The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta has handed over the mantle of leadership of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) to the newly elected Chairman of the Assembly, Sekou Oumar Barry, of the Republic of Guinea.
Coming after the head of Nigeria’s telecom regulator served for a tenure of one year, 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.
As Chairman of WATRA in the last year, Prof. Danbatta leadership was able to formulate policies and guidelines to provide an economic defense for member countries against global shocks, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among his achievements are:
- The delivery of the 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 programs for members.
- Optimization of WATRA accounting, finance, and budgeting process.
- Setting up an institution of procedures for improved accountability, marked by a weekly financial dashboard.
- Deployment of automatic external phone answer and routing system
- Completion of front-end and back-end development of the redesigned WATRA website.
- Joint development by WATRA, the Coordination Team, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
- Commission of a new organizational framework for roaming regulation implementation
- Reactivation of Niger’s participation in ECOWAS roaming regulation implementation through WATRA-ECOWAS Commission collaboration.
- Re-translation of WATRA constitution drafted and under review by Executive Committee
- Renewed engagements with ECOWAS on World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) 2023 collaboration
- Joint conduct of the 2nd WRC2023 prep meeting
- Successful organisation of the 2-day technical physical meeting in Abuja on fraud and roaming tariffs for ECOWAS regional roaming in collaboration with ECOWAS Commission
- Kick-off of Digital Transformation of WATRA Operations and WATRA Operating Model review service being part of a $300,000 grant from the Nigerian government through NCC, Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the outgoing Chairman has expressed the conviction that the new leadership will build on the modest achievements of the last year. “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. So, if we build on the modest achievements of the Assembly, the benefits will be with the region for decades,” he said.
He also stated that both at home or in the diaspora, West Africa has the talent to study the most efficient ICT regulations in the world and adapt them 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,” Danbatta stated with patent conviction.
Sekou Oumar Barry, who will preside over the affairs of the Executive Council of WATRA for the next 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.
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.