Monday, December 09, 2013

The African Union celebrates 50 years of OAU/AU in ICT and IT

Monday, December 09, 2013
By: Paschal Chem-Langhee, Addis Ababa - Ethiopia

The African ICT Week, an initiative of the Energy and Infrastructure Department of the African Union Commission, took place from December 2nd to 7th 2013 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme, “Promoting Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance through ICT towards AU 2063 Vision”.

The aim of the conference was to discuss spectrum management and the transition from analogue to digital television technology in Africa, to review ICT development on the continent, to chart the role of ICTs in the AU’s Agenda 2063, to adopt an African common position with the DotAfrica project, to ascertain Africa’s voice on internet governance, to take positive steps towards cyber security and to enhance knowledge management through cooperation with other institutions such as the UNECA, member states, RECs and other stakeholders.
In the build-up of this event, stakeholders from the public and private sectors had been meeting to clarify Africa’s priorities with regards to ICT development. Infrastructural development, was one such priority, as Africa would need adequate energy production and equipment to reach its ambitions of creating thousands of companies and millions of jobs in this sector for young people. 

The African ICT Week discussions also identified Mobile technology as the next big thing on the continent, given that 86% of Africans own cell phones, and that 18% of these are smart phones. Because Africa only has a 12% desktop penetration- same with laptops, many persons are increasingly accessing the internet through these phones. That explains the emergence of software developers especially in countries like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, who are increasingly proposing new mobile solutions to meet local needs. Examples such as M-Pesa, Ushahidi and others have ushered in the “e-Revolution”, with concepts such as e-Money, e-Banking, e-School, e-Cow etcetera.

In Africa, however, challenges to the maximal use of new media include computer illiteracy, as only 16% of Africans are online when compared to 75% in Europe and 61% in the Americas, according to the 2013 International Telecommunication Union ICT facts and figures. Other issues include high costs of laptops and multimedia phones to average families, and frequent power cuts in most cities and sometimes absence of electricity in rural areas.” (source>>).

Participants at the 2013 African ICT Week thus included policy makers among whom ministers in charge of ICTs in African Union member states, other governments officials from Africa and partner states, African Union staff, representatives from NGOs such as ICANN, investors and young Africans in ICT. They met to chart the way forward for socio-economic development through ICTs.

The African ICT Youth Consultation was thus officially launched by H.E. Dr Martial De-Paul Ikounga, AU Commissioner, Human Resources Science and Technology Department, on Friday 6th December, 2013. He urged young Africans in ICT with the words, “Innovation has no race, no age, and no sex. Invent, innovate”.

In her introductory remarks at the ministerial discussions, H.E Dr Elham M.A. Ibrahim, AU Commissioner, Infrastructure and Energy noted, “Our efforts should go to the acceleration of the construction of the right infrastructure, suitable for the development of transformative applications, for each and every socio-economic sector”. She also highlighted the need for cyber security and for respect of the eco-system.

The Egyptian born CEO of ICANN, Fadi Chehadé, noted that there must be equality in internet governance, Or Africa will lose a lot if major powers are allowed to restrict. He also said that with the DotAfrica project, “Africa will redeem its domain names which we are working to regain”. He explained that, “ICANN is responsible for all IP numbers on the planet". He added that most innovations in ICT are coming from Africa. He said in Africa we need to talk about the internet of people. Mr Chehadé, reassured young Africans that it is possible to invest in ICT with zero capital and with a bright mind. In his words, “ICANN must come to Africa. I am doing it for young people. I am committed to Africa. My dream as an African is that every African child can get the same opportunities in Africa that I had in the USA”.

The ministerial round table discussions culminated with a communique addressing all items on the agenda.
It is worth remembering that during the ICT week, which happens in the framework of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU, Africa lost a true pan Africanist and freedom fighter, the former President of the Republic of South Africa, H.E. Nelson R. Mandela. The events of Friday, December 6th, 2013, thus started with a minute of silence for the beacon of towering excellence, as august speakers reminded participants to learn from Madiba’s resilience; and in true camaraderie to lead Africa to its Renaissance by 2063.
Paschal Chem-Langhee is a regular contributor on Connect African Development Blog. He is a young Pan-Africanist from Cameroon and has a background in journalism and communication and has worked in sales, advertising, broadcasting, and now public relations. He volunteers with youth organisations to improve communication. “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance are sacredly hinged on the economic empowerment of African people and diaspora; and communication is crucial to this noble pursuit.” Paschal is an African Union Youth Volunteer and is now deployed at the African Union Commission's AU@50 Situation Room. Find him on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Skype by searching Paschal Chem.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy or position of Connect African Development.

Editorial Team.
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