Earlier this month, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Ministers of ICT approved a revised Supplementary Act on Universal Access and Service.
The updated Act, which A4AI helped to develop in collaboration with ECOWAS, will replace the 2007 Supplementary Act currently in place and reflects current good practices and digital access goals in the region. The Act was approved at the 15th meeting of ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and ICT, following a presentation of the revisions by A4AI Executive Director Sonia Jorge, and is expected to be approved formally by the full ECOWAS Council of Ministers before the end of the year.
The Act was informed by in-depth consultation with stakeholders across the 15 ECOWAS countries, including a detailed survey on ICT needs, goals and challenges across each country, as well as consultative webinars to gain additional input from ECOWAS member states regarding their experiences with the current Act and their expectations for the new one.
The revised Act:
- Updates definitions according to the current digital context (e.g., universal access, universal services, basic services)
- Outlines guidance on good practice institutional arrangements
- Lays out a capacity building framework
- Includes guidance to unlock investment opportunities for multiple players in the market and to increase effective investment in both supply- and demand-side projects
- Calls for an increase in targeted interventions (e.g., public access projects, programmes to address skills gaps) to expand access opportunities among women, rural populations and other marginalised groups
- Calls on countries to put into place a monitoring and evaluation system with frequent reviews and open reporting
- Builds flexibility into the legislation of the underlying framework to ensure that new technologies and practices can be incorporated easily into strategies (e.g., IT, broadband, multimedia services, content development)
The revised Act represents the latest step taken by ECOWAS to improve internet affordability and access across its 15 member countries, following their adoption of the “1 for 2” affordability target in late 2016. Once the Act is formally approved by the Council of Ministers, it will be made public, and ECOWAS countries will be responsible for “domesticating” and implementing the Act to their own local context.
Isaias Barreto da Rosa, ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunications and IT, expressed his “profound gratitude for your [A4AI’s] unrelenting support and for the very fruitful cooperation between A4AI and the ECOWAS Commission.” A4AI looks forward to supporting these national implementation processes and regional policy harmonisation through our partnership with ECOWAS.