Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami and the Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian NCC

Nigeria called for an increased Communication Technology collaboration in West Africa at the 18th Annual General Meeting of WATRA in order for a seamless telecommunications network and infrastructure between the 16 countries in the region.

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami and the Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, has called for increased regional collaboration for the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem in West Africa as a potential digital hub on the global ICT map. 

They both believed that increased regional collaboration would speed up the development of a seamless telecommunications network and infrastructure across West Africa, through the formulation and implementation of sound regulatory policies, programmes and initiatives, thereby achieving the objectives of WATRA.

The duo gave the push on Wednesday at the 18th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the West African Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA), currently holding in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.

Pantami described WATRA as a strong union because it has 16 countries in the region, adding that there was a tremendous advancement in the development of the telecommunications sector in West Africa with its liberalisation through the establishment of modern legal and regulatory structures for telecommunications delivery in West Africa.

He said Nigeria was the largest mobile telecommunications market in Africa, largely based on rapid development following the successful auction of Digital Mobile Licenses (DML) in 2001.

According to him, as of July 2020, the market served over 199 Million Mobile lines, with over 150 Millions of those lines connected to Internet services by January 2021, which attributed to the development of policies and strategies for the Nigerian Digital Economy sector.

He noted that in recognition of the tremendous economic growth opportunities afforded by the deployment of broadband technologies and to accelerate telecommunications service delivery in Nigeria, the Nigerian Government through the Ministry developed the National Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria. The Plan was aimed at the significant reduction of access gaps through the expansion of broadband access across the country.

"The Policy is based on eight key Pillars, one of which is the development of Solid Infrastructure through the deployment of fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure to deepen broadband penetration in the country. At the time, we commenced the process of drafting the Broadband Plan, our broadband penetration in the country was just over 33 per cent.

"As a result of the implementation of the new plan, this broadband penetration significantly increased to 45.07 per cent by November 2020. It is noteworthy to also mention that the Nigerian telecommunications sector grew by 15.9 per cent in year 2020 from 11.41 per cent in 2019 and 11.33 per cent in 2018,” he said.

Prof. Danbatta explained how WATRA’s potential in driving socio-economic development in the region was inestimable.  He was optimistic that the time had come for all to unite together and propel WATRA to achieve its true potential in putting the region at the forefront of ICT development within the Continent and engender a truly digitised regional society.

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