Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

Good intentions, poor outcomes: Telecommunications reform in South Africa


Author Info

  • Gillwald, Alison
Registered author(s):


    As the first decade of democratic rule draws to a close in South Africa, this paper reviews the telecommunications reform process in terms of the performance of the sector against the twin national policy objectives of affordable access to communications services and accelerated development to meet the needs of a modern economy. It critiques the implementation of international reform models which have in practice tended to emphasise privatisation at the expense of other reform mechanisms--including competition and, in particular, regulatory measures. It argues that this has impacted negatively on affordable access and has inhibited market innovation. This paper identifies the root of the problem as the market structure. Designed around the vertically integrated incumbent operator, it induces inherently anti-competitive impertives that demands a resource-intensive regulatory response. The regulator has often not had the statutory powers, and seldom the capacity, to circumscribe the behaviour of the incumbent so that it does not impact negatively on new entrants. Without effective regulation, the assumed benefits of liberalisation--including more affordable access through improved management of the incumbent and more efficient allocation of resources in the market through competition--do not materialise. The paper argues that developing country telecommunications markets demand more from a regulator than simply meeting the threshold requirements of transparency and predictability via so-called international "best practice" models. Such a limited approach will not be sufficient to meet the challenges facing most developing countries. The highly imperfect nature of developing country markets, and the enormous income disparities and inequities that exist, require strategic regulation. This is necessary to enable innovative service provision, especially to under-serviced areas, and to facilitate fair competitive markets that promote the viability of the new entrants needed to build the information infrastructure--the infrastructure necessary for a country's participation in the global network economy. Simply removing all market-entry restrictions, however, is likely to place an even more onerous burden on already-struggling regulators and is unlikely to contribute to universal access and other developmental goals. A new policy approach involving the fundamental restructuring of the market is needed to remove the anti-competitive incentives that exist in the vertically integrated market structure that generally accompanies privatisation in developing countries. While a more horizontally structured market will not remove the incumbent advantage entirely, it is likely to reduce the need for constant adjustment of anti-competitive behaviour on the part of the incumbent, freeing up regulatory resources for more strategic regulation towards achieving national developmental objectives.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Telecommunications Policy.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 7 (August)
    Pages: 469-491

    as in new window
    Handle: RePEc:eee:telpol:v:29:y:2005:i:7:p:469-491

    Contact details of provider:
    Web page:

    Order Information:

    Related research

    Keywords: South Africa Market Regulation Telecommunications;


    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Devkar, Ganesh A. & Mahalingam, Ashwin & Deep, Akash & Thillairajan, A., 2013. "Impact of Private Sector Participation on access and quality in provision of electricity, telecom and water services in developing countries: A systematic review," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 65-81.
    2. Morgan Bazilian & Patrick Nussbaumer & Hans-Holger Rogner & Abeeku Brew-Hammond & Vivien Foster & Shonali Pachauri & Eric Williams & Mark Howells & Philippe Niyongabo & Lawrence Musaba & Brian Ó Gall, 2011. "Energy Access Scenarios to 2030 for the Power Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa," Working Papers 2011.68, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.


    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:telpol:v:29:y:2005:i:7:p:469-491. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.