Policy Spotlight: Zambia

Every year we present the GSMA Government Leadership Award to one government that has implemented best-practice digital policy and telecom regulation to generate positive outcomes in mobile connectivity. The winner will be announced at the GSMA Ministerial Programme during MWC Barcelona. In the following weeks, we will alphabetically present the five shortlisted countries for the 2023 Government Leadership Award. The fifth nominated country is Zambia. 

Market context 

Zambia’s government and the country’s regulator ZICTA (Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority) have made great progress in the last couple of years to improve connectivity in the country and catch up to the rest of the region. In fact, Zambia’s Mobile Connectivity Index score, from GSMA Intelligence, increased from 21 in 2014 to 41 in 2021. That makes it the most improved country in Sub-Saharan Africa over the period. The performance is the result of improvements in infrastructure as well as affordability. 

Policy or regulatory actions  

Spectrum roadmap 

As part of its efforts to help roll out 5G services, ZICTA has developed and kept updating its roadmap for 5G spectrum. Successful licensing of mobile spectrum starts with a spectrum roadmap that provides a schedule for forthcoming releases to meet the government’s broadband plan as well as other demands on spectrum. In particular, roadmaps help ensure sufficient spectrum is available to meet the requirements driven by changing technology and demand. 

Spectrum awards 

With its spectrum awards, ZICTA has worked to improve 4G coverage as well as set the stage for the roll-out of commercial 5G networks. To improve 4G capacity, 2600 MHz spectrum has been awarded. And to improve coverage, spectrum in the 800 MHz band has been awarded. The regulator has also taken a first step on the 5G journey, by awarding frequencies in the 3.5 GHz range.   

Improved infrastructure 

All provincial centres are now linked to a fibre backbone, and the country has a state-of-the-art data centre that can be leveraged for government and commercial use.  

Improved transparency 

The country conducted an open and transparent consultation process on FY2023 budget wherein input was provided by industry stakeholders into the elements of the budget. 

Lowered taxes 

With a reduction of sector-specific taxes, Zambia’s government is aiming to positively contribute to growth in the adoption of broadband services as well as more affordable services. This effort includes eliminating customs duty for telecommunications equipment, zero-rated VAT for telecommunications equipment, and reduced corporate taxes for telecommunications service providers. 

Why it is good practice 

What Zambia has done shows that governments and regulators can make a difference by implementing pro-growth policies for the telecom sector. The impact can already be seen. For example, mobile internet adoption among adults doubled from 18% in 2015 to 35% in 2021, which was just 2 percentage points below the average in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. In addition, the gender gap in mobile ownership has reduced from 13% to 6%, according to Zambia’s Mobile Connectivity Index score.