Ladies and gentlemen,
In 2006, the 15 nations that make up ECOWAS took a landmark decision that has
the potential to open the floodgates to a vast pool of untapped opportunity
across the region.
That decision was the adoption of a new, common ICT regulatory framework that
will harmonize national approaches to spectrum management, competition policy,
interconnection tariffs, infrastructure sharing, licence fees and more.
The fruit of a partnership project launched by ITU in cooperation with the
European Union, this new framework integrates inputs from a wide range of
stakeholders, including government Ministries, national regulators, telcos and
service providers and, of course, ICT users.
It has been developed around best practice guidelines adopted at the WATRA
Ordinary General Assembly in 2005, which were themselves the result of extensive
consultation and study by national and international regulatory experts,
followed by fine-tuning via a series of multi-stakeholder workshops held
throughout the West African region over a two-year period.
When this harmonized framework was adopted at the 6th Meeting of ECOWAS
Ministers for Telecommunications and ICT, we were confident of having a
comprehensive text that was not only appropriate and relevant to the varying
needs of all countries, but highly workable from a legal perspective.
At the time, ECOWAS representatives and others hailed the adoption as a major
milestone in promoting further economic integration and eliminating the barriers
that obstruct the free flow of information and transactions between the
countries of the West African region.
It was also widely regarded as a springboard to a liberalized regional market
that would stimulate the deployment of the broadband infrastructure that’s
becoming increasingly critical to competing effectively in rapidly globalizing
If, today, I may seem to be labouring the point, it is because I believe it is
absolutely vital that we do not lose sight of the prize that is now within our
reach, after so many years of hard work.
West Africa’s leaders have committed themselves to this new framework. Now, they
must translate that commitment into action, and move fast to implement the
harmonized directives that will establish a common West African market for ICT
goods and services.
The potential benefits are innumerable, and extend far beyond better access to
better quality ICT services. Around the world, ICTs have emerged as the key
enabler of just about every other economic sector. They are also an important
generator of new jobs, and an important bridge to new opportunities in new
Our host country, Ghana, has already been making impressive headway in
establishing itself as a new hub for international business process outsourcing.
Senegal, too, is building itself a niche market among francophone countries for
call centre and data processing services.
I know very well that, as African leaders, you have a great many pressing
priorities, and a great many calls on your resources.
But I cannot over-emphasize the benefits we could reap if we work more closely
together towards common goals.
This is generally true of national and regional ICT development initiatives,
where we must take advantage of complementary projects and not waste our
resources in duplicating effort.
This is particularly true of regulation, where a common, harmonized approach
will cut our network deployment costs, improve our purchasing power and market
sway, and make our region even more attractive to the many foreign investors
looking for new opportunities beyond the saturated markets of the north.
I therefore urge all leaders here today to move quickly to implement West
African harmonization, and to give this region the impetus it needs to leverage
its many formidable assets.