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Elections at PP-10: Meet the candidates
Interview with Brahima Sanou (Burkina Faso)
Candidate for the post of Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau
Brahima Sanou

Question 1

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 expectations?

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.

Question 2

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.

Question 3

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.

Question 4

In 2012, ITU will hold a World Radiocommunication Conference (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 telecommunication development?

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.

Question 5

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.

Question 6

ITU’s “federal” structure — made up of the General Secretariat, the Radiocommunication Sector, the Telecommunication Standardization 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 their glory.

Question 7

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 telecommunication/ICT sector, 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.


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