Data prices can be reduced, says Romeo Kumalo

It is possible for data prices to be trimmed. That’s the opinion of ICT guru Romeo Kumalo.

South Africans are watching closely a campaign titled #DataMustFall – by radio hosts and business partners Thabo ‘Tbo Touch’ Molefe and Gareth Cliff – that has given major cellular networks days to trim down data costs in the country.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Shark Tank South Africa media launch‚ a television show where entrepreneurs ask five moguls (Romeo Kumalo‚ Vinny Lingham‚ Marnus Broodryk‚ Dawn Nathan-Jones and Gil Oved) to invest in their businesses for a percentage of their companies‚ Kumalo said that it is possible for data prices to be cut but highlighted that it is not that easy.

“I do think that there is an opportunity for us in South Africa to bring down the pricing of data using different methodologies‚” said Kumalo

Part of the #DataMustFall campaign focuses on how much data costs in other countries in comparison to South Africa. We have seen information shared claiming that a 1GB of data costs R11 in India‚ R22 in Nigeria and R32 in Namibia – while it costs R150 in SA.

“It is possible‚ but there are a number of factors that drive pricing; it’s not just one thing and I don’t think that you can be as simplistic as saying in the US‚ in Nigeria‚ in Ghana‚ because the market dynamics are very different.

“That’s why today‚ a Big Mac‚ I mean it’s the same hamburger‚ is priced differently in China‚ in the US‚ in Bulgaria‚ in Sweden and in South Africa‚” he added.

“It’s the same hamburger‚ it’s got cheese‚ it’s got a bun‚ you know. I think it’s very simplistic to say‚ ‘Well‚ 1GB is so much in Nigeria‚ it should be same in South Africa’.

“There’s interest rates‚ the economy‚ the infrastructure. How you build a base station in Ghana is different to how you build a base station in Tanzania. So there’s a lot of factors you’ve got to take into account before you can determine pricing‚” said Kumalo.

Kumalo is currently the CEO of Washrika Holdings‚ a pan-African investment holdings/private equity company with investments in the construction‚ clean energy and ICT sectors.

He has been in the ICT industry for 24 years and has previously headed various divisions in Vodacom/Vodafone. He was also a non-executive director at Eskom‚ but resigned after serving only 14 months.

Passing the baton to the government‚ Kumalo said that they need to implement a policy on data costs if they want to help South Africans win the data war.

“Government needs to do their job in ensuring that the policy is conducive to data coming down. Their job is policy and they need to draft the right policies‚” he said.

According to Kumalo‚ there is an uproar over data prices because a lot of people now have access to smartphones and the realisation that they consume a lot of data is hitting a lot of people at the same time.

“You’re seeing a significant increase in people utilising apps like Facebook‚ people are spending a lot more time on their smartphones‚ hence the realisation‚ ‘Hey‚ I had a gig‚ the gig is gone’‚ but you forgot you were on Facebook‚ on Instagram‚” explained Kumalo.

“No one can argue with fact that data is costly and there’s an opportunity to bring it down but we also have to acknowledge that it has come down significantly.”

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