Cablegate: It for Africa: Rwanda Leads the Way


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1. Summary. Rwanda hosted the Connect Africa Summit October 29-30.
Six African presidents, 53 communications ministers, and 19
corporate executives attended the summit which was intended to
accelerate broadband and wireless connectivity in Africa. Dr.
Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU), declared that this conference will be
"the Marshall Plan for information communication technology (ICT)
infrastructure development in Africa." A total of USD 50 billion
was pledged to help build African ICT infrastructure. Multinational
companies promised to invest while donors such as the World Bank
committed to increase substantially their aid flows into ICT. The
Connect Africa Summit contributed to President Kagame's attempt to
position Rwanda as a high-tech visionary, as the summit was
well-attended and generated hopeful promises. End Summary.

2. Governments, along with private sector companies, development
banks, and international organizations gathered in Kigali on October
29 and 30 for the Connect Africa Summit. The summit was designed to
mobilize the human, financial, and technical resources required to
expand the development of ICT infrastructure and solutions in
Africa. The summit was co-sponsored by the Government of Rwanda
(GOR), the ITU, the African Union, the World Bank, and the United
Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development in partnership with
the African Development Bank, the African Telecommunications Union,
the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the Global
Digital Solidarity Fund. Heads of State in attendance were Paul
Kagame of Rwanda, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Bingu Wa
Mutharika of Malawi, Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Abdoulaye Wade
of Senegal, and Pierre Nkurunzinza of Burundi.

3. The Secretary General of ITU, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, opened the
conference. Toure explained the goal of the summit was to discuss
implementation of the resolutions reached in earlier meetings rather
than developing new recommendations. He labelled the Kigali Summit
"a Marshall Plan for ICT infrastructure development in Africa."
Toure called upon participants to explore and invest in broader ICT
ventures that would eventually connect the "highly unconnected"
African continent to the global economy. He said the meeting
provided a "vital opportunity" to bring about greater cohesion in
the continent's ICT strategies, and to strengthen partnerships
between governments and the private sector for rapid realization of
tangible results. Several heads of state, in their opening remarks,
underscored the point that investors create wealth, and that this
Summit provided an opportunity to form partnerships. As a
counterpoint, Dr. Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel Corporation and
the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (in his presentation on
the importance of ICT in development), estimated that an increase of
10 percentage points in mobile penetration could increase the annual
growth rate of GDP by up to 1.2 percentage points.

4. Participants debated the factors vital to advance ICT investment
and boost growth in Africa. These included the expanding broadband
infrastructures, providing rural connectivity solutions,
establishing business-friendly policies and regulatory environments,
developing an ICT skilled workforce, and striking the right balance
between private and public investment.

5. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is also the chairman of
ICT in Africa, said this should be the last meeting that brings
people together without getting to the heart of implementing
previous resolutions. Malawian President Dr. Bingwa wa Muthalika
echoed the same sentiment saying the success from this landmark
meeting would depend upon agreements forged between governments and
private companies.
6. Rwandan Minister of State for Infrastructure Albert Butare
stated more than USD 8 billion has been invested in
telecommunications infrastructure across Africa in 2005, yet huge
obstacles still remain. These challenges included shortage of
skills among users and public servants, lack of a culture (sometimes
mechanisms) for sharing information, lack of requisite legislation,
and the tendency for public information to be kept out of the public

7. Ambassador Sha Zukang, Undersecretary General for Economic and
Social Affairs at the United Nations, argued that barriers to the
adoption of mobile communications, such as high consumer taxes
levied in African countries have to be lowered or removed to
stimulate growth. High license fees and other regulatory
bottlenecks, such as international gateway monopolies, constrain the
competitiveness of African businesses. Ambassador Sha reported that
more than 70 percent of internet traffic within Africa is routed
outside the continent, driving up costs for business and consumers.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza painted a grim picture,
explaining that there are only 50,000 connected computers in his
country. This represents a 0.07 percent rate of internet
penetration for Burundi as opposed to an average rate of 62 percent
in the developing world.

8. ICT is a crucial cornerstone of President Kagame's strategic
plan for Rwanda's development, and the GOR has acted accordingly to
build technical institutions, provide scholarships for science and
technology study abroad, and host several conferences focused on
technology. During the summit, the GOR made a public offer to
provide up to 100 ICT scholarships for students from East and
Central African nations starting in 2009. The Rwanda Information
and Technology Authority (RITA) Secretary General, Nkubito
Bakuramutsa, confirmed that Kagame has set specific targets for
RITA, including the creation of an internet backbone throughout the
country by the end of 2008 - a goal which Bakuramutsa admits is
extremely aggressive.

9. In January of this year, Kagame reminded heads of state at an
African Union summit that Rwanda had set its science and technology
spending at 1.6 percent of GDP, bringing it in line with typical
many developed nations (as opposed to other African nations, which
average less than 0.5 percent). African leaders at the summit
picked up on this Rwandan signal of leadership. Burundi President,
Pierre Nkurunzinza, for example, in his remarks at the Summit
expressed his recognition of Kagame's vision for development and
announced that he will eliminate all taxes on ICT tools and reduce
costs of acquiring licenses in the country in order to quicken the
process of achieving connectivity.

10. The Connect Africa summit ended on a high note with government
and private sector delegates agreeing to work together to develop
Africa's interconnectivity. In his closing remarks, Dr. Toure said
several projects had already been signed.

11. Microsoft promised support to help accelerate the
implementation of the United Nations Millenium Development goals on
ICT in Africa. One of the company's vice presidents, Michael
Rawding, announced that Microsoft will mobilize human, financial and
technical resources required to expand the development of the ICT,
infrastructure and connectivity. According to a joint statement
issued at the end of the Summit, the two parties agreed to support
programs providing skills development and capacity building along
with the delivery of relevant applications and services. This
includes delivery of a new online program for all stakeholders to
showcase and track the implementation of development projects. The
online platform, GlobalView, will be hosted and maintained by the
ITU, and will be open to all stakeholders - governments, industry,
international and regional organizations, as well as civil society -
allowing users to check status, identify gaps and avoid overlap in
collaborative efforts to achieve the Millenium Development goals.

12. Dr. Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Director of Operations for
Africa, announced that the World Bank Group will double its
commitment to ICT on the continent to USD 2 billion by 2012. Donald
Kabaruka, African Development Bank (AfDB) President (who also hosts
the Secretariat of the African Infrastructure Consortium which
brings together major donors and financial institutions active on
the continent) announced that AfDB will also scale up funds to

develop ICT initiatives in Africa. Under the Summit Communique
issued, the ITU and AfDB will actively mobilize partners and
financing to close ICT broadband infrastructure gaps between major
centres in Africa. The AfDB and the ITU will jointly undertake
feasibility studies and develop project proposals in consultation
with stakeholders in the region.
13. The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA)
said its member companies would invest USD 50 billion in mobile
phone telecommunications in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five
years. GSMA's investment will be used to extend the reach of GSM
mobile networks, enhanced with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS),
Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) and High-Speed Packet
Access (HSPA) technologies, to provide several mobile multimedia
services, including Internet access. (Note: Founded in 1987, GSMA
is a global trade association representing over 700 GSM mobile phone
operators across 218 countries of the world. It also includes more
than 200 manufacturers and suppliers support the Association's
initiatives as associate members. End Note).

14. Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecommunication company
already engaged in infrastructure projects in Rwanda, signed a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ITU to jointly promote
technical development in developing countries. Following the summit
Bakuramutsa explained that the MOU commits the parties to cooperate
in improving interconnectivity between regions as well as developing
local telecommunication expertise. As a first step, the two parties
will use Huawei's existing training centers in India and Nigeria to
provide telecommunications training to Rwandan engineers and
technicians. Bakuramutsa also reported that Huawei donated
telecommunication equipment worth USD 130,000 to RITA to provide
quality broadband services in support of the Connect Africa Summit.

15. Carnegie Mellon University announced a scholarship program to
help build capacity in the technology sector. Dr. Pradeep Khosla,
Dean of the College of Engineering at the University, promised 150
scholarships for Rwandan ICT students over the next five years, 30
starting in January 2008.

16. Comment. Rwanda's dream of becoming the "Singapore of Africa" -
an information-technology hub for the resource-rich nations of
Eastern and Central Africa is a point of pride for the GOR, a matter
of concern for some, and a curiosity for just about everyone else.
The Connect Africa Summit contributed to Kagame's attempt to
position Rwanda as a high-tech visionary. Prioritizing science and
technology has enabled Kagame to attract the interest of top
technology executives around the world, including at this event.
All speakers, panelists, and participants agreed on the importance
of ICT adoption for economic development in Africa. As most of the
heads of state mentioned in their opening remarks, however,
recognition of the importance of ICT is not a new development, and
it remains to be seen whether the promises made at the summit will
materialize. Government officials and business leaders see
high-tech as the best way to lift the world's least-developed
continent into a better position to compete globally, but others
argue that the money could be better spent on things like potable
water and reliable electricity.


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