ECOWAS Commissioner Pledges to Work with MFWA on Internet Freedom

The Commissioner for the ICT and Telecom Department of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Isaias Barreto da Rosa, has pledged to work with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to promote ICT development and improve the internet environment in West Africa.

Dr. Barreto da Rosa indicated his willingness to work with the MFWA when a delegation from the organisation called on him at his office in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday, March 10,2015. The delegation briefed the Commissioner and senior staff of the ICT and Telecom Department, on MFWA’s internet freedom project and the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, a Pan-African Initiative to promote internet freedom in Africa.

The Board Chairman of the MFWA, Mr. Edetaen Ojo who led the MFWA delegation, briefed the Commissioner on the background and objectives of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, and called for the support of the Commissioner and ECOWAS in ensuring adoption and implementation of the principles of the Declaration by countries in the region. Mr. Ojo subsequently presented a copy of the Declaration to Commissioner.

For his part, the Executive Director of the MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, briefed the Commissioner on the organisation’s ongoing regional internet freedom project. The project seeks to highlight challenges of internet rights and usage in various countries of the region; mobilising and building civil society capacity to engage in internet rights advocacy; and working with governments to improve the internet environment in the region.

In his response, the ECOWAS Commissioner said, his Department prioritises the issues of internet governance, affordability and access by community citizens. “That explains why the Commission has offered to host the West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF) in June this year during which stakeholders will discuss key issues around the governance of the internet,” said Dr. Barreto da Rosa. The Commissioner said a slot will be created during the WAIGF for a presentation and discussion of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms. 

The Commissioner further mentioned other initiatives of the ECOWAS Commission to improve ICT and telecom in the region. This included an ongoing effort to have regional reliable, modern broadband infrastructure and the process of harmonization of Telecommunications/ICT policies, legal and regulatory frameworks for the establishment of a single liberalized ICT market within the Community.

Dr. Barreto da Rosa said civil society organisations such as the MFWA had an important role to play in promoting regional texts and frameworks on ICT and Telecoms in the West Africa region. “I am happy to hear about the work of the MFWA and your efforts to complement what we are doing as ECOWAS by helping to popularise existing regional texts at the national level,” he said.

Dr. Rosa commended the MFWA for its work and expressed commitment to working with regional bodies such as the MFWA to improve policies and the internet environment in West Africa.

Also present at the meeting were Mr. David Kamara, Director of Telecommunications; Dr. Raphael Koffi, Principal Programme Officer and Head of Telecommunication and ICT Division; and Ms. Abigail Larbi Programme Officer at the MFWA.

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