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Half of Rwandans possess mobile phone

21 May, at 09 : 52 AM Print

Half of Rwandans possess mobile phone

It was six years ago that the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA) set a goal of having majority of Rwandans to have access to mobile phones, but that strategy, written on paper, is now a reality as half of Rwanda’s population have managed to secure a means of communication.

A report published by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) indicates that at least six million Rwandans of the total estimated 12million possess mobile phones and are connected to the existing communication networks.

This development has been mostly attributed to the growing population, and economic activity which also accompanied by two major factors of increased competition in the telecom sectors players and access to cheaper phone gadgets in the Rwandan market, unlike in the last 10 years.

Statistics also indicate that mobile phone subscribers shot to 6,039,615 in March this year from 5,902,630 in January, indicating a monthly increase of about 8.14 per cent. And the government has set sights on having at least eight million Rwandan mobile phone subscribers and five million internet users by 2016. The government is banking on the power of ICT to help give the country a middle-income status by 2020.

The government also through the National ICT project (NICI plan), projected the increase of mobile access to all Rwandans, introducing community phones, and cheaper mobile phones on the market, which was also followed by support policies of non- taxation on ICT equipment imported to the country since 2003.

Such policies, combined with the surge of cheap Chinese and Indian phone technology have flooded the Rwandan market with more fashion designs and calibers of mobile phones which everyone can afford at the less than $30 dollars.

Phone revolution

For many people in Rwanda lives have been changed by a phone call on their cell phone, while others it has been the most revolutionary thing that has changed the banking system, entertainment industry, and marketing strategies.

Salvatore Mugabo, 28, is a motorbike transporter in Kigali city says: “I use my cell phone for banking business, money transfers, and to access all the people I need with just a single touch on the dial button” Mugabo says “this has changed the way I do business and all my clients can access me at any time of the day and night”

Besides Mugabo using the phone for business, he says that its accessories like movies and internet also provide a source of entertainment whenever he is not busy with traffic.

Mugabo is not the only Rwandan who uses the phone for movies, music and internet. Many young people in Rwanda spend almost three quarters of their day on the internet, others can even be seen in public places ( like bus stations, in the neigbourhoods)- listening to loud music and movies especially on the Chinese phones.

Big catch

Though other countries in the region have banned the importation of Chinese mobile phones, Rwanda remains one of the countries where citizens enjoy the cheap Chinese phones, even though they sometimes do not have a warranty.

While the mobile phone is considered a revolution in Rwanda, phone thefts have also been rampant and considerably uncontrollable despite efforts for the police and MTN Rwanda, putting in place measures to track down stolen phones.

In a bid to curb down on crimes committed through use of telecommunications, the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority launched a simcard exercise which started on February 4th and will close on July 31st, 2013 and each simcard will be registered to the individual users’ national identification card. This comes at a time when most east African countries like Kenya and Uganda have also adapted the same process.

To date, smartphones are also the highly loathed phones in the Rwandan market due to the increasing demand for phone applications (apps)- such as Whatsup, Twitter, Facebook, among many others. While the Chinese phones are cheaper, smartphones have maintained a standard of class and prices and one can cost about 300USD and above.

Competition:

MTN Rwanda remains the biggest network in the country with 3.4 million subscribers and controls more than half of the total market share. While, Tigo Rwanda comes in second position with 1.8 subscribers and the newest entrant, Airtel Rwanda, has managed to rise in subscriber base of 781,162 since its entry in the market in 2012.

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