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ECOWAS Reviews Strategy for ICT Growth and Development
IMG_9573Udoh Monisola, Director, Ministry of Communication Technoloy Nigeria(L), Dr. Isaias Barreto Olimpio da  Rosa. Commissioner for ICT and Mr. Malick Ndiaye, repr. of Senegal’s Ministry of Telecommunication and ICT at the meeting (see more pictures at the  bottom of the page).

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has affirmed the need for a comprehensive regional Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy for the continuous growth and development of the West African region. This affirmation was made when a group of experts, delegates and other stakeholders met at a two-day regional workshop to review the ECOWAS ICT Strategy, in Abuja, Nigeria, from 27th to 28th July, 2015.

The review workshop which had in attendance delegates from the Member States was declared open by the representative of the Nigeria’s Ministry of Communication Technology, Mrs. Moni Udoh, who is the ICT Director in the Ministry. In her remarks, she expressed the happiness of Nigeria and its people for the all-important workshop to review the regions strategy on ICT, which she believed would go a long way in integrating the West African region and galvanizing the efforts of its Member States.

Mrs. Udoh said this review couldn’t have come at a better time for Nigeria, especially with the expected formation of a new cabinet under the recently inaugurated government of President Muhammadu Buhari. ‘This document will help us to set a regional agenda in the ministry once a new Minister is appointed’ she added. The regional Strategy in addition to the already developed Nigerian Harmonized National Strategy on ICT and Broadband would enhance coordination and cross-border collaboration in the area of ICT programme development and implementation across the region.

She said a harmonized ICT Strategy for West Africa will also ensure that the region is able to tap into the huge and abundant ICT market that is available in the community. ‘This can only be achieved if we collaborate and work together as one big entity’, she maintained. Mrs. Udoh urged participants to avail themselves with Nigeria’s ICT and Broadband Strategy on the Ministry’s website, which she believed could point members to the right direction on some of the issues and actions that would come up in the ECOWAS ICT Strategy review.

In his own remarks, the Chairman of the workshop and representative of the Senegal’s Ministry of Telecommunication and ICT, Mr. Malick Ndiaye, who is also the Ministry’s Director of Cabinet, reiterated the commitment of his country and that of other West African Member States towards having a unified Strategy on ICT that will spell out actions and objectives towards an improved and highly developed ICT sector in the region.

He cited the example of Senegal, where the ICT sector had contributed up to twelve percent to the national budget and about seven percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 alone. This he said can be highly improved upon if there is a regional strategy that brings all players in the region under one umbrella.

Mr. Ndiaye said it is very important to draft policies and strategies so that market players and other stakeholders in the digital sector will have clear guidelines on their operations. This he said will tremendously improve the quality of the sector in the West African market. He further emphasized that the review of the ICT strategy is in line with the Smart Africa Strategy that African countries had earlier endorsed.

On his part the ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunication and IT, Dr. Isaías Barreto da Rosa, described ICT as the engine for West Africa’s regional integration process. He said the rapidly changing landscape had shown that the use of ICT cannot be underestimated because it is fundamental for any region in the quest of improving innovation and productivity, in order to ensure continued development.

The Commissioner informed the meeting that the ECOWAS Commission is working to put forth an ICT strategy that encompasses all areas, so that when implemented, will deliver an enhanced quality of service as well as social and economic benefits to the region and its people. He also emphasized some of the achievements of the Commission in the area of Telecommunication and IT to include; four submarine fiber optic cables that have been put in place with at least one operational landing point in all the coastal countries of the ECOWAS region except Guinea Bissau. ‘The ECOWAS region is now connected to the worldwide broadband network with enough capacity for businesses and users’, he added.

ECOWAS has also ensured that its landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have now at least 2 routes for their access to the submarine cables. There is also the creation, of a new Department that is fully dedicated to Telecommunications and Information Technologies at the ECOWAS Commission. These are in addition to the adoption of appropriate legislations to establish a secured cyber space in the ECOWAS region and to facilitate access to submarine cables, as well as capacity building programs conducted with ECOWAS partners in the areas of cybersecurity and cybercrime, Internet Exchange Points (IXP) and e‐commerce.

Dr. Barreto da Rosa, also spoke about efforts being made by ECOWAS with regards to adoption of common standards for transmission and compression as well as minimum technical specifications for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) receivers which he asserted would definitely benefit from economies of scale and can lower costs for citizens of the region. He added that the Commission is working on DTT at the sub regional level.

The Commissioner called on delegates to pay attention to the pressing need to improve the ECOWAS regional telecommunications infrastructure, and the challenge of making telecommunication services more affordable to the people of West Africa, the need to establish the necessary enabling environment that can promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the sector as well as the establishment of a single ICT market in ECOWAS.

The Strategy Review meeting also featured presentations from ECOWAS partners including Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) where the Stakeholder Engagement and Operations Manager – Africa, Mr. Yaovi Atohoun gave a presentation on ICANN Multi-stakeholder Model and the Africa Strategy as well as an Update on the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Stewardship Transition and ICANN Accountability Processes. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) led by the Deputy Director Policy Lead, Mr. Kojo Boakye made a presentation on strategies to drive affordability of internet services in the West African region.

At the end of the two-day meeting delegates reviewed the 2016-2020 ECOWAS ICT Strategy with technical and strategic input from the Telecommunication and IT Department of the ECOWAS Commission led by the Commissioner and supported by Dr. Rafael Koffi, the Head of IT and Folake Olagunju Oyelola, Program Officer ICT amongst other staff. The delegates thereafter reaffirmed their commitment towards the full implementation of the Strategy when finally adopted by the relevant authorities.

Photos Galery
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IMG_9589 Group Photograph of the Seminar on Review of ICT Strategy. Abuja, 27th July, 2015. IMG_9632

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