Nigeria says it is supporting a telecoms ecosystem plan to deepen collaboration among 16 West African economies under the West African Telecommunication Regulatory Assembly (WATRA) umbrella.
Professor Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), who is also Chairman of WATRA, says the plan aims to foster interaction and engagement among member nations “to galvanise the development of the telecommunications ecosystem in the West African sub-region.”
Danbatta dropped the hint during a recent visit by a delegation from Autoridade Reguladora Nacional (ARN), the telecoms regulatory agency of Guinea-Bissau that visited NCC in Abuja.
The Executive Secretary of WATRA, Aliu Aboki, who is from Nigeria, will be visiting WATRA member nations to advance the West African telecoms collaboration, according to Danbatta.
“So, we hope this level of collaboration at the level of WATRA, will be strengthened, so that together, we can act in a manner that other parts of Africa can be able to copy from us. It is an excellent regulatory model that we are working together and I solicit your support and that of other member countries in making the visit of the 16 member countries by the Executive Secretary a huge success,” he tells the delegation.
The delegation was in the Commission to gain insights into NCC’s regulatory template as part of the exchange to build stronger bilateral relations with the Commission in the area of telecommunications regulation, according to a statement by the Nigerian telecoms regulator.
Nigeria: Why WATRA matters
“The 16 members of the regional organization share a common vision in ensuring that the citizens are not digitally excluded and are cooperating to ensure that access to information and communication technology services are not only ubiquitous, but that they are available and affordable through effective national and regional policies”, according to the Nigerian telecoms regulatory chief.
Coming back home, he says that through NCC’s various regulatory efforts, “Nigeria’s telecoms sector had reached an all-time-high, basic internet subscription of 154 million; over 87 million broadband subscriptions, representing 45.93 per cent broadband penetration; over 207 million voice subscriptions with teledensity standing at 108.94 per cent as at October, 2020.”
Through the implementation of various policy initiatives, particularly the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) NCC has improved access to broadband for over 80 million Nigerians and targets the provision of Point of Broadband Access (PoA) in all the 774 local government areas (LGAs) of the country within the plan period.
But the challenges remain in the process, he says, noting that the regulator is committed to addressing such challenges as the Right of Way (RoW) issue, multiple taxation, vandalism of telecoms infrastructure, among other hurdles confronting telecoms licensees as they roll out services.
Nigeria to WATRA members: How we are driving digital inclusion
To further drive digital inclusion, NCC carried out a study to determine areas where there are access gaps in the country. “We identified 217 ‘clusters of access gaps’ and today, we have ensured more Nigerians are digitally-included by reducing the number of access gaps to 114 currently, while more measures are being taken to further reduce the access gaps, thereby deepening digital inclusion.”
NCC has been recognised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as Africa’s foremost regulatory organisation and has over the years received regulators from across Africa and beyond whose mission is to understudy the Commission, Danbatta says.
“So, we hope this level of collaboration at the level of WATRA, will be strengthened, so that together, we can act in a manner that other parts of Africa can be able to copy from us. It is an excellent regulatory model that we are working together and I solicit your support and that of other member countries in making the visit of the 16 member countries by the Executive Secretary a huge success”, he tells the delegation.
WATRA: Meet Engr Aliu Aboki, the man to drive West African telecoms partnership plan
Engineer Aliu Yusuf Aboki, emerged as the Executive Secretary (ES) of WATRA as the Nigerian candidate in a keenly-contested election by member states at the 18th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Assembly held on Thursday, March 11, 2021 in Abuja.
Aboki scored the highest number of total votes cast, ahead of contestants from Liberia, Guinea, and Benin who also fielded candidates for the same elective position. He succeeds the outgoing ES, Elhadj Mamman Laminou of Niger Republic, who has held sway at WATRA for two tenures.
In the last 17 years, Aboki has worked in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry and has the lofty agenda to work with member state regulators and other stakeholders to make WATRA play a more strategic role in shaping the regulation of the telecoms sector in the sub-region.
His agenda as the new ES of WATRA includes harmonisation of technical standards, connectivity with societies across borders, ensuring sound regulatory framework for telecommunications service delivery in West Africa, increased focus on ICT as a tool for socio-economic development as well as ensuring closer collaboration amongst member countries.
WATRA, an organisation of 16 independent National Regulatory Authorities was established to promote an efficient, adequate, and cost-effective ICT infrastructure and services in the West African sub-region, while fostering rapid telecommunications development across member states.