The Nigerian telecoms regulator says it is joining forces with West Africa counterparts to tackle the rising wave of e-fraud across the sub-region and beyond.
Under the plan, the regulators will unite under the platform of West African Telecoms Regulators Assembly (WATRA) to develop technical and regulatory initiatives for harmonised efforts on standardised regional roaming tariffs and electronic frauds otherwise known as e-frauds.
The WATRA collaboration is one of the highlights of the two-day meeting organised by WATRA in collaboration with the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) that kicked off Tuesday in Abuja.
Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, who also doubles as Chairman of WATRA, who dropped the hint of the collaboration to combat e-frauds says that as businesses move online, the fraudsters are also going digital.
Based on this fact and to give West African citizens and businesses the confidence to fully take advantage of the enormous benefits of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), there was a need for regulators to tame and outpace the fraudsters, Danbatta, who was represented by Engineer Bako Wakil, Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity at NCC says.
“About 75 per cent of trade within ECOWAS is informal, and thus poorly recorded. Therefore, digitising this trade through employing many forms of electronic payments is a significant step towards formalising, governing and boosting intra-ECOWAS trade activities. Our ambitions are to formalise informal trade, including agricultural commodities as well as boosting intra-regional trade and this requires us to improve collaboration on combating electronic fraud,” Danbatta adds.
e-Fraud is not just an African or a West African issue but a global phenomenon, Danbatta tells the forum while citing studies that reveal that 54% of consumers in the European Union say that they are most likely to come across misleading/deceptive or fraudulent advertisements or offers on the Internet.
On the regional roaming service, he says that WATRA has the vision of a “Digital ECOWAS” where improved sub-regional roaming regulation can help to facilitate an economic integration in the region.
“Our citizens, traders and companies will trade better when they can use their telephones to call contacts in other ECOWAS countries and when they can use their data subscriptions at no extra cost while travelling or doing business within the region. So, reducing and eventually eliminating the cost of roaming will also be a very significant contribution towards boosting trade within the region”, Danbatta says.
The WATRA Chairman says he is satisfied at the level of collaboration among national regulatory authorities in the sub-region on the one hand; and between WATRA and ECOWAS, to achieve a common goal, on the other hand, noting that such synergy is a great indicator of progress and internalisation of best global practices.
According to him, “I am very pleased to see the excellent collaboration and the sharing of workload between the telecommunications body and personnel within ECOWAS and WATRA. Their roles have become complementary and mutually reinforcing-policies legislative frameworks that have been designed at the ECOWAS level, while WATRA does the follow-up work of information-sharing, dialogue and learning dispersal amongst regulatory authorities. It is indeed becoming a well-articulated symphony.”
In his address, Aliyu Aboki, Executive Secretary of WATRA underscores the value of a trusted digital economy to any nation, while citing a study by Accenture that summarises that “a trusted digital economy would stimulate 2.8% additional growth for major firms, with the new transactions generated totaling $5.2 trillion of value creation in the economy. These he says justifies the establishment and operationalisation of national and regional anti-fraud committees.
Aboki commends ECOWAS for “allowing this regional sharing of the enormous task of building Digital ECOWAS to work very well through WATRA, which is a regional manifestation of this collaborative structure”. WATRA, as a mechanism for regional regulatory collaboration will work in unison and ensure its vision is speedily executed by making sure that no nation in the region is left behind, Aboki says.
Dr. Raphael Koffi, Acting Director, Digital Economy and Post, ECOWAS also tells the forum that while e-fraud in the provision of communication services has always been an issue being collectively tackled, variance in termination rates agreed in commercial roaming agreements has also constituted an obstacle to harmonization of roaming tariffs which the collaboration between WATRA and ECOWAS is set to achieve.
Participants at the event were updated on the status of the implementation of the Removal of Surcharges on International Traffic (SIIT) on ECOWAS countries; establishment of a uniform tariff cap for roaming call termination in the ECOWAS region, among others.