Communications and Information Policy - Africa

In Africa, APC’s main focus is on access to infrastructure, particularly broadband internet infrastructure outside main urban areas. There are many active projects, including the CICEWA one, which tries to push for equitable and affordable access the internet through research, adocacy and telecommunication policy reform.

Africans pay some of the highest costs for bandwidth in the world. As the existing infrastructure is largely foreign-owned, the hard currency paid for access leaves the continent. East Africa, which does not have international fibre connections, pays even higher prices than West Africa, which is connected to the monopoly-controlled SAT3/WASC cable.

APC’s FibreForAfrica.net site provides basic information about international bandwidth in Africa, its costs and the politics of monopoly access to. It focuses especially on the proposed East African cable projects and the ending of the SAT-3 monopoly.

Our large-scale research project SAT-3/WASC Post-Implementation Audit: Country Case Studies documents the effect that the SAT-3 cable has had on communications on the African continent. It looks at:

  • What happened and why? A global view of the cable’s construction.
  • What is happening and how? National perspectives on the effect of SAT-3 on the ICT environments in Angola, Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana.
  • What next? Lessons learned, problems to avoid in future infrastructure projects, and positive points to carry forward.

APC has co-organised consultations and workshops with key groups including national regulators. The pressure from this process has indirectly caused a downward trend on SAT-3 prices as the operating consortium tries to pre-empt regulatory intervention by lowering prices. In collaboration with partners, APC organised a civil society workshop on open access to ICT infrastructure in Africa, which made a number of recommendations to the ITU’s Connect Africa Summit in Kigali in October 2007.

The Communication for Influence (CICEWA) project, launched in January 2008, aims to identify obstacles to universal affordable access to broadband ICT infrastructure in East, Central and West Africa. Building on this research, CICEWA animators will develop two sub-regional ICT policy advocacy networks to disseminate research and undertake advocacy on ICTD and access to infrastructure at the sub-regional level. Ultimately, the project aims to create a sound platform for sub-regional connectivity in East, West and Central Africa that will enable the effective use of ICTs in development processes.

The Africa ICT Policy Monitor website (africa.rights.apc.org) doesn’t try to capture every policy document, news item or activity in Africa, but instead focuses more on issues and countries in which APC is active in policy advocacy campaigns. This is partly in response to an evaluation which indicated that the site was visited by international users more than African ones.

Taking account of bandwidth limitations and limited internet access in large parts of the continent, the Chakula newsletter uses a “push” approach to reach a wider audience within Africa.

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