Campaigners protest against Namibia ‘single internet gateway’ project

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Media trust takes minister Tjekero Tweya to task for wanting to funnel all telecoms and internet traffic through a single gateway

The people who helped to campaign against apartheid in Namibia are protesting about the government’s policy to impose a single telecoms gateway.

The Namibian Media Trust (NMT) has called on the government “to abandon its single telecoms gateway proposal in its entirety, claiming it holds no tangible benefits for the country and would instead result in economic decline and be counter-productive to Namibia’s development”.

The NMT was set up by the people who in the 1980s helped to campaign for an independent Namibia, which was then a colony of apartheid-era South Africa.

The government of Namibia wants all international traffic to go through a single internet gateway (SIG), said the NMT, which said is “both unconstitutional and in conflict with the Communications Act”. It added: “The step would conceivably deal a death blow to a competitive environment with regard to telecoms access, negatively impacting both the rights of telecoms operators as well as their existing contractual obligations.”

The NMT said this would create “an artificial monopoly”, and would overturn the “government’s obligations to open up the telecommunication sector in Namibia to competition, to encourage private investment in the telecommunications sector and ensure fair competition and consumer protection”.

According to The Namibian, a newspaper whose founders also set up the NMT, information minister Tjekero Tweya is supporting the single gateway move. It reports that he is lining up a local company called Exclusive Gateway Networks, which, says the paper, “proposed to government in May 2016 to put in place a system to facilitate incoming and outgoing telecommunications, such as voice calls, text messages and internet data”.

The paper says it is 51% owned by a Namibian company, UniGateway Solutions, and 49% by General Engineering Marketing Development and Trading (GEM), a French company. Neither company, nor Exclusive Gateway Networks, has anything of a web presence. GEM appears to be registered in Rue de l’Université in Paris.

The NMT says that a single gateway would mean “the consumer will have to foot the bill through higher prices. Making more money off international calls than is currently the case implies higher prices for incoming and outgoing calls.”

It adds: “The economic benefits of increased connectivity and lower prices for telecommunication services are well established. Creating an artificial monopoly not only goes against international trends but flies in the face of common sense.”