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Two Ways The African Union Can Take ICT Seriously

By Wayan Vota on March 1, 2010

At the 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of African Union, Bingu wa Mutharika, the African Union (AU) chairperson, has called upon member countries to take information and communication technologies seriously.

I could not agree more. I salute African Union’s call to truly embrace ICT as a facilitator of development and progress across all African nations. I also call on the African Union to follow up its declaration with the following two changes across its membership:

1. Open and Competitive ICT Markets

Too many African countries artificially constrain the ICT sector with unreasonably high fees, unnecessary regulation, and outright corruption, if they let ICT competition take place. Often they do not. In too many countries, the incumbent telco is given every advantage to suppress new entrants and maintain high prices with poor service. The result is striking. The entire African continent – home to over 50 countries – has fewer Internet users than France alone.

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2. Universal Service Fees used for Universal Access

Many African countries impose a Universal Service Fee on ICT usage. These fees generate millions of dollars in revenue each year. Yet many rural Africans are still waiting to see any impact from USF projects in their areas. At the same time, the private sector, which contributes the majority of the funds, is excluded from decision making.

The Time to Act is Now

Africa is poised for rapid growth, facilitated by information and communication technologies – and industry in itself. ICT is already said to be Nigeria’s 2nd largest industry. And we have sucessful models to follow.

Let us unleash that industry, remove its regulatory shackles, and let it bring Africa into the modern world.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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