By Prince Osuagwu
THE Minister of State for Information and Communications, Alhaji Ikra Aliyu Bilbis penultimate Thursday encouraged African countries to open up their Telecommunications market to local and international operators in order to build capacity and give more access to their people.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Conference of African Union Ministers in Charge of Communications and Information Technologies, which held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Alhaji Bilbis remarked that the transformation role of information and communications technologies in development has made it imperative for African leaders to take urgent action which will stimulate growth of the sector in the continent.
The Nigerian Minister spoke at an Extraordinary Conference of African Union Ministers in charge of Information and Communications Technologies which had several ministers across the continent in attendance. Nigeria is current chair of the body which met to take final position for African leaders who looking at the importance of ICT has dedicated the next African Union Summit meeting holding in January next year to Communications and Information Technologies with theme: Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development.
In fact, looking at the various stages of development of a number of projects on the continent including the eleven flagship projects under the African Regional Action Plan on Knowledge Economy (ARPKE), the ministers unanimously recommended for the AU Commission, UNECA, RECs, Members States and specialized institutions in coordination with all other African CIT stakeholders to establish to establish appropriate institutional arrangements and mechanisms to interconnect ICT backbone including national and regional Internet Exchange Points with the objective of lowering tariffs and providing better quality of service.
They also directed the Ministers of Finance to work in close cooperation with the Ministers of ion charge of ICTs in order to identify innovative funding mechanisms to enable Member States to contribute to the African Union Communications and Information Technologies Fund.
Speaking specifically on the need for African countries to open their markets, Bilbis said: â€œI believe that after the meeting of the Heads of States in Addis Ababa, all countries in the continent can open up their markets to enhance more business relationship and cooperation.â€
This was a veiled reference to a number of African countries who are still holding on to their telecoms market in spite of a much touted deregulation.
But perhaps by way of pointing out what these countries are missing, Bilbis reeled out the growth of the sector in Nigeria and how Nigerian initiatives are not only helping to build capacity across the continent but are encouraging the much talked about regional integration and development.
â€œIn our efforts at encouraging regional and continental relationship, let me inform this gathering that our players are touch bearers in this respect.
â€œFor instance, one of our local operators, Globacom has landed a submarine cable in Nigeria; another operator, MainOne is in the process of doing so; both companies are bringing their cables from Europe, landing them in various African countries. Phase 3 and Suburban are laying land based fibre optic cable in some West African countries. We believe that as Africans, we need to build capacity for each other,â€ the Nigerian Minister told his colleagues and other delegates in attendance.