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Internet Governance

CIR 64: Interconnecting Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles Along the Way

On the third day of multistakeholder forum discussions at the IGF 2011, interconnection of fiber optic connectivity across the African region is again coming into focus. Many countries in Africa with direct access to the coast line have achieved submarine cable landings that link the countries direct to the rest of the world. Even with these positive developments, it has been noted that African countries still spend approximately 1.8 million euros every year for inter-African traffic exchange through internet exchange points in other territories outside of Africa. This expenses means that there is demand for cross-border data communications between African countries.

In the long term, it is easy to notice that investments to allow cross boarder connections in Africa has a valid business case that do not deserve to be ignored. Moreover, case studies done in Kenya and Egypt by OECD (http://www.oecd.org), reports that there exists an interrelationship between international bandwidth infrastructure and its cost, local loop access services and content and its interrelationship with development.This can easily be pointed out as one of the reasons why these two countries continue to drive lots of investments within their ICT sectors and the general business areas that continue to stimulate economic progress and innovation of ICT services. The conclusions from this study emphasizes the fact that internet infrastructure is the basic foundation for macro-economic development.

Further, businesses and the private sector players may as well need to put emphasis that encourages the interrelationships between push and pull effects of demand and supply of access and local content provision for development.

On one hand, the industry still need legislation support with guideline for cross border infrastructure to be championed by the ITU, Governments and regional telecommunication industry regulators within Africa. On the other hand, there exists a need for the harmonization of various stakeholder inputs to achieve coherence in efforts and emphasis. The harmonization is also required in the policy and strategy frameworks within the many governments and regional trading block positions on the matter of ICT infrastructure inter connectivity and prioritization.

But access alone is not enough. New efforts need to be channeled into creating content. The content is key to derive consumer interest and thereby demand that will stimulate investment from the private sector players. Connectivity is important, but quality and affordability are equally paramount.