PURA hosts WATRA meeting to boost digital transformation in W/Africa

Jun 12, 2024, 11:45 AM | Article By: Isatou Ceesay Bah

The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), in collaboration with the West Africa Telecommunication Regulatory Assembly (WATRA), is hosting a significant meeting aimed at advancing digital transformation in West Africa.

Starting from June 10th to 13th at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Conference Centre, the three-day programme focuses on implementing WATRA’s 2024 plan.

The initiative will facilitate the operations of its three working groups dedicated to improving consumer access and experience, enhancing cybersecurity, and developing infrastructure.

The programme's goal is to strengthen connectivity, security, and access across the region.

Permanent Secretary Lamin Camara, representing the Minister for Communication and Digital Economy, announced significant advancements in The Gambia's telecommunications infrastructure. He indicated that the country has made great strides in expanding its first, middle, and last-mile infrastructure, although challenges remain, he added.

“Before 2012, The Gambia relied solely on a single satellite gateway with limited capacity for regional and global connectivity. However, the government's efforts led to the landing of the ACE Submarine Cable in 2012. Additionally, funding has now been secured for a second submarine cable, expected to be operational by the end of 2025. This initiative is supported by a national fiber transmission backbone spanning the entire country,” PS Camara said.

Camara emphasised government's vision to bridge the digital divide and ensure that no one is left behind in the digital age. These efforts have significantly improved access and reduced the digital divide, especially with the launch of 5G services by two operators, resulting in a mobile penetration rate exceeding 150 percent.

The Gambia embraces the opportunities of digital transformation, while acknowledging the inherent risks associated with it. “Cybersecurity has become a paramount concern, and efforts are at advanced stages to ensure a secure ICT ecosystem,” he said. “The government has formulated and adopted robust National Cybersecurity Policy & Strategy and Data Policy & Strategy to effectively respond to these risks. The Cybercrime Bill and Data Protection Bill are also in the process of being enacted into law.

Dr. Njogou L. Bah, the director general of The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), emphasised the critical role industry watchdogs play in gathering all relevant stakeholders to pursue viable and sustainable solutions for rising consumer demands. He highlighted that PURA, as a proud member of WATRA, understands the importance of holding periodic meetings to strengthen and expand opportunities within the industry.

Dr. Bah stated that achieving these goals requires both individual and collective efforts to leverage the vast potential available. He expressed deep appreciation for WATRA's continuous support and cooperation, while conveying honour and gratitude for the trust placed in The Gambia to host this important meeting. "We are delighted to be your hosts," he affirmed.

Dr. Bah further stated that the fundamental goal of the Banjul Meeting is to encourage African countries to promote and adopt the forthcoming recommendations from this Working Groups meeting. He expressed hope that participants would propose viable solutions to address the identified challenges in the sector, leading to the implementation of appropriate measures for a better telecommunication industry in the region.

"I encourage you to give your best to enrich this meeting while enjoying the unique hospitality of our nation. I also hope your stay will be a remarkable experience."