· Hon. Musalia Mudavadi, Minister for Information, Transport & Communications;
· Other Hon. Ministers present
· Your Excellencies Ambassadors & High Commissioners
· Directors Generals and other CEOs
· Exhibition and Conference organisers - M/S Charles Cambell Clause, Jane Barsby and Francis Hook;
· Distinguished Sponsors, Exhibitors & Speakers;
· Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour for me and indeed the African Telecommunications Union to be invited to make the keynote address at this Conference.

May I therefore take this opportunity to thank the Exhibition and Conference organisers for extending the invitation and for putting together this landmark event.

The theme of this Conference - "East Africa Mobilised" is quite appropriate given the current global market trends in telecommunications. The mobile network is progressively becoming the 'basic services network' whilst the fixed one is slowly reverting to being a 'value added services' network for high bandwidth applications.

People everywhere in the global are showing preference for communication infrastructures that connect with other people which are available from the wireless mobile operators. With reduced mobile tariffs, they are migrating in large numbers from fixed telecom providers who only connect places. Thus it will not be long (say 3/5 years) before the number of mobile lines overtake fixed lines.

With the technology convergence brought about digital technology, 'data' is set to overtake 'voice' (again within the next three/five years). Given that the primary 'data' application is 'multimedia internet', the wireless mobile internet market is the focus for those seeking high returns in years to come.

Digital technology is also spawning a new industry - the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry.

This is being recognised by Governments around the world with establishments of Ministers of Information and Communications (plus Technology in a come cases).

Universities are also changing their curricula to create new integrated degrees programme for information and communication technologies.

How do we harness the benefits of ICT for our people in East Africa ?
To address this question adequately, we need to look at the new roles the different stakeholders in the industry will be expected to play.

With telecom sector reforms, there are many more distinct stakeholders groups with the major ones being, Policy Makers (Ministers), Regulators (Communication Commissioners), Operators (Telecom Companies), Service Providers (Internet, Value Added, Contractors, Consultants), Technology Providers (Vendors, Manufacturers), Education/Training Providers (Universities, Polytechnics) and Consumers/users.

· Policy Makers : Within the context of East Africa Corporation, Governments can further stimulate the telecom sector by formulating an Information and Communications Technology Master Plan (up to say 2020 or 2025). This document should set policy objectives and milestones and should be arrived at through stakeholders participation and consensus. It should also promote progressive regional and continental market integration.

· Regulators : The Regulators primary role will be in harmonising regulations in the region especially in matters of interconnection and spectrum utilisation. Working initially through a Regulation Association, the Communication Commissioners should in time enable creation of an East African Regulation entity. The new entity would release licensing framework and license application guidelines for provision of cross-border telecoms networks and services in the East African Corporation member countries.

· Operators technical & service Providers : Standardisation will be the key role of these increasingly private sector players.
They should be active in the global dialogue and debate on evolution of 'Wireless Access Protocols' (WAP) 'General Packet Radio Service' (GPRS) standards and the new generation of mobile terminals that integrate terrestrial and satellite wireless connectivity being discussed in ITU under IMT2000 programme. East African Private sector players will reap tremendous benefits through active participation in continental (ATU) and global (ITU) conferences and assemblies.

· Education and Training Providers : As technology converges, new competencies for systems integration are needed. To remain relevant, Universities and Polytechnics in East Africa have to re-invent their degree and diploma programmes to meet the market requirements. They will also have to develop collaborative research and developments arrangements with industry that would lead to manufacture of affordable and robust technologies.

· Consumers/users : The interest of Policy Makers in the Telecom sector is in the multiple benefits to be derived from it. Telecoms catalyses other industries whilst it is itself a generator of job opportunities. Faster growth of the sector means that more citizens of East Africa will enjoy the 'human right to communication' as per country Policy statement objectives and United Nations General Assembly endorsement of December 1997.
A pro-active participating approach through demand for world-class and affordable service by consumers will keep providers on their toes.

As the ICT industry grows in the multi-operator environments of Africa, there are a number investment/business opportunities that are emerging. These include :

- Peering Hub/Telehouse Operators - They will provide interconnection, peering services to Internet Service Providers, Telecom Operators, TV/FM Radio operators and IT Corporate networks.

- Backbone Network Operators - with evolution of policy and regulatory frameworks way leave owners will be enabled to enter telecom market as fibre-optic backbone network operators. Well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity are the Railway, Power, Water and Petroleum pipeline owners.
With appropriate licensing framework, they can string fibre-optic through out their networks and sell capacity to telecom, Internet, TV, Radio and IT network providers. They can provide inter-country, inter-city connectivity that is needed.

- IP-based Telecentre Service Providers - The Telecentre concept for provision of voice, data and bureau services can be flexibly applied to a wide range of end users. With innovative licensing framework, Telecentres can be a fast way of creating jobs and providing 'universal access to basic communication' for schools, health centres. The various Automobile Associations could even run a network of telecentres to help save lives on our highways.

- IP-based video conference service providers - Access to distant sports, entertainment and education content will be enabled with licensing of specialised value added service providers of this kind. VSAT technology lends itself well to linking university lecture theatres for distance learning and to conference centres to reach regional audiences for special events. Licensing 2/3 VSAT operators in every country will give the necessary boost towards wider availability of these services.

Having reviewed the role the key stakeholders will play in getting 'East Africa Mobilised' together with an indication of emerging of business opportunities, I would like to conclude by highlighting the role ATU intends to take in the coming years.

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 intergovernmental 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.

In carrying out the mission of the Union, we shall focus on two principal tasks namely 'Universal Access to basic communication' and 'inter-country backbone connectivity'. To this extend, we shall measure Africa's progress in building Information Infrastructure, using a wider range of telecommunication indicators. Within the context of Regional ICT Master Plans, we would like to see goals that ensure :-

  • Telehouse/peering hub in every country.
  • That every hub is connected by three tier networks (fibre-optic cable, micro wave, satellite link).
  • Presence of an IP-based telecentre in every school
  • Public internet access in every post office
  • Video conference fitted lecture theatre in every University
  • An ICT certified and accredited - Education and Training centre in every country.

With the new public and private sector partnership that has been created in ATU, we all have an opportunity to be solution providers to Africa's telecom challenges.

May I therefore welcome all of you in the private sector to join ATU as Associate Members so that together, with Member States, we can realise the vision of 'African Renaissance' in our times.

Thank you.

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