumers, on getting a fair tariff for all and sundry.
NATCOM’s Deputy Director General, Daniel Kaitibi, said being a regulator does not mean that one knows everything, adding that that was why his institution brought together CSOs and media practitioners to have a fair tariff that MNOs should charge for the services they are rendering to consumers.
He said this is a new NATCOM and that the current administration is working very hard to create a fair playing field for both MNOs and their subscribers (consumers of their services).
“Interconnection rate should be fair. We have got complaints from consumers about the high tariff charged for the services that are provided by MNOs. As regulators, we cannot just wake up in the morning and make changes to the tariff without asking you (CSOs and media), who are representatives of consumers. This workshop is timely and at the end of it, we would come up with something appreciable for both parties,” he said.
Ibrahim Kabia, President of Consumer Protection Agency, said NATCOM’s engagement with both CSOs and media practitioners is to enhance consumers’ satisfaction.
He said in ensuring consumer protection, there should be availability, accessibility and affordability, which he referred to as the 3As.
He noted that the NATCOM organised workshop is addressing the affordability aspect of MNOs services.
He pledged his agency’s support to NATCOM’s wish of having a fair tariff for consumers of the services MNOs are rendering.
William Sao-Lamin, a representative of CSOs, said there are so many talks among consumers about high tariff charged by MNOs, compared to what MNOs in neighbouring countries are charging.
“We cannot reduce our own tariff here overnight but an engagement like this, is very important to achieve a fair tariff that should benefit both MNOs and consumers. I want to state here that this is a NATCOM with a difference. We will always support them in this direction,” he said.
Media representative, John Masuba, reiterated that they have received several concerns from consumers about the high interconnection rate, but such engagement with the media and CSOs is very important to addressing such concerns.
“We want NATCOM to always communicate with the media on things happening around the Commission. The media can only say things about the Commission to the consumers when they are informed. We are all partners in development and we will support NATCOM in engagement like this,” he said.
NATCOM’s Director of Regulatory Administration, Sahr Sewah, said as regulators, they don’t want to set prices (tariff) that are too low and anti-competitive, adding that when prices are anti-competitive, they would hinder competition.
“When prices are too low, MNOs would not enter into the market but when they are fair, that will promote economic growth,” he noted.
Abdul Ben-Foday, NATCOM’s Director of Consumer and Industry Affairs, said the engagement with the media and CSOs is very important because NATCOM alone cannot decide everything for consumers.
He said the human capital development drive of President Julius Maada Bio is at the centre of the Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) of the ‘New Direction’ administration, noting that with a fair interconnection rate, the human capital development would be enhanced.
“Similarly, with a fair interconnection rate, students would be able to enrich their studies from services rendered by MNOs,” he said.
He assured CSOs and media practitioners of NATCOM’s unwavering support in future partnerships and collaborations.