A Parliamentary joint committee of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has proposed a unified mobile telecommunications and internet data service in the region.
This was disclosed at the end of the 5-day delocalised meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament Committees on Telecommunications and Information Technology/Education, Science and Culture/Trade Customs and Free Movement held in Niamey, Republic of Niger.
The joint committee called on the ECOWAS Parliament to partner with the ECOWAS Commission in all the phases of the development and implementation of the telecommunications and information technology policies and programmes
Meanwhile, a group of telecommunications industry experts have asked governments in the region to support initiatives to end roaming fees.
This is what happens in the European Union. When you travel outside your home country to another EU country, you don’t have to pay any additional charges to use your mobile phone, your calls, text messages (SMS) and data use are charged at domestic rates, i.e. the same price as calls, texts and data within your home country.
In West Africa, the Managing Director, Radiant Skills Nigeria Ltd, Abuja, Temple Iheanacho, said that the requisite political will is needed to ensure a seamless roaming within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region. Iheanacho made the submission during the Delocalised Meeting of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications and Information Technology/Education, Science and Culture/Trade Customs and Free Movement in Niamey, Republic of Niger.
Speaking on the topic ‘Roaming and Recommendations on Regional Mobile Roaming Guidelines which includes: Mobile Network Operators/Service Providers and Regulatory Authorities in ECOWAS,’ Iheanacho also said with determination, the ECOWAS sub-region “can crush the mountains of fear and doubt in ourselves.”
The former Head of Data Centre and Operations Division, ECOWAS Commission, further said the sub-region can find a way through the most difficult situations and does not mean being insensitive to the reality of the situation as it affects some of the member states.
He added that the determination of the sub-region depended greatly on the strength of its desire or how important the sub-region considered roaming.
“The EU roaming was a successful political move and had a great economic impact on both consumers and mobile operators. If this had worked effectively in Europe and Asia, there is no reason why it should not work in the ECOWAS region.
“All that is needed for success in this endeavour, is the political will and the determination of all stakeholders (Heads of Governments, Ministers in Charge of Telecommunications and Digital Economy, ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS Parliament, ECOWAS Court of Justice, National Regulatory Authorities (NRA), Network Operators and Service Providers. They all should, as a matter of urgency, come together to agree on this,” Iheanacho said.
The committee also tasked the ECOWAS Parliament and ECOWAS Commission to ensure support from highest authorities at national level (Presidents and Prime Ministers) for effective implementation of the regulation for the benefits of ECOWAS citizens.
The committee also called on the ECOWAS Parliament and ECOWAS Commission to ensure that National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs) utilise their powers within the limits of applicable law and regulations to compel the mobile operators to comply with all provisions of the regulation.
Penalties, the committee added, should also be envisaged for operators that refuse to comply.
The committee further recommended to member states to ensure that a regulator is in place to ensure proper regulation of MNOs and SPs in the provision of high-quality and affordable roaming services to consumers.
While saying that set standards must be adhered to by all, the committee further recommended that member states should provide incentives to fledging mobile network operators and service providers to encourage them to provide high-quality and affordable roaming services to consumers.
“This could involve encouraging new entrants into the market, promoting market liberalisation and deregulation, and removing barriers to entry for new players,” the committee said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, has charged Members of the ECOWAS Parliament and all relevant stakeholders to remain committed to the cause of ensuring a seamless roaming within the sub-region.
Speaking during the closing ceremony of the ECOWAS Parliament Joint Committee on Telecommunications and Information Technology/Education, Science and Culture/Trade Customs and Free Movement, Tunis said a win in this sphere will facilitate the reality of implementing the Protocol on Free Movement of People, goods and services, thereby enhancing the citizens’ active participation in the overall regional economic activities.
Tunis, who was represented by the Fourth Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Adja Satu Camara Pinto, also said though daunting, the task to the people is simple.
“We must continue to find, create, and consolidate on every means and opportunity to bring the above stated to fruition. Once again, I implore you to continue to work towards making the sub-region progressive for the betterment of the lives of its citizens,” Tunis said.