April 22, 2022. The 18th Meeting of ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Telecommunications/ICT was held on 22nd April 2022. The aim of the meeting, which was held virtually, was to adopt the progress report prepared by the ECOWAS Commission on the implementation of the Regulation C/REG.21/12/17 on Roaming on Public Mobile Communications Networks in the ECOWAS Space. It can be recalled that the Regulation on Roaming on Public Mobile Communications Networks in the ECOWAS Space was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 16th December 2017 with the aim to reduce the prices paid by ECOWAS citizens for the use of communication services whiles roaming within the community. The Ministerial meeting was preceded by a meeting of Telecommunications/ICT experts from ECOWAS Member States on the 21st April 2022.
In his address to the meeting, Dr. Zouli Bonkoungou, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunications and Information Technologies, welcomed the Honourable Ministers and expressed the gratitude of the Commission for their unwavering commitment to the implementation of the Regulation. Roaming, he said, must not be considered only as a business opportunity for mobile telephone operators, but also as a factor of exchange and regional integration, and above all of social cohesion for populations as they move within the Community. He commended Cote d’Ivoire, the country designated as champion for the implementation of the Regulation, the Presidents and Director-Generals of the National Regulatory Authorities of Member States for their support and leadership, as well as the technical committee which was set up by the Presidents and Director-Generals, in ensuring the compliance of the Regulation in their respective countries. He concluded his remarks by expressing the hope that the outcomes of the meeting will bring the region closer to achieving a 100% implementation within the shortest time.
Hon Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister for Communications and Digitalisation of Ghana and Chair of the meeting, in her opening remarks reminded the meeting of the enthusiasm of the Ministers for the implementation of the Regulation on roaming as expressed in the 16th Meeting of ECOWAS Ministers in charge of ICT held in October 2019. She reiterated the commitment of the Republic of Ghana to the initiative and outlined actions which Ghana has taken towards the implementation of the Regulation, namely the removal of the surcharge on incoming international traffic, establishment of a national roaming implementation committee, establishment of a national anti-fraud committee and the chairing the regional anti-fraud committee at the experts’ level. She also expressed the readiness of Ghana to share the experiences gained over the years in combating the issue of fraud in telecommunications services provision.
She recalled the expectation of the Heads of States and Governments of the Community to make affordable roaming a reality and commended her colleague Ministers, the ECOWAS Commission, the National Regulatory Authorities and mobile operators for all their efforts towards the achievement of this target. She concluded her remarks by calling on her colleagues to continue to support the NRAs in their respective countries to speed up the implementation.
The ministers adopted the Progress Report on the implementation of the Regulation, as recommended by the preparatory meeting of Telecommunications/ICT experts. The report highlights that twelve (12) Member States, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, have commenced implementation of the Regulation and twenty-four (24) mobile operators in these Member States have declared compliance with one or more provisions of the regulation, which include the application of tariffs for voice, SMS and data services whiles roaming in line with tariff ceilings published by the ECOWAS Commission and the free reception of calls for a maximum of thirty (30) days whiles roaming. This progress represents a global achievement rate of 34% of the services implementation.
While commending the strides made, the Ministers noted the rather progress of implementation and bemoaned the delayed benefits to citizens of the Community. To address that, recommendations were made to the ECOWAS Commission and to Member States on actions to undertake to speed up the implementation. The meeting also commended the initiative of the ECOWAS Commission to develop a new medium term Digital Economy strategy for the region and encouraged collaboration with Member States to ensure alignment with national digital strategies.