Creation of New Regulatory Regimes in the African Region


Until a short while ago, in many African countries the state-owned operator was both the monopoly operator and regulator for the sector. This resulted in substantial criticism from private investors and other entities regarding a lack of transparency, clear rules and efficiency. In recent years, external and internal pressure to restructure and reform the telecommunications sector in order to liberalize and attract private investment has prompted the need for separate regulatory bodies. In the past ten years, new regulatory bodies have been created in at least 17 countries in Africa. Of these, 11 were established between 1996 and 1997.

The specific structure of the regulatory bodies established in Africa vary from country to country. Most, however, have adopted various elements of the regulatory bodies in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (the "FCC") is a body independent of any government body, consisting of five commissioners (one of whom serves as chairman) who are each appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The FCC is comprised of a very large staff divided into six bureaus. Each bureau is separately responsible for international, common carrier, cable television, compliance and information, wireless or mass media issues. In the United Kingdom, the telecommunications regulator, Oftel, is part of the Department of Industry and Trade. The British regulator is headed by a single Director General who is assisted by a relatively small staff.

Most of the regulatory bodies in Africa, like the FCC, are headed by a board of commissioners or regulators, consisting of anywhere from five to nine members. For example, in Uganda and Madagascar, the regulatory bodies are each headed by seven-member boards. In Tanzania and Botswana, the regulator's responsibilities are carried out through a five-member board. The South Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Agency ("SATRA") consists of a council consisting of at least three and no more than five councilors. Côte d'Ivoire and Zambia have the largest regulatory boards in the region, with each board consisting of nine members. Additionally, the board of the Zambian Communications Authority ("ZTA") requires representatives from the ministries of defense, home affairs, and communications, the National Farmers Union, the Zambia Consumers Protective Association, the Law Association of Zambia, the Engineering Institute of Zambia, the trade union representing the employees of the state-owned operator and one person having relevant qualifications or experience in the opinion of the sector minister. In Mozambique, the Instituto Nacional das Comunicaçoes de Moçambique ("INCM") bears greater similarity to Oftel than to the FCC. Rather than having a board of commissioners, INCM is run by a six-member management team consisting of a Director, Deputy Director and four Department Heads.

In many of the countries with newly established regulators, the members of the commission or board are appointed by the sector minister. For example, each member of the Board of the Botswana Telecommunications Authority ("BTA") is appointed by the Minister of Works, Transport and Communications. Similarly, in Mozambique, each member of the INCM management team is appointed by the Minister of Transportation and Communications. In Zambia, the Minister of Transport and Communications appoints not only the Board of Regulators, but also the Comptroller of Communications who serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Board. One drawback to the appointment of the board by the sector ministry is that it limits the independence of the regulator.

In Ghana, South Africa and Uganda, however, the appointment of regulators is the responsibility of the president of the country, the prime minister or parliament. This provides the regulator with greater independence from the sector ministry. In Ghana, the members of the board are appointed by the President. In South Africa, the councilors of SATRA are appointed by the President based on advice from the Parliamentary committees on communications. In Uganda, the members of the Uganda Communications Commission ("UCC") are appointed by the sector minister with the approval of the Cabinet.

  • Country
  • New Regulatory Entity
  • Year
  • Angola
  • Direcção Nacional de Correios e Telecomunicacações
  • 1985
  • Botswana
  • Botswana Telecommunications Commission (BTC)
  • 1996
  • Burundi
  • Agence de Régulation et de Contrôle des Télécommunications (ARCT)
  • 1997
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Agence des Télécommunications (AT-CI)
  • 1996
  • Eritrea
  • Communications Department (CD)
  • 1996
  • Ethiopia
  • Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority (ETA)
  • 1996
  • Ghana
  • National Communications Authority (NCA)
  • 1997
  • Madagascar
  • Office Malagasy d'Etudes et de Régulation des Télécommunications
  • 1997
  • Mauritius
  • Telecommunications Authority (TA)
  • 1988
  • Morocco
  • National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT)
  • 1997
  • Mozambique
  • Instituto Nacional das Comunicaçoes de Moçambique (INCM)
  • 1992
  • Namibia
  • Namibia Communications Commission (NCC)
  • 1995
  • Nigeria
  • Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC)
  • 1993
  • South Africa
  • South Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA)
  • 1997
  • Sudan
  • National Council of Telecommunications (NCT)
  • 1996
  • Tanzania
  • Tanzania Communications Commission (TCC)
  • 1994
  • Uganda
  • Uganda Communications Commission (UCC)
  • 1997
  • Zambia
  • Communications Authority (CA)
  • 1994

Most of the countries in the region, including Botswana, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, have established their regulatory bodies pursuant to a statutory law. Often, these laws have not only created a new regulator but have also introduced various reforms, including the liberalization of various telecommunications services, the establishment of a new licensing regime and the privatization of the state-owned telecommunications operator. For example, in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa, the establishment of the regulator coincided with the privatization of the state-owned operator. The Telecommunications Act, 1996 of Botswana not only established the BTA, but also permitted the introduction of competition by eliminating language that granted the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation a monopoly over telecommunications services. In a limited number of countries, specifically Mozambique and Nigeria, the regulators have been established pursuant to a ministerial decree. The disadvantage of creating a regulator by decree is that it lessens the autonomy of the regulator.

Like the U.K. regulator, Oftel, nearly all of the regulatory bodies created in the region are part of the sector ministry or generally report to the sector ministry. The most prevalent model is a quasi-independent entity, with authority to regulate the telecommunications sector; the sector ministry, however, retains authority to issue general and specific directives to the regulator, appoint the regulators, and/or control the regulator's funding. For example, in Zambia, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, the sector ministries have the right to issue general directives to their respective regulators. In Zambia, ZTA has various responsibilities, including licensing, spectrum management, tariff approval, and interconnection, however, it is subject to the control and direction of the Minister. The sector minister in Zambia, on the recommendation of ZTA, is responsible for issuing any regulations pursuant to the Telecommunications Act 1994. This includes regulations relating to the establishment of fees. Additionally, ZTA may refuse to renew a license if the Minister is of the opinion that the service provided under the license is no longer necessary in the public interest. Similarly, in Namibia, the Minister may make regulations on the recommendation of the Commission regarding licensing, the conditions imposed on licenses, application fees and annual license fees.

A constraint associated with many of these newly established regulatory bodies is that generally the board of commissioners is comprised of part-time employees. The part-time status of the commissioners makes it difficult for them to commit fully the necessary time to the large numbers of issues that confront a regulatory body, particularly a new regulatory body. In certain cases, such as Botswana and Uganda, the Executive Director is a full-time member of the board but even this is not generally sufficient.

  • Country
  • Regulatory Entity
  • Structure of Regulator
  • Botswana
  • Botswana Telecommunications Commission
  • Quasi-independent; run by 5-member
  • Burundi
  • Agence de Régulation et de Contrôle des
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Agence des Télécommunications (AT-CI)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to Council of
  • Eritrea
  • Communications Department (CD)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Ethiopia
  • Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Ghana
  • National Communications Authority (NCA)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Guinea
  • Direction Nationale des Postes et
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Madagascar
  • Office Malagasy d'Etudes et de Régulation des
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Mauritius
  • Telecommunications Authority (TA)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to Prime
  • Morocco
  • National Telecommunications Regulatory
  • Independent regulatory body.
  • Mozambique
  • Instituto Nacional das Comunicaçoes de
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Namibia
  • Namibia Communications Commission (NCC)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Nigeria
  • Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • South Africa
  • South Africa Telecommunications Regulatory
  • Quasi-independent; reports to Parliament
  • Sudan
  • National Council of Telecommunications
  • Independent in terms of financing and
  • Tanzania
  • Tanzania Communications Commission (TCC)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Uganda
  • Uganda Communications Commission (UCC)
  • Quasi-independent; reports to sector
  • Zambia
  • Communications Authority (CA)
  • Quasi-independent.

In order to ensure that the regulators appointed to the board have the necessary skills, certain countries have included requirements into the law that require the regulators to possess particular qualifications. In Uganda, for example, it is required that one of the members of the Commission be a representative of professional engineers recommended by the Institution of Professional Engineers and another be a prominent lawyer recommended by the Uganda Law Society. Additionally, the Executive Director of the Commission must be a person with considerable knowledge and experience in communications, commerce, finance law or administration. In South Africa, certain qualifications are imposed but they are less specific. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that the councilors of SATRA represent a broad cross-section of the population of South Africa and possess qualifications, expertise and experience in the fields of telecommunications policy and technology, frequency band planning, law, economics business practice and finance.

The ability of the regulators to function independently also is dependent on their funding source. In countries, such as Botswana, where the regulator is self-financed, greater autonomy is possible. In other countries, such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Namibia, and South Africa, where the regulator is funded by means of government appropriation, the regulator's independence is somewhat limited.

The regulatory bodies typically have primary responsibility for a variety of communications matters, including licensing, tariffs, spectrum management and interconnection. In certain countries, telecommunications and broadcasting issues are under the control of separate regulatory agencies. In South Africa, for example, SATRA is responsible for telecommunications issues but the Independent Broadcasting Authority handles broadcasting matters. The Government of South Africa has initiated plans to merge the two regulatory bodies. On the other hand, in Namibia and Botswana, the regulator is responsible for both telecommunications and broadcasting issues. The Government of Botswana, however, is considering creating a separate regulatory body to address broadcasting issues.

In Côte d'Ivoire and Uganda, the governments of each respective country, have established separate bodies to address disputes related to communications matters. In Côte d'Ivoire, the government established a seven member Telecommunications Council which acts as the arbiter of disputes. The members of the Council are appointed by the President. In Uganda, the Communications Act of 1997 created a Communications Tribunal which hears appeals of the Uganda Communications Commission's decisions. The Tribunal consists of a judge and two other persons appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.

In the next several years, additional restructuring efforts will be undertaken by a large number of African countries. Therefore, we can expect to see these countries establish regulatory bodies to regulate the telecommunications sector. With these regulatory regimes in the region, we can expect to see greater transparency and clearer rules that will, among other things, enhance private sector interest in the telecommunications sectors of the region.