ICTs discussed at high level NEPAD meeting

Monday, February 2, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Addis Ababa - The New partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) has challenged more African nations to get involved in the project to develop Internet connection linking African countries to one another and to the rest of the world by 2015.

The project, called the Broadband Infrastructure Network, hopes to connect east African countries to a communications network stretching from South Africa to Rwanda. A second broadband network will connect Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Namibia and Madagascar to an undersea cable running along East Africa.

The connection will be made via fibre-optic submarine cables along the coast of east Africa.

The policy and regulatory advisor for e-Africa Commission, Edmund Katiti, said on Saturday it was important for Africa to get connected to the rest of the world so it can engage in e-commerce, which has made a lot of money in countries like India.

"Currently we can't do that because we don't have broadband, and where broadband is available it is expensive.

"We want to make sure that all countries in Africa have access to broadband connectivity and this connectivity is affordable and reaches as many people as possible."

Mr Katiti, speaking at the 29th NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) meeting on Saturday, said however, that NEPAD was facing the challenge of getting as many countries as possible to sign the Kigali protocol supporting the effort and its conditions and policies.

So far 12 countries have signed, including South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mauritius and Rwanda.

The Kigali Protocol, came into force on 13 February 2008, after Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi became the seventh country to ratify it. It takes account of the NEPAD network principles in the development of a policy and regulatory framework for the region, as well as in the details of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) that will own, operate and maintain the NEPAD network.

Currently internet content resides mostly in Europe and America and Africa needs to connect to this.

African countries are currently using foreign-owned satellite systems for their international links and, in many cases, also for regional and even for cross-border telecommunications links.

This major project is expected to drastically reduce telecommunications costs along Africa's eastern flank, despite fears over costs of access to this cable being voiced by some of the smaller telecommunications players in the continent, as well as potential consumers.