STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY CHIEF
OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL OF NIGERIA,
Chairman, African Union
Tunis, 16th November 2005
It is indeed an honour for me to address the Tunis Phase
of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). May I use this
opportunity to express my profound appreciation and gratitude to my dear
brother, His Excellency Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Republic
of Tunisia for the wonderful hospitality accorded me and my delegation since
our arrival in Tunis. I also wish to commend the United Nations Secretary
General, Mr. Kofi Annan, International Telecommunication Union
Secretary-General, Mr. Yoshio Utsumi and all their staff for the excellent
preparations made for this Summit. In the same vein, let me also
congratulate the President and other officials elected to guide the work of
At the Geneva Phase of the Summit, we set for ourselves
in the Declaration and Plan of Action, a common desire, commitment and goals
to create and achieve an all inclusive, people- and development- oriented
Information Society, where peoples can achieve their full potential to
promote development. We agreed to work towards a win-win situation, where
Information and Communication Technologies will become available to all
peoples, in order to assist them achieve socioeconomic development.
Achieving this objective would require the dismantling of
obstacles militating against the empowerment of poor communities and
nations; check prohibitive prices of technology and products; expand access
to training and ensure that opportunities are available to all.
Our coming together today demonstrates our commitment
towards surmounting the daunting challenges of the digital divide. It is our
hope that the outcome of this Summit will be fully implemented in order to
address the challenges of accessibility to ICT and truly turn the digital
divide into digital opportunities and ensure productive and purposeful
We, in Africa, will take advantage of these opportunities
to transform our communities. At the international, regional and national
levels, we must, however, establish follow-up mechanisms for continuous
assessment, monitoring and evaluation of progress to ensure comprehensive
implementation, by all parties, of obligations arising from our decisions.
On the part of Nigeria, I wish to assure you all that
these decisions will be incorporated into our national development plans.
Africa remains fully committed to The Global Digital
Solidarity Fund, which is a voluntary commitment of stakeholders that is
complementary and not in competition with existing funding mechanisms. We
are convinced that the Fund will, among other benefits, make significant
contributions to addressing the exclusion of rural and local communities in
the digital revolution. The Fund will soon begin to finance the
implementation of projects in Africa, Latin America and Caribbean countries
in accordance with its guidelines. I note with pleasure that the High-Level
segment of the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly welcomed
the Digital Solidarity Fund.
During the inauguration of the DSF, I pledged a
contribution of Euros 500,000 on behalf of Nigeria. I also pledged
logistical and administrative support for the operation of the Fund. I want
to seize this opportunity to announce that Nigeria has since redeemed the
pledge to the DSF. Furthermore, I have made an offer which has been accepted
to host the Africa Regional Office of the DSF in Abuja. It is therefore a
unique honour and privilege for me to announce that the Africa Regional
Office of the DSF will take off before the end of this year. I hope that
other leaders in the developing regions of Asia, Latin America, the
Caribbean and the Middle East will make similar offers for the Fund's
Regional Offices to take-off in their regions.
This Summit must strive to usher in hope for communities
that are most disadvantaged in the evolving Information Society.
Both the developed and developing countries must fulfill
their part of the bargain to make the world safer and more secure. One way
of doing this is to assist the developing countries with funding, technical
expertise and investments in addition to debt relief. On their part,
developing countries also must create the required conducive environment for
foreign investments, imbibe the culture of democracy, good governance,
transparency and the rule of law. Information and communication technologies
are central to the realization of these noble goals.
Today, the benefits of ICT are still unevenly spread
between the poor and the rich, the developing and the developed nations, and
the rural and urban dwellers. Much has been done but a lot more needs to be
done to bridge the digital divide.
We must make special efforts to build the capacity of the
majority of world citizens in the evolving Information Society. Similarly,
we should, at the national, regional and international levels put in place
machinery for assessing and monitoring the implementation of commitments
made under the WSIS process. The present situation where the developed world
that has only 15% of world population has more than 75% of Internet users
worldwide is unacceptable.
The consequences and costs of the continued digital
divide are not conducive for global peace, security and development. Today,
the world is faced with threats of terrorism. How can we successfully win
the war against terrorism when majority of the world population do not have
access to ICTs which are absolutely necessary for reporting and monitoring
suspicious activities? We need to bridge the gap to help us in fighting
In spite of the numerous challenges to our continent,
especially in the area of conflict resolution, which has taken much of our
energy and resources, serious attention is given to ICT for development. We
have since the first phase of the Summit made concerted efforts to integrate
our national and regional plans and programmes to ensure that the benefits
of ICTs accrue to our people and this has guided the participation of
African delegations to the preparatory work of this Summit.
Education is the cornerstone for capacity building. In
recognition of this, the African Union's New Partnership for African
Development (NEPAD) initiated an e-school programme with the aim of
computerising about 600,000 Secondary Schools spread across the continent.
Project planning has reached an advanced stage with implementation expected
to start very soon. The SAT-3 international submarine cable that links most
of Africa is now carrying high volumes of traffic.
In my address to the Summit in Geneva in 2003, I
enumerated the efforts my Administration has made and we have since built on
them to facilitate the spread of the benefits of ICT in Nigeria and beyond.
Among other initiatives, we have put in place a National ICT Policy and
National Telecommunication Act that liberalizes the Information and
Communication sector thereby creating the necessary enabling environment for
public-private partnership for ICT development.
Second, we launched a satellite for remote sensing and
disaster monitoring which has generated huge volume of data now being used
in project planning and implementation especially in agriculture not only in
Nigeria but also in other African countries. Third, plans have reached an
advanced stage to launch Nigeria's communication satellite in 2006. All
these are aimed at improving service delivery, expanding access to ICT, and
creating conducive atmosphere for research and development.
I want to reaffirm my government's full support and
commitment to the goals and shared vision of the WSIS in building an all
inclusive Information Society. It is noteworthy to state that within the
past three years, the WSIS process has really impacted the development and
deployment of ICTs as tool for socio-economic and sustainable development in
In collaboration with the ECOWAS Secretariat, Nigeria
hosted stakeholders from the West African sub-region to a conference to
develop best strategies for implementing the Declaration of Principles and
the Plan of Action in the sub-region. A major outcome of the conference was
the establishment of a Committee which is now working on the development of
a sub-regional IT policy for West Africa.
Nigeria is in some sense in an internet revolution with
the exponential increase in the number of internet providers and users, the
lowering of the cost of soft- and hardware, the massive expansion in the
number of telephone landlines as well as mobile phone lines, and the heavy
investment in rural telephony. We are fully committed to bridging the
digital divide between rural and urban communities. We also acknowledge the
value and support of the WSIS process.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we have initiated a
wonderful process. We must continue to work hard to build, strengthen,
deepen and widen the process.
Our peoples are eager for useful and valuable information
and as we know, they cannot only generate new ideas but they can also
absorb, domesticate and replicate as necessary, existing technologies. Let
us think together, plan together, work together and share opportunities in
the interest of our peoples and humanity.
I thank you for your attention.