MTN Eswatini cuts data prices as kingdom adopts MoMo

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Manqoba Khumalo, Eswatini’s minister for information communication and technology.
Manqoba Khumalo, Eswatini’s minister for information communication and technology.

MTN has slashed data prices in Eswatini and the company is driving its Mobile Money (MoMo) in the landlocked kingdom.

In a statement to ITWeb, the mobile operator says MTN Eswatini has reduced postpaid data bundles by 70%, while its prepaid package has been reduced by 32%.

The data price slash in Eswatini follows a similar move in SA earlier this year, when MTN responded to the Competition Commission to cut data costs in the country by announcing a reduction in its monthly bundles of 1GB and below by 25% to 50%, and the 1GB monthly bundle will decrease by 33% to R99.

MTN Eswatini is headed by chief executive officer Wandile Mntshali.

Market research firm BuddeComm notes that Eswatini was one of the last countries in the world to abolish an almost complete monopoly in all sectors of its telecommunications market.

Until 2011, it says, the state-owned posts and telecommunications operator Eswatini Posts and Telecommunications Corporation also acted as the industry regulator and had a stake in the country’s sole mobile network, in an uneasy partnership with MTN.

According to the mobile operator, the data price reduction means MTN customers now have access to discounted data bundles, some of which do not expire.

It notes that daily bundles, for instance, have been transformed into “Freedom Bundles”, and these bundles will not expire if a subscriber has not depleted it.

Other data bundles have been transformed to give customers more value for money at the same price, while other packages have been reduced in price, the company adds.

Eswatini is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies worldwide, and the only one in Africa.

Building a digital economy

In a statement on the data price cuts, Manqoba Khumalo, Eswatini’s minister for information communication and technology, commends MTN for partnering with government in the delivery of ICT services in the kingdom.

He notes that Eswatini has high broadband costs compared to other countries in the region, which hampers government’s aspiration to build a digital economy.

“The reduction of data prices is a welcome development, as government aspires to be in the top 10 destinations in Africa with affordable broadband costs,” Khumalo says.

“I am excited to be part of this new data price reduction launch by MTN Eswatini. This is a significant milestone for the country, and particularly coming at this point when movement of people is not encouraged.”

According to the minister, in the Global Mobile Data Price Comparison, the country is currently ranked 212 out of a league of 229 countries and territories.

“That picture will change drastically and the citizens of Eswatini will enjoy more data and better browsing experience. That augurs well for the kingdom’s quest to be an attractive destination for Investment,” he says.

“For the first time in the Kingdom of Eswatini, we will now have data bundles that do not expire. I am additionally excited to learn that MTN’s network covers nearly all parts of the country. This is important because no one should be left behind as the digital train moves on, taking EmaSwati to an improved quality of life.”

The Eswatini government also believes this new data pricing will catalyse entrepreneurial activity, boost key sectors including education and health, encourage the use of access devices such as mobile phones to enable people to “create, accumulate, disseminate knowledge, interact with commercial and public sector organisations more easily, and become more productive”.

Khumalo further highlights that government has identified ICT as one of the five key growth sectors in its strategic roadmap and part of the COVID-19 economic recovery strategy.

ICT is noted in the national strategy as a key enabler to economic development in the kingdom.

Mobile money adoption

He notes the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the critical role played by ICT, as it is enabling online schooling and learning, working from home and e-commerce.

Some of the ways that the government of Eswatini has embraced the digitalisation of the economy is by adopting mobile money in payment of elderly grants, at least 10 different government taxes, company registration and renewals.

MTN says this demonstrates how the government has embraced its MoMo platform as an official payment method and an enabler in fast-tracking efforts to reach strategic ambitions of a digital economy.

“We have seen the launching of the e-payment platform for company registrations using MoMo and this will soon include payment of trading and liquor licences and the payment of social grants using MoMo, as well as the provision of data bundles to Cabinet to enable the hosting of virtual meetings,” Khumalo says.

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