Africa’s Boosts ICT Development to Spur Trade
Africa’s largest trading bloc said Wednesday it will harness ICT (information, communication technologies) to create significant economic activities within the region and beyond.
Dr. Amany Asfour, chairperson of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council, said ICT services are essential in the sector and whose competitiveness is tied together as a Key enabler to productivity and trade.
“COMESA is a net exporter of communication services, with total exports of about US$2-B with nations like Egypt, Seychelles, Kenya and Mauritius leading in terms of internet penetration and mobile density,” Dr. Asfour said during the opening session of the 1st COMESA ICT Services Regional Dialogue in Nairobi.
The regional dialogue provides a platform for Public Private engagement on some of the pertinent ICT policy issues to ensure the development of the ICT services in COMESA.
It also provides a platform for Public Private dialogue between the private sector and ICT regulators.
Participants at the two-day dialogue are drawn from 15 out of the 19 COMESA countries and hail from leading ICT companies, startups, small and medium enterprises, mobile companies, ICT researchers and industry federations and a number of other stakeholders in the industry and are discussing how ICT can turn African businesses into global market players.
Asfour said key recommendations from the discourse will be streamlined into an advocacy position which shall be used to support various COMESA policy organs platform.
COMESA Business Council CEO, Sandra Uwera, said the focus and benefits of ICT in developing countries remains relatively low, as most states do not have the business, policy, regulatory and investment framework, and human capital necessary to promote ICT development.
“Technology is not part of the problem, but part of the solution. It is only certain segments that are benefiting from ICT and government leadership and vision are very critical to encourage smart investments in Africa,” she noted.
Kenya’s Secretary for ICT, Dr. Catherine Gitau, said despite recent innovations, there are several bottlenecks that need to be addressed to ensure development of ICT in the COMESA region.
“These include data protection, cyber-crime, increasing intellectual protection for IT innovations; establishing a multi-stakeholder model of internet governance, policies and initiatives aimed at promoting private sector investment and competition,” Dr. Gitau pointed out.
The COMESA Business Council is the recognized apex business member organization in the region and a private institution of the common market, representing private sector interests at the highest levels of decision-making.
It provides Key market-driven services to its membership, namely business advocacy, business support services, linkages, partnerships and market intelligence, and technical and productive capacity building.
By Ben Ochieng
Paul Ebeling, Editor