Communication is the catchword of our times! And this word in its verb form 'to communicate' has been known and has been used since time immemorial, but all of a sudden, it has taken the centre stage, and has become key and for all intents and purposes it has become a magic word. It tickles the mind and stimulates the imagination; it causes anxiety and breeds fear.

His Excellency the Honourable Minister,
Chairman of the ATU Administrative Council,
Secretary General of the ATU
Representative of the ITU
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen members of the Administrative Council of the ATU,
Invited guests,
Dear Friends,

Indeed, never before had a word entered the conscience and moulded mentalities and behaviours as has the word 'communication' and this has been the case the whole world over. It appears that human society has all of a sudden discovered the advantages of communication and discovered the fact that in life, a great deal depends on communication and the direction the world is taking depends on the way in which its inhabitants are communicating. Today, the whole world is under the grip of the global web surrounding it.

Leaders are trying to communicate and to communicate better and more efficiently with the governed in order to enlist their support for their policies, choices and worldview. Directors of industries are trying agitatedly to seek for information, which would enable them to have an edge over their rivals, and this constitutes a clear advantage in this era of cutthroat competition. Scientists and researchers are not an exception; nor are academicians and educationists. The medical fraternity as a whole is deeply involved in the race, as are historians and even more so, culture specialists who are the guardian angels of civilisations, who promote dialogue of knowledge, learning and cultural heritage of peoples, and who work with the passionate faith of a pilgrim, to create hope for the era of communication, which they describe eloquently as having fermenting qualities to bring nations together.

The African continent has not been left out of the movement. It, too, has been engulfed in the whirlwind brought about by the acceleration of the communication sector of which telecommunications forms one of the central ribs. In the turmoil of the communication revolution, Africa has important assets to offer. We could cite firstly, the people: close to one billion people thirsty for knowledge, who are living within its geographical zone; secondly, the material resources needed in the manufacture of electronic components and which are to be found in abundance in Africa. Moreover, the institutions that we have put in place such as the African Telecommunications Union and the Regional Organisation of Satellite Communication (RASCOM), to cite but these two, have for a long time shown their willingness and capacity to support efforts in this specific sector in our countries and their very strong willingness to raise the challenge of the technological era.

The Organisation of African Unity has participated in all these efforts and in the sacrifices that have had to be made and borne. Today, as the OAU is getting ready to transmute itself into the African Union, according to the wishes of the top leaders of the continent rich in centuries-old civilisations, the message that the Secretary General, H.E. Mr. AMARA Essy has asked me to convey to you is the following:

' The OAU has been affected by political, economic, social, and cultural, conflicts and we would like to assure you that the African Union, whose promising cries have been audible for a long time, will amplify, deepen and strengthen our achievements for the betterment of the African women and men. We have committed ourselves to this endeavour in accordance with the mandate entrusted to us by the Heads of States and Governments. In spite of the trials and tribulations involved in the accomplishment of this task, we have the firm conviction that we shall meet with success at the end of all the efforts and hardships. Together with you, we shall succeed in this common endeavour, which is the guarantee of our humanity and our dignity. With a strengthened and renewed ATU, we shall succeed under the wise and perceptive leadership of the Secretary General; we shall plant at the heart of the continent and in the face of the whole 'globalised' world, the flag of our victory on poverty, with the help of RASCOM; we shall count on the help of regional economic communities, which are both the pillars and the corner stones of our work; we shall strengthen our co-operation with our privileged partners the Economic Commission for Africa of the United Nations, the African Development Bank and the International Telecommunications Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the message I bring from H.E. AMARA Essy, a message that is a real declaration of faith from a man who has lived on this continent, or should I say, who has had very close ties with it. His Excellency is convinced that by all of us facing the same direction, by combining forces and efforts, we shall move from the rocky lower parts of the highway of life and that we shall reach Eldorado.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have described telecommunications as one of the essential parts of our information society, which
is growing very rapidly. The work in this sub-sector is being strengthened through co-ordination and its
symbiotic relationship with information technology and audio-visual material. This combination of
efforts, which you experts could call convergence, gives rise to specialized technologies, which stimulate
scientists' mind and imagination and at the same time tickle the imagination of the common people.
To a large extent, globalization owes its existence, development and survival to them.

Indeed, the new possibilities afforded by telecommunications combined with information technology and computers offer a great opportunity for Africa. The concretisation of this potential, accessible to all, including African women and men, is dependent on a number of factors, or should we say a number of qualities, such as faith in the capacity of the human mind, self-confidence, boldness, risk taking and persistence. We could also add changing mentalities and behaviours particularly in the case of leaders who have the duty to create an enabling and expanding environment for new technologies and to accept freedom of expression of ideas and thoughts to help unleash and free the innovative energies of African women and men. This will be the price to pay in order for Africa to catch up with the technological advancement of the other continents in the digital divide, which is at risk of marginalizing the African continent once again.

As it is, some of the initiatives being undertaken are in the right direction and could help us attain our goals. The African Telecommunications Union is one of the players capable of helping us to realise these initiatives through the broad field of the New Partnership for Development in Africa (NOPADA/NEPAD), with a strong component in infrastructure including telecommunications infrastructure, but also the project on the development of the telecommunications industry in Africa, known through the acronym of INDAFTEL which will be presented to the top political decision makers in Durban in July this year through the Council of Ministers of the OAU. In this connection, we wish to
state here and now our gratitude to the ITU management for having initiated this project for the benefit of the future of Africa.

However, by putting all our energies into the fight for the promotion of telecommunications, and in the information age, all of which are aimed at serving the public good, we should take care not to lose our souls. Indeed, in this regard, it is more important than ever before to avoid falling into the pitfalls of technology and thus contributing to the imbalance between on the one hand, the different socio-professional strata of our society, and on the other, the different zones in our countries. Instead, we should work towards the realisation of the objective of universal and equitable access for all the people to the means and services offered by these technologies while ensuring environmental protection and preservation as well as strengthening of a safe environment, taking into account the needs of individuals.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The African Telecommunications Union, while safeguarding the interests of its members, must be resolutely at the service of the continent. This means of course implementing the afore-mentioned efforts, but it also involves redefining common and specific positions and proposals from the continent, if we are to reap maximum benefits from the world quest for the information age, which is very timely! We wish to specify that the World Summit for the Information Age which was initiated by the ITU and for which the first session is scheduled to take place in 2003 in Geneva to be followed in 2005 by a meeting in Tunis, is for us an opportunity not only to contribute to the world agenda but also to influence the course of events so as not to lag behind the rest of the world.

This is thus the task before us with its pitfalls and its difficulties. However, we know that you have the qualities required for this undertaking and that the question of getting into endless cogitation and hesitation does not arise, for success is guaranteed at the end of all our efforts.

Thank you very much!

[ Home - Search - E-mail - Sitemap - Feedback - Faq's - Print this Page ]
African Telecommunication Union
Posta Sacco Plaza, 11th Floor, Uhuru Highway
P.O.Box 35282 Nairobi Tel:254 2 216678/216789 Fax: 254 2 219478/219445
Copyright ATU 2000-01 All Rights Reserved Contact -
Updated MARCH-2001 Developed and Maintained By Wananchi Online Limited