West Africa Policy Day: Shaping telecoms policies to encourage investment and digital inclusion

There is a quote that really resonates with me:
“Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.”

Applying this mantra to the GSMA’s ongoing policy dialogue with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), that we will speak with respect and listen with interest, has meant that progress has been made in addressing the topic of digital inclusion. But in such a fast moving environment, we, as industry stakeholders, also need to be fast moving. Dialogue is more than just speaking, more than just listening. It is also about putting the outcomes into practice.

Last week at the Mobile 360 – West Africa event in Abidjan, the GSMA hosted the latest installment of the West Africa Policy Day. The theme of the day was to explore how government, working in partnership with industry, can shape telecoms policies that encourage future investment and drive digital inclusion.

In the opening session, the GSMA presented its latest report Digital ECOWAS: Pathways to investment, innovation and digital inclusion, a survey based research piece that highlights the direct relationship between government policy and digital inclusion. The report explores how government, working in partnership with the mobile industry, can establish supportive regulatory frameworks that encourage further investment from service providers, extending connectivity and fuelling digital inclusion in the region.

This session was followed by a presentation from the World Bank on their ICT African Regulatory Watch Initiative (ARWI), which aims to help ECOWAS Member States assess differences between their regulatory frameworks on a series of key dimensions. After the presentation, there was a panel to discuss the findings of both the GSMA report and the ARWI index. High level delegations from six ECOWAS Member States, including ministers and heads of regulatory authorities, ensured that there was a robust discussion and thought-provoking debate, supplemented by industry participants.

The agenda also included a presentation and discussion on spectrum pricing, a Capacity Building “taster session” on spectrum planning and management, and a discussion on the impact of climate change in the region.

The West Africa Policy Day proved to be a great platform for knowledge sharing and exchanging best practices. But the challenge now for industry and government is that we must put the speaking and the listening into action – action that delivers tangible results. After all, “actions speak louder than words”!