Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya is set to enforce regulations to govern importation, type approval and distribution of communication equipment. The type approval evaluation will be carried out based on both national and international standards with suppliers or vendors of equipment required to submit samples which will be subjected to functional tests.

This was announced in the recent concluded Conformance and Interoperability Validation Workshop for the East African Community in Nairobi. The conference aimed at establishing a national and regional Conformance and Interoperability test labs to be used to stop or check the importation of counterfeit communication devices into the region.

The workshop brought together delegates from EAC member countries to study and validate a study by International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on the regulatory regimes in force in the region with a view to promoting collaboration in the establishment of common conformance and interoperability of ICT goods and services across the region.

One of the recommendations of the assessment study, is the establishment of a common Conformity and Interoperability regime and mutual recognition agreements for the East African region. Through its Conformance and Interoperability programme, the ITU is offering developing countries, the tools and skills necessary to set up regional test beds for conformance and interoperability.

Speaking at the opening, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, Mr. Joseph Tiampati said “the global telecoms market has become awash with counterfeits thereby posing a great danger to Africa, which lacks the expertise and the facilities to test ICT equipment entering the region for quality, interoperability and safety.”

“The problem of counterfeits has been compounded by the fast uptake of mobile telecommunications services, which is driving the fast growth of the ICT sector in most countries in the region. As retail tariffs go down due to increased competition, the demand of cheap mobile handsets for the low-end market has experienced a steep surge. This demand has seen the entry of cheap handsets into the African market,” he explained.

Tiampati observed that, “the subject of interoperability and conformance testing is important to the East African region and indeed Africa at large. This is because Africa is by and large a net consumer rather than producer of technology, including ICTs.”

He advised that, “The possibility of the East African region becoming the dumping ground for obsolete and poor quality equipment is, therefore, real.  The region, therefore, urgently requires assistance in the establishing conformance testing centres across its vast lands to avert this looming danger.”

Mr. Hodge Semakula the East African Communications Organization Executive Secretary told participants that currently the danger of increasing incompatibility of ICT equipment and failure to achieve seamless interoperability of networks is being posed by a major challenge of increased ICT equipment manufacturers and vendors and a reduced period of development and implementation of new technologies and services.

Increased demand for connected devices and machine to machine communication has turned the world into a networked society hence creating opportunities for the ICT sector. The same phenomenon has created new challenges for governments, regulators and other stakeholders in the ICT eco-system.

Semakula on the other hand advised that, it is critical for policy makers and regulators in collaboration with relevant regional and international bodies to establish policy and regulatory frameworks which will establish and monitor compliance with set technical standards or requirements for ICT products and services before they are deployed in the market place.

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