Liberia Seeks High Profile Sub-Regional Post -Fields Female Candidate for Telecom Post

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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, to participate in the 18th Annual General Meeting of the Conference of sub-regional telecom regulatory body the starting from the 10th to the 11th of March, 2021.

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 that Liberia would clinch to the position of Secretary-General of the 15-member state sub regional 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 who also serves as 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 of Liberia’s aspiration for the Secretary-General post of WATRA, Minister Kruah 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 communications in other sectors and maybe try to cover the unserved population of our country.

The  Post and Telecommunication Minister further said Liberia therefore 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, pointing out that Liberia is 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.”

This is the very first time the country is going to have a female at the level of the Secretary-General post, he asserted, and expressed belief that other member states will be sympathetic to this and reason out that the region needs female participations in such organizations”.

Commissioner Maria G. Harrison goes to the WATRA ballot 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 Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Prior to her appointment at LTA in 2014, Madam 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.

WATRA’s 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.

The body is also to establish 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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