Monday , January 17 2022

AFCFTA: NCC, stakeholders seek implementable strategy to drive digital economic revolution

In its hope to leverage on the provisions of AfCFTA Agreement for the advantage of Nigeria’s Communication industry as well as drive digital economic revolution; stakeholders and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has began preparation to work out implementable strategy.

This formed the basis of the two-day workshop themed: ‘Improving Nigerian Communications Industry Competitiveness for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Initiative organized by NCC in collaboration with the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN) held in Lagos.

AfCFTA which Nigeria recently signed is an initiative of the Africa Union with the main objective of creating a single continental market for goods and services, in addition to facilitating free movement of investment and people across the entire African continent.

Addressing stakeholders at the workshop, Chairman of NCC Board of Commissioners, Otunba Olabiyi Durojiaye said there is no limit to the achievement by innovative operators/investors in terms of business opportunities with a larger proportion of the population made up of young people, whose hunger for data and mobile services continues to grow.

He noted that in line with the Federal Government’s objectives, NCC is committed to ensuring that the sector continues to improve on its contribution to GDP and by extension the Nigerian economy.

“Through its direct contribution to the GDP and the indirect contribution to the performance of other sectors, the Telecommunication sector is indeed a facilitator of economic development.

“This sensitization workshop is to engage with stakeholders, with a view towards crafting achievable recommendations and solutions that will guarantee positive growth, development and prosperity for our industry, the Nigerian economy, and the African continent.

“Just the way we recognize the opportunities for investors in the African market, we also know that there are challenges not to say threats. Operators and investors within the Communications ecosystem must fully appreciate these dynamics, in order to ensure that they prepare adequately for them.

“At the end of the workshops, we expect to come out more informed about the AfCFTA Initiative, and better prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.

“We believe that with good planning and implementation, Nigeria and the African continent will be better off with the Continental Free Trade Area arrangement,” Durojaiye said.

The commission’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta urged stakeholders to examine ways to improve the competitiveness of the over $70 billion Nigerian Communications sector market for the Continental Free Trade Area.

Represented by NCC Director of Policy and Authorization, Mohammad Babajika, Danbatta disclosed that it is also estimated that implementing AfCFTA will lead to about 60% boost in intra-African trade by 2022.

He noted that the ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement by 22 member states, the Free Trade Area is now the largest trading bloc in the world in terms of participating countries, since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

On his part, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, ably represented by the Commissioner for Science and Technology in Lagos State, Hakeem Bobola said the trade agreement marks a new dawn to Africa’s economic transformation, explaining that Nigeria’s economy stands to benefit with the creation of this single market.

Speaking on this, NOTN Acting Director-General, Liman Liman said the AU Heads of States assembly has resolved that the liberalisation of trade services in AfCFTA shall be negotiated in two phases with priority given to telecommunications.

Liman stated that although negotiations on the liberalisation of telecommunications have not yet begun; there is need for strong regulatory institutions to prevent unfair competition in the market.

“The AfCFTA does not intend to harmonise telecommunications regulation, nor is the intention to usurp the function of the national regulator, rather, it is to ensure that amongst others, there is a minimum standard of treatment or regulatory principles.

“It is however expected that the framework of the telecommunications sector in the AfCFTA will include: regulatory disciplines, data transmission, cellular telephone, fixed telephone, mobile satellite, value added data services and other services to be determined by the negotiating parties.

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“A significant challenge will be to ensure complementarity between the AfCFTA telecommunications regime – the regulatory principles and the market access commitments – with the telecommunications legislative and regulatory frameworks at national levels.

“Liberalisation of telecommunications is a critical component of financial inclusion, the total value of mobile money transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa last year was worth $19.9bn, as individual transactions grew by 17.9 per cent to 1.2 billion year over year.

“In order to be globally competitive, telecommunications infrastructure will require significant amount of investment both by domestic and foreign investors”, Liman advised.

About Bukola Olanrewaju

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