Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, at the 14th ordinary session of the African Union heads of state and government assembly, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
31 Jan 2010
'Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development'
Your Excellencies, Your Majesties
Esteemed chairperson of the African Union
Chairperson of the African Union Commission and commissioners
Distinguished ambassadors and high commissioners present
Representatives of the regional, continental and international organisations
Valued stakeholders and international partners
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me begin by extending our heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Ethiopia for the tragic loss of life in the airplane disaster that struck the national airline earlier this week. We join others who have expressed their sympathies with the people of Haiti for the devastation and suffering caused by the earthquake.
Your Excellencies, it is an honour to have been asked to participate in this discussion on a matter that is critical to the future of our continent. Given the challenges we face, this discussion is both opportune and timely. Technology is shaping the future of the world, challenging geographical boundaries and revolutionising economic, social and political activity.
It has fundamentally changed the way we live, communicate and conduct business. Information technology has the capacity to improve living standards for millions of people on the continent. At the same time, it has the potential to reverse existing inequality and marginalisation.
For Africa, information and communication technology is not simply about science. Nor should it merely be viewed as another economic sector, like agriculture or mining. We need to appreciate that the development of information and communication technology is political.
If we act consciously and deliberately, ICT can become a powerful vehicle to advance the continent's political goals. We meet here in Addis Ababa with the objective of advancing our vision of a united Africa. Information and communication technology can help us to realise that vision. It can help us to advance economic growth and development.
In so doing, it will contribute to the promotion of peace, democracy and effective governance. We have seen how ICT has changed the world. We have seen how it has contributed to global economic expansion. We have seen how it has served to make the world smaller, closer and increasingly interdependent.
We need to harness that power to unite Africa, to defy the borders that constrain our growth. We need to harness that power to shrink the distances that separate us from each other and from the rest of the world. We need to harness that power to advance African independence and self-sufficiency.
As we meet to discuss the processes and mechanisms towards greater integration of African governance structures, we should be conscious that ICT can play an enabling role. We have maintained that this process should be based, among other things, on the development and consolidation of the regional economic communities. Such development will not be possible without the effective deployment of information and communication technology.
Our dream of a united Africa will be substantially advanced if we are able to meet this challenge. You will recall that, as African leaders, we agreed to a number of goals at the Connect Africa summit in 2007. We said we would interconnect all African capitals and major cities with ICT broadband infrastructure, and strengthen connectivity to the rest of the world by 2012. We undertook to connect African villages to broadband ICT service by 2015. We were to implement shared access initiatives such as community tele-centres and village phones.
We also said we would adopt key regulatory measures that promote affordable, widespread access to a full range of broadband ICT service. In addition, we were to support the development of a critical mass of ICT skills. We need to frankly examine the progress we have made in this regard. We need to identify the obstacles and find the means to overcome them.
Your Excellencies, we must accept that ICT can only be a catalyst for socio-economic development with a harmonised legal and regulatory framework in place. We need to find the resources to implement continental and regional ICT priority projects. This could include accessing funds from institutions like the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund. We need to expand our science and technology capacity.
Further than that, we need to improve cooperation in technological development.
An excellent example of this is South Africa's bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. This is a truly African initiative. While the central location would be in the Northern Cape in South Africa, remote stations will be hosted in Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya, Ghana and Zambia.
Hosting the Square Kilometre Array will underscore Africa's capability in science and innovation. Because this high technology facility is about 50 to 100 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope on earth, the Square Kilometre Array will be able to probe the edges of our universe. It will help us answer fundamental questions in the fields of astronomy, physics and cosmology, and may even detect intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
The enormous investment in infrastructure will also contribute to economic growth in the region. In addition, the requirement for ultra-high speed internet across Africa to operate the Square Kilometre Array will lead to improved ICT infrastructure and access for millions of people.
Lastly, Your Excellencies, we hope to welcome many of you and your compatriots to South Africa in June and July this year to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We hope too that the final result will help us remember this as a truly African world cup. Our greatest dream is to be able to celebrate an African world football champion for the first time.
And for those who may not be in South Africa, thanks to advances in information and communication technology, the world cup will be brought to you. South Africa's preparations for digital broadcasting are on track, and this will definitely be a world cup worthy of Africa.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
31 January 2010
Issued by: The Presidency
31 Jan 2010
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