Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia have agreed to synchronising their digital frameworks in order to maximise their benefits from the digital economy and tap maximum benefits from cross border trade.
Heads of Communications Regulatory Authorities from the four countries met in Lilongwe on Monday for the first Single Digital Market Technical Meeting.
“The digital era is bringing about new opportunities that require more participation. We need the necessary tools to participate and one of the best commodities we can use is the numbers,” said Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) Director General, Daud Suleman.
Suleman noted that digital transformation goes beyond Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as it cuts across areas of job creation and economic growth.
He further said Malawi alone does not have enough numbers hence the need to join hands with other SADC countries projecting that the four counties can pool together about 70 million people, translating into a bigger and more sustainable market.
“The coming in of the four countries is to evaluate our ICT legal landscape to accommodate a Single Digital Market. We will start building from laws that are already compatible among the countries and work around filling the remaining gaps.
“Overall, each country will identity their own gaps from where we will implement actions to standardise our technological infrastructure whereby, for instance, in telecommunications, unlike the current network roaming costs, Malawians will be charged uniform rates to communicate across borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia,” he explained.
Director of Business Development for Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority, Murphy Setshwane weighed in on the need for the four countries to roll out One Network, saying it underlines the core values of SADC.
“Consolidating this block does not mean we are working in isolation from the rest of the world but for us to fit in perfectly into the larger picture. We first have to perfect our work in this region. Our forefathers have always advocated for regional integration, the more reason we have SADC and this is a starting point,” said Setshwane.
Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe Director General, Dr Gift Callisto Machengete said there are immense benefits to regional integration.
“We are countries that are interdependent in terms of trade but we do not have common laws to govern our trade, no common identities and common ways of settling our transactions. Harmonising laws to accommodate a Single Digital Market will create employment, generate more revenue and minimise delays faced as we cross into each other’s countries,” he said.
The Single Digital Market initiative complements the country’s efforts towards boosting trade as it is party to the pursuit of the recently adopted Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) which aims at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of business persons and investment in order to accelerate Africa’s economic growth.
According to MACRA, authorities in all the four countries are doing all preparatory works to harmonise their systems, setting up the digital market to be ready by August this year.