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‘Free roaming for ECOWAS states best ease of doing business policy’

Telecoms analysts have started reviewing the recent approval for free regional roaming regulation for member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), saying the deal if implemented will boost regional trade and business.

Before now, roaming rate for the ECOWAS states is high and does not encourage any form of interaction, thus frustrating businesses and relations.

In its annual conference in Abuja, last week, ECOWAS ministers in charge of Telecommunications and Information Communications Technology (ICT), approved free regional roaming regulation for member states.

The endorsement of the regional roaming regulation came during the 15th Meeting of the ministers which held on the 6th of October, in Praia, Cabo Verde.

In an interview, telecoms consultant, Mike Obiaya said “With the removal of the charge, it will now be encouraging to open a regional line of business in any ECOWAS state as controlling it will not much hard”.

“Inter-ECOWAS states business will now be done as if there is no border. The idea will open up new businesses and raise the performance of existing businesses.

Corroborating Obiaya’s position, a telecom engineer said “The policy will be a two-way consideration for networks, because networks will consider their presence across the region and their infrastructure that can carry the new inter-ECOWAS states traffic”.

“Whereas some networks may be losing, definitely some will also gain more especially those that have presence in more member states.

“However, giving approval at ECOWAS Ministers level may not work unless there had been serious discussion with networks before the approval at the Abuja meeting’, Obiaya noted.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecoms and ICT, Dr Isaias Barreto da Rosa, saw the decision as “historic and something expected to touch the lives of ordinary ECOWAS citizens and bring tremendous contributions to our regional integration process as we strive to establish a single digital market in the sub-region and as we move from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.”

According to him, “The approved free regional roaming regulation includes a clear implementation roadmap which will start at the beginning of 2018”.

“Also during the ministerial meeting, a number of other important decisions were also made to foster the development of the ICT sector in West Africa. This includes a revised supplementary act on Universal Access and Service and its funding for digital access.

“In addition to these is a list of laboratories selected for the accreditation of DTT decoders in the region to ensure compliance with the ECOWAS adopted standards; Regional Spectrum Coordination Committee, etc.

“Another important subject discussed during this meeting was the promotion of cyber security in West Africa and the ECOWAS cyber security agenda. This initiative aims at assisting ECOWAS member states to develop their national cyber security strategies, to establish national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) as well as to improve cyber legislation and train judges prosecutors, law enforcement agents, etc.

“Experts from ECOWAS member states had met in Praia from 2nd to 5th October 2017, preparatory to the ministerial meeting,” ECOWAS said.

The Ministers, however did not give time frame when the policy will become effective as roaming charges are still charged as at Thursday, October 12, 2017.