Nigerian government has called for increased regional collaboration for the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem inorder to transform West Africa into a digital hub on the global ICT map.
The country’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami and the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta made the call at the two-day Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA), which commenced in Abuja on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. This is the 18th WATRA AGM.
Addressing WATRA representatives, Dr. Pantami said the time had come for African countries to come up with innovative ideas to fast-track the development of the ICT ecosystem in the sub-region. He said Nigeria, as the largest ICT market in West Africa and the most populous African country, had taken policy and regulatory initiatives in making ICT/telecoms a major contributor to its economic growth.
Citing a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Minister said ICT/telecoms had become a major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), far higher than what oil and gas, agriculture, construction, and other major sectors contributed to the economy.
Pantami acknowledged the role of NCC in spearheading the implementation of critical ICT policies, such as the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), 2020-2025 and the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria (2020-2030).
While commending the leading role of NCC, as Nigeria’s representative in WATRA, the Minister emphasised the readiness of Nigeria to continue to share ideas with other member states of WATRA and support the Assembly for the overall goal of collectively developing the ICT ecosystem in the sub-region.
Corroborating the Minister, Prof. Danbatta stressed the need for all member states to “come together and see our differences as strengths because at the end of the day, we all want to have a safe and thriving society devoid of poverty and strife.”
He said while the Nigerian government, as a member of WATRA, envisioned societies with necessary infrastructure and services that would ensure prosperity for all our people, ICT was key to this vision, adding that “WATRA is the best platform to pool together our huge natural and human resources to achieve exponential ICT growth which will, in turn, drive our economies”.
Chairman, WATRA Exco, Charles Tontoma Milogo of Burkina Faso, commended the leadership role of NCC, especially in equipping the Assembly headquarters in Abuja which had ensured the smooth running of the daily operations of WATRA as the key regional ICT body.
Also, Commissioner for Telecommunications and Information Technologies, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Dr. Zouli Bonkoungou, said through the kind of collaboration exemplified by WATRA, ECOWAS members would be able to encourage the establishment of modern legal and regulatory structures for telecommunications service delivery for driving socio-economic development in all states in the sub-region.
Meanwhile, ICT Ministers from Liberia, Cooper Kruah; Sierra Leone, Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara, The Gambia, Ebrima Sillah, among other participants at the annual conference, have commended Nigeria for its impressive ICT development. They expressed readiness to emulate Nigeria in the area of innovative policy implementation and regulations to make ICT/telecoms a major economic contributor in their respective countries.