From left: ICASA GM, Consumer Affairs Phosa Mashangoane, IT consultant, Engr Sola Taylor and Mpke Abang, IT publisher

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The African Union (AU) and the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) have called for harmonised telecoms regulations across the continent to further strengthen the growth and development of the continent and the ICT sector.

AU Programme Coordinator Alice Koech and ICASA’s General Manager, Consumer Affairs, Phosa Mashangoane, posited that member countries of the AU should stop seeing one another as competitors but rather cooperate, collaborate and ensure that solutions are found to the common problems besetting the sector on the continent.

While Mashangoane spoke on the sidelines of the maiden Annual Conference of African Telecom Regulators on Consumer Affairs, held in Lagos, Koech made a presentation titled:  Harmonising Regulatory Regimes in Africa at the forum.

Mashangoane said all the regulatory frameworks in the continent have to be harmonised for effective and efficient delivery of services to the consumers. According to him, there already existed regulatory associations in other parts of the continent.

He added that the time had come for member countries to stop seeing one another as competitors but rather see one another as brothers and collaborate and cooperate to develop the continent for the good of all, adding that opportunities such as the forum provided by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) must be sustained.

In her presentation, Koech said the major developments that had taken place in the regulatory environment of Africa include the liberalisation of the international (voice) gateways; converged licensing; and technology neutral spectrum licensing.

She said urgent regulatory interventions are required because of the emergence of service neutral licences which would allow a single information communication technology (ICT) provider to provide both ICT and broadcasting services such as Zuku in Kenya which provides phone, internet and TV services, all converged in one licence.

Other reasons she cited for regulatory “intervention are need for market based spectrum licensing for better maximization of spectrum utilisation; making available the digital dividend spectrum to foster broadband in particular in remote/rural areas; and equitable access to marine fibre optic cables by all countries in particular landlocked countries.”

What needs to be done to accelerate harmonisation include more interaction with the outside world such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to learn of prevailing and most importantly emerging best practices and engaging in “robust and more frequent regional and continental ministerial meetings to adopt and review performance of harmonisation.”

On the role that could played by stakeholders, she said they could identify areas for regulatory harmonization through forums such as this one; identify best practices; keep in touch with the world developments; develop harmonised regulations; negotiate and develop action plans in good faith; follow through on commitments and targets; and develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation mechanism

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