Stardardised Roaming Tariffs in West Africa, December deadline achievable-NCC Boss

Na’ankwat Dariem in Abuja

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The Chairman Executive Committee of the West African Telecommunication Regulatory Association WATRA who is also the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta has expressed optimism on achieving a standardised roaming tariff for the West African sub region at the end of the year 2021.

He stated this at the two day meeting of the WATRA Technical Committee (WTC) with the theme “Technical Meeting on Fraud and Regional Roaming Tariffs Standardisation for the ECOWAS Region” held in Abuja the Nigerian capital.

In an interview with Journalists, Professor Danbatta, represented by the Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity, NCC, Engr. Bako Wakil, said that the December 31st 2021 deadline for the take-off of the harmonised roaming tariffs in West Africa is achievable though there are some challenges.

“Well this is a work in progress and I’m sure the technical experts will do their best to see that they are able to meet this deadline.

However, he said “it all depends on the progress and the ideas the technical experts are coming up with in this framework. And there is need for domestication by every member state. Though it may take a while but I think we are making progress.”

Earlier in his speech, Professor  Danbatta noted that , “Our citizens, traders and companies will trade better when they can use their telephones to call contacts in other ECOWAS countries while in their countries or while travelling within the region. When they can use their data subscriptions at no extra cost while travelling or doing business within the region. Reducing and eventually eliminating the cost of roaming will also be a very significant contribution towards boosting trade within the region” he noted.

He used the opportunity to advise member states to digitise all forms of informal trade within the sub region.

“About 75% of trade within ECOWAS is informal, thus poorly recorded. Digitising this trade for example through employing many forms of electronic payments or establishing even rudimentary electronic portals for agricultural produce and livestock, are small but significant steps towards formalizing, governing and boosting intra-ECOWAS trade.

“As business moves online, the fraudsters are also going digital. So to give West African citizens and businesses the confidence to fully take advantage of the enormous benefits of ICTs, we must stay ahead of the fraudsters. Therefore,

“We are building the nest for universal and affordable telecommunications steadily in West Africa through our work on standardizing regional roaming tariffs and enhancing our capacity to fight electronic fraud” the NCC Boss added.

According to him, “Our ambitions to formalize informal trade, including agricultural commodities as well as boosting intra-regional trade requires us to improve collaboration on combating electronic fraud.  Electronic fraud isn’t just an African or West African issue. In the European Union, 54% of consumers say that they are most likely to come across misleading/deceptive or fraudulent advertisements or offers on the Internet.” He advised

The NCC Boss assured that they are making progress towards standardising roaming tariffs within the West African sub region

‘We are making good progress towards these ambitions. It was only in 2017 that the European Union was able to at last eliminate roaming charges. We have a framework for standardizing roaming tariffs in ECOWAS and this meeting is an indication of our seriousness in making it work” Professor Danbatta stated.

Danbatta maintained that “The best indication of the great progress we are making is how we have greatly improved our capacity to work with each other- national regulatory authorities compare notes and adopt best practices within both ECOWAS and WATRA. I am very pleased to see the excellent collaboration and the sharing of workload between the telecommunications body and personnel within ECOWAS and WATRA.

“Their roles have become complementary and mutually reinforcing- policy and legislative frameworks are designed at the ECOWAS level while WATRA does the follow-up work of information-sharing, dialogue and learning dispersal amongst regulatory authorities. It is indeed becoming a well-articulated symphony.” He said

“The technical expert meeting is to actually come up with harmonized policy on electronic fraud management as well as roaming tariff harmonization across the West African sub region.

“In other words we want to see all citizens of West Africa to be able to call as if they are in their own country. Without necessarily having to pay a high price for telephone calls within the sub region.”  He said

Coordinator, ECOWAS Roaming Committee, Fiona Lacine, from Ivory Coast said that the WATRA standardised roaming tariffs is for the population of the sub region.

“It is for our population, we have to do our best to introduce this roaming in reality. We want our population to have the lowest tariff when we are within the ECOWAS sub region”
 He said

Another Member of the Technical Committee, from Sierra Leone Raphael Kofi, explained that this initiative started in 2017 when ECOWAS Council of Ministers adopted the idea.

In 2017 the ECOWAS council of Ministers adapted regulations on roaming to eliminate the high tariff and provide free roaming to all citizens moving across a region, meaning that If you travel for instance from Nigeria to Togo when you receive a call it’s free when you initiate a call it is also a local cost, so this is very interesting to facilitate regional integration and free movement of persons.” He said.

 

Dominica Nwabufo

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