In Tanzania, with an estimated 42 million people using cell phones and hand phones - 23 million of which are smartphone users - the telecom sector should realistically form the backbone of a dynamic and inclusive digital economy. However, an alarmingly high prevalence of fraud has resulted in the Tanzanian telecom sector haemorrhaging billions of dollars in the past.
This lost revenue has proved detrimental in a time when institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have been progressively reducing the level of funding offered to African governments. As such, finding ways to clamp down on the mismanagement of funds to reach financial independence from these global regulatory bodies has been prioritised in recent years.
A national success story in this regard has been that of the Telecom Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS) project implemented by Global Voice Group (GVG), which has allowed the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to collect over Sh93 billion in revenue over the past five years.
Speaking at an event in Dar es Salaam last week which acknowledged the impact of the TTMS project, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, John Magufuli, admitted that the mismanagement of funds in the telecom industry had gotten out of control. "It is no secret that we have lost a lot of money as a result of fraud and embezzlement in this sector.
"I would like to inform everybody, however, that since this TTMS system was installed, we now know the exact number of telecom users, debtors, telecom fraudsters, and all the information that we didn't know before. In fact, the TTMS has managed to eradicate almost all instances of fraud in external telecoms, bringing the figure down from over 65% to just 10%.
"Without this system, a large portion of this revenue would have gone into private pockets, instead of being used by Government for the greater good of the country," the President explained.
The system has also helped Government to understand and control a lot of electronic financial transactions like Mpesa and related transactions. This has allowed authorities to oversee these fast-growing services and to monitor their regulatory compliance as well as their security, reliability and quality for Tanzanians, especially the unbanked ones for whom mobile money represent essential services for their financial inclusion.
According to the director general of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Mr James Kilaba, this has already made a significant impact on tracking mobile money transactions. "We have seen an increase in mobile money transactions from Sh8.5 trillion per month recorded in 2007 to Sh11.6 trillion in 2017."
Based on the impressive level of satisfaction that is being expressed by one of Africa's larger countries, there is a question of whether this success could be duplicated in other countries to unlock economic prosperity for all.
The president believes that it could, and has urged all neighbouring ministries to take action. "I'd like to advise all other Government ministries and departments to emulate the TTMS and utilize E-Systems to ensure the effective collection of Government revenues.
e communications sector is such a vital sector of the economy, especially with all the development facilities. It is for this reason that we call it the new oil field, because it generates billions and billions of dollars in the modern economy," commented the President.