When others may say that having a cellphone is no longer a luxury nowadays in Malawi, Blantyre-based small-scale businessperson Hussein Kassim argues otherwise.
With a fresh business to run and customers to catch, a cellphone would make it easier for Kassim to run his business, but because he is yet to start making profits, the best decision is to have no cell phone, at least for now.
Kassim travels to Mangochi almost every day to buy fresh fish to supply to his customers in Blantyre.
He says: “Sometimes because of inconveniences, we delay to get back here (in Blantyre) and by the time we start selling the fish, loyal customers have already bought from my competitors.
young african american uni student using cell phone
“If only I could have a telephone, I would be able to serve my loyal customers better. They would be able to order in advance over the phone and even find out if I will be at the market or not.”
Kassim belongs to a group of 14.9 percent of Malawians who are yet to own a mobile phone thereby missing out on business opportunities, according to the 2015 Information and Communications (ICT) Survey commissioned by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).
This is one of the developments that continue to stifle the telecommunication sector in the country with recent reports from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) placing Malawi as one of the countries with the least developed telecommunications sector.
The ITU Measuring the Information Society Report (MISR) 2016 released last week, shows that on the global and regional level, Malawi continues to perform poorly ranking 32 out of 39 economies in Africa and 168 out of 175 economies in the world.
This is the same position Malawi got last year.
According to the report, cellular usage subscription remains on the lower side with only 35.3 percent of the population subscribing to telephone usage.
In a statement, ITU secretary general Houline Zhao said to hook more people online, it is important to focus on overall socio-economic inequalities.
He said: “Education and income levels are strong determinants of whether or not people use the Internet. ICT will be essential in meeting each and every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] and this report plays an important role in the SDG process.
“Without measurement and reporting, we cannot track the progress being made and identify areas that require action and this is why ITU gathers data and publishes this important report.”
However, the report noted that the full potential of the Internet remains untapped with more people yet to benefit fully from the opportunities brought by Internet using a cellphone.
Macra director of telecommunications Lloyd Momba is on record as having said that the formulation of a tariff regulation which telecommunications regulatory was in the process of formulating for mobile phone service operators will ensure that mobile phone operators explain how they have arrived at a cost of a mobile phone service before the regulator approved it as one way of increasing mobile phone usage in the country.
He said that with the establishment of a Universal ICT Service Fund as outlined in the amended Communications Act, Macra would work with operators to identify areas which they cannot afford to reach and fund the infrastructure through the fund.
Experts argue that in the absence of an ICT policy framework, Malawi is more likely to register minimal progress in the sector.