Referencing Resolution AGA20/CR/23/R06, the following are the agreed 2023 Working Groups of WATRA:
- Working Group One (WG 1) – Consumer Access & Experience
- Working Group Two (WG 2) – Infrastructure Development
- Working Group Three (WG 3) – CyberSecurity
In recent years, regulation witnessed a shift to more holistic and comprehensive frameworks that require a problem-solving attitude and involvement of new players in a more collaborative, multi-sectoral, forward-looking, and cross-border approach to meet expectations of this dynamic sector, the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) through Resolution AGA20/CR/23/R06 (Adoption of the 2023 Annual Plan/Program of Activities of WATRA) approved the establishment of three (3) Working Groups to address critical regulatory issues in the sub-region. These Working Groups will focus on Infrastructure Development, Consumer Access and Experience, and Cybersecurity. The purpose of this document is to outline each working group’s objectives, responsibilities, and composition.
The WGs comprise of regulators from National Regulatory Authorities of ECOWAS and Mauritania.
Observers which include private telecoms operators and service providers, academia, consumer associations and other key stakeholders can participate in the meetings without voting rights and may not participate in closed sessions. In warranted cases and for a particular endeavour, the group may be assisted by a consultant or consultants. The hiring of the consultant(s) and Terms of Reference thereof shall be done by the group. The group would supervise the consultant(s) including reviewing their work for acceptance and hence compensation/payment purposes.
The WGs may also seek advice or request guidance from experts and specialists in the area covered by the group either from private sector, civil society, or academia. In this regard, experts may be invited and participate in the meetings without voting rights and may not participate in closed sessions.
The mandate of the Bureau of Working Groups shall be two years and the leadership of the WGs shall be rotated among members.
The Working Groups shall:
- Assess the way the 3 selected topics are addressed in West Africa both at national and regional levels;
- Explore experiences of countries and organisation within and outside Africa such as CRASA, EACO, FRATEL, CTO, ATU, ITU etc;
- Identify gaps and areas of improvements to achieve harmonized approach across West Africa;
- Propose recommendations and key actions to enhance regulatory practices for each topic;
- Prepare and submit annual status/progress reports which will detail the results of the work of each Working Group;
- Address and advise on any new topic that may be proposed by the Conference of Regulators and the Executive Committee.
The objectives of the WATRA Working Groups are as follows:
Consumer Access and Experience Working Group:
- Enhance consumer access to affordable and reliable telecommunications services in West Africa.
- Improve the overall quality of consumer experience regarding service availability, affordability, and customer support in the sub-region.
- Develop guidelines and recommendations to protect consumer rights and promote fair competition among service providers.
- Focus on enhancing consumer access to affordable, reliable, and quality telecommunications services in West Africa.
- Identify and address consumer-related issues, including affordability, service quality, availability, and digital inclusion.
- Develop guidelines and best practices to ensure consumer protection, fair competition, and effective complaint resolution mechanisms.
- Collaborate with industry stakeholders to improve the overall consumer experience in the telecommunications sector.
Infrastructure Development Working Group:
- Identify and address challenges related to developing and deploying telecommunications infrastructure in West Africa.
- Promote the adoption of policies and regulations that encourage investment in and expansion of telecommunications infrastructure within the sub-region.
- Foster collaboration among WATRA members to facilitate sharing of best practices and knowledge in infrastructure development.
- Identify and promote strategies to enhance telecommunications infrastructure development in West Africa.
- Facilitate collaboration among WATRA members to address infrastructure challenges, including network coverage, broadband connectivity, and capacity building.
- Develop recommendations for the harmonization of infrastructure policies and regulations across member countries.
- Support the implementation of innovative technologies and initiatives to improve infrastructure deployment and utilization in West Africa.
Cybersecurity Working Group:
- Address cybersecurity challenges and threats in the telecommunications sector, including data protection, privacy, and network security.
- Develop strategies and guidelines to strengthen the cybersecurity capabilities of WATRA members.
- Foster cooperation and information sharing among member countries to enhance cybersecurity resilience in the sub-region.
- Address cybersecurity challenges in the West African telecommunications sector and promote a secure digital environment.
- Collaborate with relevant stakeholders to develop cybersecurity and data protection policies, regulations, and best practices.
- Facilitate information sharing on emerging cyber threats and vulnerabilities, and coordinate response and mitigation efforts.
- Support capacity-building initiatives to enhance cybersecurity capabilities among WATRA members.
The working languages of the WGs shall be English and French.
WATRA Secretariat shall serve as the Secretariat of the Working Groups and shall provide admin support and technical expertise to guide WG’s decision-making and follow-up on the organization of meetings. This includes the accurate recording of proceedings at Working Groups meetings as well as the timely distribution of documentation between meetings.