A fundamental mission of ITU is to
help spread equitable, sustainable and
affordable access to telecommunications,
and to information and communication
technologies (ICT) as a means of stimulating
broader social and economic development.
How has your experience prepared you for this
mission in the years ahead, and what are your
Brahima Sanou: The global telecommunication/ICT networks and services will only be as
robust, reliable and secure as their weakest links.
My 30 years of experience have given me a clear
grasp of ITU’s fundamental mission. This experience
was gained first in the telecommunication sector in
Burkina Faso, a landlocked least developed country.
At the international level, I represented Burkina Faso
in the ITU Council, the Union’s governing body.
Thereafter, I served as Director of the ITU Regional
Office for Africa — a region faced with the greatest
development challenges. My experience therefore
puts me in a position to fully understand the specific
needs of our members and their geographic and
economic circumstances to implement programmes
and activities designed from a grass-roots level.
Against this background, if I am elected as Director
of the Telecommunication Development Bureau,
I will contribute fully to attaining the objectives set
for the years to come.
What do you see as the challenges
and opportunities in implementing the
Hyderabad Action Plan adopted by
the recent World Telecommunication
Development Conference (WTDC-10) in India?
Brahima Sanou: The greatest challenge will be
how to mobilize national, regional and international
resources through partnerships in order to
implement the regional initiatives, which our membership
has developed in a coordinated manner.
What we have learnt from the outcomes of the regional
preparatory meetings for the World Telecommunication
Development Conference (WTDC-10)
is that today’s priorities, especially in the areas of
e-applications, the transition from analogue to digital
broadcasting and the development of broadband,
are transregional. We also know that the regions are
at different stages in addressing these issues. BDT’s
opportunity and relevance will lie in supporting region
by region vertical implementation with horizontal
and transregional synergy in order to promote
shared solutions and best practices. To this end, the
five programmes adopted by WTDC-10 constitute the
most appropriate tools for sharing solutions and best
practices. It is also important to identify and give full
attention to flagship products and services through
which BDT can continue to enhance ITU’s relevance
vis-à-vis beneficiaries and other stakeholders. In my
opinion, the Member States provided a clear indication
at WTDC-10 of the manner in which they wish
these programmes to be implemented.
The ICT world is changing rapidly. To
increase ITU’s Sector membership will
be key in broadening and strengthening
the Union so that it continues to meet
the needs of a burgeoning ICT market. In what
ways can ITU’s membership system be enhanced
to attract and welcome new members from all
branches of ICT — from traditional players to
new market entrants — while retaining existing
members across its three Sectors?
Brahima Sanou: Sector Members will only join
ITU if they find that membership adds value in
terms of addressing their concerns. These concerns
are wide-ranging and in a constant state of flux. To
attract new Sector Members and retain existing ones,
ITU must strive to understand better this diverse mix
of needs and concerns, in order to be proactive in
proposing appropriate solutions to accommodate
them. The Union must make a determined effort
to attract all new ICT stakeholders while ensuring
that it retains its current members. This can only be
achieved if it offers everyone added value in addressing
their changing needs.
In 2012, ITU will hold a World
(WRC-12), a World Telecommunication
Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12)
and a World Conference on International
Telecommunications (WCIT-12). What are
the key issues to be discussed in relation to
Brahima Sanou: The key issues of direct interest
for telecommunication development relate,
inter alia, to:
the digital dividend, which will yield suitable spectrum that may be used to provide broadband universal access at low cost;
bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries, in order to enable the developing world to contribute fully to ITU standardization work;
the convergence of telecommunication/ICT infrastructure and services and the corresponding challenges and opportunities.
To my mind, the World Radiocommunication
Conference and the World Telecommunication
Standardization Assembly in 2012 hold particular importance
for the developing countries, especially at a
time when broadband is destined to act as the catalyst
for achieving the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs), whether in the field of health, education,
governance or trade, to name but a few. I would like
all these issues to be tackled with the utmost openness,
putting the interests of the membership first.
What will be your main priorities in the
next four years?
Brahima Sanou: My priorities would
lie in implementing the strategic plan
and operational plan by:
mobilizing resources to implement the Hyderabad Action Plan;
strengthening the enabling environment to make it conducive to private-sector investment to boost the development of broadband and the services it brings;
strengthening partnerships and cooperation, based on comparative advantages, with regional organizations, agencies of the United Nations system, the private sector and other stakeholders;
assisting countries in drawing up and implementing their disaster prevention and management policies and strategies;
promoting the role of women and youth by creating ICT solutions for development.
I will underpin these priority actions with sound,
results-based governance based on transparency,
staff motivation focused around work and productivity,
and strengthening of the regional presence.
ITU’s “federal” structure — made
up of the General Secretariat, the
Radiocommunication Sector, the
Sector and the Telecommunication Development
Sector — requires collaboration and team
spirit. What do you view as the fundamental
components of successful teamwork?
Brahima Sanou: From my field experience, what
is most important for the membership is not
the Telecommunication Development Bureau, the
Telecommunication Standardization Bureau or the
Radiocommunication Bureau, but rather the timely
delivery of ITU products and services. The distribution
of tasks among the Bureaux and the General
Secretariat is not an end in itself, but an arrangement
geared to optimizing the delivery of products
and services in the name of ITU. So, for me, the core
features of team spirit can be summed up as follows:
“Each individual should work for the success and
glory of others”. The “federal” structure is, to some
extent, a facet of the Union’s cultural heritage. I harbour
the deep conviction that excellent collaboration
among the three Sectors and with the General Secretariat
can only serve to make ITU stronger. I am very
well known to be a team player. And I commit myself
to working in extremely frank and close collaboration
with the other elected officials, for their success and
It is often said that good people are
the backbone of any high-performing
business activity or organization.
What is your message to staff, with
whom you will work to implement the strategic
plan and goals that will be approved by the
Plenipotentiary Conference for the period 2012–2015, within the budget that will also be decided
by this conference for the same years?
Brahima Sanou: Since ITU is a service provider,
its key asset and main factor of production is its
staff. This staff is at the same time its wealth, which it
must safeguard and nurture by creating synergy between
ITU’s objectives and the needs of the staff, and
by allying group dynamics with individual fulfilment.
Work and productivity remain the cardinal reference
value around which I will act as a coach, with a harmonious
mix of rigour and consensus building.
Brahima Sanou has accrued
30 years of experience in the
12 of them as an ITU official,
including 10 as Director of the
ITU Regional Office for Africa, the
largest region in terms of number
of countries. Africa faces the
greatest development challenges
— it is home to 28 of the world’s
48 LDCs and operates in a
multilingual environment (English,
French, Spanish and Portuguese).
Mr Sanou has a vast experience
at the international level, having
represented his country in the
ITU Council for almost 10 years
and having also represented a
group of 15 African countries
on the INTELSAT Board of
Governors in the 1990s. At
the national level, Mr Sanou
has held senior positions in
the telecommunication sector,
and has been elevated to the
rank of Knight of the National
Order of Burkina Faso (Chevalier de l’Ordre National).
A trained telecommunication
engineer, he also holds a
postgraduate diploma from the
Centre of Financial, Economic
and Banking Studies in Paris,
which affords him the requisite
capability and open vision to
grasp the economic and financial
aspects of telecommunication/ICT development problems.
He is co-author of the first report
on the impact of the WTO General
Agreement on Trade in Services
(GATS) on the telecommunication
sector in Africa. In recognition of
his rich experience in the field,
immersed in the daily concerns
of the developing countries, he
was awarded the prize of “Best
Public/Private Manager” by
Africa Telecom People in 2007.