If there is one thing Malawians should never be underestimated for is their strength in numbers.
An online campaign to have internet and voice charges reduced has gained momentum and has forced big corporations that run the network sector to react.
The campaign has gone as far as inviting competition for mobile network service providers Airtel and Telekom Network Malawi (TNM) who have a duopoly over the industry.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako told Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) to look into the issue and facilitate the fall of data charges in the country.
Ordinary users have taken the fight into their own hands against the corporations and have threatened to take action to the extent of threatening to uproot network towers.
Macstryder Missi did not mice his words issuing a threat: “If Data price can't fall then your towers will fall. You have taken us for a ride in a long time. You must remember your Towers are in our neighborhoods and we can take them down one by one. So better humble yourself and deal with this issue fast before things turns ugly for you.”
Of course, Missi's suggestion would be criminal.
He was supported by more people one of them being Best Balala who said: “If your data bundle cost don't fall your towers will fall soon.”
Just in case Airtel thought the people are joking Helen Kulani reminded them they changed the government and a company would not be difficult to handle: “So you think we're joking? If we managed to bring APM down who are you to feel we won't get what we want? #Datamustfall
ICT Association of Malawi President Bram Fudzulani said Malawians have always complained of data charges but this sort of scaled up demand has been long overdue.
Fudzulani said ICT players are engaging Macra and Competition and Fair Trade to force the internet and voice network providers to take this issue with its outmost seriousness.
Response from network providers
TNM has not been pressured much as compared to its rival Airtel due to its reputation with the users who complain about 'data flying off' their phone.
Airtel issued a statement on Thursday saying they share government's sentiments for lower data prices saying they have over the years reduced their charges despite investing in 4G network coverage across the country.
Managing Director Charles Kamoto in a statement said they are listening to the people and are taking an engagement approach. “Debate and consequent decisions around data pricing have to be fact based."
However, Kamoto's statement did not get the intended response which is to sooth people but rather did the opposite as users said all they want are reduced data charges.
In 2019 the company recorded a 588 percent profit rise and projected more owing to population growth and increase connectivity.
Malawians have reached out to other mobile and internet services like MTN in SADC countries like South Africa and Zambia.
MTN has responded that is will soon be in the country but could not provide detailed information on when.
MTN Zambia said: “We are currently looking into opening a shop in Malawi. It is our primary principle as MTN to provide efficient plus affordable network service in Africa.