Nigeria has handed over the mantle of leadership of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) to the Republic of Guinea – having successfully piloted the affairs of the Assembly Chairman in the last one year.
The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Danbatta, who served Nigeria’s tenure as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s national telecommunications regulatory authority, handed over to the newly-elected Chairman of the Assembly, Sekou Oumar Barry, of the Republuc of Guinea.
The handover ceremony was one of the major highlights of the recently-concluded 19th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of WATRA which took place in Conakry, Republic of Guinea.
The AGM equally approved WATRA’s new Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2022-2024.
The new chairman, who will preside over the affairs of the Executive Council of WATRA for the next one year, is the Director-General of the Telecommunication and Posts Regulatory Authority (ARPT) of the Republic of Guinea.
The Assembly also elected the representatives of Mali and Sierra-Leone as 1st and 2nd Vice Chairmen respectively.
In a remark, Professor Danbatta acknowledged 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-1990s, and commended the synergy among member-states, which he noted has continued to provide an economic defence for member-countries against global shocks, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said ICT currently contributes 17% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Nigeria, with the ambitious target of 20% contribution over the next three years, stating 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.
The NCC boss recalled that he had worked closely with the Executive Secretary of WATRA, Aliu Aboki, and his team in the last 12 months to achieve a lot in the re-organisation of WATRA’s internal governance and processes to make them more efficient and transparent, and thanked the Executive Secretary and his team for the energy with which they had pursued the re-positioning task just as he commended the Executive Committee for the clarity of purpose with which they have spelt out these priorities.
Professor Danbatta listed 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 organization of various high-quality capacity building programmes for members, optimization of WATRA accounting, finance, and budgeting process, as well as the institution of procedures for improved accountability, marked by weekly financial dashboard.
While congratulating Mr Barry, the new WATRA Chairman, Professor Danbatta expressed the conviction that the new leadership will build on the modest achievements recorded.
“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,” he said.
“So, if we build on the modest achievements of the Assembly, the benefits will be with the region for decades.”
Both at home and in the diaspora, he went on, West Africa has the talent to study the most efficient ICT regulations in the world and adapt it 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,” Professor Danbatta stressed.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Barry, who thanked his predecessor for making giant strides in the last 12 months, promised to work with the Executive Committee team and the Management Team to consolidate the achievements of the Assembly, and to ensure greater success of the Assembly for the future.
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 at the meeting.
Reporting by Chioma Ezike; Editing by Daniel Adejo and Tony Okerafor