· Hon. John Mahama, Minister of Communications, Ghana.
· Other Hon. Ministers present
· Your Excellencies Ambassadors & High Commissioners
· Directors Generals and other CEOs
· Ms. Mavis Ampah Sintim-Misa-CEO of Spectrum International
The Organisers of this event
· Distinguished Sponsors, Speakers & Exhibitors
· Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour for me and indeed our New Organisation, the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), to be invited to make a statement at this Conference.

I therefore take this opportunity to thank the Ms. Mavis Ampah Sintim-Misa for extending the invitation and making necessary arrangements for me to attend this great event. I would also like recognise the role played by Mr. Shola Taylor, the principal Consultant of Kemlinks International in bringing the Summit to my attention and highlighting the important role it plays in growing Telecom Markets on the Continent.

The theme of this Conference based, as it is, on major global trends of technology convergence and market globalisation is quite appropriate for Africa at the start of this new Millennium.

This is because together with market liberalisation and privatisation of public entities, they represent both great challenges and tremendous opportunities for information and communication industry in Africa. But before I deal on the subject, I would like to take a few moments to introduce ATU to you.

Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ATU came into being last year on 7th December 1999 as a successor to PATU by resolution of the 4th extraordinary session of the Conference of Plenipotentiaries Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. PATU was itself established by OAU Heads of States and Governments on 7th December 1977, as a special agency of the OAU, in the field of telecommunications.

ATU is presently undergoing restructuring as it transforms from the old PATU which was purely an intergovernment agency, to the new entity, which is a partnership between Governments and the Information and Communications Technology Industry (ICT). ATU has a new Vision, Mission and set of ambitious Objectives. It also has a new Strategic Plan which has been titled "The African Connection". The Vision of the Union is to make Africa an equal and active participant in the Global Information Society. Within the larger vision of the 21st Century as being that of Africa Renaissance, the Mission of the Union is to promote rapid development of info-communications to achieve universal access and full inter-country connectivity. The name of the Union was changed from PATU to ATU to mark the dramatic change in focus from the past and to signify participation of private sector in its affairs.

Governments will be in the 'Member State' category whilst the ICT private sector will join the 'Associate Member' class. In this new category, Telecom Operators (Fixed/Mobile), Broadcasters, Internet Service Providers, ICT Manufacturers, and ICT Educationist and Trainers will be welcomed to join when necessary modalities are completed by third quarter this year.

Chairperson, ladies and Gentlemen,

What are the challenges facing us as we seek to make the people of this continent participants in the Global Market place? I would submit that foremost is the emerging digital devide between those who have access to digital information and those who don't. This devide threatens to worsen the existing poverty gap between the rich and the poor and also between the urban and rural populations.

Africa has only 2% of global telephones while it boasts 12% of the population. Internet access at less than 1% is even worse.

To complicate the matters further, populations in Africa are predominantly in the rural areas (over 65%), where the present favourate tool for building networks, the "profit motive mechanism" may not work unless additional incentives are attached to it. Question abound on what policy and regulatory platforms the continent must put in place in order for investment to flow in, first to provide access at global average teledensity of 10% and secondly to march best practice in the world of 80/90% teledensity in the fullness of time?

All stakeholders in Africa should start feeling responsible for finding answers to these challenging questions instead of continuing to think it is the role for Governments alone.

Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen,

The challenges highlighted above presents tremendous opportunities given the policy reforms and sector restructuring that is sweeping across the continent. In many countries, separation of roles between Policy Makers, Regulators, Operators and Service Providers is taking place. Together with overall economic and financial sector reform the needs of the people are turning into demands that investors can service at a profit. Africa has easily the largest untapped market for information and communications products and services in the world.

For Telecom Sector alone there is estimated demand for an additional 60 million lines, which at installation cost of around USD 1000.00 results in an opportunity of USD 60 billion for equipment manufacturers and vendors. With revenues of USD1000.00 per line, per year, the telecom operators will be able to earn additional $60 billion per annum.

Internet platforms based on solar powered wireless networks will be a huge growth industry especially if focused on education and commerce and tourism applications.

Chairperson, ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my sincere belief that the new public and private sector partnership in ATU will help unlock the potential in Africa. With a shared vision for Africa being a full and active participant in the information economy, resources will surely be released to tackle the past barriers to progress. It should enable building of continental corporations, as a prelude to Africa, also fielding global corporations. National companies must be enabled to play in the continental field before they can expect to survive in global market place. This will therefore call for licensing of new types of operator with mandate to build, operate and provide services across borders in the continent. What kind of licence will this be? Who will provide it? These are but some of the questions to be answered by the Union in seeking to establish continental back bone operators.

Clearly regional and continental level institutions will be needed. We can take heart that OAU is itself being transformed from a political Union to being an African Economic Community with continental institutions (Parliament, Court of Justice, etc).

Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In carrying out the mission of the Union, we have two principal tasks namely Universal Access and full inter-country connectivity. I would therefore be very delighted to have responses on how we might proceed with fulfilling the following interim set of goals:

1. Have a Telehouse/Peering hub in every country.
2. Connect every hub by three tier networks (Satelite, fibre-optic cable, and micro-wave).
3. Have a Telecentre in every school.
4. Provide Public Access Internet in every Post Office.
5. Have Video Conferenced lecture theatre in every University.
6. Have an ICT certified and accredited Education and Training Centre in every country.

I do hope you will find time within your deliberations in next three days to respond to the challenge and provide us with strategies and plans for attaining these goals. I can assure you that we shall use them as input in developing African Connection Backbone Projects.

The rewards for choosing to be a 'solution provider' rather than problem amplifier are extremely high not only in financial terms but also in the 'feel good' factor of knowing you will be making a difference in the lives of so many in Africa.

Thank you for your attention.


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