CEOs in this thriving market of East Africa
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to once again stand before you to address this Ministerial Roundtable on the “The strategy for Broadband Connectivity for all in the East African Region”.
Throughout the long history of the ITU and that of telecommunications evolution, Information Technological revolution has been just as critical as the change in both national and international legal and regulatory frameworks. Technology, in a largely free-wheeling environment, has moved faster than policy-makers have been able to create an enabling environment for it to truly thrive both in terms of infrastructure and services.
Around the world, many policies and measures have been initiated to foster investment and encourage Broadband penetration and growth. It has however been established that despite steps taken to liberalize the sector, private sector does not invest enough to cover the communication needs and is not moving ahead fast enough to create broadband infrastructure especially in rural and underserved areas. It is for this reason that some countries developed and developing took a policy decision to put telecommunication/broadband infrastructure in place, the same way they built other public infrastructure like roads and electric grid.
Many developing countries have had difficulty in committing public and Universal Access funds to build Broadband infrastructure in their countries as their legal and regulatory frameworks do not accommodate this. In this regard, the ITU in partnership with EU have implemented the “Harmonization of ICT Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa (HIPSSA)”, a $6 million project through which ITU has been helping countries to modernize and harmonize their ICT policies. Under the project, regional model laws have been created in collaboration with SADC and ECOWAS, and individual countries are now transposing them into their individual legislations. Under HIPSSA, Universal Access/Service Guidelines have also been developed, helping countries include Broadband in their Universal Service definitions, etc. ITU also provides fora for Regulators to meet and deliberate on issues of common interest, and also provide a platform for discussion between private sector industry leaders and the Regulators.
I am proud to say that the Forum of Telecommunication Regulation and Partnership in Africa (FTRA) which I successfully initiated during my tenure in Africa is still thriving and it inspired the Global Symposium of Regulators (GSR) which brings together policy makers, regulators and industry CEO’s from all over the world annually. The 2013 session of GSR will be held from 3rd to 5th July in Warsaw, Poland
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests
It is evident that while state leadership is imperative for investing in infrastructure especially in rural and under-served areas, it is also critical to encourage and incentivize private sector to do the same, through PPP and other means. It is also important to develop a model that ensures that there is no competition between Government and private sector, but synergy and complementarity.
Ladies and Gentlemen
These issues notwithstanding, I wish to congratulate East Africa that together we have made visibly significant steps in the telecom/ICT space and in Broadband access in particular. You may remember that in the framework of the implementation of the outcome of Connect Africa Summit, ITU in partnership with the Africa Development Bank and EAC took the lead in and concluded the pre-investment study of East Africa Broadband Infrastructure Network (EAC-BIN) which resulted in the proliferation of fiber backbones in East Africa. The efforts made by East African member states and private sector operators in creating backbone rings and redundant routes are truly commendable.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In fulfilment of the Capacity Building undertaking of the Connect Africa Summit to create regional ICT Centers of Excellence (CoE), ITU facilitated the establishment of the Afralti (Kenya), Makerere University (Uganda) and KIST (Rwanda) CoEs. Also in partnership with AfDB, the Government of Rwanda recently established a campus of the renowned Carnegie Mellon University in Kigali as a regional University and CoE. In support of these and other CoE around the world and to ensure a knowledgeable and ICT-skilled workforce in the future, last year I launched the ITU Academy initiative. The Academy will on one hand be developing training modules and tool-kits for countries and academic institutions covering ITU-T, ITU-R and ITU-D work, and partnership arrangements with academic institutions are being put in place for quality assurance. On the other hand it will serve as a platform for sharing training modules and opportunities around the world.
The decisions that will be made at the TransformAfrica Summit which I announced earlier as a follow-up to Connect Africa, will build on the successes of the Connect Africa initiatives in the last five years. We have together done an excellent job in “connecting Africa”, now let us join hands and “Transform Africa”!
Ladies and Gentlemen
On a continental and global level, we have also registered significant progress not only in the growth of mobile penetration and use, but particularly in Broadband access, whether through the conventional means or through smart-phones and Tablets. ITU statistics show that:
• In 2012, 36 African countries had a mobile-cellular penetration above 50%, compared to 10 countries in 2007. Out of those 36 countries 13 countries had a mobile-cellular penetration above 100% in 2012 compared to none in 2007
• In 2012, 18 African countries had an Internet user penetration above 15%, compared to 5 countries in 2007. Out of those 18 countries, 8 countries had an Internet user penetration above 30% in 2012 compared to 1 only in 2007.
• The uptake of both, fixed (wired)-broadband and mobile-broadband services have continued to grow worldwide and Africa is the region with the highest growth rates over the past three years with mobile broadband penetration increasing from 2% in 2010 to 11% in 2013.
• By the end of 2012, 146 governments including 29 African countries had adopted or were planning to adopt a national policy, strategy or plan to promote broadband. Many of these broadband policies and plans focus on building nationwide broadband infrastructure, stimulating demand through the adoption of online services and applications such as e-education, e-health/telemedicine, e-government, e-business, and extending connectivity to provide universal access.
We are all very proud to refer to m-Pesa as an Africa-born concept that is been exported around the world. Africa has a lot to offer to the world in ICT sector.
From the developing countries’ perspective, smartphones provide a great opportunity for Internet to take root where wired broadband infrastructure is still lacking. In that sense, besides being a primary mobile device, smartphones can easily become primary Internet access devices, in particular in some developing countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen
These facts and figures are good news not just for East Africa, but for Africa as a whole. It is my conviction that working together and taking advantage of these opportunities presenting themselves to us, we can build ICT-led knowledge-based economies. As a contribution to this effort, I also launched the m-Powering Development initiative mentioned earlier, which seeks to build partnerships around this rapid growth of mobile communications across the globe to deliver ICT applications in education, health, government, banking, environment, business and others.
No woman should pass away when giving birth because the right information did not get to the hospital on time when we have the mobile technology available.
No epidemiologic situation should get out of control because the information was not received early enough when we have more than 50% mobile subscription in this region.
No child, no matter where it was born and regardless of the socio-economic situation of its parents, should be denied proper education when mobile coverage is more 90%. We must transform the school bags into tablets. This is what this initiative is a bout.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I conclude, I would like to say that this inclusive and high level consultative conference on Broadband Access to All in East Africa has boosted my confidence in East Africa because I know that this is where the well-grounded strategies for the task will come from. To this end, I would like to recommend that
• With the fast development of broadband and the risk of saturation of the mobile networks caused by the increasing use of smartphones and tablets, make effective spectrum management of high importance.
• Provide a regulatory environment and licensing regulation that is conducive to investment in 3G and advanced wireless-broadband networks, such as IMT-advanced LTE known as 4G
• Review existing ICT policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure good coordination with multiple stakeholders to develop forward-looking approaches and innovative business models to attract and secure sustainable investments in broadband infrastructures and services.
• Create incentives for the private sector to invest in ICTs, such as adopting enabling policies, simplifying licensing regimes, harmonizing the frequency spectrum usage across the continent and offering tax incentives where necessary.
• Review the definition and scope of Universal service and Universal Service Fund to take into account broadband access and services.
• Promote innovation and content creation. One could safely say that we have built a critical mass of infrastructure. The challenge is to create content in order to be part of the offer and not only the demand, and reap the dividends deriving from Africa's competitive advantages.
• As the one-thousand day countdown to 2015 (date to review the MDGs) began on 5 April 2013, I would like to urge our leaders to ensure that broadband features prominently in the post-2015 Development Agenda, as an important development accelerator and engine of progress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me assure you that we, Dr. Hamadoun Touré, the Secretary General, I and the ITU Regional Office for Africa in Addis Ababa under the leadership of Mr. Andrew Rugege here present, are fully committed to support you in whatever strategies you come to, today and in the future.
I am sure that together we can give a human face and human touch to the ICT in Africa.
Yes we can, Let us do it.
I thank you