The process of integrating Africa’s telecommunications by connecting networks across the continent is going through another rough patch, as ministers from several countries take time to study a protocol that provides a framework agreement for several projects.
Telecommunications ministers from Zambia, Mozambique, Sudan and Kenya have declined to endorse the protocol, which among other things has provisions for building the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSY) project. EASSY was established to build a submarine cable system that will provide fiber-optic telecom facilities on the east coast of Africa and link northern and southern African international gateways.
In August, regional information and communication technology (ICT) ministers signed the protocol. But now, the hesitation of some telecom ministers may delay or curtail the project.
“More time is needed to consult more widely and analyze the benefits of the protocol,” said Zambian Minister of Communication and Transport Peter Daka, in the wake of a meeting two weeks ago in Cape Town, South Africa, attended by regional telecom ministers.
The protocol was hammered together to enable eastern and southern African countries to work together to develop the region’s telecom sector, ensure a level playing field and equal access to infrastructure and to bring down the high cost of communications.
The e-Africa Commission, which has been promoting the protocol, is pushing ministers to endorse the protocol by mid-November. The commission operates under the aegis of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), founded by the Organization of African Unity to develop an integrated socioeconomic development framework for Africa.
The US$200 million EASSY project was expected to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2007 though it is already behind schedule by months.
Failure to ratify the protocol also may delay Comtel, a broadband infrastructure project spearheaded by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in conjunction with NEPAD. It’s agenda is to connect 21 eastern and southern African countries to Europe and Asia.
-Michael Malakata , IDG News Service (Lusaka Bureau)
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