Romeo Kumalo. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Romeo Kumalo. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

IT IS possible for data prices to be trimmed. That is the opinion of former Vodacom executive Romeo Kumalo.

South Africans are watching closely a campaign titled Data Must Fall — 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 media launch of television show Shark Tank SA, Kumalo said that it was 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 SA to bring down the pricing of data using different methodologies‚" said Kumalo

Part of the Data Must Fall campaign focuses on how much data costs in other countries in comparison to SA. Reports show that 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 SA‚" Khumalo said.

"I think it’s very simplistic to say‚ ‘Well‚ 1GB is so much in Nigeria‚ it should be same in SA’. 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‚" he said.

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 nonexecutive director at Eskom‚ but resigned after serving only 14 months.

Passing the baton to the government‚ Kumalo said that it needed to implement a policy on data costs if it wanted 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 GB‚ the GB 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." –

TMG Digital