Président de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (depuis le 1er. février 2008)
The countries of the region covered by the network are Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Uganda, Madagascar and Swaziland. Others are Zambia, Djibouti, Sudan, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The meeting will also be attended by representatives from SADC, COMESA, EAC, and other agencies.
The meeting follows a series of consultative meetings hosted by the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, involving senior government ICT policy makers, legal experts, ICT regulators, telecom companies and development partners. These meetings culminated in a protocol, implementation roadmap and policy principles, which will be presented to the Ministers for consideration and approval.
Says Dr Henry Chasia, the Executive Deputy Chairperson and Chief Executive of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission : “We have come a long way and we are happy we have reached this point.
“This is a collaborative effort and we had to involve as many stakeholders as possible, including legal experts, government policy makers, regulators, telecom operators, among others, for the proper implementation and sustainability of the NEPAD ICT Infrastructure Network, including the EASSy cable.
“Once the ICT Ministers give us a go-ahead on the policy framework under which, the ICT Broadband Infrastructure, including the EASSy cable, and associated terrestrial network should be developed and operated, it will be possible to fast-track the construction of the cable, which will go on as scheduled”, he added.
The EASSy cable is one of the ICT broadband infrastructure projects to be implemented under the context and principles of NEPAD that emphasise collaboration among African countries, regional and international integration, African ownership and leadership, building competitiveness of African economies and meeting the Millennium Development Goals of uplifting the African economies. The NEPAD e-Africa Commission, the ICT arm of NEPAD facilitates the process.
NEPAD and the respective governments believe accessibility to affordable communications is key to achieving the NEPAD principles.
It is expected that when completed, the NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network, including EASSy, will deliver affordable telecommunications necessary for the collaboration, integration and development of Africa, especially with regard to the eastern and southern Africa region.
Says Dr Henry Chasia : “We want to develop the continent and the cost of telecommunications has a big effect on development and integration of this continent. It is hard for us to compete with the rest of the world if the communications remain costly. We should do business not worrying about the costs and that is why it is important that the cost of telecommunications is affordable.
“NEPAD is trying to address this problem through this EASSy cable Project and is considering both the development and business aspects. Both coastal and land-locked countries will benefit, in the spirit of NEPAD”.
‘Open access’ model of operation To ensure affordable access to telecommunications by end users, ICT government policy makers agreed on an ‘open access’ model of operation of the ICT broadband infrastructure network, including EASSy. The model will ensure that all authorised service providers can be offered services by the operating entities on fair and non-discriminatory terms and conditions. It also means that any authorised service provider shall be free to provide services on the regional network.
Under this model, current licensed telecoms service providers will have equitable access to the network including the EASSy cable. It will also be open to any future service providers willing to join.
The open access model varies from the ‘consortium’ model, which was used to construct the SAT 3 in West Africa. In the ‘consortium’ model, the companies form an exclusive ‘club’ that has exclusive powers over the cable and restricts other operators from joining it.
“What NEPAD wants are the prices of access to this submarine cable to be affordable. As NEPAD, we are convinced that the consortium model will not cut prices down and we shall end up like SAT 3 submarine project in West Africa, where prices have not come down despite the construction of the cable. We do not want monopoly over access to the infrastructure”, said Dr Edmund Katiti, ICT Policy and Regulatory Advisor at the NEPAD e-Africa Commission.
The 9900 km long submarine EASSy cable, that is estimated to cost $280 million, will run from Durban, South Africa to Djibouti and is estimated to be completed by year 2008. NEPAD has been coordinating this project since year 2002, after the African Heads of States mandated it to undertake the task
Governance and ownership The EASSy cable project will be predominantly owned by telecom companies themselves and will be run commercially. “Unlike the consortium model, the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) ownership will be predominantly telecom operators. We hope to involve as many companies as possible and the respective governments will tell us which companies in their countries will be potential shareholders. Governments can also be shareholders if they so wish”, says Dr Chasia.
Special Purpose Vehicles will be developed whose objectives will be to own, operate and maintain the network. It will also ensure open, non-discriminatory and affordable access to international telecommunications for the people on the African continent. The SVP will also give opportunity for equal ownership and participation by entities and governments of the region.
“The policy makers decided that the way forward is to have SPVs owned predominantly by telecom operators. What NEPAD is saying is that the cost of ownership should be structured in such a way that it is affordable to the small operators, and the rest of the funding can be raised through debt”, says Dr Katiti.
There will be a board of directors composed of 11 highly qualified people, who will be appointed by the shareholders. The directors will be people qualified in commercial, legal, financial management and technical aspects such as operation, maintenance, etc.
Funding The objective here will be to optimise the capital structure using mainly equity, debt and quasi-equity to ensure affordable communication service to the citizens of the region. Suggested sources of funding include DFI’s, financial investors, contributions by shareholders and commercial and merchant banks, among others.
The cost of equity will be regulated to enable affordability of other companies wishing to take capacity. “It is a very transparent process. The shareholders will sign a shareholders agreement, which among other things will ensure the SPVs are run on commercial principles, but take into account developmental objectives”, Katiti said. When endorsed by the Ministers, the SPV will be established and registered : funds will be sought, leading to speedy construction of the cable.
About the NEPAD ICT Programme The purpose of the NEPAD ICT programme is to accelerate development of ICT infrastructure, and imparting ICT skills. It is also intended to bridge digital divide in Africa and between Africa and the rest of the world.
NEPAD e-Africa Commission is the ICT task Team established in 2001 by NEPAD and is responsible for developing ICT policies, strategies and projects at continental level as well as managing the structured development of the ICT sector in the context of NEPAD.
Source : nepad news