At least thirty-two members of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly (WATRA) drawn from Anglophone and Francophone countries are meeting in Freetown, Sierra Leone to discuss and adopt the draft review of the organization’s constitution.

National Communications Authority NatCA Director General, Daniel Kaitibie explained to journalists why Members of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly (WATRA) are meeting at Fabulous Resort, York Village outside Freetown. He said the purpose is to discuss the WATRA revised constitution to match emerging trends in the international telecom space.

The workshop which attracted some 32 participants from mostly Anglophone and Francophone countries is being held at Fabulous Resort, York, in the Western Rural Area of Freetown from the 13th -17th of February 2023.

The West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) is a platform through which telecommunications regulators work together to broaden access to information and communications technology (ICT) services in the sub-region. WATRA promotes the adoption of best global practices that stimulate investment in telecommunications infrastructure and services; deliver cheaper services to more citizens and connect people, societies and economies across West Africa and beyond.

Mr. Kaitibie stated that the review of the constitution will reflect on the present and future of telecommunications in West Africa, adding that the old constitution was prepared some 20 years ago and therefore, there was a need to review it.

Speaking in his capacity as Keynote Speaker, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Solomon Jamiru Esq. informed his audience that the event was taking place at a time when Sierra Leone’s telecom regulatory commission has just been transformed into an authority – National Communications Authority (NatCA). He added that this was necessary to reflect the evolution taking place in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and to strengthen its role as a telecom regulator.

He went on to say Sierra Leone’s recent access to a $50M World Bank grant would help the government embark on digital transformation in the country. He added that communication should not be a luxury but a human right.

“All must have access to this critical tool,” he told his audience, adding that it is expected that by the year 2030, each person in Africa should be able to access 6 megabytes per second on their phone and that the continent would by then be manufacturing its own mobile phones.

He commended the efforts of those that have been part of the evolution of WATRA and appealed to the participants to work on what was planned years ago to ensure they respond to current and emerging telecom issues. He used the opportunity to encourage WATRA members to take a critical look at the current, imaginary and real issues confronting telecoms across Africa and to address them in the revised constitution.

On his part, the NatCA Board Chairman, Ambassador Joe Blell informed participants that it is imperative for WATRA to embark on collective efforts to ensure telecom services are available to all people. He added that in this Fourth Industrial Revolution, there is every need to close the digital gap so as not to leave anyone behind.

Lamine Mahamadou Diallo, WATRA President and Chair of the Constitutional Review Committee, reminded his audience how revising the constitution would fit telecom innovations that were coming thick and fast.

The meeting ends on Friday 17th February, 2023. At the close of this review exercise, a revised version of the constitution will be drafted.

In line with best practices, member states will validate the revised draft constitution before the constitution’s eventual adoption at a WATRA meeting to be held in Mali at a later date.

By Bah

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