2002 13TH MAY 2002

Our Guest of Honour, Hon. Musalia Mudavadi, EGH, MP, Minister for Transport and Communication, Chairman, Mr. Nestor Misigaro, Director General of CCK, Mr. Samuel Chepkonga, OAU and ITU Representatives, Excellencies, Chief Executives, Delegates, Observers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is my singular honour and privilege, to welcome you all, to this Opening Ceremony, of ATU Administrative Council 2002. I am indeed, delighted, that you all found time, to be with us this morning. For visitors to Kenya, may I extend a special word of welcome, 'Karibu'. Please feel at home, with your brothers and sisters, still living at what scientists call, the cradle of humankind.

Our Guest of Honour, Sir, may I express our very sincere appreciation, to you, for finding time, from your very busy schedule, to officiate at this Opening Ceremony of Council. Through you, sir, may I extend the Union's abundant gratitude, to the Government and people of Kenya, for the timely, sustained and unflinching support, since relocating the General Secretariat, on a temporary basis to Kenya, in 1997. In this context, I wish to recognize, all that the Host Administration, the Communication Commission of Kenya, has done for us throughout the years. The Union, could not have served its members, without the base, they continue to provide us. At the same time, we applaud, our Associate Members in Kenya, Telkom Kenya, and Safaricom, for sponsoring, a wide range of services, and events of the Union.

Widening digital divide
Mr. Chairman, given that a year has lapsed, since we last met, at an ordinary session of Council, I think it will be appropriate, for me, to reflect on the accomplishments, and challenges over the last one year. For us, in the ICT sector, a subject of great concern, is the widening digital divide, between those who have infrastructure, on the ground, principally, the industrialized world, and those, who still have to build them, mainly agriculture based economies. Whereas, the 'analogue gap, described as the 'missing link' grew at arithmetic progression, dependent on income levels, the new digital devide', is growing at geometric progression. It is geometric, because, narrowing this new gap, requires both infrastructure and literacy at three levels - basic (read + write), computer literacy and internet literacy. In this regard, the good news, is the high level of awareness, that bridging the digital devide, will have cross - cutting boost to social and economic development. The bad news is, that meeting the conditionalities, for official development assistance (ODA), and foreign direct investment (FDI), is growing more difficult, for Africa, due to perceived higher risks, in this continent. The increased competitiveness, and the integrated approaches of other regions, for these finite resources mean there is less for Africa.

Proactive response to globalization processes
Mr. Chairman, we have as a Secretariat, adopted the strategy, of proactive response, to globalization processes, and are beginning to make some progress. For example, through consultative processes mounted by the Secretariat, RASCOM, the African Satellite Project has after ten years, been able to obtain from ITU, the scarce orbital slots and frequency spectrum, that will facilitate the launch of their first Satellite within the next two years. Another success, is the adoption of a resolution, by the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference of March 2002, in Istanbul, Turkey ,for provision of technical support to NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) initiative. On the occasion of this conference, ATU concluded a Co-operation Agreement (MOU) with CEPT (Conference of European Post and Telecom Administrations). However the challenge of globalization remains immense, since Africa, contributes less than 2%, of the technical proposals, to global conferences, for standardization, and allocation of scarce globally managed resources (e.g. Spectrum, Internet Names and Numbers). In the strategic plan, for the period 2002 - 2006, concrete plans for widening and deepening the African Common Proposals (ACP) consultation process, will be discussed. Africa has to consolidate, its voice, and avoid further fragmentation, if it is to influence global treaty - making, for the benefits of its citizens.

Progressing regional integration
Mr. Chairman, we made progress, in the last year, promoting Regional Economic community (RECs) level regulatory associations, based on the successful model of TRASA (Telecom Regulators Association of Southern Africa). The proposed WATRA (The West Africa Telecom Regulators Association) has received wide support and will soon be launched. Activity in other RECs, is proceeding well. Through these vehicles, it is hoped that policy and regulatory framework, together with spectrum planning, and type approvals, will be harmonized. The creation of large common markets in the RECs for ICTs is the overall target. The subject of removal of impediments, and constraints to construction and operation, of regional fibre optic backbones, will be addressed. Direct interconnection of 'national internet exchange points' and 'telephone international gateways' will also be considered by this forum together with ATU.

Mr. Chairman, Africa, can build a strong global presence, and integrate faster, at the regional level, if it has strong regional institutions to steer the process. It is common knowledge that many OAU specialized agencies, suffer virtual neglect, by many of their member states, a few years after the founding leaders, have left the stage. Though beginning to come out of the financial straits, our Union is no exception.

It is presently engaging proactively, in globalization processes, and regional integration, through support of five countries who have paid assessed contributions well in advance. (Cameroon, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali and Tunisia) and eight who are always up to date with assessment and voluntary contributions (Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia). There are a few more Member States, who are soon approaching the status of front line supporters, as those listed above. At the Secretariat, we are encouraged by this new commitment, for strengthening the financial base, of the Union, and trust that Council, in the next four days, will add impetus, to this wave.

Planning for the future
Our Guest of Honour, Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot end my remarks without highlighting two initiatives, at continental, and global levels, that will influence our deliberations, on the new strategic plan, for the period 2002 to 2006. At the continental level, we have NEPAD, which is an expression, of our new collective will, in Africa, to forge unique African solutions, to our unique African problems, before inviting partners to accelerate the implementation process. ATU, has been given a key role, by NEPAD, to catalise the developments, of ICTs, in Africa, from both the infrastructure perspective, and also from its nature, as cross-cutting tool, for social and economic development.

At global level, we have the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), taking place in Geneva December 2003, and Tunis 2005. This global forum, will differ from others, given the special efforts, for inclusion of all key stakeholders. It is expected, that Governments, Industry, Academia and Civil Society, will jointly participate and forge a new global consensus, on 'bridging the knowledge devide', and also commit to concrete programme of action, and definitive resourcing. Preparatory processes, are planned to take place at national, regional and global levels. The first regional preparatory meeting for Africa, will be in Bamako, Mali, 28 - 30th May 2002. The first global preparatory meeting, is scheduled, for July 2002, in Geneva. We are all, welcome to take advantage, of these opportunities, to articulate our visions, for our common future, and to commit ourselves, to making them happen.

Our Guest Of Honour, Chairman, Excellencies, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I look forward to successful outcomes of this Council. I therefore wish, all the participants, every success, in their deliberations.

'Asante sana' / Thank you very much.

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