The African Telecommunications Union (ATU) has highlighted the importance of connecting rural and remote areas in Africa to economic opportunities.
This was said by Secretary General of ATU, Abdoulkarim Soumaila at an ICT forum, AfricaCom, held on 7- 9 November in Cape Town.
He said that connectivity, affordability and accessibility was a key focus for Africa’s digital inclusivity and rural network coverage.
Abdoulkarim Soumaila during the premier Pan-African technology, telecoms and media event noted that, connectivity has the potential to positively impact and transform people’s lives in a number of areas, including health, education and financial services and agriculture.
“All people must be able to access the Internet in order to exercise and enjoy their rights to a better quality of life, dignity and equality.” Abdoulkarim said.
Statistics from GSMA shows that approximately 53% of the world’s population is still unconnected. Four-fifths of this unconnected population are located in Asia-Pacific and in Africa. On average, 69% of the African population do not have access to the Internet, with many of those unconnected living in rural areas.
Abdoulkarim stated that there is a definite need for smarter strategies and co-operation amongst the various stakeholders to ensure digital Inclusivity.
“In order to make rural connectivity a reality, governments and stakeholders need to make it a priority. It is necessary to develop suitable networks at an appropriate time and gradually overlay infrastructure and services until the ultimate goal of an ICT Society and Knowledge Economy is achieved.” Abdoulkarim said.
The forum with the theme, “Build a Better Connected Africa – How to Accelerate the Development of ICT Systems” was attended by government officials including communication ministers from South Africa, Angola, Ghana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, representatives from GSMA, Deloitte, Huawei and Telco Operators in Sub-Saharan region.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister for Communications of Ghana said, “Our universal access service agency GIFEC, in collaboration with operators and private sector partners, has been mandated to make 100% network coverage happen within two years. And I’m happy to know that Huawei has successfully developed innovative solution for rural coverage in collaboration with MTN in Ghana. The ICT Africa forum should serve to strengthen our resolve in building a better connected Africa. ”
Lipeng, president of Huawei Southern Africa region said most African policy-makers have created favorable environments for the ICT sector, and the private sector also plays an important role in provision of the technology, solution, service and training, help transforming and enriching people’s life through communication.
“Huawei is ready to share our local practices and global expertise with all related stakeholders, to contribute to accelerating ICT development in Africa.” Li said.