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Telecom regulators urge for oversight in industry policies

Telecommunication regulators in Africa have declared there is need for more oversight in regulations as investors inject huge funds towards increasing Internet broadband penetration.

According to Lolia Eamkore, the director of the Nigerian Communications Commission, there is need for “light regulation” to ensure balance and fair play to ensure the “market is not left at the mercy of the big players”.

“We can’t leave it all to the market, we need regulation, but we always advocate light regulation. It is important to note that the role of the regulator is to ensure balance and fair play, and we have to ensure that the big ones do not take over the market. We need fair, consistent, stable and predictable sets of regulations,” she said.

Lilia says that subtle, guiding regulation will unleash untapped demand in the market, an idea that has gained backing from the vice president for International External Affairs Karim Antonio, who maintained that it creates stability and certainty.

“Regulatory certainty, long term certainty is essential when you plan investments,” Antonio said.

Gateway Communications CEO Van Den Burgh called for a more stable approach to regulation that does not scare away investors or leave the market non-profitable.

Citing the recent example where the Kenyan government imposed a 10 percent tax on mobile payments, Van Den said regulation must go in hand with increased cash revenues.

“There has to be certainty or regulation and a reasonable return on investment,” he said.

In a number of African markets, telecommunications remains in the control of big corporations, some of which can strongly influence the regulator.

In other markets, however, regulations have left the market unprofitable. In Kenya only Safaricom is profitable as the country’s three other operators experience losses, with low mobile termination rates driving companies into fierce price wars.

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