Nigeria Advocates for Collective Safeguarding of West Africa’s Undersea Cables

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In light of recent disruptions caused by undersea cable cuts affecting connectivity across numerous countries in the West African region, Nigeria has advocated for a coordinated and multilateral approach among regional stakeholders to safeguard shared telecommunications infrastructure. Furthermore, Nigeria emphasizes the necessity of diversifying connectivity to ensure uninterrupted communication channels.

Dr. Aminu Maida, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), conveyed this imperative during the 21st West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly (WATRA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, from March 19th to 22nd, 2024.

Speaking at the WATRA AGM, Dr. Maida, represented by Nnenna Ukoha, Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Commission, underscored the significance of establishing a mechanism within the subregion to shield against damage to submarine infrastructure and mitigate its repercussions.

Dr. Maida referenced a report by Cloudflare, an IT service management firm, highlighting that six countries, including four in West Africa, were still grappling with network outages stemming from the submarine cable disruptions. This underscores the urgency of the collaborative efforts advocated by Nigeria.

“Securing telecom infrastructure is paramount for fostering Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and enhancing investor confidence in the West African sub-region. The reliability and resilience of telecommunications networks are crucial factors that investors consider when evaluating regional opportunities.

“By ensuring the security of these vital assets, we can attract more investment, spur economic growth, and enhance our competitiveness on the global stage. A secure telecoms infrastructure not only facilitates efficient communication and connectivity but also signals a commitment to safeguarding critical assets essential for business operations. This assurance can significantly boost investor confidence and create a conducive environment for sustainable economic development,” he said.

He stated that: “The impact of events like cable cuts highlights the need for a coordinated, multilateral approach to protecting shared infrastructure across our member nations.”

Maida suggested “the urgent need to set up a framework for joint monitoring, risk mitigation, and emergency response procedures for the submarine cables that pass through the sub-region.

“Further to this, we recommend that the WATRA Working Group on Infrastructure expand its mandate to spearhead the development of a comprehensive strategy to safeguard the subregion’s telecommunications networks and associated infrastructure thereby proactively bolstering resilience through improved disaster response protocols to better insulate ourselves from future disruptions,” he said.

He advised that the objectives of the Working Group would include enhancing sub-regional infrastructure resilience, promoting diversification of connectivity within the sub-region, conducting regular capacity assessments, and facilitating the classification of telecommunications infrastructure as critical national infrastructure in member countries.

The West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly was founded in 2002 to serve as a platform for national telecommunication regulatory authorities in 16 member states. Its aim is to promote regulatory measures that encourage investment in telecommunication infrastructure, thereby delivering more affordable, accessible, faster, and secure communication services to citizens.

During the 21st WATRA Annual General Meeting, discussions revolved around issues related to accessible and affordable telecommunication services in the sub-region. These included enhancing consumer protection, improving quality of service, addressing roaming concerns, and facilitating conflict resolution for consumers.

A significant moment at the AGM was the unanimous reelection of Nigeria’s Engr. Yusuf Aliyu Aboki as Executive Secretary for a second term. The EVC of NCC praised Engr. Aboki for his resolute, inclusive, and visionary leadership, which led to the successful implementation of WATRA’s 2022–2025 Strategic Plan. He expressed pride in the milestones achieved during Aboki’s first tenure.

Furthermore, the EVC encouraged the WATRA Executive Secretary to build upon the accomplishments of his initial term by fostering stronger partnerships, deeper collaboration, and by further advancing the interests of the sub-regional body.

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