Président de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (depuis le 1er. février 2008)
The NEPAD e-Schools Initiative is the key to bridging the digital divide and ensuring socio-economic development of African countries, said the Deputy President of South Africa, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, when she opened the NEPAD e-Schools stakeholders conference, held in Johannesburg from 15-18 April 2008.
The conference, which was aimed at discussing NEPAD e-Schools progress and the business plan, was attended by South Africa’s Minister of Communication Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, the Minister of Education Naledi Pandor, and the Minister of Education of Gabon, Michel Menge, as well as permanent secretaries and directors-general from 17 African countries, other government officials, private sector companies, teachers and learners.
“To participate in the worldwide knowledge economy, we have to strengthen our collaborative efforts and develop effective national and co-ordinated regional strategies. Our countries must become knowledge economies to stay above water,” said Deputy President Mlambo Ngcuka.
“We recognise that this NEPAD e-Schools Initiative holds substantial benefits for all African people. Through the use of ICT, we can raise the levels of our educational standards and improve the education and skills of our young people. And above all, we can address inequality, poverty and unemployment in our countries.”
She noted that taking this initiative forward marked the beginning of meeting the challenges of bridging the digital divide.
“People-first” — the best approach for ICT development The Deputy President advised participants to always put people first in the approach to ICT development in addressing the ICT skills challenges of the 21st century.
“ICT skills development is not only about infrastructure, it is about the interface between infrastructure, connectivity, electronic content and people.
“It is not the hardware or the software that makes the difference. A connected learning community is functional, well managed and is one where every member contributes to the achievement of common goals. It is ‘people first’ – it is about teacher development, management efficiency and skills improvement.
“Most importantly, it is about building the ICT skills of our people because we know these skills are a sought-after commodity, and those who have the skills have a better chance at surviving the 21st century challenges.”
ICT broadband connectivity critical to NEPAD e-Schools success Deputy President Mlambo Ngcuka noted that Africa was experiencing the fastest growth in Internet connectivity but said more needed to be done to ensure all Africans use ICT.
“We need to harness this growth so that we use information and communication technologies to change the lives of all our people for the better.
“We have to find ways in Africa to get sufficient, sustainable and affordable connectivity to teachers and learners, especially if we are to fully capitalise on the potential that ICT holds for education. Only when we have cheap broadband access to the Internet for all schools will we be able to participate fully in the global knowledge society. The way we learn and teach has to change.”
Good Lessons from NEPAD e-Schools Demo Dr Henry Chasia, Executive Deputy Chairperson of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, said the benefits of the NEPAD e-Schools were many — as had been proven in lessons learnt from countries where the e-Schools had already been launched.
“Reports from the demonstration project have shown that ICT improves the quality of teaching. A teacher in a rural isolated school who is connected to the Internet has access to a wealth of educational materials to prepare his lessons, can exchange information with colleagues, and enrich his or her courses by using ICT in the classroom.
“We also expect the NEPAD e-Schools to enhance collaboration among African countries by enabling teachers, for example, to collaborate in the development of educational content, by enabling governments to pull together their buying power in order to negotiate better prices for equipment and satellite access, and by collaboration in the manning of the satellite systems control centres, etc”.
The countries participating in the demonstration project are : Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. Of these, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda have already launched the NEPAD e-Schools in their respective countries.
NEPAD e-Schools business plan approved At a separate meeting involving permanent secretaries and directors-general of Ministries of Education and ICT, representing 17 African governments participating in the NEPAD e-Schools Initiative, the e-Schools business plan was endorsed as a framework for development of the initiative.
They agreed to take advantage of lessons learnt from the 51 schools in the countries that participated in the NEPAD e-Schools Demo Project, and to use the business plan as a broad framework for the further development of the project — to transform 50% of all secondary schools in the participating countries into NEPAD e-Schools by 2015 ; and use common procurement standards and joint negotiations to achieve bargaining power through economies of scale.
The participants called upon national governments to establish, empower and equip national implementing agencies or institutional frameworks for the implementation of the NEPAD e-Schools by 2010.
About NEPAD e-Schools The NEPAD e-Schools Initiative was adopted as a high priority NEPAD ICT project by the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee in March 2003.
The overall aim of the Initiative is to harness ICT technology for the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning in African primary and secondary schools, whereby young Africans graduate from these schools with ICT skills that will enable them to participate as equals in the global information society and knowledge economy.
The NEPAD e-Africa Commission is spearheading the implementation of the NEPAD e-Schools Initiative, which has the following components running in parallel : the NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project ; the NEPAD e-Schools Satellite Network ; the establishment of the national implementing agencies ; the development of teacher training, content and curriculum development and the NEPAD e-Schools business plan.
These activities will converge towards large-scale roll-out. Implementation of this initiative will be carried out at national level with coordination taking place at the continental level.
The e-Africa Commission has been planning and implementing the various components of the NEPAD e-Schools over the past four years.
Significant progress has been made in the implementation of the Demo Project. Nine countries have launched NEPAD e-Schools in their countries, equipment has been installed, teachers have been trained and pupils have been exposed to the wonders of new technology in more than 80 community schools in Africa.
The business plan provides the link between the Demo and the roll-out. The main objective of the business plan is to develop a planning framework that will outline the input, process and resource mobilisation for the massive roll-out of the NEPAD e-Schools Initiative.
The consulting firm, Ernst&Young, was contracted to develop a draft business plan in consultation with experts appointed by the governments of the participating countries, RECs, the African Development Bank, the lead private-sector consortiums and civil society organisations. Source : NEPAD, april 25, 2008
It is four years since the NEPAD Rwanda office was established. Executive Director Charles Gasana discusses Rwanda’s involvement in NEPAD and progress in implementing NEPAD programmes in this interview with Phillip Karenzi of the Rwanda NEPAD Secretariat.
How would you describe Rwanda’s participation in NEPAD ? Rwanda has been at the centre of NEPAD issues right from its inception. As soon as the initiative was endorsed at the AU Heads of State and Government Summit as an economic programme for the AU in 2003, Rwanda was one of the countries selected for the Implementation Committee and the NEPAD Steering Committee. This and other involvement has helped Rwanda to remain on top of the implementation process of NEPAD programmes.
Rwanda has a NEPAD Secretariat, how has it delivered on its objectives ? Establishing the Secretariat came from the commitment of President Paul Kagame to see NEPAD develop in Rwanda and to strengthen its ownership at country level. That’s how we ended up with the Secretariat in the Office of the President. Whatever is agreed and endorsed at the continental or regional level, we make sure that it is translated into our national programme.
The NEPAD programmes are geared toward addressing governance issues, fighting poverty, achieving the Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs) and fostering regional integration. Rwanda has indeed been a pacemaker in implementation of these priorities. The e-Schools demonstration project was launched in 2006 and we were the first with six e-Schools. We have also coordinated the NEPAD broadband infrustructure project leading to the endorsement of the Kigali Protocol by ICT Ministers for Eastern and Southern Africa. There are many others, like the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. Visit our website at www.nepad.gov.rw. This will give you an insight on how NEPAD has delivered on its main objectives.
How has NEPAD helped Rwanda towards achieving MDGs ? To Rwanda revamping the agriculture sector is the key to achieving not only the MDGs but also the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) and Vision 2020 targets. So NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme was very instrumental and timely for Rwanda. By the way Rwanda is so far the only country that has carried out the CAADP process by holding a CAADP Round Table and therefore has the CAADP Compact in place. The very valuable addition of CAADP to the agricultural development agenda in Rwanda meant that agricultural strategies, policies, programmes and priorities were reviewed so that they can meet poverty targets, the Vision 2020 targets as well as the MDGs. This process was rigorous and involved high level technical experts including the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) of the World Bank.
Building a strong ICT infrastructure is one of NEPAD’S priorities. How have you delivered ? There are good programmes in ICT. We have the six NEPAD demo e-Schools already in place in Rwanda and more importantly, Rwanda has been active in teaming up with other countries and the private sector to implement the NEPAD EASSy submarine cable project. EASSy hasn’t really been easy but indications now are that we shall soon have the cable running by 2010.
What has been NEPAD’s role in accelerating intra-African trade and also in accessing markets of developed nations ? First of all, for trade we need to address the infrastructure issues, governance, peace and security on the continent. So through the implementation of the regional cross-border infrastructure plan and other programmes, NEPAD is systematically addressing these issues that would allow African countries to deliver on the key initial enabling factors.
Through mechanisms such as the NEPAD African Partnership Forum (APF) in which African countries engage the G8 in making mutual commitment, we now see new facilities cropping up to facilitate the implementation of the regional cross-border infrastructure and other programmes.
At the African Development Bank (AfDB) we now have a full-time secretariat for the Investment Consortium for Africa. This secretariat coordinates facilities such as the NEPAD-IPPF (the Investment Project Preparation Facility) and the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) that handle downstream infrastructure issues. With this in place we can now talk about meaningful regional integration and investing together or doing business as one.
NEPAD is also nurturing what is called Spatial Development Initiative Programmes (SDP) methodology for development corridors and the aim is to identify a major economic investment project or projects that will justify the development of infrastructure. These are extremely exciting initiatives modelled on success stories such as the Maputo Corridor.
You have talked about NEPAD’s Spatial Development Initiative methodology. How will this help unlock investment potential within the central corridor ? The Spatial Development Initiative methodology is emerging as one of those key strategic approaches to address the cross-border infrastructure investment that we need to link up markets and countries in Africa and then promote regional integration. I am happy again to say that Rwanda and Tanzania are championing an SDI programme in Eastern Africa.
There are other development corridors in other regions of Africa but let me elaborate on our central corridor in which the nickel minerals projects have emerged as the key anchor. What I may call the nickel belt ranges from the Kabanga area in Tanzania to Muremera, Musongati, Nyabikere and Waga in Burundi, with varieties of sulphide and laterite all with over 180 million tonnes of deposit.
Now, mines require adequate and efficient infrastructure, mainly transport and power, to facilitate production and move their traffic, both inputs/supplies to the mines and outputs of bulky concentrates. So planned infrastructure is a critical element for the envisaged large investment and establishment of the mines. The infrastructure includes principally the Isaka–Kigali railway and Musongati- Burundi railway, power generation and transmission projects, including Rusumo Falls and Lake Kivu methane gas projects. An estimate of a minimum of more than one and half million tonnes per year and much needed power of 80–140 MW is envisaged. The possibility of a smelter and/or production of stainless steel in the region provides an important economic growth opportunity for the countries.
Can you describe one project through which Rwanda will benefit ? Starting with the development of the railway network to link Isaka to Kigali, Rwanda has been losing $116 million per year on the inefficient road transport system. With the railway, the economy will gain at least $116 million a year and this alone makes it a commercially viable project for Rwanda.
Talking of the nickel minerals anchor, that will require over 140 MW of power from Rusomo and other hydro-power facilities and Lake Kivu methane gas. We need to strategically invest in the energy sector because there is a ready market for power. We are still packaging the business case for the corridor to include agriculture, mining and tourism.
How has NEPAD led to increased levels of domestic savings as well as foreign direct investments (FDI) in Rwanda and in Africa in general ? The issue of domestic savings has certainly to do with people accumulating wealth. What is important is creating jobs and therefore income before we can talk about savings out of that income. Income comes from employment creation, and employment comes from investments. So the facilities, including the SDI methodology I just mentioned, being put in place are meant to unlock the economic potential and make Africa a better destination for investors.
Attaining peace and security on the continent is one of NEPAD’s priorities. How is NEPAD helping reduce conflicts and wars as well as reducing the problem of statelessness, refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa ? NEPAD is a development programme of the AU and has caused a revolution in the AU for effectiveness. The AU’s approach to addressing the issues of conflicts and democracy on the continent has changed completely. Rwanda in its own capacity has effectively participated in the peace-keeping missions. You can also attribute to NEPAD the pace at which African countries are strengthening their governance issues, including elections in DRC and Togo. You can also see the kind of interventions made in Ivory Coast led by President Thabo Mbeki. By and large there is a sense of democracy that is coming up, basically attributed to NEPAD as a programme.
Are you satisfied with the way other African countries are participating in NEPAD initiatives ? Yes surely but there is a lot to be done. Five years down the road we need to do more than what we have achieved so far. By and large I would say countries are coming on board but we need to do more.
Some people are less hopeful of NEPAD’s success. What is your take on this ? At the very beginning people were pessimistic, rushing to say that nothing is being done, but as far as I am concerned NEPAD is now promising. Many facilities have been put in place to make NEPAD a reality ; the African Partnership Forum and the G8 participating in NEPAD issues resulted in the Investment Consortium for Africa at the AfDB and the African Catalytic Growth Fund. and the Investment Climate Facility for Africa led by the former President Mkapa of Tanzania. The SDIs development corridors and their respective economic anchors spreading all over the regions are the ignition for growth of infrastructure development. It takes time to resolve cross-border issues and investments but I think we are on the right track and have all the reasons to be optimistic about NEPAD.
Are you satisfied with the support NEPAD is getting from African governments and development partners ? Oh yes. I am giving you the kind of engagement and commitment we make with the G8 frontline under the APF. The kind of commitments and facilities being put in place by the World Bank, by African institutions such the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and African research institutions. We now see the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank coming in very strongly in making serious commitments on the continent through support to the private sector in Africa.
How involved is the private sector in the implementation of NEPAD programmes ? The private sector is very much on board. For example the NEPAD e-Schools Demo was basically executed by the private sector. The NEPAD Business Round Table is an engagement purely by the private sector. In all the NEPAD forums not only do we see participation of the private sector but we also see the civil society and NGOs. Source : NEPAD, april 25, 2008