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 subregion. WATRA promotes the adoption of best global practices that stimulate investment in telecommunications infrastructure and services, deliver cheaper services to more citizens and connects people, societies and economies across West Africa and beyond.
WATRA also identifies the most innovative telecommunications regulations, policies and practices within West Africa and facilitates learning and adoption by member countries. Our main task is to work with members to lower barriers- availability, affordability, cultural, literacy etc.- and enable more and more people in West Africa to become more productive and enhance their access to local, national and international economies through the use of ICTs.
Our aim is to improve the lives of all West Africans, whatever their vocation or socioeconomic status, through more responsive and more efficient regulation of the telecommunications sector. By sharing information and through capacity-building initiatives, WATRA members are committed to deepening the use of ICTs to expand access to public services. They aspire to more effectively deliver important government services such as healthcare, agriculture support outreach and education as well as make government services more transparent.
Mobile telephones and associated ICT technologies have had a great impact on West African economies. Regulatory changes have transformed telecommunications from a state monopoly sector that serves less than 5% of the population to a dynamic market driven by the private sector that has achieved universal access to mobile telephones. Further improvement in regulations will attract more investment into building infrastructure and expanding services and deepen the impact of digital technologies on West African economies. The International Communications Union calculates that a 10% increase in access to broadband results in 1.3% increase in GDP.
The cost of ICT services in West Africa remains one of the highest in the world and critical infrastructure such as broadband backbone remain inadequate. The sub-region hence ranks below average in international benchmarks that rate indicators of the maturity of the digital economy such as citizens’ access to the internet and the skills required to use ICT services such as the internet and electronic payment applications where they are available. To reduce West Africa’s Digital Divide, more segments of populations have to be enabled to use digital products and services for economic as well as social purposes. Infrastructure facilitating high-quality and cost-effective delivery of ICT products and services across West African borders also has to be built, thus facilitating more efficient exchange of innovations and goods and services and advancing the goals of regional economic integration.
There is a significant difference in the quality of telecommunications regulations and their capacity to attract investment and drive innovations amongst WATRA countries. West African countries also have significantly different ranking of key digital economy maturity indicators such as the skills of their citizens to use ICT services, capacity of governments to deliver services through ICT, the development of ICT infrastructure etc. WATRA works with national telecommunications regulators and ministries in West Africa to accelerate the “spillover” of the most investment-friendly regulations and policies in the region.