By: Gabriel Benjamin
There are strong indications that Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Sierra Leone have concluded plans to adjust tariff due to challenges facing the sector.
National Telecommunications Authority (NaTCa), Ministry of Information and Communications, MNOs, CSOs and the media on Friday 2nd December 2022 held a public private dialogue on the proposed tariff adjustment.
Andrew Sao Fatoma, Chief Admin and Human Resource Officer, Africell SL, who made a presentation on behalf of the MNOs during the public dialogue, sympathizing with their teeming customers, said their challenges have been channeled to the authorities.
“We recognize that a request to match the increase in our cost to the for tariff review may not sound reasonable at this material and trying time which is due to high cost of diesel and increase in foreign exchange.
“Two of our key cost drivers are Foreign Exchange Rate and the cost fuel which is a very critical component that drives Consumer Price Index. Exchange rate and cost of fuel are the key cost variable that affects our cost inputs for both Opex and Capex. These key cost drivers has a ripple effect on: The Cost of network equipment. Cost of Data Services from Zoodlabs and Leonecom” he explained.
Daniel Kaitibi, Director General of NaTCA while speaking during the dialogue said since 2017, tariff for voice call has remained the same, and NaTCa has the regulatory body is empowered by section 118 (2a) of the NaTCa Act to review tariffs.
“NATCOM (now NaTCA) in 2017 held a Public Private Dialogue on the review of Tariff. The dialogue followed extensive consultation with Civil Society organizations, operators and other relevant stakeholders. The rationale for the increase in tariff was warranted by the rapid change in cost of living and Increased Foreign exchange rate.
“With the increase of our key cost variables, the law, by virtue of the NaTCA Act, section 118 (1) which provides that tariff review shall be only ‘warranted when there is a rapid change in cost of living index and foreign exchange rate’” he stated.
Concord Times gathered that MNOs has already sent a letter to NatCa seeking review of tariff. They did not state the services that will be affected when approved. This medium believes that the review will affect data services for which citizens have expressed serious concerns given the present economy realities.
Smart I. B. Kokofele, Director, Regulatory-Administration, NaTCa argued during the dialogue that the tariff adjustment is not done on sentiment.
“As a regulatory commission, we sympathize with the conditions the MNOs find themselves. They are in business to provide services, but to also make profit.
“We are aware that the MNOs submitted a letter demanding for tariff adjustment, but there is a process, and we must engage relevant stakeholders before any adjustment on tariff can be made.
“The current tariff they are currently operating with went through same process in 2017. So, even if their demand will be considered, it will also take a process which is not going to take effect immediately” he argued.
In a related development, stakeholders and CSOs who were present during the public private dialogue were divided on the timing of the tariff adjustment.
While some are of the opinion that the tariff adjustment will further place more financial burden on the customers and called on the government to immediately intervene by giving tax rebate to MNOs, others believe it was long overdue, while calling for an improved service delivery and customers’ satisfaction from the MNOs
Edmond Abu, Executive Director of Native Consortium said: “Sierra Leone has the highest mobile tariff when compared to other countries in the region. We should be clamoring for tax rebate for MNOs and not tariff adjustment which will further impoverish our people.”
The National Vice Chairman, Women Forum Sierra Leone, opined that “If they [MNOs] increase the tariff, we the women will adjust… Already we are used to telephone communications.” Mohamed Nabieu, Public Relation Officer, National Bike Riders Association, welcomed the tariff adjustment and promised to take the message to members of his association