Following Nigeria’s hand-over of the reins of leadership of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) to the Republic of Guinea, a representative of that country, Sekou Oumar Barry, has taken over as the assembly’s new chairperson.
Handing over to Oumar at the just concluded 19th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of WATRA which took place in Conakry, Republic of Guinea, the executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, who served Nigeria’s tenure as the assembly’s chairman, highlighted the important role WATRA has been playing in creating policy, legal and regulatory frameworks for information and communication technology (ICT) in the sub-region since the mid-‘90s and commended the synergy among member states for continually providing an economic defense for member countries against global shocks, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Nigeria, Danbatta said ICT currently contributes 17 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) with an ambitious target of 20 per cent contribution over the next three years. He further stated that if one big regional market in which ICT policies and regulations are aligned is created, WATRA members can drive ICT investment and growth faster in their respective countries and collectively in the sub-region.
Danbatta recalled that he had worked closely with the executive secretary of WATRA, Aliu Aboki and his team over the last 12 months to achieve a lot in the re-organisation of WATRA’s internal governance and processes to make it more efficient and transparent.
The EVC, thus, thanked the executive secretary and his team for the energy with which they pursued the re-positioning, just as he commended the executive committee for the clarity of purpose with which they have spelt out these priorities.
Danbatta reeled off some of his achievements as WATRA chairman, including the delivery of a draft four-year strategic plan in line with the 18th AGM resolution, partial payment of long-outstanding membership dues by some member states after long periods of inactivity, deployment of the new WATRA automated asset management system, successful organisation of various high-quality, capacity-building programmes for members, optimisation of WATRA accounting, finance and budgeting process, the institution of procedures for improved accountability, marked by the weekly financial dashboard, deployment of an automatic external phone answer and routing system, completion of front-end and back-end development of the redesigned WATRA website, joint development by WATRA, the coordination team and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission of a new organisational framework for roaming regulation implementation.
Other achievements include the reactivation of Niger’s participation in ECOWAS roaming regulation implementation through WATRA-ECOWAS Commission collaboration, the re-translation of WATRA’s constitution drafted and under review by the executive committee, renewed engagements with ECOWAS on World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) 2023 collaboration, joint conduct of the 2nd WRC2023 prep meeting, successful organisation of a two-day technical physical meeting in Abuja on fraud and roaming tariffs for ECOWAS regional roaming in collaboration with ECOWAS Commission, kick-off of digital transformation of WATRA Operations and WATRA Operating Model review service being part of a $300,000 grant from the Nigerian government through NCC.
While congratulating Oumar, Danbatta expressed the conviction that the new leadership will build on the modest achievements of the last year. “When members see the unique role that WATRA plays in easing the task of national regulators to adopt or fine-tune regulations through mutual learning and capacity-building, they see more reason to engage and be active within WATRA. So, if we build on the modest achievements of the assembly, the benefits will be with the region for decades,” he said.
He also stated that the region has talents – at home and abroad – to study the most efficient ICT regulations in the world and adapt them for the region’s purposes so that it can attract greater investment into the region and transform the economy of member states. “What we have to do is to continue the work of building WATRA into a platform that seamlessly deploys these talents and capacity to the 16 member states. The gains to us are enormous.
“As I hand over to the incoming chairman, please, be assured of my continued support, that of the Nigerian Communications Commission and, indeed, the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to WATRA,” Danbatta said.
In his acceptance speech, Oumar thanked Danbatta for making giant strides in the last 12 months, promised to work with the executive committee and the management team to consolidate the achievements of the assembly and to ensure greater success of the assembly for the future.
Oumar, who will preside over the affairs of the WATRA executive council over the next year, is the director-general of the Republic of Guinea’s Telecommunication and Posts Regulatory Authority (ARPT). The assembly also elected the representatives of Mali and Sierra-Leone as 1st and 2nd vice-chairmen, respectively.
The AGM equally approved WATRA’s new Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2022-2024.
A statement by NCC’s director of public affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, said the 19th AGM was attended by 14 of the 16 WATRA member states: Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger Republic, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Republic of Guinea, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Benin Republic. Ghana and Liberia were absent.