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Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire implement ECOWAS free roaming initiative

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Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire have successfully implemented the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) free roaming initiative. Under the ECOWAS initiative, citizens of both Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire can now use mobile services in each other's countries without incurring international roaming charges.

ECOWAS is a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa and its aim is to achieve "collective self-sufficiency" for its member states by creating a single large trade bloc through the creation of a full economic and trading union.

During a press conference announcing the initiative, Ghana's minister for communications and digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, said people can make and receive calls while being charged at the local rate of the country they are currently in.

Furthermore, she said, the implementation of the initiative will contribute to improving international connectivity and collaboration within the ECOWAS region.

"Ghana has also taken a bold step to implement the free roaming initiative, which was adopted in 2016 but suffered implementation challenges," Owusu-Ekuful added.

"In June 2023, we went into a bilateral discussion with Côte d'Ivoire to implement this initiative and the two countries became the first ECOWAS countries to implement the free roaming initiative to promote greater integration among member states and decrease roaming charges within the sub-region," she explained.

Under the ECOWAS initiative, citizens of both Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire can now use mobile services in each other's countries without incurring international roaming charges.   (Source: Image by wirestock on Freepik)
Under the ECOWAS initiative, citizens of both Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire can now use mobile services in each other's countries without incurring international roaming charges.
(Source: Image by wirestock on Freepik)

"This simply means that Ghanaian subscribers of any network in Ghana visiting Côte d'Ivoire will receive calls without paying any international roaming charges and will be charged the Côte d'Ivoire local rate when making calls to Ghana while in Côte d'Ivoire and vice versa," she added.

Moreover, she said, subscribers travelling between both countries also be exempt from international roaming charges.

ECOWAS connecting citizens

This is not the first time that Ghana has been involved in such an initiative. In November 2023, Ghana's National Communications Authority and Togo's Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications agreed to establish bilateral roaming services between the two countries. That agreement will activate bilateral roaming services between Ghana and Togo under the ECOWAS "free" roaming regulations and is expected to be executed by March 2024.

There has been an influx of ECOWAS member states either signing deals toward connecting the underserved or working toward infrastructure upgrades recently.

In October 2023, submarine fiber optic telecommunications company Pioneer Consulting completed deployment of the Togolese branch of Google's Equiano subsea cable on CSquared Woezon's behalf.

Senegal's government and the Centre Spatial Universitaire de Montpellier (CSUM) partnered with digital platform RIDE Space to launch the country's first satellite, GAINDESAT, also in October 2023.

Another ECOWAS member state, Sierra Leone, saw telecommunications operator Orange announcing in October 2023 that it would pilot 5G in the country's capital of Freetown.

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*Top image is of Ghana Minister of Communications and Digitalisation Ursula Owusu-Ekuful. (Source: Ghana Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation website.)

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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