ECOWAS TELECOMMUNICATIONS MINISTERS ADOPT TEXTS ON CYBER CRIME, PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION Regional Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and ICT have ended their
one-day meeting on Thursday, 16th October 2008 in Praia, the capital of Cape
Verde with the adoption of two important legal texts on cyber crime and
personal data protection in ECOWAS Member States.
The Supplementary Act on Cyber Crime within ECOWAS seeks to bridge the legal
gap relating to cyber crime repression through the adoption of new offences
specific to the use of ICT as well as adapt traditional offences to ICT
offences, sanctions and the punishment regime in force in Member States to the
new technological environment.
The text relating to personal data protection within ECOWAS aims at filling
the legal gap relating to personal data protection. It is also projected at
establishing in each Member State a mechanism against privacy through personal
data collection, processing, transmission, storage and use.
While adopting the texts, the ministers requested the ECOWAS Commission to
assist Member States to establish cyber crime surveillance centres and
determine their composition and functions.
Also, they recommended that ECOWAS, in collaboration with development
partners – in particular the ITU, should organize seminars to build the
capacities of regional legal experts on cyber crime control. Similarly, they
requested that such training seminars be extended to other stakeholders in the
sector and that Member States be encouraged to organize same at the national
The ministers who adopted the report of a preceding three-day experts meeting,
also approved the extension, by one year, of the deadline for the
transposition of regional Supplementary Acts adopted by ECOWAS Heads of State
in January 2007. The extension will enable all Member States to finalize the
adoption of national laws on telecommunications and ICT.
They pledged to take appropriate measures to ensure that the new deadline for
the transposition of the Community texts is respected. In this regard, they
encouraged Member States to emulate those that are far more advanced in the
In addition, they recommended that the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions should
operationalize the Regional Monitoring Committee - as provided for in the June
2008 Dakar Plan of Action - by the end of December 2008.
The ministers also appealed to the International telecommunications Union
(ITU), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the ECOWAS and UEMOA
Commissions to provide technical and financial support to Member States that
may so request, so as to ensure that all draft laws are formulated before the
end of June 2009.
While considering a report on the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF), a new
financial mechanism to fight against the digital divide between ECOWAS and the
rest of the world, the ministers noted the various forms of support given to
the Fund by world leaders and the international community, including the
United Nations, the African Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific
They decried the low membership level of West African states at the Fund and
urged Member States which are not yet to become members to so and apply the
principle of one per cent contribution, otherwise called the Geneva Principle.
The contribution is part of the innovative financing mechanism of the Fund for
development, specifically designed to reduce the digital divide.
The ministers mandated the ECOWAS Commission to propose an operationalization
mechanism in collaboration with the DSF, which was launched by President
Abdoulie Wade of Senegal, in the region.
At the opening, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers who is also
the Minister of ICT of Burkina Faso, Mr. Noel Kabore, recalled ECOWAS’
adoption of the Supplementary Acts in January 2007, noting that they were
being incorporated in the laws of Member States. He pointed out that the draft
Community texts presented to the meeting were aimed at strengthening the
security of the Information Society.
He also urged the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions to foster their cooperation
towards rationalizing their efforts regarding issues relating to Member
States’ contribution to the Global Digital Solidarity Fund, which he said is
an African initiative. He observed that the Fund was part of efforts to bridge
the digital divide.
In his address, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr. Comla Kadje,
recalled the steps leading to the adoption of a harmonized model known as
the “centralized policy model for national application” by Ministers of
telecommunications in 2004 in Lome. He explained that the model was designed
to create a conductive environment for huge investments needed by the region
for the development of ICT as well as to facilitate the creation of a single
liberalized regional ICT market as required by regional leaders.
The Commissioner who was represented by the ECOWAS Director of Transport and
Telecommunications, Mr. David Kamara, however lamented that the transposition
exercise would not be concluded before the February 2009 deadline because some
countries were yet to initiate actions to ensure that the Supplementary Acts,
prepared in collaboration with the ITU with financial support from the
European Union, are mainstreamed into their national legislation.
“In the attainment of the objectives of the World Summit on the Information
Society (WSIS), one major guideline is that trust and security in the use of
Information and Communication Technologies should be guaranteed to enable ICT
to contribute its quota to sustainable development in the areas of public
administration, trade, education and training, employment, the environment,
agriculture and science”, .
He expressed optimism that the new texts would complement existing Community
laws on ICT so that “our Community can be endowed with an appropriate legal
tool for the creation of an environment of trust for users; in other words,
these stakeholders should be assured that the services at their disposal
present maximum security and reliability”.
He also expressed the hope that the outcome of the meeting would ensure
investments in the sector, the establishment of national and regional broad
band communication networks as well as the provision of secure, reliable and
quality ICT services at affordable prices for the citizens of West Africa.
In his welcome statement, the Minister of State for Infrastructure, Transport
and Telecommunications of Cape Verde, Mr. Manuel Inocencio Souse, declared
Cape Verde’s commitment to improving the telecommunications climate, adding
that the country had begun taking concrete steps towards creating the legal
basis for competition, regulating the sector and liberalizing the ICT
He said that the telecommunications sector has undergone deep reforms,
including the coming into force of a new legal regime, the breaking the
monopoly in the sector through granting of licences to new operators and
creating a fully operational national regulatory agency.
While describing telecommunications as a tool that will enhance trade,
especially for isolated islands like Cape Verde, the minister expressed the
country’s preparedness to ensure that the national texts in Cape Verde
conformed to the ECOWAS’ legal framework, adding that it has advanced in the
regional transposition exercise.
Mr. Sousa reiterated Cape Verde’s desire to be fully integrated into the
African region, even as it accomplishes its role as an Atlantic bridge
connecting Africa, Europe and America.
In her statement, the representative of ITU, Madam Margarida Evora Sagna,
while recalling the ITU’s initiatives to promote cyber security, commended the
efforts being made by ECOWAS and Member States to harmonize the
telecommunications and ICT sector.