An event of historical significance took place in Maitama, Abuja on 16th September 2021, as the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, joined His Excellency, Babacar Matar Ndiaye, the Ambassador of the Republic of Senegal to Nigeria, to hoist the flag of Senegal at the Secretariat of West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA).
Danbatta, who is also the Chairman of the Executive Council of WATRA, stated that the event was of such profound significance that it transcends the physical hoisting of the flag, noting that “it symbolises the cohesion taking place in WATRA” and giving concrete and louder expression to collaboration and cooperation among members states of the regional telecom regulatory body.
Prof. Danbatta also said that the increasing demonstration of cooperation and cohesion by WATRA member states signifies unflinching commitment to harnessing ICT resources to improve the quality of life of the people of the sub-region, noting that ICT remains an enabler for bridging the gaps in the pathway to development.
Strengthening Danbatta’s position, Ambassador Ndiaye, who is also Senegal’s Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, described the ceremony as a happy occasion, noting that it was gratifying to gather at WATRA Secretariat to hoist the flag of Senegal alongside those of other member states.
He said Senegal has never relented in making remarkable contributions to ECOWAS and other regional bodies and indicated his country’s readiness to work within the political and economic framework of ECOWAS to streamline challenges facing regulators like WATRA.
Ambassador Ndiaye further stated that among the key challenges regulators face are the emergent Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, the convergence of networks and applications, the imperative of infrastructure sharing and the increasing needs of telecom consumers, dynamics of financial services, and electronic commerce in general. Ndiaye asserted that the telecom regulator is central to the acceleration of growth in other sectors of the economy and therefore occupies a significant place in the socioeconomic space.
He looked forward to continued collaboration to address the myriads of challenges in the telecom sector, and noted that the outbreak of COVID-19 and the envisioned post-COVID-19 relations have compounded the challenges of telecom regulation.
The Senegalese envoy seized the opportunity of the occasion to convey the gratitude of the Government and people of Senegal to the Federal Government of Nigeria for hosting WATRA, and thanked the NCC for the support it has continued to offer WATRA and for promoting greater cooperation among member states towards harnessing the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Aliyu Yusuf Aboki, the Executive Secretary of WATRA, in his welcome address, expressed extreme delight at having the ambassador and the chairman of WATRA at the flag presentation and hoisting ceremony.
Aboki noted that the presence of the duo underscored the importance that “policymakers and political authorities in Africa attach to the digital economy as a means of promoting investment, jobs and growth”, even as the meeting also signifies the sub-regional determination to work together in order to improve telecommunications regulations in a manner that enables “operators and investors to deliver more affordable, higher quality and more innovative services” to the people of West Africa.
Aboki who also recalled the rare strides made by the Government of Senegal in promoting digital economy amplified the voice of Ndiaye by expressing the gratitude of the 16 member countries of WATRA to the Nigerian Government, which, through the NCC, has continued to support “the Assembly and for hosting WATRA.”
The West African Regulators Assembly (WATRA) is made up of ECOWAS member states and Mauritania. The hoisting of the flag of member states of WATRA at the Secretariat, an initiative of the Danbatta-led Executive Council, commenced after the last AGM where Aboki and Danbatta emerged, respectively, as Executive Secretary and Chairman of the Executive Council.
Thirteen member states had their respective flags hoisted at the AGM while Mauritania later sent a representative to perform the flag hoisting ceremony. With Senegal’s symbolic presentation of its flag and its hoisting today, WATRA looks forward very excitedly to The Republic of Ghana to present and hoist its flag soon, in order to complete that process to further consummate the bonding among members of the Assembly.