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KEYNOTE SPEECH BY THE MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS,
HON. W. MUSALIA MUDAVADI, EGH, MP,
DURING THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 3RD ORDINARY
SESSION OF ATU ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL 2002
(Nairobi Safari Club - Monday, 13th May, 2002, at 9.00 am)


Chairman of the Administrative Council,
OAU Representative,
ATU Secretary General,
Distinguished Delegates and Observers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to take this opportunity to welcome all of you to this 3rd Session of ATU Administrative Council.

As we mark the third year after the establishment of ATU, we have to re-assess the existing programmes; develop new programmes; and re-align the Union's goals in-line with existing global environment.

ATU Member countries have entrusted the Union with the responsibility of making Africa an equal and active participant in the global Information Society. Therefore, as the Union's Administrative Council, you have to ensure that the Union carries out this task by addressing important areas relating to the development of ICTs in Africa. I will take a few minutes to address some of these areas.

First on the list is the promotion of relevant and effective policy and regulatory framework for African continent. The on-going transition from state-control monopolies to fully liberalized telecommunication sector requires that all countries adopt strong, harmonized and effective policy and regulatory frameworks.

In doing this, we should not forget the effects of globalization and the fact that this sector is undergoing radical technological developments. Proper policies should be put in place to ensure that the Continent responds well to the challenges of globalization and that when new technologies like 3rd Generation mobiles and digital terrestrial broadcasting are introduced, our countries will be having sufficient human resources and enough radio frequency bandwidth to allow their exploitation for the good of our citizens.

Secondly, we should endeavour to ensure we have proper framework for financing and funding of telecommunications in the continent. Member countries have to develop incentives for both local and international investment with specific emphasis for rural areas.

At regional level, we should promote the development of regional projects like RASCOM, AFRICA ONE, COMTEL, and many others which will lower the cost of telephone charges between countries.

Thirdly, we should promote the African Information Society initiatives as vehicle to use information and communication technology to accelerate economic and social development in Africa.

In this regard, I am happy to learn that the Union has been an active participant in such programmes as African Connection and the New African Partnership for Development (NEPAD). Your programmes, in this respect, should ensure that a proper framework for the development of Africa's Information and Communication Infrastructure is developed and adapted by Member States.

There is also need to prepare a master plan for the development and support of telecommunications services in rural areas. In most countries more than 75% of the telephones are in the urban areas, with should strive to ensure that this imbalance is gradually offset by adopting policies and regulations that favour investment in rural areas while adopting appropriate technologies that should be investigated include Local Wireless Loop (WLL) and broadband technology.

Africa has traditionally lagged behind in socio-economic development because of its poor human resources. There is thus need to enhance our human development activities to cope with modern challenges relating to the provision of telecommunications service. Key areas that we must train personnel in include regulation and policy formulation, fibre optic technology, broadband system design and maintenance, satellite technology, and radio spectrum management among others.

In this regard, I am happy to learn that most countries have already taken steps to enhance the quality or programmes offered in their national telecommunication training institutes. Regional Institutions like AFRALTI (Kenya) and the Multi-country training Centre (Malawi) are also playing an important role by offering training in specialized areas. It is therefore imperative that ATU cooperates with these national and regional training institutions to further these objectives.

Africa has generally legged behind other countries in the development of info-communication industries.

While other developing countries like India are reporting billions of dollars exports of computer software and hardware, we have generally very few success stories in Africa.

We require info-communications industries in Africa now more than before. It is not proper that we use foreign language on the Internet and yet hope to develop the bulk of our rural areas that speak African languages. How is a farmer in Tanzania, who speaks Kiswahili, for example, going to benefit from the bulk of information on the Internet if he cannot read in English?

It is, therefore my challenge to ATU to aggressively develop content in local languages, or else we shall suffer from the bane that has bedevilled us for generations - not recording our own development in languages given to us by Mother Nature.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The few observations that I have made will show you that there is a lot to be done at this council meeting. The challenge is on you to guide this Union to achieve these objectives and assist to leapfrog this Continent from its current position by bridging the existing Digital Divide.

With these remarks, I now declare the 3rd ATU Administrative Council officially opened.


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