In Côte d’Ivoire, telecom operators ordered to backtrack on the increase in their prices

    A telephone seller in Abidjan, in June 2019.

    Was it the popular mobilization that paid? Or a suspension for ” defect of form “, as mentioned on the evening of Monday, April 10, the Minister of Communication and the Digital Economy, Amadou Coulibaly, on the set of Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI)? The rise in mobile data rates is no longer on the agenda in Côte d’Ivoire.

    On April 7, the three telephone operators who share the market, Orange, MTN and Moov, had jointly reduced the volume of data included in 4G packages, while maintaining their prices. Consumers immediately rose up against this measure: a petition “so that the cost of the Internet connection in Côte d’Ivoire is cheaper than in Somalia” collected more than 45,800 signatures.

    The average cost of a gigabyte varies widely across African countries. In Côte d’Ivoire, according to the “Worldwide Mobile Data Pricing 2022” study, it is around 3 dollars (2.75 euros), against only 0.61 dollar in Ghana and 0.63 dollar in Somalia. “Here, we are taxed three timesexplains Cyriac Gbogou, specialist in information and communication technologies. First there is the 18% VAT, then a 3% tax that Internet users pay directly, then a 7.2% tax that the operator must pay to the regulator. The cost of the license is 100 billion CFA francs (about 152 million euros) by operator! »

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    To make the telephone companies bend, Tiémoko Assalé, deputy and mayor of Tiassalé, launched a “citizen boycott” on April 8, 9 and 10, calling for the interruption of telephone calls, text messages, Internet browsing and transactions of “mobile money” between 12 and 2 p.m. In a video published Saturday on his Facebook account and widely relayed (25,000 likes to date), the independent elected official attacked the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Côte d’Ivoire (ARTCI) directly. “for his incomprehensible decision » and operators “for their greed and for all their works against the Ivorians, for decades “.

    Strong growth in revenue

    On the side of the respondents, the embarrassment is palpable. The ARTCI split on April 7 with a jargon press release in which it assures that it did not prescribe any tariff increase measure to the operators. “The only goal (of the framing of the offers decided in January), she specifies, is to clean up competition between operators, ensure consumer protection and ensure sustainable development of the mobile telephony market “.

    And this is where the shoe pinches: operators, in order to gain market share in a very competitive environment, have so far sold mobile data at a loss by making up for it on other services such as “voice”. i.e. phone calls. A practice that ARTCI would like to see stopped. Especially as the sector consolidates.

    According to figures compiled by the regulatory authority, revenues from the “data” service have grown significantly over the period 2020-2021: 31.6% for Orange, 21.6% for MTN and 14.6% for Mov. As for the growth in margins, it was 6.4% for Moov, 39% for MTN and 95% for Orange thanks to the strong increase in uses, underlines the ARTCI.

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    An argument taken up by Amadou Coulibaly during his speech on Monday evening. The Minister of Communication mentioned a “tough competition” between the major telecommunications players and a “benefit hunt” to retain and acquire new customers, with increasingly attractive promotional offers. Which would have caused a form of ” mess “.

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    It’s for “a defect of form” – the nature of which he did not specify – that ARTCI would have asked operators to return to previous rates for the time being, assures Amadou Coulibaly. Discussions, already initiated in January 2022 between ARTCI, operators and around fifteen civil society organisations, must now resume in an attempt to rebalance the sector. While taking into account the interests of consumers and trying not to aggravate the digital divide in a country where the Internet penetration rate barely reaches 34%.

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