Strengthening Telecommunications Resilience: A Call for Unified Action in West Africa

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In response to a recent internet outage affecting West Africa, the Federal Government has urged collaborative efforts among West African nations to safeguard shared telecommunications infrastructure. The call for unity came from the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Aminu Maida, during the 21st West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly Annual General Meeting in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Highlighting the disruptions caused by a major internet outage on March 14th, which impacted West and Central Africa due to failures in multiple subsea cables, Maida emphasized the critical need for a regional mechanism to protect submarine infrastructure. He referenced a report by Cloudflare, indicating ongoing outages in six countries, including four in West Africa, as a result of submarine cable cuts.

Maida underscored the importance of securing telecom infrastructure for attracting foreign investment and bolstering investor confidence in the region. He stressed that resilient and reliable telecommunications networks are essential for economic growth and competitiveness globally. Proposing a multilateral approach, Maida suggested establishing frameworks for joint monitoring, risk mitigation, and emergency response procedures for submarine cables passing through the sub-region.

Furthermore, Maida recommended expanding the mandate of the WATRA Working Group on Infrastructure to develop comprehensive strategies for safeguarding telecommunications networks. These strategies include strengthening infrastructure resilience, promoting connectivity diversification, conducting capacity assessments, and designating telecommunications infrastructure as critical national assets in member countries.

The West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly, established in 2002, serves as a platform for national regulatory authorities to promote regulations that stimulate investment in telecommunications infrastructure. Discussions at the 21st WATRA AGM focused on improving telecommunication services’ accessibility and affordability, consumer protection, quality of service, roaming, and conflict resolution.

Engr. Yusuf Aboki of Nigeria was reelected as Executive Secretary, with commendation for his leadership in delivering WATRA’s 2022–2025 Strategic Plan. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, announced plans for global collaboration to enhance undersea cable protection. Tijani emphasized the need to review international laws and foster partnerships with regional and global bodies to ensure the resilience and reliability of undersea cables, vital lifelines in today’s interconnected world.

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