By Tabora Bojang
The director of economic regulations at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority PURA has told lawmakers that the Authority is planning to recruit a consultant to assess the mobile internet market to provide them the mandate to intervene and set prices for mobile internet.
Director Burama Jammeh was speaking at the consideration of Pura’s financial and activity reports before the public enterprise committee of the National Assembly yesterday.
The Gambia has been ranked by Business Insider Africa as the eighth country in Africa with the most expensive average usage of mobile data.
Asked what efforts have been made to address the high costs of the internet in the Gambia compared to other subregional countries like Senegal and Nigeria, Jammeh said unlike other sectors like petroleum, water and electricity the mobile sector is a liberal sector characterised by competition and little government intervention.
”We recognised the fact that internet tariffs are high in this country and we are making efforts but the problem is that by law where there is competition you cannot do price regulation. But we realise that the market dynamics are not functioning effectively and they are not responding to competition. So, based on our plan, we are developing a market assessment study that will look at these issues because that is the power we have. We cannot just say the market is not working and we will intervene, the operators can challenge that decision. So, this will be an independent study that will look at the competition and tell us that this competition is not working and they can tell us if there is a monopoly, oligarchy or a price shedding. So, when that report comes to us [Pura] then that will give us the power and the mandate to intervene in the market. So, we are hoping that by the end of this year that consultancy will be done and it will inform us whether the market is functioning and it will give us recommendations to come up with and set the [mobile internet] prices.
Jammeh said Pura has come to the realisation that the internet in the Gambia is expensive and that business cannot be as usual.
“Mobile sector all over the world is liberalised and it is a competition. You allow the market forces to determine the price but where there is a failure in the market then the authorities are duty bound to intervene and address the situation but in order to do that you need to have an independent study to look at the market and dynamics and determine whether it is functioning and we have already recruited a consultancy firm and we are in the process for their first mission to start the assessment.