Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has witnessed the signing of agreements that will provide telecommunication services to 8.5 million people who currently have no access to network services. Under the state-run Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF), five telecommunication companies will partner with the government to build 758 new towers worth Sh265.3 billion in 713 wards on the mainland. In addition, 304 existing towers that currently provide 2G internet services will be upgraded to 3G and 4G.
The telcos will provide 60% of the financing, while the government will provide up to 40% of the funding as grants. The projects aim to deliver communication services to citizens living in rural areas with no commercial appeal for telecommunication service providers. In Zanzibar, a similar project was launched last year, and now access to network services is estimated at 99%.
The companies that signed the agreement include Tigo, Vodacom, Airtel, TTCL, and Halotel. Tigo will build 262 towers, Vodacom 190, Airtel 168, TTCL 104, and Halotel 34.
President Hassan called on government officials to ensure the swift issuance of construction permits and review some of the charges to reduce operational costs. She also directed local councils to ensure that the construction permits are issued within a month. The President also urged the Rural Energy Agency (Rea) to connect all towers to electricity to reduce the cost of running generators. She said that one tower runs at Sh1.8 million per month using a diesel-powered generator, but the price could be reduced to Sh400,000 if connected to the grid.
According to President Hassan, better communication services will stimulate growth in almost all economic sectors, making rural dwellers part of the country’s development. She said health services would also improve in rural areas through telemedicine services, which could play a critical role in addressing maternal and child mortality in villages.
The Minister for Information, Communication, and ICT, Mr Nape Nnauye, said that the government had signed 19 contracts with the telcos and provided grants worth Sh199 billion, aiming to ensure service provision to 15.1 million people. UCSAF had announced a tender for 763 wards, and the operators subscribed to 713 of them, equivalent to 93%.
In conclusion, telecommunication companies have invested Sh6.5 trillion in the telecom sector and promise to continue expanding their network to provide services to more Tanzanians. The companies have also invested Sh28 billion in social impact projects in the last five years. The World Bank has expressed pride in being associated with the project, adding that digital communication is essential in both business and personal life.