ECOWAS roaming initiative is to enhance regional integration

Ghana government has affirmed its commitment towards the implementation of the ECOWAS free roaming initiative to help enhance regional integration and economic development.

 

The initiative is expected to reduce roaming rates within the sub-region, promote cross-border investments and encourage competition among operators to reduce call charges.

Addressing participants at the 9th Council of African Regulators’ Meeting organised by Smart Africa in Accra, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Minister of Communications, said the initiative is a multi-country approach for the creation of a harmonized enabling environment for the international mobile roaming market to ensure affordable access to roaming services for voice, short message service and data.

Mr George Andah, the Deputy Minister of Communication, read the Minister’s speech on her behalf.

The three-day meeting is to present the updates on the One Africa Network roaming hub, the free regional roaming, the 5G policy implications in Africa, among others.

The ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and Information and Communication Technology on October 6, 2017, approved the free regional roaming regulation for member countries.

The European Union, the Southern African Development Community and the East African Community have all implemented the free-roaming for their citizens and it is time for West African to join.

Touching on commitment to curb internet crime, the Minister said, government has started work on retaking the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card registration exercise again to help the law and enforcement agencies to identify the SIM card owners, track criminals for illegal activities and resolve incidents of phone theft.

SIM registration also enables subscribers to be properly identified for the use of value-added services such as mobile banking, mobile money and electronic payment services”, she said.

She said the role of ICT cannot be overemphasized because technology acts as a catalyst in accelerating progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, adding that internet access provided enhanced opportunities to generate income and combat poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

Industry statistics portray the telecommunications sector in Ghana as one of the biggest and fastest growing industries.

Since the liberalisation of the sector in 1994, there have been more players in the industry with four mobile operators providing various services.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the Ministry has partnered with various organisations to undertake projects including e-government platform and the emergency command centre to assist government’s digitisation process and improve the ICT infrastructure.

She urged participants to fully interact, brainstorm and come out with innovative strategies to help improve the industry and Africa.

Mr Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, the Board Chairman of the National Communications Authority, said the Authority has made strides in cyber monitoring, broadcast management and network management to drive improvement in the telecommunication industry.

He urged participants to learn from each other to build trust in the telecommunications space and foster greater access to development.

Mr Lacina Kone, the Director General for Smart Africa, said their outfit has presented an opportunity to work together to transform the African continent and the ICT space to bridge the gap between Africa and the developed countries.

He said the activities of Smart Africa has serve as a push for Africa in the era of globalisation and digitalisation.

Smart Africa is an innovative commitment to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband and usage of ICT.

She said the free movement of goods and persons in the West Africa region has been of immense benefit to citizens of all Member States, stressing that the ‘free visa’ policy has eliminated the stress of visa acquisition for travel within the region.

There are currently 15 member countries in the Economic Community of West African States. The founding members of ECOWAS were: Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania (left 2002), Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Burkina Faso (which joined as Upper Volta). Cape Verde joined in 1977.

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