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The Kigali Summit

Connecting Africa gathers pace

The Connect Africa Summit that took place in Kigali, Rwanda, on 29–30 October 2007 attracted more than 1000 participants from 54 countries, including Heads of State and Government. Forty-three countries in Africa were represented, with 23 at the ministerial level. In addition, leading industry players participated, such as British Telecom, Cisco, Ericsson, GSM Association, Huawei, Qualcomm, NTT DoCoMo, Neustar, Nokia, Siemens and Microsoft. Also taking part were international financial institutions, regional development banks, international and regional organizations and other stakeholders.

The Connect Africa Summit was organized by ITU with the African Union, the World Bank Group and the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, in partnership with the African Development Bank, the African Telecommunications Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Global Digital Solidarity Fund.


The primary aim of the summit was to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources required to bridge major gaps in information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure, so as to support affordable connectivity and services to stimulate economic growth throughout Africa. It sought ways to achieve the connectivity goals of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which must be reached quickly to support attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Heads of State and Government

In opening the summit, President Kagame underlined that "investment and trade — as opposed to aid and charity — must drive the transformation of our economies". He called for a dynamic ICT sector to connect Africa to the global information superhighway. "In order to realize this much-needed economic revolution, we have to forge productive relationships between government and business," said Mr Kagame.

Presidents Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, with Deputy Prime Minister Constance T. Simelane of Swaziland, also attended the event. They said that with less than eight years to go, urgent action was needed to achieve the WSIS targets and the MDGs.


ITU/M. Zouhri

Leaders at the Connect Africa Summit

Front row (left to right):

  • Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika
  • Swaziland’s Deputy Prime Minister Constance T. Simelane
  • Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade
  • Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame
  • Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré
  • Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh
  • Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza

Back row (from left to right):

  • Special adviser to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel de Morais Briosa e Gala
  • President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, Charles Beer
  • President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka
  • ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
  • Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation and Chairman of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID), Craig R. Barrett
  • Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Professor Alpha Oumar Konaré
  • Director of Operations, World Bank, Africa Region, Hartwig Schafer
  • United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang

Open for business

Representing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang said the summit illustrated the potential of public-private partnerships, which, he added, augured well for the hopes and aspirations of all of the people of Africa for a better future. He recalled that WSIS had "set a clear course of action for advancing the information society and for achieving the Millennium Development Goals — our common vision to build a better world for all in the 21st century". Mr Sha underlined that narrowing the digital divide between rich and poor nations was central to development efforts.

"Africa is open for business," said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. "We are looking for investment through win-win partnerships in a viable marketplace by an expanding ICT industry." Dr Touré added that "ICT is a catalyst and an enabler in all sectors of the economy in Africa," as well as "the accelerator to achieve the MDGs by 2015".

The President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, called on African leaders to put in place regulatory frameworks that help to enhance growth. He said it was important for African countries to seek partnerships with the private sector to bridge the digital divide.

Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel Corporation, who also chairs the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID), said "Africa has a great opportunity to leap forward with new technologies. This has been already demonstrated with the very rapid adoption of mobile telephony. Emerging wireless broadband technologies offer a similar opportunity with regard to the Internet. But this requires both availability of radio spectrum and increased investment into the gaps in backbone networks." Mr Barrett added that it is not a technology problem. "The technology is waiting to be deployed. We now need the government priorities, decisions, and policies to drive the implementation of a pan-African infrastructure," he said.

Professor Alpha Oumar Konaré, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, welcomed the presence of the private sector at the summit, adding that governments should seize the opportunity to enact better regulations for companies to invest in the ICT sector.

The summit has a very practical aim, reaffirmed Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid. "Our focus is on concrete commitments and partnerships," he said. "The reality is that broadband networks have become core infrastructure of the modern economy. Without these networks, Africa will not be able to fairly compete — to attract investment and high-paying, skilled jobs." He explained that, for ITU, the summit also represented an important way to implement actions called for at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (Doha, 2006).

Major announcements

Mobile operators plan USD 50 billion investment

The GSM Association, which represents mobile operators worldwide, announced at the summit that the mobile industry plans to invest more than USD 50 billion in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years to provide more than 90 per cent of the population with mobile coverage. It said the investment will be used to extend the reach of GSM mobile networks, enhanced with GPRS, EDGE and HSPA technologies, to provide mobile multimedia services, including Internet access.


Intel’s new broadband computer lab in Kigali

Intel will donate a new computer laboratory to the Fawe Girls’ School in Kigali, Rwanda, as part of its World Ahead programme. The donated computers are built by Rwanda Network Computer, a local start-up company. The facility will be connected to the Internet via a WiMAX broadband connection provided by MTN Rwanda.

Since 2000, the mobile telephony industry has invested USD 35 billion in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the GSM Association. "This surge in investment by the mobile industry has changed the lives of millions of Africans, catalyzing economic development and strengthening social ties," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association.

MTN, Orange, Vodacom and Zain subsidiary Celtel are among the mobile operators planning to invest heavily in the expansion and enhancement of their networks. "We have the passion and dedication to provide Africa with a world class infrastructure," said MTN Group President and CEO Phuthuma Nhleko.

World Bank to double its investment

Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Director of Operations, Africa Region, said the bank expects to double its commitment for ICT infrastructure in Africa to USD 2 billion by 2012, from its current investment programme of USD 1 billion over the past five years. The new financing would support government-business partnerships, especially for affordable high-speed Internet and improved connectivity of rural areas and small towns, said Mr Schafer. The bank would also partner with universities and other bodies to offer training for regulatory staff across Africa.

EC to support Trans-African networks and regulatory reform

The European Commission announced support for trans-African networks that facilitate interconnectivity. An EU Trust Fund for Africa, worth almost EUR 100 million in grants and some EUR 260 million in loans, has been established by the EC, along with the European Investment Bank and ten EU member States, for the period 2007–2008. The fund, which will be replenished at the end of 2008, will finance cross-border projects, or national projects with a regional and continental impact in ICT, energy, water and transport.

The Commission also announced that it would contribute EUR 6 million to support ITU’s regulatory reform initiatives in Africa, and that it would support the promotion of telemedicine.

Spain to support centre of excellence

The Government of Spain announced a contribution to ITU of EUR 1 million to help set up a Centre of Excellence for Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries in Africa, as well as ICT scholarships and internships for youth and support for ICT training centres.

ITU and AfDB join forces to link major cities by 2012

Village Phone Direct Manual

ITU will publish the Grameen Foundation’s Village Phone Direct Manual. It is designed to guide microfinance institutions and other organizations in developing Village Phone businesses for their clients. To accompany the manual, Grameen Foundation has also developed an online assistance centre at


ITU and the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced that they will join forces to interconnect all African capitals and major cities with broadband infrastructure and strengthen connectivity with the rest of the world by 2012. President of AfDB Donald Kaberuka commented that "in recent years, private investment in ICT infrastructure, especially in mobile phone networks, has had an enormous impact in many parts of Africa, but major gaps remain. The development banks and other financing partners have a responsibility to step in where these gaps are holding back development in the region."

ITU and AfDB will mobilize partners and finance to close those gaps in broadband infrastructure between major centres. AfDB hosts the Secretariat of the African Infrastructure Consortium, which brings together major donors and financial institutions active in the region, and ensures that a coherent approach is taken.

To support the implementation of ICT infrastructure projects funded by the AfDB or other partners, ITU will serve as executive agency and provide expertise and technical assistance, where needed. ITU and AfDB will jointly undertake feasibility studies and develop project proposals in consultation with Member States and other stakeholders in the region.

AfDB has already committed close to USD 65 million for two key regional projects: the launching of a pan-African satellite system by the Regional African Satellite Communications Organization (RASCOM), and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), an initiative to connect eastern Africa via a high bandwidth fibre-optic cable system.

ITU and Microsoft sign MoU

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between ITU and Microsoft Corporation, outlining how they will work together to build a safe and inclusive information society. They agreed to support programmes providing skills development and capacity building, along with the delivery of relevant applications and services in Africa. In addition, they will collaborate globally on cybersecurity, providing digital opportunities for young people, and supporting regulators in developing countries.

"We are very pleased that Microsoft, as an early signatory of the ITU Connect the World initiative, is stepping up its commitment to help address the effective use of ICT infrastructure in Africa," said Dr Touré. From Microsoft, Michael Rawding, Vice President, Unlimited Potential Group, said that the company is "committed globally to applying technology to advance social and economic opportunity, and we look forward to working with ITU on shared development and technology goals."

An example of that cooperation is "ITU Global View," an online platform launched at the summit to track and help accelerate the implementation of the WSIS goals in Africa. Based on Microsoft Virtual Earth software, the platform integrates a broad range of data sources. Hosted and maintained by ITU, it will allow all stakeholders to check the status of projects, identify gaps and avoid overlaps.

The Kigali Summit in photos

Keynote speakers at the Connect Africa Summit’s opening ceremony

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang
ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka

Director of Operations, World Bank, Africa Region, Hartwig Schafer
Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation and Chairman of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID), Craig R. Barrett
Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Professor Alpha Oumar Konaré


A general selection from the Summit

Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of Energy and Communications, Albert Butare with ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré, cutting the ribbon to inaugurate an ICT Exhibition, and United Nations Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang
  "Capacity Building and Deploying Applications for E-Services" session
  Mali’s Minister of Communication and Information Technologies, Diarra Mariam Flantié Diallo
"Creating an Enabling Environment for Investment" session with Valerie d’Costa, Programme Manager, World Bank Group–InfoDev; Reza Jafari, Chairman of the Board, ITU Telecom; and Jay Naidoo, Chairman, Development Bank of Southern Africa
  Tunisia’s Minister of Communication Technologies, El Haj Gley
  Microsoft Corporation’s Vice President, Unlimited Potential Group, Michael Rawding
  Opening ceremony

Special adviser to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel de Morais Briosa e Gala with ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid
  Malawi’s Minister of Information and Civic Education, Patricia Kaliati
  Gambia’s Secretary of State for Communications and Information Technology, Neneh Macdouall-Gaye


All photographs in this article are by M. Zouhri.



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