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Africa: COVID-19 travel restriction increases intl. calls for Kenyan Telcos as Rwanda, Uganda dominate roaming market

The global travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the East African region witnessed surge international roaming calls for Kenyan telecommunication companies as Rwanda , Uganda and South Sudan dominated the market.

According to, Uganda consolidated its position as the biggest roaming market for Kenyan mobile operators in the three months to September, new data by the regulator shows, buoyed by travel restrictions between the two key trading partners.

Statistics by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) shows that voice calls from Uganda totalled 64.59 million minutes in the quarter to September, up from 50.04 million in a similar quarter of 2019 — representing an 87.1 % market share of all the 74.15 million-minute roaming calls made from the East Africa Community (EAC) nation.

Uganda is Kenya’s leading trading partner in Africa, and among the top three in the rest of the world. It remains as the larger market for its industrial goods with Uganda supplying products such as poultry, milk and sugar.

Travel restrictions in both nations to curb the spread of coronavirus meant that most people took to mobile phone and Internet transactions to order for goods and services.

Uganda’s dominance was followed by South Sudan and Rwanda, which registered 4.15 million minutes and 4.07 million minutes respectively.

Similarly, calls by Uganda’s foreign subscribers in Kenya were recorded at 34.37 million minutes, representing 74.3% of 46.26 million minutes of the entire roaming traffic.

Mobile roaming service allows users to continue to use their phones or other devices to make and receive voice calls and text messages, browse the Internet, and send and receive emails while visiting another country.

The service is enabled by a deal between the mobile user’s home operator and the visited telco network. The penetration of the roaming traffic in the two counties could be attributed to proximity, contributing to lower rates, trips and long-existing trading relations.

Over the period, however, incoming SMS by Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom’s subscribers, among others, sent from Uganda dropped to 3.78 million from 7.47 million.

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