The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lots of people and institutions on a large scale. Schools have been shut down, companies have asked their employees to work from home, businesses are having breaks and social gatherings are being restricted.
All these measures to contain the spread has left millions of people practising self-isolation and social distancing. Africa with 1,820 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus has also been putting these measures in place.
Lagos, the most affected city in Nigeria has issued restrictions on markets, schools, offices and businesses across the state to curtail the spread. South Africa has also announced plans to go on a 21-day lockdown, beginning from today, to tackle the spread of the new coronavirus.
To make spending all this extra time at home more bearable and financially considerate for its users, major mobile phone operators on the continent have rolled out incentives for users. Here they are.
Slashed Data Prices
With many people spending days one end at home, internet usage is sure to surge. And with Africa still battling with expensive data rates, major telcos have announced reduced data prices for their users up to 50%.
In South Africa, MTN has announced that it will slash data prices by about 50% in April. In Uganda, the telco has rolled out a day-time data bundle that will enable Ugandans to stay online and work from home – 1GB of data at just Ushs 2,000 valid between 9 am and 5 pm.
Although the telco hasn’t announced anything yet for Nigeria, customers are already acknowledging new and improved tariff plans as low as N3,500 for 20GB.
In Kenya, Airtel has announced free internet access for students in the country while Rain in South Africa is also rolling out an unlimited plan for users.
Increasing Awareness Among Users
In Nigeria, telcos have been adding hashtags about the coronavirus and the need to #StayHome or #StaySafe, in their various messages to users.
Across the continent, telcos are also allowing users to access the official COVID-19 information sites on their networks for free. This includes the official Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) site (in Nigeria), Ministry of health sites, and the World Health Organization (WHO) site.
Supporting Online Education
In countries like South Africa, MTN and Telkom have provided free access to educational sites of different schools and training. For MTN, up to 100 schools have been added to the zero-rated sites, while Telkom added about 60 sites.
In Ghana, MTN has also introduced an educational care package that gives subscribers access to online learning channels in the country.
Zero-Charges for Mobile Money Transactions
In order to dissuade the exchange of physical cash, which is one way the virus could be spread, telcos with mobile money services are offering it free for users.
MTN Uganda, Cameroon, Zambia and Nigeria have effected zero charges on mobile money transfers for 30 days. This is to make cashless transactions more appealing for users to effect.
Other telcos like Kenya’s Safaricom, as well as telcos in Ghana, have effected similar policies and are removing charges on mobile money transactions.
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