Impediments to the implementation of universal service funds in Africa – A cross-country comparative analysis

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Abstract

The liberalisation of the telecommunications sector has undoubtedly contributed to the spread and adoption of mobile telephony across Africa but evidence also points to the fact that coverage gaps persist in some locations - mainly rural and remote areas - which are either unserved or underserved.

In order to address this problem, governments across Africa have established universal service funds (USF) as their universal service strategy. Nonetheless, various studies have suggested that the problem of limited coverage remains unaddressed due, in part, to the poor implementation of USF. This raises the question as to why USF have failed to address the limited coverage of telecommunication services in Africa?

We seek to answer this question by investigating the interplay between market liberalisation and universal service using a multiple case study approach with examples drawn from across the continent. We find that poor policy formulation limits the implementation of an effective USF model in Africa. In addition, inadequate stakeholder engagement, lack of accountability, inaccurate data, undue political influence and the narrow scope of universal service all impinge on the ability of USF to achieve their objectives.

We, therefore, propose the need for future research to address these challenges and develop our framework to unravel some of the intractable areas of universal service such as determining what services should fall within the scope of universal service and how to prevent policy redundancy in a fast moving industry such as mobile telecommunications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-630
Number of pages14
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Volume41
Issue number7-8
Early online date8 Jun 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

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