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* Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo last week cautioned GSM telephony operators in the country against charging high tariffs for their services which the citizenry would be unable to bear. Represented by the Minister of Communications, Dr. Bello Mohammed at the official commissioning ceremony of MTN’s national microwave transmision backbone, Obasanjo said, "Regarding tariffs, while it is a policy of this administration not to interface or dictate tariffs, let me quickly add that we are very concerned that tariffs do not remain unbearable to the majority of our people."

He continued that "I would like to urge GSM operators to exercise the highest restraint and sense of responsibility in fixing their tariffs," adding that government will continue to put in place suitable conditions and policies to enable the operators develop a viable tariff regime.The President also expressed the hope that in due course, "tariff will be gradually forced down by competition."

While also commending MTN for embarking on the project the President said, "I would like to acknowledge that GSM operators have helped to provide thousands of jobs to Nigerians over the last two years."He stated that apart from those directly employed by the GSM operators, thousands more jobs have been provided by the dozens companies servicing the GSM industry. According to him, GSM has brought in its wake enhanced productivity and efficiency which MTN and others have helped to instil in virtually every sector of Nigeria’s economic life.

- Kenya’s Transport and Communications Minister John Michuki said that it would spend KS14 billion on rural telephone connections. He said the ratio of urban telephone network to that of rural areas was 60 to 40, despite more than 75 per cent of the country’s population living in the countryside.

Speaking in his Kangema constituency on Sunday last week, the minister said telephones were not a luxury. "Telephone communication is a necessity, a factor to enhance the economic life of our people." He said the money used by families to travel long distances in search of telephone services would instead be used to enhance their living standards.

Describing cell-phones as gadgets which could only be afforded by the elite, Mr Michuki said KenCell and Safaricom mobile phone providers had between them 1.2 million customers. "We (Ministry) want to concentrate on rural areas to get the people to communicate cheaply and also as part of poverty eradication," he said.

He, however, said the ministry was planning to increase competition in the cell-phone service by inviting quotations for a third mobile service provider. "Competition between three cell phone companies will definitely bring down telephone charges," he added.