Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

Cairo, Egypt
15 May 2008

Dr. Tarek Kamel, Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Dr. Norman Lewis,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,

ITU Telecom Africa 2008 is now coming to an end, and I am very pleased to address the Forum Closing, after a terrific week in Cairo.

  • It was clear from every session that Africa is truly on the move. From the Youth Forum that kicked off on Saturday to the main Forum and Telecommunication Development Symposium sessions, all agree that information and communication technologies offer huge opportunities that can change the lives of millions of people in Africa. This message was relayed by the 200 Speakers and 750 participants in the 30 sessions of the Forum, the Youth Forum and the TDS.
  • Africa Telecom 2008 was very well attended with a total of 6.200 participants as from yesterday, including 300 VIPs. The number of CEOs attending doubled from Telecom 2004. We were pleased to welcome 130 CEOs this year. The exhibition was also bigger than last time with 8.200 square meters and the record number of 360 media representatives covering the event.
  • Africa's mobile telecommunication markets have achieved some of the highest growth rates in the world, since we last met here in Cairo in 2004. The continent is now approaching 300 million mobile subscribers. 3G mobile services have been introduced in a number of countries. Broadband, although being accessed by only 1.7 million users is picking up. WiMAX networks are being deployed, and voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP) services have been formally legalized in a number of countries.
  • New technologies are forcing established business models to change. In Africa we are witnessing innovative new services, including mobile banking, m-commerce and flat-rate pricing models.
  • We reviewed progress made since the Connect Africa Summit in Kigali in October 2007. Mobile operators have ramped up investment in the region, extending GSM coverage to reach an additional 550 000 square kilometers occupied by 46 million people.
  • On the satellite front, it was announced that the global satellite communications sector plans to double the number of Earth station terminals operating in the region by 2012 to cater to more than 1 billion Africans located in under-served rural and urban areas throughout the continent. More than 20 satellites will be brought into service during the next five years.
  • A number of submarine cable projects are under way to connect the countries of East and Central Africa to high-speed international communications. New horizons for offshore and outsourcing services are emerging from which African countries can benefit.
  • The youth, the next generation of leaders told us fascinating stories of how ITU has helped change their lives through the Youth Forum. Now they are trying to change the lives of others in their communities with innovative projects from Burundi to Mauritius, Ghana, and Nigeria to name but these few. We are proposing to create a Youth Forum Fund to allow university students to launch ICT development projects. We invite you all to join this initiative.
  • African countries have initiated important regulatory reforms. As a result the region’s telecommunication markets are reaping the rewards of regulatory reform in the rising penetration rates and new services that have been the talk of this show.
  • The concept of partnership is getting its momentum in the Africa ICT development. The digital divide has really become a digital opportunity.
  • As Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said at the opening ceremony, African countries can maximize their gains from such promising activities by providing the favourable environment and training the workforce needed.
  • But more remains to be done. It is clear from what we have witnessed here in Cairo this week that government and business leaders must continue to work as true partners to connect all Africans.

I would like to conclude by thanking our hosts, the Government of the Republic of Egypt, Minister Kamel and his team and in particular Nermine El Saadany and all supporting staff.

I would also like to thank all participants, speakers, moderators, Chairs of Sessions, our sponsors and the sponsors of the Host Country, and last but not least interpreters for the patience and professionalism.

I would also like to thank the ITU staff, and the ITU TELECOM Secretariat.

I look forward to meeting you in future ITU events, particularly in Telecom Asia 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand.

I wish you a safe journey back home.