Liberia Eyes Sub Regional Telecom’s Highest Seat

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Abuja — In its bid to ascend to the Secretary-General post of the West Africa Telecommunication Regulators Assembly (WATRA), a high-powered Liberian delegation has arrived in the Nigerian Capital, Abuja. This is as the subregional telecom regulator commences its 18th Annual General Meeting of the Conference of Regulators from the 10th to the 11th of March, 2021, being held in Abuja.

A press release from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says Liberia’s Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Cllr. Cooper Kruah who heads the Liberian delegation, remains optimistic of Liberia’s clinching the position of Secretary-General of the 15-member state subregional telecom body.

Mrs. Maria G. Harrison, Commissioner for Engineering and Technology at the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) is Liberia’s candidate hoping to bring pride to her nation as the first female to ascend to the post if elected.

Other members of the delegation include Mr. Israel Akinsanya, Commissioner on Government, Consumer Affairs and Universal Access at the LTA, and Cllr Osborne K. Diggs Jr. Others include Mr. Jaiah Massaquoi, Mr. James Lynch, Mrs. Nathalie A. Foley, Mr. Stephen B Harrison and Mr. Roland J Foley.

Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Professor Al-Hassan Conteh has met and held discussions with the Liberian delegation on Monday, March 8, 2021.

Speaking on the importance Liberia’s aspiration for the Secretary-General post of WATRA, Minister Kouah said: “Now we are harmonizing e-commerce and communications in the region, WATRA, being a very central part of the process of moving communications at the highest level, we need to play a very active role in the regional regulator as we work to improve the communications in other sectors and maybe try to cover the unserved population of our country. So, we need to not just sit home but to play also a part in the organization at the regional level.”

On Liberia’s choice of a female candidate, Minister Kruah says: “Female participation in technical areas such as the ICT has been a little bit scarce all over the world and we are hoping that our putting forth of a female candidate to head WATRA will encourage more females to participate in such areas”.

The Post and Telecommunication Minister then expressed optimism of Liberia’s victory for the coveted Secretary-General post: “We are very optimistic of winning. Firstly, she is very qualified, with the requisite background in engineering and we are convinced that she is one of the best for this position. Also, this is the very first time we are going to have a female at the level of the Secretary-General post and we believe other member states will be sympathetic to this and reason out that we need female participations in such organizations”.

Commissioner Harrison goes to the WATRA bullet box with a vast experience. In her two separate tenures at LTA, she has been instrumental in the establishment and launch of the first Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Liberia in August 2015. She also serves as the Government Representative on the Government Advisory Council of ICANN.

Prior to her appointment at LTA in 2014, Hon Harrison served as a consultant in the energy sector in Liberia on the World Bank Funded Liberia Accelerated Electricity Expansion Project (LACEEP) working towards improving access to cost effective and reliable electricity supply in Liberia.

According to the release, Commissioner Harrison has also worked in both the public and private sectors in Liberia and the United States in various engineering and managerial roles in the telecommunications and semiconductor manufacturing industries including as a Molecular Beam Epitaxy Engineer and as a NPI Project Manager at RF MICRO Devices in North Carolina.

According to the draft agenda, the two-day conference will also witness welcome and opening remarks and speeches from several dignitaries, including Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim  and other representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), the release continues.

WATRA was established in November 2004. Its current membership is fifteen (15) countries with headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

Its objectives are to encourage the establishment of modern legal and regulatory structures for telecommunication service delivery in all States in the sub-region; and to encourage the separation of roles of policy-makers, regulator and licensed operator/service provider and the establishment of distinct, independent and adequately empowered National telecommunications regulatory agencies in the sub-region where such agencies have not been created, the release concludes.

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