CHAKULA Issue # 11: ICT Policy Advocacy in Africa


CHAKULA Issue No. 11, August 2004

Africa ICT Policy Monitor Newsletter from the APC

ICT Policy Advocacy in Africa


1. Editorial
- ICT Policy and Regulatory Issues in Africa
- Challenges in ICT Advocacy Involvement
- Lessons Learned
- What Next?
3. The Tug of War
4. ICT Policy News and Events
- News
- Events
5. Information and Resources
6. Subscribing to ‘Chakula’



In this issue of Chakula, we focus on the recently held APC Regional ICT Policy Advocacy Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, which brought together participants from civil society, the media and the private sector to plan actions to bring about positive change in the ICT policy and regulatory environments in their countries.

Against this backdrop, we highlight some of the main information and communication technology (ICT) policy and regulatory issues currently debated including some identified by workshop participants. We also discuss challenges faced by those involved in ICT policy advocacy and conclude with a brief description of national advocacy campaigns planned at the workshop.

APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor Team




ICT policy issues in Africa have been in the spotlight in the recent past at national, regional and global levels given the flurry of activities surrounding ICTs and policy processes and ultimately the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). While the majority of people in many African countries remain unaware of what ICT policy is all about and its impact on their everyday lives, others have recently embarked on serious advocacy activities in an effort to ensure their concerns are taken into consideration in the ICT policy decision-making process.

For this reason, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) brought together a multi-stakeholder group of ICT policy advocates from civil society, the media and private sector to network and build on their capacity of to drive local ICT policy campaigns and advocacy activities.

Read more about the motivation behind the workshop


Anyone scanning ICT news across Africa will find that many countries are currently undergoing government-led, internationally- backed reforms geared to reducing poverty reduction in response to the widely publicised United Nations Millennium Development Goals (http:// ICT has taken centre stage in this new development as it plays a crucial role in facilitating implementation, and expanding the scope and coverage of the development agenda.

The most hotly-contested issues at the Nairobi workshop were access to and affordability of ICTs and the reform of the telecommunications sector. Another hotspot was the formulation and implementation of national ICT policy processes ongoing in many countries for the last decade or so.

Workshop participants highlighted a host of other policy areas impacting on people as the use of ICTs becomes more and more entrenched in everyday life. They included the issues of security, privacy and censorship and the importance of locally-relevant content and the role community media.

Cross-cutting areas also came to the fore such as gender and ICTs as well as human capacity-building and education.

Encouragingly multi-stakeholder policy efforts targeting each or a combination of issues have already resulted in new policy directives or legislation or better practices, and groups involved in advocacy activities are recognising the importance of their role in influencing policy processes taking place at national, regional or global levels that impacts in their work and daily life.

  • National ICT Policy Processes and Issues

On the national front, many countries are going through national ICT policy formulation processes (sometimes referred to as national “e-strategies”) intended to assist countries to deploy, harness and exploit ICTs for socio-economic development at the local, national and sub-regional levels; and to enable citizens’ access to affordable telephones, broadcasting, computers and internet services . According to a report by the United National Economic Commission for Africa (one of the key agencies promoting this process in Africa) the number of countries in the process of developing a national ICT policy jumped from 10 in 2000 to 21 in 2002 while the number of countries with ICT policies in place increased from 13 to 16.

Targeted outcomes from any national ICT policy and related processes ideally include concrete measures to create an enabling ICT environment especially in governance, education, health and business sectors. Other measures include the development of regulatory frameworks, the provision of human capacity-building. Good processes involve all stakeholders to ensure different issues and perspectives are taken into consideration and also to provide an opportunity for interested groups to take an active role at the implementation level.

During the Nairobi workshop, Dawit Bekele from the University of Addis Ababa University alongside Abebe Chekol of the British Council in Ethiopia discussed the Ethiopian ICT policy formulation process and current situation. “The policy formulation process, was undertaken between 1999 and 2002 and saw the establishment of an ICT development authority in 2003 as one of its outcomes. However, the policy formulation process had very limited inclusion of all stakeholders and since 2003, there has been very little achievement in terms of policy implementation,” said Dawit Bekele. They explained that as a result of scarceimplementation, there are many outstanding tasks still to be addressed such as the liberalisation and privatisation of the telecommunications sector.

The Ethiopian policy framework has primarily addressed infrastructure development issues and ignored other important policy aspects such as intellectual property, software, electronic commerce and internet governance. Dawit described the situation where most Ethiopians acquire internationally-registered domain names (such as .com) instead of nationally registered .et addresses because they are much cheaper and readily available. “A similar concern has been taking place in Nigeria where there is long-standing contention around the ownership and management of the Nigeria country domain name .ng,” added Jummai Umar of Nigeria.

  • Cyber-Crime and Anti-Terrorism Legislation

Security, censorship and privacy issues have started to move centre stage in Africa as more and more people become aware of the risks associated with the use of ICTs especially the internet and the impact of insecurity on the level of confidence and trust in computer and internet systems. Many African governments have embarked on a process of developing legislation to improve security as a result of internet abuse (eg the infamous ‘Nigerian millionaire scams’) and to some extent as a counter terrorism measure following the events of September 11 2001.

We will be covering these cyber-crime legislation developments in a later issue of Chakula.

  • Telecommunications Sector Reforms

With access to and affordability of ICTs the top priority for ordinary people, the structure of the telecommunications market continues to dominate policy debates and measures.

Policy debates on telecommunications sector reform mostly revolve around three issues . Firstly, the liberalisation of the market to end monopolistic practices, allow additional operators to provide ICT services and create a competitive environment. Secondly, either full or partial privatisation of previously government-run telecommunications parastatals with the aim of improving reliability and efficiency in the sector. Thirdly, the building a regulatory framework to oversee the effective development and management of the ICT sector and monitor the implementation of key policy directives.

Again Dawit and Abebe cited the Ethiopia situation where despite legislation, there is still no independent regulator and an attempt to partially privatise the Ethiopia Telecommunication Corporation has failed. Laws enacted to enable the liberalisation and privatisation of the telecommunications sector have never been implemented and to date no timelines for the privatisation and/or the liberalisation of fixed and mobile telecommunications and internet service provision have been set. The only tangible policy change has been the legalisation of cyber-cafes and telecentres in 2002.

Just recently in Kenya and South Africa various stakeholder groups have been actively involved in advocacy campaigns pressuring their governments to actually implement unenacted policies to bring about competition. The incumbent telecommunication operators (Telkom Kenya and Telkom South Africa) have a monopoly over the provision of basic telecommunication services. Citizens of both countries have experienced steadily increasing prices and declining service quality. The situation is made worse given the fact that legally their monopoly status has expired but as no licences have been awarded to new players competition is still inexistent.

Telecommunication sector reform is now at the top agenda for many stakeholders including the private sector eager to offer services as well as civil society groups that would like to see an end to monopolistic practices if competition will lead to lower prices and a diversity of services.


With such numerous ICT policy issues of concern and just a couple of stakeholders engagement in awareness campaigns, discussion forums, and lobbying in policy advocacy, workshop participants discussed the challenges and perceptions associated with trying to influence the direction of ICT policy in Africa.

The role of the media and how to engage journalists in the issues was at the centre of debate about the challenges faced by policy advocates who want to use the media to highlight the issues and raise public awareness and support. “While trying to highlight some of the key issues affecting internet access and affordability in Kenya, the Internet Service Providers Association sent numerous press releases to the media and not a single one of those press releases made it to the papers, we even hired a public relations firm hoping this would improve our coverage with no success” Brian Longwe expressing his frustration of dealing with the media in Kenya.

In some countries such as Nigeria and Uganda lobbying itself has a “bad name” as the general public associates lobbying with political patronage. Workshop participants strategised on how to overcome this perception of advocacy work from the outset.

Another challenge faced as a result of a poor understanding of ICT and their benefits. “In Nigeria, a government department will easily allocate a budget of 20,000 dollars to purchase motor vehicles because everyone knows what a motor vehicle is,” said Abdul-hakeem Ajijola. However comparable investment in ICT infrastructure was much more difficult to procure as officials do not ‘understand’ what is involved or appreciate the costs involved.

Multi-stakeholder involvement at times creates additional challenges and while the different groups may share common goals, their approaches to lobbying may result in a tug of war between interest groups. Participants cited situations where private sector entities lobbying for market liberalisation were criticised by other groups for being too single-minded in their approach. There was general agreement that a multi-stakeholder coalition involving business, civil society and the media broadly seeking an enabling environment with diverse services at affordable prices may be able to lobby its government most successfully.

  • Lessons Learned

Amongst other lessons learnt included:

- Most participants felt that they had learned a lot about the role of the media in supporting advocacy campaigns. “The session on ‘How to write (or not write) a press release’ provided useful insights into how one can work with the media to ensure better coverage of our issues,” said one of the participants. – The importance of having active national animators for the process at national level was emphasised. Such animators need to understand power relations and should be able to negotiate and engage with the various political groups at the local level. – There is a need to build capacity at the national level to strengthen the ability of local institutions to advocate for change. – Dealing with ICT policy advocacy in a multi-stakeholder workshop led to mutual learning, the identification of possible synergies and areas of conflict, and broader insights. Strategies for involvement of broad groups of stakeholders including representatives of user communities and civil society, local government and the private sector, are essential in ICT policy advocacy to ensure success. – There is much to be learned from sharing ICT policy experiences across countries and hearing how others have approached such issue, and networking opportunities should not be underestimated, across countries and among stakeholders. – Creating alliances with many stakeholders can help to make creative use of different competencies and experience, and also create a critical mass in approaching advocacy activities.

  • What Next?

Following five days of sharing experiences, challenges and learning news skills and strategies for ICT policy advocacy, participants started on a process of moving forward to multi-stakeholder processes in ICT policy advocacy in their countries based on the national action plans that were developed during the workshop.

Taking a multi-stakeholder perspective, the participants from each country worked together to identify one key priority on which to focus their advocacy campaigns on their return home. “Experience has shown that advocacy work best if a small number of issues is addressed,” said Tina James while emphasizing the important of focus in advocacy. “It is not easy to focus on only a few issues to develop an advocacy campaign – most policy processes require an all-encompassing approach”, said Margaret Zunguze of Zimbabwe explaining there were difficulties in pinning down and focusing on one issue for policy advocacy at the national level.

Each of the countries represented included the following as priority areas:

    To identify stakeholders to identify pressing policy components and establish an organisational framework for ICT policy advocacy
    1. Ensuring that there is suitable multi-stakeholder representation on the Communications Commission of Kenya Board as mandated by the Telecommunications Act;
    2. Lobbying for lower licence fees in order to promote competition and ultimately lower prices for communications services.
    To promote strategic and effective use the internet targeting content providers and users (Organisations and Government)
    To promote ICT for rural development and poverty alleviation through use community media (with radio as the ICT of choice)
    To ensure real access to ICTs through affordable means.
    To undertake awareness campaigns on ict policy implementation targeted at top-level government and decision-makers.
    To secure affordable and available bandwidth and energy for powering up ICTs.
    Infrastructure development in the rural areas to increase ICT penetration.
    Make computers available and accessible for all by reducing import duty, highlighting the importance of ICTs in different sectors such as health, education, agriculture and increasing numbers of public access points to ICTs.

APC will continue to support the implementation of these national ICT advocacy plans and related activities where we are anticipating a series of advocacy events and interventions which we believe will impact positively to the on ICT policy and regulatory environments in Africa.

The workshop was supported by DFID’s Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa (CATIA) programme and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) who also continue to support these national advocacy activities.

A detailed report from the workshop will be made available publicly soon.

You can also read the end of workshop press release:
‘ICT policy set to change – Minister of Information and Communication backs change for the better’



The tug of war – Government and advocacy groups: A look at government policy language by Monica Kerrets-Makau

One may wonder why the title a tug of war? Does that appropriately explain the policy environment in most African nations? Many believe this is the case as in other countries in the world. But why is this tug of war? Is each stakeholder group not fighting for the same thing? Is each not hoping to understand the policy terrain and all its nuances in light of what it means to the “mwanaichi” or common man or woman?

The author answers the question through a set of multiple questions from the perspective of government.

For more on this article


4. ICT Policy News and Events


08/23/2004 (Mercy Wambui, – UNECA) — A two-week telemedicine training programme for over 20 Ethiopian medical doctors drawn from 10 hospitals in Addis Ababa and regional towns started on Monday 16th August 2004 at the United Nations Conference Center (UNCC).

08/23/2004 (Albert Kabibi – The Nation) — Recent scandals in the Kenya’s telecommunications sector have been very disturbing. However, for the common man and woman in the street, it is difficult to know the ins and outs of the industry without first understanding the background.

08/19/2004 (Martin Adhola – IPS News) — Representatives of civil society in Kenya have called for its inclusion in the redrafting of a policy on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the East African country.

08/18/2004 (Tayo Ajakaye – ThisDay Online) — The cream of Information & Technology reporters in the country have collectively resolved to boycott a two-day ICT seminar being sponsored by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) expected to start this morning. The cost of sponsoring the Seminar by the NCC was put at several millions of Nigeria.

08/18/2004 (Uchendu Amuta – BusinessdayOnline) — The talk about any form of ban on imported software in the country is one the likes of Microsoft and Oracle whose products command leadership positions among software users will not appreciate. Nigeria | E-Commerce Software

08/17/2004 (Intelecon Research & Consultancy Ltd) — According to a report from the Xinhua News Agency, MTN, UTL and CELTEL have contributed 3.3 billion shillings (US$ 1.9 million) to the Uganda Communications Commission’s (UCC) Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF).

08/16/2004 (Sunday Observer – IPP Media) — The use of internet as source of classroom materials for students and teachers alike has been cited as a crucial means for improving secondary school examination results in this era of science and technology.

08/16/2004 (Remmy Nkweke – Daily Champion) — In response to the directives of the Federal Government for a broad-based non-profit body to be formed for the management of the nation’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), .ng, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) stakeholders, have, set up a working group.

08/15/2004 (Paul Vecchiatto) — The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) says Telkom is “lying” in its letter and statements against parody site Hellkom, in which Telkom accuses it of trademark infringement and encouraging hate speech.

08/15/2004 (Businessday ) — Regulations designed to build more trust in e-commerce and to promote the commercial use of email and the internet have been issued by the communications department for public comment.

08/15/2004 (Evelyn Kwamboka – East African Standard) — Mobile phone companies want parliament to enact a new law to help curb rampant theft of mobile handsets in the country. Kenya | Laws and Regulation Telecommunications




Copy rights and responsibilities defining the South African public commons

South Africa, often at the front line of battles around global copyright has a unique and timely opportunity to lead with intellectual property rights innovations such as those proposed by Creative Commons. It is unclear who will win the battle over whether there will be more copy rights than responsibilities in the information age, but what is clear is that business, communities, NGOs and government cannot afford to remain ignorant about copyright and its effects.


CODESRIA Conference on Electronic Publishing and Dissemination

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) Conference On Electronic Publishing and Dissemination is scheduled for September 1 – 2 in Dakar. The conference will focus on electronic publishing and dissemination of information.


Building Awareness of, and Support For Use of Free and Open Source Software Solutions (FOSS) in Women’s Organisations Women’sNet, a non-profit women’s organisation is hosting a SADC regional workshop to build awareness of and the potential use of Free and Open Source Solutions (FOSS) in the non-profit sector, and women’s organisations specifically.


Universities: Taking a Leading Role in ICT-enabled Human Development

This conference is organised by the Directorate of ICT Support, Makerere University. There will be discussion of major roles that universities have played in the development and utilisation of information and communication technologies in developing countries, where the absence of ICTs is compounded by poverty and high levels of illiteracy.


The Sixth Annual African Computing & Telecommunications Summit

The theme of the Summit will be “Developing Africa as an ICT Outsourcing Destination.” The summit will be reflecting the growing interest among Africa’s leading ICT markets in generating employment opportunities through marketing computing services internationally. The summit will be an opportunity to pool knowledge and experience to promote the continent on the international stage.


Highway Africa Conference 2004

The Highway Africa conference 2004 will take place from September 16-18, 2004. This will be the eighth edition of this well-established and largest annual gathering of African journalists on the continent. The conference concentrates on new media issues relevant for journalists, encompassing the policy, economics, development and technology questions around Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). It aims to help facilitate African media’s integration into the Global Information Society.


Consultations on the establishment of the Working Group on Internet Governance

Consultations on the establishment of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) will be held in Geneva on 20/21 September 2004. The consultations will be open to all Governments and observers accredited to the WSIS and its preparatory process.


Women and ICT: Challenges and Opportunities

The objective of the conference is to draw a roadmap for the caucus that will enable effective Women participation at WSIS-Tunis 2005 and a report back of the activities and agreements made at the Geneva-WSIS 2003. A detailed workplan through a participatory approach covering all major challenges that Women identified at the Geneva phase in readiness for Tunis 2005 will be drawn up at the conference.



08/23/2004, The Internet, developed as an instrument of US military defence, has long been controlled by the United States. But as the Internet evolves into a global commercial and information resource and a potential tool for development, a growing number of countries are demanding a stake in its running.

08/23/2004, Everyone needs and wants to communicate, and they do so with the tools at hand. Africa’s needy urban people are using the most readily available communication technology for them, mobile phones, in innovative ways. But there is still a question over whether this access gives them true inclusion in the global ‘information society’ – the people with access to communication technologies and the information they share.

08/23/2004, Africa has entered the information revolution. In 2003 alone over 13 million new mobile subscribers were added on the continent, a figure equivalent to the total number of telephone – fixed-line and mobile – subscribers in 1995. The number of mobile users in Uganda alone has multiplied 131 times

08/24/2004, Gender Commissioned by UNDP, this report represents a joint effort of UNDP and UNIFEM to deepen knowledge about gender dimensions within ICT for Development (ICTD) and to strengthen integration of gender within the work of UNDP and others working to promote ICTD in the region. The report highlights the need for increased action to address imbalances between women’s and men’s access to and participation in ICTs in the CEE/CIS region. It also emphasizes the powerful potential of ICTs as a vehicle for advancing gender equality.

Balancing Act’s African Internet Country Market Profiles is published in four parts. Part 1: West Africa has just been published and covers 22 countries. Part 2: East Africa will be published in early 2005. Part 3: Southern and Central Africa will be published in mid-2005. Part 4: North Africa will be published at the end of 2005. For further details:

08/14/2004, The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) sent a Fact Finding Mission to Zimbabwe to assess the situation of the media in the country. MISA has now released the final report. It concludes that given the current media landscape free and fair elections in 2005 are ‘highly unlikely’.

08/31/2004, South Africa, Software The National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) Open Software Working Group have produced a discussion document called “Free/Libre & Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Open Standards in South Africa: A Critical Issue for Addressing the Digital Divide”.


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