UCSAF towers stimulate business in villages
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Juma magohe of Singita Village in Shinyanga Region repairs a handset. Thanks to uCSaF communication towers, many villagers now own handsets. (Photo by Fadhili akida.)

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JUMA Magohe has been a radio technician at Singita village in Shinyanga Rural District since 2001. His earnings increased or decreased depending on the number of radio sets he received and repaired every month.

In the early days of his career, he was receiving and repairing an average of 3 to 10 radio sets every month. Sometimes he was forced to use more time in farming to generate extra income to supplement his income.

But the establishment of the government-funded universal communication services in the rural-urban areas brought about new opportunities that made him fully employed. With the construction of telecom towers by the Universal Communications Service Action Fund (UCSAF) at Singita village increase usage of mobile phones that created the need for technicians at the village.

At the beginning people were forced to travel about 30kms to Shinyanga town for mobile handsets technicians. “This was a huge opportunity that prompted me to attend short training on mobile phones repair,” he says.

“Repair of mobile phones has doubled my income compared to what I earned when I was only a radio technician,” he said, adding that as the number of people with mobile phones increase, also the number of cell phones brought for repair is on the rise.

According to the World Bank and InfoDev report on technology, more than any economic trend or programme seen in modern times, mobile phones have become a force lifting many parts of the globe into a new realm of entrepreneurial opportunities.

Mobiles can stimulate entrepreneurship as the demand for mobile industry hubs and mobile incubators has shown, and it can create many more opportunities for self-employment, part-time work, and flex-work.

In a mobile-driven economy, second and third jobs will become much more common and much more important. Magohe said that on a monthly basis, he receives and repairs an average of 10 to 20 mobile handsets and together with radio sets, the income generated has increased that managed to finance his wedding expenses.

It is the same job that helps him to manage family affairs and paying school fees to his young brothers and sisters. Similarly, the income generated is helping him expand agriculture, particularly rice and maize farming.

The World Bank says that mobile phones not only empower individuals but have important cascade effects stimulating growth, entrepreneurship and productivity throughout the economy as a whole.

Simon Rukinisha, a businessman in Kasulu District, Kigoma Region, owns a small shop for mobile handsets and their appliances. He said before the construction of the telecom tower at Heru Juu Ward, people possessing mobile phones were few and the business was small.

During this period, people were getting network services which were at most times unclear and unreliable from a telecom tower located some five kilometers far away from their place. But the installation of the telecom tower in the area pushed up and made the mobile phones business vibrant.

The increased demand for mobile handsets and their appliances made the income generated to increase also that led to the expansion of the business. Apart from selling mobile phones, also he provides mobile money services, wholesale and retail selling of airtime vouchers that help generates more earnings.

He said the increased income generated due to vibrant business in the area has helped him to fulfill better family obligations and re-invest the money in agriculture activities particularly of onions sending his earnings to double.

“I am looking to expand my businesses and bring varieties of mobile phones and other appliances in order to generate more income,” he said. Before the telecom tower construction in the area, he was serving very few customers but currently attends more than 50 customers on a daily basis.

Mr Rukinisha said also there is growing demand for mobile phones and appliances from the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda.

Business interactions between Kasulu town and these countries have been pushing up demand for mobile phones and related products. He said some business people in Kasulu District are importing various goods including mobile phones from Dubai and other Asian countries and sale them on wholesale prices thus turning the town be like small Kariakoo of the western zone.

Even some business people from Kigoma municipality come to make shopping of goods at the wholesale shops in Kasulu town. Semeni Musa is mobile money agent at Kasulu town. She began the business two years ago with seed capital of 100,000/- given by her parents after failing her Form Four exams.

But the capital has gradually grown to over 3m/-. She said the income generated from these activities help to manage her daily life and support parents as well as young brothers and sisters.

“My dream is to expand this business to become big agent possessing a shop that will provide all mobile money services, sale of mobile phones and other products,” she said.

Mark Perry, a University of Michigan economist, said that, “the simple cell phone has probably done more to reduce poverty globally and promote economic growth around the planet than all of the efforts of the World Bank,”

Therefore, mobile communications promise to do more than just give the rural-urban people a voice. By unlocking the genie in the phone, they empower people to make their own choices and decisions.

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