A high-level meeting of 14 Ecowas ministers in-charge of Information Communication and Technology as well as telecommunication was convened Friday in Kololi with the officials looking at key issues that will sustain and accelerate growth in the sector.
Presided over by the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy, the meeting was the culmination of the experts' four-day meeting, which will avail the participants the opportunity to look at ways of bridging the ICT divide in the sub-region. In her remarks, Vice President Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy underscored the importance of the forum to the development of the ICT/telecom sector. She observed that ICT has evolved tremendously and is now at centre stage as a game changer in the social and economic transformation not only in the sub-region, but the African continent and the world at large. The veep recalled that in 2007, African leaders, heads of multilateral agencies and international organisations took part at the Connect Africa Summit in Rwanda, designed to chart a way forward to foster the development of the ICT sector. She acknowledged that there have been significant developments especially in the proliferation of mobile networks and submarine cables over the period to date, thus underscoring the Banjul meeting as critical in sustaining the gains.
These facilities, she said, have increased broadband development in the continent and have created a surge in Tele-density figures, making Africa to become a region of hope. She told the meeting that The Gambia government under the leadership of President Jammeh, in collaboration with ECOWAS, has signed a financing agreement with the Islamic Development Bank for the Gambia ECOWAN project. The ECOWAN project, she informed, represent not only the regional e-governance platform, but also the infrastructure at national level that seeks to expand and modernises their national fibre optic backbone to the state-of-the-art next generation network.
The VP used the opportunity to express The Gambia's sincere gratitude to ECOWAS for conceptualising the ECOWAN project and to the IDB for funding her country's participation in this laudable initiative. She hinted that upon its completion in The Gambia, ECOWAN would have provided unprecedented connectivity options to operators as well as to consumers at an affordable price. "The project will further accord other sector players the opportunity to interconnect their base stations or local loop facilities, increase the range and quality of service they offer and increase the reliability of ACE submarine cable by providing alternative routing to the landing station in the event of failure in the cable leading to the landing station at Bijilo," she concluded.
The Gambia's minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Nana Grey-Johnson, dwelled on the commitment of the government to the development of the ICT sector. He informed that his Ministry has developed a solid strategic plan 2010-2014 to enable the conceptualisation and adoption of ICTs as the bedrock of the country's socio-economic development. Pointing that with the ACE project they can be more strongly connected by direct access between them, Minister Johnson also said the cost could be drastically reduced with onerous transit charges eliminated. The Gambian-born Ecowas commissioner for Infrastructure, Ebrima Njie, recalled that during the ICT meeting held in Yamoussoukro in Cote d'Ivoire, 14th October 2011, ministers made several recommendations including, to carry out a complementary study on the formulation of an appropriate legislation using existing best practices and covering all aspect relating to the determination of interconnection costs in facilitating access of landlocked countries to submarine cables.