Four SADC countries agree to scrap mobile roaming charges

If you’re an avid traveller, you’re probably always wondering why roaming internationally is always expensive. Even when you travel within Africa, the charges are still always very high.

Roaming enables mobile subscribers to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data when travelling outside their home countries. How this work is telecom providers work out bilateral agreements to allow their customers to use each other’s networks. Your phone carrier in this case Safaricom, Airtel or Telkom pays the roaming carrier the agreed fee to enable you to use their network. 

There are always no limits to how high these fees can be, which results in these high costs being passed onto you. During a recent trip to China for example, while Roaming on China Mobile Hong Kong, my provider Safaricom was charging me Ksh.290/minute to make calls back home in Kenya, Ksh.70/minute for local calls, Ksh. 50/SMS and a whopping Ksh.1550/MB of data.  Of course, these rates may change when you switch to another network, but they are still very expensive. 

Back in March,  ICT regulators in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) sought to reduce roaming fees. COMESA, according to a report is pushing for the harmonisation of the roaming network with other regional blocs in at least 29 African countries by next year.

The plan, the report notes is meant to look into things like policy harmonisation and regulation which have mostly led to these higher prices for roaming services within the region.

As we wait for this to happen, four countries from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have announced plans to end mobile roaming charges. Mobile users in the four countries of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana will now no longer be charged extra when they cross borders starting in August.

“Mobile users in Zambia will no longer incur extra charges on calls whenever they cross borders in a few neighbouring countries. Besides looking forward to having non-stop border posts, our people will cut on trade barriers through scrapping roaming charges, making us among the very first to take this progressive route,” Zambia’s Minister of Technology and Science Felix Mutati said in a statement.

According to a report by the television news channel DW, the initiative in the four SADC countries is part of a move to create a One Network Area (ONA) and to move closer to a single digital market.

The elimination of these roaming charges is expected to benefit a lot of people who travel across the four countries. What this means is that these travellers will not have to buy SIM cards for the networks of the country they are visiting. 

Follow us on TelegramTwitter, and Facebook, or subscribe to our weekly newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out on any future updates. Send tips to

Facebook Comments

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold6 and Z Flip6 Kenya Launch

Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to

Have anything to add to this article? Leave us a comment below

Back to top button