Evolution of Telecommunications Policy Reforms in East Africa: Setting New Policy Strategies to Anchor Benefits of Policy Reform

28 February 2016

This paper is a strategic evaluation of telecommunications policy reform over a ten-year period 1993-2002. The focus of the paper is the three countries of East Africa - Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The evaluation is framed against policy objectives set out by the three governments and their outcomes as measured against relevance to stakeholders, performance by implementers based on the space created by the reforms, and success in terms of sustainability and impact. The paper finds that the short term gains of fast expansion of the communications system cannot be sustained in the long term. The policy design based on foreign capital and skills at the expense of local entrepreneurial capacity building exposes the region to vulnerabilities of the international market. The policy design did not provide tools to intervene in the market in the consumer interest. A further finding is that competition has resulted in a significant consolidation of market power with a consequent shift of monopoly power from government to the private sector. Finally, in practice the private sector operations have increased the disparity in the distribution of the infrastructure between urban and rural consumers. A new policy design should focus on long-term local entrepreneurial capacity building, effective policy tools to sustain competition and universal service programmes to address rural disparity.